By the way, the PCs are electing our new premier. Just thought you should know.

As a respected member of the blogosphere (or at least a member of the blogosphere), I feel it is my obligation to comment on the ‘race’ to be the next leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, who will also become our next premier. You will be forgiven if you say to yourself, ‘This is the first I’ve heard of this’.

Alberta politics is always sleepy during the summer; the legislature doesn’t sit in the summer months (and hardly at all in the fall, winter and spring months for that matter). But this summer should have been different, with the ruling PC party (again) electing a new leader.  So much excitement was guaranteed as a political dynasty attempts to reinvent itself and stave off an upstart enemy. What a saga! But like many a would-be summer Hollywood blockbuster, this race is a The Lone Ranger-sized bomb.

Just to refresh your memory, there are three candidates in the running. One of them is credible, and the guaranteed, first-ballot, overwhelming, lead-pipe cinch winner. The other two are jokes, cannon fodder, good-but-not-very-bright soldiers in the race so the party doesn’t entirely embarrass itself with a coronation.

The winner, in case you’ve forgotten, is Jim Prentice. When Prentice wins the PC leadership on Sept. 6, he will become premier despite never having held a seat in the Alberta legislature. Owing to the perverse nature of this leadership race, Prentice’s complete unfamiliarity with the Alberta legislature and the PC party is his greatest strength. The PCs are so crippled by their own reputation that the party is desperate to elect someone who hasn’t been tainted by the stink of hanging around with, well, them. Prentice fits the bill in other areas near and dear to PC hearts: he’s big in the oil community, he’s a Harper Tory, and he’s from Calgary. That’s the trifecta right there. (The little problem of not having a seat in the legislature will be solved when a certain ex-premier resigns her Calgary seat, and a byelection is quickly called. You heard it hear first, perhaps.)

The other candidates are two of the sorriest would-be leaders offered up by a major political party, anywhere, anytime.

There’s Ric McIver, known in Calgary and nowhere else. In his first term in the legislature, McIver managed to make virtually no impact on the public consciousness, but still felt compelled to run for the leadership. The biggest splash McIver made was when it was revealed that he attended a March for Jesus (which is not a bad thing, in that a lot of people like this Jesus guy), organized by a virulently anti-gay organization. When the only thing people know about you is that you’re a supporter of an organization that even the Wildrose party would distance itself from, you’re in trouble.

And then there’s Thomas Lukaszuk, the resident attack dog of the PC party. Oily and crass, with a creepy Euro-trash vibe about him, Lukaszuk is famous for picking a fight with a senior citizen while campaigning. Lukaszuk has benefited from the lack of passable PC MLAs from the Edmonton area, landing in cabinet several times. He was even the deputy premier for Alison Redford, (his primary job was fielding opposition questions in the most insulting manner possible) which tells you everything you need to know about Alison Redford. Lukaszuk is the token Edmonton candidate, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was encouraged by the party to run, just so that there would be somebody — anybody — from Edmonton.

The best this aging party could offer up is two non-entities and somebody who has no connection to the party. Prentice is clearly the party’s best hope — only hope — of extending the dynasty. Chosing McIver or Lukaszuk spells certain defeat in the next election. Which is not a bad thing at all.

How the PCs bungled the license plate design contest.

How does a government botch something as simple as changing your provincial license plate?

Apparently, it’s a lot easier than it seems, because our moribund PC government has done exactly that.

You may have heard that the province has decided to jettison its ages old ‘Wild Rose Country’, white-and-red license plates in favour of something more colourful (and, by mere coincidence, more expensive). Some big thinkers in the government thought it would be a really cool idea to offer up three versions of the plate, and put them online for the public to vote on. Simple, right? A bit of summer fun to fill in the lazy days.

Didn’t quite work out that way, did it? Everything about the plate rollout was wrong.

The three (yawn) choices.

The three (yawn) choices.

First, we have the designs. Mountains and wheat, iconic images of Alberta, right? Sure. But mountains figure prominently on Colorado’s plates, too. But that’s the least of the problems. The designs are, at best, mediocre. Pedestrian, if you will.  Mind you, a license plate is hardly a sprawling creative canvas, so I suppose you can’t expect much.

