Saturday, February 23, 2013

Harper's New Imperial Shuttle

Stephen Harper is getting a new paint job on his PM jet befitting his *ahem* status as a world leader. The standard light blue-gray paint used by Canadian military aircraft isn't snazzy enough for election campaigns diplomatic visits.  

In addition to being in Conservative colours (where exactly is the blue in Canada's flag?), the paint scheme involves using paint that has "a 400 dollar price difference PER GALLON in the cost" according to the designer's caution to the PMO.

Still, I think you'll agree the new Imperial Shuttle is a striking reminder of Harper's status...

Friday, February 22, 2013

US Court Finds Conrad Black Still Guilty

Yes - Conrad Black is still guilty. In a weird case before the US courts, Black asked for his fraud convictions to be thrown out - after he had already exhausted his appeals - on the basis that he had been deprived of his right to counsel of his choice.

With his money tied up by the courts during the trial, Black argued that he couldn't hire defence lawyers Brendan V. Sullivan and Gregory Craig of the firm of Williams & Connolly. (Craig is a former White House counsel under Obama and Sullivan defended Lt.-Col. Oliver North.) 

Instead Conrad argues he had to settle with the "inferior" legal skills of noted American legalist Edward Genson and our own Eddie Greenspan - one of Canada's top criminal lawyers.

Unsurprisingly, the US court threw out the case as having no merit, further proving to Black that the US justice system is corrupt and out to railroad him - an innocent man. In a statement, Black said: “The entire prosecution was a fraud and a disgrace and any serious examination of it reveals that.”

So in honour of Conrad Black, an innocent man accused, convicted and hounded to the ends of the earth by a relentless and merciless justice system, I offer this poster ~

Our Lady of Perpetual Patronage

The Harper Government has finally appointed a "ambassador" to head for the controversial Office of Religious Freedom. Dr. Andrew Bennett is dean of Augustine College, a private Christian liberal arts institution in Ottawa with about 20 students. He previously worked for Harper's Privy Council Office as a policy advisor.

In honour of this $5 million a year boondoggle - um, humanitarian - project, here's a new Conservative De-Motivational poster ~


Oh Snap

February 8, 2013 

This week I received an email offering advice.
 Thats not unusual I receive dozens of emails a day giving me helpful tips on how to do everything from lose weight to meet lonely singles in my neighbourhood. I also get tips on how to learn the secret of running my car on plain tap water, cure cancer with common household cleansers and occasionally an offer to send me a recipe for the worlds best no-fat brownie.

With Valentines Day around the corner, merchants, con artists and promoters are doubly busy sending out promotions to desperate men and women (lets face it mostly men) trying to figure out what to do to impress on February 14th.

The overpriced wilty roses and bargain lovers weekends offers are everywhere, but one promo I got made me read it to the end.

Why not surprise your lover with a sexy photo of yourself? it asked. Instead of a dark and grainy cell phone photo hastily taken in some locker room, this service will help you produce a quality snap guaranteed to impress the man or woman of your dreams.

For a fee, they will advise on wardrobe, location, makeup and the all important lighting in making you look your absolute best for your sexy self portrait.

Dont get me wrong Im far from a prude. Im a big believer in allowing consenting adults to do whatever they want behind closed doors. None of my business, and if it makes everyone happy, well, the world needs more happy people.

The same goes for sexy photos. Lets face it, without them no one would have bothered to invent the Internet.

But for gods sakes, leave it to the professionals. Adult entertainment is a $13 billion a year business in the USA and a whopping $27 billion annually in China (who knew?). Even with all the makeup in the world, its hard for an amateur to compete with that.

Still, more than a third of Americans say theyve sent nudie shots of themselves to someone else.

But the real reason it should be left to the professionals is a little thing called privacy. While it may be a moments giggle to stick your cellphone down your kimono and take some candid shots, those photos can and will go anywhere.

About a quarter of Americans admit theyve sent along a naked photo of a loved one or former loved one to someone else. And more than half of the people who get them, send them along again.

Not a great career move if in your day job you are comptroller of the second largest office supply company in the mid-west and an elder at your church.

How many politicians have ended their careers because they sent out ridiculous locker room photos of themselves?

Last week it was reported that the Bush family had their personal emails hacked and their personal photos released. I haven’t seen them and don’t want to see them. The last thing I need burned into my brain is George W. in a vacation thong or Barbara’s tan lines.

But that is sort of the point. These photos always get out, even if you’re the former President of the United States.

So my wife doesn’t have to live in fear of what she’ll find when she opens her email Valentine’s Day morning.

She’ll have to settle for a box of chocolates, and if I play my cards right, me in person without the benefit of any airbrushing.

© 2013 - Stephen Lautens 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Sound of Silence - Calgary Sun Column, Feb. 2, 2013

By Stephen Lautens

It’s quiet – too quiet.

For the first time in a long while I find myself at home alone. Even though there are only three of us, when we’re together we make enough noise for a small army.

Our house has enough room to spread out and everyone head to a neutral corner, but somehow we always end up in the same place at the same time.

