Friday, May 16, 2008

Silly American news! What are you thinking?

Chuck D, the legendary lyricist and front man for the greatest rap group of all time, Public Enemy, once said that rap music was "CNN for black people". And at the time, he was right. The only way the black people of say, South Central L.A., could learn about what was happening in their neighbourhoods was to listen to rap music. CNN didn't (and of course still doesn't) report on that stuff. And rap music provided not only the news but a commentary on the situation as well. Times have changed, at least a little. I was watching CNN yesterday and I realized that what is happening now is that CNN has become rap music for white people. The ridiculously-named Wolf Blitzer and his equally-hilariously-named program, The Situation Room, were on. Wolf Blitzer? Isn't that the white-news-guy equivalent of naming yourself Pimp C or Flava Fresh Dogg or some such thing? And The Situation Room? The white-news-guy equivalent of Da Lench Mob, or G-Unit? I think so. Then there's the CNN scrolling graphics and punchy headlines and flashy imaging. How very rap-video. And how very exciting. It makes me smile.

This made me cringe. I picked up a copy of Newsweek, and I started reading through. There were several columnists talking about Barack Obama, and how he has lost his way during his campaign a little, and appears to be elitist, and should have done this or that differently. And the very first article in the section was a column with advice to Obama, on how to fix his campaign heding into the general election. And it was written by...are you ready for this? Karl Rove! Karl Rove, who in this column is advising Obama to back off on the attack stuff he's been doing? What attack stuff, you say? Yes, hmmm. But how can anyone take this seriously? Karl Rove. Karl, "swift boat" Rove, telling a Democrat, any Democrat, but especially a very left-leaning one, to lay off on the attack ads. Now, Rove has become something of a media omnipresence since leaving Bush's inner sanctum, appearing regularly as an analyst on that bastion of Fair And Balanced, Fox News, and contributing columns to Newsweek. But how can that magazine, in good conscience, even print this? How can you maintain the appearance of real journalism when you're allowing something like this to appear in your magazine? Or is that just America?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone?

Yesterday, while pooping in the backyard, Muffin apparently began to yearn for the wide open spaces beyond the backyard fence. No longer content to bite the tulips in the garden or chase the bees that pollenate those tulips, she decided to move on to more interesting flowers and insects, in the front yard and all the way across the street. I have no way of knowing whether she felt it was rewarding once she reached the other side of the fence, whether the daffodils in the front yard were more delicious than the tulips in the back, or whether the earwigs make for better chasin' than the bees. She wouldn't tell me. But I did discover, later on, how she managed to effect her escape. Once I had her safely back in the backyard, I saw her, once again, make a break for the quasi-freedom of the front yard and the telephone pole that seems to be a major attraction out there. She (being six inches high) managed to squeeze her body through a three-inch space under the gate at the front of the yard. Like a tiny doggy-limbo contest. I let her get through before I went after her this time, because I felt that startling her in the middle of such a difficult manoeuver could lead to her being seriously injured in some way. An impressive feat, I must say.

But of course, this all took place after a fairly nerve-wracking two hours, when I went outside after taking a phone call and discovered the dog was missing. I wasn't worried about not finding her. Her legs are pretty short, and I didn't imagine she could go too far. Rather, I was worried that her newfound curiosity for things-outside-the-gate, combine with her love for taking car rides, might lead her to make the acquaintance of a passing vehicle, and her departure from the comfy confines of the backyard might be followed soon after by her departure from this mortal coil. So I began to search the neighbourhood. I went up and down every street, emasculating myself over and over by yelling "Muffin!" into hedges and such. When I returned, so had Muffin. However, as some neighbours informed me, she had been milling about on the patch of grass across the street from my house when a "man in a blue pickup" stopped by and picked her up. So now, I'm very worried. Was this a humanitarian pick-up, like I have done before, merely making sure Muffin is safe, before finding her owners, or was it one of those "hey look, a cute dog! The kids'll love this" type deals. I don't know!

