Trick or Treat?

On yesterday’s Halloween post, fellow cold-toast eater and bloggy friend, Loth, pointed out that:

Halloween is also a very long-standing tradition here in Scotland. We dressed up and went out as children, only back then it wasn’t called trick or treat (drat you pesky north americans!), it was called “guising”. When you knocked at your neighbour’s door, you didn’t just shout “Trick or treat” and expect sweets, you had to perform a party piece – a song, a joke or a poem. The local kids round here still all write a song and perform a sort of group dance on the doorstep – really cool!

Then she goes on to say that they didn’t have pumpkins, so they used to carve turnips.

TURNIPS! 

180px-Traditional_Irish_halloween_Jack-o'-lantern

This is an actual traditional Irish turnip jack-o-lantern that now lives in the Museum of Country Life in Ireland.

Apparently, Halloween is a lot of hard work in foreign countries and used to be a lot of work around here in the olden days, too.

Up until maybe the last 30 years, kids in North America were expected to perform before getting candy. And they all carried UNICEF boxes to collect spare change for kids less fortunate. Whatever happened to UNICEF boxes? And whatever happened to kids working a little for their candy?

Some really old people still ask the kids to sing for them before giving them that yummy home-made popcorn ball wrapped in waxed paper that get thrown in the trash as soon as the kid gets home because it probably contains pins and razor blades. Of course the kids just look at the old codger or coochie like they’re completely bonkers and run away.

Somewhere along the line kids got wise to the fact that singing and reciting Halloween poetry at every house takes up a lot of valuable candy collecting time. Now kids don’t even know that performing was ever part of the whole Halloween schtick. Now they barely say ”trick-or-treat” or even “hello”.  Now they just race around the neighbourhood hitting only the most well-lit and best decorated houses whose front door isn’t too far from the sidewalk.

When I say “race”, I don’t mean that in a figurative sense, I mean they literally race. They’re running full out. They push by other kids. They jostle for position on the front step of the house. If there are a lot of kids at the door already, they just run on by the house – it would take too long to wait behind all those kids. They may start out the evening with a group of friends, but if a friend can’t keep up they get left behind.

There’s no time to waste. They run up to the door, hope the homeowner is ready with a handful of candy so they don’t have to ring the bell, or godforbid, knock. They’re too out of breath to say anything, so they just hold open their sacks, get their stuff and run off. Most of the little ones still manage to yell out a “thank you” as they stumble off to the next house. The rest just flee in silence.

A lot of  parents follow their kids in a car or wait at the end of the block for them. In the back seat is a large Tupperware storage container so the kids can dump their sack at the end of every block. No kid wants to carry a 20 pound sack around all night – especially not since the tradition of shelling out cans of pop or those triangular plastic bags of coloured fluid became popular.

Seriously, what are people thinking giving kids cans of pop on Halloween? Or apples? Or oranges? No kid a) wants fruit for Halloween; and b) wants to carry around a couple of kilos of fruit; and c) would be allowed to eat that fruit even if they wanted to. Just stop it.

And stop with the home-made stuff, too.  It’s nice to mentally live in the 1940s and wrap up fudge and cookies and rice crispy squares to give to the kiddies, but these are pretty much guaranteed to go into the bin. It’s a waste. Sure, these nice people are probably not baking cookies with rat poison in them, but who knows?  Save the baked goodies for close friends.

I hope kids are still enjoying Halloween despite the new fast-paced trick-or-treating and the dangerous treats and the potentially dangerous people lurking in the dark. And I hope the weather is nice. Right now they’re saying a high of 15 degrees (60 F) which is great, but also a 60% chance of rain, which would suck.

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They’re all together ooky…

Two thousand years ago, in the land of the Celts, life was hard — a short, dirty brutal existence. But it was never so hard as during the long, harsh winters. Every year, when summer waned and the harvest had been brought in, the cold dark months inexorably slid in.

