Sorry, I was away yesterday thus no post.

Words!  What is in a word?  My kingdom for a word!  A horse it may be but a horse is only a word that by any other name is still a word. Words declare wars, they garner peace. Words can be hurtful, they can be playful. Words describe words as in spiteful words, hurtful words, insightful words.  We can have a war of words, crosswords or them’s fightin words. Words can be theatrical:  we can have a play on words. Word is law.  It is the word. Words are prophetic. Words can be the gospel truth. So sayeth the word of the Lord. Words inspire, they transpire. Words transcribe: you have my word on that. Failing that, can I have a word with you? But words are not enough. That’s why we have lawyers. Words can also be despotic, or chaotic. A single word can inspire poetry, lyricism.

We can combine words to make quotable quotes: some profound, some sublime, some simplistic, some stupidly clear:

 “To be or not to be – that is the question.” That may be but on Jeopardy it is the answer!

 “If things are good in moderation then they must be great in excess.”  My favourite.

Yet words are not enough when communicating.  Context and understanding are crucial. Without context confusion arises to the point of ridiculousness.  Let me try to illustrate this by something that I learned in school:

Take the word “nit.” The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines “nit” as a stupid person, a louse.  Then add the letter “k” before the “n” and you have “knit.” Yet the word “nit” from the word “knit” is a whole different kettle of fish.  And what is that anyway: a kettle of fish?

Now, let’s take the word “wit:” defined as someone with a sharp sense of humour, a player of words perhaps.  As in “that man possesses wit.  He has a sharp mind.” But then add the letter “t” before the “w” and you have “twit.”  Or, combine the word “nit” with the word “wit” and you have a “nitwit.” But “nit” and “twit” together does not sound quite right – “nit-twit?”

Nonetheless, given that a “nit” is already defined as a stupid person, and “wit” is someone who has a sharp mind, then “nitwit” defiles all logic in a descriptive sense except perhaps to define someone who possesses a stupid “wit” – which in itself is oxymoronic.  But “dimwit” already has that locked up.  Yet what is really frustrating about the undercurrent of this word is that “dimwit” is the opposite of someone who has a sharp “wit.”   So, that being the case, let’s call him or her a “blunt-sharp” person!

To make matters worse a “twit” could be someone who has a sharp “wit,” and is still a “nitwit” or a “dimwit.”  So why can’t we call him or her a nit-twit?  Or a “dim-twit”?  The bottom line is that “nitwit” or “dimwit” sounds better.  The other bottom line is that English words are just downright confusing without context and a shared understanding of the contextual environment we are communicating in.

Words can mean different things to many different people.  It is how we shape them, construct them, and construe them that are key to our success in using them.  Timing may be one thing but context is everything. Take my word for it.  You’ll be surprised at how much fun words can be.  You’ll be truly amazed at your wordiness.

 Oh yeah, and I remember my Italian uncle declaring to his Italian spouse: Hey Flora. Let’s go to the big city and have some fauna – hey? Groan

 You have my word on it.

 * Excerpt from my book: “I Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven” $9.95, includes shipping and handling

Shakey Jay

“Hey Jay? What’s shakin today eh? Hey, I’m a poet.

 “Yes you are George, yes you are”

“So Jay, before we even get started with all the craziness out there I would like to know one thing. How’d you get that handle, Shakey Jay anyway?”

“Well you see George, my hands shake. And my left hand really shakes. Much worse than the right. So most of my friends and not so friends call me Shakey. But I don’t mind. You see, whenever I had to perform in front of a crowd or give a presentation or a speech, the audience would equate my shakin hands to nervousness.  Yet I am no more nervous than any one else.  If one is anxious before public speaking, well so am I.  If one’s hands sweat, well so do mine. If one has butterflies in their gut well so do I only mine are bigger. But, on top of all of that I have an additional affliction. No, affliction is not the right word here. A physical trait is more like it. It is something that is called a Benign Familial Tremour. I have had it all my life. Benign because it doesn’t grow as an affliction; Familial as it is hereditary, normally on the male side of a family, and Tremour for obvious reasons. It is now called an Essential Tremour although I really see nothing essential about it.”

“Sorry to interrupt Jay but again, who is one?”

