Sunday, April 23, 2017

Referendum Neverendum

I always thought Mr. Bellows looked a lot like Lucien Bouchard.
As disastrous as the U.S. election was (with political repercussions yet to be perceived), there’s at least some semblance of recovery, even in the face of overwhelming opposition against the status quo, the Brexit situation is just as unnerving.  Other countries are now attempting to separate out of sheer distaste of the surrounding countries they’re associated with.  It’s as if the older generation were disfranchised with the advantages Millennials got, and instead of taking to heart of all the sacrifices their ancestors made to provide for their current state of living, instead decided that the current generation is simply too soft, and needs another war in order to appreciate what they already have.  The current political situation overseas is bringing up painful memories of ages long past.  I may not be alone, as others may also be experiencing trigger warnings from current events.

In the mid-90s, there was a humour columnist in the same vein as Dave Barry, Josh Freed, who coined the term, Referendum Neverendum to describe the constant votes in the Province of Quebec on whether to secede from Canada.  Believing that Quebec wasn’t as respected as the rest of Canada, the PQ (Parti Quebecois) Party felt that they would gain more respect as a singular country, despite not having any definite plans for future prospects,  jobs or even a replacement currency.  In the words of one of the PQ’s more popular members, Lucien Bouchard said, “Canada is not a Real Country.

To get an understanding of the kind of political turmoil that was typical around the 1970's, refresh your memory of the October Crisis.  Outbursts of violence were rare, which made the situation even more tense, because there was so much pent-up frustration just waiting to be unleashed.  1995 was an extremely tense time in Quebec, because it was the closest the Separatists ever came to actually separating from Canada.  Originally intended to hold a Referendum in spring, plans were pushed back until they could finalize an appropriate question that would cover all possible loopholes and leave no room for negotiation.  The accepted wisdom was to wait until ‘Winning Conditions’ were favorable.  An Air Farce skit (the Canadian equivalent to Saturday Night Live) had then Separatist leader, Jacques Parizeau hem and haw over which month would be the best month to hold a Referendum election.  He tore through a calendar, rejecting various months over reasons one or another.  “February?  Too short.  March?  Too windy.  April?  Too wet.  (...)  July?  Too hot.  August?  Too close to July.  (...)  November?  Never hold a Referendum in a month with the word NO in it.  That brings us to December.  Having settled on a definite month to hold a Referendum, I have yet to decide on which year.”  While intended as a joke, the actual date for the Referendum was on October 30th 1995, over six months past the first planned date, drawing out the suspense.

In addition to being cagey with the Referendum date, the PQ was notorious for creating an overly complicated questionnaire over whether to Separate or be part of Canada.  Just read the following and see if it makes sense:
Do you agree that Québec should become sovereign, after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership, within the scope of the Bill respecting the future of Québec and of the agreement signed on 12 June 1995?
It couldn't be any simpler!  If the people could actually understand that impenetrable labyrinth of Bureaucracy Gobbledygook, stonewalling sanctions couldn't get passed, and nothing would actually get done.  This wasn't the only bag of dirty tricks employed - devoted believers made their contribution by de-voting election results in rejecting ballots for the ‘No’ side, over claims that they weren’t sufficiently “checked in” properly, according to the whims of the zealous administrators.

Canada was visibly unnerved at the prospect of Quebec potentially separating from them that mass numbers of them flew over via Air Canada at a mass rally to show their solidarity with this sole wacky Province.  Ontario may be considered the so-called brain, but Quebec is the Heart.  Only 15,000 people were flown over, but more curious spectators showed up to bolster their support.  If other countries had done the same, instead of heavily relying on their superior knowledge that everything would proceed as business as usual, would Brexit still have happened?
Answer: e.  Rally?  What rally?
Among the conditions for allowing Quebec to separate from Canada was a consensus of an average of a 50% plus one vote.  Quebec voted with 50.58% NON to 49.42% OUI.  It cannot be overstated or emphasized enough:  the results were VERY CLOSE.  Parizeau then blamed the results on “money and the ethnic vote”, which forced his early retirement.  (Even in a Multi-Cultural society like Canada, a lot of resentment stems from being uncomfortable around the presence of immigrants)  There were suspicions that the mass migration of Canadian citizens across the Provinces cost them the Referendum.  After that, enthusiasm to separate has largely died off, and promises of separating no longer have the same appeal to younger voters than it did to the half of the population back then.  Indeed, there’s a lot of grumbling over the redundant need to separate in the first place.

