This is Joe's Fault

Thursday, November 11, 2010


When I was about thirteen years old I joined the Royal Canadian Army Cadets. I'm not sure why, probably because a few of my friends had done so and said it was cool (you get to shoot big-ass guns!), and my oldest sister had joined the Canadian Air Force a few years earlier. I was curious as to what it was all about, and I was young and impressionable at the time. (I also tried smoking and actually owned a pair of harem pants, both things I regret.)

Anyway, my commitment was only for one day a week after school for a few hours, and the occasional camping weekend. My military career didn't last long, though. Did you know the military requires you to 1) Stand stock still for hours on end 2) Not talk for hours on end 3) Take orders without question, and 4) Do lots of other physically demanding stuff you don't necessarily want to do? Also, did you know that shooting big-ass guns is scary and not particularly a lot of fun when it's freezing out and you can barely hold the rifle?

And if you know anything at all about yours truly, you know that sitting, talking, constantly asking "but why?" and generally being a lazy ass are some of my favourite things to do. So you can understand that a military career just wasn't for me.

Still, I admire people in the forces who do what they do. So in honour of Remembrance Day I'd like to take a moment to talk a bit about the Canadian Armed Forces and what they've contributed to the world. My sister has never been sent to any war zones, thankfully, but she is in contact with people who are and occasionally sends me pictures and stories of people in Afghanistan or elsewhere that bring home to me the human face of any military action. I may have some problems with government policy and may not agree with why we're in a certain country or dispute, but I would never disrespect the people simply doing their jobs, often in terrifying situations.

I know the Canadian Armed Forces are often considered a joke by the rest of the world. Heck, I've laughed at the photoshopped pics of a squirrel with a rocket-launcher on his shoulder and the legend "Canadian Army" underneath it as much as the next guy. But the very real contribution that our people make all over the world cannot be made fun of. All of the geo-political bullshit and arguments aside, I'm quite proud of the fact that thoughts of "Canadian Forces" and "Peacekeeping" are so closely tied together.

My sister sent me something that I wanted to share with my Canadian friends. She was talking with a friend of hers who went to the Netherlands to participate in a march. Here is the bulk of her friends' email:

It's the end of the day and I'm too tired to do anything else so I'll tell you a little about Nijmegen. I didn't even know what it was when I volunteered for it. All I saw in the email from my Sgt is that it was an opportunity to go to Holland for a week so I jumped all over it.

Nijmegen Marches have been going on for over 90 years but it was only after the 2nd world war that it became an official symbol of the liberation of the Dutch by the Canadians during WWII. If you've ever seen the movie "A Bridge too Far", it's a good one to watch because after I did the March, it meant more to me.

Anyway we did a cloverleaf route covering the same mileage that the Canadian soldiers marched to free the Dutch people. We marched 40 kms each day with 40 kgs on our backs. Some of the civilians (Dutch) walked in wooden shoes. It was the most amazing and painful experience of my life. The people over there have never forgotten and the Canadians were honoured each day of the march by onlookers waving the Canadian flag. Like I said, some little children would run up and march beside us. A little boy held my hand for quite a while. I could have picked him up and smooched him because he was so cute. The little boy in the video reminded me of him. Each day ended with a celebration and maybe too much beer in the international beer tent.

The third day of the march is when we visit Grosbeek Cemetery to see the rows and rows of graves where the Canadian Soldiers are buried. It was the most emotional day. A close second to the most emotional, was the 4th and final day of the march. This is when we changed into clean uniforms and were presented our medals a couple kms before the final victory march. This is because the Canadians lead the parade and all the other countries follow. We marched, I believe, 16 soldiers a breast. When you turned around you could see a sea of uniforms behind. I believe there were about 50,000 soldiers from all over the world and another 50,000 civilians that marched.

