Thursday, December 04, 2003

Oh, Canada, Oh Canada, How are thy leaves so verdant!

Up here in the Great White North, we just love it when Americans write about us. Any newspaper or magazine article that even remotely mentions Canada gets forwarded from e-mail inbox to e-mail inbox for weeks afterwards. Some suggest this means were insecure. I think it means we're vain, a nation of actors searching for our name in print each morning...

The latest specimen is a puzzling article in the New York Times [mirrored here without registration requirements] on Monday headlined "Canada's View on Social Issues Is Opening Rifts With the U.S."

What was puzzling about the article? Not its thesis that "A more distinctive Canadian identity — one far more in line with European sensibilities — is emerging and generating new frictions with the United States" thanks to the liberalization of drug laws and the introduction of gay marriage. That seems fairly obvious.

No, what was puzzling was the following statement in regard to outgoing PM Jean Chretien's (in)famous quote that he's gonna smoke a big doobie when he retires. "But in a nation where the dominant west coast city, Vancouver, has come to be known as Vansterdam, few Canadians blinked [at the Prime Minister's quote]," writes reporter Clifford Krauss.

What? VANSTERDAM? You've gotta be kidding me. Who calls it Vansterdam? I've never heard such a thing.

I mentioned this to my editor at work yesterday and he said that the Post's ed board had been discussing this at the morning meeting as well. No one says Vansterdam... Van City maybe...

That's what I thought anyway, so I did a Google search. Turns out there are a significant number of pot smokers who refer to Vancouver as Vansterdam. People like the folks at Vansterdam Comix and the Sativa Sisters Bed and Breakfast, which promises "a hemp friendly haven for travelers looking for the Vansterdam experience."

I guess pot smoking makes you think STUPID PUNS are clever. To further prove this point, I offer up the titles of a couple of marijuana magazines: High Times and The Hempire. *Shudder*

Anyway, a message for those of you who actually call Vancouver by that horrible nickname: Stop it! Stop it now! Just say no to "Vansterdam"!

Or, maybe, I just need to mellow out...


Okay, one more interesting bit about the New York Times article: I think it's cool that the two professors Krauss interviewed were from McGill, my alma mater. But why did he only speak to right-wing professors: historian Gil Troy and economist Chris Ragan?

Don't get me wrong: I love Gil Troy. He is a great professor and I'm eager to read his new book about Reagan "Morning in America," which will hit the stands, rumour has it, as soon as the ex-president dies. (By the way, did you know that Troy consulted on the "controversial" mini-series The Reagans, while is was being shot in Montreal?)

But Chris Ragan? Ugh. That guy makes me shudder. Shudder like I'm being subjected to a really a bad pun.

His quote by the way -- "You can be a social conservative in the U.S. without being a wacko. Not in Canada" -- was the quote of the day in the NYT that day. (Thanks to Phil for pointing that out to me.)

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