The Return of Stuff Happens, week 17: Comey is one letter away from comedy; B.C. on the brink

When the presidency of Donald J. Trump comes to its inevitable premature conclusion — either through resignation, impeachment, or a massive, fatal overdose of KFC — the events of May, 2017 will be seen as the beginning of the end.

On Tuesday, Trump stunned the country with his entirely unexpected firing of FBI director James Comey. No politicians, pundits or TV gasbags were calling for his head. If anyone had grounds to demand his firing, it was Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. As you may recall, Comey injected himself into the dying days of the election campaign, making a public pronouncement that he was re-starting the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server because of some recently discovered e-mails. (Remember those innocent times, when the worst a presidential candidate could be accused of was using a private email server? How quaint.) Although there is no way of actually quantifying the impact, it seems almost certain that the re-emergence of the so-called “scandal” hurt Clinton. Comey later said the investigation found nothing new, but the damage was done. Candidate Trump was gleeful, heaping praise on Comey for doing the right thing, being courageous, etc.

But this week, when Trump dropped the hammer on Comey (which he did via a letter delivered to FBI headquarters by his personal bodyguard, which Comey didn’t get because he wasn’t there, resulting in Comey hearing about his firing via TV news), he said a negative report from the Justice Department about Comey’s handling of the e-mail investigation forced the firing. Nobody believed that. Not even Trump.

On Thursday, he told NBC News that he decided to fire Comey on his own even before seeing the allegedly damning report. He called Comedy a “grandstander” and a “showboat” (pot, meet kettle), and that the FBI was in chaos. He told NBC that he was going to fire Comey regardless of what the Justice Department said, which directly contradicted the White House line the day before.

“I was going to fire regardless of recommendation … and in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,’ ” he said.

And there truth comes out. While he blamed Comey’s handling of the Clinton email scandal, the real reason was the FBI’s continuing probe into Russian influence on the Trump campaign, and the U.S. election. Yeah, that “made-up story”. His claims that the FBI was in chaos were directly contradicted by the deputy director, who said the bureau had, and still had, confidence in Comey.

Firing the head of the FBI is almost unprecedented. Bill Clinton fired the FBI head in 1993, but that was because of the director’s unethical use of government money. Trump’s actions — firing a man in charge of the investigation of the Russia-Trump campaign connection — smacks of the actions of a despot. It won’t stop the FBI investigation. But it might stop the Trump presidency.

Stil with The Donald (I’m sorry, there is no getting away from this guy), the president-for-now unleashed a broadside at TV people in an interview with Time magazine.  He said CNN’s Chris Cuomo looks like a “chained lunatic,” and CNN’s Don Lemon is “perhaps the dumbest person in broadcasting.” He saved the best for Stephen Colbert, whose nightly obsession with Trump has made the Late Show the late-night talk show leader.

“There’s nothing funny about what he says,” Trump told Time about the “no-talent” Colbert. “And what he says is filthy. And you have kids watching. And it only builds up my base. It only helps me, people like him. The guy was dying. By the way, they were going to take him off television, then he started attacking me and he started doing better. But his show was dying. I’ve done his show … but when I did his show, which by the way was very highly rated. It was high – highest rating. The highest rating he’s ever had.” (Not true, by the way.)

Colbert was gleeful, of course; this is exactly what he wanted. Personally, I’ve grown a bit weary of Colbert. As much as I like him as a performer, Trump is ALL he ever talks about, and the quality of the writing on his show is sub-standard. (Seth Meyers is the best comic/commentator of the late night crowd.) But Trump, who is more obsessed with ratings and numbers than any network president, can’t restrain himself.

In another interview with The Economist, Trump said his renegotiation of NAFTA will be “massive”. He said “everything in NAFTA is bad. That’s bad, everything’s bad.” After using the phrase “prime the pump” (which has been in use since the 1930s), Trump said: “Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just…I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good.” He claimed the U.S. is the “highest taxed nation in the world” (not true: the U.S. is actually among the lowest taxed countries in the world ). He said he might release his tax forms “after I’m finished because I’m very proud of them actually. I did a good job.”

There’s more, of course. There’s always more with Trump. But I’m exhausted.

Meanwhile, in La La Land North…

In Ottawa this week (remember Ottawa?) Prime Minister Trudeau tried out his new Question Period idea. Trudeau has decided to answer all of the questions for the opposition for one day a week, just the way they do it in London, called Prime Minister’s Question Time. The Opposition doesn’t like this, so they asked him a variation of the same question EIGHTEEN TIMES, and he gave the same non-answer EIGHTEEN TIMES. The Opposition asked Trudeau how many times he has met with the ethics commissioner about his Christmas-vacation junket to a private island owned by the Aga Khan, complete with private helicopter transportation. Trudeau, inexplicably, didn’t answer how many times he had met with the ethics commissioner, giving a formula answer that wasn’t an answer. All he had to do was say “once” or “twice” or whatever it is, but he dodged the question every time. I don’t know which is stupider — asking the same easy-to-answer question 18 times, or refusing to answer the same easy-to-answer question 18 times.

Meanwhile, in La La Land Pacific

British Columbians went to the polls this week, the the result does not auger well for Alberta, pipelines, or the Alberta New Democrats.

The majority Liberal government of Christie Clark was reduced to a razor-thin minority, which could still result in the NDP taking over. The Liberals won 43 seats, the NDP 41, and the Greens won three. However, one riding, Courtenay-Comox, was won by the NDP by just nine votes. If the recount flips the result, which could happen, the Liberals will have 44 seats, a bare majority. But wait — there are two recounts underway, so the final result of the election won’t be known for some time.

As it stands right now, the Liberals will have to court the three-member Green Party caucus to remain in power. If they can’t, the government could fall immediately, resulting in either the NDP taking over with the support of the Greens, or a new election. Either way, the tail is now wagging the dog in B.C.

Why is this bad for pipelines, Alberta and the Alberta NDP? The B.C. Dippers are solidly anti-pipeline, putting them at odds with Rachael Notley’s government. The Liberals are sorta-pro pipeline (as long as there was some money in it for them), but in order to stay in power they might have to take an anti-pipeline stance. So either way, it’s going to be much more challenging to get that Kinder-Morgan pipeline built. And if the NDP takes over and becomes virulently anti-pipeline, that will reflect badly on Notley’s NDP, and will certainly become an election issue here in a couple of years.

