Tuesday, 1 July 2014


I'm not proud to be Canadian.

My twin brother and I were born in Edmonton in 1979 to my Canadian-born mother and French-born father. My mother's progenitors came to Canada as far back as the 1800s and kept coming over the span of several decades.

I'm not proud.

A lot of people's Canadian roots evidently run deeper than mine. My father moved to Canada after having lived in France, Algeria, and French Guiana. He emigrated here in the 1970s and has never looked back. He by no means rejects his Gallic roots, but he identifies himself as Canadian and Acadian more than anything else. He has more Canadian flags and paraphernalia in his home than the dollar store on June 30th.

I'm still not proud.

Like everyone else, I didn't choose my country of birth. I didn't get to go over a list of potential options, size up their pros and cons, put it all in a database, and make an informed decision. If I HAD been given the choice, I like to think I WOULD have chosen Canada.

Then I'd be proud. But I'm not now.

There are many fine nations and peoples across this vast world. Some have wonderful weather. Others have rich soil that permits a variety of delicious crops year-round. Some nations have graciously reserved people, others have friendly and gregarious folks.

I'm not proud to be Canadian.

Other places are hostile in their climate, environment, or populace. Some nations are dangerous; others are dangerously selfish. I definitely wouldn't want to have been born there.

That doesn't mean I'm proud to have been born here.

Some countries, like our wonderful neighbours to the south, are so similar in so many ways that one wonders why we bother with arbitrary distinctions like borders. If the Maker had sneezed while he was shaping me, I could have ended up in Arkansas, and I'm sure I'd have been perfectly happy there. But I ended up here instead.

I turned out Canadian. That doesn’t mean I'm proud to be one.

See, I didn't take any action, speak any words, exert my will, or hope and pray that, please God, let me be born Canadian; I just was. And I am so grateful.

I'm grateful, but I'm not proud.

Canada is a vast land. We are unbelievably blessed to have so many natural wonders. Other countries would love to have a fraction of our rich forests, prairies, mountains, and coasts. Very few nations indeed boast such a variety in their landscape.

I love how beautiful my country is, but I'm not proud.

Our people are quintessentially human. We are known for being polite and humble, but also for being insecure and passive-aggressive. Most of us have no tolerance for intolerance, but those of us who are more backward-thinking are as considerate and likeable in our daily lives than the rest. We try not to lose sleep over those we disagree with, but we're always ready with an open door and open arms to reconcile with those we've argued.

I love my country's people, their foibles and their great qualities, but I'm not proud.

Lastly, there are all the reasons that are advertised in the media or at multinational conferences: our strong economy, our beloved democracy, and our public health care that is the envy of much of the globe. As good as these reasons look on paper, and as easy they make our lives, they aren’t as important to me as everything else I’ve mentioned.

As a Canadian, I have lots for which I am appreciative. But I’m not proud to be Canadian.

Being Canadian isn’t an accomplishment on my part. I can’t brag about “owning” my nationality or any piece of country, much as I’d like.

I can take the time every day, though, to remind myself just how fortunate I am to live here. I can tell everyone who will listen that Canada’s land and people are among the finest around, because I really think it’s true. I can thank fate, the stars, or just the luck of the draw that I was born here. And I can love, or at least accept, every bit of this incredible country and my countrymen.

I can do all of those things. And while I wish that I could take the credit for the fact that I was born here, live here, and will live here forever, I can’t.

And for that reason, I’ll never be proud. I feel blessed, ecstatic, and fortunate.

Oh, ya: I feel pretty fucking smug, too. And that, I believe, is much more important than being proud.

Saturday, 8 February 2014


I know that others have attempted—rather laughably—to characterize the sounds that infants make in order to more accurately identify and address the baby’s needs in a timely manner. I’ve come up with a guide to my own children because they’re unique and special, as well as vastly superior in every conceivable way to others’ children. In an effort to clearly differentiate it from other baby languages, I gave my dialect a very distinctive name: Granger Baby Language.

I start with a basic description of the vocalization, label it with recognizable actor’s name to make it more memorable, approximate under what circumstances or at what time it occurs, suggest a putative cause, and provide a possible remedy. I have established the existence, through rigorous empirical research, of four standard cries.