Then there’s the slogan, or more accurately, the lack of slogan. For decades, we’ve had Wild Rose Country, which is nice if a little dull. But the government decided to get rid of Wild Rose Country in favour of the much more lyrical and evocative “alberta.ca”. Yep, a website. The government apparently thinks that non-Albertans would have to be directed to a website to find out more about the province, because people today can’t figure out how to access this new fangled Internet thingy, and need to have the website spelled out. It’s clearly just coincidence that the Wild Rose slogan is identical to the name of the opposition party that is on track to dethrone the PCs. Yes, coincidence.

Now things get even worse. It turns out the plate designs come from an AMERICAN firm. And not just any AMERICAN firm, but 3M, q multi-national monster. A government spokesman said the decision to use an American firm was a cost saving decision, but that’s simply beyond credibility. How many design firms are there in Alberta? Dozens? Hundreds? There’s not a single one of them that wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to design something that will adorn every single motor vehicle in Alberta.

At least one firm has. CBC Edmonton reported on an Edmonton firm, Graphos, that quickly designed a plate that is far superior to the slapdash 3M version. And better yet, it incorporated the mountains into the plate in the same way the

Graphos design for Alberta plate.

Graphos design for Alberta plate.

NWT plate uses the polar bear, making a plate in the shape of the mountains. Simple, and brilliant.

So how could this have been handled better? It’s so simple: announce a contest open to design firms in Alberta to create a new plate. To ensure real applications and not just a flood of haphazard designs, add a submission fee for each design, say $100 or something.  Once the submissions are in, convene a panel of design experts to pick the three top designs, then offer it up to the public. Winning design gets a cash prize.

This method would have engaged the Alberta creative community, and got the public involved. But instead, we have a bureaucratic snafu that makes no one happy.

 

Is Eugenie Bouchard for real?

By now, even if you’re not a tennis fan, or a sports fan, or even an oscillating fan (sorry, terrible joke; it’s hot in my house and I just happened to look up at a fan), you’ve probably heard of Eugenie Bouchard.

In case you haven’t, here’s the scoop: Eugenie Bouchard is a tennis player. And not just any tennis player, but perhaps the next face of women’s professional tennis. And yes, I know she was destroyed in the Wimbledon final by somebody whose name I’ve already forgotten, but still — she’s the new It Girl of tennis.

Eugenie Bouchard, the all-Canadian girl.

Eugenie Bouchard, the all-Canadian girl.

Oh, and she’s Canadian. And not just Canadian, but almost perfectly Canadian. She’s so Canadian, I’m a little suspicious that she’s might actually be the creation of a Canadian unity agency. The only thing that prevents me from entirely buying into my theory that Eugenie Bouchard is a creation of a government agency is that there is no way any Canadian government agency could do anything this competent.

I mean, take a look at her. Could she be more perfect? She’s unquestionably attractive, but not in an unattainable, supermodel/skank sort of way. I can’t imagine that there would be too many red-blooded, straight Canadian males who wouldn’t want to take this girl home to meet mother. She’s practically the definition of the word wholesome. If they still ran those ‘Got Milk?” ads, she’d be a natural.

It’s not enough, however, just to be good looking, even in women’s tennis. You have to be good at the game as well, and amazingly she’s really, really good. She plays an aggressive game, none of that pitty-pat women’s tennis stuff. Better yet, she doesn’t do any of those sub-human grunting sounds that so many women tennis players seem to think they need to do.  (Why is that legal?)

Then there’s her background. She’s from Quebec, so Quebecers can claim her as their own. However, her first language is English, so English Canada can get fully behind her as well. The only blemish on the Bouchard resume is that her French is apparently quite English-accented, which makes some Quebec nationalists grumpy. But nobody cares about them; her French is good enough that she appeared on the hugely popular Radio Canada program Tout le Monde en Parle, and did fine.

