Never trust mother nature.

Writing assignment: An ABC story is 26 sentences long. Each succeeding sentence begins with a different letter of the alphabet, the first sentence begins with” A,” the second sentence with “B,” and so on.

May 20, 2023

By Henry Dumas


   “Are you sure you want to embark on a motorcycle ride this morning?” Robert asked.

    “Black clouds are forming on the horizon. I can see lightning bolts crashing to the ground like electric fingers. It looks dangerous out there. I don’t want to go.” Steven frowned.

      “Come on, let’s go. This is our last chance to ride motorcycles before winter storms cover the ground with snow and ice,” Robert replied.

Continue reading ”  Never trust mother nature.”

Lunch with my alien neighbors.

By Henry Dumas

   Sophia squinted her eyes when she read Steven’s note on the kitchen counter. In the note from Steven, he wrote, “I’ll be home in a few hours and I’ll pick up some Chinese food for lunch.”  

     Stevens’s long, strawberry-blonde, shoulder length hair and a full unkempt beard made him look as if he had just walked out of the wilderness after three months without a comb. He was six feet, two inches tall, large, and stout. Not an ounce of fat on him. He liked his part-time job as a bouncer in a local bar and took pride in being the toughest badass.     

Continue reading “Lunch with my alien neighbors.”

An Asinine Solution for Social Justice Abuse  

Upon this writing I decided to kill two birds with one stone. That is, my writer’s choice assignment will incorporate a word list assignment. Fourteen words derived from a third party source.

So I write ….. In 1985 a statue of Janette Pickering Rankin was placed in the Statuary Hall in Washington D.C.  The inscription on its base reads … “I cannot vote for war”. At the dedication ceremony she was referred to as “one of the most controversial and unique women in Montana and American political history”.  In 1916, four years before the Constitution guaranteed the right of women to vote she became the first female American elected to the United States Congress. By then she had become the guru of the suffragette movement delivering white papers lobbying legislators in several states for the enfranchisement of women. Reports that passed third party blind reviews and that discredited longstanding grandfather clauses that were often supported by tone deaf male members of Congress. In her freshman year as a congresswoman she was watched closely to see if she could handle the challenges of high office. And well she could because in that first year she introduced legislation that eventually became the Nineteenth Amendment granting unrestricted voting rights to women nationwide. However it was a tour of duty not without a black mark. She was a dedicated and principled pacifist who genuinely believed world peace was women’s work and in 1917 voted with 49 other congressmen against the United State’s entry into World War I. She was not re-elected at the end of her first term.   

For the next 20 years she continued to work for the cause of peace and advocate for social reform. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s she participated in international peace organizations. During that time she was a lobbyist and speaker for the National Council for the Prevention of War. The success and notoriety of that work led her to run for Congress once again and was re-elected in 1940.  Following the attack on Pearl Harbour in December of 1941 she cast the sole vote in Congress against the United States entering World War II. She was clearly the master of her own fate as the vote essentially aborted her congressional career. While some believed it spoke to her integrity and was a brave decision she basically committed political suicide and was never re-elected. She continued her dedication to peace throughout her remaining years.

I trust most will find this writing to be at best interesting and at worst boring but I don’t believe many will find it to be harmful to anyone. Think about that! Are any of you offended? Except of course the Dean of Stanford University. The fourteen words I used from a third party source are words that the University has identified as harmful to marginalized groups in our society. Stanford contends that the word American insinuates that the United States is the most important country of the 42 countries in the Americas. It contends that the word grandfather has its roots in the “grandfather clause” adopted by the Southern states to deny voting rights to blacks.  It warns against words ending in man or woman such as freshman or congresswoman as not being inclusive. The word abort is linked to abortion. The word guru is a sign of respect in the Hindu tradition and using it casually negates its original value.  The word brave perpetuates the stereotype of the noble courageous savage and thus paints an Indigenous male as being less than a man. Black mark and black sheep must not be used because of their negative connotations with the color black. Referring to a scientific based research report as a white paper is clearly harmful. And in order to not define someone by a singular characteristic we are not to use the word immigrant. The list goes on and on. The University also announced that it intends to educate people about the impact of “racist, violent, and biased’ words.

