Sunday, 31 July 2016


Rio Rio Gone

Two years ago my friend Roger the Brit quit his job in Calgary and travelled south to Brazil to watch World Cup soccer. I wondered if he was crazy. He said, ‘If I don’t do it now, I never will.’ As the next two tournaments will be hosted by first Russia and then Qatar, I appreciated his point.

If you’d asked me then about what I knew about Brazil I could’ve given you a grade school level report: Brazil is a former Portuguese colony. It is the fifth largest country on the globe by area. It is poised, like India, to join the ranks of the world’s emerging economic powerhouses. The only mystery was the foolhardy hubris of building its capital city from scratch in the middle of the jungle. Brasilia: can’t get there from here, a long way from many places. My list of popular culture references would’ve been random: Pele and futbol, fictional Hitler clones, ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ and the juxtaposition of the orgiastic Carnival in the shadow of Christ the Redeemer.

In the time since then and subsequent lead up of mere days to Rio 2016 Brazil has become something of a punch line to a shaggy dog story. The nation’s government and economy are in agitated states of insanely high entropy, chaos. Violent crime is rampant in Rio de Janeiro. Gangs? Got ‘em. Guns? Got ‘em. Police? Need ‘em. There are legitimate concerns about the personal safety of visitors. And then there’s Zika, yet another virus with a scary name which reminds us that if humanity can’t cull itself swiftly enough through constant warfare nature’s always happy to chip in with a new disease.

There was a news report last week stating that Rio drug peddlers have branded their packets of cocaine and crack with the Rio 2016 logo and the five Olympic rings. And a non sequitur warning not to use their product in the presence of children. Given what we know and suspect about the machinations of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), I have to wonder if this really is an instance of unauthorized use of registered trademarks. Get higher faster on stronger stuff.

In the weeks before the curtain rises on the opening ceremonies of any Olympics, the media is rife with horror stories filed from the host city. Cost overruns are enormous and security concerns are even bigger. Organizers are scrambling to meet construction deadlines and the work completed is shoddy, often inept. The athlete’s village in Rio is said to be a leaky nightmare of exposed wiring and clogged toilets. The Australians have refused to stay on site. The problem with the johns mystifies me. I was under the impression they’d been designed to simply redirect raw sewage into the rowing basin where it would blend with the floating trash and bobbing corpses.

The Games of the XXXI Olympiad commence Friday. It’s too late to stop now and call the whole thing off. I’ll tune in from time to time even though they don’t play men’s hockey in August in the southern hemisphere. Despite all the blatant indications of looming disaster fused with catastrophe, here’s hoping that Brazil manages to somehow pull Rio 2016 off without going completely bust and doing a samba off the edge of the abyss into anarchy. That’s the spirit, something to cheer for.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016


Of Alternate History and Alternative Reality

My favourite John Lennon lyric is a throwaway aside in the song ‘Nobody Told Me:’ “Strange days indeed, most peculiar, mama, whoa!” Not only are there Nazis in the bathroom now, but pocket monsters too.

Last week Ann and I took the highway south, the top down and the Stones turned up: “Did you ever wake up to find a day that broke up your mind?” We spent two nights in Calgary visiting with friends before heading west into the Rockies to attend a beautifully staged wedding ceremony at a resort in Kananaskis country. I know I had fun because last Wednesday night I fell over trying to dance to ‘Mother of Pearl,’ my favourite Roxy Music song, on a balcony. In my defense, it was after midnight, six beers and 12 cigarettes past my usual bedtime. And I did not fall over the balcony, and that was good because I sometimes find great heights as seductive as watching the nightly TV news with a baseball in my hand.

My lifelong friend Tim was once the recipient of an unfortunate gift, something akin to a Midas touch of fools’ gold. His wallet is a Trump Signature model. It’s curved perfectly to his right back pocket buttock, worked in like the ultimate baseball mitt, and he cannot chisel the brand label off without wrecking it. I thought he didn’t like me anymore, never buying me a beer, but some things you just can’t tug out of your pants in public.

