The Good Ol’ Days of Slapstick


I grew up watching the 3 Stooges, Popeye, and Bugs Bunny most Saturday mornings. Fridays, I gamely tried to stay up for ‘Fright-Night’ on ABC’s Buffalo affiliate Channel 7; but rarely did I manage to keep awake past the late show’s opening credits. J

I did outgrow these things; truth be told, I became a teenager; the excitement of rising with the Sun and keeping early Saturday-morning vigil with the ‘Indian’-head test pattern  was replaced with sleeping in until noon J.

All of these shows used ‘slapstick’ comedy to elicit laughter: slaps, punches, pokes in the eye, knocks on the head, hair-pulling – remember those handfuls Moe used to routinely obtain from Larry’s head? Only this morning I watched an episode where Moe clobbers Larry on the ol’ pate –hard -even for slapstick; Larry moans in pain for a few moments,  then says: “Okay fellas. Let’s stop all this clowning around. We’ve got work to do…” Slapstick relies on us viewers to ‘suspend our imaginations’ -to forget these things actually hurt –so that we can be amused by them. We know repeated blows to the head can lead to permanent brain damage; but in slapstick, none of the characters are ever traumatized past the point of ‘ouch.’ The victims are fully recovered in time for the next scene, and so they are never really victims…

As for the horror films: I did, on rare occasion, manage to stay up well into the Friday night spook – but please don’t tell my mom J. Unlike in slapstick, characters appearing in horror movies were being killed, not just receiving a knock on the head; but in the Hollywood offerings of 50+ years ago, people were mostly being killed by monsters – things I already knew were, à la cartoons, the stuff of imagination and not at all real. People didn’t do that to each other in real life; monsters did that to people on tv. I would therefore suspend my imagination gleefully just for the fun of being scared; but I don’t recall being shown the coup de gras, when it was delivered, all that often –it was almost always accomplished off-camera – leaving the details – save for the outcome J – to the imagination of the viewer; however, when it was done on camera, you didn’t see gushing blood or heads  being pulled off of their shoulders; you didn’t get a cheap human anatomy lesson. Those things belong to the creative toolsets of highly unimaginative movie makers.

In the earlier days of Hollywood, greats like Alfred Hitchcock developed all kinds of imaginative techniques to enhance our viewing experience; his objective was to trigger the imagination of the viewer, forge a personal connection between the story and the viewer – to facilitate engagement. Watch a movie from the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s – compare the output from those decades with the modern cinematic versions of horror and war. There is little left to the imagination these days, in all too many cases. But in others, you can see the legacy left by the greats of nascent Hollywood has not been wasted. We need more art, even at the cost of a little less profit; because art is the highest expression of the creativity of the human spirit, and the penultimate level of human achievement in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

The Saturday morning offerings of my childhood were replaced, over the years, with animated shows which were sanitized for violence in every form. The rationale behind this was the notion that kids mimic what they see.

Mine was the last generation where ‘spanking’ and the ‘strap’ was okay – even our grade one teacher occasionally had us line up to receive a tap with the strap on the nethers -one so light we couldn’t feel it; but you didn’t know that until it was your turn; after that you walked back to your desk with a wtf? that didn’t hurt at all! –look on your face. J Very likely our dear grade one teacher  was herself a student, and a very attentive one at that, of Alfred Hitchcock -for á la the greatest cinematic suspense director of all time, she achieved her objective – if you had known the precocity of us 6-year-olds, her successes were miraculous on the order of the parting of the Red Sea J -without a full blown frontal assault on our young imaginations. Miss P did not ignore our imaginations; she used them to obtain her objective, knowing that we would motivate ourselves. Ah, no miracle here after all. JFor us kids, the threat of violence was quite enough, and artfully accomplished; thank-you very much. J

We the class of 1960 had eventually put away our pea-shooters, spit-balls and stink-bombs. The next cohort of teenagers, having graduated from this ‘new age’ Saturday morning curriculum of sanitized cartoons – these being the ‘creations’ of modern society’s patently unimaginative and unresourceful social engineers  –  was producing young souls prepared to use knives and guns to settle disputes with their classmates – but hey, social engineers, mission accomplished! You did get kids to stop using peashooters and stink-bombs…

Children of today are having to make decisions long before life experience and family socialization[i] has the opportunity to adequately prepare them for the life-changing consequences of their choices. When your weapons are no longer spitballs, these choices are often game-changers with no option to restart the level you are on, should you choose badly.