Until I am fully educated in that regard I may just stay with the contention that a word is none of the above but rather the context in which it is used is what determines whether it is harmful or not. I would venture to guess that the starving children in India don’t give a Bengal Tiger’s ass whether those of us in a first world country use the word guru casually. I would guess the masses of poverty plagued children on the Indigenous reserves in northern Canada don’t give a bull moose’s ass whether people choose to refer to their heroes as brave. I would guess the many parents of black kids getting shot on city streets or assaulted by police don’t give a black sheep’s ass whether people call mistakes black marks or research reports white papers. I would also guess that the thousands of families detained at the southern border don’t give a Texas armadillo’s ass whether they are called immigrants. All of those people are hoping that our leaders, especially the well-educated ones, are providing better solutions to the problems that the marginalized face in our society. Solutions that are better than some lame ass initiative on semantics.

But who am I to speak on the subject. I have never even heard the phrase ‘Karen’. However Stanford University insists that a Karen must be referred to as a demanding or entitled white woman. It also tells me that my heartfelt greeting of “long time no see” to a friend who I have not recently spent time with is an old offensive adage that was originally used to mock Indigenous and Chinese people who spoke pidgin English. Yet Stanford doesn’t acknowledge the old adage … “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never break me” which is reported to have appeared in a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1862. 

I am truly glad that I am not a freshman at a modern day university – and yes I know that using the word freshman is not inclusive now that I am a little better educated. But on a modern day campus I would be totally adrift on the current Sea of Woke Culture hoping only to spot a good luck omen albatross that might lead me to some safe semantics shore.

Changing Our Mind

Every Saturday as a small boy in a one horse town on the Canadian prairies I raced down the gravel streets six blocks to the ramshackle Odeon theatre with 25 cents clutched in my little fist. I bought my ticket rushed into the dark and musty cinema hall and settled into the ragged seats. I clutched the arm rests in anticipation of another exciting matinee ride with Sergeant Preston of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

                Sergeant Preston, in his brilliant red surge on Rex, a shining black stallion, rode the highways and by-ways of the Yukon in pursuit of every sourdough villain in the north. Accompanied by only his faithful companion a pure–blooded malamute husky called Yukon King they always got their man. And after every episode I was convinced that one day I would join the RCMP and ride with Sergeant Preston.

                A few years later I was benched for showing off on the ball field by our little league coach who was the local RCMP officer. He had also reported me to my parents for riding my bicycle recklessly on the town streets and playing knock-out-ginger with the horns on the tractors parked in an implement dealership lot. By then my conviction on a partnership with Sergeant Preston was a tad shaken.

                A few more years and potash was discovered under the fields adjacent to that one-horse town. Large mining companies moved in and I was seeing the world from a new perspective. New people with material possessions that I had only dreamt of were everywhere. The new wealthiest and most prominent citizens in our town all seemed to be engineers and I got to thinking I should rethink my choice of a career. At that point I pretty much abandoned my thoughts of ever riding with Sergeant Preston.

                Some 30 years later during an engineering career that led me into the financial side of administering large capital projects I was selected for jury duty on a historic fraud case in Saskatchewan. Eleven weeks of pouring through multitudes of documents that presented the case. I loved every minute of it. Following the conclusion of the trial and back at my real-life day job I learnt that one of my colleagues who was the company comptroller had at one time worked as a forensic auditor for the RCMP. My immediate thoughts were of a career move to the RCMP. I could once again see myself riding with Sergeant Preston. Like some Rudyard Kipling-combatants we would ride into the jaws of evil and into the mouth of crime and we would capture felons and find every defrauded dime.

                But there were clouds starting to form over the RCMP. The media was shocked by various commissions that found that a male dominated paramilitary organization was sexist. Even after a musical ride of multitudes of recommendations regarding diversity and sexism the force pretty much remained unchanged. After a series of management changes a woman was appointed as chief commissioner. Within months she was embroiled in a political conflict of interest scandal with the Liberal government in its attempt to implement gun regulations in the country. And an after-the-fact investigation into the protests of the freedom fighter’s convoy that took over a large section of the country’s capital city suggested that RCMP officers were providing inside information to the protesters with regard to planned police movements. Top this off with the knowledge that John A Macdonald, the first Prime Minster of Canada, was instrumental in establishing the RCMP as a national police force. In 1867 Macdonald was the dominant figure in Canadian Confederation annexing a number of provinces and completing the construction of the Canadian National Railway that joined Canada from sea to shining sea. He was also responsible for the execution of the Metis leader Louis Riel and the development of the residential school system designed to assimilate Indigenous children. The clouds darkened, especially with regards to the residential school issue, as social justice warriors and representatives of First Nations tribes from all over the country were calling for the tearing down of statues of Macdonald and changing the names on any buildings or streets bearing his name. As a result, those of us who are holier than the pope when it comes to political correctness were shying away from the red surge and boy-scout hats.

