Posts filed under “Travel”

LET’S VISIT CANADA.

Saint John, the great metropolis of New Brunswick.

Part 7.—What to See in New Brunswick.

New Brunswick, or le Nouveau-Brunswick, is Canada’s only officially bilingual province, with Acadian French speakers making up about a third of the population. Many U. S. visitors are surprised to learn that; they would have guessed that Quebec was bilingual, but in fact Quebec has been officially French-only since 1969 and thinks its English-speaking residents should go stick their heads in properly sized individual buckets of water. Like everything else of purely local interest, the bilingual status of New Brunswick is enshrined in the Canadian constitution, which also specifies the dimensions of the buckets of water in which Anglophone Quebecers are to stick their heads.

New Brunswick was founded as a refuge for American loyalists who fled the new United States after the Revolutionary War. The founders meant to show those rebels a thing or two by setting up a colony that would be “the envy of the American states”; and indeed, at its current rate of growth, the population of New Brunswick may soon surpass the population of greater Dayton. Mission accomplished.

The most important attraction in New Brunswick is Magnetic Hill, one of earth’s most mysterious places. At Magnetic Hill, just outside the city of Moncton, you stop your car at the top of the hill and put the transmission in neutral, and then the car rolls down the hill by itself as if attracted by a mysterious invisible force. At the bottom of the hill is a large souvenir-keychain emporium.

Fueled by the souvenir-keychain industry, Moncton has become the largest metropolitan area in New Brunswick. But there is nothing to see in Moncton except miles of keychain factories and the gleaming new glass-walled headquarters buildings of the international keychain conglomerates, so we move on to the real city in New Brunswick.

Saint John, until recently the largest metropolis of New Brunswick, is home to Reversing Falls, a fascinating phenomenon in which the raging rapids on the Saint John River actually change their direction of flow. The moment of transition is tremendously exciting, as you can see from this series of photographs:

Inbound Flow.

Transition.

Outbound Flow.

Photos by Wikimedia Commons user BenFrantzDale. GNU Free Documentation License.

Saint John was also the place where the great Henry Burr was discovered, and anyone who, like Dr. Boli, still has a large collection of acoustical phonograph records will wish to make a pilgrimage to the Imperial Theatre to pay homage.

Fredericton is the provincial capital, which makes it the place to go if you want to see a bilingual provincial parliament at work. It is not as entertaining as it sounds.

The Bay of Fundy, which separates New Brunswick from Nova Scotia, is famous for having the highest tides in the world. Tourists love to clamber among the Rocks at Hopewell Cape when the tide is out. Then the tide comes in and sweeps them all away, and their mangled corpses are picked up on Cape Cod beaches some weeks later.

Northwestern New Brunswick is an Acadian stronghold, and possibly the only place in Canada where a tourist will not be able to converse with the locals in ordinary English. The surprising number of monolingual Francophones may make it necessary to shout very loudly, which is of course always the key to making oneself understood to people who speak no English.

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LET’S VISIT CANADA.

Part 6.—What to See in Prince Edward Island.

Prince Edward Island, the 104th-largest island in the world, is the smallest of Canada’s provinces. It is known to history as the birthplace of Canadian confederation, but fiction trumps history by reminding us that the island was also the location of Anne of Green Gables, which is all anybody cares about.

The population of Prince Edward Island is about 140,000, which puts it slightly below Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) but a little above Homosassa Springs (Florida). This is the winter population, however; in the summer, the population is swollen to several times that figure by masses of Anne of Green Gables fans who swarm to the island to buy souvenir keychains featuring their favorite characters from the book.

Aside from the annual stampede of Anne of Green Gables fandom, the primary attraction of Prince Edward Island is red sand. Parks Canada spends millions of loonies every spring dyeing the sand on the beaches in preparation for summer vacation season. Unless there are large storms or international Anne of Green Gables cosplay conventions, the dye job usually lasts well into the autumn; but by spring the beaches are dull buff-colored again. Casual vacationers seldom think how much effort goes into creating a unique aesthetic environment for their amusement.

Prince Edward Island is also known for the world’s most concentrated collection of octagonal wooden church steeples, and you may make of that what you will.

The island is now linked to mainland New Brunswick by a bridge, which in Dr. Boli’s opinion counts as cheating. If Dr. Boli had to get there by boat, then you young whippersnappers with your horseless carriages should have to take a ferry as well. Yes, Dr. Boli is aware that the bridge was allowed to assume the duties of a steam ferry by a constitutional amendment, but this is just one of many ways in which the Canadian constitution is a sloppy affair.

