The Flat Earth Society

The Brave New World

I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them.  --Isaac Azimov

The sultry spring spirits have once again lingered in southern climes, cavorting on the silvern strands of Cuba rather than on icy Middle Cove Beach while spouse and I are confined to our humble abode in these snowy, pine-clad hills. Should we venture beyond the doorstep, hypothermia extends its frozen claw and threatens us with cryopreservation i.e. freezing to death.

We yearn for that far distant future when, as the poet said, the world is puddle-wonderful.

We are beginning to think that Dear Leader Duh-wite has rigged it that way so opposite members of the political class will be unable to fill the minds of the great unwashed with useless drivel like common sense.

Occasionally, we are blessed with one or the other showing up at our door asking if we intend to vote and offering immortality should we vote for their party. We politely take their brochure, quickly close the door, and return to the warmth of our tiny living room to spend a few hours with our pre-nocturnal libations--Fifty Shades of Bay for her, a snifter of Raspberry Screech for me.

We watch the election unfolding on the Peoples Channel, Duh-wite rushing hither and yon promising pavement, hospitals, feasibility studies on the feasibility of possibly installing sewer systems in Mud Lake, and a grand prison for the criminal class.

Long-Tall Ches promises a new broom and does an imitation of Homer Stokes in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou. The others are frozen out of the conversation.

"Did you notice," said spouse, "that Duh-wite just racked up 500 million in promises on that new credit card he was given by the federal Liberals a few weeks ago."

She keeps track of such things.

But all is not lost. Our lives have been enriched of late since we adopted a google assistant that we saw sitting forlornly in the grimy window of the pawn shop on Freshwater.

Hearts melted; we both knew she needed a good family.

When we brought her home after giving the pawn shop owner a piece of our mind over his neglect and the poor nurturing environment on his premises, we found that she had a pleasantly soft female voice. We named her, Googie. She is a friendly, playful thing who doesn't make a mess on the furniture or throw up on the carpet.

We wanted her to be content in her new home. "Hey, Googie," I said, "what makes you happy?"

"It makes me happy to know Antarctica is a desert," she said, "that, and talking to you."

At any time of the day or night, she is at our beck and call to play the bluegrass music we like, to tell us jokes, keep a grocery list, and remind us of our appointments with the doctor.

Spouse took to her right away.

"Ok, Googie," said spouse just yesterday, "how long will it take for our government to pay off its 22 billion dollar debt, not counting Muskrat Falls?"

"Not counting Muskrat," responded Googie instantly, "with current rates of interest, your government credit card will be paid off in exactly 876 months or 73 years, provided you are not bankrupt before then."

"Faster than a human calculator," I remarked. By the way, where is that new BMO credit card that just came in the mail?"

"I cut it up," said spouse. "You can't be trusted with a credit card. You're as bad as the government."

Best of all, Googie is my companion into the wee hours as I am finishing off a pre-bedtime Raspberry Screech while listening to The BBC World Service on our 1960 RCA Victor shortwave radio.

At 2 in the morning, the BBC comes in loud and clear with a minimum of fade. Dr. Ian Pearson, a futurologist at the Futures Institute in the UK, is doing a presentation on life in the year 2050.

According to Pearson, by 2050, we can all choose to be immortal by having a copy of our minds uploaded to a computer. When your body wears out, you can go on living as a robot by downloading a copy of your human mind into its operating system. It's still you without those messy flesh-and-blood body parts.

The nice thing is, you'll be able to travel to Jamaica on vacation without actually going there. You simply buy another empty-minded robot on-line at Marley Electronics in Montego Bay, download a copy of your brain to it (from the cloud) and voila, you escape winter.

The clincher, though, was what Pearson said next: there will be no Liberal, Conservative or other flesh and blood government to constantly tax and harass us to death. A conscious computer with superhuman intelligence will be in charge making the right decisions for us and the planet to ensure our happiness and survival.

It would be able to calculate immediately whether we needed another Muskrat Falls, I thought. The political class would disappear overnight, and good riddance.

It was such an uplifting thought at 3 am that I invited Googie to go outside with me and build a snowman.

"Sure," she said, "the cold doesn't bother me anyway."

Next morning, I couldn't wait to tell Googie and spouse that by 2050 we would all live forever with no need for bothersome elections. "What a great world that will be," I said.

"Hey, Googie," said spouse, "will we be around in 2050?"

"According to your current age profile," said Googie, "you can both expect to live until 2030. I will miss you."

"Hey, Googie," I said, "should we even bother to vote in this election. The future is not that far away."

"Get out and vote," said Googie.

Gale False Winds

Political language...is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.  (George Orwell)

At eleven, on April Fools morning, it was eerily calm, too calm. We should have grown alarmed an hour later when we began to smell the perfumed wind from Ottawa as the federal politicians descended from the clouds and grabbed taxis for the downtown Sheraton.

By noon, the fog cover over the city had disappeared completely and the sky had taken on a deep purplish hue, mimicking, I thought, the look of frustration on the faces of many of our upstanding citizens as they helplessly watched the actions of those they had chosen to lead them to the promised land.