Most restaurants and bars are filled with television screens providing distraction from your companions and yours and their personal devices. Thursday night a group of us gathered for dinner and were glued to video footage of the American Republican Party’s Cleveland convention. The current Mrs. Trump had already plagiarized Mrs. Obama but 93-per-cent of her speech was original, and anyway, Hillary had orchestrated the conspiracy of truth (not to be confused with truthers) and besides, the would-be first family of orange-tinged buffoons had quickly trotted out a professional ghostwriter patsy who’d neglected to take proper notes and who was, like: So sorry! Meanwhile the nominee, FBI patriotic in a blue suit, white shirt and red tie, spittled venom tempered by the universal A-OK sign, the thumb and index finger forming a zero or perhaps a puckered hole, ungraciously acquiesced to the will of some of the people in the party. And, well, Jesus Christ, even a squeegeed douche like Ted Cruz appeared more dignified and presidential in comparison.

Tim, a political junkie, announced, “Since he’s the official GOP nominee the White House is now obligated to provide him with weekly national security briefings.” Our table of eight did not shout a collective “Fuck!” No, in the muted atmospheric light we were all noir shadowed Marlon Brandos playing Kurtz in ‘Apocalypse Now:’ “The horror, the horror…” Tim added reassuringly, “You know he’s going to fucking blab something secret before November.”

My window on the world is always distorted by the stained glass of art. The Trump candidacy makes me ponder the plight of Pink, the alienated, fascist rock star character depicted over four sides of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall:’ “Mother, should I build the wall? Mother, should I run for president? Mother, should I trust the government?” The runaway Trump machine reminds me too of ‘Watchmen’ the dystopian graphic novel set in 1985 in an America in which Richard Nixon is still president. ‘All the King’s Men’ is an American classic, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel which relates the rise and demise of a demagogue, a democratic dictator, a “southern diplomat” to lift a phrase from Chuck Berry.

While I was trying to think of more life-imitates-art examples at dinner, even profounder analogies, the conversation turned to Pokemon Go. This time, everybody said “Fuck.” Tim said, “Nintendo’s stock realized a $7-billion bump.” Somebody else said it may have been closer to nine. Nobody knew for sure. “And this,” Tim said, “for a free app.” Trump was on TV. The sound was down, but the vodka and meat shill was probably talking up trade tariffs.

Ann and I spent two days in Calgary. We walked around downtown avoiding zombies fixated by the postage stamp screens on their supercomputer waistband phones. Didn’t we know some polka-dotted pocket monster rendered in that wretchedly cute Japanese anime comic style was lurking nearby, waiting to be collected or coached? We left town.

Ann and I arrived in Kananaskis early Friday morning, too early for check in at the famous lodge, but miracle of miracles our room was ready. I put my black leather toiletry kit (a high school graduation present from 1977) in the bathroom. I jogged down the stairs to the lobby from the second storey, anxious for a cigarette. Beyond the shade of the not really rustic porte cochere and behind a chainsaw statue of a grizzly bear I found an ashtray. A guest services fellow dressed in black with an earphone plugged into his head walked over and asked me if I was Pokemon hunting. I said, “Excuse me, I’m smoking.”

The hotel boy was half my age and twice as tall as me, but stooped as if every doorway in the world only allowed for cats. He told me there were Pokemon at the main entry, that I was literally standing on one, and that there was a herd of others around the pond in the centre of the ersatz village. More lurked in the trees surrounding the resort. He said that Pokemon were around every landmark, everywhere, marketing monsters allied with Google maps. People were getting hurt but going to church too, the mentally ill would be cured. It was all good, mostly, he thought. I nodded politely and then pretended to be absorbed by the bear’s butt; I’ve been an ass most of my life.

The evening before the wedding I met a fellow guest outside the pub who was well into his second double gin-and-tonic. He physically resembled our former prime minister. He alluded that the United States and by extension Canada was run by an unelected cabal of rich and powerful figures. “It’s always about the money,” he said. “Follow the money.” Trump, he figured, understood this while the Clintons and their ilk were just compliant puppets.

An otherwise nice guy, I thought, but what’s the point of having a discussion with a loon? It would’ve been simpler talking hockey. I looked past him and watched a posse of Pokemon hunters follow their phones off a paved path into a stand of trees. Whoa, I thought, reality here in the Rockies must be pretty drab. I studied the random rock and runoff patterns streaking the monumental sheer grey face of Mount Kidd: too mundane for some. Night was falling but not the sky. Not yet.

Monday, 18 July 2016


Walking on Alberta Avenue

In the gaps between the thunderstorms and torrential downpours we either mow the lawn or try to get off the property for a reason other than groceries. The Edmonton Journal last week carried a small item announcing a newly conceived Latino festival, an inaugural street party way up along 118th Avenue, a major thoroughfare a fair distance from the Crooked 9. Knowing the urban geography a tiny bit Ann and I agreed there would be good food to be had. And there was a beer garden. Late last Friday afternoon we crossed the river and headed north.

