How Would Every Canadian Prime Minister Fare as Hockey Goons in a Bench-Clearing Brawl?

February 25, 2017
MuseeMcCordMuseum.jpg

Credit Musee McCord Museum

Hello everyone!

I expect most of you reading this have already heard of my most successful blog post ever, “In a Mass Knife Fight to the Death Between Every American President, Who Would Win and Why?”

One afternoon’s puttering around Wikipedia almost five years ago has now gone viral twice and taken on a life of its own, evolving into a Vice Media animated short that recently aired on HBO, as well as a mention in the New York Times. This Monday I am looking forward to being interviewed for Wisconsin Public Radio’s/Public Radio International’s Peabody Award-winning program, TO THE BEST OF OUR KNOWLEDGE. The show will air on more than 200 public radio stations across the United States. In anticipation of that interview, I thought I would write something new.

While discussing that fun hypothetical knife fight with people, I have been asked several times how I thought Canada’s prime ministers might do in the same situation.

I confess, I just cannot image any of Canada’s PMs in a knife fight. Where America’s pantheon of presidents is stocked with many soldiers, sailors, airmen, farmers, captains of industry, actors, and other exciting figures to add spice to the more typical lawyers and career politicians, that is not really Canada’s strong suit. We tend to enjoy our lawyers and our career politicians. Sometimes we find a doctor or a publisher and persuade them to become a career politician, but that is about as far as we go.

While researching this piece, I cannot say categorically that any of Canada’s prime ministers have ever fired a shot in anger, despite several of them serving during the world wars. They just don’t seem to be a violent bunch. Even assuming you could gather all of Canada’s prime ministers together and give them knives, I doubt even one of them would do anything with it. No, if I was ever going to write a Canadian equivalent to my most popular piece, I would need to find a Canadian way to do it.

Last week as I was explaining my line of reasoning to the New York Times reporter, she said, “You mean like a hockey fight?”

Yes. Like a hockey fight. That will do nicely! In a fit of enthusiasm I started firing off brainstorming ideas. She stopped me, asking, “Sorry, what’s ‘jerseying?’ ” As an American, she was unfamiliar with the term, but she promised to run everything I was saying by her Canadian editor later. That is when I knew I could have a lot of fun with this.

2007_memorial_cup_towelsI began the American knife fight with an explanation of the ground rules. I suppose I should do the same here:

  1. Every Canadian prime minister will be assigned to either the Liberal team –The Grits– or the Conservative team –The Tories– based on their politics. Players will not be allowed to fight with their own teammates, even if they really, really want to. (I’m thinking of Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien as I say that.)
  2. For the purposes of this mental exercise we shall imagine the two teams clearing their benches and fighting on the ice in an otherwise empty regulation-sized rink. The stands will be empty. The fight is happening whether the participants want it to happen or not, but how they act in the brawl is still very much up to them.
  3. For the sake of including the NDP even though they have never formed a government, the two most famous NDP leaders, Jack Layton and Ed Broadbent, will act as referees.
  4. As the vast majority of readers are going to be more familiar with the most recent prime ministers, I shall walk through the characters in reverse chronological order.
  5. On that note, I do not expect readers to know much at all about many of these figures, so I expect each prime minister will end up getting a lengthier write up than was the case with the American presidents. When I wrote about JFK, people did not need to be brought up to speed. Lester B. Pearson might need some context, even thought they were contemporaries.

With all that said, let’s go!

trudeauboxing

Credit CTV.

Justin Trudeau
#23 Liberal

Canada’s current Prime Minister is the perfect person to start off a conversation about fisticuffs. We literally have video footage of him winning a boxing match against a larger Tory opponent narrated by an arch-conservative pundit who grows less and less enthralled as the match goes on. The younger Trudeau is a trained pugilist, a natural athlete, one of the youngest men on this hypothetical sheet of ice, and his father will be there to have his back. I expect he will cut a path through the Tories until Stephen Harper explains to some of his Tory teammates just what the Trudeau boys are all about. Hockey fights tend to be one-on-one, but in bench-clearing brawls, four or five guys might join forces to mess up our PM’s pretty face. It would be quite a sight to see, though!

Stephen Harper
#22 Conservative

harperhockey

Credit Huffington Post.

Canada’s most recent conservative prime minister is an unapologetic hockey nerd. While governing Canada with a firm hand for almost a decade, he still managed to carve out enough time to write a deep and dense academic tome on the history of hockey in Toronto from 1906 to 1911. Stephen Harper is going to love playing some old-timey hockey with some old-timey Conservatives. He’s going to be pissed that the game is being interrupted for a bench-clearing brawl, and he’s going to be super-pissed that Young Justin is doing better than people thought he would. Stephen hates when that happens.