We adults receive daily exposure to violence of the most heinous kinds; more graphically presented than ever before –leaving nothing to the imagination[ii] – there is a television monitor playing 24-hour news wherever and whenever people(including little kids) gather and wait for something – a doctor’s appointment or subway train, say.

The evolution of our media, both the information and entertainment brands, are a reflection of society’s values and objectives; these being properly defined by the people and managed on their behalf by society’s leaders; among whom our social engineers are included. Giving them the benefit of the doubt: they were thinking to censor the violence of slapstick as part of a broader social initiative to exorcise violence from the toolset of human social interaction. The social engineers who chose this particular route could not discern their arses from a hole-in-the-ground; for if they could, they would not have sanitized kids shows and cartoons for violence of the slapstick variety, leaving kids with nothing to mimic.  After all, most of what we learn as children, we learn by mimicking  people who are older – from the time you are born until school age, you will learn many life lessons from mom and dad– and even from your older sister. You will learn values from parents; from your big sister you learn something that will save your life every now and then: to wit: never aggravate someone who is bigger and meaner than you are just for the fun of it, because that kind of fun is going to earn you a whack with a shovel on the top of the head J. Some of what we are mimicking are the tools we need to get us through life; most especially in the area of conflict management. Nowadays, some kids, because of the exposure they receive to the brand of violence on the news and internet, are mimicking those examples. The opportunity to learn from this sort of ‘life experiment’/mistake does not exist; neither for the perpetrator or for the victim. But hey, we no longer have to worry about peashooters and stink bombs.[iii]

All energies toxic to the human spirit, we need to vent -among these: anger, frustration, impatience, jealousy, fear, sadness; some kinds are best vented by exercising; others by crying or talking or keeping a journal, say. The modern phenomenon of substituting lengthy talk-tos for corporeal violence is interfering with the system Nature provided us for to properly manage toxic spiritual/emotional waste, our own and other peoples.’ Our current mode of conflict management accomplishes little of lasting value; perhaps even takes things the other way; further entrenching, rather than resolving, conflict.

During my tenures in public school, high-school, and university, I never saw anyone use anything but their fists in a fight. The dirty fighters might also kick or gang up if their guy was getting the worst of it – but nobody would tolerate that. With few exceptions, the kids on recess would only gather to watch; and no one else interfered except for to end the proceedings. And in those days, nobody, but nobody, hit a girl.

Just look at where we are only one generation later:

…some kids have put away their pea-shooters and pulled out handguns.

…women are often being beaten, violated, and murdered by the males of their species. BY THE MALES OF THEIR SPECIES. The perpetrators flatly deny the charge our creator places on every male of every species: to protect the female and her offspring from harm; to function as ward for the ‘queen bee’ who is the family’s  leader, as Nature intended[iv] – and to whom god has given the charge of being the life-bearer – at least, this was how the Native folk singer in Red Rock put it during an intro to one of her songs. I cried when she said this because its truth resonated in my soul.  I prayed that my three daughters, the youngest of whom happened to be sitting on my lap and enjoying the folk music, would meet such a man when they grew up and were ready to begin families of their own. From the species’ point of view, what can any male of the species possibly do which is of more importance to the species or is able to promote his life to greater value?

Where we are today is the other side of the world from where my generation grew up. Judging by the results, the social initiatives our ‘engineers’ imagined were ill-conceived and ill- applied. Has their objective in any way been achieved? We are further from the non-violent society nowadays, than ever before. And it is because we insist on acting in defiance of our own natures.