RIP

GIJoe_OriginalLineup
The original Joes.

Stan Weston, 84, whose concept for a military action figure became the heroic G.I. Joe, one of the most popular toys ever produced, as well as a catchy commercial jingle (“G.I. Joe, G.I. Joe, fighting man from head to toe …”). I got a G.I. Joe for Christmas one year, and my brothers mocked me mercilessly by changing the lyrics to “fighting doll from head to toe”. Joe first appeared on toy store shelves in 1964, and has never left.

 

 

 

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 16: I’m done with the NHL.

When the Oilers are eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs — maybe tonight, maybe Wednesday, maybe in the next series — I can officially quit watching hockey.

I  can’t do it right now. That would be like watching 90 minutes of a two-hour movie and turning it off, or reading 275 pages of a 350-page book. Gotta see how this ends, after all. But once the Oilers are done, I’m done with the National Hockey League.

capitals-penguins-hockey3
This is your National Hockey League. 

The great and wonderful game of hockey, Canada’s undisputed greatest gift to the world, is being raped and pillaged by the NHL, the game’s professional guardian.

The NHL had a very bad week, which is to say, it had a typical week. First, Pittsburgh Penguin superstar Sydney Crosby was concussed (again) after being hit in the head. Crosby was savagely slashed by Washington Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin (no penalty), before being cross-checked in the head by Ovechkin’s Washington teammate, Matt Niskanen (who was penalized). There are plenty of people who celebrated Crosby’s injury, because Crosby has twice this year avoided penalty for injuring players (he slashed one guy so hard he shattered his finger, and speared another guy in the Netherlands). Then there’s the Edmonton-Anaheim series. The Ducks are running wild (at least as much as a duck can run wild) on the rink; Ryan Getzlaf appears to have been given a limitless number of Get Out of Jail Free cards. Then we had the whole imbroglio over goaltender interference in Wednesday’s Edmonton-Anaheim game, a decision which has turned the whole series around in Anaheim’s favour. Just for good measure, the sequel was played on Friday, and unlike most sequels, this one was even better than the first. Elsewhere, a Pittsburgh Penguin named Nick Bonino took a shameful, soccer-style dive that drew a late game penalty that snuffed out any chance of a Washington comeback. (Don Cherry, whom I have very little use for anymore, called him out.) This is just in one week.

NHL hockey is, to be blunt, lousy, and it’s in large part due to the way the league officiates the game.  Interference is rarely called, no matter how egregious (it’s just “finishing the check”, I guess), but tiniest impediment with the stick is considered hooking. Cross-checking as a penalty has vanished, but a gentle tap on the new breed of hockey stick (as delicate as fine china) is considered slashing. And God forbid if a player accidentally flips the puck into the crowd. I look forward to the day when the Stanley Cup is decided on a delay of game penalty for accidentally flipping the puck into the crowd.

The players are no innocents. Many have made an art out of the dive (or the flop, or ‘going to ground’), an especially odious, unsporting and unmanly form of cheating. Probably 75 per cent of goals are scored on deflections off of slapshots, a tribute to the hand-eye skills of the players, perhaps, but not very exciting.

The league introduced video replay this year in an effort to get calls right, and succeeded only in getting the calls wrong. (In the second goaltender interference fiasco on Friday, CBC commentator Elliotte Friedman spotted the infraction.) Seasoned hockey people say they have no idea what goaltender interference is anymore.

The players are too big, the rink too small, ticket prices ludicrous. The league’s American overlords have decided that the players cannot compete in the next Olympics. And into this mess we have a new team next year … in La$ Vega$! The only people who will attend hockey games in Vegas will be visiting Canadians.

Professional hockey in a train wreck. You folks can have your orange Oiler jerseys (great marketing gimmick), your car (or more often, pick up truck) flags, your willingness to spend any amount of money to support a team of millionaires owned by a billionaire. You’re welcome to it.  I’ve had it. I’m done.

Say what, Sajjan?

The baffling story of Harjit Sajjan dominated the news in Ottawa this week.

Sajjan is the Trudeau government’s Minister of Defence. A Sikh, Sajjan could have been seen as one of those “because it’s 2015” inclusion choices, but Sajjan was an actual soldier, and a good one by all reports (or, as he has often been called, a “badass”). This guy should be a star in the Trudeau cabinet. But instead, he’s bowing his head in shame.

Delivering a speech in India recently, Sajjan referred to himself as the “architect” of Operation Medusa, an operation in Afghanistan that was the first large-scale combat assault in NATO’s history and marked the first major Canadian battle since the Korean War. He was nothing of the sort; a valuable player, yes, but not remotely the architect. And it wasn’t just a slip of the tongue — he had said it at another event. So why did Sajjan embellish (or, to use another term, lie) about his role, when he actually had something to be proud of without embellishment? Nobody knows, even Sajjan, who apologized profusely and repeatedly. When asked point blank why he lied, he had no answer. He just muttered some lines written for him by the communications flacks. The opposition wants his turbaned head, but so far Trudeau has stuck by him, albeit at a distance.

Sajjan will probably survive this fiasco. Whether he should or not is another question. His credibility is in ruins.

This week in Trumpland

Now, a quick recap of the madness of Donald Trump:

• Republicans voted to repeal and replace Obamacare, the American health program. Trouble is, nobody likes it except the Republicans who voted for it. (One representative admitted on TV he hadn’t even read the bill he voted for.)

• Just after his great legislative victory, Trump told the Australian Prime Minister that Australia has a better health care system. Australia has, of course, a taxpayer supported health care system.

• President Trump spoke with the Philippine leader, Rodrigo Duterte, and invited him to the White House. Duterte has allowed and even encouraged death squads in the Philippines, targeting drug lords, leaving thousands dead. Duterte, for his part, said he was too busy.

• Last week, Trump released his first campaign ad – for the 2020 election.

• Trump suggested on Monday that President Andrew Jackson has been “really angry” about the U.S. civil war, which began 16 years after his death. He also questioned “why was there the civil war” in the first place. Apparently, he has never watched The Simpsons. 

And on this side of the border

Justin Trudeau wore Star Wars socks for international Star Wars Day, which is apparently a thing. While I didn’t see a word on this in a Canadian newspaper, the New York Times took notice. 

