Posted by: A. Voter | May 7, 2008

praise the lord and pass the motion?

Now, usually I like to think that I’m on top of things.  However, I was shocked the other day to learn that they start off each legislative session where I live with the Lord’s Prayer.  In this day and age?

The only reason I know about this is because apparently the issue of whether to scrap the prayer or not has become a very pressing issue over the last few days.

When this was announced, so many irate people Emailed the legislature to complain that their website crashed!

I mean – they cut our public health care significantly and people responded by saying “Oh well.”  The roads are in a shambles and no one really complains about that.  But mess with the prayer?  That, apparently, is worth public vitriol and comment.

Seems to me that this is a bit skewed.  Politicians praying might have been OK, in my view, when Parliament looked like this:

However, we’re now in the 21st century.  High time to let go of little comforting rituals which may well be offensive to many, in my view.

Perhaps it would be more beneficial to start asking the politicians exactly what it is that they are praying for. I can think of a few things I’d add to that list, myself.

Posted by: A. Voter | May 2, 2008

the solution to the bullying problem


Why is it that I cannot turn on the evening news these days without being subjected to yet another story about bullying?

Statistics about bullying.  Studies about bullying.  Parents whingeing about their kids being bullied (usually with said kid hanging behind in the background, looking humiliated.  And wouldn’t you, if your mother dragged you on to national television and told everyone what a little weakling you were?!

Being in the 21st century and all, it seems that “virtual bullying” has become all the rage – kids being sent mean messages on Facebook or their cellphones.  And just what are these kids doing accessing text messages while at school anyway? When I was at school, we weren’t even allowed to chew gum, let alone play with electronic gadgets.

(By the way, is there anything else one can call someone who is being picked on at school other than a “victim”?  Would it be a “bullee”?  Hmm.)

Now, given all the emphasis on it, you’d think this was a new problem.  Is it, hell! It just seems that the approach to dealing with it is new – encouraging one’s children to become weak whiners who can’t stand up to any form of negativity.  And just what are these children going to do when they become adults and can’t hide behind Mommy’s skirts anymore?

Why, buy a self-help book of course! 


Man alive.  Even the adults are whining these days.  So, when my boss asks me why I’m late finishing a project, do I get to make a complaint against her for “bullying me” and not being sympathetic to me?

Or, maybe I’ll just sue her – just like one university teaching assistant recently who filed suit against her students for criticizing her in course feedbacks and not listening to her.

(I should note that the lawsuit was eventually dropped. So, there must be some sensible people out there at least.)

But we haven’t lost the War Against Bullying quite yet.  I do hope that the school boards and politicians are reading this blog as I have a solution which will save them millions of dollars and lots of time.  

Educational videos!!!

Well?  Did you ever see Sylvester get the better of Tweety?

Didn’t Elmer Fudd always end up looking like a complete @$$?

And we all know what ended up happening to Wile E. Coyote…

In my view, these videos, accessible to all age levels, teach valuable lessons – if you bully, you will get a 10,000 lb weight dropped on your head or suffer other nasty fates.  Pretty powerful stuff. 

Bullies.  If you can’t beat ’em, mock ’em. 

Posted by: A. Voter | May 1, 2008

MayDay! MayDay! The blackberries are attacking…

It’s May Day today!

Looks like fun, eh? But alas, not for us beleaguered hardworking North Americans. Apparently we’re too busy checking our Blackberries to kick up our heels.
Or at least, so said a newspaper article I read yesterday. It would seem that the Blackberry is fast becoming the 21st century incarnation of the bullwhip. Bosses are handing them out left, right and centre and expecting employees to check them at all hours, leading to massive overtime, apparently.

So, what is the solution to this dire problem? Why, litigation, of course.

Some lawyers and work-life experts say other employers should be taking note if they want to ward off potential lawsuits or massive overtime bills.

Hmm… I wonder if the “work-life experts” have to carry Blackberries too? If not, it sounds like a fab job. Where do I sign up? But I digress…

In the United States, legal experts are warning that a new wave of overtime litigation is on the horizon, in which employees will claim overtime for all the hours they’ve spent clicking away at their hand-held devices.

And will this tidal wave of litigation be created by said “legal experts”, perchance?

But I have no doubt we’ll hear about lawsuits on this issue in the very near future. And I shall look forward to seeing how the courts deal with counterarguments by bosses regarding all the time spent by the employees on YouTube, eBay and – yes – their Blackberries for personal reasons during office hours?