If I ever feel lonely, all I have to do is head into the bathroom and I am guaranteed to be joined within a minute or two by all the other members of my immediate family trying to occupy the same couple of square feet in the smallest room of the house.

Like most families, the kitchen is where everyone congregates, making it one of the house’s noisy hot spots. Our TV is in the corner, and across from it is my son’s computer, so we can monitor what examples of dubious taste on the internet currently amuse ten year old boys.

In the evenings usually both the TV and computer are on, competing for noisy domination.

I gave up long ago trying to watch anything on TV that depends on dialogue. Witty British comedies, movies long on plot and short on explosions or anything involving an interview are a lost cause in our house. There is a TV in the basement, but with the poor insulation in our ancient house you need a buffalo coat to keep your channel-surfing fingers from freezing.

My wife still gamely tries to watch Downton Abbey with my son flipping rapidly through the latest and loudest videos across the room. The two of them keep adjusting their volumes back and forth until I know it’s time to get out of the area before something gives – usually my wife’s patience.

Even off on my own in another part of the house it’s hard to find much peace and quiet. Inevitably, someone wants my opinion on something the second I leave the room, preferably while I have the water running or bathroom fan going above my head.

My son has a big voice. Even in public places – like major sporting events with a crowd of a couple thousand – I can immediately locate him by sound alone. I’m not sure how he’s going to use his natural loudness in future, but the two jobs that immediately come to mind are either hog caller or politician.

I hope he chooses the hog caller.

Even when he’s not in the room with you, I can hear him anywhere in the house through the intercom. “The intercom” is actually the furnace ductwork that he loves to yell into when he’s in the basement so we can hear him everywhere.

But this morning I have none of that. I’m unexpectedly home while my son is at school and my wife is off at an all day yoga class, and the house is eerily silent.

I can watch anything I want on TV. Forget the fact that there is nothing worth watching on the 300 channels we get, but at least I can hear it.

I can also clearly hear the dripping bathtub faucet reminding me a washer needs changing, and the sound I can now hear the furnace make indicates it’s overdue for a service call.

From the noise outside my neighbour has also apparently dragging a sack of fine crystal, bedpans and cats up and down the driveway for the last half hour.

It’s a good thing it’s rare, because I’m starting to think that silence is overrated. 

© 2013 - Stephen Lautens

Northern Exposure - Calgary Sun Column - Jan 26, 2013

By Stephen Lautens

Last night I sat next to a friend who was sporting an unnaturally healthy glow. I say that as someone whose own skin colour has been compared to the belly of a brook trout.

My friend’s skin was deeply tanned in a way that can only be achieved through long-term exposure to that seldom seen object known in Canada as “the Sun”.

“I just got back from Florida,” he explained. “And I’m headed straight back there tomorrow. Can’t take this winter.”

I was taken a bit aback, because earlier that day I was idly thinking how much I like winter.

I must be the only person in Canada who isn’t currently flipping through the travel section of the paper looking for a cheap all-inclusive to some impoverished Caribbean island that serves drinks with little umbrellas behind barbed wire gates.

Not to put a damper on the sunny south’s tourist business, but I’ve rarely found those winter vacations worth the effort. Your vacation usually starts in some empty airport at 4:30 in the morning waiting for your charter to assign you a broken seat and trying to figure out what to do with your bulky winter coats since all the public lockers have been pulled out for security reasons.

Your first two days in the sun are spent recovering from your flight and putting sunscreen on with a trowel to protect your pale and easily burned hide. You start to relax on a beach crowded with your fellow countrymen just in time to head back to the airport and a Canadian winter, which always seems ten times colder than when you left.

The week after coming home from a southern vacation is spent complaining about the weather, turning up the thermostat and toting up the ridiculous cost of a week in the sun. Every day in the shower you see your tan lines fade a little more and the bottle of duty-free rum you carried back on your lap mysteriously evaporate.

Slush, salt stains and six layers of outerwear are not in my top three favourite things, but I don’t mind the cold so much that I feel I have to escape it. Even though I’m not a winter sports person, there’s something about a walk on a brisk winter day. “Brisk” is of course defined as between -5 and -25 degrees. “Fresh” is between -25 and absolute zero.

Maybe it’s because my mom (bless her) was told as a new mother some 50 years ago that there was nothing better for a Canadian baby than to be bundled up in the dead of winter and being left on the back porch for an hour or two. Something about an old wives’ tale that the cold air was good for babies’ lungs.

This was apparently done with me, although now you’d have the Children’s Aid at your front porch faster than you can say “hypothermia”. I can’t say there were any lasting medical benefits, except my continuing fondness for the cold weather. That and I still clutch a blue blankie when I go outdoors during the winter months.

I don’t dream of living in a tropical paradise. I’d miss the change of the seasons and that sharp, cold air filling my lungs on a frosty morning.

True – it starts to wear a little thin around March when you know there are still a couple of good snowfalls left and you’re ready for Spring.

But until then I’ll proudly retain my naturally bluish-green skin colour and enjoy the cold. 

© 2013 - Stephen Lautens