It was a time that struck fear into the hearts of men and women; young and old, because they knew many of them would not survive the days ahead. With a life expectancy of 7,000 days – less than 20 years — the beginning of winter held a special, though frightening place in their lives. Optimistically, this is when they celebrated the new year.

They built huge sacred bonfires in which they sacrificed part of their harvest and livestock in hopes that the Celtic deities would look favorably upon them and help them not join their dead ancestors too soon. The Celts wore costumes of animal heads and skins during this celebration. Their fires also helped light the way for the spirits of the dead. The Druids, or Celtic priests would gather by the fires and, with the help of the spirits of the dead (who were particularly present at this time of year) they made predictions about the future. They called this new year Samhain.

Eventually, Christians conquered the land of the Celts, but found it extremely difficult to convert these pagans and get them to give up their beliefs and customs, so they wisely melded their customs with their own. So, instead of simply outlawing Samhain, the pope in the 800s re-named it All Hallow Mass, meaning All Saints Day, to honour saints and martyrs. The night before he kept as a day to honour the dead, called All Hallows Eve.

All Hallows Eve continued to be celebrated with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. As time went on, people immigrated to American and brought their own version of this celebration with them. The rest is history.

Halloween – what’s not to love? There’s something mystical and magical about putting on a costume and interacting with people in costume. It’s so deliciously disorienting to see people you know well, transformed inside and out. In a costume, you’re not entirely yourself. Or maybe you’re more yourself than you usually allow yourself to be?

Those who still dabble in the dark arts believe that the costume we choose on Halloween says something important about who we believe ourselves to be or who we wish ourselves to be. They believe that donning this costume on the night before the new year, on the night of Samhain, will help us grow into the person we want to be in the year ahead.

Mysterious and Spooky!

Some suggest, more prosaically that you choose for your Halloween costume something you really wish you could wear all the time. Hence the popularity of “sexy” costumes for women and “women” costumes for men.

What do you think? Do you dress up for Halloween? Do you have a great costume lined up for Saturday?

 060117_bog_photo_big

One of the first Halloweeners – the mummified remains of an Iron Age Celt found in a peat bog in Cheshire in August of 1984. His skull was fractured, he’d been strangled and his throat had been cut. (Creepy AND Kooky)

First Bite

About once every couple of months my Dad would get a hankering for Limburger cheese. He’d buy himself a hunk with some good dark German rye bread. Then, with all the kids gathered around barely able to contain their excitement, he’d sloooooowly unwrap the cheese while we all screamed in giddy anticipation and horror.

If you’ve never smelled the Limburger, it’s quite pungent – like the smelliest of smelly feet. That’s because Limburger cheese is made with the same bacterium found on human skin (Brevibacterium linens) which, in part, causes body odors.

Anyway, us kids would then watch as Dad spread the cheese on the dark rye, add some sliced onions, pour himself a cold lager…and then…then he’d offer us the first bite… At which point we all ran away and he enjoyed his sandwich and beer in peace.

When I got older, I did, one day take him up on his offer of the first bite. The younger kids shrieked in disbelief and followed me around the rest of the day asking me to explain in minute and precise detail exactly what it tasted like.

It wasn’t bad. It started me on the road to trying and enjoying a lot of different cheeses.

I wonder if my Dad would have been grossed out at the thought of eating tofu? Some people are.

I also like to eat cold spaghetti (with sauce) which my daughter thinks is revolting. I like it a lot better cold than hot. She also thinks its revolting that I have kippers and toast (cold) for breakfast sometimes and that I like onion, tomato and peanut butter sandwiches.

Is there anything unusual you like to eat that friends and/or family think is weird or yucky? Or, is there anything unusual someone you know eats that you think is weird or yucky? Not unhealthy-yucky (because that list could be endless) but Limburger cheese & onions style weird/yucky. Like these:

  • Bagels spread with hotdog relish
  • Doritos dipped in Marshmallow Fluff
  • French Fries dipped in milk shakes
  • Donuts dunked in beer
  • Sugar in scrambled eggs
  • Sushi with ketchup
  • Cream cheese on hot dogs
  • Popcorn with yellow mustard for dipping (I do this sometimes)
  • Chocolate sprinkles on rice

Who knows what culinary wonders are out there we haven’t tried yet?