All the people from Nijmegen and all over come out for the final march and wave the Canadian Flag. Children march with you and people are handing out flowers to us humble soldiers. Veterans are rolled out onto the sidewalks in wheelchairs and hospital beds. People are perched on their roofs and front porches. It was truly the most amazing sight and so emotional because the veterans are crying, which of course made us cry too. I've never seen anything like it and will never forget it. The pain, blisters and sore feet and backs we endured was nothing compared to what the young men went through during the war because even though they marched the same number of miles we did, they also had to see their comrades die before their eyes. Gulp.

That's it. I'd do it again if I had the time. (I still cringe at the thought of the sore feet tho). :)

She sent in her email a video of a little Belgian boy who reminded her of the boy who held her hand. (I hate the cheesy Canadian anthem on this clip, but the "EYES, RIGHT" command is really the whole point of it for me. The sense of humour and respect displayed by the Canadian troops is what makes this video, in my opinion.)

This year my Mom and I visited Vimy in France and I got to see the scope of the Canadian effort there in World War I. My great uncle Kenneth Parkhill Johnston lost his life in the battle and we were able to visit his grave and place flowers there.

I saw the horrific conditions they had to put up with in the tunnels below the battlefield, and the beautiful countryside they tore apart in the process. I also saw the beginnings of a national identity etched in the wall of one of the tunnels - a simple maple leaf. It was very moving.

Today, there are Canadian forces all over the world -- in Afghanistan, in the Sudan, in Jerusalem. Keeping the peace.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Get (it on) On the GO!

The other day I received an automated email from the Government of Ontario Transit System, or the GO Train, which I ride twice daily, five times a week. For once, it was not a notification of a cancellation or service disruption. This time it was a message about a contest they are having:

"In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we want to hear your stories of love. In 150 words or less, tell us how you found romance while riding GO Transit and you could win a weekend away for two at the Sheraton on the Falls hotel in Niagara Falls."

Now, I don't have any stories of love on the GO. Plenty of stories of frustration or petty annoyances, though. Many's the time I've wanted to rant about the things that have bothered me over the years about the delays, the unenthusiastic employees, the inconsiderate passengers, etc. But I've never really had the impetus to write before.

Until now.

I can't enter the contest, as there's just no way I can keep my writing under 150 words. (The eloquence of my keyboard shall not be quelled!) But I thought it might be funny to write a romance story that lets them know how some of us truly feel about their service. I give you, therefore, my GO Train-themed romance:

The Trudeau-era loudspeaker screeched to life, breaking the early morning silence as violently as if it had punched a toddler in the face.

"Attention GO passengers," droned a dead, soulless voice. "The 6:35 train to Union Station will be cancelled at Aldershot due to frozen switches and mechanical difficulties. On behalf of GO Transit, we apologize for the inconvenience."

An audible groan arose from the innocent paying victims scattered along the frozen expanse of the train station platform. Profanities graced the inner monologues of each of them.

"Sweet Jesus fuck!" breathed Brick, his square, granite-like jaw clenched in a well-practiced rage. "This is the third time this week! On behalf of GO passengers, go fuck yourselves!" Brick glared manfully at the loudspeaker.

A few feet down the platform, Cassandra could hold her beautiful young tongue no longer. "Those fuckers! It's always Aldershot! Why do they even bother having a stop at Aldershot? Those poor bastards never get a working train."

They turned toward each other in their exasperation, heaving with anger at the injustice of it all. Their eyes met, glistening with a communal ire for what must be the shittiest train service in all of Canada. In that moment, they made their connection... even though the train would never come.

Brick's eyes travelled down Cassandra's body, reasonably certain that beneath the layers of goose down, wool, cashmere and leather there stood an attractive body, lively and athletic. Cassandra looked hungrily over Brick's well-tailored winter coat and came to rest on his left pocket, wherein bulged so much promise.

"Do you have a cell phone I could borrow?" Cassandra asked seductively. “My boss told me if I was late again, I’d be fired," her lovely face suddenly obscured by the rush of steam created by her hot breath. "Fucking GO Transit," she giggled, secretly worried about her rent.

"Sure thing," growled Brick, as he dug in his pocket and handed her the phone. His heart skipped a beat as their gloved hands probably grazed one another in the transaction. Little did Brick suspect that the flutter was due to elevated stress levels caused by ongoing commuter strain.

