Monthly Archives: July 2013

Hump Day: Too early to start sucking up to Good King Ethelbert?

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Well, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are finally parents. On Monday, the Duchess – or simply Kate, as she is popularly known – went into labour and sent the world’s media and royal-watchers into a frenzy. Thankfully, the wait wasn’t too long and the future king was born within a few hours.  Reports stated that mother and baby were doing fine. For any birth that goes well, royal or not, we can be grateful.

The attention given the royal pregnancy was all in due course. Similar attention was given to Prince Charles’ birth and William’s birth, of course. Today, with the onslaught of social media, it just seems more abundant. On Facebook, especially, users were posting updates and speculating on birth dates and names.

Others decried all the interest and wondered out loud what all the fuss was about. Why spend so much time paying attention to the birth of one child being born into an astonishing amount privilege?  I’ll tell you why, the little bugger will one day have the power to have me beheaded, that’s why. When he’s eventually on the throne, the future king will pretty much have the authority to just walk down the street and lop off peoples’ heads with his royal sword just because he feels like it. Maybe it was some Internet rumour I read somewhere, but I’m pretty sure he’s allowed to do that.

Anyway, even if it’s not true, I’m not taking any chances. I’ll change the kid’s smelly royal diaper, help train him to go on the royal potty, protect his royal face from being punched by schoolyard bullies and even do his royal homework. If it means not having my head chopped off in a fit of royal temper, I’ll do as I’m royally told.

At the time this column is being written, there’s yet no name for the little tyke, so that will be the wild speculation over the next few days. I just hope they come up with a name that hasn’t been used much before.  Pope Francis chose a name no one else had used, so why can’t William and Kate? Well, Queen Elizabeth has a bit to say in all of that, so I doubt she’ll get them get too crazy.

Something tells me that when this baby becomes king in 50 or 60 years or so after his father dies — assuming William lives into this 80s — we’ll all be hailing King George VII, King Edward IX, King James III or perhaps King William VI or King Charles IV if he’s named after his father (the future King William V) or grandfather (the future King Charles III). Maybe he’ll be named after Prince Harry and become King Henry IX, who knows? (Harry is just a nickname, by the way. Harry’s real name is Henry.)

Somehow, though, I doubt we’ll be seeing an entirely new royal name enter the fray. I wouldn’t put my money down on some of the more popular modern names for British baby boys. Currently, the top 10 in the U.K. are 1) Noah; 2) Oscar; 3) Oliver; 4) Isaac; 5) Jacob; 6) Dylan; 7) Ethan; 8) Leo; 9) Alfie; 10) Harry. While one may assume that the “Harry” on the list is because of Prince Harry, I would suggest it’s really based on Harry Styles, the most popular member of the British boy band One Direction.

I somehow doubt that receiving a letter from King Dylan or King Noah ordering you to appear before him would hold much gravitas. Dylan? Noah? They sound like California surfer dudes with hair bleached blond by the sun who are kept as boy toys by lonely married women twice their age.

I’m betting on James, personally.  It’s a nice name that is reasonably original but which holds some authority. There have been a number of kings of Scotland and England named James, so it also has some history to it. King James VI of Scotland and King James I of England were the same person. He died in 1625, so a wait of approximately 475 years between Jameses would likely be enough to make it original yet traditional at the same time.

If William and Kate get into the royal bubbly to celebrate the future king’s birth, let’s hope they don’t go too far back in history to get an even older name such as Eadred, Eadwig, Ethelred, Cnut (Lord help the dyslexics who misspell that one!) and Harthacnut. Yup, Harthacnut. Pretty sure that one won’t be making a comeback on the most popular baby names list, either.

Yes, those are all actual names of previous English monarchs. Thankfully, in 1042, monarch names began sounding a bit more familiar. Edward. Harold. Edgar.

Names aside, a royal birth is a much-anticipated occasion across the Commonwealth. It’s happy news. Nothing wrong with celebrating it or paying some attention to it! It doesn’t mean we forget the ill or the poor, but it gives those who are so inclined a happy diversion from all the horrible news out there — the train accidents, the shootings, the racism, the terrorist plots, environmental disasters and murders. There’s nothing wrong with a little harmless distraction, I say, so why give grief to those who are taking some joy in the royal birth?

