Being Funny Can Be Hazardous to your Health

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 3:23 p.m.
I’ve spent the past week reading about the cartoon controversy and the ensuing demonstrations and burning of embassies in the Middle East. Once again, I am challenged in this blog to add to the media frenzy with something more articulate than “Oh, wow” or “Yikes!” Frankly, it’s not easy because I could get into trouble. Luckily,the trouble that I will get into is not life threatening.
Critiques of some of my blogthat were meant to be funny have come in the form of mildly cajoling emails and one or two Letters to the Editor. I have been castigated for making fun of people who shop early for Christmas presents and for my continuous jibes about the College Street bridge in Lennoxville while it was being repaired. What I thought were gently humorous digs at every day life issues were taken quite seriously by readers and though I apologised for offending these readers, I did not apologise for writing my opinions and for describing my own observations of the world. Any columnist worth his salt welcomes this kind of criticism because it means that the blogs are being read and discussed
What I find completely frightening is what happens if a cartoonist, columnist or newspaper editor does not gauge his reading audience well and goes out of the bounds of what is thought to be good taste or appropriate standards. It’s a new world out there. Salman Rushdie wrote a book and received a death sentence for what he put in it. Do authors and cartoonists deserve to die because they express beliefs that are considered blasphemous by others?
I also wonder about the innocent victims of this controversy. I cannot understand why the embassies of these countries were burned down and why their industries are being boycotted. The guy who works on the floor of a Danish cheese packaging plant has absolutely nothing to do with the cartoonist who drew the controversial cartoons yet he is losing his job because that cartoonist and his editor didn’t use some common sense.
Anyone in our society has to recognize that there are lines that we all draw concerning free speech no matter how liberal we think we are. No sane person would allow a six year old to watch a pornographic film or a hard-core violent film. Most of us would think that the photos that the American soldiers took in the Abu Ghraib prison as a joke were horrible. Our society does not look kindly on jokes that humiliate minority groups or women or for that matter, jokes about the Holocaust. It’s something that you don’t put in a newspaper.
In Canada, we have used the expression, the Two Solitudes, to describe English and French Canada. This is nothing compared to the Two Solitudes that our world seems to have been divided into. Many people within the Middle East feel that it is their people who are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and now the West is kicking their most sacred icons and principles that go beyond discussion: their religion, their deity.
In the West, we are used to making fun of everything, literally everything. Our stand-up comics crack jokes about God, racial groups, sex, you name it. We pride ourselves on the much cherished freedom to discuss and make fun of any topic that we want to. Yes, it’s a relief to live in such a world but in reality, the world we live in is a much smaller place as some Danish cartoonists found out in the past few weeks.
Whether we like it or not, there is another solitude out there and they don’t think that we’re one bit funny. This is a truly frightening reality and one that we will be dealing with for years to come. Both sides have got to start talking to one another instead of screaming; we have to find out about one another instead of aiming guns or cartoons.

Some things aren’t funny anymore; they are serious, deadly serious.

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Frolicking is Over Thanks to Global Warming