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LET’S VISIT CANADA.

Part 4.—What to See in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Newfoundland and Labrador is Canada’s most recent province. It was an independent dominion for a while, but bungled independence so thoroughly that it had to be repossessed by the British government. It did not join Canada until 1949, and even then was not too sure about it.

The capital is St. John’s, which is the oldest city in North America if you discount certain other older cities. St. John’s is a vibrant cultural hub with endless opportunities for entertainment; for example, right now, the entire city is obsessed with a pine warbler.

At the very northern end of Newfoundland is L’Anse aux Meadows, famous as the site of the only thoroughly investigated Viking settlement in North America. You can still see the nutshells and Swedish Fish wrappers left behind by the settlers.

Along the coast of Newfoundland are many picturesque fishing villages, where you can watch the locals engaging in the quaint local tradition of not fishing, celebrated since the collapse of the North Atlantic cod fishery in the late twentieth century.

Labrador is home to Churchill Falls, which at one time was known as one of the most spectacular sights in North America. It was decided, however, that it could be more useful than ornamental; and since the Churchill River was redirected for power generation, the waterfall looks like this:

Quebec has never recognized the border with Labrador as it is currently drawn, and since the alternative border makes Labrador a thin ribbon extending one English mile inland from the high-tide mark (see the map above), you may be able to see Québécois troops massing across the border if you visit Labrador City. What fun!

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LET’S VISIT CANADA.

Photograph by W. Lloyd MacKenzie, via Flickr @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/saffron_blaze/

Part 3.—Canadian Government.

Canada is a federation consisting of nine provinces, three territories, and Quebec, which is an alternate universe in which Montcalm defeated Wolfe. The form of government is a parliamentary democracy, which lasts exactly as long as Queen Elizabeth is in an indulgent mood.

The Head of State is the Queen of Canada, Elizabeth II. She is also Head of State of each of the individual provinces, so she has quite a bit of state-heading to do. Of course, Elizabeth is also Queen of a large number of other countries, which spreads her a bit thin. Canada is actually the largest of her dominions, but we must remember that most of Canada is useless. Approximately 87.2% of the population lives within a hundred miles of the U. S. border; the rest of the country is populated mostly by moose.

The Queen is represented in Canada by a Governor General, whose job is to open sessions of parliament and make sure the Queen gets the hats people send her.

Because Canada is not within easy commuting distance of her house, Queen Elizabeth tends not to pay very much attention to it, which allows Canadian politicians to play at running the country uninterrupted for years at a time. Every once in a while, the Queen notices Canada and squashes its parliament with her parliament-squashing mallet. Then the whole government has to be started over from scratch.

The capital of Canada is Ottawa, a tiny trading post picked by Queen Victoria as a joke. Her deadpan delivery caused her Canadian subjects to take her seriously, however, and they dutifully commenced filling the backwoods trading post with great Gothic stone palaces fit for a queen. Today Ottawa remains a backwoods trading post with Gothic palaces, in tribute to Canada’s beloved Queen Victoria, the Mother of Confederation.

Until recently, the Canadian government was elected by the people to represent their interests. In common with other capitalist democracies, however, Canada has moved to a system in which the government is elected by large corporations to protect themselves from the people.

Visitors to Canada are encouraged to enjoy Canadian government as a spectator sport, but discouraged from participating directly.

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LET’S VISIT CANADA.

Political Map of Canada

Part 2.—Entrance Requirements.

Technically, Canada is not the same country as the United States, so if you are a U. S. citizen, you will need to meet certain requirements in order to cross the border:

1. Make sure you have a passport. This is not a Canadian requirement; Canadians generally trust U. S. citizens, and would be happy to let them into the country with a smile and a wave. The United States, however, believes that U. S. citizens are probably terrorists unless they can prove otherwise. You will thus need a passport to get back into the United States, or you will be forced to join the thousands of stateless Americans in the refugee camp for U. S. citizens who forgot their passports, which is currently located on Baffin Island.

2. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date. Canadians are notoriously courteous and hospitable, and no one wants that kind of thing brought back into the United States.

3. Bring a pair of xylophone mallets, for obvious reasons.

4. Did you remember a hat for Queen Elizabeth?

5. To avoid difficulty at the border when re-entering the United States. make sure your skin is not of an unpatriotically dark hue. Also be sure not to profess any obviously anti-American beliefs, such as Islam, Hinduism, Episcopalianism, or global warming.

