Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

On failure
January 18, 2012

I’ve been trying to knit a scarf.

I’ve been trying to knit a scarf for over a week and I wasn’t satisfied with it from the beginning.

It started curling inward after a few rows. But I kept going. I didn’t want to listen when people said that there was something wrong with my scarf. I carried on, until I was almost done.

I then stepped back for a moment and looked at things. My scarf was awful and curling in all the wrong places. I wasn’t happy with it from the very beginning but I blindly continued, convinced I could fix things later, or learn to love a flawed scarf.

I ripped the whole thing up an hour ago. I should have torn it apart earlier, but I loved that little scarf, flaws and all.

I ripped up my scarf and now I’m going to restart from the beginning.

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Royals dazzle Yellowknife crowd
July 5, 2011

The freezing crowd gathered in Yellowknife hardly needed more reason to dislike the royals, but got one anyhow – the unilingual Princess peppered her speech with Aboriginal languages, noting both the inhospitable climate and lack of chic boutiques in the territories in her speech in Inuvialuktun. “Sorry about that time people form my country came and sort of stole your country” she said, switching back to English, “I do hope we can all be friends, though.”

Greeting the crowd, her husband wore a cream coloured suit by his favourite British designer, Nyles Berger, with matching tie and shoes. Standing on the sidelines, his attire was highly fashionable, though not particularly functional. Many noted his modest diamond encrusted maple leaf cuff links.

“It really shows how in tune he is with Canada, and how sensitive he is to Canadian culture” said a woman who had recently received a hockey puck in the head.

The crowd really erupted when Catherine ended her speech: “William and I are deeply honoured. We have been here 2 hours and we’ve already sensed the extraordinary potential of this region,” she said, ignorant of the economic challenges facing the permanently frozen Northern badlands.

The Princess then offered some concrete suggestions as to how to improve the quality of life in such a cold climate, “perhaps you could try serving tea in thermoses?” added the princess, her new husband nodding devotedly beside her.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge then boarded their magic chariot and went back to their castle on an island, across the ocean, far, far away – heaps of taxpayer money lining their pockets. They are expected to tour the colonies again soon.

Here is the original article, though after waiting eight paragraphs to find out what Kate was wearing, one can hardly consider that “journalism”: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/europe/the-royal-wedding/politics-and-protocol/prince-william-dazzles-yellowknife-crowd-with-a-nod-to-local-languages/article2087118/

The Harpers ride the Merry-Go-Round
June 30, 2011

Last week’s Canadian Studies conference in Marburg was an interesting affair. Since I was the only Canadian Canadianist present, I was often asked to offer “the” Canadian perspective. I of course obliged, since I love speaking for 34 million people. By the end of the conference I had begun thinking of myself, rather affectionately, as “Canada.” “Canada is hungry!” I would exclaim. “Canada thinks your presentation was wonderful! Bravo.” Or, by the last day: “Canada felt that that your flippant reference to Aboriginal people problematically negated their epistemologies while also normalizing white superiority.”

Luckily all of this was only going on in my head, an academic conference being a place to eat catered food, schmooze, use multisyllabic words, and tell people how interesting their esoteric research topics are.

This particular conference was also a great place to hook up, since the conference organizers, who paid for the accommodation, tried to make all presenters share hotel beds (not just rooms, actual beds). As “Canada” I claimed national sovereignty and refused.

One particularly memorable moment was when I got to speak with someone who promotes Canadian culture in Germany. She told me about meeting Laureen Harper a few years before in Berlin. She introduced herself and mentioned her work promoting culture, to which Laureen answered, “so like circuses and stuff?”

A few things I learned at the conference, notable either for their beauty or hilarity:

“Vancouver is Canada’s westernmost city.”

“The proposed downtown highway caused Vancouverites to be very outrageous.” (outraged?)

“Only God knows where the desert ends.”

“Bubble tea is code for Bomb Toronto.” (that sentence should get my blog lots of extra traffic)

“There is no nation in being good.”

All in all I was pretty blown away that these German grad students knew so much about Canadian culture – a testament, surely, to the time they’ve all spent at the circus.

Do I know Canada anymore?
June 22, 2011

A blog post form my younger brother James.

What is Canada? Every person who reads this probably has a different view of Canada. After all we do live in a culture of diversity. Few people take a step back and ask why we celebrate July first. Our nation, maybe. Many intellectuals and scholars claim that nations are not real. Some believe nations are imaginary boundaries that don’t really mean anything all.

I thought about this and asked myself what makes Canada, well… Canada. Is it the 7% beer, a love of hockey, the supposedly friendly attitude? Everyone here would likely say something different. What about our ties to the British Monarchy and the parliamentary government system? A great many would state our differences from other nations especially the one south of the border. The idea of a set of imaginary boundaries really applies to us, does it not? Canada is so vast and sometimes I wonder if we are even a country, or instead just a bunch of disgruntled neighbours, living under the same government: French vs. English, East vs. West and the natives against French, English, East and West.

I think of a friend of mine who spent nearly all of his time in Canada behind bars with me. He must have had a very different view of Canada. I think about him a lot. I look through the steel mesh covered window and wonder “do I know Canada anymore”? Is it just some past life I use to ground me during this new, colder experience? I doubt that it is just my community and family, though I look forward to returning to them.

Canada is more than the things mentioned earlier. Canada is the ground beneath my feet. It is the people that I talk to in here and who so often enrich my life. It is a division of peoples, government, culture, land, nation; it’s home, wherever that might be. It is all of us. Of course so many people and scholars have a hard time to define Canada, is it so much more than just any person, a place or a thing. Forgive me for going on, but Canada is the sandbox of my life experiences here, now, and before now, the sum of my hopes, which are one and the same as every Canadian who reads this.