Quantification of damages in these lawsuits is going to be a real bitch, no?

But seriously, things have gone way too far on both sides of the spectrum. Bosses are making unreasonable demands on time, and employees are getting addicted to the very machine which enslaves them. Not to mention acting completely rudely in my company by playing with the Blackberry while I’m trying to talk to them. Enough already!)

I’d like to call for a national “Smash Your PDA” day, myself. If I were dictator, any employee who willingly relinquished their Blackberry would get an automatic month off work with pay. The bosses wouldn’t even notice, probably, and would have to spend the month Emailing each other.

If you agree, why not write to your political representative today demanding freedom from the tyrant Blackberry. An appropriate start date?

Why, May 1st, of course.

Posted by: A. Voter | April 24, 2008

Defarge, redux.

“Madame Defarge took up her knitting with great apparent calmness and repose of spirit….”

Well, I’m not sure if this describes me or not. Probably not. I suspect that if you ask anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting me in person to describe me, the words “calmness” and “repose of spirit” would not be the first ones to be used.

Unlike her:

Who was Madame Defarge, anyway? you ask?  Were you sleeping through public school when they taught Charles Dickens in English class, anyway? Sheesh!!

Coles Notes were my huge lifesaver in both public and high school. I could never figure out why they insisted on making us read Shakespeare and Dickens every year for – oh – eight years? Especially when I found out that Dickens got paid by the word to write. Sigh.

So, how do I even know who she is, you ask? Because some of my coworkers bestowed “Madame Defarge” to me as a nickname. So, after 25 odd years, I had to go and find out who she was.

First of all, I reviewed the classic source materials:

… but the source materials were not as informative on her history as I would have hoped. However, luckily for me, well after I left grade eight the internet came along and now on-line versions of Coles Notes proliferate! (I’m surprised the teachers have not protested this en masse, actually…).

So, what did I learn?

Well – she was a subversive knitter of the first order, as it turns out. Apparently, she was a spy for the French revolutionaries, and used her knitting to record the names of the enemies of the Revolution in code.

Pretty wild, eh?

And – you’ve got to like a woman who got to boss around men in the 18th century:

“Take you my knitting,” said Madame Defarge, placing it in her lieutenant’s hands, “and have it ready for me in my usual seat. Keep me my usual chair…”

Besides the predilection for knitting, Madame Defarge had certain other things in common with me apparently – she liked hanging out at…

Now, I rather imagine that in real life, she would have looked like this:

(in other words, what I wish I looked like, minus all the black).

Oh – I should note that the coworkers stopped referring to me as “Madame Defarge” around the time that I started bringing my knitting to staff meetings. I wonder if they started to worry about the sopisticated codes contained within – especially given that I detest staff meetings and tend to mouth off during them as a result.

But fear not, O Coworkers – I have real enemies of the revolution to record!!! For example, this:

contains a record of all of the shameful, left-abandoning exploits of Jumpin’ Jack Flash, toady to the Conservatives current leader of the NDP – which is what passes as the “left” party in Canada today.

And this sophisticated code?

Well – Bob Rae, of course.

The colour of the scarf denotes the champagne nature of his prior socialist attitudes, now apparently long gone since he is making bids for Liberal leadership (although right now he says he’s not. Pull the other one, Bob – it’s got bells on it!)

Oh by the way, I’m not alone in my assessment on Bob. If you’re Canadian and/or extremely bored, check out what Rick Mercer had to say back in 2006 about him and his nonsense.

So, how about this one?

Well, I’m a bit behind the times on this one – maybe. However, I just saw the Trial of Tony Blair and was reminded anew of so-called “leftism” and its possible end results in the wrong hands.

So, if you see a short bushy-haired woman across from you on the subway… beware.  But only if you’re a politician…

Posted by: A. Voter | April 21, 2008

the modern voice of conscience: department stores?

Another little preview, somewhat edited, from a past blog post on Bespoke By Brouhaha! Enjoy, if you can.


I think I’ve really taken to heart all of the advertising recently in which large multinational corporations are telling us that we should care about the environment and global warming.

These ads (and please tell me they exist outside of Canada – surely we can’t be the only caring country out there!) usually feature cute video footage of little kids playing (and, depending upon the ad, a dog or two) in a large field with the type of green grass that only comes after huge daily watering sessions.