 “Let me share a very short but personal journey with you George.”

 “I first noticed that something might be amiss with my hands when I was about 6 years old. On those summer days: hot, humid and sweaty, with a parched thirst, I would run to the fridge and to the consternation of all mothers out there, grab the chocolate milk carton with my sweaty, dirty palms, and bring my chapped, cracked, swollen dry lips to the spout and chug a lug to my hearts content. With my right hand there didn’t seem to be a problem. But when I grabbed it with my left hand, that carton would be a shakin all over. The contents of which were a shakin with me and a shakin all over me.  But that was okay you see because for every swill with my left hand I had a chocolate milk shake.”

 “It became apparent that the medical profession would not be in the cards for me. Indeed, dental surgery, neurosurgery was definitely out of the question. And you know what? I always wondered why on earth my parents never ever bought me a chemistry set as a kid.”

 “As I got older I had to be very careful with the kind of work I did. Summer jobs were quite plentiful but some, like waiting tables, were not in the cards. But there was one city construction job that was right up my alley…workin the jackhammer. This job masked my physical trait…. and everything else for that matter – and our crew was something else indeed. Man oh man I cannot begin to tell you or show you how a crew of jackhammer artistes act while taking a break…off the job. But one thing I learned very quickly. Never, ever buy hot coffee during stand easy. And hot soup was definitely a no-no during lunch.”

 “Nevertheless I moved on and was quite capable of living with my physical peculiarity. I joined the Navy at 23. During basic training there was one performance objective that really called for a steady hand… the small arms range. Needless to say I and my instructors were just a tad concerned.  But you know what? With the rifle I had absolutely no difficulty at all. That’s because the NATO Standard FN rifle was heavy and I, being a left handed shot, had no difficulties with it. I actually attained marksman status at 1000 meters.”

 “The sub machine gun was a blast as well. On single shot, I did have some difficulty and didn’t quite make the grade. But on staccato burst – man oh man – another story. The breech action on short burst was made for my affliction.  And on fire for effect – full throttle, well those instructors had never seen anything like it.  When my left handed finger action was engaged, nothing, and I mean nothing, was safe within a 25 yard radius I can tell you that. But there was one small arms weapon that was cause for concern: the 9mm pistol. Right handed, not too bad, both hands, I passed. But left handed? Not only did I hit my own target but I hit every other damn target down that firing line, without even trying. With my eyes closed for heaven sakes.  It was a beautiful sight I can tell you seeing all of those other cadets on the firing line fall in turn or in unison and in panic to the ground for cover in perfect military fashion. Notwithstanding, even though I failed in the 9mm and was up for a career review because of it, I was able to convince the instructors that being on a ship the only gun I would ever fire would be a 5in 54 single shot howitzer that weighed in about 20 tons. I told the staff that I didn’t think I could lift it with my left hand.  Needless to say common sense prevailed and I passed.”

 “As the years went on the condition began to bug me as it would externalized my nervousness. So I went to see a neurologist.”

 “Doc, what on earth can I do about this.”

 “Well, he said, what seems to calm it down.”

 “Well, says I, I do notice that when I have a few shooters the shakiness is less pronounced.”

 “Well try that” he said.

 “So, I did. It worked but not without its problems. You see, with a few shooters under the belt one gets a false sense of courage. I gave my presentation and asked for questions. One came. It was so stupid that I told the guy in no uncertain terms that his question was dumb and didn’t deserve an answer!”

 Back to the doctor.

 “Try these pills” he said, “but watch the dosage. Take 20 mg and see how that works out.”

 “So, for the next presentation, a few minutes beforehand, I took the pill. It didn’t seem to work so I took another 2 just in case. Well, blah, blah blah, blah blah blah. Blah, blah blah. Whew.”

 “Back to the doctor. He laughed, “you idiot. It takes about an hour for the pill to kick in. Try ½ dosage to start with.”

“Okay. I followed instructions and gave the presentation. Now, from your perspective it may have sounded all right. But from my perspective it sounded kind of like this……………..Myyyyy naaaameeee is Jaaaaayyyyyyy. After a few tries I succeeded in finding the right dose and things seemed to be less pronounced.

