Friday, December 21, 2007

On Beyond Oprah

As the presidential primary races heat up, the candidates are engaging in a battle of high profile endorsements. The latest winner is Barack Obama who garnered the full, active support of Oprah Winfrey. In order to keep pace, the remaining contenders have reportedly signed on some big names, too.

Rudy Giuliani
Not to be outdone, Rudy Giuliani has managed to obtain one of the highest placed endorsements available: himself. "Yes," said the former mayor. "I’m the guy who saved New York City after 9/11 and I think — heck, I know — that I’m the best man for the job." With the full support of one of America’s most famous heros, Mr. Giuliani is hoping his campaign will get a much needed boost and surpass his current survey numbers. "I’m sure my own self-support should be good for at least a 9 or 11-point bump in the polls."

Hillary Clinton
For most of the campaign, it appeared that the support of her husband Bill was all Hillary Clinton needed to win. But now with Oprah’s entry into the race, she has sought and obtained bigger endorsements. Most surprising of the lot is the one from George W. Bush. "I wholeheartedly endorse Senator Clinton for the Democratic nomination," said Mr. Bush. "After all, she’s our best chance for victory in November."

Mitt Romney
Since his "Faith in America" speech didn’t translate into increased support among evangelical voters, Mitt Romney is looking elsewhere to defuse the issue of his religion. It appears that he may have found the answer with his, or anybody’s, highest endorsement to date: Pope Benedict XVI. "Let’s face it," said the former Massachusetts governor. "I’m getting nowhere with those born-again folks so I might as well go for the whole enchilada." Although the Pope was apparently somewhat reticent about supporting a Mormon, he figured it was better than signing on with "one of those heathen Democrats."

John Edwards
So far, John Edwards has had little success in attaining high profile support but it’s not for lack of opportunities. Democrats from Jimmy Carter to John Kerry to Al Gore have offered their support. However, since Mr. Edwards still hopes to win the nomination, he graciously declined the three offers.

John McCain
Often criticized for being too old to run for President, John McCain has found the boost he needs with endorsements from young celebrities. Everyone from Lindsay Lohan to Paris Hilton has climbed aboard the Straight Talk Express to give the Arizona senator instant credibility with the younger generation. "Look," said McCain. "If all it takes is to stock my bus with the booze and pills today’s kids like, I think the payoff is more than worth it." When asked what she likes best about her new favorite candidate, Britney Spears said: "His bus is a 24/7 party and I don’t have to drive!"

Fred Thompson
As another candidate suffering under the "too old" label, Fred Thompson desperately needed an injection of non-artificial "hip" into his candidacy. And it appears that he got it with a celebrity endorsement trifecta. The Thompson campaign recognized the importance of getting support from celebrities, like Oprah, who are so famous that they are known by a single name. As of today, the former senator from Tennessee reportedly has the backing of Sting, Bono and Cher and he’s still hoping to get Madonna, Prince and Pink to sign on. "I don’t know who the heck these people are," said Thompson. "But they tell me that they’re real famous and that’s good enough for me. I just wish Elvis and Liberace were still alive."

Dennis Kucinich
Perennial candidate Dennis Kucinich continues to lag behind the frontrunners particularly after his admission of a UFO sighting. But now that incident may actually work in his favor with the announcement of endorsements from Thorak of Theta V and Meesop from Remulon. "Now if I could only get the nod from Tom Cruise and Shirley Maclaine," said the diminutive Democrat. "I’d have a lock on the entire nutbar constituency."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"W" On Steroids

Former Senator George Mitchell has released his report and the results are devastating. Dozens of baseball stars have been named as steroid users. But few people are aware that Mr. Mitchell’s investigation ranged far beyond baseball. Seldom reliable sources have leaked these unpublished excerpts from the Mitchell Report:

George W. Bush
Given his surprise victory in 2000, rumours circulated for years that President Bush was abusing performance-enhancing substances. There is some evidence that he used dimpled and hanging chads to help secure his victory and it has now been proven that, on at least one occasion, he used the very powerful right wing of the Supreme Court. If there was any doubt about Mr. Bush’s abuse of performance drugs, such doubt was completely erased by his unexpected 2004 reelection. Apparently large doses of post-9/11 fear and dirty campaign tricks helped the President perform way beyond his natural abilities. Sadly, as is the case with many users, the effects of such drug abuse have been felt far beyond his immediate family, some say
all the way to Iraq.

Dick Cheney
For years, keen observers wondered how the Vice President could function at such a high level considering his heart problems. Now it turns out that he was using a whole range of uncontrolled substances to keep himself going. Mr. Cheney ingested all kinds of powerful and hallucinatory drugs like WMDs, Osama ties and Middle East democracy spreaders. Sadly, these substances tend to require bigger doses and then new, even stronger more dangerous drugs. If the Vice President doesn’t get help soon, experts warn he may well start using Iranian-bound nukes.

Hillary Clinton
It wasn’t evident early on that the former First Lady was a user. More recently, however, the telltale signs were there when she exhibited such typical symptoms as flip flopping, aggressiveness and outright denial. It turns out that Ms. Clinton was an eight-year user of something called White House residency, a highly addictive drug that causes severe withdrawal and an almost obsessive desire for more. Usually family members can be counted on to help users kick this nasty habit but, sadly, it appears that her husband Bill is a co-dependent user and abuser.

Rudy Giuliani
As a former prosecutor and mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani was a hard-nosed politician who alienated almost everyone he encountered. But ever since he started injecting daily doses of the political steroid 9/11, he’s become a changed man. 9/11 is a potent concoction that tends to dramatically alter a user’s personality traits making even the most curmudgeonly person likeable. "From zero to hero" is the expression some users have adopted to describe the powerful transformation this drug can have on them. 9/11 can also apparently make users do uncharacteristic things like seek approval and endorsements from fundamentalist preachers and the NRA.

Oprah Winfrey
It may come as a surprise to most Americans that Oprah Winfrey is a substance abuser. Although she professes to be clean, it recently became apparent that she is using. Her drug of choice is something called Obama ‘08, a new potent mix of youth and liberalism that is injected aurally. One dose of Obama is so addictive that it makes some users see a whole new rose-colored America. So far, there is no known cure although an actual electoral victory will likely bring even the highest user back to reality.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Brian's Top Ten Mistakes List

During his recent appearance before the Commons ethics committee, Brian Mulroney detailed the two biggest mistakes he had ever made, the first being ever agreeing to meet Karlheinz Schreiber and the second being accepting a cash payment from the German businessman. Due to time constraints, however, the former Prime Minister wasn’t able to list the other eight items on his top ten list of mistakes:

3. Taking Schreiber’s money in thousand dollar bills. Twenty dollar bills would have been more convenient and harder to trace.

4. Putting the cash in a safety deposit box. I don’t know what I was thinking. It would have been a lot easier to just stuff it under the mattress or let Mila buy some new shoes.

5. Forgetting to pay taxes on the Schreiber cash in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998. I was sure we changed the regulations back in ‘87 so that taxes on cash-in-envelope payments were only due at the end of each decade.

6. Meeting Mr. Schreiber for the third, fourth and fifth times. This could count as three mistakes but after getting fooled twice maybe they should only count collectively as one.

7. Sending a Christmas card every year to Mr. Schreiber although there’s nothing wrong with that ‘per se.’

8. Saying of Bryce Mackasey "there’s no whore like an old whore." In retrospect, that probably wasn’t fair.

9. Not trying again for constitutional reform after the failures of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords. I know I could have succeeded on the third attempt or possibly on the fourth shot but definitely by the fifth try.

10. Not running for a third time. If I had known that Kim Campbell was so despised by the Canadian electorate, I would have stayed on to ensure a third Conservative majority.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Canada"s Secret Santa

As Christmas rapidly approaches, I’m feeling a wave of seasonal generosity. With all those folks out there in need, I’d like to help out by being their secret Santa.

I don’t know if it’s too late, but first I’d like to help Brian Mulroney. Our former prime minister is obviously suffering and all because of a measly gift from that troublemaker Karlheinz Schreiber.

As Mr. Mulroney’s secret Santa, I’m willing to take the $300,000 he received from Mr. Schreiber off his hands. No cash; no problem. Right? If necessary, I’ll even pay the income tax.

Now it may be that Mr. Mulroney won’t need my generous offer. After all, the last time he went through this, he came away with $2.1 million. Maybe he’s thinking there’s more where that came from.

But if he’s having any doubts, I’m here for him. Taking $300,000 is not much of a hardship for me. And if it can help to restore Mr. Mulroney’s sterling reputation, I’m more than happy to help.

Next, I’d like to do what I can for poor Stephen Harper. Here’s a man who was riding high and running a very successful, one-man show. But then he made a rookie mistake and decided to do the "right" thing and call a public inquiry.

As former prime minister Jean Chretien says: "Inquiries are not the best way to solve problems." In fact, they generally do nothing but cause headaches for the person who calls them. Just ask Paul Martin.

I’m guessing that by now Stephen Harper is regretting his decision and wishing for a way out. I think I, as his new secret Santa, can provide that way out.

I’m sure that Dr. David Johnston is a fine choice to head up the Airbust inquiry, assuming that you actually want to get at the truth. But in politics, getting at the truth creates a lot of collateral damage and plenty of victims along the way.

That’s where I come in. Since I am not burdened with a spotless reputation or a sense of public duty, I’d be a perfect candidate to replace Dr. Johnson.