I wonder if he’ll be a handsome king or a hard-looking one? I have to say, Charles is looking better as he ages. When he was younger, he was one odd-looking man. He could have been Alfalfa’s stunt double in The Little Rascals. William and Harry, however have been blessed with good looks, although there remains rampant speculation as to the true identity of Harry’s father since he looks a lot like a close friend of Diana’s.

I just hope the baby doesn’t grow up to have red hair and freckles like Prince Harry. If so, Kate has some serious explaining to do.

Hump Day: Cell phone use while driving: a dangerous form of narcissism

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

If we’re going to have rules and regulations about certain things in society, then great! I’m all for them when they make sense. Unfortunately, there are some highly touted laws that are being made a public mockery by those who break them and by those who implement them but don’t provide the resources to enforce them.

Case in point: distracted driving laws. I don’t know about you, but this has got to be the most ignored law in the entire province. Every day, I see several drivers chatting away on their cellphones while negotiating through traffic, stopped at lights, etc. I’ve even called out a few by beeping my horn and pointing to my ear to let them know they’ve been caught talking on the telephone while driving.

The narcissists usually give me the middle-finger salute or just scream unheard obscenities from behind their closed vehicle windows. I haven’t done this very often, but it never went well when I did. Finally, I just gave up. Let them get into an accident and kill someone. What am I supposed to do about it? I can’t save the world.

Why the term “narcissists”? Because they somehow believe that their telephone conversation is so important that putting the lives of others at risk is worth it. I beg to differ. There are very affordable devices that use Bluetooth technology and that fit into your ear to allow you to answer a cellphone without having to be distracted. Often, it’s just the touch of a button in the earpiece and you’re connected. There are other hands-free devices available that attach to your visor. They work perfectly well.

Many new vehicles even have Bluetooth technology built in to their dashboards. I recently bought a new vehicle and it was the first thing I looked for! Now, whenever my cellphone rings while I’m in the car, I answer with the touch of a button on the steering wheel. No hassle and no more distracting than changing the station on your radio or talking to a passenger.

From my own unscientific research (translation: using my own eyes) I’ve come to the conclusion that the distracted driving law is being almost universally ignored to the extent where it might as well not even be on the books.

If enforcement resources aren’t available, I understand. We have budgets within which we must live. I get it. In that case, you have to make the fines dramatically larger in order to make it very scary if you’re caught. Currently in New Brunswick, the fine is $172.50 and you lose three points (out of 10) on your driver’s licence. In Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island, a first offence can cost you up to $400.

Here’s my idea. New Brunswick’s provincial budget is in the tank. We have a huge deficit. Budget cuts are the norm. And since very few (in my completely unscientific but I believe completely accurate survey) are following the distracted driving law, it’s time to put a dent in our deficit. It’s time to make people pay through the nose. We need to get tough on these fines.

If you’re caught talking on your hand-held cellphone while you’re driving in New Brunswick, the fine should be $1,000 and you lose half the points on your licence right then and there. Not only that, you must attend a mandatory day-long awareness session within 14 days of your fine or your licence is suspended. Going away on vacation or a business trip and can’t make it? Tough. Lose your licence. Awww heck — and why not publish the names of perpetrators in the newspaper at the same time?

Insurance companies should also take note of these offences and hike the insurance rates of offenders. You want more profits? This is a way to do it in a way that may even be quite popular with the public. Besides, it’s only a matter of time before Chatty Cheryl and Talking Tommy get into an accident that will cost you big bucks.

Drivers who deliberately and shamelessly talk on their handheld devices or text message while operating a vehicle aren’t much different than someone who’s had too many drinks. At least if you’re drunk, you’re probably watching the road. It’s impossible to text message someone or compose and send an email while you’re driving while keeping your eyes on the road. A convicted distracted driver should pay significantly higher insurance rates if their risk level increases because they can’t stop texting while driving or talking to their friend about the latest episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

Not only would we raise more money as a province, but we’d also take care of that enforcement problem. The fact is, the pain isn’t big enough for people to stop. They’re willing to take the chance. The punishment isn’t harsh enough. You’ll take the risk for $172.50 and three points. But will you take the risk for $1,000 (minimum), five points off your licence and a day’s lost wages (sorry, no weekend sessions!) to attend an awareness session? (And yes, there’ll be a test. And yes, you need to pass.)

The current punishments aren’t working. They’re too low. We aren’t scaring enough people into putting down their hand-held cellphones in favour of much safer Bluetooth technology.