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 8:13 a.m.
I guess I won’t be cross-country skiing any time soon and neither will you. Yes, January thaw came and stayed for all of January and it slipped right into February. It kind of took the wind right out of January Thaw’s romantic sails.
In the course of a long and argumentative life, I’ve debated with people over the existence of January Thaw. I’ve always known there to be an island of sanity in our climate - that window of opportunity to walk outside and feel the breeze on one’s face without pain. It’s like a weather-holiday after Christmas yet there are many unbelievers. I consider these people who don’t believe in January Thaw to be like those Bush supporters who believe that global warming is a bunch of nonsense.
Yet this year, it’s hard to deny global warming and when you have rain almost every day, you can’t call it much of a thaw. It’s a New York City winter that has moved up north and is here to stay. It may not be painful but it certainly isn’t very much fun. An Eastern Townships winter implies a certain amount of frolicking in the snow with the aid of snow-frolicking tools such as skis, sleds, fancy sleds (GTs), snowmobiles and snowshoes.
This winter, I have aged 30 years as I do the shuffle down my driveway to my car and I’m not the only one. Several gentlemen of my acquaintance have admitted to doing some shuffling of their own for fear of breaking an arm, leg or hip and these guys are under fifty. If we have winter after winter like this, we will need to get ice climbing shoes just to walk outside.
The summers are getting hotter, the winters are getting warmer – call me crazy but I believe in global warming. President Bush claimed in a 2001 speech that the climate runs in patterns – he says it gets warmer for awhile and then colder. It’s just a natural pattern. I think that this is all wishful thinking on his part. Nobody wants to tell millions of Americans or for that matter, people in up and coming developing countries such as India and China, that they can’t drive an SUV, that gas will never be affordable again and that the future doesn’t have limitless possibilities. The big surprise is that we may have to limit ourselves so that we have a future at all.
Like many Canadians, I will be curious to see how long Canada remains signed on to the Kyoto Accord now that the Conservative Party is in office. In addition, Prime Minister Harper may decide that he no longer needs the services of Rick Mercer to cajole Canadians into figuring out ways to help Canada meet its goals in reducing greenhouse emissions. Of course, it is industry that should be the real target and no Prime Minister wants to tug on the coattails of big companies about how much they’re chugging into the air. It doesn’t matter whether he or she is a Liberal or a Conservative. It’s much easier to go after little people.
Meanwhile, it may be time to throw all our snow frolicking stuff into this summer’s garage sale, stock up on some very good umbrellas and shoes with excellent traction. Winter just isn’t what it used to be.

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Posted by Somebody's Mother on 7:26 a.m.
Relaxation in a bottle…and dishes that sparkle too
Modern technology never fails to excite me with the new tools it comes up with to make my life easier and better. Just last weekend, I was shopping at the supermarket and I realized that we were running out of liquid dishwashing soap. I noticed that one brand, a name brand, was on sale and that it came in a wide variety of scents: cucumber, lemon, etc. Then I noticed the very last one, aromatherapy…and the label said anti-stress!
Now, just imagine the multi-tasking possibilities here! I can actually wash a pot and relax at the same time. Yes, there’s a sucker born every minute but the bottle is on sale and promising me that those scented bubbles will fight my stress. How can I resist? Can this be false advertising? Not in Canada.
Ever since childhood, there’s a side of me that…now, this is hard to confess to such a wide audience, but here goes: there’s a side of me that likes commercials. I’ve always known why. Commercials have happy endings and I want to believe that happy endings are possible.
Sixties commercials never failed to have happy endings. If the lady switches to the right brand, everything is right. If the neighbour’s sheets on the clothesline are cleaner than your sheets, you listen to her advice, buy the detergent and then your family really, really loves you. Buy that whitening toothpaste and you get the boyfriend, the big job, the trip to Florida and the luggage. Commercials make life seem so simple. If you have the money, there’s always an easy solution.
Life is very busy these days so if a dishwashing soap can lull me into a state of bliss two steps up from comatose, why should I resist? Of course, it’s all fun and games till we find out that the secret ingredient in the soap is illegal.
All kidding aside, stress is a very real problem. Just the other day, a friend passed on a news headline to me that says that most teenagers are so stressed out and depressed that if they were in this condition twenty years ago, that state of mind would require professional help. Nowadays, we just accept it.
One journal states that the rate of teenaged depression may be as high as 20%. It does go on to say that many of these cases will be short-lived but if you think of the pressures that teenagers are under between school, sports, extracurricular activities along with the strain in relationships among family and peers, this figure is not so surprising.
After all, we expect sixteen and seventeen year olds to pick an area of concentration in CEGEP. I barely know what I’m doing with my life now. How can we possibly expect kids to figure out what they want to do at such a young age when they can barely decide which jeans to wear to school? That’s stress.
Now I know better than to suggest that if we get teenagers to wash our pots and pans with anti-stress aromatherapy dishwashing detergent, their stress will go down the drain with the grease, dirt and grime. I don’t think this one has a happy ending.
Advertisers will keep stressing our kids and us out because we can never have enough and all the bottles of aromatherapy soap won’t make us stop and realize that maybe, just maybe, there are a lot of whistles and doo-hickies that we really don’t need.
If we’re not stressed, we’re not spending.

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