Within days, I’m sure that I can find a technicality or two to bring the entire inquiry to a screaming halt. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll be happy to resign midway through thereby torpedoing the whole thing and getting Stephen off the hook. Of course, I’d still get my $1,400 per diem payments until it’s over. A definite win-win situation.

As for Stéphane Dion, I don’t think there’s much I can do. Stephen Harper just handed him the best Christmas gift ever, an inquiry that’s sure to keep on giving long after the Christmas season is over. Yet, even with that ribbon-wrapped present, he can’t get any traction. The best I can do for him is a Senate appointment and an offer to serve as interim Liberal leader until such time as Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae destroy each other.

Finally, I have a little something for my fellow Canadians who are holding U.S. dollars. Give them all to me in exchange for Canadian dollars at par and be done with your currency headaches. In two years the Canadian dollar will probably be worth $1.50 US and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. No need to thank me. That’s just what we secret Santas do.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Washington's Secret Santa

Christmas is almost here and ‘tis the season for giving and receiving. Here’s what some Washington-based folks have on their secret Santa wish list:

George W. Bush
* a blooming democracy in the Middle East or at least one in the Midwest
* no more threatening memos from Dick Cheney
* a dictionary but not one of those fancy Oxford ones, just one of those easy-to-read ones with the big print and the pictures
* a "Dallas"-like declaration that the last seven years was all just a dream

Hillary Clinton
* one more gigantic Bush screw-up
* a fifty-cent dollar
* a strong, unequivocal position on an issue, any issue
* a Taser-equipped chastity belt for Bill

Rudy Giuliani
* a pre-election terrorist attack on American soil big enough to scare everyone into voting Republican again
* endorsements from the Pope and the devil
* nine ladies dancing and eleven pipers piping

Bill Clinton
* eight more years in The White House, this time with even fewer responsibilities
* a working wife
* the secret combination for the lock on that chastity belt

Mitt Romney
* poll results showing overwhelming voter preference for flip-floppers
* Pope Benedict’s conversion to Mormonism
* longer lasting black spray-on hair shellac
* no last minute verbal gaffes à la papa George’s "brainwashing" quote in 1967

Barack Obama
* a new middle name, anything other than Hussein except maybe bin Laden
* discovery of an American slave ancestor or two
* a big can of anti-estrogen spray

Fred Thompson
* official Ronald Reagan orange hair dye
* more "Law and Order" residuals so we can afford a washroom on the campaign bus
* an implanted defibrillator to keep me awake during debates

John Edwards
* the discovery of some kind of personal minority status not involving sexual orientation
* fewer trial lawyer pals
* a permanent, on-call hair stylist

John McCain
* a renewed public interest in Vietnam POWs
* the missing "X" from the Straight Talk Express
* a shot at being the oldest President in 2012
* fewer comparisons to Harold Stassen

Dennis Kucinich
* a UFO appearance on national, prime time TV
* a new study showing the intellectual superiority of short men
* a hometown other than Cleveland

The American people
* no more wars with four-letter Middle Eastern nations beginning with "I"
* the return of conservative bankers
* payment in Canadian dollars
* no more Clintons in The White House for at least a generation
* no more Bushes in The White House ever

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Architect Gone Wild

CORONADO, Calif. (AP) -- The Navy will spend as much as $600,000 to modify a 40-year-old barracks complex that resembles a swastika from the air, a gaffe that went largely unnoticed before satellite images became easily accessible on the Internet.
- Associated Press - September 26, 2007

John Mock, the architect who designed the complex in the 1960s, claims the buildings in question are not actually connected and therefore do not form a swastika. However, Mr. Mock’s personal diary from that era recently surfaced, the following excerpts from which cast doubt on his claim:

July 6. 1968
Great fun today. That Navy complex I designed officially opened last month and the clowns still haven’t figured out what it looks like from above. Sent them a note yesterday from "A. Hitler, Asuncion, Paraguay" saying: "Thanks for the unexpected honor. Long live the Third Reich." Two admirals and a Navy undersecretary have already called me today in a flap asking if I knew what this was all about. Feigned surprise, ignorance and shock. Checked local commercial flight paths and was disappointed to find no airline flies over that complex. Oh well, hopefully I’ll have better luck on my next project.

March 14, 1969
Designed mansion for well-known, pompous Hollywood director and construction almost completed. Can’t believe he hasn’t spotted my latest trick. Rectangular house has straight driveway leading from front door that intersects outer, semi-circular roadway with a brief right-angled cul-de-sac at its lower terminus. From the air, it clearly looks like a Soviet hammer and sickle but no one has cottoned on to this yet. Final payment check should clear tomorrow at which time I’ll slip the aerial photos I took last week under his office door. Wish I could see the look on his face. Good luck getting work in Hollywood after that, Mr. Bigshot Director!

September 14, 1970
Concrete footings poured today for right-wing industrialist’s new home in Malibu. Noted anti-Semite has no clue that his new digs look like a Star of David from the air. He was getting suspicious the other day until I told him that I based the design of the house on the Pentagon since I knew he was such an American patriot. Seemed to mollify him although I won’t take any chances until he’s moved in. Although once he sees an aerial photo, he may never move in!

April 20, 1971
For Chris sakes, it’s a cross! Any idiot can see that. Or at least so I thought when they asked me to design a new mosque just outside San Diego. I was sure they’d figure this one out before we broke ground on the construction site. But everyone was so enamoured of my design that no one spotted the obvious. If construction goes as planned, I hope to send them a Happy Easter card next April with an aerial photo inside. An anonymous card, needless to say!

October 1, 1972
Some big insurance company hired me to design their new headquarters. Never been a big fan of insurance companies. Maybe I’m being too bold on this one but I couldn’t help myself. Rather than stick with a funny aerial design, I figured I’d try having some fun with the ground level view. It’s a contiguous, four-tower complex with the second tower twice the height of the first and third towers and the fourth tower slightly shorter. Imagine; a 62-storey middle finger. Take that you insurance weasels!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

American Illegals

Well, fellow Canadians, it’s finally happened. Our dollar is now worth more than the American greenback and it’s continuing to go up. But beware; there’s a cloud covering this silver lining.

Because the U. S. buck has tanked, we can expect an influx of illegal immigrants from our southern neighbor. With a currency soon to be worthless and an economy in hock to the Chinese, it’s no surprise that Americans are going to head north seeking any employment they can get.

Listen, I’ve got nothing against these folks. Some of my best friends are Americans. But if they’re going to come into this country illegally to take away jobs that some Canadians might eventually want to consider filling some day, something has to be done.

We have to secure our southern boundary now. For years, Americans have very cleverly been referring to it as the world’s longest undefended border. But they were just lulling us into a false sense of security, all the time knowing that the day would come when that unprotected border would be their ticket to a better life in Canada.

Maybe some of you think that this is not yet a serious problem. Well, take a look around you. Can you tell if your neighbor is an American? How about that taxi driver? Do you know where he’s from?

If we don’t act now, we will be inundated with illegal Americans. And you know where that will lead. Before long, we’ll have no more maple syrup or Canadian bacon. The next thing you know, they’ll be using our schools and our healthcare. And then they’ll bastardize our cherished Canadian football by having four downs instead of three and using a puny, 100-yard field.

Although our customs and immigration officials will do their best to stem the tide of "Yanks" at the border, Americans are notoriously clever and some will almost certainly make it in. All citizens are therefore asked to be on special alert for illegal aliens and to do their part to stop this army of invaders.

But be careful; Americans often look and sound very much like Canadians. And many are clever enough to adopt Canadianisms like "eh?", "zed" and pronouncing schedule as "shed-yule."

The following additional guidelines may be helpful in identifying the American illegals in our midst:

If it’s summer, be suspicious of anyone still wearing a parka. If in doubt, ask them to spell "tuque."
Light up a joint in front of the suspect. If he says "Hey, that’s illegal" and goes for his handgun, you’ve likely nabbed an American. Don’t forget to duck.
You can try asking if he knows the name of the current Prime Minister. However, this question is somewhat unreliable as approximately 30% of legitimate Canadians do not know the correct answer (hint: this month, it’s Stephen Harper).
If you say "How about a coffee and a doughnut?" and they say "Sure, let’s go to Krispy Kreme", you’re probably talking to an American. If they’re clever enough to choose Tim Hortons, ask which NHL teams he played for.
Steer the topic of conversation to prescription pharmaceuticals and ask how much the person pays for Viagra or Zoloft or Paxil. If it’s 30% more than you pay, you’re likely dealing with an American.
Mention that you’ll be attending the upcoming wedding of your cousin Fred and his fiancé Bob. If the suspect looks surprised, he may be an American. Be careful, though, since some Massachusetts and Vermont residents may appear nonplussed by such talk.

If we all do our part, we can secure our border and stop this dreaded invasion. We did it in 1775 and 1812 and we can do it again. Because if we don’t, the next thing they’ll want is amnesty or maybe even a driver’s license.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Rapid Job Turnover Commission

"Retiring baby boomers have sparked an unprecedented churn of workers within the federal government, starting at the top where nearly 60 per cent of executives spend less than a year in their jobs....[P]ay records showed that 40 per cent of Canada’s public servants started and ended the year in different jobs. That jumped to more than 75 per cent for some occupations."
- The Ottawa Citizen - November 19, 2007

The federal government has identified rapid job turnover as a serious problem and has taken steps to rectify the matter. A temporary Treasury Board spokesperson today announced that John Servant, formerly Assistant Deputy Minister of the Department of Communication and Obfuscation, has been seconded by the Board to head up the new Rapid Job Turnover Initiative.