It’s time to get serious about this folks. Drivers are ignoring this law en masse. It’s ridiculous and it’s time to bring the hammer down by making offenders pay big time through huge fines, more points off their licence and a mandatory awareness session that will inconvenience them and annoy them – and hopefully teach them a lesson.

Hump Day: Perhaps inadvertently, reality TV show offers life lesson

Hump Day
By BriaHump Dayn Cormier
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Once again, I sit here shaking my head at the moronic “freedom of speech” arguments being put forward by people online who think they can just say anything like it’s their God-given right to slam other cultures, races and sexualities.

The latest bunch of geniuses are the houseguests on the U.S. version of Big Brother, a staple of summer television viewing for 15 years. The show gathers a dozen or so strangers in a ‘house’ located on a studio lot in the Los Angeles area. Over the summer, one houseguest is voted out each week by their roommates.

I started watching in season 10 after some co-workers raved about the show. I poo-poo’d them at first, but was hooked as soon as I tuned in for the first time.

A number of competitions are held weekly throughout the summer. There are usually two competitions held: one for Head of Household (HOH) and one for the Power of Veto. The HOH is the one who chooses two of the three nominees for eviction. (The third is nominated by that week’s MVP house guest, most valuable player, as chosen by viewer votes.) The Power of Veto winner can choose to save one nominee.

Voting is often strategic. Some­times a strong player will be sent home early because they’re seen as a threat. Sometimes the rest of the house gangs up on someone perceived to be weak and they’re sent home. While some parts of the show are pure mindless drivel, the social dynamics are often quite fascinating.

Alliances are created. They lie to each other to get ahead. There’s lots of drama, much of it unnecessary. There are also lots of laughs. From an intellectual viewpoint, it’s sometimes not the most intelligent show, but the social experiment of watching a dozen strangers thrown together to determine the last one standing is interesting.

The winner gets $500,000 while the runner-up gets $50,000. The winner is chosen by a jury of ousted houseguests, so they decide who the actual winner is between the last two people left in the house at the end of the summer so the people you schemed to evict actually have to still like or respect you enough to give you a half-million dollars. It’s a game with many facets and risks.

Houseguests have absolutely no contact with the outside world during their time on the show. The seven houseguests evicted prior to the last two remaining also have no contact with the outside world until the show is over. (They’re sequestered in the so-called Jury House until the season finale when the winner is chosen.)

With all that said, the show has been around long enough to have developed a legion of Big Brother super fans who now apply to be on the show. This year’s crop, however, seems to have forgotten that the cameras and microphones are on 24/7. (Fans can purchase access to live Internet feeds to watch the houseguests around the clock. The only things off limits are the toilet and shower. In some countries’ versions of the show, even those private areas are shown.)

This season, controversy has erupted on the show as two current houseguest, unbeknownst to them, have been fired from their day jobs because of intolerant and offensive language. Aaryn Gries, who’s quickly become known as this season’s ‘mean girl,’ lost her job with Zephyr Talent after the live feeds caught her making comments they didn’t like, specifically language aimed at an Asian-American contestant, African-American contestant and a gay contestant.

GinaMarie Zimmerman, ‘the loud one from Staten Island, New York,’ was fired from her job with the East Coast U.S.A. Pageant for being caught uttering a racial slur in a comment about welfare. Meanwhile, a third houseguest, burly red-bearded Spencer Clawson, may be seeing his career as a railroad conductor with Union Pacific circling the drain for using a sexual slur to describe an openly gay contestant.

They all claim to be fans of the show, yet they seem to have mysteriously forgotten that they’re being watched 24/7. This has got to be the dumbest bunch I’ve seen in a long time. Unless one of these three wins the $500,000 — highly unlikely — they’re going to end up being more infamous than famous.

Message boards are going crazy with anger at their language and wondering why CBS, the network that airs Big Brother, isn’t removing them from the game. So far, the network hasn’t, but they’re not hiding the fact that the contestants are making others uncomfortable. If other contestants start complaining strongly about abusive language, these three may not last much longer on the show and could be removed by production, never having the opportunity of being voted out by their roommates. It’s happened a few times before, mostly to violence-prone contestants, though.

Others on the message boards spew the same old tired right-wing “freedom of speech” garbage that they somehow think inoculates them from the consequences of their words. You can say what you want as long as you accept that there can be consequences: legal, career-wise, socially, etc. Freedom of speech is a myth.

Choose your words wisely when mouthing off. You never know who’s listening. And when you’re being watched 24/7, that includes a lot of people.

