Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Whale Meat Again*

This post is prompted by a comment left in reaction to my post of last Friday on whaling wherein one of my regulars scoffed at the description of my family eating whale meat and concluded "I must be making that shit up".

Above you will note my wife, youngest daughter and younger son kicking it "old school" eating raw beluga whale skin - muktuk - off cardboard on the floor. There are two condiments involved: salt and soya sauce. After a small piece has been cut off with an ulu (traditional women's knife) the fat is trimmed and the back side of the skin scored to make it easier to chew. Then it's up to you: salt, soya sauce, or both.

Myself, having grown up in the south, I cannot force myself to participate in this delicacy, having all sorts of notions about higher lifeforms swimming freely in the briny blue. And I'm not the only one affected this way: my border Yuri cannot even watch muktuk being eaten. Instead, he retires to a corner of another room and appears to channel the spirit of the dead leviathan, assuring it that its flesh will be cherished by my family and that its death is all part of some bigger scheme of things. He's such as sentimental old fool.

This picture was taken two days ago, and this scene will be repeated a few more times before the sea freezes over in November/December.

* Apologies to Vera Lynn

Monday, June 26, 2006

Caribou Put in an Appearance

We're right in the middle of a caribou migration, and the hills on both sides of town are dotted with small groups of them fattening on the summer vegetation as it turns green. Occasionally, one will streak through town having been separated from its group. I've nearly wiped out the occasional caribou as it bounded across the road to the airport right in front of my truck.

The caribou are skinny right now, and not considered suitable for hunting. Instead, the locals will generally wait another month or so until the animals have a little more meat on them. This also means that there won't be any bullets whizzing around town since the herds will have moved on by the time they are hunted in earnest.

The thing about caribou that impresses me is that these animals can really move. With no exaggeration, a caribou at a mere trot can easily outrun my Labrador, which is quite fast. Apparently, at a full gallop, a caribou can hit speeds of 80 kilometers per hour. This speed (and endurance) comes in handy when trying to outrun a wolf pack. No wonder the wolves basically cull the sick and the aged from the herd because there is no way on earth they'd ever be able to run one down a healthy one.

By the way, a reindeer is simply a domesticated caribou. There have been some attempts to domesticate the caribou in northern Canada, but I understand they are simply too wild and get overstressed while in captivity. Another factoid: female caribou are the only members of the deer family to have horns.

I haven't been able to get any pictures of caribou this year, so the one above was taken two years ago.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

My Career as a Saboteur

Elder son has started a summer job, hoping to amass enough coin to see him through his first year of college. Seeing him struggle to get up at 6:30 each morning has provoked reminiscences of my own summers spent toiling away in some godforsaken salt mine of a factory. This I did year after year until I finally graduated and was promoted to work in some godforsaken salt mine of an office.

I heard of a plum of a job one summer, working for a major record label pressing vinyl LPs. (If I need to explain the concept, please go no further). Not only was the pay very decent for a teenager, but I could also get a deep discount on the complete musical catalogue of that label. That and the off chance that Mick and Keith would drop by to make sure Goat's Head Soup pressings were to the highest possible standards.

Nevertheless, and despite all its initial gleam and promise, this factory would prove itself to be just as much of a gulag as the others I had worked in during previous summers.

Let me first explain the production process. Records were formed by compressing semi-molten polyvinyl chloride between two stampers of a large press, the stampers being fairly fragile thin pieces of metal containing the reverse impression of the recording being reproduced. As an operator, I would first stick on each of the stampers the "A" and "B" side labels, and then loading a plug of hot PVC about the same size as Janet Jackson's nipple between the two stampers, I would close the press, wait the requisite 10 seconds or so as it cycled, and grab the record out of the press when it reopened, place it on a trimmer to remove the excess PVC from the edges, and then carefully place the finished product on a cooling rack to be counted and wheeled away. Then I would begin again.

This proved to involve a lot of hand-eye coordination stuff for someone born with two left hands. Especially when I learned that we were expected to operate two presses simulataneously: when one was pressing, you were removing the finished record and loading two labels and the PVC plug in the other. Back and forth, left to right, on and on in miserable brain taxing repetition.