Asked to comment on his new mandate, Mr. Servant indicated that he had only been in the job for two days and was therefore not yet able to fully describe his new functions.

"I can definitely say that I am pleased to be heading up this new initiative," said Mr. Servant. "And I look forward to working with the fine group of talented people assembled for this task."

Joining Mr. Servant for this new project will be Mary Worker who will be Acting Head of the Rapid Job Turnover Commission. Mary joins the RJTC after serving for nearly five months as the Temporary Chair of the Soaring Loonie Recalibration Board. Prior to working for the SLRB, Ms. Worker held numerous positions in various departments for different limited terms.

"Frankly, I think this new initiative will help reorder and restructure government for the coming challenges of the 21st century," said Ms. Worker. "Or at the very least it will help me get that ADM appointment I’ve always wanted."

Ms. Worker’s first action as Temporary Chair was to appoint Tom Bureau as Temporary Vice Chair of the RJTC. Since January, Mr. Bureau has been Canada’s Obfuscator General after serving in various positions that are listed on the third, fourth and fifth pages of his c.v.

"This is a great opportunity for me," said Mr. Bureau. "Particularly since I will be retiring in six months and thus will be able to bring a unique perspective to the task."

None of the new appointees was able to give many details about their new jobs or, for that matter, about their previous positions. When asked to provide further information about the new initiative, the temporary Treasury Board spokesperson indicated that he had just been given a lateral transfer to the Department of Communications and Obfuscation and was no longer able to comment on the RJT program.

"I am no longer with Treasury Board," said the former spokesperson. "But I’m sure that my replacement will be able to provide all the information you need very shortly."

The former temporary spokesperson’s part-time replacement was not immediately available to comment since she was being interviewed for the position of John Servant’s administrative assistant. Her voicemail, however, did include the following message:

"Hello-Bonjour. You’ve reached the office of the Treasury Board’s temporary part-time spokesperson for the Rapid Job Turnover Initiative. I’m either on the phone or busy applying for another job. Please leave your name and number and hope for the best."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Shooting of Stephen Harper

"The Shooting of Stephen Harper"
(with apologies to Robert Service)

A bunch of the Tories were whooping it up in the Parliamentary saloon;
The polls were looking real pretty with an election expected quite soon;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Stephen the head of the crew,
Discussing his luck with his new-found friend, the ex-PM known as Mulroo.

When in from the night, and out of the cold, and into the din and glare,
There stumbled a prison-bound German, all outraged and loaded for bear.
He looked like a man with a hidden agenda, his integrity visibly weak,
An affidavit he tossed on the bar, and demanded a moment to speak.
There was none who trusted the German’s face, his aura all gloomy and black;
But we gave him a listen, and the last to hear was Stephen the head of the pack.

There’s men that somehow just grip your eyes, and hold them hard like a spell;
And such was he, and he looked to me like a man who had lived in hell;
With a face far from fair, and the icy stare of a dog whose day had come,
He lifted his document and started to read the charges out one by one.
Then I got to figgering who he was, and wondering about all the signs,
And I turned my head and he slowly said "My name, boys, is Schreiber, Karlheinz."

His eyes went floating round the room, and he seemed in a kind of a daze,
Till at last he saw his old friend Mulroo in the path of his wandering gaze.
He sidled up to his longtime pal and held out his hand for to shake,
Mulroo turned away and quickly did say "I’ve never been on the take."
But the German insisted and still persisted and claimed that he’d given a lot,
"Three hundred thousand I gave him," said Karl, "And he still claims he never got caught."

And then Mr. Schreiber addressed Stephen Harper and asked him point blank and outright,
"Did you get the short letter I sent you last spring? How come it ain’t seen the light?"
And Harper he shook, and a glance at Mulroo took before he started to whine,
"I don’t know what you’re talking about and this guy’s no friend of mine."

Were you ever out in the wilderness, with not enough seats to go round,
And no matter what you offered, a majority just couldn’t be found,
And although you might try, to be less right and avoid looking grim-faced and dour,
You can’t seem to win even without sin, clean mad for political power.

It was winter, you see, and Harper, well he was hoping to win in the spring,
But this Schreiber guy even if he did lie, was clearly on to something;
The folks in the bar from away and far had heard all this stuff before,
They trusted Mulroo no more than you do and less than any old whore.
So Stephen he knew that if victory was due, he had to cut loose from his friend,
For if the voters got wind of his nexus to sin, his chances were then at an end.

Then I ducked my head and the lights went out, and the pols all fought wildly like cats;
A nation yawned and the lights went up, but we were left with the same old rats.
Stood on his head, and left for half-dead, was Stephen who now did lament,
His longed for correction and springtime election were gone in that one crazy moment.

There are the simple facts of the case, and I guess I ought to know.
They say that Harper was crazed with desire and I’m not denying it’s so.
I’m not so wise as the political guys, but I swear by all holy signs,
The guy that screwed him and stole his election was the German named Schreiber, Karlheinz.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The History of Writers' Strikes

The Writers Guild of America’s current work stoppage is not the first writers’ strike. Back in 1988, the WGA went out for five months and there were strikes back in 1960 and 1973 as well. But the history of such labor disputes doesn’t end there. Writers have been striking for centuries as evidenced by these past walkouts:

London 1868
The world’s premier literary capital was in turmoil thanks to a strike by British playwrights and novelists. London theaters had no new productions and newspapers had to cease their latest serializations of popular novels. The writing community was looking to achieve at least some of the profits being realized from the translation of their works to such emerging technologies as stereoscopes and "moving pictures." With the likes of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Lewis Carroll and Edward George Bulwer-Lytton walking the picket line, well-to-do Londoners had to make do with observing everyday life for their daily entertainment, what soon came to be known as "reality shows." Attempts to bring in outside strikebreakers like Henry James and Mark Twain failed when it was discovered that they did not employ the Queen’s English.

Germany 1426
A little known labor dispute hit much of Europe almost 600 years ago. Tired of inadequate pay for repeatedly transcribing copies of the Bible, hundreds of monks participated in a three-day sit-down and work stoppage. The main point of contention was the scribes’ demand for residuals on sales of illuminated Bibles. The dispute came to a quick and unsuccessful end with the invention of movable type by noted German scab Johannes Gutenberg.

Athens 427 B.C.
The wordsmiths of ancient Athens almost brought the city state to its knees back in 427 B.C. when most toga-clad writers walked off the job for over a week. Outdoor theaters immediately went dark and early evening comedy clubs had to close with such noted authors as Aristonphanes, Sophocles and Euripides walking the line. The writers were seeking compensation for the reproduction of their works on new media such as scrolls and parchment. The strike abruptly ended when theater owners quickly realized there were not yet any copyright laws to prevent them from using existing works over and over again without compensation.

Mesopotamia 1725 B.C.
From the Code of Hammurabi to the latest standup routine at Babylon’s Catch a Rising Star comedy club, Mesopotamians relied on the stylus-formed scribblings of local writers. Much of the business and cultural life of the area briefly came to a halt in early 1725 B.C. when the scribes went on strike for more pay and a higher share of the royalties on reissued cuneiform tablets. Sadly, no progress was made as the strike ended on the second day when Hammurabi had half the writers beheaded.

The Olduvai Gorge 1,000,000 B.C.
A primitive writers’ strike seemed doomed from the start when the two local cave painters quickly realized that no one could read. Attempts to gain fair compensation for all "out-of-cave" production largely fell on deaf ears since no one knew what the "funny guys with colored sticks" were talking about. The work stoppage ceased precipitously when union local president Grok the Elder was trampled by a stampeding mastodon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Translating Bureaucratese

People tend to read documents and messages from their own individual perspectives. Oftentimes, one person’s translation will differ significantly from another’s depending on their experience, knowledge and self-interest. Take, for example, the following edited version of an e-mail I recently received at work and the various ways different people might translate it:

"You may recall our CEO speaking of our department’s Enterprise Business Renewal (EBR) at our last AGM as being a critical component to our future and to implementing our Strategic Plan. This initiative is now well underway across the organization.
The initial work has been ongoing in our branch to map our processes. This work has been completed and we are now moving into the process modernization assessment phase where areas and elements for process improvement need to be identified.
I am writing to seek your participation during this assessment phase to provide input on process improvement opportunities that exist in our area of work. If required, you may also be approached by our representative on the EBR Project Management Team (PMT), or myself, to attend a meeting/workshop in order to gather your input. These meetings/workshops will be facilitated by CGI consultants who are working with the EBR PMT.
The next step will be to gather results of these meetings and hold a horizontal workshop with all product line branches to confirm the identified process improvements. You can also stay informed on progress by taking a look at the EBR Steering Committee records of discussion on our internal web site."

Non-government worker
This makes no sense to me. The only thing I can tell for sure is that more of my tax money is going down the drain.

Plain English speaker
The big boss wants to make things more efficient. If you’ve got any ideas, let me know and I’ll pass them up the line. I’ll keep you informed if anything happens.

Long term employee
Senior management is engaged in another pointless exercise. Since participation is optional, the e-mail can be ignored and deleted.

Überbureaucrat in junior position
Looking to get ahead? Hoping to climb the government career ladder? Then get onboard with Enterprise Business Renewal. Volunteer for any and all meetings. Come prepared with lots of ideas that sound like they will enhance efficiency even if they don’t. Contact our EBR Project Management Team rep as soon as possible to volunteer for workshops, meetings, bake sales or whatever it takes to get you noticed. Have an EBR t-shirt made and wear it at all meetings. This could be your ticket to a corner office.