                The media continues to report on a number of deaths of RCMP officers who are protecting us as we sleep in the safety and comfort of our beds. On every chance the media gets, it questions the decisions of officers who are facing danger each day. And with RCMP officers riding with danger and disgrace I decided one more time that I wouldn’t be saddling up with Sergeant Preston. 

Write a story that starts with the sentence. We were supposed to meet each other on the Bay Bridge at midnight, but he never showed up.

By Henry Dumas

January 31, 2023

    “We were supposed to meet each other on the Bay Bridge at midnight, but he never showed up.” Marlene told her best friend Sally Conner at school the next day.

     Marlene Williams was a typical high school girl. She had a Barbie doll figure, long blond hair, and beautiful hazel eyes. Her smile lit up the room, and all the popular boys wanted to be with her.     

Read more: Write a story that starts with the sentence. We were supposed to meet each other on the Bay Bridge at midnight, but he never showed up.

      The first time Marlene saw Allen was in high school, and she wondered why she hadn’t noticed him before. She couldn’t take her eyes off him and wanted to say hello when they passed each other in the halls. But she was too shy.  

       Allen was tall and handsome. His long, dark brown curly hair hung down to his shoulders and his baby blue eyes sparkled when he was happy. He hung out with a small group of friends and he didn’t consider himself one of the cool kids.

      As the years passed by, she watched him as he sauntered down the halls and tried to find the courage to say hello. That day finally arrived in their senior year.        

      It was late in the afternoon as Marlene hurried over the Bay Bridge on her way home. The bridge was a shortcut, and she didn’t enjoy being on it in the dark. She saw Allen walking toward her, and was surprised when he stopped.

      “Hello Allen,” she giggled.

       Suddenly, he blurted out. “How about watching a movie on Saturday night? There’s a dusk-to-dawn thrill- a-thon at the Burke theater. All my friends are coming. Do you want to come?”

         “S … sounds good to me,” she stuttered. Wondering how she would get out of the house without her parents finding out. Her dad would ground her for life if she got caught.

   “We can meet on this bridge at midnight and walk to the movie theater together.” They both said at the same time.

    Saturday night came. Marlene waited for him on the bridge, and it surprised her when he didn’t show up. She was heartbroken, and decided to give him a piece of her mind at school on Monday.

      She looked for him at school. He wasn’t there.

       “I’ll ask Sally. She lives two houses down from him. Maybe she knows why he didn’t come.” Marlene mumbled to herself. She hustled down the hallway and saw Sally standing at her locker.

“Where’s Allen?” she shouted!

      “His father got a job offer in a different town,” Sally replied with a shrug of her shoulders.

     “He moved away and didn’t leave me a forwarding address. Marlene scoffed. Why didn’t he tell me he was moving?  At least he could have given me his updated address or phone number?”

      Sally slammed the locker door shut. “Sorry, I don’t know why.” She replied.

     The days turned into months, and the years quickly passed. Allen married Sally Conners, and they raised their only daughter, Christine. Sally passed away several years ago.


       Alen stood six feet tall. His long curly hair with gray splashes still hung down to his shoulders. He still had his boyish handsome looks and what he called old man strength. He recently retired from his job as a fireman. At this point in his life, he didn’t want to be in a romantic relationship. He spent his bachelor-like life playing cards with his friends, line dancing on Thursday nights, and hanging out with his only grandson, Lawrence. When friends asked him if he was going on dates. He jokingly told them, “I would rather have a milkshake.”

     It was late afternoon. Allen strolled down the grocery store aisle wearing a bright flowery Hawaiian shirt, khaki short pants, and New Balance running shoes. He wouldn’t get caught dead wearing sandals. It was the most appropriate outfit for the one-hundred-degree weather. He hummed a tune from an old country and western song Buicks to the moon and danced a western two-step as he pushed the shopping cart down the aisle. 

     “You look cute in that Hawaiian shirt,” she said. 

      He looked over his shoulder and saw an older woman about his age standing so close to him they almost touched shoulders.  Her beautiful hazel eyes, gorgeous smile, and the aroma of her perfume caught his attention.

