There’s Nothing to Do

Obama might want to grab a can of spray paint and graffiti “Bored” on somebody’s building but I’m complaining there’s too much happening in Sault Ste. Marie this week.

 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Shadows of the Mind Film Festival opens Monday, offering a couple of dozen films including Oscar nominees. Some admissions are by donation; others you pay.

In Your Eyes Projects presents Girl in the Goldfish Bowl at Algoma University Wednesday to Saturday nights.

Sault Theatre Workshop presents Hilda’s Yard, a Norm Foster comedy and STW’s entry into the Quonta Festival, Wednesday to Sunday.

The Debaters, CBC’s popular comedy show, comes to the Community Theatre Centre Sunday.

The YMCA has a dinner dance Friday at the Delta featuring Mobile Dueling Pianos. Saw that sort of act in Vegas and it’s a hoot.

Soo Greyhounds are at home at the Essar Centre Friday night and Sunday afternoon.

Lots of bars have lots of live entertainment.

The hinterland is alive with the sound of snowmachines and ice augers and happy kiddie voices.


Gunfight at the OK Elementary School

(As will quickly become obvious, this post falls outside “humour” category.)

It’s never a surprise, especially in the Donald Trump era, to see government policy constructed on myths created by television and the movies. But Trump is far from the only one to suggest a Grade 3 teacher with a handgun could take down an armed invader before any serious damage is done.

It’s not widely known that Trump was chosen for his role on The Apprentice partly on the strength of his earlier portrayal of Yosemite Sam.

Even those who argue against it don’t seem to question the premise that this rescue scenario is both possible and probable. And it might be, but only in a movie about a school shooting that was thwarted by an open-carrying faculty member.

With its plethora of arms, many of them borne legally, how many mass shootings in the U.S. have been brought to an early end by a “good guy with a gun?”

Reality tells us that the would-be school hero would be as likely to hit a colleague or a few kids as take down an armed assailant. And in the unlikely event that the Grade 3 teacher succeeded, he or she, pistol in hand, might then be gunned down by the SWAT team.

In the real Wild West, no one calmly pulled a six-shooter and shot  a gun out of an opponent’s hand while gunfire blazed. Gunfighters got as close as they could, sometimes close enough that the barrel discharge set fire to their target’s clothes. Guns were reasonable accurate; shooters were not, especially in the heat of the moment.

“Given the frenzy and confusion of a real gunfight, the participants involved were doing well if they even hit their opponent at all, let alone . . . in a fatal spot,” says Jeremy Agnew in The Old West in Fact and Film: History Versus Hollywood.

“It was not unusual for innocent bystanders to be killed or wounded.”

Agnew notes that in Wild West shows performers shooting at glass balls thrown in the air used cartridges that sprayed lead shot instead of bullets.

Trump, whose near-fatal heel spurs kept him out of the armed forces, would have no experience with modern-day “friendly fire.” Yet it’s estimated that almost one-quarter of U.S. battle deaths in the Gulf War were due to friendly fire. That’s what happens when soldiers for whom guns are almost parts of their bodies get involved in chaotic conflict.

So sure, let’s train Ms. Smith and Mr. Jones on the target range and then expect them to win a gun battle in the hallowed halls of education.

“That’ll learn ‘im,” exclaims Ms. Smith, standing over the fallen teenager and his AR-15.

Roll credits.


Nuts About the Squirrel Column: Update

My piece on red squirrels inspired more chatter than is usual for a column. Judging by what readers are telling me and emailing me, a lot of you are having sunflower seed kicked in your faces by sneering squirrels these days.

If I were a zoological researcher I might want to look into what appears to be an increase in red squirrels’ aggressive behaviour toward humans.

Anyway, good to hear about it when you get a good laugh out of these columns. Feedback is to me what black oiled sunflower seed is to Big Red.