(photo by Bill of Las Vegas, from

Overshadowing the giggles of the kiddies, however, is a sombre voiceover telling us just what bad shape the environment is in, and what we can do to change all of that. You typically don’t even know what the ad is for until the last moment when a logo flashes up onto the screen.

I got so curious after seeing such an ad that a Local Department Store Chain Which Shall Remain Nameless has been running for the 512th time this week that I had to find out what it is they’re selling. All that the ad refers to is a mysterious programme called, let’s say “New Resurrection”. An oxymoron, by the way, don’t you think?

Once at the website I had to search long and hard to find out what I was looking for. A link from the home page called, let’s say, “New Resurrection” looked promising, but clicking it simply led to their online shopping catalogue. All roads lead to shopping, I guess.

(I’m reminded, strangely, of a conversation I had some 15 years ago when the term “organic” was still in its infancy as a marker for luxury products. We were in a Greek restaurant on the Danforth where, ahead of their time, almost every meat was advertised as “organic”. My father didn’t know what the word meant. After I went on for a few minutes explaining about free range chickens and all that, he paused for thought, and then said “Oh, eet means expensive.”


I finally found out what I was looking for under the (get this!) “Social Responsibility” tab on their website. “New Resurrection” is the codeword that the Department Store Which Shall Remain Nameless has assigned to a whole new line of products made from organic cotton and bamboo – mostly luxury linens and towels.

Finding the prices was yet another challenge. Finally I was successful, though – and most of the prices were in the three figures. This is what the website told me about that:

That’s why we can pay our organic cotton farmers a 30% premium above conventional cotton prices. We also commit to buying the cotton before the crop is grown, so farmers have security of income too. Our cotton is produced by a group called Agrocel in Gujarat, India, which works with 20,000 small-scale farmers, using Fair Trade principles to support them in the conversion to organic farming. We think that makes organic cotton all the more worth the extra money.

Well, that’s nice, isn’t it? The farmers get 30 per cent more, the Bay at least 100 per cent more. Does that sound like “Fair Trade” to you?

Then again, they aren’t showing happy go lucky photos of the cotton pickers on their ads, are they? Hmm.

And the Department Store which shall remain nameless continues to charge luxury prices for such everyday household items as…

…the humble vacuum cleaner!

Now, just when did they start making vacuum cleaners that look like racecars? And – $500.00?? For that price I’m not buying one unless they throw something like this in to operate it for me as well:

Oh, and on this very same website where they lecture on (and on, and on, if you care to visit enough links – there seem to be more links on the website about how much they care for the environment than there are telling you the prices of what it is they’re actually selling), they carry useful environmental educational toys for the kiddies such as these:

(Would that be the fuel efficient Hummer, do you think?)

Oh, and check this out:

This is a toy intended for children 18 months through five years of age. I like the subtle messaging about learning to keep that car filled up all the time. And, with the price of gas these day it could wind up being a really good educational toy on how to add (although I don’t know that your average 18 month old could actually count that high).

But my favourite part?

Comes with a hose, pretend nozzle, credit card swipe and special cut-out credit card [emphasis added].

I wonder if the cut-out card is a store card from the Department Store Which Shall Remain Nameless?? Three guesses, and the first two don’t count.

So, the moral of the story seems to be “Do your bit to save the environment, but make sure your kids grow up to love plastic and drive big gas-guzzling SUVs”. An interesting message, no?

Posted by: A. Voter | April 19, 2008

Shameless and shameful exorbitance

Please note: this post was originally published in slightly different form on my other blog, here.  I am posting it here as a warning of what to expect from this blog…

Who was it again who said “There’s a sucker born every minute?”

I’m beginning to wonder if all of the suckers emigrated to Toronto while I wasn’t looking.

The evidence?

First off, I saw a number of pretty wild food spending choices in the latest issue of Toronto Life.

Here, for example, is a photo of a $170.00 steak:

That’s what you pay for six ounces, mind you.

(Gotta like that line “… only a client dinner can justify the expense”. I guess that’s because you’d be billing the clients for it at the end of the day, eh – that is, if you had the type of client that expected wined and dined. I work for Legal Aid, myself.)

If that’s a bit too rich for your blood, or should you not have a bunch of sucker clients at your disposal, you can pick up this 12 ounce steak for $94.00 – a bargain!