Obviously there was a learning curve, and much of each new operator's output was doomed to be reground back into molten PVC. But after three days or so I had managed to get into the rhythm so that nearly all my pressings were of the highest quality.

This was noted by management, who sent a team over to congratulate me on my accomplishment by resetting the cycling of the two presses to a faster mode. Of course, my output returned to crap and I struggled for weeks to speed up and attain that balance between quantity and quality of output.

Then the bastards ratcheted up my machine once again. I soon realized I was being dehumanized by the rock and roll industry I so very much idolized and the recipient of huge chunks of my hard-earned cash. In short, I was feeding a monster under whose hand I was a mere cog in a machine, a unit of production.

It was time to hit back, to strike a blow for the common man against the machine, to bring this madness to a grinding halt. All I had to do was use my little finger.

Not even my little finger, just the nail of my little finger. I've mentionned above that the stampers were very fragile, so much so that the merest of a caress with a harder medium (such as a finger nail) would cause a scratch which would be reproduced in the vinyl pressing, rendering it unsaleable. And there is nothing the record industry hates more than something that cannot be squeezed for every last penny. Consequently, our output was inspected every 10 minutes or so for imperfections, and should one be found, your presses were shut down, and you had to bide your time while the offending stamper removed, and a virgin stamper brought from the clean room and installed on your machine by the mechanical crew. All in all, you could count on a good fifteen minute break to go out for a smoke, make a phone call, roll a joint, whatever.

Now here's the sad irony: due to my frequent sabotages, I became well-versed in the removal and installation of stampers, so much so that I was taken off the presses and promoted to mechanical crew.

There's a lesson in there somewhere.

Friday, June 23, 2006

On Whaling

A couple of nights ago I walked into my kitchen to find most of my family sitting on the floor, soya sauce at the ready, chewing on the first muktuk (whale skin) of the season. Apparently, two beluga whales had been shot that day, and the flesh distributed among community members.

For moral reasons I will have nothing to do with the local whale hunt - but I am in an extreme minority here. Whale meat is not only culturally significant, but very nutritious and tasty as well, and the right to hunt it fiercely defended.

What concerns me more is that while the human population is growing at a red-hot rate (doubling every 15 years), there is extreme pressure being placed on the beluga whale population. Unfortunately, there is an expectation that everyone will be able to consume as much muktuk and whale meat as they have in the past, and dwindling numbers of whales have been blamed on everything from scientific miscalculation, global warming, the presence of ocean-going ships, and biblical end-times.

What are your feelings on this subject?

For the link to Mark Fiore's flash cartoon, click here.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Drat! I've Been Tagged.

Thank you so very much Marty for this one.

Five Things in My Fridge
  • Three boxes Velveeta Cheese (you never know when you'll have to whip out the good stuff for unexpected guests!)
  • Asian pears
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Horseradish
  • Curd Cheese (for those poutine moments)
Five Things in My Closet
  • Miniature bust of Tutenkhamen
  • Spare hose for my CPAP
  • TENS kit, for those muscle aches or for when I feel like giving myself an extra jolt
  • My dog, who uses this walk-in closet as her secret lair
  • Mainly my wife's clothes
Five Things in My Wallet
  • Taxi receipts - much appreciated at tax time
  • My business cards
  • Four different hospital cards
  • Quebec medicare card (dream on, Americans!)
  • A used rubber - no, not that type of rubber, but one used for those scratch and win cards
Five Things in My Car (in my instance, Truck)
  • Two heater regulators, condition uncertain
  • A bag full of Bibles and hymnals, all in Inuttitut
  • Empty mickey of vodka
  • Truck jack on the rear floor
  • Door handles shortened by 50% (to prevent breakage when it gets 40 below. Believe me, I've gone through a ton of door handles, and decreasing the leverage by making them shorter is the only way to prevent it.
Five People to Tag
  • Carlotta Plushbottom
  • Strong Bad
  • Testing One Two Four
  • Yankin' da Shank
  • Son of Lenny Bruce

Friday, June 16, 2006

Release the Hounds

My sometime lodger Yuri, if anything, has an enquiring mind judging by his latest email from the mine adjacent to my community:

I guess lurking in the back of the male consciousness is the sheer magnitude of procreative redundancy present in each ejaculation. Women ovulate ovum by ovum (usually), so nature does not waste capacity. But I looked up in Wikipedia the number of spermatozoa present in each ejaculation and the numbers are staggering: 200,000,000 to 500,000,000 per splurge.