Now some say Stephen Harper isn’t a scrapper, but that man ruled his party with an iron fist for so long they are still trying to pick up the pieces now that he’s gone. The man is used to getting what he wants, and he wants to win! On the ice, he’s going to drop his gloves, square off with at least one of the Trudeaus, and I have no doubt he will do The West proud. The question is, will the rest of the Tories be able to help him?

Paul Martin
# 21 Liberal

paul-martin-budget-parliament-1997-4397768-tom-hanson-cp

Credit Canadian Business

The fact that I cannot easily find a picture of former prime minister Paul Martin wearing a hockey jersey for a Canadian team does not bode well for him in this blog post. Another thing that isn’t going to go well for him? I distinctly remember when he was prime minister, the yard signs during the federal election read, “Team Martin” in huge letters with “Liberal Party of Canada” in itty-bitty print down in the bottom right-hand corner. When Paul Martin was in charge, he purged his party of all of his predecessor’s people and tried to remake the Big Red Machine in his own image. The Big Red Machine then proceeded to break down spectacularly.

I somehow expect playing on a team made up of the pistons and cogs of the Big Red Machine is not going to work out well for Martin.

Now I have already said in the rules of this hypothetical exercise that Paul Martin is not allowed to sucker punch Jean Chrétien when he is not looking, but that is not to say he isn’t going to skate up behind him with his fist cocked until he is intercepted by Jack Layton and Ed Broadbent. On the whole sheet of ice, that will be the only fight they break up before even a blow is swung.

Martin will demand, “Who the hell do you think you are?”

Jack will politely point out he very nearly became prime minister because the Liberals spent ten years in the wilderness recovering from Martin’s tenure as party leader. Shaken, Martin will spend the rest of the brawl on the bench trying to scribble out legacy-saving memoirs on the coach’s white board while staring daggers at his former boss and muttering, “It’s all his fault!” Who am I talking about? A man named…

Jean Chrétien
#20 Liberal

shawinigan-handshake

Credit Toronto Star

The man. The legend. The inventor of the “Shawinigan Handshake” where you grab your opponent by the throat and shake him like a rag doll until he blacks out or apologizes for invading your personal space.

I really like Chrétien’s chances in a hockey brawl. I really do.

A quick pass through his Wikipedia page offers still more promises of on-ice mayhem: As a young man, Chrétien was renowned for his love of violence. He was the neighbourhood bully, known to be quick with a punch and possessing a, quote, “Atrocious temper.”

When asked by a journalist what he was best at when he was in school, he replied, “Street fighting.”

Well, Jean grew up to be a big boy indeed. Six feet tall may not seem that exceptional, but he is also strong as an ox: When I was a student, I had a picture taped up on my dorm room wall of him carrying three two-fours of beer by himself up a flight of stairs in the West Block of Parliament in Ottawa. It was a very Canadian picture. On the ice, I expect him to be a natural two-fisted fighter without a lot of patience for sizing up his opponents or thinking about his footwork. When he does go down, he will go down swinging. Hopefully he will have his deaf ear turned towards Martin cheering from the Grits’ bench.

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Beginning – Intro and First Chapter

February 17, 2017

Cover - FinalFinally, here’s my most recent novel. It’s the first of a trilogy, and I am happy to say I have now completed the first draft of the second book. I expect it will be edited and published sometimes this coming summer.

The premise of this story is a little different than Inca or Zulu. Instead of the decline and fall of a relatively little-known civilization, I decided to write a series of books where each chapter would be something from history that I enjoy, but I will never write a whole novel about it. To achieve this, I came up with a framing device that borrows a little bit from the playful mcguffins Kurt Vonnegut was so famous for:

Beginning is the story of a man who has been alive since the last Ice Age. Living in the present day high up in the foothills of the Himalayas, he buys a tape recorder and starts dictating his memoirs as fast as he can while he awaits the arrival of a mysterious visitor who may finally be the death of him.

Here’s the Intro and First Chapter:

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Zulu – First Chapter

February 17, 2017

Cover_AmazonNext up is the first chapter for my second novel, Zulu. This was actually the first novel I wrote, but I published it second after pretty extensive rewrites in my late-twenties. While watching the movies Zulu and Zulu Dawn, I found myself wishing I could read about the Anglo-Zulu War from the Zulu perspective. The more I learned about the Zulu, the more impressed I was with their history, their culture, and their achievements. This was an iron age kingdom with a cattle-based economy on the cusp of a Golden Age that held off the British Empire for six aching months before they were crushed.