But that hasn’t stopped the Separatists from trying their damned best to try to get their points across, no matter how much it hurts their bottom line.  One of the more zealous hard-liners was Premier Bernard Landry, who was famous for his outbursts and losing his temper, and calling the Canadian Flag “A Red Rag”.  One small newspaper article at the time had a story about a laundromat that suffered some bizarre damage.  The headline read: Laundry Explodes, and at the time, I thought that Landry got so upset over something or other that he Spontaneously Combusted.

For all of Landry's bluster, the most visible face of the PQ remained Lucien Bouchard, who remained popular, despite failing to deliver on his Fairy-tale promises.  Ironically enough, for a man who was relentlessly parodied on Air Farce for making mock Nazi salutes, and his preference for Arrowroot Cookies (normally reserved for babies), his saving grace was in resigning from his party when there was negative associations with Anti-Semetic elements.  That alone elevated his status in my eyes when his previous attempts were aimed at fighting for a doomed cause.

It was our hope that after the dismal failure of the PQ and the Bloq Quebecois that there would never be another Referendum that could potentially break up Canada.  Why spoil a good thing?  Even with the influx of old-timers who long for the day when Quebec is a solely French country, the most they can muster up is a mere 36%, nowhere close to what they'd need to convince another needless election.  But the division of countries like Britain and Scotland is bring attention to this dead horse issue again, in the faint hopes that if they succeed where they failed, then maybe there's still hope.  I, for one, don't look forward to such a possibility.  I don't want these countries to fall to ruin over misplaced pride, but I also don't want my country to be broken up over something so trivial.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Harry Potter Relay

Lately, I've been going through my old stuff, transferring whatever files I have that are still readable onto new memory devices before they get infected or die out from data rot, viruses or planned obsolescence.  In the process of digging through, I came across an old story in 2006, back when Harry Potter was exploding in popularity in the form of a Fanfic between two artists, Ryuuen and Akane.   The former using full-body style art, and the latter using Chibi-like art.  (If either artist wants said offending images removed due to embarrassment, let me know)

Now, back then, I wasn't entirely privy to the risks and rigours of the Internet, being fearful of potential Trojans, Worms and Spies attached to downloadable material, and the thought of having my saved pics be available for the world to see (on the Family Computer, no less) was something of a major dilemma.  Not to mention I didn't like the idea of having to constantly click to enlarge the image every time.  So, I would copy the image, and then paste it on a Word document, which I could then view at my leisure later.

This wasn't always perfect, since it involved having to open said images in Internet Explorer first (Netscape wouldn't allow it for some reason), and there would be an annoying downtime for the picture to load  To counter this, I would scroll past all the pages I'd already done, and then go all the way back up and read from the start.  I had entire volumes of Hikaru no Go and 20th Century Boys done like this before I figured out more efficient ways of viewing these stories.  (The data space for the Word documents holding these volumes were bigger than the individual pages themselves)

While pasting the images in Word substitute programs was relatively simple, retrieving said images was more of a pain.  I had to highlight said image, then choose the Edit Image option, and THEN paste said image onto a Paint document for easy viewing.  This was the same strategy I employed to retrieve my Sprite WebComics earlier.

The process to undergo this was labourous and time-consuming, and I didn't begin to seriously consider undertaking a hefty project until the prospect of losing such things became a very real possibility.  That, and my Vista computer is currently disconnected from the Internet.  I couldn't connect even if I wanted to.  (And I want to)

Technically, there IS another HP relay comic out there, but most of it (by the author's admission) is pretty lousy, and she says doesn't exactly improve until the 20th installment.  Considering that there's only 32 parts so far (since 2007!), reading that is an optimal endurance course.  And nowhere near as fun or interesting as the pages I've got here.