The busy artery through the neighbourhood used to be known as Alberta Avenue and the community has retaken ownership of the old name. The area is now considered inner city though its residential streets beneath their canopies of elm leaves seem beyond walking distance from the aspirational reassembly of the downtown core. The homes are one storey and modest, most constructed between the world wars. Some are immaculate, obvious sources of pride to their owners. Some are neglected. Some have the air of properties rented to lazy tenants. Most are respectable enough. Currently in-fills get thrown up in more desirable parts of town.

Not being a local, my understanding gleaned from talking to Edmontonians and a little bit of reading is that Alberta Avenue didn’t just smack into its nadir in the 70s, it left a crater. The progress of a long rehabilitation is evident along the avenue itself. There’s an eclectic mix of small businesses and a surprising range of worldly restaurants, Caribbean, Ethiopian, Salvadorian and Italian sprinkled amongst the discount car dealers, manicurists and mom and pop convenience shops with poster-cluttered, hold up-friendly windows. The liquor store must do all right. Still, I was delighted to see that the storefronts of commercial predators, payday loans and rent-to-own, were dark and empty, dusted.

Efforts of rejuvenation are evident. A wall mural here and there. The street signs and lampposts are decorative. The crosswalks are embedded brick. The tips of a few streets offer expanded angled parking for visitors. Even so the bad reputation and some residual grit persist; you lock your vehicle and make sure there’s no drive-thru change in the cup holder, there are some unhealthy looking characters lurking about. I picture today’s provincial economy as a bicycle wheel. The rubber splits the front forks passing the brake pads and revolves downward on a dirt road sprayed with oil to keep the dust at bay. I know there will be an upturn eventually but I can’t gauge the circumference of the wheel. There are some faces on Alberta Avenue that are etched by the results of the classic resource-based cycle: booms benefit other people and busts plague them.

The street festival is comically small, something we might mount in our back lane in an attempt to get to know our other neighbours, the folk one street over. Wind Mobile has a booth for burner phones. The North American Soccer League Eddies, Edmonton FC, is set up too, distributing autographed player cards and pinup schedules. Near us on the corner is Handy Bakery, a Portuguese bakery and deli with a few tables and a beer license. It’s shut and I’m mildly disappointed because if I’d been thinking I would’ve dragged Ann to Handy a week earlier to watch the Euro 2016 final with people who really cared about the outcome and to savour a roasted pork chop smothered in hot piri-piri sauce served as a sandwich filling inside a fresh flour-dusted bun. The major sponsor is El Rancho, a restaurant renowned in the city for its superb tortilla soup. The joyful news is that El Rancho’s staff are doing all of the cooking – albeit on rented propane grills.

At most public events in Alberta you can’t just buy what you want. You must line up for tickets and then join another line to exchange them for what you actually want. The red tape rationale has always escaped me; perhaps it’s a prim Holy Roller legacy hangover. Ann buys us 20 food tickets worth $1 each. We watch as each unwound ticket is then painstakingly stamped with a magenta dot. Killing time, the young person manning the booth asks us if we’re from the neighbourhood. Ann replies, No, we’ve driven over from the south side because we’d seen the notice in the newspaper. Immediately there’s some excited talk among the staff in the ticket booth. They skip and clap. Can Ann mention the festival on Facebook, por favor? I move away to buy beer tickets for us from somebody else even though it’s technically the same booth, but, you know, rules, and we’re only into the first couple of hours of this festival’s beta launch.

On the small stage a woman with elaborately coiffed copper hair topping a tubular black cocktail dress karaoke croons a breathy ballad, Spanish is the loving tongue. At the food booth Ann and I select chorizo tacos and something else that looks like cigars but has little filling and even less flavour. We take our food into the beer garden which is no larger than our backyard patio. The backs of our hands are inked with green dots. The tacos are delicious, their greasy drippings like blobs of red mercury. I find the cilantro garnish slightly overpowering, not my favourite flavour. Our dessert is a dish of roasted baby potatoes seasoned with sea salt and drizzled with juice from a freshly sliced wedge of lime; we look at each other: Hey, we can make these ourselves, easily.