RIP

I get the items for the RIP section of Stuff Happens through a Wikipedia page Deaths in 2017.  Death is apparently on holidays, but I must take notice of the passing of Quinn O’Hara, 76, a Scottish-born American actress whose sold acting credit appears to be The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini.

 

 

 

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 15: O’Leary out; the return of softwood lumber

Just as Conservatives across the country were about to begin voting for their next leader, one of the front runners threw a wrench into the works.

Kevin O’Leary, the bombastic TV star (sort of a hairless, much smarter Donald Trump), pulled out of the race, causing a collective jaw drop amongst the Canadian political elite and talking heads. O’Leary, the only recognizable face in a ludicrously overcrowded race, was almost certain to be the early leader in the voting, and a decent bet to the the winner. Speaking to the media about his decision on Wednesday, O’Leary said some shockingly honest things. While he was confident that he could win the Conservative leadership (possibly true), his numbers showed that there was no path to federal victory for the Conservatives with O’Leary at the helm, because he had virtually no support in Quebec (completely true). He said he waited until the last minute to see if “the needle would move” in his Quebec support, but it didn’t.

He is absolutely right. O’Leary could have — and probably would have — won the Conservative leadership, but there wasn’t a single hope in hell that he would become prime minister without being able to communicate with 22% of the population that speaks French. Why it took him this long to come to that obvious realization, I don’t know. Maybe he looked at the agonies of Donald Trump and figured that leaving his cushy lifestyle for the grubby world of politics wasn’t worth it. Or maybe the idea of living full-time in Canada, instead of spending at least half his time in the U.S., wasn’t appealing.  Or maybe it was the pay cut he would have to take. Whatever the reasons, he was smart to quit. He could not become the next prime minister, and playing second fiddle to Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons was just too repulsive to contemplate. Anyway, O’Leary threw his support behind Maxime Bernier, a far right libertarian MP. Bernier was a contender from the beginning, but now he must be seen as the frontrunner. He’s too radical (abolish the CBC, etc.), and too French (his English is worse than Jean Chretien’s), but he is popular with the Western right wing of the party. He might win the Conservative leadership, but in a federal election he will be a loser, just like O’Leary would have been. Only Bernier doesn’t know it.

NAFTA and lumber and … zzzzzzzz

Few issues are more boring than trade matters, but attention must be paid since billions of dollars are at stake. So, here we go.

This week, Donald Trump threatened to immediately pull out of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA is a very big deal in trade circles, and even tinkering with it gives Canada and Mexico palpitations. Trump has said repeatedly that NAFTA was a horrible, horrible, bad, bad, very very bad deal for the U.S. (without even once articulating one single example of how it was bad), and that nice guy Canada snookered the U.S., which is untrue of course, but fun to contemplate.

After Trump threatened to sign an executive order to pull out of NAFTA (he said in an interview today that he was going to sign the order on Saturday, his 100th day in office). Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto both called Trump, and he supposedly changed his mind. It was probably a bluff by Trump to get Canada and Mexico on board with renegotiating the deal, since cancelling NAFTA would result in an economic earthquake for all of North America, and even Trump isn’t stupid enough to do that. But who knows?

Also this week in trade (stay with me here, it’s almost over), the Trump administration slapped hefty duties on Canadian softwood lumber coming into the U.S. If the term ‘softwood lumber’ sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because this is the FIFTH go round for this dispute. The U.S. (or more accurately, the American lumber industry) says Canadian lumber is unfairly subsidized by the government. Canada says this isn’t true, and the Canadian government has won international court challenges on the issue. But the U.S. lumber industry just keeps resurrecting the issue. It’s all insanely complicated, but from my reading of the issue, the continuing spat is a way for the U.S. lumber industry to raise prices, and profits, by making lumber more expensive. This in turn would result in higher home building costs in the U.S., but clearly nobody cares about the consumer. As in all the previous times this phoney has been raised, some sort of deal is ironed out, and everybody forgets about it until the next time.

RIP

Jonathan Demme, 73, acclaimed, Oscar-winning American movie director (Melvin and Howard, Philadelphia, The Silence of the Lambs, the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, Rachael Getting Married).

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 14: Trump casts his lizard eyes on Canada; I solve the Toronto housing crisis

This week in Donald Trump Land:

  • Remember last week, when Donald Trump sent an “armada” (actually just an aircraft carrier) towards North Korea as a warning to the maniac kingdom? But the New York Times, thanks to a photo send out from the ship, realized that the ship was actually steaming away from North Korea, not towards it. Trump, of course, blamed the military for bad information. It could also be that his administration just told another random lie, believing that no one would know.
  • Remember Donald Trump’s inauguration, the greatest of all time? Turns out, these things cost money to stage, and a lot of that money comes from private donors. The Times, again, looked through the list of people and corporations who donated to the event, to the tune of $107 million. Big surprise —  much of it came from multi-billionaires and major corporations looking to gain favour with Trump.
  • Trump has taken aim at a new evil — the Canadian dairy industry, which he says is treating the American dairy industry very, very badly. This came as quite a shock to the Trudeau government, which was sitting quietly in the back of the class while Professor Trump was rapping the knuckles of all the naughty countries sitting in the front. Trump unexpectedly said that what Canada had done to the U.S. dairy industry was a “disgrace” and “very unfair”. This broadside came after Trump heard complaints from Wisconsin dairy farmers; he certainly forgot the details seconds later. Canada, as you may know, has a carefully regulated market, restricting supply and ensuring higher costs for the consumer and healthy profits for farmers. The U.S. does not, and as a result the U.S. is awash in milk, and they want to start sending it to Canada, particularly something called ultra-filtered milk. But Canadian dairy farmers (and the government, which of course wants the support of the dairy industry, which is centred in Ontario and Quebec) said thanks, but no thanks, basically closing Canada to U.S. ultra-filtered milk . And with that, reader(s), you know more about the dairy industries in Canada and the U.S. than Donald Trump.
  • And finally, Trump had a few friends over for dinner the other night. Faded rocker Kid Rock, guitar god and gun maniac Ted Nugent (who once called Barack Obama a “mongrel”), and certifiable loon Sarah Palin. Nugent said Trump spent FOUR HOURS with the group, showing them around the While House and treating them to a fancy schmancy dinner. Turns out, Palin was the one invited to dinner, and she brought along Mr. Nugent and Mr. Rock. (You would have thought she would have brought her husband, Trig or Tag or Trog or whatever his name is.) On her web page, she wrote that she brought along Nugent and Rock “because Jesus was booked.” Personally, I think Jesus probably just came up with an excuse.

