Tuesday, November 29, 2005

DAMNED Christmas Holidays

A response to the Christmas Tree/Holiday item in the Herald, November 29th 2005

I had a great laugh today at the latest entry in the campaign to discredit our Governor General. Christmas trees. Oi. Seems one of her more keener -type staffers, in an honest effort not to alienate anyone, called the Governor General's tree a holiday tree. That set off a great hew and cry. What the hell? Don't people have shopping to do and an election to consider?

First of all, Christmas trees are a stolen tradition that does not originate with Christians. Secondly, the Christmas celebration itself has it roots firmly in and is hijacked from ancient pagan tradition.

A quick Google search turns up hundreds of articles on the origins of both the tradition of using trees at festivals and how the Romans, in an effort to spread their politics and manage the masses, spread Christianity by outlawing pagan traditions and replacing ancient festivals with re-named, watered down versions.

Check out any of these:

According to an article on FabulousFoods.com, at their festivals and celebrations, ancient druids and Celts usedthe ‘christmas’ type tree trees to represent their gods as that tree never browned or lost its leaves, but remained perpetually alive. Ancient Scandinavian pagans brought live trees into their homes in order to entice faeries to follow.

The use of live trees at festivals greatly pre-dates Christianity’s very existence. The first use of cut trees at any Christian festival occurred barely 500 years ago.

The origins of the December holiday have far more to do with pagan traditions than anything to do with Christ’s birth. What Christians take as their holy holiday is based on a 4000 year-old Iranian tradition celebrating Mithra, the god of Light.

Further, according biblical references to sheep in the fields, Christ’s birth did not occur in the winter months, given December is rainy and cold in the part of the world where Christ was born. Sheep and shepherds would have been well into the fold by then, not hanging out in soggy, cold fields.

The reality is that when the Romans were on their path of domination, they outlawed the old ways and the old traditions. What modern Christians claim as their traditions simply are not. All Christian holidays are borrowed, revised traditions that were enforced by a powerful political engine intent on major social control.

In light of the limitless information on the origins of Christmas trees and the Christmas holiday, this insignificant issue of what flavour-of-the-week name should be applied to a cut tree hardly bears discussing. For those who claim certain groups are taking Christ out of Christmas, it behooves them to understand how and why Christ got in there in the first place.

Smokers are dumb; Businesses that support Smoking are POOR

In late April, my spouse and children and I were in Ottawa for a week. While there we had a lunch and a dinner at D’arcy McGee’s, a busy, popular pub just a block south of Parliament. While in there one afternoon, we noticed a troupe of seven kids come in – and stay – which prompted a question to our server: how was it the kids could come in and stay in a pub?

It was because the place was smoke free! Ottawa is smoke free! Bars, restaurants, businesses, you name it, it’s smokeless. We were aghast, particularly when the server told us that after a small decrease in clientele – for less than a month -- business was not only good, it was far better than it had been when smoking had been allowed. I understand businesses in both Vancouver and Winnipeg have had the same experience.

Here are some known facts:
· Non-smokers tend to have more years of education than smokers
· Due to that higher education, among a few factors, non-smokers have higher incomes; some estimates say 30% higher
· Non-smokers have more disposable income
· About 70% of Calgary’s adult population does not smoke
· Smoking is a huge contributor to lung and other related cancers
· Smoking is very likely to leave a person sick with avoidable illnesses
· Smoking is cannot in any way be considered good for children – to do, to see or to be around
· Smoking-related illnesses cause a large, avoidable strain on an already burdened health care system!
· Second hand smoke also causes smoking-related illnesses
· Yes, people have the right to smoke. NO, they do not have the right to force unwilling others to consume the by-products of their habit
· Smoking patrons are an occupational hazard to people working in establishments that allow smoking
· Smokers standing around entrances to businesses are a deterrent to non-smokers entering due to the stink among a few things
· Discarded cigarette butts at the entrances to business and ashtrays dumped in parking lots are a deterrent to anyone entering said businesses

So, based on those ‘facts’ why would any Calgary business maintain a smoking environment that limits its access to the entire market rather than opening their business to all possible patrons in the market? It makes economic sense to attract the larger, perhaps wealthier portion of the population in addition to those who already come.