Very fortunately, only humans are affected, since no other species created by god has ever found it necessary to revise its modus operandi from the way the creator imagined it.

Our behaviour today is most unnatural. Our young people increasingly resort to guns, knives, and cyber-bullying to vent their post-pubescent angst. You could be just as likely to show up at the hospital, if not the morgue,  after a fight at recess as at home with your jeans scuffed and a bleeding nose.

These days you could end up dead or missing after going out on a date; or have your date shame you on the internet.[v]

We need to take a few steps back, social-engineering-wise, and try to fix some of these things. What kids and adults are able to see on television, the internet, and public transportation is a good place to start. We need to revisit our societal vision, and by extension, that of global society; and we need to be ever vigilant that our social engineers are taking up the initiatives that will lead us towards Canadian and global society’s goals.

[i] Family socialization, a process which is integral to the production of cohesive societies because it provides the skills we need to form lasting relationships, is also under attack by society’s social engineers and going the way of the dodo with the child’s imagination and human creativity for company – all thanks to modern social engineering. Maybe these people would consider doing less social engineering and spending more time with their families; and allow society to ‘engineer itself.’ We couldn’t end up any worse off, could we?

[ii] What do social engineers have against imagination anyways? Ps: think about the answer to this question….send an email with your answer to admin or contact email on this site with your thoughts on this subject. Hint: my answer has something to do with ego J

[iii] I have to observe that Trump and Putin and Un talk about tossing nukes at one another the way we shot spitballs and peas. Does anyone not think the world would  be a whole lot better today if these three world ‘leaders’ had learned from Curly, Larry and Moe?

[iv] Not the male; who is the family’s protector.

[v] Whatever is said or shown about you by these types, the real reason they attack you is because you make them feel bad; because you get better grades than they do, are more bookish than they are, use bigger words than they can… or maybe it is because you are not the type of ignoramus who derives pleasure from tearing down people who are softer-natured and exactly the kind of person our creator had hoped we would all be like…instead some of these kind young souls end up taking their own lives because of individuals who are trying to offload their own personal shame upon somebody else…

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Free Trade Agreements


FTAs will have the effect of streamlining and standardizing how trade is conducted among sovereign nations. This should render economic conditions propitious to generating efficiencies of scale and cheaper prices -that’s Good. FTAs will also formalize business as the guiding principle for social and democratic development among and within nations -that’s Bad; since in their current form, FTAs will constrain local governments from acting in the best interests of the good people who elect them, if it can be shown that the new policy/law interferes with a signatory country business’s profit making. The Ugly: Imagine all of the children running around the globe and in your own neighbourhood with no opportunity save for getting into trouble, because their parents are struggling from payday to payday to balance multiple-low paying part time jobs. This is a work-life situation that FTAs will exaggerate and could render permanent.

To hold the view that business is society’s ‘guiding light’ and highest aspiration is putting the proverbial cart before the horse: all businesses are societies, but not all societies are businesses (logic 101). This means that it is proper for the social mores  of business organizations to be derived from and form a subset of  the values of the society in which they do business; but it is quite improper for a society’s values to be derived from and form a subset of the values of a business –most especially businesses with origins and head office presence in countries that have social and environmental values quite different from ours. Businesses, employers, and employees are important features of society; but to structure society upon the business model, as if the goals and motivations of business and societies were identical, is ludicrous. In business, the guiding principle is plainly limited to profit making.

Business exists to support the goals and aspirations of society; not the other way round.

Make no mistake, we are at an inflection point in human history and social evolution. What we do now will be difficult, nay, impossible, for future generations to undo.