As Cassandra called her employer and tried to explain how a train system built for life in Canada and funded by the government and a large well-paying ridership was once again crippled by the weather and equipment problems, Brick mused to himself.

"I would surely like to make love to this woman... provided my balls don’t freeze off while waiting for the next goddamned train."

Over the next two hours, the young people filled the interminable and deeply frustrating wait with jokes and stories, longing looks, and unrelenting criticism of the appalling transit system, as well as the asshole customers who made a bad situation worse. They watched as self-important wankers forced themselves on to already-packed trains, making the conductors wait until bums and briefcases were safely out of the way of the doors before anyone could move.

"What a bunch of asshats," opined Cassandra.

"I have a joke for you," Brick undulated sexually, as much to keep warm as to telegraph his feelings, "If a train leaves Aldershot at 8:15 in the morning, travelling at 80 k/h, how long will it take it to reach Union station?"

"That's a trick question," purred Cassandra. "A train has never left Aldershot. And probably never will." Her tinkling laughter disappeared into the crisp winter air like the hopes of every stranded passenger when the next full-to-bursting cattle car limped into the station.

The long morning wore on, and by the time they finally got onto a train, the two were completely frozen and half in love. They spent the train ride happily crushed into one another, barely noticing the umbrellas and oversized purses jammed unceremoniously into various parts of their bodies by their neighbours.

For once, Cassandra forgot to curse the idiotic passengers who, as though kept back by an invisible force-field of douchebaggery, refused to climb up to the next level of the train, thereby allowing everyone on board ample room and a small measure of human dignity. Instead, she silently hoped the object jabbing into her upper thigh was evidence of how much Brick liked her.

For his part, Brick alternated between trying to surreptitiously smell her hair and glaring bitterly out the window. His office building shimmered tantalisingly before him as the train stood immobile just outside of Union Station. "For Christ's sake," he fumed internally, "if you let me out right here I could walk on my hands and get to work before we even get into the station!"

A mere thirty minutes later their journey was at an end. Now they had only to endure the harrowing Bataan death march down the only staircase on that side of the platform, then back up again. Up and out to sweet freedom.

By the time the couple had finished the hellishly slow obstacle course, their fate was sealed. They parted with exchanged business cards, smoldering looks, and tingling naughty bits. Each was secure in the knowledge that this ritual was sure to happen again very soon... maybe even tomorrow, if it snowed.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009


The other day I was riding the GO Train, and on one of the walls I spied a poster for U2's newest album "No Line on the Horizon". My keen powers of observation did not stop there, however. While closely perusing the poster, I happened to notice something that no one else has ever noticed before: the members of U2 are getting a bit long in the tooth.

"Aha!" thought I. "A fresh avenue of comedy to be mined like the wind! These geezers are ripe for parody, and I shall give it to them, but good!" Then I twirled my moustache and cackled maniacally. I refrained from tying a damsel to the tracks, as the GO Train has enough scheduling problems as it is.

I began my mental assault on the impossibly decrepit band. My first thought was, "No line on the horizon? Maybe you need new bi-focals, grandpa! Ooh, burn." With this wicked barb priming the pump, I knew I had hit the comedy jackpot. But how best to impale them on my razor-sharp wit? "I've got it!" I yelled at no one in particular. "I shall re-write their set list with song titles that sound vaguely political and pretentiously arty, but that also might be seen as things that a bunch of old guys would be concerned about."

"Oh Alanis, you are deliciously evil!" I cooed to myself. "No one will have thought of this idea before. No one." The passenger beside me shifted uncomfortably, gripped her knitting needles tightly and eyed me suspiciously. All in all, an unsettling train ride. But a profitable one, it turns out.