   “I probably purchased the shirt from Amazon. I buy a lot of stuff from them,” he laughed.

     “No,” she smiled. “I think you look cute in that Hawaiian shirt with your long, curly gray hair and baby blue eyes. You remind me of someone special from my past.” She reached over and brushed back a lock of his unruly hair. 

    “There, that looks better,” she said.

    “Thanks,” he replied as he danced away. 

       As he danced down the aisle. A dozen questions raced through his brain. “She looks familiar? Who is she? Was she putting the moves on me, or just being friendly? She acted like she knew me?”

     He stopped and looked over his shoulder at her. She was still standing in the aisle, staring at him as if she wanted to say something more. There was something about the beautiful women standing in the aisle that made him want to turn around and go back, but he thought that would be silly.

       He slowly walked across the blacktop parking lot, sat in his car, and drove away. He stopped his car at a stop sign and said it out loud. “I should go back.”

         He paused and shook his head from side to side. “She could be married or have a boyfriend.” He mumbled, “Some things are better left alone.” He spun the car around and drove away.

       His mind quickly changed to the weather. “It’s hot outside and I need a cold drink,” he whispered to himself.

      He stopped at a convenience store, ran inside, and filled his drink mug.

     He put the drink on the counter and rummaged in his pockets. “I have the exact change,” he said to the cute middle-aged cashier standing behind the counter. 

     He placed a pile of loose change on the counter.  “Old people always have the exact change,” he laughed.

      The cashier smiled, “you look like you are having a wonderful day.”

       “Yes, I am, he said. I got lucky today. I saw a beautiful woman in a store and she reminded me of someone special from my past,” he replied.

        “Wow, your eyes are sparkling. Who was she?” the cashier asked.

         “I don’t know,” he replied.

      He looked at the cashier, took a deep breath, and paused. Suddenly, his eyes lit up as if a light bulb had just turned on in his head and he shouted at no one in particular. “Marleen, her name is Marlene. We were at school together.” He paused again. “She didn’t have a wedding ring on her finger,” he exclaimed. “I hope she’s still in the store. I have questions I want to ask her.”

    The lady behind the counter burst out laughing. “Good for you. Give me a high five,” she said. She stepped out from behind the counter and held out her hand. They clapped their hands together and smiled at each other as he turned and ran out the door, leaving his drink on the counter. 

      “I hope you get lucky tonight,” the cashier shouted, still laughing.

      Getting lucky was the furthest thing from his mind. He just wanted to see her again.  And he had so many questions he wanted to ask her.

    Allen was sorry he couldn’t meet her on the Bay Bridge that night. His father was transferred to a new job, and he needed to start work the next morning. He spent the night packing bags and loading the family truck. He didn’t know Marlene’s address or phone number. Lucky for him, Sally Conner was Marlene’s best friend. And Sally lived down the street from him. He put a note in an envelope addressed to Sally in the Conners’ mailbox.  

    The note said. “Marlene, this is my up dated address. Please write to me. We can exchange phone numbers. I like you and would like to be friends.”

    Marlene never got the note, so she didn’t reply. Sally wrote frequently. Allen and Sally exchanged phone numbers, and one thing led to another. Two years later they got married, and the rest is history.

   “Why didn’t she contact me?” He said out loud, pounding on the steering wheel.

      He ran into the store, searching up and down the aisles. She was not there. He stopped at the checkout counter, tried to describe what she looked like, and asked if anyone had seen her. No one remembered her. She’s disappeared like a ghost.

    Tears ran down his cheeks. He couldn’t believe he had lost her again. He shuffled toward the door and walked out into the bright sunlit afternoon. He saw a woman standing in the parking lot. The afternoon sun surrounded her in a halo of bright sunlight. For a moment, he thought she looked like an angel. Her blond hair was now gray, and she still had her Barbie doll figure. She looked at him with the same beautiful smile he remembered from high school.

     “Hello Allen,” Marleen said, walking toward him. “I came back. I hoped you would still be here.”

       He reached out, took her hand, and felt electricity surging through his body. He could tell she felt the same way.