Attention, Toronto house buyers …

House prices are going insane in Toronto, as has the Toronto media, which is obsessed over the issue. House prices have gone up more than 33% year to year, resulting in average house prices of more than $1.6 million. The government is taking various measures to cool the market, including a tax on offshore, absentee owners, much like they did with some success in Vancouver.

I have some advice for anyone who wants to buy a house in Toronto.

DON’T BUY A HOUSE RIGHT NOW!

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? The prices are artificially inflated, wildly out of whack. A buyer today is unlikely to ever get their money back, and will certainly be saddled with ludicrous amounts of debt. The simple solution: don’t buy. Wait. Or if you really want a house, go to Hamilton. There are worse places to live. I think.

In other news …

Turkish voters voted in a referendum to change the country from a parliamentary democracy to strong presidential system of government. This gives lots more power to the nearly dictatorial President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The referendum lets Erdogan stay in power until 2029 … British Prime Minister Theresa May stunned everyone by calling a June election, years ahead of schedule. Right now, it appears her Conservative party will win by historic margins, with some predicting the Labour Party will be essentially wiped off the map. Then again, everyone said Donald Trump would never be president, so stay tuned … France held the first round of its election today, and the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, will go onto the second round of the playoffs – sorry, election (got the Oilers on my mind right now). Le Pen is anti-immigrant and anti-Euro. She is a sort of French Donald Trump, except by all accounts she is a spellbinding speaker and intelligent.

RIP

Aaron Hernandez, 27, former New England Patriot whose promising career went a little off the rails when he was convicted of murder. He committed suicide in prison … Erin Moran, 56, who played little sister Joanie on Happy Days, and the same character on the mercifully short-lived Joanie Loves Chachi. Life did not go well for Moran post-Happy Days. She married and divorced twice and battled depression, This year, Variety reported that she was “reportedly kicked out of her trailer park home in Indiana because of her hard-partying ways”. And that is one unhappy ending.

 

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 13: Dumb, dumber, dumbest

Remember last week, when Pepsi was eviscerated for its incredibly tone-deaf ‘Pepsi brings world peace’ ad? Ah, such innocent times.

This week, United Airlines made the Pepsi debacle look no worse than a misplaced apostrophe. By now, you’ve seen or almost certainly heard about the violent removal of passenger from a United flight in Chicago. Dr. David Dao was asked to leave the overbooked United flight to make room for a Very Important Passenger — a United employee. (Hey, who’s more important – a United Airlines employee who flies anywhere for free, or a paying customer who also happens to be a doctor? Tough call.) When Dr. Dao’s name was randomly selected to leave the plane who no one else took up the $800 bribe to give up a seat, he objected in firm but not belligerent terms. Some United idiot called the cops to have him removed, and when told to get off the plane, he told the cops they would have to arrest him before he’d leave the plane. You know the rest. The doctor suffered a concussion, a broken nose and two broken teeth when he was removed from the plane in the most humiliating manner possible. The multiple millions of dollars he will win in a lawsuit should sooth the injuries.

The depth of the stupidity of everyone involved here is difficult to comprehend. Somebody at United should have had the common sense to just call the whole thing off and let the employee take another flight, or upped the offer to get another passenger leave the plane. But common sense is apparently not a prerequisite for working at United. The whole sad spectacle was recorded (of course it was), and shared around the world.

So United faced a PR fiasco — which the president of the company proceeded to turn into a full-scale, Hurricane Katrina-scale shitstorm. He issued a half-assed apology, and defended his employees. United is already a roundly despised company (a Bloomberg report in 2015 put United at no. 15 on the list of 20 most hated companies), but this scandal put it in Wal-Mart’s league. Shares plummeted, and it took two days before the CEO did a full-scale, fall-on-his-sword mea culpa on ABC News.

It’s difficult to say just how much this debacle will cost United, but it’s safe to say that it is in the millions of dollars, and what is left of its reputation is in tatters. Thanks to a series of mind-numbing gaffes — from the flight crew right to the CEO — United has become the new byword for corporate incompetence and complete indifference to its customers.

And speaking of incompetents …

I have some sympathy for Sean Spicer, press secretary for the insane clown president Donald Trump. I suppose there are worse jobs — press spokesman for United Airlines, or maybe Kim Jong-un — but not many. Every day, he has to defend the latest loopy pronouncement from his erratic and clearly clueless boss. But this poor stumble bum put his own foot in it this week.

In a discussion about the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Spicer actually said: “You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

Oh. My. God.

I don’t like to think of anyone, especially someone in a position of being in authority, as being stupid. I don’t believe it’s possible for the truly stupid to get anywhere in the world. But Sean Spider is just plain stupid. In years past, the press secretary to the president was a coveted (if extremely stressful) job. With Trump as president, I suspect the list of people who actually want the job begins and ends with Sean Spicer. And he’s too stupid to turn it down. (Here’s another classic example. In February, Spicer retweeted a video from the spoof news site The Onion, that read: “@SeanSpicer’s role in the Trump administration will be to provide the American public with robust and clearly articulated misinformation.” Spicer accompanied his retweet with the words: “You nailed it. Period!”)

Spicer ended up apologizing for this gas gaffe. At this stage of what’s left of his career, Spicer should just have an apology template available to hand out to the media after each press briefing: “I apologize without reservation for saying (fill in gaffe here). I did not intend to offend (fill in name of offended group here), nor did I intend to suggest that (fill in impossible to defend statement.)”

And now, for dumb stuff from Canada

Let’s begin in Calgary, where a six-year-old, autistic Grade 1 student was forced to eat his daily snack outside the classroom because only healthy foods like fruits and vegetables are allowed for snacks.

What was the offending snack? What was so heinous that he had to eat it in the hallway, so as not to offend the other Grade 1 kids? Was it a baggie of Froot Loops? Skittles washed down with a Slurpee? Sugar cubes smothered in honey?

No. It was banana bread. Yes, banana bread.