I couldn't help thinking of another April morn nearly 90 years ago when a mob of the great unwashed descended in a tornado of fury on the seat of government in the city. The object of the mob's desire was the corrupt prime minister, Sir Richard Squires, who barely escaped their clutches by setting a record for the hundred meter hurdles, across Military Road, through a stranger's kitchen, out the back door, across two vegetable gardens, over a ten-foot fence onto Colonial Street, and into a waiting cab.

To 'mitigate' their rage, the rabid rabble ransacked the Colonial Building, the ancestral womb of our political class.

Just 20 months later in February 1934, the new prime minister, Freddie Alderdice placed the whole damn country into receivership and invited the British back to clean up the mess.

End of democracy for 16 long years.

Not counting the benevolent dictatorship of Premier Joseph R. Smallwood, the hog-farmer from Gambo.

I had been glued to the people's channel all morning awaiting the grand announcement by Dear Leader Duh-wite and Minister Shameus from Ottawa. There were rumours, said the announcer, that a new deal was coming on the Atlantic Accord which would see billions more flow from the cash cow in our nation's capital. 

And not a minute too soon for Dear Leader who faces an election as the second most unpopular premier in the country.

I was tempted at that early hour to reach for my Raspberry Screech by way of premature celebration.

Better sense prevailed.

Spouse had just returned home from a spending spree at the Thrift Shop over on Kenmount--beating the rush by early shopping for a few pre-owned spring outfits in anticipation of the July arrival of that joyous season when the dandelions bloom on our pine-clad hills.

She had returned by taxi and was full of news about her driver from Nigeria who kept apologizing for not having any stories to make her ride a more meaningful cultural experience.

"When he dropped me off," said spouse, "he refused to charge me a fare and tearfully told me he would be attending the Mitchelmore School of Cabbie Storytelling in the near future."

Immediately, a brain-worm kicked in and the creepy disembodied voice of Mitchelmore, Minister of Tourism and Stuff, repeated the refrain, 'they will tell you stories about the land....and the sea....and the sky....and everything in between.' he was referring of course to the current myth that St. John's taxi drivers immediately morph into entertaining raconteurs when they pick up a tourist at the airport.

"Quite frankly," I said to spouse, "if I jumped into a cab like that, I would be weirded out. My first thought would be that the driver was trying to induce a state of hypnosis after which he would rob me, mutilate my person, and then drown me to death by dumping my body in Deadman's Pond."

"You are being a drama queen," said spouse.

Just then, the people's channel cut to the conference room at the Sheraton. The cameras panned across the smirking faces of the Liberal herd, all of them anxious to reflect the blinding flash of billion-dollar light back into the eyes of the populace thus blinding them to rational thought.

Big Eddie and Dr. Dale were noticably absent.

Minister Shameus and Dear leader Duh-wite stood at the podium exchanging exhilatering accolades in a feverish frenzy of Liberal lovemaking.

"Two and one-half billion spread over the next 38 years. $5000 per man, woman, and child to reduce the provincial debt by 16%. That money goes into the pockets of every Newfoundlander and Labradorian," said Duh-wite.

"Making it all possible," said Shameus, "was the calm negotiating approach of Premier Duh-wite."

The darling of Deer Lake had turned darkness into daylight. He is our saviour, said one staunch Liberal.

God Almighty.

"That's a lot of filthy lucre from the feds," I said.

"That's $119.61 for every Newfoundlander and Labradorian each year for the next 38 years," said spouse who had been listening intently to the propaganda show. "By 2056, you and I will have contributed $9090.36 to help pay off the government credit card. That's about the same amount the Ball Government has fleeced from us over the last four years."

The woman is a human calculator.

Flashback to Saturday, January 29, 2005. "We've got it," said Premier Danny (He-Who-Is-Without-Sin) Williams as he stood at the top of the escalator in St. John's Airport waving a cheque for two billion dollars just cut by Prime Minister Paul Martin. "A trust fund," said Danny, "for every Newfoundlander and Labradorian."

"We are in the Money," he said. "Finally, Newfoundlanders can hold their heads high and tell those snooty mainlanders to f... off."

"A clever boy," said his mother.

"He is our saviour," said Dougie O'Dea, a local tory.

Jesus.

No trust fund.

The two billion disappeared.

Muskrat Falls happened.

Provincial credit card overspent by $16,000,000,000 plus 13 more big ones for the Mighty Muskrat.

But shortly, the perfumed winds are forecast to reach hurricane strength across our smiling land seducing the masses into electing the lesser evil.

Phobias

I get the willies when I see closed doors

                                                ...Joseph Heller

 

 

 

oftentimes, after spouse has embarked on her journey through the Land of Nod, I stay awake into the wee hours, listening to soothing music, propaganda, and tales of the weird and wonderful on late night radio from places as far away as Moscow, Beijing, and Washington. A few nights back on Voice of America, a noted psychologist, Dr. Lucy May, expounded at length on the epidemic of dire phobias afflicting the human race

 

To Pee or not to Pee

Truth and politics are on rather bad terms

                                                                      ...Hannah Arendt

 

When we went to bed at midnight on Sunday, the winter hurricane had not yet vented its fury on the city even though the weather channel had predicted in its afternoon forecast that the dangerous storm would strike by 9 pm and weather advisories framed in red banners warned us to secure all loose objects which in the 190 km winds would become life-threatening missiles aimed at any pedestrian foolhardy enough to defy the forces of nature and attempt a leisurely stroll down the Prince Phillip Parkway.