Cry #1: The William Shatner

Description: The William Shatner is akin to what one might expect to hear from someone being flayed with serrated bamboo shards. The cry is one of not just mere physical pain, but of complete mental, emotional, and spiritual agony. To hear this cry, one thinks that nothing will ever be right with the world again. The William Shatner is so named because it is completely over-the-top and out of proportion to any visible insult to the child. It is the aural equivalent of chewing the scenery, only on steroids.

Timing: Approximately 10-30 minutes after last feeding.

Likely cause: Gas.

Remedy: The only remedy here is tailored towards the listener, because by now they’ve missed the boat. Aside from puncturing one’s eardrums for relief from the wails of torment, the only other step to be taken is to remind oneself that one must ABSOLUTELY BURP THE BABY AFTER FEEDING. “Oh, I do burp them, but nothing comes out” is not a valid excuse. If one lacks the commitment and physical endurance to get one’s baby to burp, I suggest investing in one of those industrial paint shakers.

Cry #2: The Samuel Jackson

Description: The Samuel Jackson is angry. Very angry. If you ignore the Samuel Jackson, there will be hell to pay—as one should rightly expect from the name. The Samuel Jackson is generally in response to a legitimate symptom, although the vocalization is rather more truculent than one might expect. Aggressive but deliberate, frightening but totally justified in its rage, the Samuel Jackson will be heeded upon pain of death. Any confusion on your part will be met with the venomous reply: “Granger Baby Language, muthahumpa, DO YOU SPEAK IT?!?!

Timing: Approximately 30-60 minutes after last feeding.

Likely cause: Too many Royales with cheese. Yes, soiled diaper.

Remedy: Change that baby. It’s gettin’ tired of this muthahumpin’ poop in its muthahumpin’ diaper. If you hear your child emit the Samuel Jackson, I double dare you to ask it, “What?”

Cry #3: The Daniel Day-Lewis

Description: Like its eponym, the Daniel Day-Lewis needs no introduction. Its presentation may vary drastically, but it is unmistakable in its genuineness. Neither hysterical nor inhibited, the Daniel Day-Lewis is the gold standard to which all other cries must be compared. One will hear the Daniel Day-Lewis many times during one’s parenting career, and it will entrance a person every time. It is commanding. It is credible. It is evocative, and it will move a person to confident and compassionate action.

Timing: Approximately 2-3 hours after last feed.

Likely cause: Hunger.

Remedy: The listener must attempt to rouse oneself from the daze brought on by beguiling tones of the Daniel Day-Lewis. One must provide sustenance to the elegant and poised child that is emitting such a self-assured cry.

Cry #4: The Woody Allen

Description: The Woody Allen is barely even a cry. It is a most feeble attempt at eliciting some emotional reaction or comfort from parents. To hear this cry, one cannot help but roll one’s eyes at its meekness, although a person does commiserate to a degree with the infant’s existential plight and self-consciousness. The Woody Allen is so named because the cry itself seems to convey that the baby is all too aware of its insecurity and is embarrassed because of its diffidence, yet it persists with its eccentric and awkward behavior. There’s really no good reason for the Woody Allen other than its mild entertainment value.

Timing: Variable. Usually manifests once all other needs have been addressed.

Likely cause: Boredom.

Remedy: Extensive psychoanalysis.

Such is the extent of Granger Baby Language...for now. I will update the list as time goes on in order to release new and improved versions and capitalize on my newfound scam. I hope that you found this guide as instructive as I found it enjoyable to write. Feel free to add your own submissions to the list.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a Samuel Jackson that requires immediate attention.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


I don't get it.

Sure, I don't think Rob Ford is a great mayor. I don't think he's even a GOOD mayor. I think he's thin-skinned, although no more than Nenshi. He is thought/known to have used his office for personal gain. He is brash, intransigent, paranoid, and desperately needs to invest in collar stays to smooth out and crisp up those collars. I can put him on to a website that sells good-quality titanium ones for a reasonable price, as long as he doesn't try to grab my arse.

All that aside, I am starting to actually feel sorry for the guy as a result of this alleged crack-smoking tape hullaballoo. Yes, the footage probably exists (even though sources are saying it's "gone"). Yes, we can probably take the word of a gossip site "journalist" and two other reporters (albeit from a newspaper known to be heavily critical of, and criticized by, Ford) about the footage's contents--partly because of the odd fallout with Ford staffers resigning/being fired, as well as his initial silence and more recent smugness. Where there's smoke, there tends to be fire and all that, unless the smoke is actually vapour coming off of dry ice, in which case it's the complete opposite of fire...ergh...

