Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Best of SSIC: In Other Words, Reruns

It's time for the Holidays. It's also time for television show echoes. You know — reruns.

Television execs feel that it's their right to re-broadcast the same lousy crap that they crammed down our throats at the beginning of the TV season.

We here at Snow Shoveling In Canada have taken the position that this is a legitimate and time-honored practice that serves a purpose — namely, a way of saying "I don't have time for anything original to give you right now, so chew on this regurgitated tripe for the time being".

So with that in mind, we urge you know to have a second look at these SSIC classics:


If sports is your thing, you might enjoy this post summarizing the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

If you're into fashion, you might want to have a look at this post that takes a look at different beard styles.

For those who like "music", take a look at this post about the history of rap and hip hop.

Budding scientists may learn something from this post about a chewing gum experiment.

Finally, the refined among you may gather a little culture in the form of poetry from this post.


See you in the New Year for some new blog entries (they're actually just rehashed posts but cleverly disguised to look like something new. Hey, everyone does it!)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cross Country Elbow Dislocating

My wife and I just recently enjoyed a cross country skiing excursion at our cottage just outside the hamlet of Minikin, Ontario. Much snow had fallen, and an enchanting wintry landscape gave us the promise of unsurpassed skiing ecstasy.

However, some dimwit had plowed the roads, and done a good job of it too. This is cottage country after all, and the roads are traditionally covered with enough snow to suffice for this particular sport. But gravelly patches and ice greeted us here and there.

On one particularly steep downhill lane, my wife saw what she thought was a nice powdery slope. Intrepid and eager, she swooshed off downhill. To her surprise and dismay, she found out about midway that the road was covered with a particularly nasty and unfriendly coating of ice. Standing and looking at her from the top of this small mountain, I saw this blur on skis quickly disappearing and shouting, “ %$#^*! It’s ice! AAAUUUGGGG!!!!” She fell with a barely audible “whump”. She lay there motionless in the snow in her green coat, looking like an abandoned evergreen that had fallen from the roof rack of a car on its way to become the Christmas centerpiece of someone’s home.

It took me a while to comprehend what had happened. At first I almost yelled out, “C’mon move! I wanna try it!” But after about three minutes, I realized that something might be terribly wrong. So I took off my skis and navigated my way down to my snow-crusted heap of a spouse.

It should be noted that I am known as a very perceptive man — a man of acumen, intuition, and insight. This was demonstrated now, as I looked down at the crumpled mass of humanity and asked, “Are you OK?”
“Nnnaarggh”, she articulated. “I think I broke something.”
Fearing the worst, I checked her skis but found to my delight that they were as good as new.
“I think I broke my arm or elbow", she elaborated. Luckily, I had remained silent about my concern over the skis.

With some cautious effort, I was able to take off her skis, stand her up, and escort her back to our cottage. It was a 20 minute drive to the nearest hospital. My wife howled and shrieked with pain for the entire journey. I considered rolling down her window to utilize her wailing as a siren. When we got to the emergency department, I immediately went to reception and had them admit me to check for ear damage. Once it was determined that I was OK, they had a look at my wife. The doctor took x-rays and discovered that she had a dislocated elbow.

The procedure then began to put my better half back together again. She was sedated first with morphine, and an anti-nauseant. Then they administered something from a syringe that almost put her completely into La La Land. I was asked if I wanted to stay and watch them contort my wife's arm back in place. "It would be my pleasure", I replied.

Although my wife was quite dazed and dopey, she managed to moan out, "AAAARRRRrrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnhh......zzzzzzzzzz....." Her head then lolled to one side as the cast was applied to her arm. Thankfully, she remembers nothing of the procedure.

The cast is now off, but my wife's arm is equipped with a bionic-like contraption that makes her look rather menacing. So, I've decided not to complain about helping her out and doing all the household chores.

Guess who's cooking Christmas dinner.

Monday, December 20, 2010

If Guilty, We'll Make An Archetype Of Them

It’s official! Snow Shoveling In Canada is an international sensation!

We here at SSIC were doing a little blog maintenance work recently when we noticed (for the first time) a feature on this host site which allows bloggers to get a glimpse of how their work is doing viewer-wise. For instance, you can check how many views your blog has had in the past day, week, month, etc. Also, this nifty tool allows you to see how your blog was discovered (what search methods were used), and which countries your readers are from.

We had naively assumed that only Canadians and snow-susceptible Americans were our audience. Not so. South Korea, China, Netherlands, Spain, Russia, Brazil, Japan, Germany, and India are listed as some of the countries that have been delighted and enlightened by this most important and indispensable source of information, news, and entertainment. We’ve gone viral! (not really, but allow us to get just a little excited. OK?)

We’ve been getting noticed on other web sites as well. On a recent Google search for “snow shoveling in Canada”,  we came across a site that specializes in landscaping products (including snow shovels). This is not the first time we’ve seen our blog listed on other sites. For example, a web site specializing in gum had our post about chewing gum included on their pages.

This should bring up an important caveat to all you bloggers out there. Be careful about certain key words you use. For example, if you use the phrase “penis size” in a post, you may find your good wholesome work listed on some site that advertises or advocates the usage of dubious pills, lascivious lotions, or dangerous stretching exercises. Uh, oh. Now we’ve done it.

Anyway, this landscaping company had listed on their site an excerpt from our post Word Twist and the Masters Trontmeuna. However, they did not print our words verbatim. What they printed (and I’m not making this up) was their own interpretation. Let’s go through it together:

What we said: The game is called Word Twist.
What they said we said: The trick is called head-agreement.

What we said: The objective of this game is to unscramble the letters you are given and to make up as many words as you can think of in a two-minute period.
What they said we said: The bias of this work is to decipher the letters you are given and until toady, as many words as you can more than one to two months of half-span.
SSIC Response: Their "translation" of our words is a complete fabrication. We are very particular about the facts we cite. We’ve double checked and a two-minute period is not equal to one to two months of half-span. Even if you are using the metric system, everyone knows that two minutes is four and one-quarter months of a full span (or one-half toady span).

What we said: For example, you may be given the letters b t c x a z q. From these of course you can make the words bat, cat, and tax.
What they said we said: For archetype, you can confirm the b t c x a z q letters. From the road, you can fill up the words bat, cat, and taxes.
SSIC Response: You cannot come up the word taxes or any other word for that matter unless you've been provided with all the letters necessary to spell that word. For archetype, you cannot spell the word bats if you haven’t been given an s. And it matters not if it’s done from the road or any other course.

What we said: If you’re very clever, you get bonus points for using all of the letters given to reveal a word.
What they said we said: If you are very clever, you get points by using the free for all letters included enjoy a brief conversation.
SSIC Response: We would never ever utter those words. Free-for-all letters (or wildcard characters as they are sometimes known) are not allowed in Word Twist. Having said that, we would like you to now enjoy a brief conversation.

What we said: I can’t think of a word that uses all the letters b, t, c, x, a, z, and q, but this is the dilemma I face virtually every time I play the stupid game.
What they said we said: I can not invent a head which uses all the letters b, t, c, x, z, and q, but this is the fix I look in every way I act exceeded the constraint audacity simple.
SSIC Response: I wish the people behind this web site could constrain their simple audacity. It is true that I cannot invent a head. That’s already been invented (and most heads are quite capable of using all the letters listed).

Their excerpt ignores the next three paragraphs, then goes on to interpret our description of the Masters golf tournament.

What we said: However, dollars mean nothing to the Masters champion.
What they said we said: However, there is poor dollar to defend the Masters
SSIC Response: They may have somehow thought that we said that Creflo A. Dollar was a champion of the Masters. We did not. And he is not. Neither is he poor.

What we said: No, the best thing about the Masters is you get to win a green jacket. Not at any other place or at any other time is it considered an honor to adorn a spinach-colored blazer, but this is the ultimate prize in this unparalleled athletic endeavor.
What they said we said: No, the feeling is unsurpassed in the Masters is sure to win a green jacket. Not at all other searches or any other body is considered an honor to decorate a blazer the color of spinach, but the fundamental unresolved in the Peerless athletics.
SSIC Response: We cannot argue with this. They figured out exactly what we were communicating here.

Finally, at blurb’s end, they say that we said, “The conqueror himself outside to keep the painting for one year....”  In fact, we said,  “The winner apparently gets to keep the coat for a year.” Although a coat of paint is not a painting or work of art, — no matter how well it’s been applied — it appears that this is what they thought we were talking about when we were referring to the Masters green jacket. Joseph's coat of many colors would really confuse them, and likely generate a translation of "the Sistine Chapel".

There it is — a discombobulated misconstruction and misrepresentation of our perspicacious discourse. We may have to consult our lawyers on this matter to see if this is a case of a willful, unmitigated, wrongful, malicious, fraudulent, libelous, transgressive, plagiaristic malefaction.

Let’s see them translate that.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Winter Chickens and Festivus

Snow shoveling is who I am. It’s my identity. It’s what I live for.

Not really. But I don’t mind shoveling. At the very least, it gives me something to blog about.