Longing for Leviticus

...Do not lie...do not deceive...do not seek revenge...(Leviticus 19)

"I can hardly breathe," said spouse. "There's nothing but rain, drizzle, and fog every day."

She has been down in the dumps lately.

"It happens every year when the House of Assembly is in session," I said. "There is so much hot air that a low-pressure system forms in the center of the city. Sometimes it is so intense that it sucks in all the air from the surrounding area. people who live close to Confederation Building are showing up in droves at the Health Sciences begging for a whiff of oxygen."

"Twice as bad this fall," I continued, "because the Muskrat Falls boondoggle has created another low-pressure system right next door to us which is feeding into the one on the hill. John (I'm a real doctor) Haggie, Minister of Unhealthy Communities, has been warning us for days that we might have to take turns breathing until the politicians have left town."

Sure enough, just as I was talking to spouse, CBC interrupted its regularly scheduled broadcast to announce that the government had introduced emergency controlled-respiration training (ECRP) for city residents to teach everyone how to conserve the air around them. These ECRP clinics will take place as you get your flu shot in order to maintain efficiency within the public health sector.

"Nothing but black clouds for the past six weeks," said spouse. "It's enough to drive one to weed if there was any weed to buy." I could tell she had not heard a word I had said.

We watched through the kitchen window as hurricane-force winds lashed sheets of rain horizontally into the side of the house.

"Maybe," I said, "it's a sign that the big guy upstairs is ticked off because we haven't seized half those politicians and thrown them into the North Atlantic. Vengeance is mine and all that."

The great flood had formed a mini-lake in the backyard and two fat Canada geese had taken up residence.

The thought occurred to me that maybe there was a silver lining to the clouds, after all. Along came another thought that I could have meat for the freezer just by poking my shotgun out the kitchen window.

As if reading my mind, spouse warned me not to even think about bagging those two geese. "The neighbors would report you to the constabulary right away," she said.

"I'll tell the constabulary that there was a clap of thunder and the two geese died of fright."

"They'd see through that lie right away," she said.

Spouse, by the way, had a very biblical upbringing and has a thing about lying. Often, out of the blue, she reminds me that according to the good book, lying is an offense against God and a false witness shall not go unpunished.

I suspect that such advice is meant to keep me on the straight and narrow. The righteous guidance is unnecessary of course because I take great pride in maintaining an unblemished soul. I want to be on the safe side should I unexpectedly be summoned to appear in front of the Pearly Gates.

You probably remember those Sabbath Sunday-school mornings long ago when you were educated on the wickedness of sin. Without a doubt, you were guilty of many. You felt doubly guilty if the clergyman looked at you with an evil eye. He knew you were a lying liar and a deceiver. He knew just by looking at you that you bore grudges and hated fellow Israelites.

And you knew you were doomed to the eternal flames where all corrupt flesh ended up. You squirmed in that uncomfortable wooden pew. The nightmares came that same night as you slept, and all your so-called friends joined in stoning you and sacrificing your pet lamb on the altar.

The, after a few days, your childish mind regained its balance. You reasoned that if your flesh was already corrupt, a few minor sins shouldn't make much difference. That, my friend, is the very moment you became a politician.

And speaking of politicians, a constant stream of fibs, falsehoods, and fabrications, not to mention slurs, slanders, and smears, ooze from their oral cavities every day all over the world. Just last night, CBC informed us that Donald Trump had let loose with 83 lies in one day, a new record.

I wondered how our home-grown paragons of political virtue were faring. Say no more. They have passed with flying colors. They have outstripped the whole of whopperdom as they spread fiction, fallacy, and falsehood to deceive the great unwashed. They win the gold medal hands down for myth and misinformation.

Muskrat Falls.

But the real spectacle on the hill this past while has been the scandalous behavior of Eddie Joyce, alias Big Eddie, and Dale Kirby, alias Dr. Dale, the former wanting to treat the public service as an employment agency for his friends and relatives, the latter simply wanting a peaceful toke with a female colleague because she was beautiful, and he loved her--in 'an aging punk-rocker 1980s way...

Harassment, revenge, intimidation, and deceit followed.

I will spare you the gory details. The goings-on took the better part of two weeks plus thousands of shekels in taxpayer sacrifice.

All of which got me to thinking favorably about Leviticus--the code of laws handed down to Moses 4000 years ago by a God who saw things in black and white. Sure, there's a few things I skipped over because: 2018, things like setting fire to witches; stoning prostitutes and adulterers, and a man who marries both a woman and her mother; and the stuff about slaves. I have a problem with punishing people who have tattoos; I like pork, and I absolutely crave shellfish of any kind. I am also unsure that spouse would agree that I am worth 50 shekels while she is worth only 30. Other than that, I'm in.