At any rate, like I said: I don't get it. Why is Mr. Ford's ostensible crack use--arguably the smallest and least significant, and not even most sordid, of his numerous shortcomings--drawing such voyeuristic and schadenfreudistic curiosity? When he was making a fool of himself and a mockery of Conflict of Interest rules, there wasn't a tenth of the media attention that there is now that he's been outed as someone who smokes rock and bashes Justin Trudeau when he's high. What is the big deal there? Haven't we all indulged our healthy, evolutionarily-hardwired, God-given desire for illicit drugs, then dissed a would-be prime minister in the psychedelic heat of the inebriated moment? No? Oh.

I don't pity Ford because he uses (or at least used) illicit drugs: I think drug users need help, not sympathy. I pity him because the system and people around him completely failed to keep him accountable for all the turmoil and hardship that he caused when not smoking crack (as far as we know), but as soon as second-rate media outlets publish second-hand accounts of a Second City mayor using a hard drug on a single known occasion, everyone's on him like Rob Ford on a football game where there's free hot dogs and cheap women.

The most pathetic aspect to the tale was when there was brief speculation, with which this saga is bursting, that a person associated with the drug use and/or recording of the footage was killed as a direct result of this story going mainstream. The briefest of follow-ups confirmed that there was absolutely no connection between the murder of this "involved" person and the situation itself...but hey! Let's just keep adding fuel to the fire that's burning out of control. And once it dies down, all that will be left will be grey, insubstantial ash, an anemic remnant of what started off as such a juicy scoop. Then we'll all wonder what all the fuss was about and go back to watching Duck Dynasty.

Just so we're clear: I'm not a Rob Ford fan. I think he should resign, simply because it's going to be near impossible for him and council to be halfway productive with this gargantuan pall of smoke (or dry ice vapour, or whatever) hanging over City Hall. I think he should resign for his own sake, too, and take care himself: it can't have been fun being subjected to such criticism, no matter how self-inflicted and deserved it is. And if he does use crack, then all the more reason to step down, step back, and seek treatment. So yes, I agree with those who think he should call it quits--but perhaps for different reasons.

No, I don't think that he should be mayor anymore. But just as I think that Mr. Ford has failed to meet the standard required of those in the highest of public office (and I don't count his crack use among those breaches), I also think that the media outlets involved--those who published seeshow and hearsay and wild conjectures--have also failed to meet the standard required of those who present the public with what is supposed to be factual, substantiated, and relevant information. And of the two breaches of trust, I take the one that doesn't involve a known buffoon much more seriously.

Monday, 27 May 2013


Imagine you're a twin. If you are a twin, then good for you! Seriously, that's great, because you can probably relate to what I'm going to talk about...unless you're one of those phoney-baloney twins who are of different genders, in which case you're like a poor man's twins. I'm sorry, but it's a fact: if your twin sibling is of a different gender than you, then you're essentially the Nabob of twins, and my brother and I would be the coffee-that-comes-out-of-a-civet's-arse of twins. Yes, that analogy works nicely, methinks.

Anyway, you're a twin. If you're of the same gender as your twin sibling, as I am (in case I didn't make it clear) the first question people ask you about your twin status is NOT, “Do you enjoy having someone who completely agrees with your insightful assessment of every issue of significance, shares your excellent taste in the arts, and would administer an unrelenting and unhesitating beatdown of any person who stepped to you?” They don't ask that question, because the answer is an obvious and resounding, “You bet your unique, low-risk pregnancy, singleton ass, I enjoy it! Now hand me that comic book before my bro opens up your face like a sandwich on a diner menu somewhere! No, not that one, the other one. Next to the box of tissues. With the blue cover...ya, that one. Thanks. Do you have any Hawkins Cheezies?”