I recently made a few Facebook friends chuckle when I posted the following on my FB page:

♫ Oh, the weather outside is crappy
And I'm anything but happy
You know where those clouds can go
*%&$#@ snow, *%&$#@ snow, *%&$#@ snow. ♪

You could say that London has a lot of snow right now. The city is quickly becoming the world's largest igloo.

This is insane! I truly have nowhere to put the snow. The banks around the driveway and walkways are so high that our property is beginning to look like a walled city. I’m going to have to start building some snow turrets so I can see the rest of the neighborhood.

And it’s still coming down! If I hear “Let it Snow” or “Winter Wonderland” on the radio one more time, there’s going to be one less audio appliance around this household this holiday season.

Sheesh! I can’t wait for autumn to end!


But in all seriousness, I’ve never seen this much snow in Antler River at this time of year. And I’m no spring chicken. In fact, I’m a legitimate winter chicken.

Winter chickens, winter chickens,
Pecking in the snow.
Clucking through unlucky beaks,
“Where did that damn seed go?”


I think I might try that winter chicken recipe this year and have it instead of the standard turkey Christmas dinner. But I am hosting a rather large gathering, so I might have to cook it in a cauldron similar in size to the one the witches in Macbeth used.

Single, single, moil and mingle;
This mess tastes like that stuff on a shingle.

As I alluded to in my Facebook post, winter has not technically arrived. That doesn’t happen until the 21st. The first day of winter is known as the winter solstice. It is the shortest day of the year. Compare this to the summer solstice, which — as everyone knows —  is the tallest day of the year.

Ancient savage pagan heathen barbarians used to celebrate the solstice. They noticed that the sun had been getting progressively lower in the sky and more feeble each day since the tallest day of the year. Then, after the shortest day of the year, they noticed that the days started getting taller again. People were ecstatic that the sun didn't just fizzle out and die in a snow drift. It never occurred to them that the sun did the same routine every year. These were ignorant brutes who apparently needed help from aliens to build Stonehenge.

A Wikipedia article on the celebrations surrounding the winter solstice says in part, “Starvation was common in winter between January and April, also known as the famine months..." and  "The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time.” I imagine the food wasn't missed all that much.

So whether your choice of celebration is Christmas, Burning of the Clocks, Festival of Lights, Festivus, Hanukkah, HumanLight, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, or Pongal; it's my wish that everyone enjoys the season. Rejoice in your own fashion (I mean party in your own way. I wasn't suggesting that you whoop it up over your clothes).
   
Oh, and a Happy Winter Chicken Day to all!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Flashlight Up The Butt? So What?

A busy travel season is approaching, and warm Christmassy smiles will soon be wiped from the faces of countless travelers as they go through airport security on their way to holiday destinations.

Security surrounding air travel has increased on an exponential level equivalent to some of those graphs that Al Gore brandished in his documentary An Inconvenient Truth (which could be a good alternate title for this blog post). But way back when I was a youngster, airport security consisted of a semi-retiree asking “How are you?” as you made your way to the terminal gate. Really suspicious looking people may have been asked to present their boarding passes before they got on the plane.

But that was then. We live in the real world now. Fun and games are over kiddies. Long waits, long lines, grumpy faces, serious attitudes, scanners, and pat downs are the order of the day.

These new rules however are creating mobs of whiny protesters who obviously don't realize that these measures are for their own good. People say they don't want their clothes virtually stripped off by scanners nor do they wish to have anyone cop a feel of them as they exit the metal detectors.

A security man (though a fair sort)
Used to pat people down at the airport
Till the day he got slapped
'Cause he misjudged and tapped          
Where the skin is less tan and the hair short.


I realize that the images from those airport scanners are a form of erotica the like of which we've never seen before. Who wouldn’t get turned on by looking at those? I don’t know how the agent viewing them can keep from salivating all over himself. But that’s his problem, right?


As far as the pat downs go, I think I'd rather be the pattee than the patter. There are a LOT of people I'd prefer not to feel up. Besides, we can think of these hands-on episodes as a free massage! Have you seen the prices for a therapeutic massage these days? Just think of the airport as a mini spa. You get to take a few clothes and jewelry off. You take off those tight sweaty shoes. You get a little massage. Then you relax and have a seat in the sauna-like terminal while you read a magazine and wait for your flight. Ahhhh…..

I really think everyone should be required to fly naked. Nudists would have no problem with this, but the puritanical among us might complain. I remember I was once on a flight that had a squad of NFL cheerleaders on it, and... well... what was I saying? Oh...  yeah. Come on people! For the sake of security. Let's get with the program and implement this ASAP!

Another splendid idea is that everyone be required to swallow a pill-sized camera that quickly makes the voyage down the entire length of your alimentary canal — from entrance to exit; from stem to stern; from embark to disembark; from high to low; from hello to… well, you get the idea. However, this could take some time. It could create lines of humanity that would make the queues for Space Mountain or the opening of the latest Harry Potter movie look like the lineup outside a bar in Utah on Christmas Day.

Shall we please not gripe about the pat-downs and x-rays and interrogation. After all, it’s in the name of safety. Which would you prefer; getting a light feel from a security agent, or the considerably harder touch of a terrorist bomb?

Even if security measures were to become more severe in the near future, how could anyone possibly complain? Seriously, which would you prefer; being blown to smithereens, or stripping down to your birthday suit and being asked to bend over and touch your toes while a stranger shines a high-powered flashlight beam up your nether regions?

This should be an easy choice.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It Happened On A Feast Of Stephen

Greetings dear loyal reader. Once again snow shoveling season is upon us. A squall from Lake Huron hit Antler River last Sunday and did not let up until Wednesday. With the eagerness of the proverbial Canadian beaver, I grabbed my trusty shovel and headed out on seven separate occasions to clear away the accumulated flakes.

When all was said and done, we had about 100 cm of snow (for those of you who are not used to the metric system, this translates to roughly 47 ounces or 1.78 pounds per square inch). But you should have seen this winter wonderland! The snow was lying round about; deep, and crisp, and even.

For some reason, I’m reminded of that old Holiday song about a good king. You know — the one that begins, “Good King’s wench is lost. Look out...” That’s not really how it goes, but that could be a common Mondegreen.

Of course the good king in the familiar song is none other than His Royal Majesty King Wenceslas.

Here is the story of an incident that took place one winter evening which might give you some idea of the character of this "good" king.

Note: There are disturbing overtones of cannibalism in this legend — eating flesh, and a feast of Stephen. This story may not be suitable for small children and fussy eaters.

It seems that one night when the moon shone bright (though there was frost on the gruel), King Wenceslas took a break from his cold porridge and happened to espy a poor fellow in the snow gathering fuel. It’s not clear if the man was drilling for oil, mining coal, or collecting some wood. Suffice it to say, he needed to ignite something combustible in order to heat his humble abode.

The king was likely upset that some filthy commoner was out there scuzzying up his lovely blanket of virgin snow. So he yelled to his faithful sidekick Paige, “Hither Paige, and stand by me!”

Paige quickly hurried to the side of her crowned commander. He demanded that she tell him who in blazes was “yonder peasant” (the king always liked to use degrading terms for those he felt were below his station in life, which would include just about everyone). She informed him that the man lived a good league hence (about 1.879 kilometers per cubic hour for those used to the metric system), and that he lived right against the forest fence, underneath the mountain (presumably in a cave). Why a fence would extend into a mountain cave or tunnel is anyone’s guess, but it’s possible that this fence cordoned off the property of a saintly neighbour by the name of Agnes Fountain.

After getting the facts from Paige, the king demanded, “Bring me flesh, and bring me wine. Bring me pine logs hither. We shall bear them.”
“Whither?”
“Thither.”
So Paige and monarch forth they went togither to bear thither a feast of wine, flesh, and tasty pine logs.

En route to yonder wretched oaf, Paige complains that she is having a heart failure and can go on no longer. The icy king responds with a curt  “Mark my footsteps! Tread thou in them!” This, he alleged, would make her blood “freeze less coldly”. Well I’m no physicist, but frozen is frozen. If your blood freezes, it matters little if it freezes 10 or 100 times less  (that’s 6.89 or 73.47 times for those of you not used to the metric system).

Besides, Paige was a diminutive thing. The king was a large fellow with a stride like Yao Ming. His footprints were well in excess of five cubits apart (for those of you used to the metric system, well, you figure it out. I’ve never know what the heck a cubit was). In order to tread in that dinted snow, Paige must have looked like a little lord a-leaping.

Now all this about the king’s cold attitude and whether or not anyone engaged in cannibalism is definitely subject to interpretation. However, the fact that the king didn’t invite the peasant into his warm castle for a nice holiday meal is not.

It’s not as if yonder clodhopper was a long ways off. Paige could clearly identify him without visual aid, so he was probably within shouting distance. The king could have bellowed through the crispy moonlit night, “Hey, yonder dirtbag! Come hither for a bowl of frosty gruel and a nice warm plate of Stephen.”

There you have it. I hope this puts you in the holiday spirit. May your Christmas be merry, your New Year happy, and your oatmeal frost free.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Clown Look!