Senior bureaucrat
Boy am I glad I don’t have to do this nonsense anymore. Luckily, I’m high enough up the chain that all I have to do is pass the results on to be shelved with all the other efficiency reports gathering dust.

As you know, our CEO initiated EBR at the AGM. This initiative is WUW (well underway) across the organization. The initial work has included MOP (mapping our processes) and BRI (branch responsibility initiatives). We are now entering the PMAP where the MOP and BRI will be fused by the EBR PMT into a LTIP (long term implementation plan). CGI consultants and IHEs (in-house experts) will coordinate the final product through HWS (horizontal workshops) with the PLBs (product line branches).

I assume AGM means "annual general meeting" but what the heck is a horizontal workshop?

Thank God for new government initiatives!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Halloween in Iowa

Halloween has passed and most of us have recovered from the wave of pint-sized trick or treaters. Except, of course, for adults in Iowa who had to deal with these scary creatures at their doors:

Rudy the RINO
Rudy is a RINO, a Republican in name only. He claims to be a Republican but he often talks like a Democrat. Except when it comes to fighting crime. Then it’s a never ending litany of "9/11! 9/11! 9/11!" If you weren’t scared before, by the time Rudy the RINO is finished with you, you’ll be begging for a handgun.

The She Clinton
Some Iowans will still remember Halloween visits from a friendly guy named Bill Clinton. So when another Clinton comes calling, they may be in for a big surprise. The She Clinton is no warm and fuzzy "feel your pain" costumed character. A full dose of her scary robotic laugh will send most Iowa voters screaming for the cornfields.

Mitt the Mormon
Here’s a creature few Iowans have ever seen. Mitt the Mormon looks like a Christian but his Jesus actually visited America. If that’s not scary enough for Hawkeye voters, Mitt’s frantic flip-flopping on everything from abortion to gay rights to gun control will have them begging for mercy.

Not Osama
His skin is dark and his name seems Middle Eastern but he sounds so very, very reasonable. He’s African; he’s American. But some say he’s not African-American. How can that be? Is he a terrorist or just a really nice guy from Illinois? Probably the latter but can Iowans take the chance?

Dead Fred
Wow! It’s that guy from that TV show "Law and Order." "Boy, we really like him," say Corn Staters. "But now he’s talking about the issues and he’s really, really boring. We’re starting to lose consciousness. Dead Fred, you’re scaring us!"

Edwards Legalhands
He’s back and he’s as frightening as ever. But he’s just that cute guy with the great looking hair who was here four years ago, you say. He’s so adorable that you just want to let him into your house and give him a big hug. But don’t do it. It turns out that he’s really a trial lawyer in disguise. How scary is that?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The True Spirit of Halloween

Most folks have forgotten about the true meaning of Halloween. Caught up in conspicuous consumption, people try to outdo one another in the amount of goodies handed out, the garishness of their decorations and even the cost of their costumes. Few seem to remember what this holiday is all about.

For those who care, Halloween is All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints’ Day. It’s a time for Christians to embrace the notions of family, community and respect for the dead. This last notion seems to be entirely lost in the modern version of Halloween. In fact, people seem to go out of their way to make fun of the dead with their front lawn graveyards and their elaborate costumes of ghouls, ghosts and goblins.

I, for one, long for the days when we would all gather around the family pumpkin, honor the dead and give thanks for family and the bountiful pumpkin harvest. Or something like that. It’s been so long that the details are a little fuzzy. But it was definitely a more meaningful ceremony than today’s mass genuflection at the alter of sugar-filled treats.

Is this the way we want to raise our children? Do we want to not only condone but encourage disrespect for the dead? Can we really justify stuffing them full of unhealthy, high-calorie snacks?

And what sort of message are we giving our kids when they can roam from neighborhood to neighborhood getting free handouts? This is nothing more than a tacit endorsement of creeping socialism, the dreaded scourge of our society. With this kind of training, today’s children will grow up to have all kinds of unreasonable expectations like universal healthcare and an increased minimum wage.

There is nothing wrong with materialism ‘per se’ but materialism without capitalism is just plain wrong. If we are to continue this annual candy free-for-all then we should at least couch it in terms we can all admire and respect.

We don’t want our kids to get the idea that they can get something for nothing. Instead, let’s make kids pay for the candy we give them or at least perform some household chores as payment in kind. For example, they could do a bit of weeding for a chocolate bar or clean off the dried egg on the car windshield in return for a bag or two of chips.

It’s probably unreasonable to expect everyone to acknowledge and celebrate the religious significance of Halloween. After all, apparently we’re no longer all Christians. For better or worse, Halloween has become secularized. But let’s not allow it to fall forever into the hands of those who would simply exploit it for cultural and commercial gain.

That’s why I intend to turn my back on the spectacle that Halloween has become. I will respect All Hallows Eve for what it was intended to be. No costumes or candy or parties for me. In order to preserve the traditional meaning of the holiday, I intend to quietly celebrate at home in the basement with the curtains drawn and the lights turned off. Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Big Apple Fantasy Series

Last night’s game between the Boston Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies signalled the start of the 2007 World Series. At least for most fans. But for New Yorkers, it meant the beginning of their own imaginary series in a world where Alex Rodriquez never strikes out and Tom Glavine never loses. Here’s a summary of this year’s edition of New Yorkers’ ongoing fantasy match-up:

October 24
Meeting for the tenth straight time, the Mets and the Yankees square off in the 2007 Fantasy Series. Having finished twenty games ahead of the Phillies, the Mets swept the Cubs and then the Rockies. The Yankees had a tougher road to the final having dropped a game to both the Red Sox and the Indians. Perhaps because of that extra effort, the Yankees lose the first game to a flame-throwing Orlando Hernandez.

October 25
In a ten inning nailbiter, the Mets take game two on a walk-off home run by Carlos Delgado. Pedro Martinez pitches seven strong innings for the Mets and Mike Mussina keeps the Yanks in the game. George Steinbrenner begins selling off the Yankee roster.

October 27
Back in their home park, the Yankees bounce back with a masterful pitching performance by lefthander Andy Petitte. After the Mets’ series victory last year, the Yankees hope to regain their winning ways and start another six-series winning streak.

October 28
The Yankees win game four to knot the series at two games apiece. Steinbrenner rehires fired players and the team looks ahead to game five. Joe Torre tentatively offered a five-year extension on his ten-year contract but selflessly decides to wait until the series is over.

October 29
Game five is a slugfest with each team collecting two dozen hits including five homers each. The Mets take the lead in the top of the ninth but Derek Jeter slams a three-run shot in the bottom half to make the final 15-14 and put the Yankees up a game.

October 31
Back in the friendly confines of Shea Stadium, the Mets throw a Halloween scare into the Yankees with a 10-1 pounding. Led by the five-hit performance of Moises Alou, the Mets tie the series at three games apiece. Steinbrenner renews trade talks and Joe Torre packs his bags just in case.

November 1
Game seven lasts a record-breaking 25 innings when it is finally called at 4 in the morning when both rosters become too depleted. Immediately dubbed "The Greatest Game of All Time", game seven sets records for most runs, most hits, most extra-inning lead changes and most triple plays. Commissioner Bud Selig declares game seven a tie and awards the World Series to both teams. "Hey," says Commissioner Selig. "So long as a New York team wins, who really cares?"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"W", The Musical

PLAYBILL March, 2009
Gerald R. Ford Theatre

Under the direction of James Baker and George H. W. Bush

"W" - A musical tragi-comedy in two acts

Based on the Administration of America’s 43rd President
Choreography by the Republican National Committee
Original Broadway Cast Recording by The White House and 8½ Minute Gap Recordings Inc.

Synopsis: "W"

Somewhere between a Shakespearean drama and a Marx Brothers comedy, this new musical tells the story of an accidental president. From the rousing opening number "I Can’t Believe I Won" (reprised in act two) to the mournful final number "Sorry About That", "W" is a nonstop entertainment of miscues, mistakes and malapropisms.

The play opens with the unlikeliest of American presidents - W, an incurious cowboy wannabe hand-picked by the Republican elite to run in 2000. In a surprising turnaround, W, with the help of the right wing of the Supreme Court, snatches victory from the jaws of a half-million vote defeat and sends the former Vice President, Sore Loser, packing back to his home in Tennessee.

Nine months of mediocrity explodes into unprecedented popularity for W when the terrorists attack and fell the twin towers. W pursues the enemy in Afghanistan but then mysteriously takes a wrong turn and invades Iraq. All seems forgiven with the big aircraft carrier showstopper "Mission Accomplished" until the conquered country descends into predictable chaos.

Act two opens with W reprising the song "I Can’t Believe I Won." Despite his bumbling incompetent ways, he manages to "swift boat" his dull Democratic opponent Lurch and magically transform a narrow victory into a giant pot of political capital to spend.

Despite winning reelection, W finds things going from bad to worse as his pals mishandle everything from Katrina to Iraq to social security reform. Even with his bunker-bound buddy Darth Vader admitting no mistakes and taking every prisoner, W can’t avoid becoming America’s worst two-term president of all time and possibly the worst president since Millard Fillmore. Little surprise that the show ends with a brief soliloquy followed by the mournful apologetic cast song "Sorry About That."