Olympic Fever, Chills & Diarrhea

How come we have so much money for the Olympics in these tough economic times when businesses are going bankrupt and people are losing their jobs and social program funding is being slashed?

  •  The provincial governments of Saskatchewan and Newfoundland have contributed $1.5 million
  • Quebec and Ontario have contributed $5 million
  • Ottawa has made a 654.65 million dollar “investment” into the games
  • Official sponsors, Canada Post, Royal Canadian Mint and the Vancouver Port Corporation have tossed in $23 million

Security alone is going to cost $900 million. No one can come up with a full tally of what the games are finally going to cost. There is a lot money going into infrastructure which isn’t being included in the actual Olympic tally:

  •  $1 billion is being spent on highway improvements
  • Close to another billion on the trade and convention centre
  • $2 billion on the Canada Line Skytrain

 Then there are a few million here and there for other things such as:

  • $47 million for the 2010 Winter Games Secretariat
  • $300-million “Olympic bonus” that unionized government employees got for signing a four-year contract that ends after the Games (and after the election).

 So far, the tally seems to be around $6 billion[1].

I don’t remember getting to vote on whether I wanted that money spend on luge or homeless shelters. Do you? (Oh, but don’t worry. There won’t be any unsightly homeless people in view during the games. They’re being “relocated”, which means that once the security fences go up, any shiftless poor people that are still around will be arrested.)

Olympics Then & Now

The original Olympic games were just a 190-meter footrace held every 4 years in Olympia Greece. Then, around 700 BC, they added boxing, wrestling, equestrian events and a pentathlon (which involved jumping, discus, javelin, running and wrestling).  The whole thing was over in 3 days. And everyone competed naked[2]. The closing ceremony consisted of slaughtering 100 oxen and having a big-assed feast.

Around 400 AD the Emperor at the time cancelled the Olympics because he reckoned they were too pagan in light of the nation’s conversion to Christianity.

It wasn’t until the late 19th century that the Olympics were revived. The first modern Olympics was held in 1896 in Athens and featured cycling, fencing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, tennis, weightlifting, wrestling and athletics (12 track and field-type events) There were 241 participants representing 14 nations.

Today’s summer Olympics feature almost 11,000 competitors from over 200 countries. There are 33 sports, 52 disciplines and nearly 400 events[3].

The winter Olympics (that are going to cost us over $6 billion) feature only 2,500 athletes from 80 countries competing in 84 events in: snowboarding, hockey, figure skating, curling, speed skating, Alpine skiing, cross country skiing, ski jumping, biathlon, bobsleigh, luge and skeleton.

Pros & Cons

People say Olympic money is well-spent as it’s going to bring hoards of people into the country who have piles of money to spend; and that tourism will increase for years to come because of it; and that the new infrastructure will be good for all sorts of things in the future.

People also say that competition is good and healthy and inspirational and brings the country together and forges important ties with other countries and puts us into the international limelight which will be good for all sorts of things in the future.

Maybe I’m not seeing the big picture clearly because to me it looks like the Olympics are more about the promotion of political ideologies and commercialism these days than about sport. Between the boycotts, threats of terrorism and violence, the rampant drug use, the IOC scandals and the flogging of Olympic kitch[4], the whole athletic competition angle seems to get lost.

Also, I wonder how much the Olympics are about showcasing this country’s best athletes versus just showcasing elitist athletes — those who have the money to train hours every day and to hire personal coaches to work exhaustively with them.

Anyway, the Torch Relay[5] begins this Friday, October 30th in Victoria. This party alone is costing half a million and, from the sounds of it, there will be more protesters and journalists in attendance than regular citizens.