(And, apparently the cows are happy while they’re living. I’ve never quite understood this new concept, mind you. Why is the meat eater’s conscience salved because the cows, chickens etc have a good time before you kill them and eat them? Could someone please explain this to me?)

This is more along the usual price range of the beef entering this house:

The kind that comes in the last day sale at Loblaws, that is.

So, then I saw an article about $15 cups of coffee being all the rage on College Street. Now, I’m very interested in coffee, don’t get me wrong, but this is a bit much. People line up for it, apparently.

Oh – and it’s the only coffee in the joint in question that you can’t take with you to go. Probably a good thing – they’d likely want to tack on a toonie for a paper cup and one of those annoying little sleeve thingies so you don’t burn yourself.

(Last year, I saw another wildly overpriced coffee for sale in a grocery store: it’s called Kopi Lewak. It has a unique flavour which comes from – get this – the fact that the beans are eaten and then excreted by a small cat-like creature called a civet. Seriously. I shit kid you not!

This is what it looks like in the wild, apparently (the coffee, that is, not the cat):

Mmm-mmm good. And what do they charge for this? $120.00 for four ounces/113 grams – and you can bet for that price they have some pretty exact scales… you’re not going to get 115 grams!. That’s $480 per pound, folks. More expensive than my TV set!)

And I thought Starbucks was expensive! I think I’ll stick with my extra large Tim’s – $1.75 a pint.

Then yesterday I saw something which really took the cake. At the place near my office where they sell $15.00 hot chocolate mix, which I thought was bad enough…

… I saw this stuff.

Now, I should mention that I was in this shop first thing in the morning. This is just the sort of thing that is  guaranteed to put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. I hate the word “bl**g” – so much that I can’t even bring myself to type it. I don’t know if it’s an official word yet but I would start a petition to keep it out of the Oxford English Dictionary if not.

Then I saw the price: $75.00!!!! For 750 ml of WATER!!!! From TENNESSEE!!! This, by the way, in a city in CANADA which ran out of its snow removal budget in… wait for it… January.

(Yes, I’m shouting. I’ve just about had it.)

I immediately came to the office and googled it, of course. According to a review I read, this is water that makes a “truly defining statement”. And it tastes good. It’s WATER, people! Has everyone forgotten what fish do in water, I ask you!!

Oh – but some good news… the bottles are recyclable! Why anyone stupid enough to actually but a $75 bottle of water would then turn around and recycle this bottle is beyond my tiny little brain… The B word is made out of Swarovski crystals, after all.

Well, I don’t know about you, but for $75 I’d rather have 47 feet of this fancy Swarovski crystal studded yarn:

I might actually be able to make something useful with it. And it would be sure to last longer than that steak or that bottle of water, eh?


Posted by: A. Voter | April 17, 2008

sobbing into my latte…

Welcome to yet another blog by Brouhaha.

Starting on 1 May 2008, I will be providing short (and hopefully humorous) daily chronicles of the travails of living in Western society in the 21st century. May Day seemed an auspicious day to start it up, given that it is a holiday practically everywhere in the western world save – you guessed it – North America. Too communistic by half for these parts, apparently.

A bit about me: I’m a more or less permanent malcontent living in Toronto. Every day, I look around me and see at least one thing that drives little ol’ pinko me completely mad about our society today. And every evening, I go home and watch the news and throw (empty) beer bottles at the television screen.

At first, I thought that it was just me getting older and crankier. But no. We’re told to be afraid of everything by the media, Increasingly it seems to me that Western society is going straight to hell in a teacup.

Yes, that’s right – a teacup, not a handbasket.

(But what about the handbasket, anyway? I must confess that I’ve never been quite sure what a “handbasket” is. Plus, baskets in general, being made of wicker, burn quickly. The teacup, by comparison, is made to withstand a lot of heat. But one not-so-fine day, it could crack completely…

I’m afraid the cracks are already starting to show. Sigh.)

So, hell in a teacup it is – or rather, hell in a enviro-friendly cardboard serving of medium roast, half decaf half full strength and that’s SOY milk, please, just a touch, from [insert name of closest high end fuzzy and warm feel good coffee house chain shop where the workers are given fancy Eurotitles in lieu of a decent paycheque]. Sorry… what size, did you ask? Well, a Ventiuno, of course!

And in case you actually believed it was cold in hell, it’s not. It’s hot hot hot… and it stinks of soured latte.

Hope to see you back on or before 1 May – and please feel free to get cranky right along with me by commenting or dropping me a line!