More silliness after the cut:

Friday, April 14, 2017

Chew Your Ears Off

When a comic has a long shelf life lasting beyond the first year of their life, some strange traditions may pop up entirely up to the cartoonist's whims.  These can result in lengthy inside jokes appealing to longtime readers who notice such things.  Peanuts had Lucy pulling away the football before Charlie Brown could kick it.  BC had his annual Easter Bonnet, later traded for Visual Religious Metaphors.  And Sally Forth has her tradition with eating Chocolate Easter Bunny.  But not HER Easter Bunny, but preferably, somebody else, most likely her daughter.

The tradition continues with Francesco Marciuliano and Jim Keefe who've carried on the strip after its creator Greg Howard retired in 1999.  The Easter comics they've done since then are available for online viewing, but records of the originator's are hard to come by.  I've been scouring through online archives, trying to find any instances of Sally indulging in her sadistic pastime behavior.  Even with a narrow timeframe of Weekends in April, it wasn't always an exact science.  Some Easter comics would show up at the tail end of March, and there were a lot of holes not of my making.  Starting out, Sally Forth was Syndicated in 1981 in roughly 200 papers, this comic from 1983 is the earliest instance of Sally's Chocoholicsm popping up.

Another thing to consider was that not every Easter was cause celebre for Sally to indulge in her guilty indulgence.  Below is a rare Easter comic that doesn't necessarily have any instance of cruelty to Chocolate Animals and little girls.  There might've been an ear-biter comic sometime earlier, but the lack of available sources prevent me from finding out.  I'm lucky enough to even have this example available in the first place.

After that, there's a big fat hole where 1985 should be, so we skip over to 1986.  The keen observer will note that the Father is using crutches in the last two panels.  Ted's crutches are the result of his breaking his leg while playing Basketball long past his required age, dealing a severe blow to his masochism.  A rare instance of Sunday comics synchronorizing up with the dailies.
This next entry wasn't found online, but in one of Sally Forth's few collections, A Woman's Work is Never Done.  It was this particular comic that I noticed a certain pattern emerge.  Also, the collection is one of the few that actually leaves their dates available in the margins, otherwise, I'd be agonizing over whether this appeared in 1985 or 1987.  A quick purview at a calendar narrowed down the choices rather quickly.
Over time, Hillary would devise more and more elaborate safeguards against her valued chocolate bunny, which, very much in the vein of Wily E. Coyote's inventions, were constantly squelched through unconventional means.
With Sally constantly eating her beloved bunny ears, Hillary started getting more and more desperate in her attempts to ward her mother off.  Whether it was in the process of using decoys...
...hiding them in elaborate places...
...or giving in to the inevitable, she never quite got ahead.
This ordeal wasn't made any easier with having to constantly deal with her Mother's constant casual snark.
After this point, there's an entire gap in the years 1993 to 1996, where no Sally Forth Sundays could be found.  Fortunately, I was able to catch the tail end of the Easter comics before the turn of the Millennium.
As we can see, things haven't changed that much.  Hillary still has her trademark twin ponytails, and Sally still has her mystical ability to find any cocoa-flavored animals within the confines of the house, much to her daughter's consternation.
This comic below is arguably where Greg Howard leaves the comic for good, since the trademark cursive name at the bottom, Mac, is left all on his lonesome and Greg's name is only included in the throwaway panel.  That throwaway panel is exactly why I've included it here, purely for the sake of completeness.  If you want to see what happens next, you're free to click the earlier link up above, or choose it here:
There was an Easter update on April 9th this year, but it was more of a prologue of things to come.  Will Hillary be able to foil her absurdly singular talented Mother this year?  Don't be ridiculous.

Fixing the Sound Barrier

It's been a harrowing three weeks for me.  For months, I'd been receiving warnings that my Vista computer - that I'd been using for years with minor problems (a broken fan, the occasional data dump crash, caught viruses), would no longer be getting any updates.  After weeks of a yellow warning, that day of no further updates finally came.  To prepare myself for the possible inevitability that I'd no longer be using ol' reliable, I'd been saving as much of my recent files as possible, including the stuff I'd burned on CD and DVD on another laptop computer.  Especially after finding out to my horror that the old stuff that was saved in my LAST computer crash and backed up via sixteen CDs (computers had less memory back then) was getting harder to read, and had suffered data rot.

Of the burned stuff, only one DVD wasn't readable, but it was only contained a single obscure Anime title, Azuka Will Help, which I have no memory of, so there's not much lost there.  And the single corrupted comic image I had was easily found.

