Canadian Yankee
Friday, December 12, 2003
Why Should Firefighters Have All the Fun?
For a few years now, fire departments all over North America have been raising money for charity by posing shirtless for beefcake calendars. I think I've heard that New York started the trend, but Toronto has its own as well. Of course, Toronto has to exude that typically Canadian touch-feely image of We Are a Diverse Mosaic of Mosaic-like Diversity, so the 2002 calendar featured, as Mr. June, the Toronto FD's only open-gay fireman; and this year's Toronto calendar even includes a woman (not shirtless), as if to definitively prove that "firefighter" is preferable to "fireman".

I must say, the Toronto calendar is much artsier (in that almost-soft-core-gay-porn, coffee-table photography book kind of way) than its New York counterpart, which reminds me of a high school yearbook, only shirtless. Toronto's FD calendar doesn't title their photos, but I can't help but imagine titles like, "Look! I am artistically posed with a large, phallic piece of equipment in front of European-style arch", or maybe "Behold my manly spray!", or even "No, this is not a complete and total rip-off of a Herb Ritts photograph, why do you ask?" Full set of images here.

Um, I seem to have gotten distracted. Where was I going with all this?

Oh, yes! "Why should firefighters have all the fun?"

It seems that some Italian photographer decided that anything firefighters can do, priests can do just as well! Thus we have the Calendario Romano. Admittedly, none of them are shirtless and some of them are wearing those funny Father Guido Sarducci hats; but what they lack in airbrushed and over-pumped artifice, they more than make up for in smoldering Mediterranean magnetism. Father May is my particular favorite - I like the intellectual look of those glasses (which look to be Kazuo Kawasaki designer specials - not exactly cheap LensCrafter specials; I guess even vows of poverty come in second to fashion sense when you're in Italy).

On the English language site, there's a quote from the photographer: "The priests are young and good looking, but that doesn't make them sex symbols. That depends on the imagination of the viewer." Uh huh. As if the March photo couldn't have been taken directly from the "backstory" part of some Falcon International video (you know, those bits you always fast forward through where the actors still have their clothes on).
Monday, December 08, 2003
Buddy, can ya spare a 10-cent piece?
There's a lot of buzz out there on the blogosphere about a possible plan to put Reagan's picture on the dime. Nancy Reagan is against it, so I don't think it'll go very far and I'll waste no more words on the Gipper dime. However, now that we're actually talking about changing our coinage, I have a modest suggestion: why not put a 10 somewhere on the dime? When I was in Japan, I was sooooo glad the 10 yen coins had the number 10 on them, otherwise I would have been completely lost. I couldn't help but think how annoying it would be for a Japanese visitor to the U.S. trying to figure out what the hell "ONE DIME" means. I understand that even the English are terribly confused by this labelling when they first see it.

In fact, why don't I just rank all the coins in circulation, from most usefully labelled to least, along with a letter grade.

This is a mostly good label - it says exactly what it is: one dollar. The dollar doesn't earn an A though for two reasons: (1) it requires you to know the English word "one", where a "1" would have been more internationally recognizable; and (2) judging from the look you get from most cashiers when you hand them a dollar coin, they'd rather that you paid in rodent droppings.

Like the dollar, these coins say what they are; and, like the dollar, they'd could be impoved by replacing words with numerals ("1" or "5"). They get a lower score though because their common names ("penny", "nickel") are completely different from their labels. Most Americans could figure out what you meant if you asked them for a "five-cent piece", but they'd look at you funny.

Well, it's sorta-good that they do say what they are: two half-dollars make a dollar, as do four quarter-dollars. On the other hand, they seem to harken back to that quaint time before the U.S. monetary system was decimalized and people used ha'dollars, shillings, and sixpence. Of course, the fact that a non-decimalized U.S. monetary system never existed just makes this stupid, stupid, stupid. (In a similar vein, anyone who refers to one-eighth of a dollar as a 'bit' - which comes from the old Spanish colonial peso, not any U.S. coinage - deserves to have "two bit" pieces stuffed up their nose until they start coming out their ears.) We have a decimal currency system here, is it too much to ask for a "25" and a "50" on the appropriate coins?

This is worse than stupid; it's actively hostile to foreigners. Unless you do some sort of Latin etymological study of that funny word, "dime", there's no way for you to know that this is one tenth of a dollar, or ten cents. The size of the coin doesn't even give you a hint. It's bigger than a one-cent piece, but smaller than a five-cent one, so it must be worth, ummm...two cents? That even makes a sort of sense etymologically: "di-" is a prefix meaning "two", so I guess a "dime" is two cents. See how confusing it is?

Really, America must be one of the very few nations on the planet that doesn't have numerals on its coins - it's certainly the only major tourist destination that doesn't. And it's an example of Americans' typical isolationism that so many of them have never really noticed it. Any American in Germany would indignantly protest a coin simply labeled "Fünftel DM" (one-fifth of a Deutschmark), yet we've been printing coins with "Quarter Dollar" and "One Dime" on them for ages without thinking twice.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Le Père Noël Est Mort
Apparently, this past Sunday saw the annual Christmas Parade (le grand défilé de Noël) in Laval, Quebec (a major suburb of Montreal). Unfortunately, shortly after the parade began, Santa Claus fell off his float and landed on his head. Eventually, the unconsious and bleeding personification of holiday giving had to be carted off in an ambulance as countless crying children looked on.

Um, wow. The child psychiatrists of greater Montreal stand to make a bundle this month.

Of course, there is a bright side. If parents want to save some money this year, they can just tell their kids, "Sorry guys, no presents this year. Santa's dead." That way they can afford those expensive therapy sessions for their poor traumatized enfants petits.

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