Good thinking, Grade 1 teacher — shame a six-year-old autistic kid for eating banana bread. The newspaper reports did not identify the school, but I can only assume it was a school that hires exclusively idiots. Maybe he or she works at Sean Spicer Elementary.

And here’s another. Did you hear about the civil servant who removed a child from his foster home because of the Easter Bunny?

A Christian couple says two foster children were removed from their home and their eligibility as foster parents cancelled by the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society because they refused to say the Easter Bunny was real.

“We have a no-lying policy,” foster father Derek Baars said in an interview.

According to the foster parents, a Children’s Aid Society worker told them they were “required” to affirm the existence of the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus because they are an essential part of Canadian culture. Another essential part of Canadian culture — bureaucrats who are too stupid to get real jobs.

And in other news …

The United States dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in history on Afghanistan this week, killing nearly 100. The target was an ISIL underground compound. The bomb is called a MOAB, which actually stands for Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, but naturally became know as the Mother of All Bombs. Trump gave approval for dropping the mother of all bombs on Afghanistan because he mistakenly thought the bomb was that lousy movie with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, “what’s it called … Giggling, Gigli or something?”

RIP

J. Geils, 71, guitarist and band leader of the J. Geils Band, responsible for some of the most infuriatingly catchy pop tunes of the 1980s, “Centrefold”, “Freeze Frame” and “Love Stinks”. After the band broke up, he made jazz recordings, including some with Edmonton’s Stony Plain Records … Dorothy Mengering, 95, mother of David Letterman who made frequent appearances on his late night show …  Mohammad Khoramshahi, 105, Iranian joke writer and poet. I included this only because I find it hard to believe that there has ever been an Iranian joke writer … Emma Morano, who at 117 was the world’s older person and believe to be the last person on earth born in the 19th century. Life is just not fair.

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 12: BULLETIN: Trump does right thing; world reacts with shock

I guess it was bound to happen — Donald Trump actually did the right thing this week. I never thought we would see the day,  but as the saying goes, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.

On Thursday, Trump actually looked decisive and — dare I say it? — presidential.

This week, the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical attack on his own people that killed more than 70, many of them children who died horrible deaths. The use of gas is in gross violation of the rules of law and basic human decency, but the rules clearly don’t apply in Syria anymore, which is into its SEVENTH year of a civil war. The images of dead children were apparently the last straw for Trump. On Thursday, Trump took the advice of his security council experts and hit the Syrian base from where the chemical attack was launched with 57 cruise missile strikes.

Why did Assad use chemical weapons? Assad is a member of the Evil Rulers Club (president: V.Putin, vice-president K. Jong-un), as as such has no morals or scruples. But was he just trolling Trump to do something? Assad has the support of his cohort in evil, Putin, so did he just assume that Trump wouldn’t do anything with Putin in his corner? If so, he miscalculated.

Trump had previously said — repeatedly, in fact — that the U.S. should not get involved in Syria. That he would reverse himself should come as no surprise; it’s what he does. But by going it alone, Trump has sent multiple messages. He has told Assad that he’s willing to do something while others just wring their hands. He has told Putin that he’s willing to go against Russia in a high-stakes game of chicken. He has sent a subtle message to North Korea that he just might be willing to lob a few cruise missiles towards their nuke sites if they don’t shape up. And he sent a message, as if one was needed, that he’s no Barack Obama, who threatened Syria with retaliation the last time they used chemical weapons — but never used them.

Nobody knows how this will play out, but for once, Trump seems to have done the right thing. And I never thought I would write those words.

NHL does the wrong thing

While it comes as a shock that Donald Trump did the right thing, it comes as no shock at all that the National Hockey League did the wrong thing this week.

The NHL, which is hands down the worst run major sports organization in North America, announced it would not participate in next year’s Winter Olympics. I don’t know exactly why (just a wild guess … something to do with money), but denying the best hockey players in the world the privilege of playing for their country tells the players they are nothing but indentured servants. (Sure, they are very well compensated servants, but servants nonetheless.) Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin says he’s going anyway. “Somebody going to tell me don’t go?” he said. “I don’t care. I just go.” Well, we shall see. Ovechkin makes $10 million a year, and something tells me the Capitals will not be happy if their $10 million best player goes AWOL for two weeks next year.

The Winter Olympics is the only real opportunity for the best hockey players in the world to face off in one thrilling tournament (and yes, I know there was a World Cup of Hockey this year, but nobody cared). That this league of predominantly American billionaires would deny hockey fans in Canada, the U.S., Russia, Sweden, Finland, etc. the opportunity to see the best in the world go skate-to-stake is infuriating. But that’s the NHL for you. (Speaking of the NHL, here’s a reminder for Oiler fans: remember that the rules change in the playoffs. Penalties that would have been called in the regular season aren’t called in the playoffs, so watch out, Connor McDavid.)

And just for comedic value

Pepsi took it on the chin this week when it released — then immediately took out of circulation — this absolutely hilariously awful commercial. 

If you haven’t seen or heard of it, here’s a brief rundown.

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Kendall Jenner brings peace to the world with a can of Pepsi. Brings tears to my eyes.

A large group of 18-25 year old beautiful people are holding a mass protest, about what is rather vague, although some are holding signs that say ‘Peace’. Meanwhile, a Muslim woman, who is a photographer, is show tearing apart her recent photos. She grabs her camera and heads out into the protest.

Meanwhile, model named Kendall Jenner (a member of the spectacularly untalented Jenner clan) is posing for a photo shoot. A cute protestor, who brought his cello to the protest (oh, that old cliche), winks at Jenner, who immediately decides to abandon the photo shoot and join the protest. The protestors run into a line of impossibly handsome, completely unarmed police officers. Jenner barges to the front, gives an impossibly handsome cop a Pepsi. He pops open the can, takes a gulp, and the crowd celebrates wildly.

I swear it is one of the most unintentionally funny things I have ever seen. Please watch it.

The blowback was swift, and Pepsi pulled the ad, apologizing to Jenner. Apologize to Jenner? They should have apologized to us.  (Jenner, meanwhile, says she is “traumatized” by the online reaction, which was exactly the kind of reasoned, intelligent reaction you expect from the internet.) What’s most amazing to me is that this shockingly terrible commercial — which must have cost Pepsi several million dollars — must have gone through dozens of approval levels, and no one stopped to say, “Man, this is really, really terrible.”