Here’s the final product. You can see it on the Sault Star web page here:

Some might find Sciurus cute, but it’s a member of the rodent family

I’m getting chirped a lot lately.
I should be used to it. As an oldtimer hockey goalie, I’ve been chirped by many of the same ill-mannered forwards and defencemen for well over three decades.
Exchanging good-natured barbs is a big part of the fun of playing hockey. As we get older, we become a lot better at poking fun at each other than we are at poke-checking the puck.
But these days I’m being chirped by the animal kingdom. Tamiasciurus, to be precise. Members of the rodent family. Red squirrels.
One or more of the little buggers — it may sound speciesist but I can’t tell one red squirrel from another — sits brazenly on my bird feeder and chirps me every time I venture on to my deck.
Those of you who have a “bird feeder” know that is too narrow a term. In truth you also have a squirrel feeder.
You could spend your income tax rebate on a “squirrel-proof” bird feeder. But all you would be doing is installing the squirrel equivalent of a Sudoku puzzle, one they can solve before you have time to crumple up the sales receipt and toss it angrily into your fireplace.
Might as well put up a sign saying, “This Feeder is for Birds Only” and hope the squirrels have taught themselves to read English between meals.
So, long ago I gained the wisdom to accept what I cannot change: that I am dispensing many kilograms of black oiled sunflower seeds to squirrels as well as birds.
I also accept that squirrels are bold and noisy critters, whether they’re chasing each other or teasing dogs. They’re seldom silent unless they have their mouths full of my birdseed.
But lately they’ve become in-your-face arrogant.
They practically scratch at my patio door to complain when the feeder runs out of food. Seriously, I’ve caught them peering in through the glass.
Or they’ll let loose with a long, loud lament as if they’re victims of caregiver neglect, to guilt me out if I glance out the window while I’m preparing my own dinner.
I half expect to be scrolling through Twitter one day and find myself targeted for squirrel abuse under the rodent equivalent of the #Time’sUp hashtag.
Over the years the squirrels and I developed an informal protocol, much like cold war combatants that feel a need to rattle their sabres without actually going nuclear on each other.
This allowed both camps to maintain the pretext that squirrels were unwelcome at my bird feeder, while they filled their bellies at will.
If I ventured onto my deck I would stomp loudly and perhaps let loose with a primeval growl. When you live by yourself in the bush you can do all sorts of things that would be embarrassing in a subdivision.
The squirrels would dutifully leap from the feeder to nearby snowbanks in simulated fright, then scamper into the cedars. Then they would scold me like the chorus in a medieval morality play.
After a respectful interval, they would return to the all-you-can-chew buffet.
To add variety to the routine, I might trigger their retreat by tossing a snowball in their direction like a Kim Jong Un missile. Occasionally I might hit them, though a rotator cuff that’s as frayed as an old work shirt made that a rarity.
These days I practically have to make like a Newfoundland seal hunter to get a squirrel off my bird feeder. Not that I would club a red squirrel to death on a snowbank, though it might be fun to have Brigitte Bardot, Sarah McLachlan, Pamela Anderson and Gwen Stefani screaming “Save Our Squirrels” on my deck while I barbecued.
On the way to the woodshed the other day I stomped to scare off a squirrel. It didn’t budge. I cursed it in Primeval. Still no response.
I waved my wood box at it. Nothing. I eyeballed it at close quarters, pulling back only when I recalled the scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when the squirrel races down Clark Griswold’s back. Still nothing.
I reached back and threw a mock punch, stopping inches from its pointy snout and recoiling in pain because of that non-rotating rotator cuff. Squirrel stuck its nose down nonchalantly to grab another mouthful of seed.
Finally I poked the feeder hard enough to send Rocky to a snowy canvas.
But instead of retreating to a respectful distance for, say, 10 seconds, it scampered back on to the feeder and gave me the raspberry. I could almost feel the spray.
This in-your-face posturing by the squirrels seems to parallel society’s growing culture of entitlement, in which those already obscenely rich are no longer even mildly apologetic when they grab still more wealth from the middle class.
At the risk of anthropomorphizing like Disney, ascribing human characteristics to the animal kingdom, I might suggest one squirrel at my feeder has a distinctive orangey tinge and a huge comb-over.
A Squirrel-to-English translation might revealed he chatters about draining the feeder and rants that black squirrels migrating from across the lake are stealing his sunflower seeds and I should build a wall to keep them out.
I could take down my feeder and show him that seeds don’t feed squirrels — people feed squirrels.
But that would hurt the chickadees, finches and nuthatches that take sustenance from my sunflower seeds.
And as a few unkind readers have chirped over the years, I’m definitely for the birds.