Cast (in order of appearance)
W......................................................George W. Bush
Sore Loser.......................................Al Gore

Majority Members of the Supreme Court
Uppity..............................................Clarence Thomas
Pinafore............................................William Rehnquist
Near Right.......................................Anthony Kennedy
Right.................................................Sandra Day O’Connor
Whacko Right..................................Antonin Scalia

Darth Vader.....................................Dick Cheney
Turd Blossom...................................Karl Rove
First Lady..........................................Laura Bush
Wolfy..................................................Paul Wolfowitz
Fall Guy.............................................Colin Powell
Condi..................................................Condoleeza Rice
Brownie..............................................Michael Brown
Scooter................................................I. Lewis Libby
Rummy...............................................Donald Rumsfeld
Lurch...................................................John Kerry

Understudies: Understudies never substitute for listed players unless a specific announcement for the appearance is made at the time of the performance.

Understudy for Dick Cheney - GEORGE W. BUSH; for Donald Rumsfeld - ROBERT GATES; for I. Lewis Libby - DAVID ADDINGTON; for Al Gore - HILLARY CLINTON; for John Kerry - BARACK OBAMA; for William Rehnquist - JOHN ROBERTS; for Colin Powell - CONDOLEEZA RICE.

Scenes and Musical Numbers

ACT ONE Washington, D. C.
Prologue: "I Can’t Believe I Won".........................W and the right wing majority of the Court
Scene 1: "Let’s Help the Rich".............................Darth Vader and Turd Blossom
Scene 2: "Summer on the Ranch"........................W and Laura
Scene 3: "The Towers are Falling - My Poll Number’s Rising..........W
Scene 4: "Let’s Do Iraq"......................................Wolfy, Darth Vader & Turd Blossom
"No, No, No, Maybe".............................Fall Guy
Scene 5: "Mission Accomplished".........................W & Turd Blossom
Scene 6: "What Went Wrong?"...............................Wolfy, Rummy and Turd Blossom
"Blue Skies"..............................................Darth Vader

ACT TWO Somewhere in The White House
Scene 1: "I Can’t Believe I Won" (reprise)..............W & the Swift Boat Veterans
Scene 2: "Spending My Political Capital".................W & Darth Vader
Scene 3: "Between Iraq and a Hard Place".................Rummy & Condi
Scene 4: "A Heckuva Job"...........................................Brownie & W
Scene 5: "All Hail Halliburton"...................................Turd Blossom & Scooter
"We’re in the Money"....................................Darth Vader & friends
Scene 6: "I Don’t Care For Polls".................................W
"Never Admit Your Mistakes".........................Darth Vader
"Shoot First and Ask Questions Later"..............Darth Vader and his lawyer
Scene 7: "Lame Ducks Gotta Fly".....................................W, Darth Vader & Turd Blossom
Scene 8: "Finale: Sorry About That"..................................W followed by Darth Vader, Rummy, Turd Blossom and then the entire cast including the right wing majority of the Supreme Court and the Swift Boat Veterans.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Yeshiva in Yellowknife

Last winter’s surprise hit sitcom “Little Mosque on the Prairie” launched its new season this week. Not content to rest on its laurels, however, the CBC has reportedly been hard at work developing other shows with distinctly Canadian multicultural themes. Shows like:

Le Coin du Petrol
Looking to piggyback on the success of CTV’s hit show “Corner Gas”, this new CBC sitcom is set in the semi-fictional rural Québec town of Riviere du Chien that just got its first third world immigrant. Laugh along with the townsfolk each week as they try to find new ways to torment their newest resident. From publishing a list of local standards to burning a cross on the newcomer’s lawn to putting sugar in his gas tank, the hilarity never ends --- unless he finally decides to leave town.

Back Door Challenge
A new CBC quiz show features a panel of distinguished experts trying to guess the occupations of various Canadian landed immigrants. Watch as the puzzled panellists struggle to determine what low-paying tasks that week’s highly-educated guests are actually performing. Whether it’s the taxi-driving doctor or the street-sweeping engineer, the laughs are nonstop as the experts repeatedly misidentify the contestants’ new Canadian jobs.

Urbanland Who’s Who
The CBC has decided to update its old popular sixty-second wildlife spots with a modern twist. Now viewers will be provided with the identifying traits and characteristics of Canada’s newest inhabitants from the turban-crested Mountie to the burka-clad swimmer. One segment centers on the habits of that old Canadian wildlife favorite: the pandering politician.

The Yeshiva in Yellowknife
What happens when a group of Jewish rabbis decides to open a yeshiva in the capital of the Northwest Territories? Hilarity and tons of laughs, that’s what, in this new CBC sitcom. Still working on accommodating their native population, the citizens of Yellowknife now also have to try to “keep it kosher.” Talmud-type tensions flare up only to have them parsed by the seminary’s rabbinate including a helpful suggestion in a future episode to come together for a Christmas production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Cricket Night in Canada
Saturday night is traditionally hockey night in Canada. Looking to appeal to a more multicultural citizenry, the CBC is planning to make Friday night “Cricket Night in Canada.” Broadcasting from the more than half a dozen cricket pitches scattered across the land, the People’s Network is looking to strike it rich with another low-budget, high-revenue sporting event. The hope is to not only attract first generation ethnic viewers from cricket-loving lands but to also finally educate native-born Canadians on how the damned game is actually played.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Laughing All the Way to the Bank

Conversation overheard at a recent meeting of the International Currency Club:

EURO: Hey, Loonie! Good to see you again. Congratulations on finally reaching parity. You must be pleased with yourself.

LOONIE: Thanks, Euro, but this parity business is not all it’s cracked up to be.

EURO: How so?

LOONIE: Well, some folks back home are happy, especially the guys pumping oil out of the ground and the ones looking to go to Disney World this winter. But the folks who make cars and stuff are kind of upset.

EURO: I hear you. We can’t sell anything outside Europe anymore. And much as we detest those pesky American tourists, we do miss them. We really need their dollars. But now they can’t afford to come and bug us anymore.

POUND: Bloody hell! We could use a few of those greenbacks right about now.

FRANC: D’accord. We don’t miss zee Americains but oh how we miss zer dollars.

MARK: Yah.

LOONIE: I never thought I’d say it but I’d rather go back to our old 92.5 ¢ Diefenbuck. Those were the days.

PESO: Si, amigo. This is no good for any of us. Look over there in the corner at our Chinese friend Renminbi. He’s almost in tears.

YEN: I hear he got caught holding so much American currency that he’s taking the biggest financial bath since you devalued yourself back in ‘94.

PESO: Don’t remind me, senor.

LOONIE: How did this happen? I thought parity was going to be a good thing.

EURO: Me, too. Let’s ask Dollar. He should know.

LIRA: Itsa too late; we can’t. He left early. Someone said that they saw him laughing all the way to the bank.

LOONIE: I think we just got screwed again.

Monday, September 24, 2007

When Irish Eyes Are Lying

Like most Canadians, I was happy to see Brian Mulroney go. But now that he’s back with his autobiography Brian Mulroney Memoirs, it’s probably time to rethink matters. Given the scandals of the Chretien era and the micro-managing by Stephen Harper, maybe Mr. Mulroney wasn’t so bad after all.

First off, Brian Mulroney got things done. Unlike his wishy-washy successor Jean Chretien, the Baie-Comeau Bruiser pushed through his legislative agenda whether we Canadians wanted it or not.

Thanks to Mr. Mulroney, we got the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the GST. Never mind that we now have falling productivity, an ongoing brain drain and few homegrown corporations. That’s not important. What’s important is that we have the FTA, NAFTA and the GST. They may be regressive, anti-Canadian initiatives, but they’re our regressive, anti-Canadian initiatives.

Second, the Guy from Gucci knows how to spend a dollar. He might have claimed to be a fiscal conservative but he still managed to triple the national debt during his nine-year reign. And isn’t that what we need right now - some good old-fashioned deficit spending?

Third, Brian Mulroney knows how to suck up to the Americans. Let’s face it; our country is entirely dependent on the U.S. and we better get used to it. And who better to cement that dependent relationship than the quintessential American butt kisser, Martin Brian Mulroney? From singing When Irish Eyes Are Smiling to Ronald Reagan to boat riding with George Bush the Elder, the Baie Comeau Bootlick knows the art of ingratiation.

Fourth, Brian Mulroney knows constitutional reform. With a deft and unmatched ability to compromise anything and everything, the Mount Royal Mauler can get us back to what we Canadians love best - never ending constitutional wrangling. Who didn’t enjoy the divisive debates over the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords? Isn’t it time to once again stir up the jurisdictional pot?

Fifth, Brian Mulroney knows how to deal with the federal public service. Not only is he skilled at cutting services, freezing wages and suspending collective bargaining, he also knows how to demean and belittle workers at the same time. We’ve had labor peace in the federal public service for far too long. It’s time for a change.

Sixth, Brian Mulroney knows how to deal with patronage. From political appointments to pork barrelling, the Iron Ore Guy knows that "there’s no whore like an old whore." There’s going to be patronage in Canadian government anyway so let’s have it doled out by an expert.

Seventh, Brian Mulroney knows scandal. Jean Chretien looked like a piker compared to the Laval Labor Lawyer. Remember Sinclair Stevens, Roch Lasalle, Michel Côté, André Bissonnette, Michel Gravel, Suzanne Blais-Grenier, among others? The Mulroney Cabinet didn’t just engage in penny ante stuff like $800 weekends or $36,000 contracts. They were experienced in the whole gamut of wrongdoing from large scale financial boondoggles to outright criminal convictions.