Psst. Did you hear about Daryl Katz?

Edmonton Oilers owner and local billionaire, who is famously publicity shy, is in the news this week. A Brazilian actress/model, Greice Santo, claims Katz offered her $20,000 per day to see her up to six times a month. Apparently, she took offence ($20Gs not enough?). Santo and her husband, R.J. Cipriani, launched a defamation suit in New York against Katz. This is an interesting tactic — announce that you have been defamed, then become the first person to spread the defamation. Katz’s lawyer says it all a shakedown. You can read about it here — but you haven’t been able to read about it in the Edmonton Journal, which has studiously avoided any mention of it since the story broke on CBC on Thursday.

And in business news …

At the end of Monday’s stock exchange trading, Tesla, the maker of electric cars, reached a market capitalization of $48.7 billion compared with Ford’s $45.6 billion, according to Bloomberg. General Motors was at $51.2 billion … the end is near for Payless Shoes. The American retailer announced that is is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, it will be immediately closing nearly 400 stores as part of the reorganization. It has over 4,400 stores in more than 30 countries and was founded in 1956.

RIP

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Mr. Warmth

Don Rickles, 90, the great insult comic. Rickles was a beloved figure in the comedy world, and nobody loved him more than Jimmy Kimmel. The late-night host gave an emotional tribute to his friend on Thursday night’s show. Rickles was truly the last of a breed of comic, an old-school guy who could get by with trading in ancient ethnic stereotypes, and still be funny. The key to the enduring success of Rickles, and the fact that so many comedians idolize the guy, is that he was of a certain generation (he was a WWII vet) who could say anything, and get away with it. How did he do it? I think it was mainly because there was no venom in the insults; you knew that Rickles didn’t believe a word he was saying. And it helped that he was hilarious. For Netflix subscribers, I recommend a documentary called Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project  … Joe Harris, 89, a commercial illustrator who drew enduring cartoon characters including the Trix cereal rabbit and Underdog. (He also wrote the line: “Silly rabbit! Trix are for kids.”)

 

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 11: Seriously, Conservatives, THIS is the best you can do?

The Conservative leadership race passed a critical milestone this week, with the cutoff for new party memberships. It was also an opportunity for any of the 14 — yes, that’s FOURTEEN — candidates to come to what little sense they have and drop out.

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Montgomery Burns

And as of this writing, no one has. Fourteen people, all of whom think they can win the leadership of Canada’s no. 2 political party. Surely, there has to be someone injecting a dose of reality to at least half of the fourteen. Isn’t there someone telling Deepak Obhari that he’s wasting his time? Apparently, sadly, not.

So, who’s the front runner? Hard to tell. Kevin O’Leary, the reality TV show star and part-time Canadian, is sucking up most of the oxygen. He’s a great talker who just oozes confidence (a.k.a arrogance), but he’s shockingly ignorant of how the government works. He said this week he would use the “notwithstanding” clause of the constitution to send those seeking asylum back to the U.S. It took about four seconds for experts to weigh in with the fact that the “notwithstanding” clause cannot be used in that kind of situation. He also launched a blistering tirade against Rachael Notley. He vowed to “go to war” against her, calling her the “nightmare dark lord”, calling her economic plan “deranged madness”, calling her a “toxic cocktail of mediocrity and incompetence.”

Like I said, he’s a great talker. But this kind of talk is not befitting to a potential leader of a Canadian political party. It would work well with Republicans — and did — but it won’t fly here with the vast Canadian public.

O’Leary claims to have signed up 35,000 new members. The vile Kellie Leitch, who would destroy the Conservative party if she won, claims 30,000 members.  But does this mean they’re the leaders in the leadership race? Nope, because the leadership race rules are like a maze with no exits. Here are the rules, which I just copied and pasted from the web since I can’t really figure them out.

Instead of ‘one member, one vote,’ every riding in the country is allocated 100 points no matter how many members they have, and the points are allocated based on the share of the vote a candidate gets. They need a minimum of 16,901 points to win.

On top of that, members don’t have to just vote for one candidate. It’s a ranked ballot, so members can select up to nine names from the list of 14, which means it’s likely to take more than one ballot to choose a winner on May 27.

So, with this system, nobody knows who is leading. What’s for certain is that a Kevin O’Leary-led Conservative party would be a disaster. The blueprint for destroying O’Leary was written, with delicious irony, by the Stephen Harper Conservatives. When Michael Ignatief took over the Liberal party after years spent out of the country, they labeled him ‘Just Visiting’. O’Leary is, if anything, more of a tourist.

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Kellie ‘Canadian values’ Leitch.

How about a Kellie Leitch (left) Conservative party? It would be a smouldering ruin after the next election, if it got that far. She had to explain why she was videotaped meeting with members of a radical anti-Muslim group this week, and her explanation was weak.

Then there’s Maxime Bernier, who is the Ron Swanson of Canadian politics, a government employee who hates government. His brainstorm this week was to use the Canadian Armed Forces to stop the flood (actually, trickle) of would-be refugees fleeing Donald Trump’s America. There are 6,416 km of border between Canada and the U.S., almost all of it unguarded. We have about 64,000 men and women in uniform, so things are going to be stretched pretty thin. And I don’t know if having a soldier standing guard in a deserted field between Manitoba and Minnesota is the best use of a soldier’s time.

There are reasonable, moderate, even electable candidates in this race (God, I hope so), and I deeply hope the Conservatives find one. A strong, functioning democracy needs strong parties and intelligent, electable leaders. If the Tories make a mistake in their leadership choice, then we’re in for many many years of one-party rule, and we all know how well the Liberal party handles unfettered power.

Carbon tax update

As you may recall, at the start of the year I received from the benevolent Rachael Notley a cheque for $150 as my rebate for her newly-instituted carbon tax (the actual name of it is the Alberta Climate Leadership adjustment rebate, a name which is clearly the product of an advertising agency). I mused at the time that it was ridiculous to give a rebate for money not yet spent; I thought creating the term ‘prebate’ would really catch on, but alas, it hasn’t. I also decided to keep careful track of how much the carbon tax has cost me and tally it up compared to how much I have received from the government. So now, with the first three months of the year over, I present my Carbon Tax Prebate Quarterly Report.