Summer Thoughts About Fellow Writers

R. Munch/ Aug/2022


                Each spring Saskatchewan snow birds feel the call of the north and journey home seemingly under the spell of some Broadway musical … “Saskatchewan. Where the wind comes blowing down the plain. And the waving wheat can sure smell sweet. When the wind comes right behind the rain. We know we belong to the land. And the land we belong to is grand!”  And if you believe any of that I have a bridge that I can sell to you for a really good price. Saskatchewan is warm for three months of the year and bitterly cold for six months of the year, with three months of heavy sledding.  Summer is the time when the CT scans, MRI’s, and bone scans are scheduled as doctors attempt to determine if they have slowed the progress of the cancers that have attacked my body. There are tee times with friends but one has only to play a few rounds of golf to know how humiliating and frustrating that can be.

                There is however a shining light. Back home I get to spend more time with my daughters. Upon retirement that became the most important thing on my bucket list. However through the summer my thoughts are often of winters in Arizona. For some reason a number of occurrences this past summer took my thoughts back to our Joy of Writing Club.  Obviously Judy’s zooming keeps me linked but there were other occurrences that sparked memories.

                My wife is a most accomplished gardener and each summer she creates a back yard resplendent with multitudes of blooming flowers. One day this summer I watched her lovingly tending to a small plot of sunflowers.  I smiled thinking of Doreen ripping those weeds from her corn fields back in Iowa. And of course every time the radio blasted American Pie I thought about how her corn fields are so close to where the music died.

                On another occasion I was assisting my granddaughter with her high school on-line English class. She was writing an essay on a particular scene from Hamlet. The scene made me think of one of my fellow writers, who as a young and rebellious girl, would have heard her father, the local sheriff, give his own example of a Shakespearian soliloquy,   …. “ Carol! Get thee to a nunnery!”.

                On a visit to a family gathering, in Moose Jaw no less, I enjoyed the look on my great granddaughter’s  face as the wheels were turning in her little head while her mother read to her of the volcano king and the little Hawaiian girl in Pam’s children book.

                A TV documentary that I watched one evening told of a municipal and national park initiative in Durango Colorado. The initiative was a training course for the citizens of Durango on how to live and co-exist with black bears as co-inhabitants of their city. Actually one citizen spoke of how he was sure a mother bear, who was peering in his window, was crying because she had lost her cubs. I thought her sadness was more likely due to missing a meal. But I knew without a doubt that a Durango resident like Dorothy, our Okie from Muskogee, could write a sonnet worthy of note on the thrill of meeting one of her co-inhabitants in front of the courthouse yet emphasizing on how “white lightning’s still the biggest thrill of all”.

                A more intriguing documentary investigated the Alaska Triangle. It is an area in Alaska known for unusual activity, including mysterious disappearances, sightings of strange creatures, lights in the sky,and encounters with ghosts. The documentary included interviews with a few heavily bearded local hunters sitting around a campfire with beers in hand. They all swore of the presence of Bigfoot. Each attested to:  sightings while hunting, the stench of suspected Bigfoot resting areas, and of hearing its blood curdling screams. My first thought brought to mind strains of dueling banjos. My second thought was should I ask Larry, whose family has lived in Alaska for a few generations, about these ramblings. Or would he think I was some simple minded and gullible not so nice Canadian. My next thought was maybe he does already. The documentary then changed focus to a new group of interviewees who swore the disappearances were due to aliens. They all spoke of sightings and personal abductions while describing the life forms and the horses they road in on. My thoughts quickly switched to Henry.  He could find some good grist for his writing mill talking to those folks.       

                Clearly the writers of our Joy of Writing Club have informed, entertained and made an impression on me.          

Sweet Memories

by Randy Munch

On a driving vacation with our daughter and her husband we toured through Germany, Austria, and Hungary. While in Budapest we learned that the company that our daughter worked for had staff located there who reported directly to her. They insisted on showing us around the city. They arranged a candle lite dinner cruise on the Danube.  They took us on tours to the city center where we either dined on fine cuisine or stopped at street side cafes for the renowned chocolate Dubos Torte. They helped us make our way to the surreal Memento Park that contains all the statues erected during the communist regime. Statues that were ripped from the streets and dragged to a site outside the city. And they provided us with tickets to the State Opera House where we took in a ballet and an opera. The building was amazing: intricately designed mosaics covered the entry foyer only to be outshone by majestic marble columns that supported gold leaf covered arches reaching for vaulted ceilings that displayed magnificent murals; gold leaf covered lamps and stunning chandeliers lit the stone stairways and the rich scarlet carpet of the hallways. The impact of that building led me to contact a close friend when we returned to Canada.