Without further ado, I give you:

U2's (AKA Old Guys') Song List

Ordinary Movements
The Spirit is Willing
Speak Up
Irregular Heartbeats
Blind Man's Bluff
A Lovely Afternoon
Keeping Up With the Jonases
Blood in the Bowl
Give Me Strength
Pop! (Uh-Oh)
I Want to Live

Special Album Remixes:
Sitting to Sit Still
What Was I Looking For, Again?
The Unforgettable... Something
Stuck in a Bathtub You Can't Get Out Of

And that, my friends, is how you stick it to the Old, Old Man. I bet next time they will think twice before being no more than ten years older than me! Stupid old rock stars and their dumb joie de vivre. Pfft!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Oh No, Not Home Movies

Hey guys, sorry I've not been around for *looks at watch* about five months. But you know how it is. Life gets busy, the endless winter sucks what little energy you had out of you, your meager brain runs out of any sort of creative ideas, and you blame the economy (and the Bush administration) for everything. It's the old, old story.

Anyway, this is not really a new update, as Bush and his cronies have continued to sap my creative juices (not to mention my RSP contributions). But I had the good fortune to be able to put together a video for my family that features my Grandmother and Grandfather, who have passed away in the last two years. It is not funny, and for those of you who don't know them, it will hardly be interesting (not because you're mean, you just have nothing to tie you emotionally to these people). My Facebook pals will have already had an opportunity to see this, but alas, there are people in my life who, horror of horrors, have eschewed Facebook for sunshine and human companionship. (Weirdos.)

So I've decided to place this here for a little while to give them an opportunity to see it.

And, you never know, now that Obama is in the White House (praised be His name), and there is daylight until after 6:00 at night, I'm feeling a return of energy (but not of RSP contributions. Sadly, those are gone like the pipe dream of not living in a cardboard box in my golden years...) Perhaps I may even come back and post one or two things here or there.

Stranger things have happened.


Well, looks like that link didn't work either. So for those who would like to see it, email me and I'll send you another link and the password.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Kickin' it Old School

Picture it: Windsor, Ontario in the early 1990's. A young woman in the first flush of youth turns on her television to engage in a little passive entertainment. Perhaps to gaze dreamily at Chris in the Morning, or to giggle guiltily at that Corky kid. Suddenly, she spies a channel she's never seen before. It's a channel with music videos playing. Intriguing!

Is it MuchMusic (folks might know it as John Roberts' jumping off point)? Why no, it's much more cutting edge than that! This seems to be a Jukebox channel! It's the latest in interactive multimedia entertainment. For a small fee, you can call in and play the music you want to hear. It's filled with the most god-awful videos today's technology can provide. And they're playing over and over and over again. She can hardly look away...

Ah, the early 90's. Yes, those were wonderful times. With Germany reunited, Apartheid abolished, and the spirit of Glasnost in the air, thoughts turned naturally enough to freedom. Young men began to say "no!" to the tyranny of the tight-fitting pant. The granddaddy of all boy bands roamed the earth unfettered. And biker shorts allowed a generation of girls to do cartwheels while wearing a skirt.

It was in this atmosphere that the idea of a Jukebox channel made it's debut. I don't remember what the one I watched was called, but it was out of Detroit and featured some of the dumbest videos it has been my pleasure to watch incessantly. Sure, the channel offered the odd Cure song (which was more my genre), but mostly it was dance and hiphop. Really, really stupid hiphop (stupid means good, right?).

For years I would make reference to these videos and songs, and for years normal people stared at me blankly. Until now.

I found one of the videos that I would say was the one they played THE MOST on that channel. I give you, "Juicy Got 'Em Crazy":

The other video that simultaneously horrified and cracked me up was called "No Sexx (With My Sister)". I'm pretty sure I'm about the only person other than the performers to remember it, but the ridiculous chorus delighted me to no end. Indeed, for years I called my sister "Sistah, ma sistah... no sex wit ma sistah!" She says she has no recollection of the song or the video and I've been scouring the internets for it for ever. No such luck. I did, however, find out who did it.

Finally! I had the band's name! The Canadian group MCJ and Cool G actually existed, but could I find the video I had so longed to see? Unfortunately, no. I guess I'd just have to make one myself.

I tried in vain to find a copy of just the song, but to no avail. Finally, eBay came to the rescue. I found a copy of their CD for sale for $1.00 USD! Should I risk it? Would it be worth it? I decided that yes, it was. I ordered it, paid four times the price for shipping and waited impatiently for it to arrive.