I watched the Kentucky Derby this past weekend. The horse I picked to win actually won! That always happens when I don’t place a bet.

One thing that NBC focused on during their coverage was the fashionistas at this year’s race. Some woman was fawning over the “celebrities” there, as if she were Joan Rivers and the people she was interviewing were Oscar nominees strolling down the red carpet. I was kind of hoping to see one of the women wearing those floppy hats and thousand-dollar dresses step right into a road apple.

I’ve never cared for the fashion industry’s ideas of how the masses should look. I always have to laugh when I see a model walking down a runway wearing the expression and dress of a dour mannequin that has just crashed through a paper-mâché chicken coop.

But I shouldn’t talk. My idea of looking chic is when I find a tee-shirt to wear that doesn’t have an old ketchup stain on it. Even so, compared to most of the younger generation, my everyday attire makes me look like Fred Astaire on his way to a soirée with Eleanor Powell.

Now I’ve been around a few years, and I’ve seen fashions come and go. But I can’t believe the way that most young people dress has been the style for several years now (dare I say decades?). These ridiculous styles have far outworn their welcome.

Take shorts, for example. They’re not too damn short. For the most part, shorts these days cover the knees! In my day, we called these “clam-diggers”, or “culottes” for cryin’ out loud. I would never wear these to the beach. It must take at least two days for them to dry off! I refuse to wear something like that on a hot summer day. But —  due to the taboos that society today has placed on such attire —  I can’t wear a “Speedo”, which is a much more practical and comfortable form of beachwear.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to find shorts that hang down no further than mid-thigh. If it ever gets to the point where I can’t find anything other than those damn knee-level shorts to wear, then I swear; I’m goin’ in the water starkers.

And, if you will, allow me another rant (via another rap “song” I’ve composed) regarding jeans that are worn with the waistband below the butt cheeks.

Some beatbox rhythm, if you please:

oom pah pah, oom pah pah

With crotch to my knees,
I feel a breeze.
So you can stare
at my underwear.


‘Cause I’m a hip-hop
urban fop.
Gonna dance
in my “poopy pants”.


Listen up, fashion industry! Here’s what I propose for the latest trend: The Clown Look!

Imagine — hair flying off in all directions and dyed in unusual colors; wildly vivid makeup; shirts untucked and unkempt; big, gaudy shoes; baggy pants and… hold on a sec… what the heck am I saying? That is the style of the day.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Golden Age of Used Books

This is the Dark Age of television. Each night, my wife and I like to relax for an hour or two in front of the boob tube to just take it easy and unwind after a hectic, stressful day. And each night we find ourselves going to bed at 8 o’clock, reading our books, and nodding off by 9.

That’s only a bit of an exaggeration. But the fact remains that there is virtually nothing on that is worth any ocular effort whatsoever. However, if you like reality TV, then this would be your Golden Age of television — Survivor, American Idol, Dancing with the “Stars”, The Biggest Loser, etc.

Now I’ve watched a little of these shows, and I have found them entertaining — for about 10 minutes. They wear out their welcome PDQ. What they need is a little pizzazz and originality to bring excitement and viewers to their shows. For example, Survivor is always set in a tropical place like Seychelles, Aruba, Fiji, or Hedonism II. I suggest they spice things up by trying a locale like Baffin Island or Ellesmere Island.

Imagine a group of exhibitionistic, 15-minute-fame-seeking misfits matching strength and “wits” on Canada’s frozen tundra while battling frostbite, polar bears, and slippery glaciers. I would eagerly tune in to see that.

American Idol would benefit from allowing contestants of all ages. No-talent 50-somethings like myself could croak out a few discordant notes for your audio/visual pleasure. Like the other rejects on the show, it would be my pleasure to humiliate myself for the sake of quality "entertainment".

Dancing with the “Stars” should have some actual stars on the show. I mean really, who wants to see some washed-up B-movie actors or obscure retired Cricket players dancing the Charleston and the Twist? Instead, how about Jack Nicholson doing the Fox Trot? Or Meryl Streep doing the Can-Can? Or LeBron James doing a Pas de deux with D'Brickashaw Ferguson? Or Bill Clinton doing the Tango? (he’d be pretty good at it, I would assume).

The amazing thing about TV these days is the fact that there are a plethora of channels and yet a dearth of worthwhile programming. I swear, when I was growing up, we had only 5 or 6 channels to choose from, and yet there always seemed to be some decent shows to watch. Hell, even Bozo the Clown and Lunch with Soupy Sales were better than 99% of the programs out there today.

Today — in addition to the major networks and cable channels — we have special interest choices like the Golf Channel, the Fishing Channel, Gypsy News Network, Crokinole TV and the Weasel Channel. I’ve seen some people with satellite TV service that have what seems like a thousand channels to choose from. But what difference does it make when you find that 250 of them are showing Two and a Half Men?

I think I’ll continue shopping at my friendly neighborhood used book store.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Secret to Overall Well-Being and General Health

Since my retirement, I’ve spent a good deal of time being "active" by either visiting Facebook, or writing in my blog. Blog — that sounds like a combination of bloated sluggard, or a bump-on-a-log blob; and it pretty well sums up my general fitness level these days.

I’ve never been a very athletic person. Sure I played sports in school. As I noted in an earlier post, I was a pretty fast runner, so I was on a few track and field teams. I played a little soccer as well. I looked good when I would kick the ball ahead and outrun my opponent to it. Once I got near the scoring area however, I couldn’t score if I aimed dead center of the goal with no goalie to deal with. My “passes” looked more like I was trying to give someone on the sidelines a souvenir soccer ball.

One of my shining soccer moments was during a game where I was asked to be the goaltender. Apparently our team was in desperate need of a slob or blob or blog to stand between the goal posts and get in the way of any shots that were sent directly at him. It worked too! I made a great “save” when one of the opposing players — the guy with the biggest legs on the team — boomed a high-velocity cannon-shot that made a beeline for my throat.

The ball ricocheted off my Adam’s apple. Tears immediately welled up in my eyes. I saw stars. I couldn’t breath. My legs went wobbly. But I had prevented a goal. My teammates went wild. “Way to go”, “What a play”, “Way to take one for the team”, “Nice throat save”, etc.

I responded to their accolades with, “Ack… gnh… ahhh… mmmph… gaaaa… awk… gak…” It wasn’t very eloquent, but I was trying to say that I was pleased to be instrumental in earning a victory for our team.

I haven’t been a member of any sports team for years. To stay in shape for the better part of my adult life, I’ve just shoveled snow and done a random variety of exercises.

I was a pretty skinny kid. I used to see those ads in the comic books for the Charles Atlas Dynamic Tension system for gaining he-man bulk. I was always afraid that I was going to be the guy who got sand kicked in his face. I actually sent away for one of those systems as advertised in the comics. It wasn’t the Charles Atlas one though. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was similar to Dynamic Tension. It was Tense Dynamo or Tensile Dynamite, or Dinaric Tonsils, or something like that.

To my mild disappointment, the “system” I paid good money for was just a series of calisthenics; pushups, sit-ups, knee-bends, etc. But I persevered with the exercises for several weeks, for I had this image of the behemoth I should become. I envisioned myself as a modern day Maciste (ma-CHEE-stay). My dad, whenever he was outside with his shirt off, would puff out his chest, flex his muscles, and call himself Camiste (cha-MEE-stay). My brothers and I always cracked up at this.

Eventually I gained .00025 micrograms of extra rippling muscle through the Demonic Tinsel (or whatever it was called) system.

To this day I still use calisthenics and isometrics in my erratic exercise regimen. Here is a rundown of the methods I use to keep myself in tip-top shape:

Calisthenics and Isometrics
These are the lazy man’s forms of exercise. They both do an OK job of keeping your muscles toned and they perform the extra task of fooling yourself into believing you did a real workout.

The Bullworker
Another system I bought through the comics. This was a pretty sound investment however, since I still have this device. I bought it in the 70’s and it’s still as good as new — which may give you an idea as to how much it’s been put to use. Still, it is excellent for muscle tone and the belief that you've done a "workout" like I previously mentioned.

Tai Chi
I do the Yang style of Tai Chi. Here is another low impact, easy, relaxing, and unchallenging way to fool yourself that you are the very image of bodily vigor. Besides, it’s so much fun to do moves with names like “carry tiger to mountain”, “grasp bird’s tail”, and “fair lady works shuttles” (I’m not making that up).

Momentum 620 Elliptical Exerciser

Now here’s a high-tech new-age gadget that’s sure to improve overall aerobic capacity, strength, cardiovascular health, mental acuity, and skeletal conditioning. Since its purchase it’s been used religiously — which means I use it about as often as I go to church. Even so, it does provide a great workout when used, although it’s about as much fun as pulling weeds.

Pulling Weeds — Gardening
Some people swear by this as a means of staying healthy. I swear at it as a necessary evil of domestic life. I mean, I have to do it, and I suppose I get some physical benefits from it. But all in all, I’d rather watch TV and drink beer.