We share a picnic table and converse with strangers. What are you eating? How many tickets? Friends of ours are looking for something to do Saturday night and Ann has promised one of the El Rancho volunteers a festival Facebook mention. When Ann pulls out her iPhone we both notice her hands are pocked with measles, offset pink spots from the food tickets, too much ink pooling on the surface of a coated substrate. I check Ann’s clothes, the contamination seems contained to her palms. Maybe next year the organizers will iron out the rough spots, get it right. Date noted although Ann and I will be back on Alberta Avenue long before then.

Friday, 15 July 2016


The Apex of Canadian Graphic Design

Musician Frank Zappa once said that ‘writing about music is like dancing about architecture.’ Well, flying buttresses and gargoyles never fail to set my blue suede shoes a-tapping. In that spirit, I’m going to write 750 to 1000 words about symbols and logos, memorable Canadian graphic design from the 60s and 70s that has stayed with me.

Facebook was the prompt for this meGeoff entry. I am a member of a Montreal-centric digital nostalgia group because I enjoy looking at old photos of my hometown and enjoy sharing a memory with other posters from time to time. The other day I was struck by two posts. One showed a dated aerial picture of the construction of the then massive and very green Hydro-Quebec headquarters and the second reminded me that this Sunday would mark the 40th anniversary of Montreal’s Olympic summer games; the opening ceremony was staged on July 17, 1976.

Once the provincial government nationalized Montreal Light, Heat and Power, the company’s visual identity was reduced to a simple capital Q with the tail rendered as a lightning bolt, simple, elegant and descriptive. The design ethos of the same era also gave us the Canadian National Railways CN worm, two disparate red letters snaked together to suggest railway tracks and flowing movement as the eye followed the coursing logo. Consider too the recently minted (1965) Canadian flag: one prime colour, two traditional bars sandwiching a stylized variegated maple leaf which like any classic banner could be easily recognized from a distance; and easily and clearly reproduced for any print, embroidery, stencil or television application.

On a wall in this house is a framed Montreal summer games promotional poster I’ve carted around for 35 years. It’s a close-up of half a worn and slightly frayed jean jacket. There’s a harmonica in the pocket, a daisy in the buttonhole. The outside of the pocket is pinned with badges, there’s a rainbow globe, a yellow happy face, a green tree, a merged gender symbol and a black Canadian nickel beaver with a red stripe across its haunches: symbols and logos.

(The poster was part of the design portfolio that papered Montreal leading up to those Canadian summer games. The jean jacket poster was a gift to me from its designer, a man I met later under other circumstances – he’d been commissioned to design a stamp and I wrote a profile of him for various Canada Post publications in the early 80s.)

The denim image is half hippie, half punk, those were the times. The jacket badge that still strikes me from a design perspective is Montreal’s official Olympic logo. Humps were added to the top three rings of the official five, suggesting a lower case m with a volcanic indication of Mount Royal, the island of Montreal’s main geographical feature, rising up through the middle. Again, like the flag and the CN worm, just clean solid space against a clean solid background, a difficult execution in the primitive days of hand-drawn fonts, Pantone markers, hot wax, ruby tape, Letroset and X-acto knives – any application of which required an artisan’s skill, not only by the designer and the production artist but also by the printer’s film stripper.

M is for Montreal. The Montreal Expos began play in the National League in 1969. Their primary logo was similar to most other baseball teams’ in that it was a letter. The Expos’ M was a complicated letter though, formed by a lower case e and fishhooked to a lower case b by an upside down j. The e and the b stood for Expos baseball, a diamond homage to the H for hockey in the Montreal Canadiens’ famous CH logo. The small b also suggested a bat swatting a ball. While purists were offended by the usage of a puffy phantom font, the design aesthetic was messily lifted shortly thereafter by the Milwaukee Brewers who forced a lower case b into a capital M to suggest a ball in the pocket of a fielder’s mitt.

The Expos derived their nickname from the World’s Fair which was held in Montreal in 1967, Canada’s centennial. Expo ‘67’s theme was Man and His World. The graphic representation of this conceit was a circle of matchstick people with their arms upraised and holding hands. The design was stark, white on blue. And the matchstick people could also represent trees or high tension wire pylons, the design suggested an idealistic convergence of humanity, technology and nature. A badge featuring two of those hopeful matchstick souls is on the pocket of my jean jacket Olympics poster – maybe too close to the pot leaf.

Visual icons and logos with their type treatments and swooshes get blurry in a hurry. They’re everywhere and on everything, you cease seeing them. But what if you’re lost somewhere, anywhere? Maybe you’re shy, stubborn or you don’t speak the language. You look up and see a sign with no words, a graphic, but you understand it. Montreal did a fine job during the ’76 Olympics and Expo ’67 directing all comers with easy to grasp wayfaring and directional signage.

