Friday, April 29, 2011

150th Anniversary: Remembering the Canadian Civil War

When the Manitoban Navy sailed up the Severn River in northern Ontario, via Hudson Bay, and bombarded a lightly-defended Fort Severn with 24 hours of nonstop cannon fire on April 12, 1861, the Canadian Civil War had begun.

For years tensions between the adjoining provinces had grown over what appeared to be an innocent, lighthearted border dispute. ("Good sir, your border is ten meters off, I declare, eh?") Then, the underlying reasons surfaced: Ontario, in 1851, had passed a law limiting the alcoholic strength of its beer to 19 percent. The national government, with unequal representation from the heavily populated Ontario, and, impressed with the province's bold leadership, considered passing the same law for the entire nation. Tensions soon mounted.

After the shelling of the fort, Manitoba soldiers raised the rebel flag--red and white with a green oak leaf, not the famous, red maple leaf. This was a true declaration of secession.

Above: The oak leaf became the uniting symbol of western Canada during the Canadian Civil War. The oak tree, not the maple, is more commonly found in the west and appeared on the rebel flag.

"The oak leaf became the rallying cry for the West," said Fritz O'Leary, a history professor and award-winning author from Winnipeg Tech University. "From Winnipeg to Vancouver, the oak tree is king. The maple is more indigenous to eastern Canada."

Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territory (all four residents) united to form the West and believed that beer should have a higher alcoholic content than a "measly 19 percent." Though Quebec and the Atlantic provinces threatened secession, ultimately they remained with Ontario as part of Canada.

"Quebec's rallying cry became: 'La fistico viva a Canada pronte, la negotia concerne la biere later.' Which roughly translates to: 'Fight for Canada's life now, negotiate the concerns for beer later,'" said Don Gierre, an adjunct professor from Montreal Agriculture and Mining College. "And the fighting?... It was nasty, eh."

The battle of Tierra del Fuego was the bloodiest of all the war. The British Columbian navy, along with the Canadian navy each unknowingly formulated the same plans for a sneak attack. Sail south around the tip of South America and up the respective coasts to the intended place of bombardment. However, the two sides accidentally met at the tip--Tierra del Fuego, Argentina--and locked into combat for ten bloody days.

A rebel's letter home to Vancouver recalls the scene:

"Evelyn, I hope this letter finds you well. We suffered heavy losses today, my dear. I took a wound to the shoulder, nothing a sip of 35 percent alcohol beer couldn't mend. They are calling it the Battle of Tierra del Fuego. I bless the day we leave this wretched place. The sea was stained red with the blood of British Columbians and Canadians, swirling and swishing with the abnormally high and low tides. Have the children been skating daily, eh? How is little Tommy's slap shot coming? They must skate everyday like we discussed during my departure. Your loving husband, Ltn. Carl S, eh."

On April 9, 1865, Canadian troops captured Edmonton, Alberta ending the four-year war between the East and the West. The oak leaf-adorned flags hanging from every home and business were burned in the streets by jubilant Canadian soldiers drinking ... weaker beer. The alcohol content of Canadian beer remains at 19 percent today, a fact Ontarians are extremely proud of.

Riots break out across England after bride refers to football as 'the soccer game'

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

FAA bans throw pillows, hypnotists, whale calling cd, hammocks, lazy boys, scented candles from air traffic control towers

Chicago, IL--The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally took measures to prevent air traffic controllers from falling asleep on the job. Recently, several airline pilots lost contact with control towers due the deep slumber of several veteran controllers. The agency began an investigation last week. "We were shocked at what we found in some of these air traffic control towers," said Kevin Braston, an FAA official. "How can these people stay awake with leather recliners, soothing hammocks, glowing candles, soft throw pillows and hanging hideaways? And, the kicker, hypnotists would regularly pay visits to these towers with the sounds of whale calling in the background. Passengers lives are at stake here. This is unacceptable." The agency banned all of the above items (and people) from the towers, but, at the urging of controllers, said that playing cd's with sounds of waves crashing on the beach would be okay.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bonsai tree cell phone towers improving neighborhood's aesthetics, not cell coverage

Philadelphia, PA--T-Mobile, after a recent poor showing in Consumer Reports, promised local customers they would improve their cell coverage over the area by "any means necessary." The German-based communications company--known in Deutschland as Das Telefonica--answered with, what some are calling, a hilarious new technology that has been largely ineffective: bonsai cell phone towers. "They look like real bonsai trees, same size, but I still don't get very good mobile coverage," said Tim Hanover, 47, of Southwark. "There may be bonsai in more places, but not bars in more places." Others are not so quick to dismiss the new technology. "They work. They work just fine," said Heather Bendnt, a Pennsport resident, about the small, metal and plastic trees. "You just have to be standing right next to them or, in some cases, put your face right into the heart of the tree ... while talking. And then I just want to start clipping them and grooming them. It's not fair."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

J.Crew launches new Casual Floodwear clothing line

Clothing company J.Crew took a blind leap with their latest apparel line and CEO Tyler Wilkinson will be the first to admit it. "It's a risky move, but studies have shown that the more urban our environment becomes--growing impermeable surfaces: more asphalt, more concrete--the more flooding we will experience. J.Crew wants to capitalize on this growing trend that also has links to global warming."

What is the new line trying to accomplish? "The clothing line says, 'Yeah, there's a flood, but I'm not bothered by it. Just look at how calm I am in my new Receding Water Chinos,'" said Jon Weller, J. Crew's head of marketing. "These are clothes that I would personally wear in a flood situation."