And was it worth it? I don't know. You tell me. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "No Sexx (With My Sister)":

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Amateur Video!

So I've started dabbling in video, especially since I found out my camera has time lapse ability on it. Ooh, boy, are you in trouble.

So here's my first attempt. My friends and I had a good time this past Friday night, as we are a wild and crazy bunch of women. Look out ladies of Sex in the City, you've got some real competition!

I don't expect you to give a rodent's nether regions about this, but I hope you enjoy it anyway... Besides, it's only a minute and a half. It's not gonna kill you, is it*?

*Note: If it does kill you, your reading this disclaimer waives any right your family might have to damages. Sucker!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How to be Popular

Do you want to be popular? Revered by strangers, admired by co-workers, adored by friends and family? Sure, we all do! But how? How? That is the million-dollar question, baby.

Shocked that not one person has ever stepped up to fill this gaping societal hole, we here at This is Joe's Fault have taken it upon ourselves to do that very thing. Our crack team of analysts have spent back-breaking hours poring over scientific studies, cross-referencing and comparing empirical data, and watching a butt-load of eTalk Daily. Finally, we have compiled our patented Five List of the easiest ways to become popular. Behold!

1. Be rich.
Despite what you may have heard, folks LOVE to hang around with people who have a lot of money! It's true! Oftentimes rich people have nicer houses, cars, clothes, and food and drink than the rest of us. Giving less well-off people access to these things is a great way to garner friends and raise your profile. (Throwing lavish parties and giving exorbitant gifts for no reason is also very effective.)

When you're rich, people tend to overlook many personality defects that might hinder a person's popularity. Witness Paris Hilton, Donald Trump, Ross Perot, etc. These are odious, unpleasant people who would be roundly ignored if not for their money.

There is a reason this is number one on the list. If you want to be popular, my advice is to get yourself a great deal of money, and quick!

2. Be extraordinarily attractive.
It's a truism to be sure, but beautiful people are never lonely. Normal (and even ugly!) people quite like to look at the good-looking, even if they are doing the most mundane things. Shopping, sorting through a junk drawer, showering ... You name it, folks just seem to want to watch!

Again, people are very forgiving of really good-looking people. You can be mean, stupid, obnoxious -- even really, really smart -- and people will overlook those faults and want to hang around with you anyway. As long as you're breathtakingly good-looking, the world is your oyster!

3. Be naturally talented.
Normal people find talent fascinating, and rightfully so. Since they've got nothing to offer the world at large, it intrigues them to be near someone who does. Musical ability, athleticism, even something in the juggling arts -- natural talent comes in very handy when trying to make friends.

And whenever there's a lull in the conversation you can easily re-captivate attention by simply saying "hey everybody, watch this!" (Just be sure there aren't too many lulls, as nobody likes a show off.)

Note: #3 works even better if you can combine it with either #1, #2, or both. Hey, you only live once. Go for it!

4. Conform.
Humans are a funny bunch. As much as they enjoy the occasional superficial distraction, they generally do not want their basic world view challenged in any way. Radical thinking scares them, so this is where the intellectually lazy can really shine. Do you believe in god? Depends on who you're talking to. What do you want on your pizza? I'll have what she's having! Do you think the Mets will win the big game? What do you think?

As the excruciatingly painful current presidential election has taught us, to be popular it's important to look like you agree with everybody. And it not just important in politics. Let's face it, being easily led is the hallmark of the popular person.

So if you're seriously considering following the advice in this post, heck, you're already well on your way!

5. Lie.
If, for some strange reason, you can't manage to be fabulously rich, preternaturally good-looking, extraordinarily talented, or blandly familiar, there is still hope for you. Just pretend to be all of these things. It's easy! All it takes is a complete lack of conscience, a whole lot of enthusiasm, and a little bit of imagination. Just look what it did for Tony Robbins.

Well, there you have it. Five easy steps to being loved, adored and respected by everybody you ever meet. Good luck and have fun!