The genesis was the opening of the Metro subway system in 1966. A station entry was designated by a plain blue sign displaying a white circle with a downward pointing arrow within it. This was a simple graphic solution for a new service in a city riven by the province’s and country’s debate on official languages while anticipating an influx of tourists who may or may not speak French or English. Enter here.

Those decades were optimistic times. The country celebrated its centennial and the world was invited to visit twice. Major League Baseball expanded outside of the United States for the first time. The future had arrived, it looked bright and that was reflected in sleek, modern design. Even the Alouettes football club embraced the era’s design ethos. Their helmet logos were switched from traditional swooping wings to a delicate skylark’s head, two plump, curvy red lines suggesting the bird’s profile surrounding a green dot for an eye, a typographical hint of a lower case a, more avant-garde than gridiron, another sign of those heady times.

Saturday, 9 July 2016


Blood, Sacrifice and Child’s Play

The north side of our house is about five feet from the vertical property line, maybe 10 feet from the south side of our neighbour’s house. Because of the lilacs, groundcover and the fencing, the area is more of a passage than a feature. There’s a track of mostly evenly spaced cement patio tiles through the undergrowth and shadow. You pass two window wells, a pyramid of unused interlocking decorative stone, a pile of wood, an upturned wheelbarrow with a soft tire, an opened bag of peat moss and a homemade Red River cart with bicycle wheels that was painted blue a long time ago.

About three years ago while raking out and bagging the winterkill I came across seven or ten toy soldiers lying in the soil against the foundation. I guessed they’d been there twenty years or more. There were sharpshooters and machine gunners, some were green and some were grey but they’d all been churned out of the same moulds. I set them up again – as I do every spring now since my discovery – the grey ones as Nazis charging uphill into a cross-fire.

Ann and I go to the modern five-and-dime, our strip mall loonie store, frequently for suet slabs for our bird feeders and dangle alone bird feeders. On the toy aisle there are always bags of plastic soldiers displayed, suspended from a rod. I always pause because they’re a close match to the men alongside our house. Ann always says, ‘You want a bag, don’t you?’

I took my First Communion in 1967, grade one. The rite must’ve taken place on a Saturday because afterward Dad took me to our town’s hobby shop and bought me a Tiger tank. There was a large peony in our backyard that had its own circular bed. Wesley the cat used to lie underneath it on hot, humid Montreal summer days. It was also a military staging area for Airfix soldiers of various scales and nationalities; some I’d painted, some I hadn’t. Some were cut down by nails fired from a die cast metal, spring loaded artillery piece.

I had a green plastic army helmet with a black elastic chinstrap, a black plastic Tommy gun, a green plastic Colt .45 and a canteen. Mom’s coffee table silver cylindrical cigarette lighter worked well as a hand grenade. Total warfare in the backyard was impossible because the lawn sprinkler couldn’t possibly float my grey plastic destroyer which launched depth charges (wooden dowels) from its stern. However, enemy aircraft could be blown out of the sky with impunity as long as I got my allowance of two bits a week.

Both the hobby shop and the stationer sold balsa wood gliders. I tended to buy Axis models, Luftwaffe ME-109s and Japanese Zeros. They cost pennies apiece. The fighters would be assembled and then launched from the back gallery, their tails already aflame thanks to Mom’s ‘guests only’ Birks cigarette lighter. What was even more spectacular was sending an enemy plane aloft with a lit ladyfinger firecracker taped to its fuselage. Pow! Smoke and smithereens!

Just prior to Canada Day (Dominion Day back when I was conducting my own world war) Ann and I were in Canadian Tire’s new-fangled Edmonton flagship store. The checkout line was a snaky queue that would expand Hydra-like before the row of cash registers. Looking around, killing time, I spotted a corrugate display of some long forgotten yet familiar yellow envelopes: Power Prop FLYING GLIDERS. I said to Ann, ‘Hang on.’

The aerial inventory had been picked through pretty thoroughly but I found a Spitfire and a Focke Wulf 190. It seemed as if I’d be able to restage the Battle of Britain in our backyard over the long weekend. My plans were stymied by the lack of quality control at the Chinese factory. My Spitfire once out of the packaging turned out to be a P-51 Mustang. My FW 190 was in fact a Spitfire. Both planes were made out of a substance akin to Styrofoam. Best not to burn that stuff anywhere and carbon emissions are a delicate subject in Alberta. Anyway, these were Allied air force planes. So, for me now, the war is over. At least until the spring thaw. Or maybe our next trip to the loonie store.