I'd been dreading the prospect of using Windows 10, after being less than impressed with their presentation (along with everybody else) and not liking their inability to have multiple folders conform to the same file settings, an uncomfortable image viewer, and no classic mode.  Fortunately, there are programs out there that'll allow me to reuse the efficient older versions, so I have some semblance of optimism there.

But that's not the main electronic device that made me upset to my stomach.  My Right Hearing Aid - the one I mostly depend on, since it's my good hearing ear - went on the fritz. When I put it on, there was a persistent whistling that drove me nuts.  I went to get it fixed, which took several hours.  Getting to the place, then waiting for my turn, getting replacement tubes, and waiting some more while they fiddled around with the thing.

At first, I thought the problem was solved, until it was found out that the whistling was internal. Ironically enough, when it wasn't whistling inside, it was whistling outside, where everybody else could hear. And when it whistled inside, nobody else but me could hear it.  At the time, I thought the main problem was that I needed new hearing molds, made out of silicone, which I hadn't done in a long time either.  This wasn't fully figured out until I was already at home, long after closing time, and the repair shop was closed on the weekend.  Anyways, I needed a replacement hearing aid - FAST.

However, in order to do so, I needed a recent audiologist report, which I hadn't had in about several years, the new regulations preventing my annual checkups to become routine.  I needed to take a hearing test to prove that I haven't been faking my Deafness all my life.  Well, okay, the actual reason is that a form is required to show that I'm still active, and in need of aid, but I like my explanation better.

Somehow, a requested rush test was requested, which wouldn't become available until the tester was available too, which meant several weeks of delays. And in the meantime, I only had one working hearing aid on my left ear. The whole while, I was dreading my remaining hearing aid going on the fritz too, since it hadn't been upgraded in a long time either. If THAT one went too, I'd be in BIG TROUBLE.

So when the available appointment time came, I was notably upset, because it was raining that day, and had been raining all that week too. And I hate getting wet.  A consistent running joke around this time of year is that I preface the lousy weather by proclaiming, "At least it's not snowing so hard we can't make a fire".  Only people who didn't devotedly read a certain newspaper strip growing up understand the reference.  (i.e., my parents)

The only way for me to get there on time was to take a train that would have me be there an hour early, when I could've used that time for doing other stuff. So I went there, had a quick lunch from a nearby place that sells Amazing Pita Gyros. (I always request them to leave the sauce off, which I can't stand, and have had to check to make sure they followed my instructions, which they don't always do) As good as it was, it wasn't what I Really was in the mood for - General Tao Chicken, which was all the way on the opposite side of town, and would've been a time-wasting a delay that I couldn't afford the risk of.

So lunch rolled over, the secretary came, and figured that I'd be called upon anytime soon. I waited five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes. At the half-hour mark, I was getting nervous and irritated. I looked for the secretary, but she wasn't at her desk. When she showed up sometime later, I asked where the person doing my test was.

Turns out she forgot to tell my hearing tester that I was going to be seeing her THAT DAY.

After some pained internal screaming and wondering how she could've messed up something so laughably simple, was told that she would see me an hour from now. Which Really grated on my nerves - I could've picked up my General Tao order without any consequences. Now I had to wait another twenty minutes or so for my long-delayed appointment to come up.

I passed the time fuming, pacing the hallways, unwilling to allow myself the luxury of sitting still, filled with pent-up energy with no outlet to release them. After going up and down the stairs several times, my tester finally came. I was able to pass off my irritation through good humour, and got into the minuscule sounding booth where I finally took my test with bulky headphones over my glasses, and clicked the buzzer whenever I heard any sounds I figured didn't come from the ringing in my ears.

It took about maybe 15-20 minutes.

After that, it was just a matter of sending the report over to my Hearing Aid center, and I'd get my new hearing aid.  But before that, I went to get my long-neglected order of General Tao Chicken.  The place I go to puts something resembling pure MSG in their sauce, and I go into withdrawal symptoms if I don't eat it on a regular basis.  The downside to this was that eating two takeouts on the same day was extremely heavy on my stomach, and I didn't sleep well that night.