Watching TV and Drinking Beer
Before you judge me too harshly, be aware that taking it easy is about the best thing you can do for your overall well-being. The hours I’ve spent watching TV and drinking beer outnumber my exercise hours by a factor of about 15 to 1; yet I’m in relatively good physical condition. To what else can I attribute this?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Word Twist and the Masters Trontmeuna

I’ve recently joined Facebook. This social networking website is great for getting in touch with family and friends you haven’t seen since the disco era.

I haven’t a great deal of people listed as friends. For the life of me I can’t think of anyone else to add beyond the three dozen or so individuals who now grace my list. This has made me realize that I’ve spent far too much time in front of my computer screen. I have more virtual friends than actual friends.

But I devote most of my time on Facebook playing a game that has become the most addictive thing since breathing.

The game is called Word Twist. The objective of this game is to unscramble the letters you are given and to make up as many words as you can think of in a two-minute period. For example, you may be given the letters b t c x a z q. From these of course you can make the words bat, cat, and tax. If you’re very clever, you get bonus points for using all of the letters given to reveal a word. I can’t think of a word that uses all the letters b, t, c, x, a, z, and q, but this is the dilemma I face virtually every time I play the stupid game.

For the most part, I’m pretty good at coming up with the words that use three letters. I’ve been able to think of a few choice four-letter words when playing the game as well.

But tomorrow I won’t be glued to the computer screen. Instead, I’ll be glued to the television screen as I sit down to enjoy golf’s greatest tournament, the Masters.

Each year this is the only golf event that I make sure to watch. What a joy to see these men getting paid a small fortune to stroll about some idyllic gardens while hacking away at a tiny ball with their baffing spoons, mashies, and niblicks.

However, dollars mean nothing to the Masters champion. No, the best thing about the Masters is you get to win a green jacket. Not at any other place or at any other time is it considered an honor to adorn a spinach-colored blazer, but this is the ultimate prize in this unparalleled athletic endeavor. The winner apparently gets to keep the coat for a year. Somehow I’m thinking it’s not worn beyond that one moment when it’s awarded.

Here's a challenge for you, dear readers. Unscramble the following letters to come up with the name of the player everyone will be watching this year: t i g r e  w o o s d

Did you get it? That may be as much of a challenge as will face Tiger Woods when he tries for his fifth green jacket. I hope he wins it.

It’s a good thing the winners don’t keep the jackets. Tiger’s wardrobe would be as beastly as his nickname.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Texas Text Asses

The Texas Board of “Education” has been in the news recently. In a 10 to 5 vote, the board has decided to introduce new ultra-conservative history textbooks to the state's schools. Sweeping changes to recorded history will undoubtedly help produce an entire generation of misguided and misinformed Texans.

Among the changes will be to promote conservative heroes like Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich. On the other hand, the new books will see a reduced scope for Latino history and culture, so historic figures like César Chávez will likely go unmentioned. Another change is to no longer include Thomas Jefferson among the individuals who influenced the nation’s intellectual origins.

This I can understand since everyone knows that Jefferson was just an ordinary Joe who had no influence whatsoever on American history. Who cares if he was a philosopher, horticulturist, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, inventor, founder of a University, third U.S. president, and primary author of the Declaration of Independence? Just because someone thought he was deserving of having his image carved into the face of a mountain doesn't mean the rest of us should accord the man any praise.

However, the rest of this type of revisionism is complete and total Texas Longhorn Bullcrap! As long as there are websites like Snow Shoveling In Canada around, you can be sure that the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth will be available. We are your lantern in the darkness of nescience, illiteracy and general goofy dumbness.

American history is rife with important historical individuals and colorful characters — people like Eli Whitney, an inventor and moonshiner who made gin out of cotton (yech!). Canada as well has had its share of important innovators and inventors like... well... I can't think of anyone right now, but we've been known to be quite productive when we weren't slugging back a few ounces of Eli Whitney's Olde Tyme Cotton Gin ®.

Canada can however crow about Sir Sandford Fleming; kind of a Canadian Benjamin Franklin. Americans of course had their own Benjamin Franklin in one Benjamin Franklin.

But Texas, bloated with bluster and braggadocio, boasts the biggest names.

Therefore, I’d like to present some little-known “facts” regarding some famous Texans.

Stephen F. Austin
Austin was a bionic man and an impresario who organized many concerts and operas just north of the Mexican border in the early 1800’s. For some reason, his efforts in this regard were enough for him to be credited with the title “The Father of Texas”. The capital city of Texas and the Austin Motor Company are named after him.

Sam Houston
Houston was a statesman and soldier who really had it in for a Mexican named Santa. He participated in several tiffs with Santa and the Mexican army, including the battle of the Alamo. This skirmish was notable for its participants which included Jim “Big Blade” Bowie and Davey Crockett (or maybe it was Daniel Boone. Well, it was one of those Fess Parker-like frontiersman).

Jett Rink
Mr. Rink was a good-for-nothing ranch hand who inherited a worthless piece of Texas scrubland from a woman by the name of Luz Benedict. Determined to get something from this hardscrabble real estate, Jett doggedly drilled holes into the dirt until one day when he finally struck oil. His land yielded more “Texas Tea” than he could have imagined. Rink eventually became the most famous, wealthy, and admired man the state has ever produced.

Jordan 'Bick' Benedict Jr.
Another industrial giant.

Lyndon B. Johnson
A true Texan, Johnson was the 36th President of the United States. He is perhaps most famous for his incredible demonstrations of strength where he would pick up an entire beagle by the ears.

So there you have it. All you ever wanted to know (I’m sure) about the Lone Star (out of four) State.

And just to get it out of my system, here are some links about Thomas Jefferson, Darwinism, and César Chávez. Take that Texas Board of Ed!!!

A note to you Texas tykes out there: feel free to use this blog as a source to further your knowledge about Texas and the world in general.

It certainly won’t hurt any more than your proposed new texts.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Thursday in April or March

“In your Easter bonnet.”
“Oh, yeah? Well, the same to you Mac!”

Easter is coming soon — I think. No one really knows when Easter will take place each year since it is a moveable feast and its date is supposedly set by some mind-dizzying formula that was named after an ancient Latin data processing machine. To illustrate how confusing this all is, the third day before Easter has been called Monday Thursday.

All that really matters is that this is the time of year that pretty well marks the end of the snow shoveling season in Southern Ontario. It is also the weekend of chocolate bunnies, multi-colored hard-boiled eggs, and hot cross buns.

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny two a penny - hot cross buns
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons

One a penny two a penny - hot cross buns

Luckily, I never had any sisters.

An event that allegedly takes place on Easter is the Easter Parade. But in all my years I’ve never witnessed a parade in our fair city on Easter. Nor have I come across any parades while flipping through the television channels on that particular day; although, someone did make a movie about this annual March/April march.

From a Wikipedia article about the Easter Parade:

“An old Irish adage stated "For Christmas, food and drink; for Easter, new clothes," and a 15th-century proverb from Poor Robin's Almanack states that if on Easter Sunday some part of one's outfit is not new, one will not enjoy good luck during the year.

At Easter let your clothes be new,
Or else be sure you will it rue.”

At Easter let your clothes be new, Or else be sure you will it rue??? What kind of a terrible, strained rhyme is that? I'm sure someone could come up with a better verse than that. I'll have a crack at it (ha ha. get it? crack... eggs... you know... Easter eggs... forget it). Let's see if I can make an improvement:

At Easter time new clothes you get,
Or you damn sure will it regret.

That's much better. 

I recall as a kid in school we sang:

On the Avenue, Fifth Avenue,
The photographers will snap us
And you'll find that you're in the rotogravure.


When it came to that last word, we may just as well have been asked to sing pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. It was hilarious the way we stumbled over it. There may have even been a few curses uttered in lieu of the word, but the teacher never noticed. To this day I still don’t know what rotogravure means.

But I am thinking of starting the Easter Parade tradition here in Antler River. My wife and I will dress up in our Easter best, put a decorative collar on our pooch, and take a walk around the cul-de-sac. I can just see us strolling elegantly about the neighborhood. I'll be a veritable fashion plate in my new jacket, snazzy pants, spiffy hat, shiny shoes, and doggy poop bag.

Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet…

 But I won't. I'll just wish you a Happy Easter; whenever that is.

Friday, March 26, 2010

An Ex-Spearmint

Experiment:

To resolve the question, Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight? (i.e., does spearmint become ex-spearmint after an eight-hour period)


Observation/Research

Gum: Wrigley’s Excel White Spearmint (a brave, courageous, and bold flavor)
Bedpost: 114 cm (45 in) high wooden headboard post with a top knob diameter of 7.5 cm (3 in)
Room temperature: 20 degrees C (68 F).
Wind speed: Negligible
Catalytic agents: Initial mastication with salivary juicification, followed by eight hours of stationary incubation in bedroom air with ambient microbials.


Hypothesis

A par-chewed piece of gum — precisely placed on bedroom furniture — undergoes a chemical reaction (and, as a result, loses its flavor) while the consumer saws logs in the Land of Nod.


Prediction

On awakening and then popping the cold, tacky, icky lump of gum into the mouth, the scientist will experience a bland and tasteless chew akin to that found in most store-bought frozen pizzas.