So let’s rethink our animosity towards the Gravel-voiced One. Maybe we were a bit hasty and harsh in our judgment. After all, if we have to put up with patronage, corruption and scandal, we might as well go first class. Welcome back, Brian. Here’s the knife; there’s Joe Clark’s back; you know the rest.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Republican Handbook

TO: Potential 2008 candidates
FROM: The Republican National Committee

As we rapidly approach the new year, it’s time to think about candidate comportment for the 2008 campaign season. To that end, please carefully review the latest revised version of "The Republican Handbook for Candidates":

1. Don’t mention W, George W. or George W. Bush. As Republicans, we, of course, support our President. No need to state the obvious.

2. Before leaving home, make sure to use the washroom. When on the campaign trail, avoid using public washrooms. If you absolutely have to use one, then do not use the stalls. If you have no other choice, then do NOT tap your feet, use a wide stance or run your hand along the bottom of the divider.

3. When describing your opponent, use the words "liberal" and "socialist" as often as possible. Don’t hesitate to employ phrases like "cut and run", "tax and spend" and "soft on crime."

4. Whenever possible, mention Bill Clinton’s sexual improprieties. However, if your own sexual dalliances may become public, take the high road. If in doubt, call Newt Gingrich for advice.

5. Immediately destroy any campaign photos showing you with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney or Karl Rove.

6. Avoid discussions about Iraq and Afghanistan. If pressed, claim progress in the War on Terror and paint Democrats as terrorist-loving appeasers. As a last resort, say: "We’re fighting them there so we won’t have to fight them here."

7. Pick a religion, any religion. Except maybe Islam or Scientology.

8. When stumped by a question or otherwise stuck for an answer, simply refer to 9/11. As in "My opponent seems to want to forget about 9/11" or "9/11 changed everything."

9. Always praise Ronald Reagan.

10. Don’t get divorced, at least not more than once. Don’t have sex with minors, particularly of the same sex. Don’t sexually harass others, especially if there are witnesses. Don’t cheat on your spouse, at least while in the continental U. S.

11. If you must withdraw, resign or otherwise step down, always claim it’s because you want to spend more time with your family.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Leap Day

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has reached into his bag of goodies and pulled out another pre-election promise: a new February holiday for Ontarians. Yet to be decided, however, is when the holiday will be celebrated and what it will be called. Liberal strategists are apparently hard at work assessing the following suggestions:

Groundhog Day
February 2nd is already recognized throughout Canada and the U. S. as Groundhog Day. Why not simply elevate its status to that of a statutory holiday? Like the movie of the same name, Ontarians could spend the day celebrating the fact that they have to relive the same political issues over and over.

Valentine’s Day
February 14th is traditionally for lovers but why not make it for all Ontarians? After all, if you don’t have to go to work, you’re definitely going to be more in the mood for love. We might even learn to love our premier.

Presidents’ Day
The third Monday of February is officially celebrated in the U. S. as Washington’s Birthday. But there’s no reason it can’t be adopted here as well. It’s a big boon to the retail industry south of the border and presumably could work the same magic in Ontario. To those uncomfortable with the American name, it could always be called Premier’s Day.

Public School Day
The first Friday of February could be a kind of "professional development" day for everyone. Ontarians could celebrate the strength and diversity of their public education system except, of course, for those who aren’t Catholic. For those unlucky folks, a new non-statutory observance called School Voucher Day could be marked on the last Tuesday of the month.

Election Day
Now that Ontario has regular quadrennial provincial elections, why not move election day from early October to the third Monday in February? If we have to vote, we might as well enjoy it and get a long weekend, too. Who knows? We might even get a voter turnout of more than 50%.

Leap Day
To those who complain that we can’t afford another statutory holiday, here’s a handy compromise. Instead of having a February holiday every year, we’ll only celebrate on February 29th. The anticipation of waiting four years will only heighten the enjoyment of Leap Day, especially if by then there’s been a change of government.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Tennis Solution

Sad to say, women continue to suffer financial discrimination in the workplace. Despite decades of effort, the average female still makes only two-thirds of what a man does.

But all that may soon change. As an occasional tennis fan, I have noticed a trend that should be encouraging to women everywhere.

This is the second week of the U. S. Open held in New York City. And for women competing in that tournament, there is no question of discrimination.

For many years, women have been offered the same prize money as men at the U. S. Open. And this is not a passing fad since the Australian Open does the same and Wimbledon followed suit this year and now also gives equal prize money to both sexes.

Some might complain that equal prize money is not fair. They might point out that the top female tennis player in the world could not likely beat any male player ranked in the top 10,000.

But surely that is not the point. If we are ever to have economic parity in this world, we must set aside such quaint notions as ability and physical superiority. How can we possibly eliminate discrimination if we are always giving greater rewards to the best performers?

The folks at the U. S. Open and other major tournaments have even gone one step further to ameliorate the situation. Not only do women compete for equal prize money, they do so for less work.

Men’s matches are best of five whereas women’s are best of three. Again, some critics would say this is unfair. They would undoubtedly espouse an outmoded concept like "equal pay for work of equal value."

Again, those folks have missed the point. Women were under-rewarded for years and it is only recently that they have attained equity in the world of tennis. Even if they play fewer sets against lesser opponents for the same pay as men, isn’t that simply providing reparations for past inequities? A kind of tennis affirmative action, if you will.

Finally, the world of tennis shows how women can achieve success not only through hard work and effort but also by the sheer dint of their fashion sense. While the men mainly rely on skill and brute force, the women have realized the marketing potential in the visual aspect of the court game.

By mixing and matching and changing outfits, women on the tennis tour have been able to obtain endorsements and promotional deals that often exceed their on-court income. There are those who gripe and grouse that women’s tennis is nothing but a soft-core fashion show. But that just sounds like sour grapes. It’s a level playing surface out there and the men are free to pursue the same opportunities.

So how does all this help women at large? Well, there’s no reason the principles that apply on the tennis court can’t apply elsewhere.

First, let’s ensure women make the same money as men. Next, in order to compensate for past wrongs, let’s have women work two-thirds of a man’s workday. Finally, let’s not forget the potential additional rewards that can be earned from good fashion sense.

Personally, I’d pay extra to see women wear revealing tennis outfits at work. And I’m sure I’m not alone. If that’s what it takes to make things right, I’m definitely prepared to make the sacrifice.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Whys of Surviving the Government

Recently, I wrote an essay imparting the lessons I have learned as a 25-year veteran of the public service to the next generation of government workers. For example, I told them about deferring tasks, always saying "yes" and the five-year rule which states that "new" initiatives and programs are recycled about every five years.

But my essay was basically a nuts and bolts approach to day-to-day survival in the bureaucracy. It didn’t answer the "whys" of life in the government. Today’s installment seeks to remedy that deficiency.

Perhaps the most common query is "Why don’t we know what’s happening?" For most government employees, this is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of their job. Despite working at or near the heart of power, they seldom have a clue as to what is actually going on. In fact, they are more likely to find out about government plans and initiatives from newspaper reports than from their employer.

The reason, of course, is that in government, knowledge is power. The more you know and the sooner you know it, the more status you have. The corollary to this rule is that communication in the bureaucracy goes up the ladder, not down. Despite hearing frequent paeans to transparency and openness in government, the average civil servant is more likely to get a buyout than actual useful information from above.

Another frequent question is "Why are they doing that?" with the emphasis on the word "doing." The reason follows from the one-way flow of information and the tendency to keep information secret. Rather than share their plans and proposals with those beneath them, senior mandarins prefer to gather information from below and use it to suit their own ends.

This means that many decisions are made with little or no input from the minions with actual expertise in the areas affected. A particularly dangerous version of this game is the annual budget exercise. Since the budget is a highly confidential document, there is virtually no top down communication during its creation. That means that any old proposal that’s still lying around in someone’s desk drawer or hard drive may get incorporated into the budget and become law no matter how ridiculous it is.

This begs the further question "Who is asking for this?" with the emphasis on the word "asking." Inevitably, whatever foolishness is being implemented originates from a command by someone senior in power, a minister or even the prime minister.

A minister asks, say, for a new program to streamline the government and that sets off a whole chain reaction. The task is divided between various deputy ministers who, in turn, divvy up their sub-tasks to their assistant deputy ministers. The job is further farmed out to director generals and directors and, before you know it, the new program to streamline the government has created its own mini-bureaucracy.

A question often heard in the public service is "Why is that person in charge?" with an emphasis on the word "that." And often the answer can be found in the government’s commitment to the principle of revolving executives.

Whereas years ago, the head of a department worked his way up through the ranks acquiring valuable hands-on experience, now deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers are rotated from department to department regardless of their lack of technical expertise. And since they are usually rotated out within two or three years, they’re seldom around to be blamed for the inevitable failures that their ill-informed decisions cause.

Among employees with more years of service, a frequent question is "Didn’t we do this before?" with the emphasis on the word "before." And the answer is, more often than not, "yes." Because communication is up, not down; because decisions are made in secret and because expertise is ignored, what was tried and failed five years ago is inevitably tried and fails again and again.

The public service is filled with questions like these and each question has an answer, although seldom a logical one. After all, the primary job of government is to make sure nothing much changes. And if you understand that simple principle, you’ve got a job for life.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dear Computer Guy - U.S. version

An occasional consumer advice column for those in need of computer assistance:

Dear Computer Guy:

I live in Washington, D. C. and for the last seven years I’ve been using Bush II as my operating system. Despite experiencing a number of problems, I’ve still been pleased with this OS due primarily to the generous ongoing rebates and tax refunds. Should I stick with Bush II for the next few years?