  1. To achieve the good, we must globalize properly. We must be serious about the commitments we make; however these commitments are made with governments – we must never forget that governments represent people, and it is all about the people – investors, the wealthy, the poor, women, the homeless, employers and employees – people. People aspire to raise families; to enjoy being a child, and then raising children, and then slowly fading away into their golden years (while spoiling the grandchildren of course J). If globalization – one of its key operatives being FTAs – does not hold the welfare of all people above that of certain segments (the investor, say?) – then wealth inequality and all of the societal anathema this condition is responsible for will become hard-coded as an attribute of globalization. The resultant new world order nigh impossible to get rid of. A well known personality is quoted as observing that seed which is scattered upon rock can only produce plants that are crooked and enfeebled; but that seed scattered upon good soil is productive of plants that are straight and true. Poverty is society’s ‘rock.’
  2. To minimize the bad, we must globalize fairly. Money is not only power, it is opportunity. It is opportunity to grow, learn, engage, and to do the right thing – not only for yourself, but for others. The rope is much stronger and durable if the strands making it up are relatively (but not exclusively) uniform and tightly knit together. This is natural process; as humans forming human societies, we are not above natural process, no matter what we may think. No rope maker would choose to combine fat strands with thin ones to make his rope. Such variation among the most crucial component of the rope makes it weaker. The most critical component of society is….people! The lowest of rope makers, were he/she running the country or the U.N., would routinely be about the business of reducing wealth inequality among and within nations, knowing full well that some lower amount will be necessary to remove the drag wealth inequality exerts upon our social progress.
  3. To turn our backs forever upon the ugly, we need simply reverse the current trend in politics and balance egoic human attitudes with the socio-centric sort. We need to stop and take a good look at where we are going. Trade agreements have their role in the ongoing evolution of the human social order, but only within the broader framework of building viable societies. If we are prepared to do whatever is necessary to accomplish our goal, we will get there.

We must determine how much variation, in particular economic variation, societies are able to tolerate before the effects become anti-social. Once we agree on that, why, Mr. Piketty has already provided us with the means of reaching the targets.[i]

[i] Read his book, Capital in the 21st Century, or at least an article about his book. I believe he is spot on.

Movement Conservatism


At its heart, movement conservatism ascribes to the notion that societies are businesses and that social values must reflect and support the goals and mores of business.

Well now, anyone who has worked for a living knows intimately what having your life structured upon those values is like; and there aren’t too many people around who would want to live the entire day, every day, like those 8 hours at the plant. Do we really want our values to be framed in terms of profit and loss? Do we want business mores and goals to be operating fulltime in families and communities?

Do I want my country to be a business?

Temporary employment, constructive dismissal, income uncertainty, a permanent ‘fault-line’ between employers(inclusive of upper management) and employees—if you esteem these behaviours to be  attributes properly belonging to human societies, if you are content for your own children to live subject to these values, then movement conservatism is the movement for you.

But if you see these things as operatives of a social model which benefits the top of the ‘food chain’ as it debases the lower end, then you are interested in making a better community, a better Canada, a better world, a sustainable world – for everyone.

The mcons seek power just like every other political movement does; but the devil is in the details with respect to how they would acquire, maintain and distribute power. Money is power and they want all of it. Simple. They would share it only to the point of an acceptable marginal return. How they would maintain power in a democratic system while they economically marginalize an increasing number of voters –why  that’s not complicated either:

They lie.

Our federal conservatives (‘fcons’ for short) might have given Trump an idea or two when the Harper government decided to kill the long-form census. The LFC was designed to provide politicians and planners with a comprehensive, reliable data pool which they could then use to develop and explain policy and planning.  They replaced it with the National Household Survey, a tool capable of providing considerably less data— less reliable data because it was optional. Why do you suppose the FCons would want to do that? Why would they want to know less than before to assist them with policy and planning decisions?

It might just be because they wanted us to know less than before. The less we knew, the less inclined we would be to question their policies; the less capable the opposition would be to interfere with it. But Trump has dilated that wee little Machiavellian ploy into outright, unabashed bullshitting. He’s the president of the United States of America, a sovereign nation, for crying out loud.

The art of the boldfaced lie is the most important weapon in the mcons’ arsenal; but the lies they tell are effective only for as long as the listener does not bother to question. Irony of ironies, the mcons are thinking people; but they do not want citizens to be thinking at all – their success and the duration of Donald Trump’s presidency utterly depend on it.