Now, we can assume that a man ejaculates an average of twice a week from age 13 to 70 - (this is as close an approximation I can come to balancing the fevered self-abuse of early adulthood with the wanning libido of senior citizenhood). This results in a lifetime statistic of 42,340 orgasms. And if we multiply by the half billion spermatozoa per event we are faced with the staggering figure of 21.2 trillion spermatozoa produced by the average man during the course of his lifetime.

According to Wikipedia, there are 7 sextillion stars in the known universe, which is the number 7 followed by 22 zeros, so Yuri's assertion that each ejaculation contains the same number of spermatozoa as stars in the universe is not right at all.

However, the number of stars in our own galaxy is approximately the same as the number of spermatozoa shot out the tube of an average male's lifespan.

Perhaps this is why we call it the Milky Way.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Break Up

The sea ice in our bay has gone. Now in a normal year this would occur towards the end of June, and last over a couple of days as the tide sweeps the ice out only to bring it back twelve hours later. But this year the ice seems to have disappeared in one fell swoop.

I took the picture last year about this time in Ivujivik, a town about 90 kms west of here, and the absolute most northernly community in Quebec.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Migratory Thoughts

This year the snow geese didn't arrive.

Every spring people look forward to hunting each evening as the geese put down for a night's rest. It is a reward for residents who have had to put up with a long, cold, dark winter and is a harbinger of an all-too-brief summer spent camping and fishing away from the trials and tribulations of living in a small, remote village with very little to do.

This season means a migration of protein sources away from fish, caribou and seal. These birds are usually boiled. They are not plucked; rather, they are skinned, quartered and simmered for a couple of hours with onions. Roasting them is out of the question for all but the most exceptionally skilled cooks: unlike domestic geese these birds are devoid of any fat resulting in an extremely dry and coarse meal unless the meat is larded. And who the fuck has a larding needle up here anyways?

But this year, hardly a snow goose was seen or heard - their "wind-blown clamour" unusually absent from our northern audioscape. Apparently, their migratory route this year shifted about 100 miles to the west, for reasons only known to geese. You could sense the disappointment around town as those who made nocturnal forays shotgun in hand into the hills and river valleys near town arrived back empty handed.

We are about to experience another airborne migration within the next week - the annual exodus of teachers leaving town for the summer to their homes and families in the south. One ritual surrounding this event is the sell-off of groceries and other items by the teachers, some of whom are departing permanently. Myself I picked up a box of spices from my daughter's teacher who is retiring from the north.

This is followed a month later with a different migration: as if needing to rebalance the void created by departing southerners, the village beckons to an aerial influx of carpenters, technicians and sundry tradespeople trying to cram a year's worth of construction into four short months.

Having be born and raised in the south of Canada, but having lived for more than two decades north of the 61st parallel, I go through a constant virtual migration in my soul: when things get confusing and chaotic up here, I seek solace in my upbringing, education and values from the south. But when things are going right, I cannot conceive of living anywhere else but here.

Boy, are my wings tired!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Memories of Summer 2006

Yesterday the mercury rose to an absolutely balmy 18 degrees Celsius (64 F). The girls and women were strolling around town in dresses, skirts and . . . TANK TOPS!!!!! This revealed a copious amount of flesh - albeit pale, wan, colourless flesh - but real genuine flesh nonetheless.

This morning it's snowing again. And I have resigned myself that our one day of summer has all to0 soon come and gone. Well, there's always next year.

On another subject: we all know that Blogger has been nothing short of infuriating lately, but did anyone other than Fuff try to post comment to my Wednesday article in which I masterfully explained the roots of international terrorism and proposed a handy solution? Or were you all to fearful of incurring the wrath of your neighbourhood "evil-doer" and gave it a pass? Or did the post simply suck?

Next time I'll be sure that Blogger is running like a hummingbird on methamphetamine before I put up any of my A material.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Ugly Face of Terrorism

They haven't released any photos of the 17 accused terrorists rounded up last weekend in and around Toronto. But I am willing to bet the igloo that not a single one of them could be deemed handsome in even the most liberal application of that term.