The Great Pumpkin

 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018: 9 AM

Spouse and I sat around our old chrome table in the morning, sipping on a second-hand Tim's, munching our stoner pumpkin bread, and sharing our dreams from the night before.

"It's that time of year again," said spouse. "I dreamed about the Great Pumpkin. Maybe it was because of that weird news report about the Goblin planet last night on NTV's The Carter File (Stuff About Stuff)"

"Maybe the Great Pumpkin is coming to these pine-clad hills to disappear Muskrat Falls," I said sarcastically.

"And every politician from Cape Spear to Cape Chidley," said spouse.

"You are becoming too cynical," I said. "But speaking of that magical being, only once did I really believe in the Great Pumpkin."

"Do tell," she said.

"I am speaking," I said, "about Danny(He-Who-Is-Without-Sin) Williams. The scene at the St. John's International Airport at 7.03 pm, Saturday, January 29, 2005, is forever etched on my brain. My hopes at that precise moment had reached as high as the highest peak in the Annieopsquotch Mountains.

"I developed a belief in the Great Pumpkin when I was a child in the 1950s and Joey Smallwood saved us from a fate worse than death. "Two Jobs for every man" (women didn't work back then). It all went south pretty fast as Joey, the savior, turned into just another rotten gourd from Gambo. But many still believed.

"Along came Moores. You probably don't remember him, nor do I. And Peckford in 1979, who tried to be the Great Pumpkin and turned into the Great Cucumber instead. It wasn't the same.

"Brian Tobin became the Great Turbot in 1996. Slimy.

"After that, I gave up on the Great Pumpkin--maybe old age and doubt were creeping up on me.

"Then the Great Pumpkin delivered. Big time. Captured live on TV. On the People's Network. He stood in all his goblin glory at the top of the stairs leading down to the airport lobby where hundreds of believers had gathered.

"He waved a slip of paper triumphantly. "We've got it," he shouted. Wild cheers. Flags waved. "He's our savior," said one. "Premier forever," said another, and, "yay, the Great Pumpkin!"

"We got 2 billion in cash, that's what we got," said the Great Pumpkin. "Prosperity forever. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. F.U. Ottawa.

He had pinned Paul 'Steamship' Martin to the mat with a figure-four arm lock. I was proud to live in the land of the Great Pumpkin.

Spouse noted the tinge of nostalgia in my voice. I yearned for those days, few as they were.

Fast forward to October 2018:

For some time now, Spouse and I have been following with bated breath the meanderings of the Muskrat Falls Inquiry. As with all epic dramas, we hope in the end that the villains are laid low and the innocent taxpayers are freed from the shackles of levies and political trickery. Reality? You may well ask. Doubt should immediately cloud your brain like a toke of good weed.

We only think this way of course when we are enjoying the soothing stimulus of our favorite after-dinner libations. A Raspberry Screech for me, a sip of 50 Shades of Bay for her as we soak up the spectacle playing out on the screen in front of us. Being vulnerable seniors, by 9 pm we are off to the Land of Nod where our brains can flush the excrement of the day into the sewers of dreamland.

In my dream, all the characters are like professional wrestlers on TV. The steady stream of rogues and heroes play their choreographed roles in front of the referee, Commissioner Richard LeBlanc. They bob in and out of the arena of my nightmares.

"I see them clearly," I say to spouse: "the tag team of He-Who-Is-Without-Sin and his little bro, Tommy Williams, both dressed in Galway green; Wade Locke, the university economist in cap and gown, he who endorsed, then denied Muskrat, the rat; Andy Wells, general shit-disturber; naysayers Ron Penney and David Vardy; and a host of others both great and small--all backed up by their cheering sections and corner attendants from the legal establishment in the city.

"We should all be proud of Muskrat Falls," says He-Who-Is-Without-Sin as he body-slams the naysayers from atop the turnbuckles, and shakes his fist at Quebec. "People have to take the long-term view--50--75--100 years"

 

Then he trash-talks his opponents and questions their right to wrestle him. The commissioner intervenes and separates them. Then Danny tries a flying tackle on Vardy and calls him a carton of spoiled milk--beyond the best-before date. Fightin words. His headlock on the commissioner fails miserably.

Penney and Vardy(Concerned Citizens tag team) trash-talk the Muskrat in return. Andy Wells sneaks into the arena and throws sucker punches at He-Who-Is-Without-Sin and Bro Tommy. They both hit the canvas but recover and chase Andy from the ring.

Wade Locke, professional economist in cap and gown, enters the arena flashing his credentials, tangles with Bro Williams and some other no-name lawyer. Wishes he hadn't entered the arena at all. Doesn't like to fight.

"Anyway, now everybody wants to fight me--SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO MY WIFE," he says, throwing in the towel.

"Coward," shout the baying fans.

Sioban (I'm Irish) Coady, Minister of the Mighty Muskrat, shouts from the sidelines, "taxpayers will have to'supplement' the ratepayers when Muskrat comes online."