"The casual floodwear really projects a steady-as-a-rock attitude in the heat of potential catastrophe that says, "What y'all worried about, that river ain't risin'. And, make sure you get all that sand off the outside of the sandbag before you go and hand me that thing. Have you lost your mind? What's all the fuss and rushing around about? Relax, the sandbag dam will be built.'"

Look for the new line in stores now, which includes, Sandbag Sleeveless t-shirts (made from real sandbags), River Crest Cargo Shorts, Receding Water Chinos, Relaxed-fit Shovel-that-Sand Jeans and much, much more.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Blanton included on Sports Illustrated cover with Phillies' Big Four ... well, sort of

The Phillies intimidating pitching staff made this season's Sports Illustrated baseball preview issue, which was released earlier this week. One of the staff members, however, is blatantly (or Blantonly) covered up by the title of the periodical and this snub, consequently, has the club, league and many fans irate.

Sports Illustrated contacted the team several months ago about including 'The Big Four'--Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels--on the cover of the popular magazine, but the team, and the pitchers, would only agree to take part if the fifth starter, Joe Blanton, was also included. SI at first hesitated then agreed, but remained quiet about how the final image would appear despite multiple inquiries from the team, including president David Montgomery and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

"This is egregious," said Amaro, visibly shaking with anger about the Blanton cover-up. "They were purposely vague and deliberately misguiding about the photo shoot and Joe's role in the final presentation. I sent some really harsh texts messages to those guys at SI. Texts that I can't share with the [press]."

"Oh, I'm used to it by now," said Blanton, about often being left out when the conversation turns to the Phillies starting pitching. "I'm thrilled that my body from the neck down made the cover of SI. It's really a dream come true and my whole family is ecstatic. I'm serious."

Despite the apparent laid-back nature of Blanton, his teammates are trying to soften the blow. "We've been teasing Joe ever since the issue came out," said fan favorite Cliff Lee. "You know, saying that it was a blessing that they covered that ugly mug of his up. Or, asking him why he didn't speak up when the photographer lowered the Sports Illustrated sign in front of his face during the shoot."

Early on Friday, before the opening day game against the Houston Astros, several Phillies, led by Ryan Howard, shoved a shaving cream pie into the face of an unsuspecting Blanton as a lighthearted prank, one that is extremely popular among MLB players. "Nothing gets a teammate to smile like a pie in the face," said first baseman Ryan Howard, stressing that the team has genuinely rallied around Blanton. "Although, I should have collaborated more with the guys because Joe got, like, three pies in the face on Friday morning. That wasn't good."

SI released this statement concerning the cover and a response to Amaro's comments: "The most recent issue of Sports Illustrated features the Philadelphia Phillies starting pitching staff on the cover. However, on page 27 of the issue we misspelled the last name of Luke Gregerson, a relief pitcher for the San Diego Padres. We spelled Gregerson with three e's. That is absolutely not SI quality and we apologize to our readers."

Friday, April 1, 2011

Local sports columnist ready if, when Phillies' powerful rotation falters this season

Norristown, PA--Last season, the Phillies three-headed ace monster, made up of Cole Hammels, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, spawned the nickname H2O.

Fans would often yell to brave Citizens Bank Park visitors with opposing team's jerseys, "Yo, your batter may be on fire right now, but we got water. That's right, H2O, baby." This was often followed by high fives, spilled beer and another walk to the concession stand on Dollar Dog Night--there's a four dog limit per trip.

With the addition--and return--of fan favorite Cliff Lee fans, columnists, bloggers, sports anchors and reporters sought the perfect nickname for this year's improved and potentially dominating rotation.

However, one local sports writer, was looking for a different name for the five starters, one that could be used in case the all-star pitching staff fell flat on its face. What did he come up with? H2BLO! (H)alladay, (H)ammels, (B)lanton, (L)ee, (O)swalt.

"I thought of it the other night," said Devin Bronson, a sports columnist for the BucksMontChesDel Daily Times, a bi-weekly newspaper (some say pamphlet) distributed to residents of Philadelphia's Pennsylvania suburban counties. "I really nailed it, I think. You know, like, saying that something really blows, that it's terrible. H2BLO. Even if two of the five pitchers screw up this year, not including Blanton, I'm going to break out the nickname. Oh, yeah, it's mine."

Bronson mentioned that he may alter the name to include Brad Lidge if the closer "goes to hell again," by adding the 'B' from his first name: H2BLOB. The writer said that a blob reference would be "a real insult" to the staff and that the movie The Blob was filmed in Phoenixville, PA, so there is a local connection, as well.

"He thought about doing H2BL2O, but it didn't have that certain ring to it. Then he even considered H2B2LO," said Bronson's editor, Sarah Cartwright. "I was like a big N-O. No!"

The writer has already struck a deal with a Queens, New York screen printing company that would sell a t-shirt version of the nickname to Mets fans.

"Listen, I'm a diehard Phillies fan but this is gold," said Bronson, who expects to hear the wrath of fans when and if he publishes the nickname in an article. "I genuinely hope that I don't get to use the nickname this season, honestly. I mean, I've ordered 100,000 H2BLO bumper stickers, refrigerator magnets, head bands, wrist bands and match books, but I really hope they end up collecting dust on my basement shelf."

Bronson said that even if the Phillies staff overwhelms batters this season, which is most likely the case, he could still use the name if all of the pitchers were, god forbid, linked to cocaine in some fashion. But, that "it would have to be all of them."