As time went on I learned every trick there is to mask the shakiness. So, like most people I have all of the common side effects in prepping for a presentation but with this one exception. Yet for me it has never been an affliction, just a physical trait, that’s all. And besides, unlike you, when a good tune comes on the radio, I can be a shakin all over……… without even trying.



“And that’s all she wrote George”


“Shakey Jay huh? Somewhat appropriate. See ya later Jay, till next time. Oh by the way, who’s she?”


“Bye George, eee gads!”

Proportional Representation

I just read an article by a group that want to change our electoral process from a First Past the Post system to one of Proportional Representation. Their primary argument was, among many, that Canada had one of the most unstable governments of the developed democracies. They cite Italy as an example of electoral stability.

I don’t know about you but as soon as I read that comment their argument became as mushy as a wet noodle or an overcooked bowl of pasta without the meat sauce. They point out that because Canada has had 22 elections as opposed to Italy’s 18 since WW2 that somehow Italy’s electoral process is a model of stability. Holy ravioli, it cannot be. Well it isn’t:

 Yes Canada has had 22 elections since WW2 but I would say that this is a reflection of how strong and stable our system of government is.

Canada has a parliamentary system of government based upon Westminster that calls for an election, until Harper’s fixed election date decree, of every 5 years. That alone would require an election every 14.2 years in Canada since 1945 if all governments were majority in nature. But they haven’t been and I would argue that that is also a good thing because the strength of our democracy and parliamentary system of government holds poor governments to account (remember Joe Clark, Meighen) by forcing them to go to the polls for public validation.  Minorities can also provide strong legislative government as reflected by Pearson’s successful minority governments of the mid 1960s.

Our system also prevents potential constitutional crises – Mackenzie King, Bing affair comes to mind – something that Italy could only hope for. By the way, Italy may have had only 18 elections since WW2 but they have had 65 different governments since 1945, and therein lies the problem that can arise with Proportional Representation (PR). Nothing gets done.  Why?  Because governance coalitions are necessary for power and political survival in these countries with their PR systems of government. Unfortunately, by their very nature, they are unstable. Can you imagine the chaos in Canada if the Layton, Dion and Duceppe coalition had taken down Harper’s minority government back in December 2008? Luckily, through our strong and stable system of rules and protocols, Harper was able to prorogue parliament and thus avoid political instability in this country. The Liberals backed down from the coalition early in 2009. Whew! Of course all of the lefties blew a hissy fit and spewed their spaghetti all over their bibs.

As an example of the efficacy of Italy’s PR system, here are some facts about Italy’s 2008 election:

“An early election was called (in Italy) when Romano Prodi resigned as prime minister in January, after the collapse of his centre-left coalition, which had been in power for just 20 months…only one Italian government has lasted a full five-year term in the last 50 years, led by conservative Silvio Berlusconi between 2001-2006 and even he was forced to resign once during that time by fractious allies.”

“Italians blame electoral laws for chronic instability that brought down the 61st government since World War Two in January. The system, still in use, mixes proportional representation with a threshold of 2 percent for parties in a coalition and 4 percent for single parties. It permitted more than 20 parties to take seats in 2006.”

And the real kicker here is:

“Both Berlusconi and Veltroni favoured altering the system to reduce the PR element and push Italy towards a two-party system.” Unfortunately, for Italy, that hasn’t happened yet.

Who knew?


Those Dastardly Brits and the Evil British Empire

Watching the Royals yesterday at their welcoming ceremony at the Victoria legislature got me to thinking of some of the hypocrisy of these visits with respect to certain elements of the welcoming committee. It wasn’t too long ago that the Mayor of Victoria and four of the city’s councillors refused to swear allegiance to the Queen. Irrelevant they suggested and the Mayor herself offered her support only to First Nations. Huh, well hey, what about me??

In 2015 the Nanaimo city council cut off funding to the annual Empire Day’s organizing committee, unless they changed their name to something less offensive to First Nations. Oh I know: “Queen and Country Days”

“Times are changing,” said Nanaimo City Councillor Diane Brennan. “The term empire is hurtful. It’s a reminder of colonization and oppression of the indigenous people and it’s caused great suffering.”

 Emmy Manson, a councillor with the local Snuneymuxw First Nation, agrees.