So she’s young, attractive but attainable, a formidable talent, and has one foot in each of the founding cultures; she was even named after a member of the royal family! But is she a jerk? Arrogant? Self-centered? A party girl?

No, no, no and no. Eugenie is articulate and thoughtful. No signs of out-of-control ego. So far, so perfect.

Maria Sharapova, off the court. Way off the court.

Maria Sharapova, off the court. Way off the court.

Ah, but she’s young yet. So many temptations, so much time to indulge. Let us hope, no matter how much you might want to see it, that Eugenie Bouchard never poses in a bikini, a la the current hottie of tennis, Maria Sharapova (left, just in case you didn’t notice). Not that there’s anything wrong with a ridiculously gorgeous woman posing in a bikini (or less). And I’m sure Miss Bouchard would look just fine in swimwear. But I hope she doesn’t go the whole Sharapova route.

I mean, c’mon … she’s CANADIAN. I could understand if she posed in a Montreal Canadiens sweater, or even a nice plaid shirt, maybe sipping a double-double at Tim’s. But please, Eugenie, stay just the way you are. A nice Canadian girl.

Dear Canada: It’s time to upgrade our greatests lists.

Happy 147th birthday, my fellow Canadians. I hope you’re enjoying the day by spending time with the family, maybe going to the lake, attending various Canada Day celebrations, etc. Me? I’m going to work. One way for millions to celebrate the birth of the dominion is to go shopping, and SOMEBODY has to be behind the counter to take your money. Sigh.

Anyway, before I head off to work, I’d like to give you something to contemplate. I think it’s time we took a good long look at our Canadian heroes, and what makes us proud to be Canadian. They need some work, people.

The Harper government. in preparation for our 150th birthday three years hence, recently conducted an online poll to help determine who are Canada’s greatest heros, and what are the accomplishments we’re the most proud of. Turns out all we did, to quote the famous line from Casablanca, was “round up the usual suspects.” You could probably name most of them off the top of your head without even thinking, which is the problem: the people surveyed clearly didn’t do a lot of thinking.

No. 1 on the hero list was former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and interesting choice. Trudeau is benefiting greatly from early onset nostalgia. Seems to me that at the end of his career, he was loved and loathed in pretty much equal parts; many in Quebec still hate him. We even voted him out for a while and replaced him with Joe Clark, who was so shocked at becoming prime minister that he practically gave the job back to Trudeau. But I won’t deny his inclusion on the list of heroes, if for nothing else that for a while we had an exciting, world-famous political leader and an unflinching champion of Canada. For a country suffering from chronic self-doubt, that’s almost enough to make him a hero.

No argument here about Terry Fox, the Marathon of Hope runner. (Funny thing: the guy who actually finished the cross country run — on an artificial leg as well — was Steve Fonyo. That should have been enough to merit hero status, except poor Fonyo ended up being a bit of a sad case, getting into trouble with the law and various stimulants.) Sir John A. Macdonald is on the list, which is fine and right. So is Wayne Gretzky, which is also OK, even though he now lives in the U.S. and is rapidly becoming known more as the father of that fame whore Paulina. I’m happy Canadians still hold my political hero, Prime Minister Lester Pearson, in high regard. He gave us our flag and medicare, after all.  (Another funny thing: Pearson never won a majority government. Not much of a hero when he was alive, it appears.)

Astronaut Chris Hadfield is on the list, which is pretty OK as well. Romeo Dallaire, soldier and humanitarian, is well deserving. We also have former NDP leader Tommy Douglas, the father of medicare, and I’m sort of OK with that. After that, however, the list gets pretty weak. We have David Suzuki, whose greatest accomplishment is holding down a job at CBC for 30 years on a show no one watches, and former NDP leader Jack Layton, whose single greatest accomplishment was a breakthrough in Quebec that may or may not end up being a one-off, then dying. (If you question my view on Layton, ask yourself this: if he was alive, would he be on the list?)

The general wishy-washyness of the list confirms what I already know: our knowledge of Canada is woeful.

