Here's something that scared me when I was six. Next week I will write about another childhood fear (maybe the one that involved something crawling through my ear and into my brain).

The Littlest Hobo
I watched Doctor Who on a regular basis when I was a child, and I was never scared. I was never scared of Daleks, or the Master, or the Cybermen, or the terrible thing that lived underground and was clearly just a number of people concealed inside a giant sock. I was disdainful of all children who were scared of Doctor Who, and who spoke of being creeped out as soon as they heard the opening bars of the theme song.

I resolutely ignored the fact that my disdain was rendered ridiculous by my own fear of The Littlest Hobo. Not the dog—I knew he was a wandering canine force for wrong-righting and justice. I'm talking about the show itself. Maybe it was because it featured distressing things happening in and around Toronto; it was certainly because, at least as far as I remember, each and every show featured robbers. Robbers! Torontonian (or at least Ontarian) robbers who climbed up ladders into windows! My memory also tells me they were dressed very much in the manner of an eight-year-old dressing up as a robber for Halloween. They had black turtlenecks, and masks, and sacks to carry off all the things they were planning to take from the bedrooms of the children whose witless parents had left ladders lying around as a irresistible invitation to 1980s robbers.

It's not even just that I knew that Torontonian robbers were real and space monsters likely weren't and so apportioned my fear in a sensible manner. I would probably have been able to accept that there were giant walking stones that killed people and evil men with goatees who turned people into action figures. I think maybe I wasn't petrified by those possibilities because if they were possible, so too was a time-traveling , mop-top space scamp with a penchant for jelly babies. And if he existed, it was almost unavoidable that I would at some point end up traveling through time and space with him, earning my keep by acting as a stabilizing influence.

What was the compensation for the undeniable existence of robbers? A dog who traveled about south-eastern Ontario occasionally foiling those robbers before promptly deserting whatever child had developed an attachment to him? As much as I was petrified of robbers when I was six, it's possible I was even more petrified of being saved and then rejected by a crime-fighting dog. Maybe tomorrow you'll want to settle down? WHY NOT NOW.

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The video has now been taken down, but the slogan remains.
I've always been interested in science, but I dropped it in grade eleven because my military-trained science-teacher-who-was-actually-a-gym-teacher was a bit of a dick. I realize now that I probably really dropped it because my womb was hysterically pulling me toward lip balms and disciplines that focused on relationships. Also, don't scientists wear smocks or something? Obviously not the place for a girl who likes dressing up, putting on sunglasses, and wearing lipstick. And what girl doesn't enjoy doing all those things while not learning about science? 

So what can be done to keep science from alienating people with wombs who like dressing up, putting on sunglasses, wearing lipstick, and reenacting birth-control pill/tampon/yoghurt commercials with their friends?

The answer is obvious, obviously. What's needed is for the EUROPEAN UNION to demonstrate that science is, in fact, really exactly like dressing up, putting on sunglasses, wearing lipstick, and hanging around with friends while not getting pregnant.
The EU has hit on a breathtakingly original idea here: it has taken things that EVERY GIRL WITHOUT EXCEPTION likes (makeup brushes, eyewear, showing some leg) and randomly spliced together shots of those things with other shots of science-y things they don't quite resemble.  

Forget feeling alienated by science, young lady? Science knows you; science welcomes you by appealing to who and what you are, which is a walking make-up bag with the smarts to appreciate that lipsticks and test tubes are kind of the same size, and therefore EQUALLY AS MUCH FUN!

Once young ladies realize that lipsticks look kind of like buildings (engineer!) and goal posts (soccer player!) and that compacts look like planets (astrophysicist!) and the bottom part of stethoscopes (doctor!), nothing will stand in their way, except, of course, for Europe, which thinks they're a bunch of frivolous half-wits.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

Photo courtesy of subversive-about-town Alex Panther.
My mother is quiet and dignified (at least in comparison to the slightly less quiet and dignified people who make up the rest of her family), but I've always known she was dangerously insubordinate. You, too, will appreciate the threat my mother poses to the fair, just, and totally-not-dangerously-imbecilic Powers That Be when you read the email she recently sent to the totally-not-dangerously-imbecilic Mayor Rob Ford.

Subject: Comments from a taxpayer
Dear Rob Ford,
Your continued support for low property taxes and a proposed tax freeze in 2014 are sops to the constituency of voters who in my opinion are selfish, short-sighted and very much the opposite of responsible citizens.  The latter know that payment of taxes contributes to the common good and future of their city.  Tax increases are
to be expected.  It is not for you to bow to the whims of your constituency but to offer well-thought-out plans. So far I haven't seen many of those.

