It’s Everyone’s Problem

It’s been an awful week in Quebec. On Sunday, a man opened fire in a Ste-Foy mosque on attendants as they were praying, killing six men. Alexandre Bissonnette has been charged with six counts of first degree murder and faces possible terrorism charges. The victims were Azzedine Soufiane, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubaker Thabti, Ibrahima Barry, and Abdelkrim Hassane.

In the flood of think pieces that come out after an event like this, there was some attempt to frame this as something unique to Quebec, that somehow this province is more prone to violent outbursts than others. This bizarre piece from the Washington Post by J.J. McCullough cherry picks some events to suggest Quebec is somehow more prone to gun massacres than other provinces. Others have suggested there is more bigotry toward Muslims from white, francophone Quebeckers than other Canadians.

Certainly, the accused is reported to have extreme views on Muslims and is a fan of Donald Trump and Marine le Pen and their views on Islam are well documented. And, indeed over the past number of years in Quebec politics, there have been a number of proposals put forward by politicians that views as targeting the Muslim community. The views heard on Quebec’s talk radio stations, radio poubelle, as it’s known, are often extreme and derogatory toward Muslims.

But I would say it’s a mistake to lead people to believe Quebec is somehow more than Islamophobic than anywhere else in the world. I think Islamophobia is generally a Western problem. In Canada, the far-right news website Rebel Media spent the week trying to prove the attack was done by Muslims. (I won’t link to that site but instead you can read the Beaverton’s take on it here). In Europe, far-right, anti-immigration parties are making gains partially based on a fear of Muslims. So this is by no means unique to Quebec.

I don’t know if this event will make people behave a little more decently to each other and stop fearing the “otherness” of them but it was gratifying to see so many people coming out to vigils and the funerals of the victims. If nothing else, people should know that those who hold such extreme views represent a only fringe minority of the population.

For my part, I donated to a fund for the victims’ families here.

The Twelve (or Fewer) Days of Christmas Specials. Day 3: WTF Edition

The thing I like about digging through old Christmas specials on YouTube is seeing how they’re really like miniature time capsules. While guys like Tony Bennett have been famous for decades, most famous people tend to get famous for a short while but it never lasts. It’s the fleeting nature of fame, of course. So, as often as not, Christmas specials, in the tradition of all variety shows, are a reflection of the time in which they were produced.

I put this video, again, from a Dean Martin special, on my Facebook page a while back just to show how quickly things can date. A friend didn’t know who any of them were.

For those born after 1980, they were, from the left, Andy Gibb of the Bee Gees, once a massively popular pop group, Erik Estrada, who played a motorcycle cop best known for his tight fitting uniform and his dazzling white teeth (in those days a novelty), and Mel Tillis, a Country and Western singer known for his humourous songs and a stutter, which he played for laughs. For about 15 minutes in 1980, all of these men were superstars.

Then there was the appearance of Andy Kaufman at the Johnny Cash Christmas special, a comedian whose humour could best be described as “conceptual.”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the other clip from that broadcast in which Andy proposes marriage to Anne Murray.

And I’m just going to leave this one here:

Grace Jones, on the Pee Wee Herman Christmas special, wearing a molded plastic breast plate and singing “Little Drummer Boy”. The oddest thing? The joke in the show that she was supposed to delivered to the White House where, presumably, she would do this song for then President Ronald Reagan.

The Twelve (or Fewer) Days of Christmas, Part Two: A Very Special Christmas Special Message

It’s a well-worn trope of current show’s annual Christmas episode to feature a central character learning about the True Spirit of Christmas. What happens is a character is behaving uncharacteristically greedy and self-centered and is then put through an hommage to It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol. The 1980’s series Moonlighting did this for the former and WKRP in Cincinatti did it for the latter when Mr. Carlson opted to use the station’s profits to buy a new sound board instead of bonuses for the staff. Remember Dr. Johnny Fever as the Ghost of Christmas Future showing the all-automated WKRP of tomorrow in which Herb is the only employee?

Christmas episodes walk a weird line in that while they can discuss “the spirit” of the holiday, they rarely explicitly mention the holiday’s religious origin. Not because Hollywood is run by godless gay atheists (although it is true) but because the overall tone of the show would feel off if, say, on an earlier episode of Two and a Half Men, Charlie Sheen, while repeatedly touching his nose, started talking about what the birth of Jesus meant to him.