So. The first question people inevitably ask is: “Are you identical or fraternal?” I usually reply that they've asked a great question, that Mom and Dad always told us we were fraternal, but that anyone who has ever met us has sworn up and down that we have to be identical. I tell them that we have mirror image birthmarks on our deltoids that, when apposed, reveal the true name of God and cause us to speak in tongues and make a mean omelette. Then the person asks, “Really?”, to which I reply, barely able to contain my nerdy derision, “How would I know if we're fraternal or identical? We never had a DNA test to confirm it one way or another! What a maroon! Boy, should you be embarrassed or what!” Then they say, “But that part about the birthmarks is true?” Then I blink, stare at them for a few seconds, and tell them that I'm going over here now.

Another popular question is, “Who is older?” I'm not going to castigate people for wondering about this, even though a difference of mere minutes has absolutely no relevance whatsoever in the grand scheme of things and this query is pretty much one of the lamest that a person could ask EVER. No, I just roll with it, even though I want to give my brother the “nod” to go ahead and unleash on whomever deigned to pose that question. I know that people are curious about twins because...well...we're so darned mysterious and cool. We're like the Nick Cave of offspring. No, not because we're “bad seeds”—ha ha, real clever. Okay, we're more like the Tom Waits of offspring, but we're better-looking and actually enjoyable to listen to. At any rate, my brother and I have come up with several variations on how to answer this, but my favourite is, “Who's older? Who's older? I'll tell you who's older...hey, look over there! A civet pooping coffee!” Then my brother back-kicks them and we run like clones on fire.

As far as I can tell, the only major difference between my brother and I is that I suffer from a serious medical condition called “koumpounophobia”—an irrational and deathly fear and dislike of buttons—whereas he has been spared from this awful, unremitting disease. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to avoid buttons like the plague on humanity that they are, especially those with a primarily decorative or “aesthetic” (*cough, gag*) purpose. That's about all that defines us as unique individuals: a brand of peculiar insanity. That, and he's the good-looking one while I'm the...uh...other one.

Oh, what's that? You think that's all strange and creepy and stuff? Well, say hello to my similarly-sized and -shaped friend! Bro, it's time for you to do what you do best! Bring the hurt, mon frère! Yes, you can finish your coffee, first.

Thursday, 11 April 2013


Mr. Jason Luan
#29, 735 Ranchlands Blvd NW
Calgary, AB
T3G 3A9

Dear Mr. Luan,

Many years ago, I wanted to be a physician.

My interest in science started at an early age. In primary school, I loved dinosaurs. In middle school, astronomy was my passion. As I grew older, I was fascinated with biology, then genetics, biochemistry, and finally medicine.

The road to becoming a doctor was challenging, but I learned many things along the way: about the world, its inhabitants, and myself. Had I not been accepted into my preferred field, I would have been content with any number of other professions. Ideally one involving food, because I love to eat. That, or playing music. I like music a lot.

When my dream of getting into medical school came true, though, I was ecstatic. As a physician, not only would I be deeply rooted in science, evidence, and rational decision-making—I would, more importantly, be helping people.

The sick and the suffering would benefit from my knowledge and compassion. If I couldn't cure, I would relieve; if I couldn't relieve, I would comfort. I would be a healer, teacher, advocate, and support. I wouldn't save the world, but I'd make certain to at least improve it to the degree I could. I would earn respect through my skill and congeniality, and I would have a satisfying career.

I was a fool.

I finished my specialty training in psychiatry in 2008. My first job was at Alberta Hospital Edmonton (AHE) as a consultant psychiatrist with a special interest in geriatrics. The colleagues and staff who worked there were incredible. I spent over two wonderful years there before our program was made the casualty of Mr. Stephen Duckett's ambition and ideology. His initial intent was to close the entire hospital down (after years of promises from the Weatherill administration that AHE was slated for redevelopment): instead, the geriatric psychiatry program was made the sacrificial lamb. We were excised from our historical home at Alberta Hospital Edmonton and transferred to a non-purpose-built facility in the west of Edmonton, Villa Caritas, so that the remaining programs at AHE would be left alone. Those in power could pat themselves on the back for having done “something”.