Take a look at pictures of any of the 9/11 terrorists, the guys behind the London bombings, even bin Laden himself, and you will quickly come to a conclusion that they're all butt-ugly. If any of these guys ever had a date she surely would have to have been blind or really into creeps.

Terrorism is one of the outcomes of a sexless existence - the others being the priesthood or NASCAR enthusiasts.

Sexual desires, once sublimated, remanifest themselves in twisted ways. The urge to bomb is an obvious transference of the need to ejaculate. Similarly, trying to fly an aircraft into a skyscraper's window has the same psychological significance as dreaming of a train going into a tunnel. Decapitation, the beheading of victims, is indicative of penis envy and a deep-seated desire to have others experience the same degree of emasculation as the terrorists do.

"Now wait a minute", I hear you saying, "What about female terrorists? Doesn't this mess up your theory?" Not at all, I think. Where girls and women are typically involved in terrorism is, as a rule, as suicide bombers - and were brainwashed into blowing themselves up inevitably by ugly men. This can be explained two ways: it is a proxy experience by men too cowardly to experience "release" themselves, and it is a form of retaliation against the gender whose lifelong rejection has created such personal misery.

So what counter-terrorism measures can we employ in light of my theory? Infanticide or exposure of ugly male offspring is simply out of the question. Asking some women to do the dirty deed with them of the good of all humanity is similarly too high a sacrifice.

I suggest we encourage potential terrorists to take matters into their own hand(s) at an early age and Masturbate for World Peace. "But wait a second," you say. "Isn't self-abuse against the tenets of every major world religion?" Yes, I concede, but so is mass murder and genocide. And I'm certain our creator will take this into consideration when weighing our misdeeds once we die.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

True Confession

I have hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia.

Woe is me.

Monday, June 05, 2006


In movies, the wagon train moving westward across the desert would inevitably meet up with the skull of a cow lying bleached along the side of the trail. Its implications were obvious: beware, death is near.

Up here you run across many bones, most frequently caribou skulls and rib cages, and along the shoreline, the vertebrae of beluga whales which children often play with because they look like airplanes.

Unlike in the westerns, these bones mean life rather than death (at least from the point of view of humans): there presence implies someone has had a successful hunt, and there has been fresh meat on the table.

On the 1990s, there were several economic development projects aimed at collecting caribou antlers, either those shed or lopped off penned animals, for shipment to the Orient to be used in traditional medicines. Apparently, ingesting ground caribou antlers are believed to make men in China more sexually verile.

This market quickly dried up with the commercialization of Viagra in China and Korea. Maybe Inuit should start compensation litigation against Pfizer for destruction of economic opportunity.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Terror in TO

I've been waiting for an incident in Canada such as the one averted in Toronto by the arrest of 17 individuals who had apparently amassed enough explosives to do serious damage on a scale paralleling that of the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

There are two things about these incidents which really unnerve me.

The first concerns the ability of anyone with a smattering of chemistry and access to common materials to cause major loss of life. In this case, the basic ingredients are fertilizer and diesel; in others, it could be rust and aluminum as an incendiary primer for fuel installations and the like. Terrorists don't need access to plutonium or military grade materiel to kill in the thousands - all that is really needed is at hand and available at your local hardware and grocery store. Therefore, we can't count on the difficulties in acquiring explosives or toxins as a deterrent.

The other thing which causes me great concern is who would perpetrate such attacks. In the Toronto incident, the plot was deemed to be "Al Qaeda-inspired". Many of those arrested were born in Canada, and according to those who know them seemed "normal". But as was demonstrated in Oklahoma City, religious zealots don't have a monopoly on mass murder. Personally, I think there is a tipping point in a given individual's mind where they cross over, probably permanently, between being unconventional, contrarian and idiosyncratic to the murderously insane. Whether the impetus is provided by religion, persecution, or something as simple as being rejected, the need to exact revenge and make a big statement supercedes all moral foundations.

Apart from surveillance and keeping our fingers crossed for good luck, there is precious little we can do to defend ourselves from the assholes of the world.