Here’s the First Chapter:

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Inca – Prologue and First Chapter

February 17, 2017

Cover_ImprovedAs I mentioned earlier in the week, I expect there’s going to be a spike in traffic to this blog in the coming days. A friend recommended I should put up sample chapters of my novels. I will start with Inca, which is my most popular book to date. It really seems to have found a home with people going to Peru as tourists, as it isn’t a travel guide or a text book.

It’s the life story of a high-ranking Inca bureaucrat: He is born into wealth and privilege; he spends his early adulthood living as a fugitive from Imperial justice; his middle years see him watch the Empire he loves tear itself apart, and by his old age he lives in the ruin of his life’s work, telling a Spanish friar to write down what he has to say so that through his words, his people will be remembered.

Here’s the Prologue and First Chapter:

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My (Belated) Favourite 15 Tweets of 2015 and 16 Tweets of 2016

February 14, 2017

toptweetsHello again everyone,

Once upon a time I made a regular habit of picking out my favourite tweets of the previous year and posting them on this site. Here are the posts for 2010, 2011, and 2012. I did 2013 & 2014 as a combined post, as I am now doing 2015 and 2016 together.

I have my tweets from @faceintheblue set up to automatically post as Facebook updates, so I get a lot of enjoyment from micro-blogging: It keeps me writing even when I only have a few seconds; it gives me something to look back on to reflect upon; it lets me engage with friends and strangers.

Anyway, if I am going to start building new content into this blog, I suppose resurrecting this little tradition will be a good place to start. It’s worth pointing out Twitter now allows line breaks in exchange for a character, so some of these tweets will use that freedom to allow multi-line structure.

Here are my favourites from the last couple of years. Enjoy!

 

My Favourite 15 Tweets of 2015

Feb 21, 2015

Through a Toucan Sam-like ability to follow my nose, I have found a bar specializing in local craft beer. I am establishing base camp…

(I tweeted this upon my first visit as an adult to Atlanta, Georgia. The beer was excellent.)

April 3, 2015

Saw my first guy out in shorts non-ironically: His legs are the same sun-starved white as his tube socks. #Toronto #SpringHasSprung.

(Spring in Toronto is often a fickle, tentative thing.)

June 8, 2015

This is a lot of rain, #Toronto. I’m pretty sure there’s a field mouse equivalent of Noah leading earthworms two by two into a shoebox ark.

July 24, 2015

A friend and I were talking politics at lunch with such gusto that the guy at the table next to us bought us a round and paid for our meal!

September 5, 2015

I have a theory that my cat’s joy in life is eating spiders while I’m away. In four and a half years I’ve never seen a spider in my home.

September 27, 2015

I just caught myself having an opinion about soup spoons: I prefer a broad, shallow bowl. Child-Me is appalled at what Adult-Me cares about.

September 30, 2015

That raccoon (or “trash panda” as I’ve lately heard them called) was the size of an obese border collie. I’m crossing the street. #Toronto

October 3, 2015

Forgot to buy cat food yesterday. My cat is having cat treats for breakfast. This does not bode well for my hypothetical future children…

October 10, 2015

Ah, the old ‘Visit your parents on Thanksgiving weekend with a suitcase of dirty laundry’ trick. It’s a classic!

October 29, 2015

Co-workers have discovered a service that rents kittens by 15-min increments. A new office threat? “I’m going to rent you so many kittens!”

November 12, 2015

#FIFA’s presidential candidates sound like Bond villains: Prince Ali Al Hussein? Jérôme Champagne? Gianni Infantino? Tokyo Sexwale? C’mon!

November 14, 2015

Thoughts on the flight: The distance between Air Canada Rouge’s seat rows is exactly equal to the length of my femur. Ask how I know that?

November 15, 2015

Disconcerting: When my drycleaner puts a note in with my suits & shirts saying, “Sorry, this is the best we can do”  but nothing is wrong.

(I never did figure out what was wrong.)

November 22, 2015

Half of the conversations at antique fairs are customers telling exhibitors what they would do if they were exhibitors instead of customers.

December 10, 2015

My co-worker has taken ordering food online too far: He just had a cup of coffee delivered by bike messenger. He’s gone mad with power.

My Favourite 16 Tweets of 2016

January 9, 2016

I’m a bachelor. I don’t know how to shop for babies. I’m about to give a 3-month-old a copy of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. He’ll grow into it…

February 20, 2016

There must be a class at Barber College about hating sideburns. I asked to keep mine as I sat down. “What? You want-a look-a like Elvis?!”

March 17, 2016

An old man asked if I was in line. I told him there’s no line at the bar.

“Aye? Then it’s a race, then!” He said.

I won.

#StPats

(This was on St. Patrick’s Day at a crowded Irish pub. I ruled that place with an iron fist. No one seems to understand the importance of eye contact, tipping early and well, and knowing what you want when it comes to getting a bartender to serve you over someone else.)