I don’t know… back when I was a kid the Olympics were exciting. We used to huddle around the TV every spare minute we had to watch the competitions. As time went on, all the craziness, corruption and Las Vegas glitz sort of spoiled that. These days, I’m wondering how we justify spending such obscene amounts of money on this particular reality show.


[1] The 2012 summer Olympics in London are so far estimated to cost the equivalent of $15.5 billion Canadian, but with more than 2 years to go, the tally is far from complete.
[2] Hence the origin of the word “gymnasium” from the Greek “gymnos” meaning naked
[3]  Air sports, Bandy, Baseball, Basque pelota, Billiard sportsBoules, Bowling, Bridge, Chess, Cricket, DanceSport, Floorball, Golf (new in 2016), Karate, Korfball, Lifesaving, Motorcycle sport, Mountaineering and Climbing, Netball, Orienteering, Polo, Powerboating, Racquetball, Roller sports, Rugby union (new in 2016), Softball, Sport Climbing, Squash, Sumo, Surfing, Tug of war, Underwater sports, Water skiing, Wushu
[4] Television revenues are contributing around $650 million to the Olympic pot.
[5] Interestingly, though the ancient Greeks kept flame going throughout the Olympics, there was never an Olympic Torch Relay until the 1936 Berlin Olympics when Hitler decided it would be a great symbolic connection to classical Greece as the Aryan forerunner of his view of the German Reich.

Elbow Snot

It’s cold and flu season again/still. Actually it seems to be cold and flu season all year long, does’t it? According to Health Canada , cold and flu season in this country is from November to April (Only half the year! Phew!)

So lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of people coughing and sneezing all over their clothing. Sneezing and coughing on your clothing seems to be all the rage this cold and flu season. The Center for Disease Control advocates using your clothing to catch your coughs and sneezes. The “Sneeze Doctor”,  Dr. Ben Lounsbury has made an entire career out of shoving the “Sleeve Sneeze” (aka “Dracula Cough”) down our raw, infected throats with his  Why Don’t We Do It In Our Sleeves propoganda.

The break-through science behind this bold, new disease-fighting technique is that splattering your germs onto fabric contains the germs and causes them to dry up and die — right there on your sleeves.

How revolutionary! (From the root word, “revolting”)

So, here’s my thought. If you’re sick enough to be sneezing and coughing all over the place — stay home. Or, if you absolutely need to be up and about, I can recommend an amazing product generically known as FACIAL TISSUES. I don’t know what they were originally invented for, but I’ve been using them quite successfully for years to capture the phlegm and debris from coughs and sneezes[1]. And they’re disposable![2] Yes, I use them and then I throw them away like boyfriends. Then I wash my hands or use some of that hand sanitizer everyone who’s anyone carries around these days. And then I’m  good to go.

Of course  there are people who have no common courtesy and sneeze all over other people or sneeze into their hands and then go and touch stuff other people are going to be touching.  And there are people who put their hands in or around their faces without washing their hands after  touching the stuff the people without common courtesy have touched. These people have no common sense and will get the plague sooner or later and die anyway.  We are not going to be able to save them by sleeve sneezing, trust me.

I’m thinking, however, maybe I’m not the only one who grew up in Rational-Human-Being-Land[3], where we were taught to always carry tissues when we were sick and to wash our hands after blowing our noses and to not suck on our fingers after shaking hands with someone who just coughed something green and slimy into his hands.

These time-tested practices now seem to be passé. Now we can’t be trusted to retain such complex information, so we are instructed (with colourful, easy-to-remember and entertaining instructional videos produced by people much smarter than they think we are) to  just expel our germs and bodily fluids onto our clothing.

Good grief, people! Are we hillbillies? Have we really regressed to the point where we’re back to wiping our noses on our sleeves?

What if you’re wearing a tank top or short sleeved shirt?[4] What if you’ve got a mouth full of oatmeal and have to sneeze or cough? What if you’ve got a snout full of snot and have to sneeze?