When the report was finally available at the Hearing Aid center, I eagerly went for my latest appointment, looking forward to getting my regular hearing back.  After being handicapped at half strength for so long, they helped me out by giving me a minor hearing test on my right ear to reassure my fear that I wouldn't hear anything out of there ever again.  However, the business had long since switched owners since I was a baby, and the new people in charge weren't as familiar with me as the old ones were, who I'd maintained a sort of familiarity with.  The procedure consisted of taking my hearing aids off, inserting some kind of hearing wire inside my ear (after checking inside my ears using a light - I never know what they're looking for inside there), and then pushing my hearing aid inside.

The procedure took multiple tries, and my frustration wasn't alleviated any by the handler who simply didn't have any idea of the proper way to squeeze in a hearing aid mold, obviously never having worn one himself.  I told him that the trick was to turn it, like an oddly-shaped key, not wedge it in, like an unusual square block in a round hole.  But he didn't take my words to heart, no matter how many times I told him.  That, and for someone supposedly used to talking to hard-of-hearing people, I had a tremendously difficult time understanding him.  (He hardly moved his mouth or gestured while he talked)

If it weren't for the presence of another co-worker who was familiar with me, who faced me, and clearly explained the process to me, I'd be much more frustrated than usual.  She said the wires was supposed to help gauge my hearing range, and vaseline would be applied over my new molds to make them easier to slide in and out.  After that, it was a simple matter of hearing the familiar testing beeping sounds increasing in pitch and frequency along the likes of "Do doo doo Doo DOo DOO TOO TOo Too To to."  (It loses a lot in the retelling)

Once the range of my hearing was programmed into my replacement hearing aid (which would've cost me upwards of $400 without proof) I was able to feel a contented breath of relief.  Even if my new hearing aid has a new on switch I'm not accustomed to, and the battery placement is still perplexingly enough, opens right on top of the ear mold, making exchanging expired batteries more difficult than they should be.

Long story short - I've got a new hearing aid now, and don't have to worry that I'm getting any deafer in one ear, and my remaining hearing aid could potentially self-destruct any moment now.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Holiday Hostage

Generally, I don't enjoy going to parties.  The preparation of food and clean-up (before and after) tends to stress me out to no end.  If I am ever invited to a ritual where my presence is required or mandatory, I take great pains to mentally prepare myself for the upcoming ordeal.  If at all possible, I check to make sure that I'm able to get away under my own power.  Preferably via bike or public transportation.  This gets trickier when bad weather gets involved, since it greatly interferes with my options.  "Always have an Escape Route handy" is my motto in these situations.

The exception is when doing small-scale celebrations within my family.  The pressure isn't as intense to impress everybody using fancy silverware that's used in occasions like these to show how smart and sophisticated we all are, as opposed to the rest of the year.  this includes Hannukah and Passover... and that's pretty much it.

One aspect about celebrating holidays that aren't part of the public conscious is that there are certain aspects of traditional traditions that can sound utterly perplexing when heard for the first time.  In Passover, one of these is the haggling over the Afikoman, a sort of dry After-Dinner Mint made of unleavened bread.  This is generally left to the eldest child, and is really their first foray into bargaining over a deal.
Mother: Hmmmm.... we seem to be missing the essential Afikoman, which we need to complete the meal.
Could you give it back?
Child: What's something like this worth to you?
Mother: It's VERY important.  Without it, we can't finish our desert.  We'll just be eating until we're stuffed.
Child: Doesn't sound that bad to me.
Mother: Without it, we would have to keep up reciting prayers up until 3:00 AM.  You really want to continue the service until that late?
Child: Well, I wouldn't mind trading it for the latest gaming system.
Mother: Too expensive.
Child: Uh - wha?  But I thought -
Mother: Try asking for something more reasonable.
Child: Well - how about this new hot game?
Mother: Is it over $50?
Child: A little but -
Mother: Then choose something under that range.
Child: WAIT!  How about I pay for half, and you pony up the rest?
Mother: How will you pay for it?
Child: I've got gift certificates.  I've got monies from other relatives I haven't spent yet.  I'll do odd jobs to make up the rest.
Mother: How's this - I'll pay for the game in whole if you'll clean my sink, weed the garden and walk the dog for a year.
Child: Make it six months and you've got a deal.
Nine months.
Child: Eight.  I wanna play that game sometime.
Mother: You've got it.  Now, hand it over.
Child: Here you go.
(Inwardly from both sides)  Sucker.