“I guess for me it triggers some old history that really isn’t positive for our people,” said Manson.

That history includes residential schools, loss of language and culture and displacement. (sorry to say but this had nothing to do with the Brits)

 Manson said she and other Snuneymuxw people do not attend the event because of its connotation.

“I get why we celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday,” said Manson. “I think that’s what it ought to be called.” (CBC, 22 Jan 2015)

 Well excuse me for a minute Ms Manson but Queen Victoria was the figurehead of that dastardly evil empire that triggers the micro-aggression you refer to.

 My thoughts:

Taking the City of Nanaimo’s lead, perhaps now is the time to change the name of the Victoria Day celebrations to one that is less offensive to local First Nations. After all Queen Victoria, our city’s namesake, represents all that was bad about the British Empire: its colonialism, its trade, economic growth, rule of law, common law, security, individual rights and freedoms, civilization, Magna Carta, infrastructure, semblance of order and, of course, the poor treatment that First Nations people had to endure under the Victorian British brand – as opposed to – the continual inter-tribe warrior raids and inter-band savagery, discrimination and slavery.  Taking Nanaimo’s logic to its proper conclusion, I would suggest that now is also the time that we change the name of Victoria to Camosun, a name which better reflects our First Nation history and heritage. After all those dastardly Brits oversaw Nanaimo and Victoria for a full 17 years from 1853-1871 and 28 years from 1843-1871 respectively. The Canadian government has been responsible for things well after that. How well you may ask?? Well for about 150 years, that’s how well!

And well (sic) we are at it I would also suggest and strongly recommend that we change the name of Canada Day to something less offensive. After all the Canadian government, and not Great Britain, has governed Victoria and the Province of B.C., since 20 July, 1871. In that vein the Canadian government and not Great Britain represents: broken aboriginal promises and treaties; the reserve paradigm; repression of Metis during the  Red River / Northwest Rebellion (1870, 1885); the execution of Louis Riel and imprisonment and subsequent death of Poundmaker, Big Bear and many of their of his brethren;  residential schools; the Indian Act; the segregation and discrimination of Chinese immigrants in accordance with the Chinese Immigration and Exclusion Act(s); the sequester and internment of all Japanese Canadians after 1941; internment of Ukranian and Italian Canadians; the refusal to allow refugees of Indian origin entry into Vancouver in 1914 (the Komagata Maru incident); the refusal to accept 900 Jewish refugees into Canada in 1939 (St Louis Incident), which probably ensured their imminent deaths under a Nazi regime; the Chinese Head Tax; the Duplessis Regime; the Orange Order’s anti Catholic movement and religious discrimination; refusal to recognize women as persons from 1867 – 1930; Africville and the segregation of blacks in eastern and central Canada until 1964; and, the Canadian government “black” list goes on and on.

 Oh we can be so smug, can’t we?

 How I hate hypocrisy!

By the way, at yesterday’s welcoming ceremony, the Governor General’s wife reminded me of a Leprechaun in that outfit she was wearing. The Prince’s Equerry seemed to be more of a hindrance than a help.

Will and Kat looked great. With George and Charlotte they make the perfect family. Hope they have a great time.

Note: I am not a rabid monarchist per se. Heck, I used to shoot spit balls from my pea shooter at the Queen’s picture when I was a kid in school. No, but I do respect our heritage and culture and the contributions made by the British over the years. And I do respect the Commonwealth of Nations: an August body of diverse countries and nations that share a common heritage of sorts. And to me that is a lot better than that farcical United Nations. It is something to embrace, not discard.

A Royal Affair

The Royals, William and Kate and their two children, George and Charlotte, have just arrived here in Victoria. I watched the opening ceremonies with interest. I must say that George really stole the show here. What a cute kid he is. And Charlotte could almost be his twin.

Now I do not consider myself to be an ardent monarchist but I do respect our heritage and historical ties and links to Great Britain, the Commonwealth, and our Queen. We fought two World Wars under the monarchy to defend our Judeo Christian values as well as to free the world from tyranny. I am also very proud to have served for Queen and Country in the Royal Canadian Navy. So:

Welcome to Victoria Will, Kate, George and Charlotte.