Ewwwww. That’s what.

And the really extra stupid thing I’m seeing is people just coughing or sneezing into the general direction of their sleeves so, while the person in front of them is sort of safe from the spray of bacteria and mucus, everyone beside and/or behind them gets a full blast. 

At the last minute some shred of these people’s abased dignity must have surfaced and told them that clothing is not the right place for snot. They recall, perhaps, that when they eat, they wipe their hands with serviettes and not on their trousers. And then they wonder if perhaps somewhere out there is a serviette-type thing for snot so they don’t have to wipe that on their clothing either.

Once upon a time ladies used to wipe their nether regions with their undergarments if they had to do their business outdoors and/or because the toilet paper of the day was too rough for their delicate skin. If we all get too stupid or lazy to remember to use toilet paper, will there be an instructional video asking, Why Don’t We Do It In Our Underpants?

So now I have to be afraid to sit too close to anyone or accidentally brush up against anyone in case I get elbow-snot transference. AND, the cherry on top of this whole nutty meringue is that they’re also trying, as Violetsky  recently pointed out,  to get us to stop shaking hands and kissing and to greet each other instead with — THE ELBOW BUMP!   

Egads!


[1] You’re going to need one to blow or wipe your drippy nose anyway.
[2] I know, not environmentally friendly, right? And having to do extra laundry because your shirts are stiff with snot isn’t?  What about good old-fashioned handkerchiefs? Oh ya, people decided it was gross to sneeze into a piece of cloth you were going to carry around in your pocket.
[3] Just south of I-Learned-Some-Manners-Land, neighbouring Don’t-Blow-Your-Nose-On-Your-Shirtsleeve-Land.
[4] I’ve seen a woman in a tank top lift up the end of her long skirt and sneeze into that AND wipe her nose with it afterwards. I’ve seen a woman carrying a baby sneeze into her baby’s blanket because she couldn’t twist enough to get her sleeve. My nephew sneezed into my mother’s kitchen curtains once because it was summer and he wasn’t wearing sleeves. And I’ve seen people spewing things onto their clothes and then wiping it off with their hands. Excellent!

___________________________________________________________

UPDATE

The question arose: why are we worried about germs on door-knobs and other hard surfaces and encouraged to hack germs all over our clothes? The Sleeve Sneeze people tell us germs just up and die on our clothes, but this didn’t make much sense to me so I did some research and found out that in order to thrive germs need moisture and food (just like us). Heres’ what else I found:

But even frequently handled hard surfaces like water faucets and door handles are not as big a source of infections as you might think, because germs don’t thrive on, or transfer well from, hard surfaces.

Germs transfer easily from the moist damp surface of the skin. The greatest risk of infection is from your hands touching someone else and then touching your face.

No bacteria or virus can live on dry surfaces with a humidity of less than 10 percent. Any sort of nutrients-food particles, skin cells, blood, mucus-helps microbes thrive…bacterial spore can survive for weeks on dry clothing using sloughed skin cells for food.

A Day of Romances

Morning Romance

Walking to work. On the path ahead is a small fawn. It doesn’t move as I approach; only looks at me curiously. I’m close enough to reach out my hand, inches from its muzzle. It sniffs my hands curiously. After a wonderfully mezmerizing few moments, I tear myself away and walk on.  As I walk,  I turn around to wave good-bye.  I’m startled to see the fawn right behind me.

I stop. It stops.

“Go back into the woods,” I whisper softly. It just stands there looking at me with those fawn eyes.

I turn and walk briskly onwards. And there’s the fawn, trotting next to me, looking up at me. Those eyes. Those irresistible eyes. I stop and think….nah…Bazel will never let me bring it home.

Then, while I’m thinking, the fawn tucks his face under my arm and nuzzles my jacket.  I grit my teeth.  I know I have to be tough.

I yell and wave my arms frantically. The fawn gallops away into the woods. I sigh.