Experimentation — Procedure and Results

After having brushed his teeth (to remove any unwanted reagents), the scientist proceeded to gnaw on two pieces of the sugarless gum for one minute at a rate of two chews per second. With still plenty of flavor left in the wad, it was placed on the exact top center of the bedpost. The tester then kissed his wife goodnight and went sleepy bye.

After a restless night — due to all the questions and worries regarding the ramifications of this momentous study — the researcher rose and had a good chaw of the rubbery treat. He found to his amazement that there was a great deal of tasty enjoyment to be had. So, chewing happily, downstairs he went and had some fresh-brewed coffee. The clash of two wildly divergent flavors caused the subject of this experiment to be spat out in disgust.


Conclusion

Chewing gum keeps its flavor while left on a bedpost at least for an overnight stretch (ha ha. get it? stretch... you know... gum... forget it).

Also, gum and coffee should never be enjoyed together.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chewing Gum — Chewing Chewing Gum

I love chewing gum. What I mean to say is, I love chewing gum and I love chewing chewing gum. Bubble gum is OK but it tends to be a little too sweet and my temples get sore after gnawing away at it for a while.

Gum is available in a staggering variety of flavors, from your standard spearmint to piña colada. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a roast chicken variety.

One flavor I've never seen though is chocolate. It’s apparently available, but I’ve never had any and it's not sold in any stores here. I wonder why this isn’t a favorite gum choice. I’d sure give it the ol' chew chew cha boogie.

Cinnamon is a popular gum flavor. Dentyne and Big Red are a couple of examples. Big Red brand was first advertised as a strong, bold, powerful gum suitable for only the manliest and rugged of men, like cowboys. The first time I saw their commercial, I thought it was the Marlboro man trying a Nicorette-like therapy to quit smoking. I believe their slogan was “Kick some ass with Big Red.”

The makers of Big Red soon found that sweaty, manure-crusted cowpunchers don’t lend themselves well to the marketing of a tasty confection. So, they went in an entirely different direction and pitched it as a gum for sweethearts. Thus was born the "Kiss a little longer" campaign.

The only problem with this was the fact that the gum was still awfully strong, as illustrated by the "Big Red Wrapper" trick.

From a Wikipedia article:

“It is known that the cinnamon from the gum leaks into the wrappers. The wrappers can burn skin. The 'trick' is for one to lick the inside of the wrapper, and stick it onto his or her face. It will cause a painful burning sensation.”

If they had originally shown the cowboys in their commercials doing that, then maybe it would have been a hit — at least among thrill seekers, sadists, and the kind of guys who think it's fun to wax the hair from their chest and armpits.

While we're ruminating on gum, I've always wondered about the answer to that age-old question "Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight?"  I never attempted this experiment as a kid because my mother would surely have forbidden it. But now that I'm a full-grown mature adult, I can do whatever the hell I like. So, in that spirit, I will go ahead with this important research and update you on the results when they become available. I wonder if I can get a government grant for this.

I miss some of the old brands of my youth like Beemans and Beech-Nut Fruit Stripe gum  (I actually don’t remember what Fruit Stripe tasted like, but I sure do remember the TV ad).

One of my favorite chewing gums back then was Black Jack. This was a licorice-flavored gum that was great for placing strategically in your mouth to make it look as if you had teeth missing.

Of course there have always been the ubiquitous Wrigley brands with their squeaky-clean ads, full of wholesome words and images. Who could forget the Doublemint commercial with the two hot blonde twins walking toward a couple of identical guys while the song plays "A double pleasure’s waiting for you… " or the Juicy Fruit jingle with its immortal words "Take a sniff, pull it out, the taste is gonna move you when you pop it in your mouth…"

Today I tend to buy the sugarless gums that claim to whiten teeth. With all the coffee I drink, I want to do what I can to combat any enamel staining going on. But I don’t necessarily want to chase that great coffee flavor away with some intense icy-cool mint — spear, winter, pepper, or otherwise.

Come to think of it, for people in a hurry, a coffee-flavored gum with all the caffeine included would be a great way to start the day. I think I’m onto something here. I must remember to call Wrigley.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chew 'em up, Big Red!

MARCH MADNESS IS IN THE AIR!!!!

This past week I spent hours in front of the television watching the NCAA men’s basketball championship tournament.

The usual teams are there: Kentucky, Duke, Syracuse, and Michigan State. Kansas made a surprising early exit. But I’m rooting for the “Sleeping Beauty teams” like Northern Iowa, Xavier, St. Mary's, and Cornell.

Cornell is playing amazing basketball. This team is from the Ivy League, which rises just above the Bush League. On Sunday, the Cornell Big Red demolished the Wisconsin Weasels 157-34 (it was actually closer than that, but not by much). After the game, the Big Red boosters (the Cornell fans, not the chewing gum aficionados) were heard singing the school “fight” song:

Give my regards to Davy,
Remember me to Tee Fee Crane.
Tell all the pikers on the Hill
That I'll be back again.
Tell them just how I busted
Lapping up the high highball.
We'll all have drinks at Theodore Zinck's
When I get back next fall!


I’m not making that up. Sung to the tune of “Give my regards to Broadway”, it is the actual fight song for Cornell.

But c’mon; Davey and Tee Fee? Drinking highballs at Theodore Zinck’s? Hardly words that would inspire a fighting spirit. Perhaps if the last line were “Then we’ll have a barroom brawl”, then that might do it.

I’ve never been in a barroom brawl or a basketball tournament, but I have been known to play a little roundball from time to time. Years ago, my notoriety as a hoopster was enough to earn myself a pretty nifty nickname. In fact, whenever I shot the ball, you would hear onlookers chant it in unison, “air ball… air ball… air ball…

I also could do a 360 double-pump between-the-legs behind-the-back windmill tomahawk in-your-face slamma-jamma dunk on my own basketball net. I must admit that the “360 double-pump between-the-legs behind-the-back windmill tomahawk in-your-face” part of the maneuver was done standing on the ground, but at least I did it. Sort of.

So, if you’re wondering what I’ll be doing this weekend, I’ll be at home sitting in front of the television with a beer and enjoying the tournament.

On second thought, maybe I’ll have some drinks at Zinck’s and watch it on the big screen TV with Tee Fee.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lindsays, Tweets, and Samuel's Peeps

I consider myself a blogger, not a writer.

Blogging is like entry-level writing. Microblogging is like entry-level blogging.

Those who post boiled-down messages from the popular social networking site Twitter are said to be “tweeting”. Tweets are the most well known form of microblogging.

But for those who think microblogging and tweeting are recent phenomena, think again.

Of course there’s nothing new about making a long story short, but even centuries ago enterprising individuals sought to make the world a better place by saving time and expense on bothersome words. “Brevity is the soul of wit”, said Shakespeare (which is ironic because if ever oh ever a windbag there was, this wordy windbag was one).

The first known “microblogger” was Samuel Pepys. His name pronunciation is revealed in the following limerick:

It is said that one Samuel Pepys
Had the best diary by bounds and leaps
He penned of a plague
In a style far from vague
His account of it gave me the creeps


Unlike other chatterboxes of his time, like Dubhaltach MacFhirbhisigh, Pepys preferred to write about the day’s events in a diary. This was quite revolutionary for his time. I remember I had a diary when I was a child. I don’t believe it contained enough pages to handle a story as big as the Great Plague or the Great Fire of London. This is what made Pepys such an innovator. He told accounts of the day's events in concise snippets, which were then known as “peeps”.

By the way, MacFhirbhisigh (and you thought I made that up!) — after seeing how succinct Pepys’ writing was — is credited with coining the expression, “Jeepers, creepers! Where’d you get those peeps, sir?”

Whether we’re talking brevity or peeping or tweeting or microblogging or blurbing or…

Ah, never mind. I’ve said too much on this already.

Let’s turn our attention now to a recent news item about that multi-faceted star of publicity stunts; Lindsay Lohan.

Here are excerpts from an article in the Toronto Star (the bracketed question marks are mine):

The 23-year-old actress (???) has launched a $100 million (U.S.) lawsuit against discount brokerage eTrade, according to the New York Post.

“They're using her name as a parody of her life. Why didn't they use the name Susan? This is a subliminal message. Everybody's talking about it
(???) and saying it's Lindsay Lohan,” Stephanie Ovadia, Lohan’s lawyer, told the Post.

Ovadia suggested that Lohan has elevated
(???) ‘Lindsay’ to the same sort of one-off recognition status as ‘Madonna’ or ‘Cher’.

Lohan’s lawyer should realize that eTrade didn’t use the name Susan because it would surely invite legal trouble from a bunch of Susans. They should instead have used a fabricated name like Dubhaltach.

As yet, there have been no complaints reported from Lindsay Wagner, Lindsay Davenport, Lindsay Crouse, Lindsey Buckingham, Lindsey Vonn, Lindsey Hunter, Lindsey Jacobellis, Lindsay Ontario, or Mark Lindsay.