The haphazard and cavalier manner with which government and health system administration colluded to tear the program away from AHE was my first insight into how short-sighted, self-serving, and intransigent the people who make these decisions can be. The transfer of the program was made with token physician consultation—ostensibly enough to satisfy any critics of the move that the decision was made without input from doctors—and the result has been an unmitigated disaster. We lost many capable and dedicated staff in the move—some of whom were indeed replaced by equally competent and caring people—but the damage to morale and the solid foundation upon which the program rested have not been repaired, even after two years. Administration would interfere with patient admissions and discharges, patients languished in hospital for months because of bureaucratic shortcomings, and our admission wait-list was so lengthy that we were completely unable to bring patients into hospital in a timely manner. Physician concerns were heard, but not heeded, by administration. Nurses were hung out to dry by their managers when abusive family members verbally and physically attacked them. Without respect and trust, there was no dialogue. Without dialogue, nothing could change. And things still have yet to change.

It was depressing, but I thought we were still making a difference. I thought I could still cure sometimes, relieve often, and comfort always.

I was still a fool.

The haphazard and cavalier manner which pervaded the decision-making around the transfer of our beloved geriatric psychiatry program appears equally manifest in the recent “negotiations” with physicians. After having signed an Agreement In Principle last year, the current regime has decided to renege on the AIP, which is causing the same demoralization, dissatisfaction, and suspicion so evident at Villa Caritas. Instead of approaching physicians, cap in hand; instead of apologizing for his government's financial mismanagement that has resulted in the fiscal dire straits he keeps referring to; instead of asking for our collaboration in fixing the problem, Mr. Horne instead publicly demonized physicians—and continues to do so. We have been made out to be greedy, inconsiderate, and in it only for the money. No matter that this is about honouring commitments; no matter that many of the physicians I've spoken with would gladly take a pay cut if it would guarantee that the government is willing to make concessions and truly involve us in health care planning; no matter that the majority of the public is completely supportive of the physicians' position over that of the government—none of that matters. What matters is that those in charge must be obeyed at all cost, and never ever questioned.

And I am grateful. I'm grateful that the government, specifically Mr. Horne and Ms. Redford, have made it clear that they will not engage in arbitration. I'm pleased that there's no question that it's either their way or the highway. Thank goodness that we're getting a pay cut, not a pay raise. I'm singing the praises of this government that I am unimportant—worse, a liability.

Because now my eyes are opened. I am a fool no more. All the years that I spent lying to myself about the nobility of the cause that I chose, the positive influence I thought I would be, were a waste. I may have helped a few people along the way in my few years of practice...but big deal. I am a drain on the system. I reek of avarice and ego. I am unworthy of the office to which I aspire.

I am enlightened. I have options. I need leech from the system no more, should I choose not to. I need not burden the taxpayers and my employers any longer, should I find another calling.

If I am, and can only hope to ever be, a middling physician—inconsequential, a nuisance, disposable—perhaps it is time for me to aspire to something greater, where I make a real difference...perhaps as a gourmet chef or musician.

Or maybe I'll just keep my head down, punch my metaphorical time card, and keep plying my trade like a phantom, bereft of the passion, the voice, or the lasting benefit to the community I always thought I would have.

Thank you, Mr. Luan, for hearing me. I expect absolutely nothing to change, and I find strange comfort in that. It confirms that all that I can hope to change is myself.

Most sincerely,

Robert Granger, MD FRCPC
Consultant Psychiatrist?

Honourable Fred Horne
Premier Alison Redford
AMA President Dr. Michael Giuffre
Party leaders: Danielle Smith, Dr. Raj Sherman, Brian Mason

Monday, 25 March 2013


I'm the opposite of Kojak, Baby,
'Cause guess who hates your greedy guts?
You're sitting on your offshore plunder
A miser squirrelling his nuts

You say, “Let them eat cake”
But won't give them the recipe
Cook the books like Morimoto
Fire the staff like kamikaze

You keep your gains all to yourself
And call it social darwinism
You're just a small goose-step away
From embracing facism

No freedom 'til we're Equal
Let me sweeten up that pot
No rest for the 99
'Til we're all haves or have-nots

Your heroes: Carnegie and Rockefeller
Gates and Iacocca
I raise you Bonhoffer, the White Rose
Frank of A, Mother Teresa

You've never gone without a meal
But your soul is starving
You thirst for acceptance
While you crave understanding

You won't need a sleep number
By the time I'm done with you
Your conscience will be clear
You'll breathe so easily, too

No freedom 'til we're Equal
Let me sweeten up that pot
No rest for the 99
'Til we're all haves or have-nots