You have freedom of choice because you have the ability to think. The mcons do not want you to think; but if you must insist upon doing it, they are prepared to serve you up bullshit aplenty—for as long as you are willing to swallow it.

The social model of movement conservativism is lacking in a rational basis. It is predicated exclusively upon ideology.

The mcons lie only to buy themselves time for to implement their hidden agenda. They know the truth – they’re smart enough not to tell it. If they were to tell it they would be shooting themselves in the foot. The truth is, the mcons’ want to implement a regressionist social model; one that facilitates opportunity for one group to the detriment of opportunity for another. So long as voters permit mcon-ish politicians to mock the truth without having a care, then we are providing them with the time to make this happen. Timeto make more of our country, their country.

It almost seems as if the mcons concluded that the rate of GDP growth would not be sufficient or sustainable enough to maintain the standard of living to which the wealthy are accustomed, without leaving the lower tier in a condition of compounding scarcity. In the 21st century new world order, people would be working a lot harder, a lot longer, and for a lot less money; leaving them neither the time or energy in reserve for their children or to recover from the stresses of the workplace. More and more mental illness, drug addiction and violent crime would occur as people buckle under mounting pressure.

Here then is the culmination of movement conservatism:  the instantiation of a social model which  facilitates the concentration of economic and political power into the hands of the mcons.

In the mcon utopia, their enemies are our enemies, their values are our values, our country is theirs.

Did We Forget?


Lest We Forget. The mantra of Remembrance Day is more than a polite reminder to celebrate the heroism of the past: it is a stark warning of the horrors of the Great Wars, from the generation that lived them, to the generations they hope will never have to. That generation’s young people would have felt much the same as the young people of today; the only difference being that they lived what today’s generations have only read about. Reading about it, and living it, are two very different things.

One day, I was following along a Queen Street streetcar route diversion to the next Stop. This took me past St. James Cathedral and the St. James Cross. I noticed an inscription at the base of the monument. I read it, and it went straight to my heart:


Photo of the inscription at the base of the St. James Cathedral Cross monument.

…this cross commemorates the glorious sacrifice of those who gave their lives in the great war 1914 – 1918 and appeals to those for whom they died to lay aside hatred and strife and to seek brotherhood and peace under the banner of Christ…

….and I find myself wondering, have we been paying attention?

These are the last words of that generation of young Canadians, many of whom were torn to bits by machinegun fire or felled by mustard gas as they marched toward the enemy lines. Along with sacrificing their young lives, they left for our generation a parting sentiment: the hope that the indescribable (and unnecessary) horrors which they experienced, will never, ever, be repeated. The evil that generation of Canadians witnessed was so egregious and unnatural, that, rather than urge us to fight hatred and strife, (as we have been doing), they tell us to “…lay [them] aside…” Our in-kind response to the hatred of others, in the name of peace, is rather pushing us further from the goal. This was the epiphany which fell upon the WWII generation: Violence, no matter what the justification, might reduce the fires of hatred to smouldering for awhile, but  they remain poised to erupt into global conflagration when conditions become right again.

The Great War generation knew intimately the utter unreality of one human being doing violence to another – explosions, mustard gas, the moans of the mortally wounded, children crying over the bodies of felled parents…they saw that, though their cause was just, that cause just didn’t matter; that what they had to do to end violence, was actually perpetuating it.

The Great War generation wants their sacrifice to be the thing that ends war – so that they may know  their time on Earth was meaningful. Therefore they urge us to “…lay aside hatred and strife and to seek brotherhood and peace…”

Now, this monument urges all of these good things to be done “…under the banner of Christ.” I believe the Christ has visited humankind in several personalities, not just in one. The message of the Christ, just like the warning of the Great War generation of Canadians, is not intended for only certain people at certain times and certain places; rather the Christ’s message is for all people at all times and places, and is continually being renewed.