Compare the tax increases recommended in Karen Stintz's OneCity proposal with what households spend annually on, for example, cable, internet and phone plans and even cases of beer. Much more than the proposed increases.

It is up to you and your council to work out plans for the future of Toronto's transportation system. The current situation is not acceptable.   

Another thing.  The media should not have to resort to freedom of information requests in order to find out what you are up to whilst carrying out the duties of your office. There are also deficiencies in "leadership" and representing the City at official functions.  Below is an excerpt from the City of Toronto website:

The Mayor
The role of the Mayor as the head of council is to:
  • act as chief executive officer
  • provide information and make recommendations to Council with respect to Council's role in ensuring that administrative policies, practices and procedures and controllership policies, practices and procedures are in place to implement the decisions of Council and in ensuring the accountability and transparencyof the operations of the City, including the activities of the senior management of the City
  • preside over (chairs) meetings of council so that its business can be carried out efficiently and effectively
  • provide leadership to council
  • represent the City at official functions, and
  • carry out any other duties under the City of Toronto Act, 2006 or any other Act. 

Thank you.

Jane Oakley Sweet

In my mother's hands, quotation marks and boldfaced type become positively insulting.

She has not yet heard back from him. She should really have titled the message "Free football and monorails!"

And lest you think I grew up with at least one parent who raised me to feel respect for those who devote themselves to the public good and who let me mispronounce words like "buoy" and "clapboard", I give you the letter from my father that appeared in this week's Guardian:

In Notes & Queries (22 June), we read: "'honest politician' is the essence of an oxymoron". Not really: strictly speaking, an oxymoron is an expression that at first blush seems dead wrong, but after reflection is seen to be a meaningful paradox. "Honest politician" is simply a contradiction in terms.

Frederick Sweet

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.
I have always known that if I were to become addicted to any substance, it would be one with sedating, rather than stimulating, properties. I am sufficiently nervy already, thank you very much, without taking something that would make me peppier and full of a burning need to conquer the world of 90s advertising.

I am also, however, tediously law-abiding, and so will never be in a position to lay my hands on whatever my dental surgeon gave me when I got my wisdom teeth out.

So what I needed was to find something non-pharmaceutical that would recreate that post-de-toothing bliss, that calm, carefree, unbothered serenity.

In the end, I found two things: Murder She Wrote and Matlock.

It started innocently enough. Murder She Wrote aired on A&E every few hours when I was younger, before that network was taken over by shows about what Jessica Fletcher would be like if she never went out and spent her time arranging her belongings into teetering, dangerous piles and alienating her family. One day, I caught just the last few moments of it - what I call the "Fletcher freeze-frame." At the end of every show, the camera focuses and then freezes on Angela Lansbury's face while she does something like laugh indulgently, shake her head regretfully, or look generally smug. It was so outrageously awful, I had to watch a whole show. In each and every show, children are innocent and sometimes poor and in need of a free bicycle, an easily-identifiable and generally straightforwardly-Biblical motive leads to murder, and some stupid, stupid person thinks an elderly retired schoolteacher probably doesn't have what it takes to solve a crime.

Before long, I was watching it all the time. 

During grad school, when I was in a vulnerable and susceptible state, some station in Kingston started running Matlock at two in the morning. Did I have room in my heart for another folksy old person who brought order to the chaotic modern
world by solving many murders that somehow often involved Patrick Swayze's slightly less successful brother Don? It appeared I did, because before long I was watching as much Matlock as I could get.

It never ceases to amaze me that it was Murder She Wrote and Magnum P.I. that had the cross-over episodes, and that Jessica and Ben never shook their heads complacently at one another and then brought someone unscrupulous (inevitably played by a guy who also guest-starred on the Love Boat, or Don Swayze) to justice.

When I watch either show, my heart-rate slows and I feel like I am being hugged by a loving grandparent who compulsively brings criminals to justice. I used to tell myself that I watched these programs ironically and so made a point of chortling knowingly to myself during each episode. But how many times can you watch Andy Griffith play his ukulele or trick someone out of money to buy himself a hotdog before your cold, unforgiving post-modern heart is conquered by a warm, forgiving, pre-modern kind of love? 

So I am profoundly grateful for Angela Lansbury and Andy Griffith, even if they have inspired unrealistic expectations about how when I'm older, I'll be really successful and happy while all around me, people drop dead.

Also, I've been planning to write about these shows for days and days, but the post ended up being unexpectedly, and regrettably, timely.

Andy Griffith June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.