Why isn’t Frederick Banting, the discoverer of insulin, on the list? Sir Wilfred Laurier, the first French-Canadian prime minister? Going further afield, how about Gordon Lightfoot, the quintessential Canadian songwriter? Or how about Reginald Fessenden, inventor of radio? John Molson, founder of Molson brewery (hey, few people have given us more pleasure). Or Gordie Howe who, until Gretzky came along, was the greatest hockey player of all time? Rocket Richard, perhaps? And seriously, no Man in Motion, Rick Hansen?  Hey, folks, we can do better with our hero list.

Much worse is our list of accomplishments that “make you most proud to be a Canadian”.

Topping the list is medicare. Our obsession with medicare comes not from the fact that we have universal health care — which is pretty much the norm in every major country in the world — but with the fact the United States doesn’t have it. In all honesty, our health care system right now is seriously underperforming in relation to pretty much every other nation with universal health care. And yet, we cling to this as a great Canadian accomplishment.

Peacekeeping is no. 2 on the list. Yes, it’s a Canadian creation (Pearson again, by the way) but under Stephen Harper, we don’t even do peacekeeping anymore. Does anybody? The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is no. 3, which is nice, even if the vast majority of us couldn’t recite one line from it. Our contributes to World Wars I and II are justifiably on the list. Bilingualism and multiculturalism are both there.

But why or why do we have this baffling infatuation with the Canadarm, the space shuttle attachment? Seriously? A one-off invention used entirely by astronauts is one of our most proud accomplishments? Space exploration, of which we have done little, is also bafflingly on the list.

People of Canada! It’s time to upgrade our accomplishments! Therefore, I would like to propose that we substitute the Canadarm, space exploration and — dare I say it? — medicare with any or all of the following great Canadian accomplishments:

1. The discovery of insulin, one of the great public health advancements of all time.

2.  Hockey. Seriously, people, is there ANYTHING we’re more proud of?

3. Winter. Yes, I know we didn’t invent it, but we survive it, which is an accomplishment.

And if of these inventions don’t make you proud, how about the following Canadian creations:

* peanut butter;

• the IMAX big screen movie format;

• the Wonderbra;

• the cardiac pacemaker, which kept my dad going for years;

• plexiglass;

• the snowmobile;

• the Macintosh apple, best apple ever;

• the Robertson screw, best screw ever;

• Marquis wheat, which made western Canada the breadbasket of the world;

• standard time;

• plastic garbage bags;

• canola;

• the zipper;

• the walkie-talkie;

• five-pin bowling;

and, the invention that gives me the greatest pride as a Canadian …

• the paint roller.

Feel free to add (or subtract) your own. Happy Canada Day, or as I like to call it, Tuesday.

Sunnis versus Shi’ites explained … sort of.

By now, you’ve probably hear about some ruckus in Iran. Or maybe Iraq. Yes, that’s it, Iraq. I always get those two confused. And if you think that’s confusing, just wait until I get to today’s topic, the difference between Shi’ites and Sunnis.

You may be asking yourself, ‘Why the hell should I care about Iraq (or possibly Iran) and the difference between Shi’ites and Sunnis?’ Fair point. As my son always says, if something doesn’t impact him directly, he doesn’t care about it. I think that pretty well sums up 21st century young people’s thinking.

So, to make this marginally more interesting, I’ll give you two reasons why the battle for Iraq (I think we can settle on Iraq, right?) is of interest to you.

1. Terrorism. Here’s the thing about Middle East-brand sectarian hatred: they’re not content to keep their hatreds in-house.  Africa has all sorts of awful stuff happening (remember those kidnapped school girls that all the celebrities were so angry about for a while? Whatever happened to them, anyway?). But they pretty much keep to themselves, which we appreciate. But the Middle East isn’t content to keep battling it out in their little corner of the world. They want to expand their terrorism, even if we in the west aren’t really interested. And that’s why, when you’re flying from Saskatoon to Edmonton, you have to take off your shoes at the airport. See how it all comes together?