-James Hazlett

Please leave James some comments.

With my five brothers, James in the back right corner

Why Canadians shouldn’t get their health care from the South Side of Chicago
May 13, 2011

For those of you unfortunate enough to be blessed with good health while travelling in the United States, you’ve been missing one of the most fascinating aspects of American culture. Luckily I’ve been plagued with a host of infirmities/ diseases/ infections over the last two months that have allowed me to explore the inner workings of the American health care system for you. Sparing the most gruesome of details, I had my wisdom teeth removed over two months ago (in Berlin), which led to a sinus infection, which led to a chest infection, which has now led to an inflammation of my lymph nodes, which has led to endless whining about my health problems, whimper, moan, whinge, lament, cough cough, sniffle.

Price list: Jacksonville Baptist Clinic

Feeling more pathetic than usual since my arrival in Chicago days ago, I got permission form my Canadian travel health insurance to visit an urgent care doctor in the city. They even provided the address of a clinic on the south side of Chicago, near my friend Amanda’s home where I was staying. Unlike other doctors, this clinic would accept my Canadian insurance and I wouldn’t even have to worry about paying out of pocket.

Thrilled to be seeing a doctor, Amanda and I jumped in her car, ready to drive over. When I told Amanda (Chicago, born and bred) the address of the clinic, less than 10 blocks away, she looked somewhat dubious. Hoping not to crush my sick little heart’s hopes of seeing a doctor, she put the clinic’s address into the GPS. Then, blatantly disregarding my sick little heart (and lungs), Amanda refused to take me into that neighborhood. I sat, quiet except for the occasional snivel or whimper, as she tried desperately to explain why I wouldn’t be going to the clinic:

“It’s not that I don’t want you to see a doctor… it’s just that I don’t want to get car jacked… or shot….I know it will save you two hundred dollars… wait, I’ll just give you two hundred dollars. Can I just give you the two hundred dollars?… I guess I could ask my dad to take us. No wait, he would just say no. No. We could keep the windows rolled up I guess… and park really close. But this is a brand new car and… I don’t want you to think I’m racist… or that there are places I won’t go in my own city… Ya, but, we’re not going there…”

Health clinic gift card, for the one you love

And so we drove 60 blocks to another clinic, with the windows rolled up, past liquor shops, storefront churches, tax centres, checks cashed and finally, Oprah’s studio. Much like visiting a garage, a price list was mounted on the doctor’s wall: $100 for a basic tune-up to $250 for a “complex” procedure. After all that I was diagnosed with a lack of antibiotics in my system an ordered to take some more immediately (hadn’t I just finished a round in Canada for my sinus infection? Best not ask too many questions and start moving into the “complex tune-up” zone). I accepted the prescription gratefully, and sniffled my way home.

Chicago, outside of its medical practices, turned out to be a fascinating city. It made me realise how privileged I am to be a tourist with health insurance just passing through. For most of us, Chicago is a beautiful (and safe) place. Just be careful never to get on the red line El-train heading south.

Adventures in US-Canadian Citizenship
May 4, 2011

My apologies for not having written in a while, the problem being that Emily is no longer in America, but arrived two weeks ago in Canadaland (located somewhere between the North Pole and Cleveland, Canadaland is not unlike Candyland, minus the fun). I usually write about crazy America or Germany. They’re interesting because they’re foreign and weird and love revolutions (Germany apparently had a quasi-revolution in 1848, so says the book I stole from their embassy yesterday). Both countries provide an interesting point of comparison to anti-revolution, stability-loving Canada.

This is not to say Canada is in anyway boring. Since I’ve been here we’ve watched with too little ambivalence as our future king married. Then to add a nail to our political system coffin, we (shockingly) elected a majority conservative government (Point well taken, things seem to run better around here when I’m not in the country).

To add a little American content to my week I attended a series of lectures yesterday on Canada-US relations. Four hundred high school students from across Canuckland attended the talks at Carleton University. I was then given a group of 20 of the cutest Frenchest ones for a half hour to discuss the topic further.

“Full disclosure: I’ve barely lived in Canada in the last 4 years and I currently live in Florida,” I began, having finally found my classroom after roaming the halls far too long. “Let’s make a list of the words you think of when you hear USA,” I asked them in my most teacherly voice. I should have known better.

“Fat, obesity, fast food, money, anger, exceptionalism, superiority complex, proud, property, guns, capitalism, crime, patriotism, stupid…” they yelled at me, some upset because the words they had chosen had already been used (guns came up at least three times).

I wanted to unpack a lot of what they had said. I pointed out that while Canada’s obesity rate isn’t quite as high as America’s (30% vs. 40%), we hardly have anything to brag about. Twenty minutes into our talk I was really impressed by what these 17 and 18 year-olds had to say (I certainly didn’t throw around words like exceptionalism at their age). But I was also worried about their blatant and misinformed anti-Americanism, which too often leads to a false sense of Canadian moral superiority.

During his lecture Professor Norman Hillmer noted how Canadians like to think of themselves as a moral superpower, while the US is some other kind of superpower (military no doubt, but he left it to our imaginations). The inferiority complex we’ve harboured so long is actually just a cover up for our (moral) superiority complex, he said. I can’t help but agree with him. Making ourselves out to be the silly little neighbo(u)r, the Ned Flanders to their Homer Simpson, allows us to imagine we are morally and intellectually superior, even if we aren’t the star of the show.

I wanted to really drive this point home with my kids. I had even prepared a witty Simpsons metaphor I was sure they’d understand. But we were already out of time.

I need my kids back. Forty minutes wasn’t enough. There’s so much more they need to know. “Be wary of nationalism,” I warned them as they were already out the door, on their way to Tim Horton’s or Roots, no doubt.