This friend and I had been baseball teammates for many years. He and his family had also toured much of Europe and its museums and churches. My message to him was essentially how we had both experienced those magnificent structures and how I had attended an opera no less, in a magnificent building, and yet he and I had never attended a baseball game in the old Yankee stadium – an edifice of unmatched magnificence for baseball partisans.

His response was strange in that he insisted that we make the trip ASAP. At the time of departure I understood his urgency. He had learned of the cancer that was metastasizing in his body. He was weak by then but keen to go. We went on to attend a four game series against the Toronto Blue Jays. We sat together admiring the dirty concrete floors, the rusty old steel columns that hampered our view, and the amazing emerald green diamond where many a Yankee great had plied the trade that we so loved. He passed away shortly after we returned home and our time in that baseball shrine remains a bitter sweet memory.

However each of our weekly Joy of Writing club assignments brings back better memories of my old friend. Dave was a gentle bear of a man and regardless which forest he walked he was smarter than the average bear. He had graduated from Harvard with a degree in chemistry and then obtained a master’s degree in education at the University of Saskatchewan. He spent his early career as a teacher and then later developing science curriculum for both provincial and federal school systems. Following our respective retirements we often corresponded by e-mail. With each message we tasked ourselves to out-do the other’s dissertation and write a more eloquent response. A tough job when your opposition is a Harvard graduate and you as an engineer are expected to struggle with three syllable words.

One year, shortly after out retirement, he and I and our wives were wintering together in Lake Havasu and I received a two dozen pack of Nut Goodies, a personal favorite candy bar that is not available on shelves in Canada. They had been sent by my daughter who found them on-line from a company somewhere in the American Midwest.  Normally I would have horded those treats most selfishly but on this occasion I shared them with my friend. My sharing of those treats with Dave sparked an eloquently worded e-mail from him when he got back to Canada. He wrote:  ……    

“Although the Nut Goodie presentation has not inspired any bards to write of abject and sacrificial friendship leading to such an event as a gift of Nut Goodies, Nut Goodies themselves have inspired some doggerel  …

I think that I shall never see

A poem quite as good as a Nut Goodie      

A Nut Goodie beneath its wrap of red

Five precious bites and one’s well fed

With chocolate, nuts and gooey white

Marshmallow, yielding pure delight

Poems are adapted by fools like me

But only Pearson’s Candy Corporation, St. Paul, MN.,(and available at Walmart, Cub Foods, Fleet Farms, Rainbow Foods, Sam’s Club, Super America, and Snyder Drugs) can make a Nut Goodie.”

            Clearly that e-mail, which is now permanently on file with my important personal documents, was the all-time winner in our writing assignments and, more importantly, it will always be a sweet memory of a dear friend.

Art Appreciation

by Randy Munch

The Joy of Writing Club members were presented with a color photo of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s painting The Luncheon of the Boating Party. The assignment was to write an art appreciation essay on the masterpiece. However believing me, a linear thinking professional engineer, can write an intelligent dissertation on a Renoir masterpiece is as absurd as thinking that masterpieces are painted on black velvet canvases. But what the hell – engineers are known for thinking that with a little study of the subject they can figure out how most everything works …. So here goes!

I like paintings that are realistic. The perspective must be accurate. Walls must be portrayed as vertical planes that intersect at right angles and parallel lines must extend to the same vanishing point on the horizon. I expect water surfaces to lay flat reflecting the sunlight as opposed to standing straight up and down like a window pane. I suspect that my preferred style is realism and “the Luncheon of the Boating Party” is an example of impressionism. Art historians write that Renoir’s preferred style in his early years was realism. One of his early works was a most realistic study of a buxom nude. The picture was considered improper by the French – by the French no less! So he put a hunting bow in her hand, a dead dear at her feet, and the skin of an animal across her lap to make her nakedness less blatant.  He then named the painting Diana – Goddess of the Hunt. While the subject was hardly realistic in that only a fool would go hunting in the woods completely naked, his adaptation to produce a work that could be placed on sale in a public gallery was economic realism. That painting went on to become one of the great figure paintings of nineteenth century realism.