March 31, 2016

Shooting some of the best pool of my life on a first date. This was not the plan.

April 21, 2016

I’m trying to think of the last time I bought new underwear when I was not also out of clean underwear. So far nothing. #BachelorLife

(The hashtag #BachelorLife is a barrel of laughs, by the way.)

April 24, 2016

Just thinking about lucky rabbit feet: How lucky can they be? The rabbits had four apiece, and it didn’t do them any good.

May 22, 2016

I just passed a man walking a dog so pregnant the word ‘gravid’ came to me unbidden. That was one gravid bitch, technically speaking.

May 27, 2016

Some say I chose the Procrastinator’s Life. I disagree. The Procrastinator’s Life chose me… Eventually.

June 17, 2016

Sentences you don’t expect to say? I’ve joined my mother & father at a high-end hotdog joint to hear what Dad describes as, “A Hootenanny.”

(Note: This may have been tweeted after midnight on the 18th. If so, I stayed at the ‘hootenanny’ for a long time. It was a lot of fun!)

June 18, 2016

After the first stop, the only free seat on an otherwise sold-out bus is the one next to me. I feel like a leper: A leper with elbow room.

June 23, 2016

If I can liken my work computer to a dog –and I believe I can– it is starting to look like the last twenty minutes of Old Yeller in here.

(I did not end up having to put my computer down.)

July 8, 2016

‘By the skin of my teeth’ is an expression in the Bible. Exactly how much dental plaque do you need before you start calling it skin?

August 9, 2016

Trump gets that it’s not a dog whistle if everyone can hear him, right? I’d make a slide whistle joke, but he’s in trombone country now.

(This was when Trump said Second Amendment People should do something about Clinton after she wins the election.)

September 24, 2016

It’s interesting how often men in their 60s refer to table salt as ‘White Death.’ Oh, they still eat it, but they know they’re doing wrong.

October 20, 2016

“Trivia starts in 15 minutes. It can get a little loud.”

“That’s my fault,”” I admit.

The cafe’s polite laughter confirms it is true.

November 20, 2016

Baileys on the rocks? Check.

Music from 30-300 years before my birth? Check.

Very old Santa hat? Check.

Let’s decorate a Xmas Tree!

#HoHoHo


Not Quite a Shaggy Dog Story

February 14, 2017

border_collie_liver_portraitHello everyone,

I have reason to believe there is going to be a spike in traffic to this blog in the next few days. I will have more to say about about that after it happens, no doubt. In the meantime, I have not done much with this blog in some time. Now I have a very good excuse: I’ve written the first draft of another book since my last post, so how much time should I have put into this blog instead of that project? Still, I want to do a few posts between now and the arrival of a wave of first-time visitors.

I thought I would open with a joke, but for my own amusement it will be a long and rambling one that walks the edge of being a shaggy dog story. I saw a version of this on Reddit a few months back, and I enjoyed horrifying friends and family with my own rendition over the Christmas holidays. I encourage anyone who makes it all the way to the end to make this their own joke to torture people with: Put your own spin on it –make it longer or shorter as needed. This is a storyteller’s joke, so don’t be afraid to put some mustard on it.

Here goes:

There once was a farmer –well, a shepherd really. He was good at what he did, and he was fortunate as well. Over the years he managed to build up his flock from about forty sheep in the beginning to seven hundred and ninety-three sheep by his middle years through hard work, an abiding understanding of the fundamentals of animal husbandry, a local vet, and a faithful sheepdog. The shepherd and his sheepdog were damned near inseparable, and the shepherd gave the sheepdog equal credit in their shared success over the years.

Still, sheepdogs do not live forever, and when the old dog started becoming truly an old dog, the shepherd started thinking about how he was going to make do with seven hundred and ninety-three sheep and no sheepdog. To be honest with you, even one dog even in the peak of physical fitness really had its paws full running all over hill and dale all day every day gathering up all those sheep. The shepherd starts wondering if maybe he has to buy a whole litter of sheepdogs to replace his current sheepdog when the time comes. It sounds expensive and exhausting. If only there was a way he could make do with one new dog, but it seemed impossible.

One day the shepherd is talking about his problem with that local vet I mentioned earlier. “I mean, when I started, one dog and forty sheep made perfect sense. But how is one new dog supposed to round up seven hundred and ninety-three sheep?”

“It can be done,” the vet says.

“Really?”

“Oh, yes. You’d be amazed what the latest breeders are training their dogs to do. You wouldn’t even have to bring this new dog up to speed. It’ll cost a little more, but I can definitely recommend someone with a dog that will suit your needs.”

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