We'll open fire on your bank accounts
With my trusty old Kalashnikov
Then we'll dance on their warm ashes
Like we were Baryshnikov

It's time for you to earn your keep
You washed your hands like Pilate
Now it's time to get them dirty
So keep that midnight oil lit

Don't thank me, you'd do the same
If you weren't so blind
Now drop that pretence like it was D
Leave your elitism far behind

No freedom 'til we're Equal
Let me sweeten up that pot
No rest for the 99
'Til we're all haves or have-nots

Sunday, 17 March 2013


Don't tell the guys this, but I was the one who called Ceecee "fat" and got us all detention in Grade 7 that one day...although I guess what would be worse than them finding out is me continuing to say stupid things...which I still do, you vinegar-swilling foam-keeper.

Sorry, I can't help it.

The thing is, I liked Ceecee. He was gregarious, somewhat socially inappropriate, and had my brother and me over to his house once. We watched Robocop (I'll never forget the part near the end where the bad guy gets melted with acid, because that was pretty messed up). He showed us the closet downstairs where his dad kept his stash of homemade root beer (heavy on the "beer", less so on the "root"). I shot a water gun at his brother's bass drum, and instead of losing his shit, he just asked me to be careful because the drum skin wouldn't react well to the water.

Anyway, cool guy.

That's why it makes no sense for me to have said what I did. The words just kinda came out. There we were, my classmates and I, getting changed after gym class. Ceecee finished up first, then in typical Ceecee fashion he turned the lights out in the change room on his way out.

I actually thought it was pretty hilarious. Not a masterstroke of comic mischief, but still well-played. Instead of going with it, though, we all feigned outrage. Seizing the moment, I called out, "Aw, that fat..."

With those three words, I condemned our group to afternoon DT and myself to years of shame. Mister Whatsit, the gym teacher, had been standing right outside the change room door and heard what I'd said. He burst in, clearly pissed off, and demanded who'd dared to utter such inconsiderate tripe. Those weren't his words: "Who DARED to utter such inconsiderate tripe?" It was more like, "Who said that?" in a disappointed tone of voice. Double whammy: I'd let down the gang and the teacher.

I wanted to own up. I really did. I couldn't remember ever having shied away from taking my licks, although I'd never done something so stupid and hateful before. So I kept quiet, and it was curtains for my innocently positive self-regard.

It's kind of disconcerting for me to be able to pinpoint the moment in my life when I knew that I was completely responsible for my own shortcomings; when I no longer had the benefit of the doubt; when I couldn't claim ignorance, immaturity, or the folly of youth to rationalize my misdeeds. I beat myself silly with the business end of my conscience for many years after that.

You'd think I would have learned to be more careful with my words following this incident, but I still make a habit of eating them, or at least stuffing my foot firmly in my mouth every so often.

Take Grade 8. I know, Grade 8 generally follows very closely on the heels of Grade 7. I'm not a slow learner--just a fast forgetter. Anyway, our English teacher, Mr. Startree, assigned some homework to us: we were to write a poem glorifying ourselves. He was writing out some verse as an example on the chalkboard, and right as he's getting to his crowning stanza, the one where he's supposed to say, "[All the ladies] ask me for dates," I piped up, "...kick my butt."

Again, I liked this guy. He's one of my favourite teachers ever...WAAAAAAAAY better than that teacher who made an attempt on my life and took my virginity...or was it the other way around? Anyway, good teacher. I wasn't trying to embarrass him: I was trying to make a lame-ass joke.

He was livid. "I expect an apology from you, later," he said. I forget if I was able to muster up the courage to deliver my mea culpa after class.

What's that? You want something more recent? Well, I'd rather not say...all right. One Saturday a few weeks ago, I was bowling 10 pin with my best friend. He was rolling like a pro, heading for a great score. Last frame, he hits a strike and a spare. He's ecstatic: he hit 231, a personal best. He's walking back to the seating area, beaming and blushing with pride. He's not one to brag, but you can tell he's super-chuffed about the result. Standing up, hand extended for a congratulatory shake, I await his approach. As we lock hands and eyes, instead of proffering the sportsmanlike adulations to which he's clearly entitled, I can't help but say, "You're a big fat poo-head, ya damn dirty poo-head."

I haven't slept a wink since.

I'll never learn.