I was informed that this man in the blue pickup lived in the neighbourhood across from mine. They think. Maybe. So now I'm running around yet another neighbourhood, this time looking for some kind of blue pickup truck in a driveway. An hour later, totally luckless, I returned home, and I saw my neighbour, Kat, walking around in front of my house holding Muffin. The man in the blue pickup truck, apparently nothing more than a good samaritan, had been driving around trying to determine where this dog lived. Or, perhaps, he had intended to kidnap her but then discovered very quickly how much she smelled and decided against it. And he had left her with Kat, who stands in front of my house with her child waiting for the bus every day. And today she had waited around while I walked all over the neighbourhood, looking for a dog and a pickup truck, so she could return Muffin to my waiting arms. I owe both these people a great debt of gratitude. I think, however, that Muffin was rather sour with them. After all, she was going to come back. Our house is where the food (tulips) and entertainment (bees) are.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The RCMP is hiring! (Not me though)

The RCMP is doing some PR. They are having a recruitment drive, and in order to get some media attention, they gave a few of us an opportunity to visit their training centre to see what it is that they do. And while I'm certain their regular days are not as exciting as the one they put me through yesterday, there was still enough cool stuff going on to make me think this would be a pretty cool career. For someone else. The one thing that surprised me was how many young people there were from Ottawa. I always thought that when you were hired by the RCMP, you were automatically posted to Nunavut for six years, and could maybe work your way back to Ottawa once you had forty-one years of seniority. Or something. Apparently, not the case. I even ran into an old friend of mine from high school, who is now a member of the RCMP ERT team, which is like the federal SWAT team. But then, she was into bull-riding in high school, if I remember correctly. Weirdo thrill-seeker.

The mounties sent a van to grab me as soon as the show finished yesterday morning, but no one would tell us what it was we were going to be doing. It was all very hush-hush, adding to the sense of anticipation, until we finally pulled up in front of the RCMP training centre, where we were greeted by a welcoming comittee of mounties, fully decked out in their dress uniforms and so forth. This made me feel decidedly under-dressed, since I was wearing the coveralls that are issued to the officers who clean up after the horses at the stables. So after some photo-ops with the dressed-up mounties and dressed-down me, we took a tour. We saw the motorcycle cops being put through their paces, as they did their slow manoeuvers through some pylons. 900 pound bikes are not easy to manoeuver slowly. I was hoping to try it myself, but I guess their bikes are too expensive to risk on someone like me.

Then we got to meet the VIP escort team, as they showed us what they do to prepare for a possible terrorist attack. This includes their evasive manoeuvers, and I got to ride in the car as the van pulled up in front of us, full of terrorists ready to take out the VIP. The car backed up fast, faster than I could ever go backwards in a car, and pulled that move you see in the movies, where it spins around as it's going 80 km/h and takes off going straight ahead. Very cool stuff. Then I got to ride in the car as the cops showed us their technique for knocking someone off the road, that thing you see in Fox's Craziest Car Chases, where the cop car knocks the back bumper of the car it's chasing and that car spins off the road. I got to ride in both cars, and it certainly seems like there would be no way to avoid spinning out were the cops to do this to you. The mounties explained that when you see this happen on Fox, it is the Americans who do this, often to a guy who takes off to avoid a speeding ticket. We don't do this in Canada. The guy has to be specifically dangerous before he (or she, I suppose) gets forced off the road in this manner. I wanted to try driving like that too, but I guess their cars are too expensive to risk on someone like me.

Then Laurette, (my old high school friend) took us hostage in our van, and we went through the hostage-terrorist takedown procedure. She named me as her accomplice, so I was dealt with as a criminal would be. Although I must say, they might need to be a little clearer with their instructions. I had to walk forward with my hands in the air, and go down to my knees, and walk on my knees to the back of a police car. But they said things to me like "spread your knees as far as you can and walk forward". Which ended up being physically impossible. I could do one, or the other, but not both. Then they told me "move to the back of the PC!" It took me a few minutes to understand that "PC" meant "police car". Had I been a terrorist, my lack of comprehension could easily have got me shot. Then the officer who cuffed me had a hard time with my fat wrists. That hurt.