We should all take a lesson from this and be wary of the names and words we use. Be brief. Use peeps. Send tweets. Read Pepys. Never, ever utter the name Lindsay.

And woe betide anyone who, without express written consent, should use the names G. Thomas or G. or Snow Shoveling or Snow.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

First Annual SSIC Poetry Contest

We at Snow Shoveling in Canada are proud to announce the winners of the First Annual SSIC Poetry Contest.

Submissions were judged on originality, style, poetic structure, and order in which they were pulled from the hat.

And so, without further ado, here are the winners:

FIRST PRIZE:

MID-DAY CRICKET

Do you dare attract a mate, O mid-day cricket,
Calling all alone from your light-dappled thicket?
Chirp, chirp, chirping ‘neath a hazy, August sun;
You’ll find more competition when this long day is done.


SECOND PRIZE:

ODE TO THE BLACK JACK

Spank me when I’m born and toast me when I die,
Breakfast in the morn and a snort when evening’s nigh.
I’ll eat KD for lunch, and drink JD for dinner,
All’s fine on the outer, when Jack Daniel’s warms the inner.


THIRD PRIZE (this entrant could have claimed top prize, but they tried to sneak in four poems masquerading as one. As such, the entry was penalized, which may have cost this contestant incalculable fame and fortune):

GRAND LEGENDS OF THE OLD WEST

General George Armstrong Custer

Oh, that bastard cuss Custer
just couldn’t cut the mustard.
And thus the dastard bit dust.
His last stand was a mass bust.

---

Wyatt Earp

What is a man?

Consider Wyatt Earp; why he wasn’t worth a burp
when it comes to the measure of a man.

Real men are good and kind; they show love; are more refined
than those thugs such as Wyatt and his clan.

---

Wild Bill Hickok

You cannot say it’s fact that he enjoyed to kill,
but many men were slain by the guns of Wild Bill.

Yet, just desserts are served when brutes like Hickok fall
at the hands of punks like the vengeful Jack McCall.

---

Billy the Kid and Jesse James

When compiling a list like this
of such legends, I’d be remiss
if I did not mention the names
Billy the Kid and Jesse James.

Were they heroes, like Robin Hood;
misunderstood, and mainly good?
Ruthless killers is what they were;
Filthy dog and a loathsome cur.


Have you ever read such "poetry"? Words like these are rarely seen or heard nowadays. Whenever I pore over such lyrical versification as this, I'm reminded of  Robert Frost (a favorite of snow shovelers everywhere), or that great poet of the environmental movement, John "Green Wit" Leafier. Other poets also come to mind such as  William Butler Keats and John Manservant Yeats

Oh, no one beats Yeats and Keats
For words so sublime and rich.
But of those greats, Keats and Yeats,
I'm never sure which is which.

The poem above received an honorable mention in our contest.

While we're on the subject of mentioning, I'd like to mention one of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson. A biography of her on Famous Poets and Poems  reads in part, "Dickinson assembled many of her poems in packets of 'fascicles' which she bound herself with needle and thread." It's a wonder those fascicles didn't make her poetry collection a sopping mess.

Two other poets I should call attention to are e.e. cummings and T.S. Eliot. Mr. cummings is probably best known as the poet who had a defective shift key on his typewriter. Mr. Eliot is famous for writing poems for which the musical Rats was based. The most famous song from this play was that ballad to a cuddly little sewer rodent, Ben.

You may be interested in knowing that I've done a little dabbling in poetry myself. But my poems are more likely to begin with words like, "There once was a gal from Grants Pass..."

Email me if you want to know how the rest of it goes. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hair, You Go Again

A wise and hairy Dane once said:

To beard, or not to beard: that is the question:
Whether 'tis easier on the face to suffer
The stings and cuts of tonsorial torture,
Or to take a break and accept that sea of stubble,

And by not opposing, grow a beard.

People spend a lot of time and attention on hair. Women will also spend countless dollars on styling their hair. Men, on the other hand, spend very little money (by comparison anyway) on hairstyling. The reason is that most of us men tend to gradually lose what precious little hair we have covering our craniums.

Facial hair is another matter. Men can do all sorts of things with facial hair that women can't. We can shave it off to look as smooth as women or we can demonstrate our superior macho masculinity by growing a beard. Once a significant amount of facial hair has been amassed, it can be trimmed into all manner of styles.

One popular style of beard is known as the Van Rijn, named after the hirsute Dutch painter Rembrandt Hairmengroom van Rijn. Alternatively, this style has been called the Van Dyke or the Van Heflin.

Another beard, the goatee, is much like the Van Rijn/Van Dyke/Van Heflin but without the mustache part. This is a great style for men who want to look like that famous old west desperado, Billy the Goat.

Billy the Goat

The full beard can be worn at various lengths; from the ultra-short (like most actors and male models these days — who look like they're on the fifth day of a five-day razorless vacation) to the super-long (for the classic Rasputin appearance or that dashing, through-the-snow look of Santa-Claus).

While in my twenties and thirties, I sported a beard most of the time. As I got older however, my facial hair grew grayer and grayer until it got to the point where it was completely white. Thus, vanity kept me clean shaven for many years. But about a year and a half ago, I decided to grow a beard once more. Since it was so white, I figured it would look better if I kept it short — very short.

Unfortunately, this also made my beard very picky. Whenever I gave my wife a smooch, she felt as if she were kissing a pin cushion. I was about as cuddly as a scotch pine.

Furthermore, when I started growing the beard I envisioned that I would look like this:



Instead, I ended up looking more like this:



So I shaved it off.

Now I look something like this:


Makes me look younger, don't you think?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spider-Man, Batman, Gar-Gar and Sniff

When I was a kid, like most kids, I loved reading comic books; particularly those about superheroes.

The Marvel comics were my favorites. I mostly enjoyed Spider-Man, Thor, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Captain America. I didn’t care as much for the D.C. comics although I did like Batman and the Flash.

One of my least favorite superheroes had to be the Green Lantern. This rather pedestrian hero's distinction was the fact that he dressed in green and had a lantern and a ring. Whoop-dee-do!

Besides, his name made no sense. He was the man holding the lantern, not the lantern itself. They should have called him the "Green Guardian" or the "Man in Green with a Lantern and a Ring". If you saw someone with a crimson pail, you wouldn’t call him the "Red Bucket" (Although that would make for an interesting superhero. He might have some magic elixir or putrid slime in his bucket that he could dispense to evildoers).

From the mediocre we now go to the ridiculous: Superman. This guy really bugged me (although I wouldn’t say that to his face). It wasn’t enough that he was stronger than anyone. No. Superman could do anything. He could even turn back time! His powers made all the other superheroes obsolete. What a showoff! I wouldn't be surprised if he could dance better than Fred Astaire, or theorize better than Albert Einstein, or cook better than Julia Child.

I remember Superdude once had a foot race with my favorite superhero, The Flash. This hasty hero was my favorite because I used to be a pretty fleet little runner myself, in my youth. The reason I was fast was due to the fact that I was quite skinny; my legs had very little weight to bear and I encountered no wind resistance when I ran (it was kind of like having my own superpower).

Anyway, Superjerk and my man, the Flash, face off in this titanic race of speedy champions. I figure it’s a foregone conclusion that the Scarlet Speedster would win. After all, velocity was his forte, his only claim to fame, and his reason for living. If someone were as fast or faster than he, then he would have to hang his head in shame and no longer call himself a superhero.

So how does the race end? It’s a stinkin' tie!!! My favorite superhero has become redundant. I hate Superman.

I remember my father telling me and my brothers about a character called Plastic Man. He described him as this elasticized contortionist who could bend into various shapes and stretch to unbelievable lengths. Us boys, being the comic book connoisseurs that we were, explained to him that he was thinking of Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four.

Dad, however, insisted there was such a character as Plastic Man. We kids chuckled about this on many occasions, thinking our father was either joking with us or losing his mind; until one day when he came home with a copy of Plastic Man.

Figuring we had to believe him now, he then proceeded to tell us about another lesser-known superhero by the name of Gar-Gar.

Gar-Gar had the uncanny ability to assume the form of any gas on the periodic table of elements. If necessary, he could fatally poison the bad guys or at least make them queasy by morphing himself into a foul odor.

He had a sidekick by the name of Sniff. Sniff had tremendous lung capacity and was immune to toxic gases and rancid smells. Thus, he was able to sniff up Gar-Gar whenever trouble arose.

Ol’ Dad had to be putting us on for sure this time. We weren’t going to fall for that one.

But all that's in the past. Now I'm a man. I've matured. I can see that the real heroes are the ones who make a difference in our lives: spouses, parents, family members, true friends, and reality TV stars.

Oh, and if someone should come across any issues of The Adventures of Gar-Gar and Sniff, let me know. I’d be interested in purchasing a copy.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ides Say It’s a Busy Month

Soothsayer
Caesar!

Caesar
What?

Soothsayer
Beware the Ides of March.

Caesar
What sayest thou, soothsayer?

Soothsayer
Beware the Fifteenth of March.

Caesar
Oh.