Wondering in Washington

Dear Wondering:

Consider yourself lucky; you’re one of the few Bush II users who hasn’t been burned. What started out as a promising new OS back in 2001 has turned into a bug-filled, error-prone system. The Afghan patch released in 2002 initially appeared to fix some of the problems. However, the hastily-planned and ill-fated Iraqi version has proved to be disastrous for most non-corporate users.

Recent defections from the company that makes this product suggest that it is definitely in decline. Both their top marketing strategist and senior in-house counsel recently resigned and rumor has it that more bodies are looking to jump ship.

If you can squeeze another year of useful life out of Bush II, hang on for now. But if you see a new operating system on sale next fall, I’d go for it.

The Computer Guy

Dear Computer Guy:

Some years ago, I purchased the Clinton word processing software package. It gave me reliable service for most of the 90s but I haven’t used it now in more than six years. I hear there’s a new Clinton 2.0 version coming out. Is it as good as the original?

Wordless in Seattle

Dear Wordless:

That’s a tough question. First of all, let’s be clear. Clinton 2.0 is a completely different product from version 1.0. Basically, only the name is the same. Whereas, for its time, Clinton 1.0 had all the bells and whistles and lots of marketing pizzaz, version 2.0 is definitely not as flashy although undoubtedly more stable.

Some beta testers in New York said they liked the trial version of Clinton 2.0 that was offered only in their state for the last few years. But others have questioned the reliability of its technical support. Some users have reported a repeated failure by the company to admit past programming errors and rectify clearly faulty positions.

On the other hand, it appears that purchasers of Clinton 2.0 will still have access to version 1.0 as well. However, since it’s still not clear whether the two versions are even compatible, it may be wise to hold off and check for the availability of the new Obama product or the redesigned Edwards package.

The Computer Guy

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dear Computer Guy

An occasional consumer advice column for those in need of computer assistance:

Dear Computer Guy:

I bought the Canada’s New Government software package a year and a half ago and already I’ve had to pay extra for version 2.0. Now they’ve just released version 3.0. Do I have to upgrade again?

A Concerned Canadian

Dear Concerned Canadian:

Although the chief designer of this software is touting the latest release as having a whole new look and feel, from what I can see it’s just a minor reshuffling of a few directories. While it’s true that the defense registry has been replaced, the underlying problem still remains. Until the designer decides to include a "mission aborted" error routine, version 3.0 will still be using way too many resources for little or no performance enhancement.

The addition of the new "Maximemizer" feature may attract a few more French-speaking customers in Quebec. However, the absence of a long term programming strategy will likely keep Canada’s New Government in a minority sales position.

Unless the design chief decides to yield some creative control to the members of his team, don’t look for any dramatic improvements in this product any time soon. In fact, there’s no longer much new in Canada’s New Government. Hold on to your money and wait for a new release of that old standby software package Liberal Majority. Once they unload their current CEO, the next version could be a winner.

The Computer Guy

Dear Computer Guy:

A year and a half ago I bought a new anti-virus protection service from an Ottawa-based company. They guaranteed me that no matter how big and profitable my enterprise grew, I wouldn’t have to pay anything extra for the protection of my resources. Now they’re telling me that I can’t have both. What recourse do I have?

Jinxed in St. John’s

Dear Jinxed:

I’m sorry to report that you’re out of luck. You’re just the latest customer to be taken in by this unscrupulous outfit. For years now, this federally-based operation has promised anything to get customers to sign on. Once they do, however, all bets are off. The company then starts asking for what they call "equalization payments." And the better you do or the more resources you find, the more you pay. Check the fine print in your license agreement. Sadly, it’s all there in black and white.

The Computer Guy

Dear Computer Guy:

Despite experiencing a number of problems, I’ve still been pleased with this OS due primarily to the generous ongoing rebates and tax refunds. Should I stick with Bush II for the next few years?

Nervous in New York

Dear Nervous:

Consider yourself lucky; you’re one of the few Bush II users who hasn’t been burned. What started out as a promising new OS back in 2001 has turned into a bug-filled, error-prone system. The Afghan patch released in 2002 initially appeared to fix some of the problems. However, the hastily-planned and ill-fated Iraqi version has proved to be disastrous for most non-corporate users.

Recent defections from the company that makes this product suggest that it is definitely in decline. Both their top marketing strategist and senior in-house counsel recently resigned and rumor has it that more bodies are looking to jump ship.
If you can squeeze another year of useful life out of Bush II, hang on for now. But if you see a new operating system on sale next fall, I’d go for it.

The Computer Guy

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lotto 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

The public hears that Karl Rove is resigning in order to spend more time with his family. But Washington insiders know that the real reason Mr. Rove is leaving is because he won the latest round of Lotto 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue - the unofficial White House lottery.

Ever since the President’s approval rating nosedived below 30%, the Bush Administration has been looking for a fair and orderly way to govern the departure of those lining up to jump ship. As one official noted: "It’s kind of like our own personal exit strategy designed to steer clear of an unwanted surge."

To avoid the embarrassment of mass resignations, President Bush got all staffers to agree to the lottery option. Every two months, a new name is drawn and the winner gets to resign in order to "spend more time with his family."

The first winner was former Presidential counsel Dan Bartlett whose name was drawn in June. Officially, Mr. Bartlett left to spend more time with his family. But unofficially, he was thrilled to be the first one to escape.

This month’s winner, of course, is Karl Rove. Whether or not his family will be happy to see more of him, Mr. Rove is tickled pink to get out. "What with all those investigations and allegations," said Rove. "The timing couldn’t have been better."

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Counsel to the President Harriet Miers have been excluded from the lottery since neither has a family to spend more time with. Not surprisingly, both women say they love their job and expect to stay on until January 20, 2009 or until the President wins the lottery, whichever comes first.

Disappointed once again was Alberto Gonzales. Desperate to get out, the Attorney General will have to spend at least another two months fighting off subpoenas from Congressional committees. Everyone is reportedly pulling for Mr. Gonzales including the President.

"Heck, I’d like to win the lottery as much as the next guy," said Mr. Bush. "But if anyone deserves it now, it’s Al."

President Bush may get his first wish if the latest rumor turns out to be true. Seldom reliable sources have revealed that Dick Cheney has substituted another "W" ball for his in the lottery hopper.

"I think I’m the man for the top job," said the Vice President. "After all, even my own family doesn’t want to spend more time with me."

Monday, August 13, 2007

Re-branding the Government

After eighteen months in power, Canadians are getting a little tired of "Canada’s New Government." The slogan that originally helped contrast the new Conservative government with the just-defeated Liberals has now worn out its welcome.

Apparently the Tories are aware of the problem and have secretly engaged focus groups to test out some brand new slogans. Seldom reliable sources have leaked the following results of those marketing tests:

Canada’s Right Government
Initially this slogan tested well by yielding a strong image of a government committed to doing the right thing. But as focus groups spent more time examining the phrase, they eventually started associating it with a small-c conservative, right-of-center government. Apparently not the way to go for a party looking to achieve majority status.

Canada’s Majority in Waiting
Here’s an expression that succinctly captures the essence of Stephen Harper’s fondest aim: to win a majority government. Unfortunately, though, it also succinctly captures Mr. Harper’s arrogance and contempt for the electorate. Not seen as a good fit on any bumper sticker soon.

Canada’s Same Old Government
Warm, friendly and reassuring, this four-word saying gave focus group participants a nice, secure feeling associated with stability and the maintenance of the status quo. But on further reflection, most of those folks started asking if the slogan meant that whoever was in power was going to govern like the Liberals. Ultimately not a winning phrase.

Canada’s Only Government
Initially, those interviewed liked this one since it suggested strength in the face of weakness and decisiveness instead of the opposition parties’ wimpiness. In the end, however, it seemed that folks didn’t really take to the one-party, dictatorial rule this phrase strongly implies.

Canada’s American Government
Although this candidate garnered full marks for honesty, it didn’t give anyone a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Canada’s Afghan Government
This one was d.o.a.

New Tory
Party functionaries liked this one. It’s short, punchy and suitably vague. Sadly, it didn’t do well with focus groups, perhaps because of its similarity to New Coke.

A Tim Hortons Government
Potential voters were vague as to what this slogan actually meant. But follow-up questions revealed that most got a warm, sugary feeling and their eyes glazed over in contentment. Subject to licensing availability, this one could be a winner.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Workplace Prison

The great myth of the workplace is that everybody should have a meaningful job that they love. The reality is that most of us see our job as a kind of sentence in a minimum security prison.

Don’t believe me? Just listen to how people talk at work.

"How many years have you got in?" "When do you get out?" "We’re breaking out at midnight, Rocky."

Well maybe you don’t hear that last one too often. But you get the idea.

Work, for most of us, is not that soul-satisfying, world-saving experience we read about in the "Careers" section of the daily newspaper. Rather, it’s usually a mind-numbing, soul-crushing, eight-hour daily sentence that we have to serve in order to get food, shelter and that big-screen plasma TV we’ve had our eye on.

Think about it. Most of us have a booth or a chair or a cubicle that we have to be in for a set period of time for five or six days a week. We get exercise breaks, a lunch break and, if we’re lucky, a weekend pass.

That doesn’t sound like work; that sounds like prison. And with prison comes a warden or, in the argot of the workplace, your supervisor. She’s the one who decides when you have your breaks, if you’ll get that weekend pass and what time the lights go out.

And if your workplace is like most, it’s populated with the same folks you find in prison. There’s the guards or, as you might know them, middle management. They carry out the warden’s orders and think they’ve got actual authority. But like prison guards, their authority is more imaginary than real. In fact, since they put in the same or longer hours than you do, they’re basically just prisoners with higher pay.