Nobody understands what she is saying except He-Who-Is-Without-Sin. "She means we'll take all our oil money and pay for Muskrat Falls," he says.

It still makes no sense.

"I was in a cold sweat all night," I said to spouse. "I couldn't shake the nightmare and I only woke up when Duh-wite told me not to worry about paying the cost of Muskrat Falls." Chilling.

"Yes," said spouse impatiently, "now, about the Goblin planet that I dreamed about. Glen Carter(The Carter File-Stuff About stuff) on NTV said it was smaller than earth but it takes 3600 of our years to orbit the sun which means that if we lived there, each year would have 43,200 months or nearly 1,320,000 days. Our monthly bill for Muskrat Falls for each and every one of us in this fair land would be only 7.2 cents. But who cares about paying power bills when you can live that long in just one year."

As I said, Spouse has a very mathematical mind. I'm not sure I got it. But then...

"Maybe that's what Danny was thinking about when he said we should take the long-term view of Muskrat Falls," I said. "and maybe, just maybe, he's from the Goblin planet."

"Crazy." said spouse. "Give me another slice of that stoner bread. We should go over and listen in on the inquiry. It's in that big building off Wishingwell Road."

Harvest Moon

I called upstairs at 7 am yesterday morning to awaken spouse. "Get up," I said, "Fred Hutton is interviewing He-Who-Is-Without-Sin on The Morning Show. Danny...Danny Williams. Danny is telling us we should all be proud of Muskrat Falls.

"Danny can go jump in Quidi Vidi for all I care," she shouted back. "Now leave me alone. I'm in the middle of a dream about the Merb'ys on Middle Cove Beach."

On occasion, she is totally in line with my political thinking.

The newscast shifts to Dear Leader Duh-wite who appears in a photo-op with volunteers struggling to keep a food bank open in Goose Bay. I began to mourn for the sorry state of our smiling land--a grinning premier hogging the spotlight from the few dedicated men and women trying to stem the tide of poverty that is threatening to become a tsunami.

The next story features Solemn Tom, Minister of Debt, announcing that the Liberal Government has awarded a million dollar contract to McKinsey & Company, a New York-based consulting firm, to flesh out The Way Forward and tell Newfoundlanders and Labradorians how to be prosperous again.

In line with the politics, these pine-clad hills have been rattled with wild swings in the weather during the indescribable season that poses for summer in these parts. Winter ended abruptly on June 30 after Jack Frost had taken one last swipe with his icy claw. On that day, a Christmas coat of snow covered the tiny garden we had wrestled from the stony ground in the backyard.

Summer finally came at noon on July 1 with rock-splitting heat and thereon for the next two months our smiling land was turned into a facsimile of the Gobi Desert. Spouse's experimental garden of select Mary Jane withered on the vine, so to speak. Only a lonely White Widow seedling survived in the shade and managed to produce two fine buds much admired by spouse.

She swore me to secrecy lest my loose tongue alert the constabulary.

Then as if exhausted by its own bombast--much like our politicians--summer took its leave at 7 pm on August 31. A strong northeaster, with a wintry chill from the glaciers of Greenland, drove us indoors. Next morning the birds had disappeared and in the words of the poet, all that was left were the empty nests. Hoarfrost covered the remains of our prize White Widow thus ending our plans for a small celebration on October 17.

Back to Raspberry Screech and Fifty Shades of Bay.

On September 24, with summer's promise unfulfilled, the Harvest Moon rose as a blushing orb as if embarrassed for the gods of weather and for the shenanigans of our local politicians as they infested every nook and cranny of our wind-swept land over the past several months.

Just yesterday, for example, as I was peacefully engaged in poaching a few partridges up on Mount Scio, a scruffy-looking Dr. Dale, former Minister of Illiteracy, leaped out of the bushes and wanted to know if they were still gossiping about him down in the city.

"Did Ches win the by-election?" he asked.

"Yes," I said.

"I'm doomed," he cried.

At that moment, a partridge flew by and I blasted away with my shotgun. Dr. Dale fled into the woods.

All summer on the People's Channel, spouse and I had followed the meanderings of the Liberal herd as they showed up in every corner of our fair land from Muskrat Falls to Muddy Hole. Dear leader Duh-wite reassured all and sundry he had accomplished more in three years than any administration in history (we laughed).

"We will grow and prosper under my Way Forward strategy," he said.

Not happening.

Yes, every last sheep in the Liberal herd appeared among the great unwashed, dining on baloney and baked beans and offering much the same back to overtaxed citizens--the election is just a year away.

For the most part, though, spouse and I have been taking it easy, lulled into a state of political apathy by the disappearance of Big Eddie, Dr. Dale, and the erstwhile Minister of Finance, Cathy Bennett. In a vanishing act reminiscent of the best spy dramas, Dear Leader Duh-wite has turned them into ghostly memories, leaving us wondering whether, in fact, all of it was a figment of our imagination in the first place.