Note- I have never watched an episode of Two and a Half Men so I’ve actually no idea if Charlie Sheen ever gave a speech about Baby Jesus. I’m just assuming.

This vague confusion about the holidays was sent up rather well in the Trailer Park Boys Christmas episode, Dear Santa, Go Fuck Yourself:

And, of course, Ricky gives a speech at the end of the episode in which he discovers the true meaning of Christmas.

I think no matter what our beliefs are, we can all agree that at least once a year, you need to have a brain-learning thing pop in your head that wasn’t there a second ago.

The Twelve (or Fewer) Days of Christmas Specials. Part 1: Dean!

I’m going to confess something here: I like Christmas specials. It hasn’t always been so. When I was young, cynical, and desperate to be thought of as someone who had good taste, I steered clear of the things, decrying them as a bit of candy-coated kétaine.

As I got older, however, I began to like the things. I’m not sure if the two are correlated but it may have happened when I discovered that I also like to have a little rye and ginger around the holidays.

When you get down to it, Christmas specials are weird things. Television networks devote an incredible amount of time to them in a way that they don’t for other holidays. Sure, you’ll get The Ten Commandments on ABC at Passover or maybe even Mohammed, Messenger of God at Ramadan. There are practical considerations for this, surely. Most people are off-work and it doesn’t pay to put up new episodes of your top rated shows during a time when few people would watch them. So specials are taped in advance and re-run until the end of time. In the same way a blogger wants to come up with a quick and easy means of producing content without having to think too much, a network will fill its schedule with cheaply produced variety specials, concerts, sporting events, or seasonally themed episodes of current hit programming.

With that stated, I’d like to make my series posts about the Christmas specials I thought were fun, or odd, or entirely inappropriate. The main criteria for inclusion in this list will be a combination of general datedness, tackiness, and if I can find a decent quality clip of it on YouTube.

One thing to note: I will not be including this year’s Russell Peters Christmas Special because he sucks and I fucking hate his fucking smirking fucking face.

Let’s start with Dean Martin, shall we?  Between 1965 and 1985, Dean Martin recorded approximately 17,284 Christmas specials with an additional 83,382 hours of unreleased specials just sitting in a vault somewhere. Why NBC is just sitting on this goldmine is a mystery or perhaps they really do feel that nobody actually wants to see Dean Martin’s Christmas in Chichen Itza.

From one such special, we have Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, who was already years into his talking-through-songs phase, doing Dean’s signature holiday song, “Marshmallow World”. This was a few years before Dean’s tan elevated itself into a George Hamiltonesque deep bronze but even then, he knew that the secret of bringing that rich mahogany tone to your face was not through spray tans or a tanning booth. No, it was downing a bottle of Canadian Club, slathering yourself in a thick skin of Crisco, and just lolling about in the nude for a few hours in the searing Palm Springs heat.

And if you’re watching at home kids, yes, it was totally cool to smoke back then. Think Bublé will smoke during his Christmas special? No. Because he’s just not that cool. I mean, look at those two up there. The special has just started and they’re already half in the bag.

Perhaps the Christmas specials of today could use more open smoking and drinking. Hmmm… The Mickey Roarke Christmas Special. Hollywood: Make it happen.

Because nobody else is commemorating 9/11

On September 11, 2001, this story was published in the Globe and Mail (I’m linking to the CBC version as I can’t find the archived Globe version). It concerned the arrest of a man suspected in the 1971 highjacking of an Air Canada plane.

I read this story at my desk at work as I began my shift at the call centre. I thought how it was interesting that you never hear of planes being highjacked anymore.

And then the rest of the day happened.

More Religious Ponderings

Remember when I was going on about the latest news in my old church? Yeah, I know. I’ve been a non-believer for twenty some odd years and yet anytime my old church is mentioned in the news, I’m all over it.

Turns out I’m not the only one. The National Post published a rather sneering little article on Saturday about what the writer sees as a growing split within the United Church. Of course, the United Church has been debating with itself for decades, but according to the Post, this is a rather new thing. But check out the comments.

When did the UCC become the latest target of conservative rage? Was it the same time Statistics Canada was preparing the latest mandatory long form census?

When I was a kid, I played Joseph in the Christmas nativity play by wearing a bathrobe and sporting a tea towel on my head, all in the name of showing how pleased we were that our saviour has come. What I didn’t know was that my Tory parents were actually indoctrinating me into radical leftist politics.