Then there’s the stool pigeon or snitch, the guy who rats on you to get special treatment from the guards. You know him as the office suck or the brown-noser. Same person; different title. But like the stoolie, Mr. Brown-noser usually gets his in the end.

Day-to-day activity at work is pretty much the same as in prison. You’re usually pushing paper, working the cash or manning the phone, all workplace equivalents to making license plates or working in the prison laundry.

Play by the rules and you get rewarded. It might be a good evaluation, an enclosed office or a minor promotion. Just like in prison where the prisoner with good behavior might get his own cell or become the warden’s "trusty."

And if you break the rules, you get punished. That means a black mark on your record or, if you’ve been really bad, you have to work alone. Kind of like solitary confinement, if you will.
The older you get, the more your thoughts center on "getting out." The big question becomes: do you have to serve your full sentence or can you get paroled? Except you might know it as early retirement.

Like the folks behind bars, you soon learn to keep your mouth shut and do your time. Keep your nose clean and your head down and you’ll eventually be free.

But don’t despair. As inmates will tell you, if you don’t obsess about getting out, the days pass more quickly. As they say in the slammer, that’s easy time.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A Congressional Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, August 4, 2007.

The unanimous Declaration of the two Houses of the Congress of the united States of America:

When in the Course of Washington events, it becomes necessary for one branch of government to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the Constitution, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and the Founding Fathers entitle them, they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all branches of government are created equal, that ours in particular was supposed to have the unalienable Right to declare war, fund war and decide when a war would end. --That to secure this balance of powers, Governments are structured among Men in varying ways, dividing the powers gained from the consent of the governed between the various branches to ensure no one branch shall prevail. --That whenever any one branch of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the Offended Branch to reassert its authority. The history of the present King George is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

- He has ignored the United Nations and unilaterally entered into war with no good reason or direct provocation.
- He has misled the citizenry with false allegations concerning weapons of mass destruction.
- He has falsely asserted connections between Iraq and al Qaeda.
- He has imperilled the security of the nation through his reckless acts of preemptive war.
- He has relieved the rich of their fair tax burden to the detriment of the middle class.
- He has crippled the economy through his irresponsible tax cuts and spending.
- He has diminished the rights of the citizenry.
- He has pandered to religious fundamentalists and endangered the rights of minorities, women and gays.
- He has converted the Supreme Court into an executive rubber stamp.
- He has sought to subvert the separation of church and state.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms but our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A King whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the Congress of these united States of America, solemnly publish and declare, That we as legislators ought to be Free to assert our rights as stated in the Constitution of these United States and thereby halt this King’s reckless War. We undertake therefore to read the Constitution and maybe even pursue the action necessary to exercise the duly assigned powers granted us under that document.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

How Stupid Are We?

I like to think that I’m a reasonably intelligent fellow. But the longer I live, the more I question not only my native intelligence but also that of my fellow Canadians.

After all, where else would you find a nation of educated sheep who week after week fill their gas tanks with dollar a litre gas with hardly a whimper? Notwithstanding that the price of crude oil is lower than it was a year ago, the retail price keeps going up. Petroleum industry execs tell us that the current situation is all because of market demands and refining capacity and we accept that lame excuse and go on paying exorbitant prices at the pump.

And we’re the same Milquetoasts who let banks tack on fee after user fee and dole out minuscule interest rates on savings accounts in the face of record-breaking profits. The financial community assures us that they can’t make a go of it unless they can increase their customer charges and we do nothing except watch them laughing all the way to their own bank.

The height of this institutional arrogance is the recent offer by one unnamed, two-initialled bank to give a free iPod to anyone who becomes a new customer. What does this say to existing customers who have loyally conducted their business with that bank for years? It says we don’t really care about you because we know you’re too stupid to do anything about it.

Banks and oil executives at least try to justify their usurious ways. But book sellers don’t even bother making excuses. Despite a Canadian dollar that’s almost at par with its U. S. counterpart, publishers continue to feature Canadian pricing that’s typically 40% above the listed American price.

If a best seller lists for $19.99 American, we shouldn’t mind paying $21.99 Canadian. But to fork out $27.99 is outright highway robbery. Yet we just accept this gross inequity and continue to fill the coffers of the publishers without complaint.

Doctors are another group that make us look stupid and gullible. Whenever they don’t like the employment deal offered here in Canada, some of them just up and leave for greener pastures in the United States.

Given that a doctor’s medical education is heavily subsidized by you and me as taxpayers, why would we allow them to thumb their noses at us and leave? Shouldn’t we be demanding a payback of the hundreds of thousands of dollars we invested in them before letting them quit the country? Or shouldn’t we at least require all medical students to sign on for five years of practise in under-served areas before setting them free?
The Stanley Cup is another example of our naivete and stupidity. As I recall, Lord Stanley donated the Cup to the champion ice hockey team of Canada, not the winner of the National Hockey League playoffs. Why would we allow our national trophy to be governed by a rinky-dink league that bends over backwards to accommodate its seldom-watched, American-based teams?

The NHL’s hold on the Stanley Cup is tenuous, at best. All it would take would be a concerted effort by a few diehard Canadian hockey fans to bring the trophy back home. But don’t hold your breath waiting for that day to arrive.

We Canadians have a reputation for being polite and nice. To outsiders, that’s how it appears. But the truth is that we’re not so much nice and polite as just downright stupid. Americans don’t tolerate being treated like second-class citizens by corporations and government. Why should we? So let’s start grousing and complaining. And let’s start taking some positive action. If that giant bookstore won’t sell you the book at a fair exchange on the U. S. dollar, don’t buy it. If that unnamed bank won’t give you an iPod, take your business elsewhere. Lobby for the return of a nationally-owned oil company and fight for provisions that will ensure doctors serve the citizens who paid for their education. Who knows? We might even get smart enough to start a professional Canadian Hockey League and take back the Stanley Cup once and for all. Then again, given our world-leading levels of marijuana consumption, maybe we’re just destined to be dopes.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Random Theatrics

"Ballet and music fans at home and abroad are eagerly awaiting Thursday evening's premiere of the Alberta Ballet production set to the artwork and music of Joni Mitchell."
- Arts - February 8, 2007

"Canadian director David Cronenberg has teamed up with tenor Placido Domingo and Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore to create an opera based on Cronenberg's 1986 movie, The Fly."
- Arts - February 17, 2007

Today’s impresarios don’t wait for artistic minds to create. Instead they randomly generate ideas for new theatrical and musical creations. Check out these upcoming productions:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Broadway meets Wall Street in this highly entertaining musical version of everybody’s favorite self-help tome. Slated for a fall opening in the famed Gershwin Theatre, "7 Habits" features a storyline by author Steven R. Covey and a half dozen catchy tunes by the self-help composing team of Marvin Hamlisch and Barry Manilow. From the haunting "Time Management Matrix" to the show-stopping "Sell! Sell! Sell!", this soon-to-be-blockbuster will have patrons humming themselves to a brand new life.

Marley and Me
Not since "Cats" has there been an anthropomorphic animal production that touches the soul like "Marley and Me." This elaborate modern dance production features the steps and missteps of America’s favorite dog as presented by the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Backed by a twenty-member canine chorus, Marley sings and dances his way into your heart as the entire troupe does a marvelous job of portraying a dog’s life through dance. Eating, chewing, biting, barking and outright disobedience. They’re all brought to life on the dance stage thanks to the unique choreography of the soon-to-be-famous team of Fido and Rex. Opens October 5th for a limited engagement at the Tribeca Performing Acts Center and Animal Shelter.

The Metropolitan Opera Company is thrilled to announce that it will be adapting the venerable film comedy "Spaceballs" to the stage for its upcoming season. "We have long admired the cinematic work of Mr. Mel Brooks," said the Met’s artistic director. "First with ‘The Producers’ and more recently with ‘Young Frankenstein’, he has demonstrated a proven track record when it comes to translating film to live theater. We anticipate similar success with our operatic version of one of the lesser known works from his oeuvre." Rick Moranis is expected to reprise his role as Dark Helmet. Sadly, Joan Rivers is reportedly unavailable for the part of Dot Matrix but negotiations are underway to engage Dom DeLuise to sing the role of Pizza the Hutt.

Harry Potter’s Planets Like Gustav Holst’s famed seven-movement orchestral suite, the seven books of the Harry Potter series lend themselves perfectly to a new symphonic work. The New York Philharmonic will perform the world premiere of this five-hour piece jointly conducted by Loren Maazel and Sting. J. K. Rowling composed the score which reportedly helped fill the empty days for the retired author after the self-inflicted death of her favorite character Dumbledore. Each movement is named after one of the seven Harry Potter books except for the finale which is called "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Unending Residuals."

The CBS Evening News
The story of the Tiffany network’s famed newscast told in dance by the Joffrey Ballet. The principal dancers play the roles of the CBS anchors from Edward R. Murrow to Katie Couric while dancing with portable teleprompters. Relive American history in the televised era through elaborately mimed renditions of everything from the Bay of Pigs fiasco to the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s history like you’ve never seen it before and likely will never see it again.

Springtime for Hitler
This Broadway season promises to be wall-to-wall Mel Brooks with another celluloid to stage transformation. But instead of adapting another of Mr. Brooks’s movies, famed producer Harold Prince has captured the "play within the play", the unexpected smash musical at the heart of "The Producers." Not satisfied with simply staging the original Nazi-themed musical, Prince has rewritten the work as a serious drama. Look for either Richard Gere or Tony Danza to be cast as the misunderstood führer.