Seeing as this was potentially the last time I'd ever get the chance at hiding the Afikoman ever again, since my Sister's Baby would now be hogging the spotlight for this ritual, I figured I might as well go the full hog in one last blast of spontaneous creativity.  Much like the tail end of video games on a console (Startropics 2, Legend of Zelda Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages, Shantae)

Of course, this was no easy task, since from where I was sitting, my corner of the table meant having to brush past at least two people who'd have to get up from their seats to make room for me.
My attempts at subterfuge was constantly thwarted, since it was noticed that I was getting up from the table more often than usual.

I hastily wrote down a ransom note on several pieces of scrap paper to put them in place of the Afikoman's easily exploitable hiding place.  I had to use several, since I made the mistake of writing too large.  But otherwise, my illegible writing wouldn't have been readable.

I was inspired by my Dad recording the baby eating the new foodstuff and having watched several Police Procedural TV shows.  At the moment of discovery of the Afikoman's absence, I'd suggest "reviewing the tapes" to see if there was any forensic evidence.  This was further bolstered by the presence of a friend of mine who was studying to become a policeman.  This last line wouldn't have been too much of a deterrence, since technically, he wasn't a cop yet.

My plan was to ham up the presentation as much as possible, denying all allegations of guilt, even though I "might" be close to sources who knew somebody who knew something.  Ask my rent-a-cop buddy if he could gleam any clues from the notes, down to a handwriting analysis and fingerprints.  If mine were found, I'd claim that I handled the paper, same as anybody else.  Maybe you should be looking into THEM instead!

Sadly, as with my lofty plans, this was stymied by the simple fact that said cop-in-training had to leave early.
"No problem", I figured.  At least my sister would be able to enjoy my harmless prank.
Fat chance.  Turns out she had to leave before her baby started getting cranky(ier).

I was barely able to rush out of the bathroom before they left without further knowledge of my intentions, and showed them the ransom note and all the implications I intended.  My family had a good laugh at my expense, which was the most I could hope for.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

I'd Murder for a Burger, Wouldn't You?

Before Adam@Home settled into it's regular grove of a stay-at-home dad, it was simply known as the singular name, Adam.  And like other comics just finding their groove, Adam entered an instance of Early Installment Weirdness.  What's particularly unusual about this is that it happened during its second year.

This was back before the birth of Baby Nick, which wouldn't have been possible with someone being further tethered to the house, though one later weekly story had the titular character seeking out wild times and validating his manliness through bungee-jumping.  This is NOT an exaggeration.

For it's mundane surroundings, there were some surprisingly long story arcs lasting months, including the numerous Dumpty Derby Weight-loss contests.  I plan to post these sometime later in the future once I've accumulated the many missing strips, all of them pre mid-1995, before the GoComics online archives.

In this long-forgotten arc, Adam is just sitting silently, not even bothering to do any household chores when opportunity knocks, or rather, strikes through a threatening violent advertisement.  Somehow, this spurs him on to seek employment at this Gangster-like Fast Food Franchise.  Don't question it - just go along with it.

Considering how cutthroat the Fast Food business is with any perceived competition, this representation may or may not be totally representative of the modus operandi behind the scenes.

Some of the thematic elements designed to accurately represent the historic renditions of the times seem to delve into literal overkill.

Of course, such a disturbance to the status quo can't possibly last forever, and Adam is quickly outed from his part-time job when he runs into the one person he most wanted to keep his secret vocation from, lest their relationship devolve into distrust as a result of keeping secrets from each other.

Once the couple get home, Laura gets into her grievances covering ground that wouldn't be considered a major issue for Tony Soprano:

And then - and THEN! - Adam engages into an amazing Mansplaining rant that HAS to be read to be believed.

After that height of absurdity, the denouement strips resolving the status quo are relatively tame in comparison.

When you're Hungry, and there's nothing to eat, What do you do?Just pout, sit around and stew?Go to the bar and have a few?Have a 'bout with a Kangaroo?I'd Murder for a Burger, Wouldn't You?