I like art work that induces you to think about the subjects and a possible sub-plot. Art historians write that the “Luncheon” is an actual party with Renoir’s friends and over the years each person has been identified. There is a story there amongst the guests. They are of the upper class evidenced by their top hats, bowlers, and yellow straw boaters and the fact they are attending a party on a deck overlooking the Seine. Were there really six people at the party wearing yellow hats? In France yellow signifies betrayal and weakness. Had some of them lost favour with Renoir? Or does Renoir just take direction from Van Gogh – “How wonderful yellow is”?

I like art works that contain various peculiarities scattered across the canvas. In many of Renoir’s paintings there is an uncanny amount of portrayals of the hands of his subjects which are painted most realistically. This is evident even in his impressionistic works. In the “Luncheon” there are 12 hands clearly evident. Such a strong focus on hands is ironic in that toward the end of his career he suffered from severe crippling rheumatism in his hands. Art historians expound on how Renoir changed his style of painting throughout his life concluding that during this period he changed his preferred style to reflect different brush strokes with less definition. Seems to me that being so handicapped that the fact he couldn’t pick up his brush on his own would dictate a different quality to his work and not some preconceived  change in style.

Questionable observations of this nature by art historians and art critics are all too common. Recently while visiting our nation’s capital city and touring the National Gallery of Canada we came upon a large room that displayed a highly recognized piece of art. The room was empty except for a piece of string that was connected at the floor in one corner of the room and that extended kitty corner across the room to be attached at the opposite corner on the ceiling. I was infuriated that my tax dollars funded a National Gallery that would display such a worthless piece of junk; that my tax dollars paid the salary of a curator, presumably an art aficionado, who would actually approve the display of such a waste of rental space in the building, let alone suggest that it was art. I appreciate that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder but there was nothing to behold but the utter stupidity of including the string as a work of art.

In 1990 that same Gallery purchased an 18 foot tall canvas with nothing more than a vertical red stripe between two blue stripes for $1.8 million. At that time Canadian tax payers were infuriated. The purchase has since been justified by the fact that the value of the painting, and others by the same artist, have inflated over 20 times the original purchase price. Which in of itself is ludicrous?

 The demand for this type of art and the gullibility by the art community and the art critics that promote these pitiful works confirm the message in Hans Christian Anderson’s nursery story that embraces authenticity. The public feared being seen as stupid if they were to assert that the emperor wore no clothes and thus they cheered him along his route. But his lack of beautiful new garments was clear to the eyes of an innocent child.

Christmas Letter

by Randy Munch

Well here I am writing my inaugural Christmas letter. My dearest spouse insists that only a total social Philistine would refuse to dispatch greetings to his family and friends at this special time of the year. As such I am composing with some fancy font to add a more personal touch and some appropriate colorful icons along the border. I expect this joyous gift of prose will reach everyone before the eve of the birth of our Savior and Lord however if not that too will reflect appropriately my commitment to the exercise.

At this time of celebrating traditions that we have grown up and old with while the strains of carols fill the airways I am tempering those joyful sounds with the warm glow of political correctness. I am not singing “White Christmas” (not because I can’t carry a tune in a Christmas shopping bag) but rather to avoid being labelled a racist. I am refraining from the refrains of “Felice Navidad” knowing full well that a WASP like me will assuredly be accused of cultural appropriation. I won’t sing along to “Frosty the Snowman” on the chance I will be seen as sexist. I am totally backing away from “Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer” to avoid exposing children to the concept of bullying. I do however wonder how those same children, with Easter eggs in hand, will cope with learning of the guy that bullies nailed to a cross.

I believe that a Christmas letter is to opine as to the well-being of your children and of their accomplishments. However those who might give a damn are geographically or socially close enough to already know of these matters. As for the trips that we have taken during the course of the year, which I believe is also apropos for a Christmas letter, we are spending our winter in Arizona.  I am hoping that on our return trip to Canada we will receive the same welcome at the border as the thousands crossing the border in Eastern Canada who claim they are refugees escaping from one of the best places in the world to live, the United States of America.  Yes. Maybe I won’t be asked to provide a passport or that I won’t have to declare what I have been doing in the USA and for how long or what items that I purchased. Maybe they won’t care if my shoes are new or worn or whether I changed the oil in my vehicle. Maybe we will be offered a temporary abode to help us with our cost of living once they let us in. Not unreasonable since I have paid taxes for some 55 years to support this concept that my government currently provides to those illegal aliens. 