Note that, if you are a Canadian citizen, there is a high statistical probability that you are already in Canada. It is advisable to check before making further plans to enter the country.

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LET’S VISIT CANADA.

Political Map of Canada

Part 1.—What to Bring with You.

When planning a visit to our friendly neighbor to the north, you will make your trip much more enjoyable if you stock up on a few essential supplies before you leave.

Money. Canada’s economy is based on a modification of the capitalist system, in which a socialist paradise for Canadian citizens is funded by selling souvenir keychains to American tourists. You should also be aware that Canadians use cartoon money—bills in bright colors and dollar coins called loonies. You will feel much better having real American money in your pocket.

Comfortable clothes. Except in the large cities, Canadians disapprove of uncomfortable clothes.

A curling iron, in case you wish to participate in the Canadian national sport of curling.

A pair of xylophone mallets. You will understand when you get there.

A nice gift for Queen Elizabeth. The Governor General will make sure it gets to her. She likes hats.

Snowshoes. They will give the border guards a good laugh.

Weather. Especially in the winter, most of Canada’s weather escapes across the border to the United States, creating a serious and at times worrying weather deficit in Canada. Canadians will be glad to have some of their weather returned, and may even buy it back from you at inflated prices.

Bacon. Canadian “bacon” is a completely unsatisfactory bacon substitute. Real American bacon can often be used as currency when purchasing souvenir keychains from the bacon-deprived natives.

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THANKSGIVING AROUND THE WORLD.

harvest-by-vrancx

The American holiday we call Thanksgiving has equivalents all around the world, reflecting the natural human desire to express gratitude to a higher power by means of selfish overindulgence.

In Merry England, the ancient Saxons used to celebrate Thanksgiving every year by sacrificing an investment banker to Thor.

In Quebec, Thanksgiving is known as “Le Jour de l’Action de grâce,” in keeping with the provincial government’s policy of assuring the dominance of the French language through sheer multiplication of words.

The Kirk of Scotland long ago banned all expressions of thanksgiving for earthly goods, on the grounds that God intends us to be miserable.

In antipodean South Africa, the Thanksgiving turkey is served upside-down, with the stuffing on the outside.

In North Korea, every day is Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s and Arbor Day and Easter and your birthday.

In China, on the People’s Day of Gratitude, the citizens come together and think of something nice to give the General Secretary. Usually it’s a necktie.

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FUN FACTS ABOUT CHICAGO.

The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is the tallest free-standing structure in the Upper Midwest.

Many of Chicago’s famous elevated  trains run underground.

The L is the only major transit system in North America, and possibly the world, that has a Pink Line.

Chicago’s nickname, “Second City,” refers to its being the second-largest city in the United States (after Los Angeles) that is not New York.

Every day, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange sets the price for a U. S. senator, a U. S. representative, an Illinois governor, and many other important officials.

Chicago controls the food prices for the entire world, but fortunately no one would ever use that power for evil.

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ASK DR. BOLI.

Dear Dr. Boli: I was cleaning off unwanted papers from my desk the other day when I suddenly realized I had unknowingly run my bucket list through the shredder!

My wife tells me, “When life gives you confetti, throw yourself a party.” But I am still feeling quite listless.

Please, sir, have you any other words of wisdom to console me as I attempt to piece back together my broken dreams? —Signed, Nore Roderick

Dear Sir: Any respectable bucket list would have to begin with the famous bucket that Warren G. Harding kicked in 1923. It is displayed in the lobby of the Commonwealth Building on K Street in Washington.

The list would also have to include the bucket with a hole in it that inspired both Louis Armstrong and Hank Williams to song. It is currently for sale on eBay, but so far no bidder has been able to meet the reserve.

The bucket which Booker  T. Washington cast down may be seen on application to the custodian at the Booker T. Washington National Monument in Hardy, Virginia.

The gutbucket played by Will Shade in the Memphis Jug Band is not on display anywhere at the moment, but it can still be heard on numerous recordings.

The first bucket seat in Pittsburgh can be found in a Lincoln limousine that once belonged to Helen Clay Frick, now on display at the Frick Car and Carriage Museum. The Lincoln is an exceptionally long car, and the bucket seat was used to hold the long-distance operator who connected Miss Frick with her chauffeur.

This short list may not be a complete replacement for the one you lost, but it should at least give you a head start on compiling a new one.

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