Then we visited the mobile command centre, which the RCMP takes around to major events. Lots of neat gadgets and surveillance equipment. Then we met the bicycle team, who train in a different area. They let us ride their bikes, I guess figuring I couldn't do much damage to a bicycle. Being a bike cop is a pretty cool detail. When visiting dignitaries are in Ottawa, they need to be able to continue to live the way they otherwise would, regardless of the dangers facing them. So if they are bike riders, the RCMP has to send their bike squad out with them. If they want to go skiing, the RCMP has a team of skiers that goes with them. Each skier is ranked on a scale of 1-10, and to ski with that dignitary, the officers have to be at least at that same level. Jean Chretien, for example, is a level-8 skier, which means that the security detail with him must be at least level 8s themselves. Apparently, I would be a level-one. I didn't get to ski. Well, there are very few hills open right now. I wanted to see if they trained to learn the skills needed to chase James Bond down a ski hill firing M-16s. I'll have to wait to find that out.

Next, I went up in the helicopter. Which was cool, as we did a ten-minutes tour over Orleans. Then the boat. I took a ride in an RCMP boat, which patrols the river below Stephen Harper's residence and the British High Commission and NRC and all that. In fact, it is docked at the same place, on the Quebec side, that I once broke into on the Doc and Woody show. We had a report that Eugene Melnyk's yacht was there, and I went down to find him on his boat. But it was all locked and secure, so I had to break in. Apparently, the RCMP had their boats docked there also, and it appears I dodged a rather substantial bullet. As I recall, the security guard there was listening to the Doc and Woody show at the time, and that was what tipped him off that perhaps he should go down to the docks and check whether I was really there. And I was, and he rolled his eyes and let me out the gate, making sure I didn't need to execute my athletic breaking-in manoeuver in reverse. Ah, memories.

And then - the motorcade. We were given a full, prime-ministerial motorcade right to parliament hill. The motorcycle cops in front, the lead car behind them, and us in the bulletproof, bomb-proof limo in the middle, then the trailing car and the trailing motorcycles. This was awfully cool. Just sitting in that limo you can feel the weight of the thing. The doors are incredibly heavy too, tough just to open. The cars in front and behind are incredibly close. Like, a foot from the bumpers at all times. They move to the right and the left to block off any potential threats, creating this bizarre staggering effect as the motorcade makes it's way down the road. The guys running the motorcade were the real guys who do this, the real presidential or prime ministerial detail. This was a level-5 motorcade, which is what Stephen Harper gets wherever he goes. This is the highest level of detail, except for the 5+, which is reserved for just three people. The president of the United States, the pope, and the queen. That's it. That's the one where they actually shut down the roads so the cars can go by without any traffic at all. Apparently, I was sitting in the same seat Arnold Schwarzennegger used when he was driven around in the same car when he came to Ottawa.

Then the whole day ended at Parliament Hill, where we pulled up in the motorcade for some photo ops. That was the best part of the day - watching people's excited and expectant faces turn to disappointment when the doors opened and it was just a fat guy in coveralls. (Me.) Awesome! Anyway, a great day all around, and just so much effort from the RCMP to show me their world for a day. They are hiring now, and I wouldn't be the shill that I am if I didn't endorse a career in the mounties and put up their website and information. Here it is:

The RCMP is looking for men and women who want to make adifference in communities across Canada

Did you know that you don't require a diploma in policefoundations to apply to the RCMP?

RCMP Cadets are trained for 26 weeks at the RCMP Academy inRegina, Saskatchewan.

Requirements to join include a high school diploma, proficiencyin either English or French, be willing to re-locate anywhere in Canadaand be physically fit.

What do you require to join the RCMP?

You must be a Canadian citizen

Be 19 years of age at time of engagement

Be willing to locate anywhere in Canada

Be physically fit

Be proficient in either English or French

Did you know that you may be eligible for a student loan whiletraining at the RCMP Academy?

To find out more, go to