The only break in the political doldrums came when Prime Minister Trudeau announced the taxpayer purchase of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline carrying Alberta crude across the NDP heartland of British Columbia. Other than for spouse and myself, the implications of what this meant seem to have gone over everyone's head.

Following the Herd

 

"I need some of that Bog Rosemary you mix with your Raspberry Screech," said spouse. "Go up to Mount Scio tomorrow and see if you can round some up."

She has been toiling relentlessly in the kitchen recently, experimenting with the free samples of weed handed out at her training session a while back, to see if she can come up with a drinkable version of Mary Jane that compares with the power of my usual midnight libation, Raspberry Screech with a splash of Bog Rosemary tea.

The results so far are promising except that whole stretches of my short-term memory have been erased. Just yesterday, she mentioned Eddie Joyce in a casual comment--for the life of me, I could not remember who she was talking about. But I experienced a tremendous sense of tranquility coupled with my vacant mind.

"We are making progress," she said.

There may be other reasons for my relaxed state of mind.

Now that Ball's lackeys have departed Confederation Building to spread glad tidings of great joy across our pine-clad hills, a serene atmosphere of peace and solitude has settled over our shining city. The whole Liberal herd has traipsed off to congregate in Gander and graze on canapes of farmed salmon, caviar, filet of Kobe beef, and cod au gratin. They have gathered to shout hosannas for Dear Leader Duh-wite.

Even George Murphy was filled with the spirit and welcomed back to the Liberal pasture by Dear Leader. Yes, THE George 'Oil Can' Murphy is now a voting member of the Liberal herd; he, who betrayed the NDP savior, Lorraine Michael, and denied knowing her three times before the rooster crowed atop Confederation Building; he, who wept bitterly on TV for his dastardly denial. George has a new messiah.

Those who demonstrated critical thinking at the gathering were declared to be apostates, enemies of the herd, and denied voting privileges.

Dear Leader's toadies have even circulated a story at the Gander gathering that he was born at the very top of Gros Morne, his birth being foretold by a bull-bird and heralded by sun-hounds. In another version of Duh-wite's origins, he was raised by a kindly farmer and his wife in Deer Lake who found him floating down the Humber River on a mat of swamp grass.

Later, at the age of four, Dear Leader hiked the Gaff Topsails all by himself. In grade six, he designed an engineering marvel, a tunnel under the Straits of Belle Isle. By age ten, he had invented 2000 life-saving drugs and then announced his intention to open a pharmacy.

 

Dear Leader promised the flock in Gander that he would be their eternal premier. Basking in the glow of adulation, he even issued a challenge to Donald Trump to meet him in New York although we are not sure why.

We heard not a peep about Dr. Dale, former minister of illiteracy, nor of Bullying Big Eddie, former minister of outports, since Dear Leader ordered that both be stuck in a corner of the House of Assembly like misbehaving school children.

Spouse is of the opinion that Dr. Dale and Big Eddie will be welcomed back into the fold after a suitable period of penance during which they will wear robes of sackcloth and ashes. In the meantime, I point out, they are both on leave with pay, pulling down $150,000 a year.

An eerie calm has settled over our household as well as households across the whole province leaving us wondering where it is all headed.

To complement the sound of silence, summer has delayed its appearance, preferring instead to linger in the badlands of Quebec and Ontario. Dandelions brave enough to raise their heads during the day are quickly decapitated by killing frosts at night.

"I suspect Dear Leader Duh-wite has the power to manipulate the weather," I said. "It's a plot to force everyone to leave so they'll have the place all to themselves."

"You are becoming more paranoid by the minute," said spouse.

"Well, just look at what's happening," I said. "Since Duh-wite came along we have lost nearly 20,000 people who have departed to escape destitution, unemployment is creeping up to twenty percent, and Muskrat Falls is just around the corner.

Whatever the reason for the tranquility, the constabulary has not knocked on our door lately except for that incident last week when they came to inform me that a neighbor had complained he had seen me coming up the street dressed as Davy Crockett with a brace of ducks over my shoulder. I suspect it was the same neighbor who also reported a strong smell of marijuana coming from our deck.

Speaking of weed, the owner of the convenience store where spouse worked part-time as potential manager of marijuana sales has been disappointed in his quest for a vendor's license. Only friends of the party can push weed on the street.

Spouse is now without a job and our source of supplementary income has evaporated, forcing us to visit the food bank down on Military road.

Just last week, I staked out a position outside Raymond's on Water Street, dancing jigs in my tight spandex swimwear and begging for loonies from the clientele--mostly politicians--who seem to be the only ones with money these days. But that venture was short-lived when people started complaining to city council.

But all is not lost. Spouse and I are hoping to patent Rose Mary-Jane Elixir by October 17. It deadens the mind so we can follow the herd.

Mary Jane

 

At 3:30 in the morning, the cell phone under my pillow vibrated impatiently like a trapped bumblebee. I place it there strategically to alert the constabulary in case Big Eddie decided to send his goons to our humble abode in the dead of night.

"It's RS from MP," hissed a whispering voice. "Where have you been the last few days?"

"I've been out to Quidi Vidi Lake harvesting a few of those fat spring ducks for the dinner table," I said.