2. Oil. They have oil, and we need oil. But Maurice, I hear you say, we have our own oil right here in Alberta. We don’t need no stinking Middle East oil. True, but then there’s trouble brewin’ in any oil producing Middle East hotspot, the price of gas at the pumps here goes up. There’s no actual connection between our oil and theirs, but it provides the Big Oil monopoly with just enough of an excuse to jack up the price a dime or so. That, of course, and an impending long weekend.

So, there you have it: getting a pat down at the airport and getting screwed at the pumps. Two valid reasons why the feudin’ and a-fussin’ in Iraq matters to you.

So, on to Iran. Things have gotten so hairy over there, that the average Iraqi is pining for the good old days of the enlightened, stable leadership of Saddam Hussein. Yes, it’s that bad.

It seems an upstart terrorist group of radical Sunnis going by the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) came out of nowhere (probably Syria) and launched a very successful attack on a number of Iraqi cities. (Just to confuse matters further, ISIS is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. It appears that ISIS is now the favoured acronym, probably because it sounds just like the spy agency on the hilarious cartoon, Archer. Or, maybe not.) The Iraqi army, expertly trained and financed by the United States army, ran and hid like Frenchmen when ISIS attacked. Now, ISIS has control of a number major Iraqi cities. And, thanks to the fact that they did a little bank robbing while taking over cities, it is rumoured that they have somewhere around $400 million to spend on whatever cool new weapons they can buy. All cash deals, under the table.

ISIS doesn’t want much, only the complete realignment of the map of the Middle East. ISIS wants to create a cross border ‘caliphate’, encompassing parts of Syria and Iraq. If redrawing boundaries sounds just a little arrogant, history provides a classic example of Western arrogance. In 1916, France and Britain decided to redraw the map of the Middle East to suit their needs. A British diplomat literally drew a line down a map of the Middle East, dividing Syria and Iraq. Now, that’s arrogance.

Anyway, back to my starting point, the difference between Shi’ites and Sunnis. It seems they’ve been at odds with each other for a little while — 1,382 years to be exact. I wish I could say I’m making this up, but I’m not.

Back in 632, after the Prophet Muhammad (no photo available) died, Muslims disagreed over who should succeed him. One side favoured a family member, Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali. The became known as the Shiat Ali, or Shi’ites. (If they had any sense of humour, they would have called themselves Holy Shi’ites!) Another faction favoured leadership by consensus, and they became known as Sunnis (about 90 per cent of the world’s Muslims today are Sunnis). Ali eventually won the debate, but it didn’t go well — he was assassinated in 661, leading to war between the two groups.

Yes, 661. Sunnis and Shi’ites, both groups Muslim, have been at odds since 661. So, it shouldn’t be too hard to reconcile two groups who have been peeved at each other for more than 1,300 years, should it?

As you can see, it’s all very confusing; even Winston Churchill couldn’t remember who was who. All of this would have been so much easier to understand if the two groups just had different names, like Protestants and Roman Catholics did in the bad old days of ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland, another example of two groups killing each other in the name of the same god.

Where will it all end, you may ask. It probably won’t. After 13 centuries of grudges and slights and wars and massacres and scores to settle, chances of it ending any time soon seem as unlikely as, well, Shi’ites and Sunnis making nice. Ultimately, I think it will end up costing us another 10 cents at the pumps.

 

The good, the bad and the really ugly sides of soccer.

This month, two-thirds of the world is enraptured watching the World Cup. The other third of the world is complaining about how much they hate soccer.

Being a good Canadian, I can understand both sides of the debate. I like soccer, and I’ve watched an inordinate number of World Cup games. But, I can appreciate the hatred as well, because there are parts of ‘the beautiful game’ often make it ‘the shameful game’.

Here, then, are the Good, the Bad, and the Unforgivably Ugly of soccer.

GOOD

Unlike sports like the other football (which can consume 3 ½ hours of your time, which may or may not be important to you) or baseball (which, conceivably, can last forever, or sometimes just seems like it), soccer is a compact two-hour experience. To its eternal credit, soccer has not made allowances for TV: there are no interminable commercial breaks. The average NFL game takes 3 hours and 12 minutes to play, of which there are only 11 minutes of real playing. (An NFL broadcast spends more time on replays — 17 minutes — than on live action.) A study of actual playing time in an average English Premier League game in 2010 showed the ball was in play for 62½ of a game’s 90 minutes. That’s value for your money, and for your time.