Hump Day: Late-night encounter, sad story have animal lover feeling anxious

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

I don’t think I would have won any awards for kindness to animals when I had my dog Milane out for her last bathroom break of the night on Sunday. Well, it was actually early Monday morning by the time I brought her out at 12:30 a.m.

She dilly-dallied around like she usually does as I stood on the front steps waiting for her to do her thing. Sniffing. Lots and lots of sniffing, with a glance over to the park now and then to see if there was anything at which to bark.

There are usually a few loiterers in the park late at night in the summer months, although not usually this late at night. They usually don’t bother anyone. Sometimes they’re there for a late-night tennis game or throwing a basketball around until the lights go out. More often than not, the dark, faceless strangers can be seen sitting under the park shelter chatting. Sometimes there are beer bottles there the next morning — but most often it’s just young people looking for a place to congregate in groups of twos or threes.

Most of the time, you wouldn’t even know they’re there. If Milane hears them, she’ll let out her “Take one step over here and I’ll lick you to death” bark. A couple of tugs on her harness and a verbal admonishment from me will usually keep her quiet.

This night, though, she didn’t just bark, she went completely over the bend with barking, growling and lunging forward like there was something right in front of her. Within seconds, I did the usual admonishing and tugging, and then saw another dog charging from across the street. A split-second check of the park for a possible owner showed no one there.

Now, I say “charging” because that’s what it seemed like at the time. In the blur, I could tell it was a medium-sized white shepherd mix. In fairness, it wasn’t barking or growling. It may have been running over to play.

But at 12:30 a.m. trying to control my own dog who was in the middle of an instinctual protective tantrum and trying to analyze whether it was Cujo running at us or Benji, I was in no mood to get into a deep analysis of the situation. I needed to get Milane out of there just in case the dog was not friendly and to ensure Milane stopped her meltdown.

I yanked her back, thinking she would calm down and run to me, but she wasn’t letting up. She was going to protect her master. That was very nice of her, mind you, but an elderly butterfly could pretty well drop-kick her into unconsciousness, so I thought it best for me to protect her rather than the other way around.

Still resisting my tugging and seeing the urgency to get her inside and away from a possible nasty situation with another dog, I lost my patience and took matters into my own hands and brought her into the house so fast that I’m not sure her little white paws touched the steps on the way up. Like I said, I’m not sure I would have won any kindness awards right then and there. Safety sometimes trumps kindness.

Being an animal lover, though, I went right to the Internet once I got inside to see if there were any dogs reported missing in the neighbourhood. Nothing. At least if I found something, I could ascertain whether or not the dog was friendly and get a name. There was nothing, though, so I went back outside to see if I could call him or her over and check its tags if there were any. And yes, all of this at 12:30 a.m. At least the next day was a holiday.

I called, whistled and looked around for signs of the dog, but it was either hiding or had run off. Thankfully, it was a very warm night and was not raining. Also, there was very little traffic in the neighbourhood so getting hit by a car was less of a probability than it would have been normally.

I don’t know what happened to the dog, but as I was writing this column I checked online again and read that a dead dog in a garbage bag was found in a vacant lot not too far from here. Either it was someone who couldn’t afford to properly dispose of their deceased pet or maybe it was the dog I saw that night. I hope it wasn’t that dog.

As I age, I’m becoming hypersensitive to animal abuse, illness or homelessness. I can’t handle seeing photos on television or online. I can’t handle the sad commercials with dogs and cats looking at the camera from behind their cages — hoping that they’ll be adopted, found or rescued soon. I have to turn the channel. Lately, that hypersensitivity has also evolved into lost animals. If I see a photo of a lost pet online, I have to move on.

When I was a kid, I remember finding a stray dog in the neighbourhood. I can’t remember how I found him (or was it a she?), but it was a very nice dog. Gentle. Affectionate. Looking back, I think it was an older dog. I remember walking around the neighbourhood looking for its owners. It even slept in my bed with me for a night until we brought it to the SPCA the next day in the hopes that its owners were looking for it. I’ve never forgotten that and I’ve never stopped wondering whether it found its home.

So, anonymous white dog who ran toward Milane and me the other night, I hope you found your way home. Sorry I couldn’t help you right then and there. Unfortunately, my protective instinct kicked in and Milane’s safety became my first concern. And I hope you aren’t the dog found so unceremoniously dumped in a garbage bag in that vacant lot less than 24 hours later. If you are, I’m so sorry. I wish I could have helped. I tried.