As you may recall from one paragraph ago, I started $150 to the good. Over the past three months, I kept track of every litre of gas purchased and every gigajoule of natural gas used, and tallied up the cost. The gasoline tax is 4.49 cents per litre, and the natural gas tax is $1.011. So far, the carbon tax has cost me $49.87, which means I’m still almost $100 to the good. So not only have I not cut back my consumption in any way, I have been rewarded for doing nothing. Love this carbon tax prebate!

RIP

Richard Nelson Bolles, 90, American writer famous for What Color Is Your Parachute? (Death, apparently, was on holidays this week.)

 

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 10: The beginning of the end for The Donald?

So, what’s the over/under on the Trump presidency?

I would have thought two years before he was impeached, but now I’m leaning towards one year. Eighteen months, max.

Trump has now lost his first big promise, to repeal and replace Obamacare. His plan alienated his own party to such a degree that he couldn’t get congress to support it … and he has control of the House!  This supposed deal maker couldn’t win with a stacked deck. As well, the FBI is investigating links between his campaign and the evil Ruskies, and you know they are going to find something. The New Yorker called the revelation of the FBI investigation “the mot serious legal scandal to confront a sitting President in nearly two decades.” It took years for Bill Clinton to get into impeachment territory, and it was for fraternizing with an intern, not a Russian.

Meanwhile, Trump was interviewed by Time magazine this week, and the magazine very kindly produced a word-for-word transcript of the interview. You can read it here, and you really should. Nothing compares to a verbatim transcript of Trump-speak. But for just a taste, check out this answer to the Time reporter’s first question:

TIME: Do you want me to give you a quick overview [of the story]?

TRUMP: Yeah, it’s a cool story. I mean it’s, the concept is right. I predicted a lot of things, Michael. Some things that came to you a little bit later. But, you know, we just rolled out a list. Sweden. I make the statement, everyone goes crazy. The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems. Huma [Abedin] and Anthony [Weiner], you know, what I tweeted about that whole deal, and then it turned out he had it, all of Hillary’s email on his thing. NATO, obsolete, because it doesn’t cover terrorism. They fixed that, and I said that the allies must pay. Nobody knew that they weren’t paying. I did. I figured it. Brexit, I was totally right about that. You were over there I think, when I predicted that, right, the day before. Brussels, I said, Brussels is not Brussels. I mean many other things, the election’s rigged against Bernie Sanders. We have a lot of things.

Is this the sentence structure of a rational human being?

Everything must go … soon

The end is near for Sears. And if you don’t believe it, just ask Sears.

Chairman and CEO Edward Lampert said this week that Sears is burning through cash, and that there is “substantial doubt” that it will be able to keep its U.S. stores open. But if you’re a DieHard Sears shopper (get it? DieHard? Die Hard … the name of the Sears brand of battery … forget it), there is hope. For some reason, the Canadian stores will still stay open even if the U.S. stores close. Also if you’re a DieHard Sears shoppper, ask yourself why. Sears has always been the most boring department store in the marketplace. All I see when I walk into a Sears store (on my way to other stores) is a sea of beige. Sears does have some well known and pretty dependable brands, like DieHard and Kenmore and Craftsman, but they have been selling some of them off just to stay afloat. By this time next year, Sears USA will be as dead as the Donald Trump presidency.

Chairman Justin?

The opposition parties in Ottawa are in full, raging lather over proposed changes to how the House of Commons operates. I caught a few minutes of Question Period on Wednesday, and to listen to their wildly overheated rhetoric, you’d have thought that Justin Trudeau had declared the War Measures Act. He was called a dictator, compared to Mao, mocked for his alleged admiration for dictatorships, and accused of letting women do his dirty work for him. So, what’s all the stink about? It’s most procedural items that would limit the ability of opposition parties to filibuster (delay a bill by talking endlessly). Also, the changes would require the prime minister to be in the house only once a week, for a Prime Minister’s Question Period, which is what they do in Britain.

So, huge scandal, right?

Nope. Nobody cares. Elected representatives become very insular, assuming that everything they do and say is of the utmost importance. Rules of the House of Commons in particular are the cause of explosive debate. But nobody outside the House gives a rat’s ass. The opposition is right, however, that the government shouldn’t make changes to the way the house works without the consent of the house itself. This isn’t government policy, but the policy of how government works. The Liberals are being extraordinarily arrogant, but asking the Liberals not be become arrogant is like asking Donald Trump not to say something stupid. (OK, I’m done with Trump for this week.)

RIP

Larry Highbaugh, 67, five-time Grey Cup champion with the Eskimos as a defensive back, a remarkable punt returner (in the days when there was no blocking allowed on punt returns, if you can believe that) and member of the CFL Hall of Fame. Here’s his obituary from the Indianapolis Star. One of the all-time greats at his position … Betty Kennedy, 91, longtime panelist on the old Front Page Challenge TV show … Chuck Barris, 87, creator of The Gong Show and The Dating Game … David Rockefeller, 101, billionaire banker and philanthropist … Jimmy Breslin, 88, legendary New York newspaper columnist … Gary Doak, 71, former NHL defenceman.

The Return of Stuff Happens, week 9: Jason does Alberta

As expected, Jason Kenney easily won the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta at a convention in Calgary on Saturday, with about 75% of the vote. Kenney was a steamroller who flattened his two remaining challengers, an inconspicuous MLA named Richard Starke, and an even less conspicuous guy named Byron Nelson. The other challengers, most notably two female candidates, dropped out when the elbows got a little too high for their liking.

So now Kenney has to try to make good on his promise to destroy the party he has just taken over, which was an interesting tactic.I don’t know if anyone ever ran on a policy of “Vote for me if you want to destroy your party!” Can he do it? I have little doubt that he will succeed in uniting the Wildrose and the PCs because, without unity, they’re probably doomed to years in the opposition wilderness.