We spoke to several people – smokers – in Ottawa about that city’s non-smoking policy: all of them said they were glad for the change; as much as they were unwilling or unable to give up their habit, they were glad to not have to suffer other people smoking while eating or at a bar, and to not come home reeking of second hand smoke. None of them found it a bother to not smoke while they were out or to go outside if necessary. The bottom line is that a non-smoking environment does not limit patronage or negatively impact revenues; extensive evidence from Winnipeg, Vancouver and Ottawa shows the reality is quite the opposite.

In my educated opinion, that 70% of Calgarians who don’t smoke, and a good portion of those who do, would gladly accept clean air restaurants and bars and other public places. Seriously, if it works and in Ireland, where the change is wildly popular, I am positive it will work in Calgary.

I really hope the current hold-outs on council will consider the economic benefit to people, families, kids and businesses and ultimately the city by making Calgary smoke free in 2006. January 1st 2006 would be a GREAT date.

Think about this: Assuming $9.50 per pack, smoking 1 pack a day for one year costs something like $3,468.00

  • That is more than 3000 litres of gas at $1.14 and almost 3500 when gas is under $1.
  • Assuming a mid sized car with a 60 litre tank, that’s enough to drive to Vancouver and back about 20 times. It is also enough to drive across Canada – Calgary to Halifax and back – five times.
  • That’s books and half a year’s tuition at MRC.
  • That’s nearly half a year’s worth of mortgage payments assuming $800/month and that’s about a year’s worth of car payments on a really decent lease (Ok, not for a Bmer or anything…).
  • That’s enough to put two kids into hockey or three kids into dance lessons for a year.
  • It is enough to build a new fence on a normal inner city lot; it is enough to repaint and carpet the interior of a bungalow.
  • It is enough for a new roof or furnace.
  • It is enough for a certain amount of lipo, if that’s on a person’s wish list.
  • It is enough to go to London, England for about 10 days, with money left over for shopping (Discount Travel Warehouse /Easy Jet).
  • It’s enough to rent a houseboat for 10 for a week.
  • It is almost five months of groceries for a family of four assuming $200 a week.
  • It is enough for annual subscriptions to all of Theatre Calgary, Theatre Junction, ATP, OYR and a bunch of independent theatre companies.
  • It is enough to stage a whole play for some of those small companies!
  • It is almost the 5% required for a down payment on $70,000. There are still places to buy in Calgary for that amount.
  • Putting that $3470 smoking money aside for two years is pretty much the 5% down payment on a $138,000 condo.
  • It is enough for about 4 years of monthly bus passes.
  • It is enough for a really excellent road bike (a la Lance Armstrong).
  • It is enough for about 5 years’ gym membership – or nearly 10 years’ membership to the gym at MRC or U of C for alumnus.
  • It is a huge, beneficial donation to STARS or the Children’s hospital – and provides a nice tax break. Making the donation to STARS or Children’s hospital rather than smoking might keep a person out of either of those places.
  • In a family of four, using that $3470 for something other than smoking might also prevent two kids from taking up smoking, destroying their health and having a further $6940 per year spent on a nasty habit.
  • It is more than enough for annual family passes to all of The Zoo, Heritage Park, the Science Centre and Lindsay Park and for nosh at those places.
  • It is a TON of skiing and rentals at COP and it is lots and lots for lessons and gear for a season at the big 3.
  • It is about enough for two years’ seasons passes too.
  • It is enough for a family of four to go to the movies over 80 times.
  • It is enough for a huge TV, cable for two years, a VCR and DV player and a lot of popcorn and movie rentals.
  • It is enough to take 10 - 12 continuing education courses at either U of C or MRC.
  • Giving up smoking for 5 years at today’s cost would provide a person enough money to get an undergrad degree at U of C or an applied Degree at MRC.
  • It is enough to learn five languages through Berlitz.
  • It is twice as much as most people get back from their tax refund – and speaking of tax, what is the tax on $3470 worth of cigarettes, keeping in mind a person is paying for those cigarettes with after-tax income! Twice the tax for an unhealthy habit. NOT smart.
  • It is enough for about 57 oil changes.
  • It is enough to put about 7 new energy-efficient windows in an older home.
  • It is enough for four winters worth of shovelling services and four summers of lawn care services.
  • It is enough for about 100 taxi trips from the airport to downtown.
  • It is enough for 2 or more kids to ride the school bus to school and home during the school year for over 15 years!
  • That’s a two week holiday to Disneyland for a family of 4 and it is a really nice trip to Mexico for a couple.
  • It is a nice RSP contribution.
  • It is enough for a lovely engagement ring or anniversary ring; it is also enough for some decent clubs and many rounds of golf.
  • It is enough for a bouquet of roses every week for about 2.5 years.
  • It is enough for a couple to have 25 gorgeous meals (about $150 a pop) at the Chicago Chop House or 135 meals at Peter’s Drive-In for a family of 4.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Things One Remembers Whilst Brushing Teeth