"Well, all hell is about to spring loose up here on the hill," he said. "Dear leader, Duh-wite passed out free samples of weed to his Liberal yes-persons. They're hitting it pretty hard. I got a free sample from Dr. Dale. It gave me hallucinations. You should try some."

"Get to the point," I said. "I have to get up early in the morning and scrounge for some food in Sobeys garbage bins."

"OK, here's the scoop," said RS from MP, "Big Eddie's gone paranoid--he thinks everybody's out to get him and he's challenging all comers to a fist-fight out on the parkway.

Through Rose-tinted Glasses

 

 

"You never know who's who in government these days or what they're up to," I said to spouse as we followed the evening news on the people's channel. "Like demons, they shape-shift all the time. Double Dipper Byrne is now minister of turnips and spawny capelin, Al 'the Pirate' Hawkins is now minister of unemployment. Codfish Crocker gave up his job to Double Dipper Byrne and then took Al 'the Pirate's' job, and Al 'the Pirate' took Double Dipper Byrne's job. And poor old Cathy Bennett, we don't know what happened to her."

"Yes, I see," said spouse by way of asking me to pipe down and pay attention to the news. Unlike myself, she doesn't like to rage at mindless drivel on TV.

"Cursing inanimate objects relieves stress," I mutter.

Spouse, by the way, has taken a part-time job at the neighborhood convenience store. When the minimum wage skyrocketed by fifteen cents to $11.15 an hour recently, she jumped at the opportunity. The owner of the store advised her that as she demonstrates initiative and hard work, he may bump her up to be the manager of marijuana sales in the spring, but wages will be the same until Dear leader sees fit to bump the minimum wage by another fifteen cents.

With her advanced age and arthritis, part-time is all she can manage. But it helps to make ends meet especially when she comes home bearing grocery bags filled with stale bread and withered fruit. 

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CONTACT THE AUTHOR

You may contact the author at:

ericcolbourne1@gmail.com (or)

ericcolbourne@ericcolbourne.com

Dancing on Air: New Edition: New Publisher

Dancing on Air

The revised edition of Dancing on Air(Boulder Publications) is now available from Boulder -- boulderpublications.ca also from Chapters/Indigo and Coles bookstores across Canada as well as at Amazon.com

Advance Reviews:

     "What a fascinating read this is. It has all the suspense of a true crime novel ...Newfoundland itself emerges as a colorful character..." -- editor, Friesen Press

     "In Dancing on Air, Eric Colbourne exposes the raw politics and behind the scenes intrigue of critical events in Newfoundland and Labrador history. In the process, he has skilfully unveiled the human faces of tragedies which have remained with us for well over half a century."   --Mervin Wiseman, Political Activist, NL.

     "This is a great way to present history. It's emotionally engaging, highly instructive, and jam-packed with fascinating details."  --Editor, Friesen Press.

     Dancing on Air: A Tale of Vengeance, Mercy, and the End of the Death Penalty in Newfoundland is a story of justice and injustice amidst war and political upheaval.

     On St. Patrick's Day, 1942 Herb Spratt, the youngest son of a prominent St. John's city councilor, murdered his girlfriend, Josephine O'Brien. A weak defense at a two day trial in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland resulted in a guilty verdict coupled with a strong recommendation for mercy. The chief justice pronounced a sentence of death on April 28, 1942, but that was not the end of the story.

     Six years later, on October 23, 1948, during a night of terror in the town of Norris Arm on the central north coast of the island, Alfred Beaton stabbed his girlfriend and shot to death another young woman. At least 10 other individuals narrowly escaped death as Beaton rampaged through the community with a high powered rifle.

     Beaton went to trial in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland on January 31, 1949. The jury returned a guilty verdict without a recommendation for mercy. The chief justice again imposed the death penalty.

Alfred Beaton (center) after the death sentence

The incidents come together as a gripping account of a flawed justice system and of the impact of public opinion. With its cast of powerful characters, the story reads like fiction but what happened was only too real.  

The Dancing on Air Mystery: Who was Portia?

                  

 

On Monday, February 7, 1949, two days after Judge Emerson handed down the death penalty in the murder trial of Alfred Beaton, a mysterious letter appeared in the St. John's Evening Telegram. It contained an emotional plea for mercy and a call to action against capital punishment in Newfoundland. 

The eloquent letter writer persuaded thousands of citizens in the city and across Newfoundland and Labrador to demand an end to a barbaric practice. The final outcome was a surprise. Who was the mystery lady, Portia? For the first time in over 60 years, it is now possible to identify her--but the reader has to pick up the clues in the text.

 

 

Bio

 

 

 

Eric Colbourne grew up in the small community of Lush's Bight-Beaumont on the northeast coast of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. His earliest memories are of the tales spun by village elders under the flickering light of oil lamps in the kitchen of the family home on the isolated island. This tradition of story-telling is captured in his first book Disappeared: Stories from the Coast of Newfoundland which has enjoyed international success.