Alberta history proves this out. During the PC decades, and particularly during the Ralph Klein years, the government benefited mightily by a split vote on the left/centre. The Liberals were strong back then, but could never defeat the Tories in large part because the NDP siphoned off just enough of the so-called progressive (or anti-PC, if you wish) votes to ensure PC victory. Now, the shoe is on the other foot, that being the right one. If the Wildrose and the PCs go into the next election scrambling for the still very strong right wing vote, they are doomed to repeat the same scenario. The Wildrose is popular in the rural areas, the PCs still powerful in Calgary. One single, united right wing party has a much better chance of defeating the NDP than do two right wing parties splitting the vote. The Wildrose and the PC have no option but to unite if they want to win. The question is what kind of new party will emerge – will it be a hard right, socially conservative party, or a right-wing but still relatively progressive party, in other words, a progressive conservative party. Hey, wait, what an idea …

Deficits, schmeficit

Here in the People’s Republic of Albertastan, the NDP government of Rachael Notley released its 2017-18 budget, and it follows the template set by the previous budgets by the Notley Crew – just keep spending, and let the future take care of itself.

The government will double its debt (sorry, that should be our debt) over the next three years, and run deficits for the next six years. The government will run a $10.34 billion deficit, bringing our debt up to $45 billion. By 2019-20, that total should rise to $71 billion.

The New Democrats will borrow $6 billion for capital projects (building stuff), and another $6.4 billion for operations (keeping the lights on and the government spokesmen fed). I don’t disagree with spending money to build stuff in a down economy; the government will get the best bang for the buck when corporations are itching for work. The decision by the Ralph Klein PCs to pay down the debt at the expense of roads, schools, hospitals, etc. resulted in a huge infrastructure deficit that we’re still trying to catch up to. But when you’re borrowing $6.4 billion just to keep the doors open is bad policy. Notley and her crew have been coached to offer apocalyptic visions of fired nurses and shuttered schools if the government doesn’t spend, spend, spend, as if that’s the only option. There are, of course, vital services that we need to operate at peak efficiency. But this government has made no effort to cut back on the non-essentials — hundreds of government flacks, millions on government propaganda, bloated civil service salaries, etc. This policy of insulating government from the worst effects of the oil price crash explains why the NDP is still so popular in Edmonton, where so many government jobs can be found, and widely despised in the rest of the province.

And finally, more PC hilarity in Canada

This week, NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton posed a graphic on Twitter and Facebook making use of the lyric from a Beyonce song. From a song called Irreplaceable, she wrote “Like Beyonce says, to the left. Time for an unapologetic left turn for the NDP…” Well, that riled up a group called Black Lives Matter Vancouver, which replied to the tweet by saying “appropriating Black culture is not intersectional feminism.” I have no idea what that means, but it was enough for Ashton to take down the tweet.

This week’s madness from the Land of Trump

So, what sort of lunacy did we get from the Donald this week?

Well, the public finally got a look at a Donald Trump tax return, courtesy of a mystery envelope sent to a reporter, and revealed on the Rachael Maddow MSNBC show. The trouble is, the return was from 2005, making it relatively irrelevant. Who leaked the document? Well, the reporter who received the mystery package said it could easily have been Trump himself, a typical misdirection play. A 2005 tax form means nothing; when you get to 2016, let us know.

Trump released his budget proposals that called for a massive increase in military spending and dramatic cuts to lots of other stuff, like PBS, the Environmental Protection Agency, and even (much to the glee of the late night talk show guys) the agency that runs Meals on Wheels. One suspects that Trump is getting his financial advice from Montgomery Burns. The budget is so draconian, that even some Republicans are saying it’s dead on arrival.

And speaking of dead, Trump’s unfounded claim that Barack Obama had wire tapped Trump Tower proved to be exactly that – unfounded. A committee made up of Democrats and Republicans found zero evidence of bugging or anything remotely like that. Trump, of course, is standing by his slur.

RIP

Chuck Berry, 90, the father of rock and roll music, and one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Elvis to The Beatles to The Rolling Stones and most everyone after him owe a debt to Chuck Berry  … Richard, 6th Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, 82. I’m only including this because I think it’s hilariousthat there are is still ‘royalty’ in Germany. He was also a Knight of the Order of the Elephant if you’re keeping track.

Two Old Guys meet at a library

I had one of those Old Guy moments the other day.

First, however, I should point out that I’m not that old. With the average lifespan of a Canadian male now at 81, I’ve got a couple of decades of living left just to hit the average. (Now that I write that down, it sounds kind of terrible.) However, I don’t mind thinking of myself as an Old Guy. Oddly proud of it, even.

Anyway, here’s the story. I went to the library the other day, which is in itself an Old Guy thing to do. Getting out of the car, I was immediately aware of very loud music playing. Was there a concert nearby? Unlikely, as it was about -15C at the time. No, the very loud music was coming from the car next to me.

Inside the car was a kid, probably waiting for his buddy to come out of the nearby hockey arena (or maybe his friend was at the library, which seems unlikely). When I say he was playing his music loud, I don’t really do it justice. Let’s just say he was playing it at Mötorhead levels. Actually, if Mötorhead was playing that loud at a concert, the fans would say: “Hey, guys, would ya turn it down just a smidge?” (Yes, I realize that Mötorhead fans would never us the word ‘smidge’.) I honestly don’t know how the kid survived the decibel onslaught. I thought for a moment that he might have been dead, but the car was gone when I left the library, so I guess not.

Anyway, I was looking at this car with my incredulous face (ask my sons, they recognize it immediately). Just then, I looked up and saw another Old Guy with his wife, also going to the library. He looked younger than me, probably in his 50s, so maybe not quite an Old Guy, but applying for full membership. We exchanged looks. Slight head shakes, maybe a little eye-roll. The other Old Guy said something like “I hope he can hear his music.” I gave an Old Guy chuckle.

“He won’t suffer any hearing loss,” I replied. (What I was saying is that he will suffer hearing loss. I was being sarcastic, which does not translate well in print.)

We chuckled ruefully, which you can only do when you’re Of A Certain Age, mainly because only older people know the word ‘rueful’. I thought that was it, but as we walked into the library, the young Old Guy had one more.

“It’s nice of him to share his music,” he said. I wasn’t expecting this, but clearly I had to reply.

“And such good taste in music,” I said. He laughed, and so did his wife, which was nice.

This ended our Old Guy exchange. It was fleeting, but it was a bit of a spirit lifter. The older you get, the more out of touch with everything you feel. It was just nice to know that there are fellow old guys around who can’t get used to the peculiarities of the 21st century (or even the late 20th for that matter).

My guess is that the young Old Guy went home and related the story of the Future Deaf Kid in the Car to his kids, if he has any. And I’ll bet I know their response:

“Welcome to the 21st century, old man.”