Noon Romance

I’m running the trail at lunchtime and pass a Canada Post truck parked awkwardly in a secluded area. Strange noises are coming from within. “It couldn’t be,” I tell myself with a shake of the head. I keep going.

Half an hour later, on the way back, the truck is still there. I see a man and a woman, both in disheveled Postal uniforms emerging from the back of the truck. They are carrying mail sacks. They are flushed and happy looking. I smile at them. (But make a mental note to handle my mail with gloves for the next few days)

Evening Romance

Waiting at the bus stop. A forty-something public servant-type man is standing next to me murmuring into a cell phone. His voice is is filled with love and reassurance.

“Hey, you got the herpes, so what? Don’t worry, so do I.”

I step a little farther away from him.

Malls ‘N’ Things

For years now one of my daughter’s and her friends’ favourite things to do has been “going to the mall.” They love meeting at the mall, hanging out at the mall, looking at and trying on clothes at the mall, shopping at the mall, eating at the mall, checking out other teenagers at the mall. It’s not like they buy a lot of stuff – they usually come home with nothing or maybe one small item. So, what’s the attraction?

 “I don’t know. It’s fun.” She says.

How can something I loathe with every fibre of my being be fun for this child that I squeezed sprang from my very own loins?

For the longest time I wouldn’t allow “hanging out” at the mall. She could only go when she had something specific she needed to buy.

“Whhhhyyyyyyyeeeeeeeee?” She’d wail. “Everyone else gets to go to the mall whenever they waaaaaaaaaannt.” (This is her fall-back argument for everything. I’m apparently the only parent in the world who doesn’t let their kid do whatever they want. I’m very ashamed of this.)

“Here’s why not,” I’d tell her.

  • The mall is horrible.
  • It’s not outdoors.
  • It has fake lighting and fake air.
  • It’s loud – especially some of the boutiques where the music is danceclub-loud.
  • Everything is overpriced.
  • It sucks the life out of independent businesses which cities need to stay alive.
  • Everything is the same from shop to shop to shop.
  • It’s filled with chain stores that under-pay staff and sell goods made in sweat-shops in third-world countries.
  • Mobs of teenagers hang out there looking for trouble.
  • Creeps hang out there looking for teenagers.
  • It’s crowded, smelly and hot.
  • Satan lives at the mall. He’ll steal your soul when you walk down that long creepy hall to the washroom.

Her eyes would usually glaze over by the time I got to point #2.

Now that she’s almost 17, I’ve loosened up the mall restrictions a bit – mainly because a) she’s not all that obsessed with the mall anymore; and b) every five minutes there’s something new I have to say “Hmmmm, I don’t think so” to. Such as:

  • Can my boyfriend sleep over? He doesn’t want to bus home late at night. We won’t DO anything. Everyone else’s parents let their boyfriends sleep over. (Fortunately the boyfriend’s parents also said, “NO!!”) Ha!
  • Can you buy some vodka coolers for me and my friends for the party on Saturday? Next year I’ll be 18 and can buy them myself in Quebec.
  • Can I get a tattoo? Only a small one. Next year I’ll be 18 and won’t need your permission.
  • Can I get _____ (fill in the blank) pierced? Next year I’ll be 18 and won’t need your permission.
  • Will you call the school for me, I want to sleep in this morning.
  • Can I have an iPhone, my cell phone doesn’t work right since I put it through the washing machine. Everyone else has an iPhone.
  • Can I have my own apartment?
  • Can I go to New York one weekend with my friend Kiera? Everyone else’s parents let them go to New York ALL the time. They’ve got awesome shopping there.

Which brings me back to the mall thing.

Some US cities have been banning teens (without adult accompaniment) from malls during certain hours/days. They feel it’s made malls much more pleasant for everyone. I reckon rowdy teenagers at malls are the least frightening thing about malls.

And, malls lately have seemed like one of the least frightening things about teenagers.