Now if you sense a tad bit of cynicism in this my first Noel you should understand that it veils my appreciation for the fact that many of my friends and family point out to me, most eloquently in some cases and in some not so eloquent monologues, that after the last couple of years, I should just be happy that I am still able to celebrate a Christmas.  Well I am !!     and I treasure the help and support that I have received from them all.  

So I am wishing you and yours a “Merry Christmas” and God forbid that as such I am seen to not value the beliefs or to marginalize anyone who celebrates Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or nothing at all.

Randy                       (I would have included the signature of my good wife however she has given serious second thoughts to having encouraged me to write a Christmas letter. I suspect that my inaugural Christmas letter may be my first and last.)

What’s in a Name

by Randy Munch

Two of my daughters who are currently successful professionals in the IT industry attended Bedford Road collegiate which is a high school in a Canadian city of about 200,000. It was one of six high schools in the city and one of two that had a higher enrollment of First Nation students. My daughters interacted with all of their class mates in a respectful and friendly manner. Those two daughters and many of their teammates competed proudly on the Redmen teams and proudly wore the logo which resembled that of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. As far as I could see that pride was felt by the entire student body.  

I have since been informed, by those who insist they are more sensitive to social injustices, that I should have known the name of the team that my daughters so proudly wore had grown out of the fertile soil of racism and misogyny. I have also been informed that my oft farewell to dear friends – “see you soon God willing and the creek don’t rise” is clearly racist. Apparently the reference to the creek has nothing to do with water. Originally the phrase referred to the Creek who were a hostile Native American tribe that was feared by early American settlers. The use by me thereby promotes ethnic stereotyping.

 As such it is confusing to note that the US Army’s helicopters and fixed wing aircraft bear names that reflect fierce and courageous warriors who have fought well for the armed forces. By edict the names chosen for these aircraft must not sacrifice dignity and are meant to promote an aggressive spirit that reflects confidence in the aircraft. Those names include the likes of Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, and Black Hawk.  And yet current social justice warriors are convinced that those same names, when associated with sport teams, are reprehensible. They take positions that team names like the North Dakota Fighting Sioux is racist if the team is not made up entirely of Sioux athletes. I never realized that all the athletes at Notre Dame were Irishmen, the collegiate team known as the fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

Armed with this greater awareness of political correctness and social justice I have begun to more carefully assess the name of professional sports teams. While I hear the objections to names like the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians I am more offended by the name Minnesota Vikings. This name promotes prejudices and misunderstanding. My paternal grandparents were Danish and Swedish and being of a Scandinavian blood line I take particular umbrage at the stereotyping of my roots as vicious Vikings. The term Viking is generally used to describe the people of Scandinavia during the medieval period but it is really a name for a profession of Pagan plunderers. It was coined by the people who were their victims. The Vikings were all men – clearly a sexist organization– who used their skills to make terrifying murderous raids on towns and churches of neighboring kingdoms. These raids were a part of an intensely masculine, warlike culture that emphasized battle as a way for a man to prove himself. The name misrepresents our culture. We were explorers, farmers, fishermen and merchants. The name is hurt full to me because my forefathers, albeit members of the wicked white colonial establishment, settled and developed thriving and caring communities in much of Minnesota and Western Canada without raping and plundering.

The misguided cultural appropriation of wearing horned head gear which is encouraged at football games is especially hurt full. The portrayal by football fans as screaming Beserkers, who were Viking warriors that were so consumed by battle frenzy they felt no pain and could strike with such power they terrified anyone who faced them, paints a horrible image of our culture. What’s worse is that Vikings never even wore horned helmets. The belief has been adopted only because of cultural appropriation costuming in 17th and 18th century operas. Further the portrayal of Viking women with long blond braids and big busts promotes misunderstandings. They didn’t all have long braids.

It doesn’t matter that many Scandinavians don’t believe the name to be racist. What we need are more institutions with the progressive thinking of the University of Minnesota. An institution that chose a name and mascot for its sports teams that was not racist. It respected the Scandinavian’s culture and knew those who settled and worked the fallow fields of the American Midwest and Western Canada understood the tenacity of the golden gopher. I believe the name Vikings should be changed to Valkyries. In modern Scandinavian culture Valkyries have been the subject of art, music and poetry and have no racist or misogynistic implications. In fact modern thinking portrays the Valkyries as noble maidens helping the Norse god Odin guide warriors to Valhalla, an elegant palace where only heroes abide.