And so begins Act 1 Scene II of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Shakespeare’s play is based on a true story. You may remember from your history books the conversation that allegedly took place between Brutus and one of the Senators who planned to murder Caesar:

“When is this assassination supposed to take place?” asked Brutus.
“The Ides of March,” replied the conspirator.
“The I's of March? What, like the Ist, IInd, and IIIrd of March?”
“No, you dimwit. The Ides of March.”
“Ides? I have no idea what that is. Get it? Ide-ea. But seriously, what is it?”
“The fifteenth.”
“Then why didn’t you just say “fifteenth”?”
“I wanted it to seem ominous.”
“I see. Yes, we certainly don’t want our identities revealed.”
Ominous, lamebrain, not anonymous.”
“Oh. OK, the Ides. But what time exactly?”
“At two, Brute.”

or something like that.

I generally think of March as a miserable month (I’m sure Caesar didn’t like it much either). Usually the weather is horrid, but this year it looks like the snow shoveling season may already be over with.

I’ve never seen a March begin like this one. It’s been as balmy as a summer night in Iqaluit. The forecast calls for sunshine and plus temperatures right up until next week. The walkways and driveway are as bare and dry as a parched nudist.

However, there are many other things besides shoveling to keep me occupied this month.

First off, the Academy Awards are on Sunday.

The front runners for Best Picture are Avatar and The Hurt Locker. If either of these win, it will be the worst choice for best film since, well, last year. But this would rank right up there with Braveheart and Forrest Gump as the worst best picture ever.

Personally, I’d like to see Up, Up in the Air win. This is a live action/animated film starring George Clooney and some cartoon codger. The music is by Jimmy Webb. The 5th Dimension (sometimes known as the 1/3rd Ides Dimension) perform the title song.

Another thing to look forward to this month is the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship (a.k.a. March Madness). The first game is on the day after the Ides. This tournament gives me the opportunity each year to do my best bump-on-a-log-with-a-beer imitation. I don’t think my wife cares for it.

Two days after the Ides we have St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland. He is known as the guy who — with the help of the Ides Piper — drove all the snakes and rats from Ireland. Everybody sing, “When Irish Ides are smiling…

Incidentally, the Ides Piper was also the nickname given to a member of that gang that attacked Caesar. He’s the one that used a lead pipe rather than a knife.

It’s a busy, busy month indeed. Throw into the mix the beginning of Daylides Savings Time, the first day of spring, March break, Palm Sunday, and Passover, and it’s a wonder anyone ever has time to do any shoveling in March.

And I'm sorry about the nudist link trick.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

“Sing”, “Sing” a “Song”

It seems as though rap and hip hop are here to stay. However, this style of “music” isn’t new. Oh, no. It’s been around for a long, long time.

Much credit for its popularity today must be given to “artists” such as Iced Tea, M&Ms, The Notoriously Big Guy, and Charlie Brown’s dog Snoopy.

But you have to look no further than the 1960’s to find some fine examples of early rap.

One of the greatest “singers” of our time, Lorne Greene, released his hit “song” Ringo in 1964. Ringo tells the tale of a ruthless gunman who spread terror but was ultimately shot to smithereens after demonstrating a spark of good. This "song" would eventually become number one on the charts, replacing The Shangri-Las' ode to Frank Sinatra: Leader of the Pack.

Prior to that, in 1961, Jimmy Dean (the country sausage guy, not the rebel without a cause) recorded the hit Big Bad John. In this “song”, Mr. Dean “sings” about a sizable fellow who works in a mine. I won’t go into what happens to John, lest I just end up reproducing the lyrics here (which would essentially be the "song"). Let’s just say that I always felt sorry for that big misunderstood galoot.

One of the earliest instances of the rap style in popular music was demonstrated by Rosie the waitress from the Bounty paper towel commercials. Actually, it was the actress who played Rosie; Nancy Walker. She performed Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet in the 1944 film Broadway Rhythm. This is not a pure rap “song”. I could not find a link to Ms. Walker’s version, but if you get a chance to hear it you'll notice that partway through the number she goes from singing to “singing”.

Yet we must go back much further in time to find the man who would have to be considered the founding father of rap “music”.

That distinction belongs to Antoninus, one of the thugs from the Spartacus gang. Remember him?


When the Romans captured Spartacus and his men, they threatened to kill them all unless someone would betray their leader. Spartacus — in a heroic effort to spare his men — stood up to reveal himself, but Antoninus beat him to the punch. He jumped to his sandaled feet and yelled out, “I’m Spartacus.”
This set off a chain reaction. Another guy stood up and shouted, “I’m Spartacus.”
And another, “I’m Spartacus.”
Another, “I’m Spartacus.”
And so on.

The Romans were very frustrated by this, because now instead of one pesky Spartacus, they found that they had to deal with a whole slew of Spartaci.

Legend has it that this event spawned an entire generation of scofflaws. Whenever a centurion confronted a non-Roman for some infraction — say a speeding chariot — the inevitable happened:
“Name?”
“Spartacus.”
“All right wise guy. Thirty days in the dungeon.”

But back to Antoninus. If you’ve seen the movie Spartacus, you’ll recall the scene where Antoninus tells his beloved leader that he is a “singer” of “songs”. The men then encourage him to perform. “Sing us a song," they say.
“Yes, sing us a song, Antoninus.”
“Sing, sing a song, you singer.”

And so he “sings”:

When the blazing wind hangs low in the western sky
when the sun flies away to the mountain
when the “song” of the crow scares the locusts from the fields
and maidens sleep in the sea foam
at last at twilight time...


or something like that.

But even back then rap “artists” had their critics; as demonstrated at the end of the scene when Spartacus rolls his eyes and sarcastically remarks, “Nice “song”.”

Some might argue that Antoninus was ahead of his time. However, it must be noted that even Cro-Magnon man had the ability to create “songs” by banging two rocks together and uttering monosyllabic monotone gibberish.

Music isn’t what I’d call a progressive art form.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

SSIC Movie Review: The Hurt Locker

This is a movie about bombs. Lots of bombs. Desert bombs.

The End.

That's pretty much it. Oh sure, a few other things happened. You wanna hear about 'em? OK. I'll provide you with a little more, oh faithful reader.

I’m still not sure what the title The Hurt Locker refers to. It’s not about well-secured first aid kits, nor is it about gymnasium facilities for actors William, John, or even Mary Beth.

This celluloid endeavor was directed by Kathryn Bigelow; the deft hand behind such legendary screen classics as Point Break and Blue Steel. It stars Jeremy Renner as Staff Sergeant William James, an expert at diffusing bombs. Joining him on the Explosivity Disposaling Unit are Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), and Owen Eldrige (Brian Geraghty).

Renner has been nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. I’m not sure why this is. The supporting performances — most notably Mackie’s — were, in my opinion, superior. All Renner did was act “cool”. Oh, so “cool”. Desert "cool". But if looking “cool” is the only criterion used for award recognition, then David Caruso should be nominated for a Nobel Prize.

The film centers mostly on the antics of Sergeant James. James loves dismantling things that can blow you into a zillion pieces. He’d rather do that than live a peaceful life in a nice home with his beautiful wife. We’re shown some of his domestic life, but the movie doesn’t show the good stuff. No. Instead we see him cleaning out the eavestrough of his house.

Now I’ve cleaned out a few roof gutters in my time, but the one depicted here has to be the gunkiest gutter in the history of home maintenance. And he’s cleaning it out with his bare hand!!! C’mon, use a scoop, or a trowel, or a toy shovel, a stick, a shoe, anything. I’d rather diffuse bombs in Iraq than have to clean out that gutter in that fashion.

Another scene worth mentioning shows the guys — after getting a little snockered — engaging in an activity where good judgment and mental acuity would be a distinct disadvantage. The “game” involves taking turns hitting each other as hard as possible in the stomach. My wife, while watching this powerful and touching scene, turned to me and asked, “Why do men do those kind of things?”

You know, we men just have to chuckle when women ask us such questions. It was obvious to me, but I patiently explained it to her that this was a gesture of endearment. Women hug. Men try to smash the bejabers out of each other. It’s their way of saying, “You’re OK in my book.” And nothing says it better than a ruptured spleen.

A word of warning here to those prone to seasickness: the camerawork in this film is of that hand-held style that so many directors are wont to use these days. I suppose they feel it gives their movies that gritty, realistic, documentary look — which is ironic, since documentary filmmakers rarely use the technique anymore. Besides, if it’s supposed to look realistic, then why don’t I see the real world that way through my eyes? Although if I did, I’d be making an appointment — and pronto — with an ophthalmologist or a brain surgeon.

If you have a tough time watching this film due to that camera style, then avoid The Bourne Ultimatum at all costs. You would not survive. Its visuals are worse than any bone-jarring experience you could imagine.

I once took a ride on a gigantically tall roller coaster. Its peak disappeared into the clouds. It was called the Red Ripper, or the Brown Streak, or the Green Puker — something like that. Anyway, all I know is that I was smiling after that ride. I wasn’t smiling after The Bourne Ultimatum.

In closing, I should say that even though I had some reservations about renting the DVD of The Hurt Locker, I was able to take something positive from it — a lesson.