There is a certain comic value to free association, I discovered the other day, whilst brushing my teeth. Most adults, as they mature, let go of old hurts an slights. Occasionally, however, those old wounds get a bit of a bump at the oddest moment.

Did you ever have one of those times, where you're happily doing your mindless thing and one of those old memories -- the kind that piss you off -- resurfaces?

This letter, which will never be read by the offending -- or at least is highly unlikely to be read by them -- is what I would have said had I been a stronger person, once upon a time.

Once upon a time at a funeral in Edmonton.


Dear Aunt Margaret,

We came today to celebrate the life of your mother, our grandmother and great grandmother and my grandma-in-law.

I’m new to the family. I’ve been married to your nephew for a bit over 7 months. I don’t know you and your spouse, although I met you once before now, at my wedding. You didn’t speak to me then, but thanks for coming.

Today’s difficult for everyone. My spouse has lost his grandmother and my father-in-law his mother. I have no idea how close you are to each other or were to your mother, but I get that because we don’t see or hear much of you or your family, you aren’t’ that close.

Anyway, I’ve come to the funeral because she was my husband’s grandmother, not because I knew her well, although I wish I had. I’m sure she had many stories to tell and lived an interesting life.

Because I don’t know anyone here beyond the immediate family, I’m staying out of the way. This isn’t my event or even my family – yet. So I don’t understand why, on this sad occasion, when I came to offer my condolences to you, in private, you would choose to load off your anger and disappointment on me. I have no idea what you’re angry about, although I hear you’re a jealous woman – jealous of your living brother and I suppose pissed off at your brother who died by his own hand; they took the focus off you and it is plain you are desperate for attention.

Are you annoyed that your only daughter, who is so outwardly accomplished and beautiful, married a man who spent all of his and all of her her money on his cocaine addition? Are you mad that your jealousy destroyed your relationship with your living family? Are you pissed because your father died and left you?

I don’t know what I represent to you or why you’ve decided you hate my guts. But you should know it doesn’t matter at all what you think of me. All I’ll take away from your outburst is that you’re weak and angry and you needed somewhere to hang it all.

I’ll give it to you that you did hurt me by making it so plain you wish I hadn’t come to your mother’s funeral. Your comment to my spouse, that it was very nice to see him, made while pointedly ignoring me, did sting. He either really loves you or is terrified of you (probably), because he didn’t stand up for me. What have you done in the past to merit that fear?

Congratulations; you did stick the knife in. But that makes you no better than anyone else who for no other reason than self-satisfaction, injures or kills another person. It won’t eliminate your anger, won’t change anything and it will add to your pain and your disappointment, when someday, you realize that you’ve lived your life hating.