BAD

A solid 90-minutes of soccer time can seem like 90 hours when the game is bad. Soccer can, and often does, lapse into a Simpson-esque scene of holds it, holds it, holds it …   Even the most devout of soccer fans will admit that the game can be dreadfully boring. (This can happen in any sport; the worst sports event I ever attended was an Edmonton Oilers game.) Non-soccer fans will say that every soccer game is boring, but that’s simply an ingrained, North American-style anti-soccer bias. The anti-soccer crowd should relax. I mean, I hate baseball — it’s simply excruciating to watch, tedious in the extreme — but I can understand its appeal. While I couldn’t be bothered to watch baseball, I’m happy for anyone who enjoys it. I just wish the anti-soccer faction would have the same attitude.

GOOD

The World Cup features a world of hilarious names. I have nothing but admiration for the stellar British soccer announcing crews who somehow manage to get their thick British tongues around  Sokratis Papastathopoulos, or Azubuike Egwuekwe. (I recommend a very amusing blog posting called The Blog of Funny Names, which has a fairly comprehensive list of hilarious monikers.)

GOOD

While most non-soccer fans know soccer announcing only from the oft-parodied ‘GOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!” of Latin American announcers, for my money the best sports announcers on the planet are British soccer announcers. At times wry and witty, other times scolding of poor play or poor players, and simply marvelous at calling a big moment, a great British soccer announcer can make the dullest game watchable. Working alone, their announcing is often more in the form of commentary than play-by-play. I was watching a game the other day where the announcer called a particularly beautiful pass “delectable”. Can you imagine a North American announcer calling anything other than the pre-game buffet delectable?

GOOD

I’m old enough to remember when watching a live sporting event from another country was a rarity, where the picture was fuzzy at best and the televising second-rate (just watch any of the Canada-Russia 1972 games from Russia and you’ll see what I mean). Today, televising of World Cup games is the best of any sport, anywhere.  The cameras miss nothing. Super slow-motion catches every moment in muscle-rippling close-up. Crowd shots catch the agony and ecstasy of the fans. Soccer TV is aided greatly by the fact that the faces (and often the hairstyles) of players are not hidden under helmets or behind face masks, making it that much better of a TV experience.

BAD

In soccer, there are far too many truly repugnant players. Egos are colossal in soccer, where a star player probably could demand his personal hairdresser attend games on the sidelines. The list of hated soccer players and their myriad transgressions is too long to list here, but let’s just say that one of the most hated, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, bit opposing players —not once, but twice!

BAD

Again with the players, the ‘war is over’ celebration of every goal is embarrassing to watch. The players always run to the side where the TV cameras are so they can mug and dance and blow kisses. The celebrations are so off the charts, I feel like telling them to get a room. Next time you score a goal, guys, act like you’ve done it before. And when you’re called for a foul, take it like a man instead of gesticulating wildly and complaining.

AND THE UGLY

And finally, the ugly side of soccer. It’s so ugly to me, so reprehensible, that it will always prevent me from fully embracing soccer.

It’s diving. Soccer likes to call is ‘simulation’, because that doesn’t sound quite as unsporting. But whatever you call it, diving is soccer’s shame, and it will ensure that soccer never really becomes a major sport in North America.

We here in North America have been conditioned to believe that sports should be played in the most fair, most manly manner possible. In soccer, a glancing slap across the face that wouldn’t topple a toddler results in players clutching their heads and going to ground like a sniper has picked them off. Diving goes against everything we believe in here, but this disease has infected North American sports. Hockey is getting progressively worse, and basketball is facing a crisis of simulation.

In most soccer nations (some more than others) diving is considered part of the game. The best divers are admired for their fakery skills. Games, indeed championships, can be decided not on the quality of the players, but on their ability to convince the referee they’ve been fouled.