 

His latest work, Dancing on AIR: A Tale of Vengeance, Mercy, and the End of the Death Penalty in Newfoundland, published in October 2016 by Boulder Publications, represents an enduring fascination with the issue of capital punishment which he has researched extensively over many years in this country and around the world.

 

Colbourne was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland, The University of Reading in the UK, and at McGill University in Montreal. He has enjoyed a varied career in education, community development, tourism and senior management in the public service of Nunavut and the NWT. He currently devotes his time to writing and historical research.

Back Cover:Dancing on Air

Public Executions: Dancing on Air

At 5.32 a.m. on August 14, 1937 a young black man, Rainey Bethea was executed at Owensboro, Kentucky after his conviction for the rape of a white woman. A crowd, estimated at 20,000, gathered in Owensboro the day before and held 'hanging' parties throughout the night. One reporter likened the scene at the scaffold next morning to a sporting event. The hangman was intoxicated and barely managed to trip the lever. It was the last public hanging in the US.

The practice of public executions was abandoned in Canada in 1869 and in the UK in 1870. Many countries, notably Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Iran continue the practice to this day for crimes such as drug trafficking, witchcraft, disloyalty to the government. and homosexuality.

Comments?

If you have comments on this site or reviews of Dancing on Air, please e-mail me at ericcolbourne@ericcolbourne.com.

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Advice for Writers

Elmore Leonard, a well known mystery writer who died last year offered a number of rules for good writing. A few of them:

1. Never open a book with weather.

2. Keep your exclamations points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.

3.Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."

4.Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.

From the Ballad of Reading Gaol

 It is sweet to dance to violins

  When love and life are fair:

To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes

  is delicate and rare:

But it is not sweet with nimble feet

  To dance upon the air!

 

                       ...Oscar Wilde

Historic Vote

In 1948, residents of Newfoundland and Labrador decided their future in two referenda. In the first vote, held on June 3, Commission of Government was eliminated but neither Confederation with Canada nor Responsible Government received a majority, making a second referendum necessary. Voting was heavy, nearly 89% on June 3rd and 85% on July 22nd. 52.34% of voters chose Confederation on the second ballot.

Where to Buy Disappeared

     Disappeared:Stories From the Coast of Newfoundland is available in print and e-book from Amazon.ca and in e-book format from Kobo, Chapters etc. To locate it on Amazon, type 'Disappeared Colbourne' into their 'find' bar. Delivery is about one week.

     Author copies are also available directly from ericcolbourne.com. Click on the facebook link and send the author a message. Price is $15 plus postage.

     Due to the short print run the book will not be available in most bookstores.

New Edition: Dancing on Air

More Questions About an Execution

The case of Wilbert Coffin who was convicted of murder and hanged in Quebec more than 60 years ago raises many new questions. For the full story see: www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/wilbert-coffin-execution-cda-1.3441076.

Excerpt from Dancing on Air

(A Hanging in Quebec, 1902)

 

 

...Until the mid-1800s some 200 offences were regarded as capital crimes that carried the death penalty. In a modern age most of those offences now seem absurd.

 

John Dean, variously described in the records as a child of eight or nine, may have been the youngest to suffer death by hanging. On February 23, 1629 he was convicted of arson at Abington, England for setting fire to two barns in the town of Winsor. The judge saw evidence of wickedness in the boy's actions, an attitude which led directly to his death sentence.

 

In early August, 1814, an unfortunate William Potter received the death penalty at the high court in Chelmsford, England, for damaging an orchard. He had chopped down an old apple tree for firewood. To no avail at his trial, William pleaded ignorance of the law. The judge had second thoughts several days after sentencing, but with the wheels of justice already in motion, William was hanged about a week later on August 12.

From our Readers: Dancing on Air

I finished the book this morning and my only regret is that I couldn't read more....The exacting research gives real context in shaping the period, but it's Colbourne's ability as a writer that allows the reader to feel the crisp bite of the wind, smell the damp night air, and experience the pain and anguish of the characters. Colbourne's deft footwork in handling the historical record while giving life to the characters is to be applauded, and it separates this work from the pack.  (Glen Tilley)

 

An absolutely lovely read...The book reads like a richly textured novel but the story is flawlessly woven into the historical account (or borne out of it). It is clear that the book is meticulously researched...An excellent read on all fronts. Difficult to put down! (Monty Henstridge)

Disappeared

Excerpt from the story 'The Black Arts Book' in Disappeared: Stories from the Coast of Newfoundland.

 

...Old Meriam was indeed dead but no one seemed to know how she had died or where she was buried, all of which added to the mystery of her life  and the power of her witchcraft.

 

After her death, the old house seemed lonely more than anything else, sitting way out on the point by the landwash, facing the September storms and enduring the sad soundings of the ocean swells.

 

With each passing season it added a deeper tone of grey as the harsh weather of late fall and winter took its toll. Nobody in the village could understand how the old house could withstand so much punishment.

 

Disappeared: Stories from the Coast of Newfoundland  has been named a top seller on KOBO, one of the largest e-book distributors in the world. It continues to receive positive reviews in Canada and fifteen other countries. Disappeared is also available from amazon.ca and amazon.com in kindle and print format.