The lesson learned is, pay attention to your reservations.

Monday, March 1, 2010

2010 Olympic Rap-Up

The 2010 Winter Olympics have come and gone, and what a great time it was.

Therefore, in honor of the games, I’ve decided to compose a rap song. I don’t know how to represent a beatbox rhythm in print, so we’ll have to go with oom pah pah.

oom pah pah, oom pah pah
 

To all the disapprovers
Who tried to diss Vancouver’s
Olympic Winter games
Go hang your heads in shame

oom pah pah, oom pah pah

‘Cause it’s a success story
A source of golden glory
For a bunch of Canadians
And even some Scandanavians

oom pah pah, oom pah pah

Second verse, same as the first…
*

* That last line belongs to those hip hop pioneers and enfants terrible of pop music, Herman’s Hermits.

There were quite a few interesting stories at these games — some happy, some sad. And there were a lot of great Olympians who shone as bright as diamonds in the snow.

For me, none shone brighter than Petra Majdič of Slovenia. This incredible cross-country skier found herself off-course in a training run of the Ladies’ Sprint Classic. She tumbled into a deep ditch and landed on some rocks. She suffered four or five broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Amazingly, she subsequently raced in the quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals; earning a bronze medal for her efforts. She actually had to be given assistance to step up onto the podium to receive her award.

I remember I once missed an entire day of work after stubbing my toe in the dark on my way to the bathroom the previous night.

Another great Olympic moment was when the German long-track speed skaters squeaked out a win over the U.S. in the team pursuit semifinal. Anni Friesinger-Posterior languished behind her teammates on the final lap and fell before crossing the finish line. She did eventually cross it however; sliding on her belly while doing a strange breastroke-on-ice maneuver.

I’m not sure, but the U.S. team may have had reason to protest this. If anyone were to do a speed-skating motion while competing in the breastroke at the summer games, then they would undoubtedly be disqualified.

But perhaps my favorite Olympian was Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong.

Nkrumah-Acheampong (pronounced Kwah-Mee), a skier from Ghana known as the "Snow Leopard" was the 102nd and final skier to compete in the men’s slalom. He finished the race ( which is more than 48 other guys can claim) and found himself 53rd among the 54 men who completed the course. Who, you may ask, had a slower time?

Albania's Erjon Tola, known as the “Snow Tortoise” finished 46.15 seconds off the lead time. He actually climbed back up the course to pass through a gate that he had missed.

Come to think of it, this could be the beginning of a new and exciting sport in future Olympics. I propose a slalom where the gates are hidden. After you get to the bottom, you’re told which ones you’ve missed and then you have to scramble back up the mountain to correct your mistakes.

But Kwame’s run down the slopes was fun to watch. After seeing him successfully navigate his way through the first couple of gates, I figured I had time to go upstairs to make myself a sandwich — bologna, with mustard, and maybe some mayo. Toasted? No. Lettuce? Sure, why not. A cup of coffee would go nice with that. Here’s some leftover from breakfast. Just warm it up a couple of minutes in the microwave. Great. A little cream and sugar. Back downstairs to watch the rest of Kwame’s run.

OK. He just has a couple of more gates to get through. And he’s made it! Congratulations, Kwame.

I really shouldn’t make fun of these two skiers. Admittedly, had I’d been given the chance to go down that course — and assuming I went cautiously enough not to miss any gates — I might have made it down in time to catch the closing ceremonies.


All in all I’d say these games were an unqualified success. After this year’s Olympic experience, you may wonder if I will tune into the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

You bet your sweet skeleton I will.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pitching is Easier than Shoveling

McDonald’s theme song "Bada ba ba ba im lovin it" is on Facebook

Really! I’m not kidding.

I wonder who else is on Facebook? Subway’s jingle “Five, five dollar, five dollar footlong” could be there. Or maybe Meow Mix’s “Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow” song is on Facebook. Perhaps “The grizzly bears from the Charmin commercials with toilet paper pieces stuck to their bums” are on Facebook.

People often ask me, “Do you make a lot of money writing for Snow Shoveling In Canada?” Oddly enough, — considering what a bright beacon of information, critical thinking, and current events this site is — I am not paid for my efforts here.

It seems, however, that I’ve missed my calling. If I really wanted to make some easy money, then I would have become an ad man — yes, you heard me right, an ad man.

Look at the commercials on television. It must be easy to sell ads to these corporate executives. They’ll buy anything!

Imagine going to a meeting with the board of directors of some large food manufacturer, and pitching your idea of a big animated four-fingered hand. “This” you say, “is what you need to sell your hamburger enhancement product.”

With bold confidence, you show them an image of this brilliant character; seemingly born of enormous creative capacity and years of mental toil.

“His palm, you’ll notice, contains his face. His thumb is his right hand,” you announce with pride.
“What are the other three fingers?” they ask.
“His hair, of course.”
“What about legs? He has no legs.”
“Oh, he can move about pretty well. He can even drive a car, albeit badly.”
“Great! We’ll buy it,” they exclaim.

Or, you could have made this pitch to the folks at Geico Insurance:
"Ladies and gentleman, may I present the Geico Gecko."
“Our company name is Geico, not Gecko.”
“Yes, but it sounds like Gecko."
“Great! We’ll buy it.”
Good thing the company name wasn’t Cackroach. That would have been a tougher sell.

On the McDonald’s Canada web site, someone has posted this comment: “Why I Love McDonald's: Best jingle in history – Ba-Da-Ba-Ba-Ba.”

Yes, it certainly is ingenious. The composer of this jingle must be a richly talented musician indeed. It's also quite evident that his skill as a lyricist rivals W. S. Gilbert. But I like to imagine that I’d had the chance to pitch my ad and accompanying jingle just after this clever fellow.

“What do you have for us?” they would have asked.
“How’s this? Bada-Ba-Ba-Bee-Ba I’m sure lovin’ it.”
“Incredible! I never thought anyone would top that last guy. You’re hired.”

As simple as that.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bells on Bobsleighs Ring

I think tobogganing as a competitive sport would be great. Wouldn’t it be fun to see a team of 5 or 6 guys careering down a mountainside on a suped-up Olympic-caliber toboggan?

I was watching some more Winter Olympics yesterday, and they were talking about some fellow who is the director or something of the International Bobsleigh and Tobogganing Federation. Well, I’ve never seen tobogganing in the Olympics, nor have I seen it as a sport in any World Cup events.

So I thought that our crack team of investigators at Snow Shoveling in Canada had better check this out.

First, we googled “bobsleigh and tobogganing”. First hit was www.fibt.com. However, the website description is FIBT the international home of Bobsleigh and Skeleton sports. No mention of tobogganing.

Further investigation on their site revealed this corporate information: "The Fédération Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing (FIBT) is the religiously and politically neutral international non-governmental organisation administering the sports of Bobsleigh [including Bob-on-the-Road] and Skeleton." Skeleton, not tobogganing. Shouldn't they be the FIBS?

But, wait a minute. BOB-ON-THE-ROAD??? What the heck is that? More investigation required I’m afraid.

Googling “bob-on-the-road” revealed a book titled Goodnight Jim Bob: On the Road with "Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine". That doesn’t sound like what we’re looking for. Another result was lyrics for Dylan, Bob - On the Road Again. Another strike.

So we searched “bob-on-the-road” together with “bobsleigh” and found a blurb on a site that says in part “…the international practice of “bob on the road” is authorized, to encourage countries which do not possess bob tracks.”

Ah, there it is. So the countries that do not have bobsled tracks just take their 2 and 4 man sleds to the streets! Further investigation of this would perhaps reveal what kind of street racing you might see in Iceland. I don’t know what the winter driving conditions are like in other countries, but I sure wouldn’t want to commute to work on anything resembling a bobsled track (unless I did so on a sled).

Now you may have noticed that I’ve used two different words here: bobsleigh and bobsled. Personally, I like the latter. Bobsledding is the sport. Bobsleigh sounds more like something used in a fun, leisurely activity. Listen to a number of Christmas songs and they all say sleigh instead of sled. Sled wouldn’t work. Lyrics would have to change.

…they know that Santa is well-fed. He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sled…” That’s no good.

Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sled, o’er the fields we go, laughing ‘til we’re dead”. Neither sled nor dead should be used in a Christmas song. Incidentally, this song also contains the lyrics "Bells on bobsleighs ring...".

Besides, don’t you think bobsled somehow sounds faster than bobsleigh?


2010 Medal update!!!!

U.S. - 28
Canada - 15

Many indignant Canucks will say to this “Oh, yeah! Well you Americans have ten times the population we do.”

More investigation is required by the SSIC team to see how countries with populations 10 times smaller than Canada are doing at these games.

Moldova, Liberia, Panama, Lithuania, Uruguay, Mauritania, and the Republic of Congo all have zero medals. A goose egg! Someone might argue that many of these aren’t cold weather places and so one shouldn’t be surprised. But what about Lapland, Antarctica, Baffin Island, Siberia, and even the once mighty U.S.S.R.? You don’t see any of them listed in the medal standings.

So there!