Diving is unsporting, unmanly, and unforgivable.  It is so ingrained in the sport that it will never go away. And it’s why, despite all the good and great on the pitch, I’ll never fully accept ‘the beautiful game’.

 

 

Everything I’ve taught my sons: a Father’s Day tribute to me

Hey, everybody, it’s Father’s Day!

I feel I have to remind you, my minimal readership, of this fact. Father’s Day has always been the distant, definitely poorer relative of Mother’s Day. I don’t know who created Father’s Day (the tie makers’ cartel is a good bet), but I’m guessing it came several years after the first Mother’s Day, when someone said: “Hey, this Mother’s Day scam has really caught on. How about one for fathers?”

Anyway, whatever the reason, the day has arrived again, and in honour of fathers everywhere, I’d like to present this tribute to … me.  Yes, me. For I am Father, hear me bore.

I have three sons, all of them legally adults now. (Psychologically or mentally, I’m not so sure.) When they were just little shavers, I was expected to teach them everything they needed to become passable replicas of adult males. I did this primarily by watching old episodes of The Simpsons with them, and explaining jokes they didn’t get. As Bart once said to Homer, “It’s hard not to listen to TV. It’s spent so much more time raising us than you have.”

In between Simpsons episodes, I have managed to teach my three sons a few things about life, and about being A Man. Here is everything I’ve ever taught them.

CARS

Here’s everything I have passed along to my sons about car maintenance, which is one of those things men are supposed to know about.

  1. How to put gas in the car.
  2. How to fill the washer fluid reservoir.
  3. How to check the oil.
  4. How to change the wiper blades.
  5. How to change a tire.
  6. How to buy an Alberta Motor Association membership, which is how I do no. 5.

That’s pretty much it.

VOTING

Always, always vote when you have the chance. Democracy asks so little of you, so when it comes calling, asking for a small favor, do it. If you don’t know who to vote for, just ask me. I have lots of opinions. Even if you vote for a certain loser in Alberta (i.e. non-Conservative) you will feel better for it. Also, never waste your vote on the NDP.

WOMEN

Haven’t a clue.

YOUR MOTHER

You will never — ever — win an argument with your mother. Even if the pope himself (or, better yet, Joel Osteen) called to back you up, you will not win.

BEST BEFORE DATES ON FOOD

A best before date on a food just means that it’s at its best (in flavour and nutrition) by that date; it does NOT mean it instantly becomes inedible. As a general rule, if it still smells OK, and still bears a reasonable resemblance to the picture on the package (eg: strawberry jam that is now green is probably not good to eat), go ahead and enjoy. However, if the best before date is in another year, proceed with caution.

DON’T CALL IT RED LICORICE

There is no such thing as ‘red licorice’. Licorice is made from the root of a licorice plant, and has a very distinctive taste. It is always black. ‘Red licorice’ is just red candy in the shape of licorice candy, such as a Twizzler. Is this important? No. Does it bother me? Yes.

CORRECT YOUR FRIENDS

When your friends use improper English, feel free to correct them. For example, if your friend says, “I feel good today”, be sure to tell them that they “feel well”, not good. They’ll love you for it.

TOOLS

Every man needs a tool kit. Inside that kit, you will need

  1. A hammer
  2. A multi-head screwdriver
  3. Pliers
  4. A wrench
  5. A saw

A power drill is nice, even if you never use it. If your home repair job requires anything other than the five main tools, hire a professional. You will never need a router. I’m not even sure what that is.

ALWAYS READ INSTRUCTIONS

I know this is not manly, but I always read instructions. I even save them. Of all the advice I have given my sons, this is the one they have universally rejected. Kids today, am I right?

FARTING AND BURPING IS FUNNY WHEN YOU DO IT, NOT SO FUNNY WHEN SOMEONE ELSE DOES IT

To be honest, I didn’t have to teach them this.

TREAT EVERYONE KINDNESS, FOR IN THE EYES OF GOD WE ARE ALL EQUALS, AND DESERVING OF RESPECT

Except for idiots.