Friday, 8 July 2016


Thanks for the Pro Tip

We are the sole subscribers, the last of the magazine readers. As Ann and I try to navigate the brave new digital world, we’ve noticed that the titles we receive at the Crooked 9 in an untimely manner are increasingly skimpy and that their articles are getting shorter. It seems as if no one publication, with a couple of exceptions, has anything important to impart to us anymore. In-depth stories rarely plumb beyond the surface of their subjects.

I read for pleasure, for knowledge, for information, for distraction, for entertainment. Some ingrained habits are too hard to break. Our magazine rack is a refurbished pine washstand situated just off the kitchen by the back door. I tend to read magazines around 3:30 in the morning after I’ve felt my way along the walls of the night hallway, carpet creeping.

Recently I encouraged Ann to subscribe to bon appetit magazine because the direct mail offer was comparable to gratis. Ann enjoys cooking and I enjoy eating her cooking. And I enjoy being in the kitchen with her, washing and wiping up after her as she goes, the two of us talking and listening to the stereo.

The other night I was on a ramble. Once I’d made it to the fridge I decided on a ham and salami and cheddar on a sliced croissant with a dash of Dijon, oven-heated and served with a side of yesterday’s homemade potato salad. Fresh fruit for dessert. For reading material I chose the July edition of bon appetite because the cover feature was about hot dogs, which for me is akin to Mick and Keith gracing a current newsstand front of Rolling Stone or MOJO (I’m still hooked on the Stones’ Telecaster and verbal riffs after all these years).

Hot dog! And thank you, bon appetite! The table of contents promised something equally intriguing, insight into the world’s most delicious sandwich. The sandwich piece was like a secondary, even slighter article on the Clash, the Who, the Kinks, Dylan or Springsteen in my imaginary Rolling Stones MOJO, bonus reading augmented with beautifully staged food photography. Gosh, who knew that the most delicious sandwich in the world was the good old BLT? And who knew that making BLTs for a group could be a chore? But turn that frown upside down because if everyone in the group has to make their own BLT, why, a party will ensue!

I thought, ‘I never thought of that.’ I turned the page (had to lick my thumb and forefinger) and encountered BLT 101, a sort of a primer. In order to make a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich I would need: bacon, lettuce, tomato, bread and mayonnaise. Whoa. The kitchen stool suddenly seemed vertigo high. I, a lapsed Catholic, realized an empathy with Paul the Persecutor who got knocked to his ass on the dusty road to Damascus by a lightning bolt revelation, an epiphany.

Dumbfounded, I slipped out the back door, sat down on the steps and lit a cigarette. Nocturnal creatures rustled in our leafy flower gardens. Soon, the birds began to chirp and sing their morning territorial songs. Colour rose in the navy sky, an embarrassed pink creeping up from its bottom edge. The air was still, warm and close. I felt I’d been touched by a modicum of grace. I thought, ‘Thank God for magazines.’ And I thought, ‘If I want to make a specific type of sandwich in the middle of the night, a BLT say, it’s probably best to have all the ingredients on hand.’ I’d no idea.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016


If I’d Noah You Were Coming…

The Globe and Mail this morning carried a story about a new roadside attraction in the landlocked state of Kentucky. A Christian ministry known as Answers in Genesis has reconstructed Noah’s ark to biblical proportions aided by state tax incentives. The result, an anchor for a theme park, is official: 300 cubits bow to stern, 50 cubits port to starboard and 30 cubits high; this boat is not meant to float so no one’s really sure how much water it would displace or whether the gunwales would be swamped by placid ripples.

A cubit is an imprecise measurement based on the length between the point of your elbow and the tip of your middle finger. A meGeoff cubit is bigger than a Noah cubit because the human race has grown in stature over time as our living conditions and diets have improved; we are giants compared to the folk who populated medieval Europe. According to a helpful graphic in today’s National Post, the Kentucky creationist ark is more than half as long as the Titanic and would dwarf the Viking longships that came ashore in the New World at L’Anse aux Meadows around 1000 A.D.

Just 4000 years before the Vikings alit on what is now the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador God created the universe and everything in it. But He was unhappy with His cosmic selfie and after musing upon it late one Saturday night He warned Noah about a do-over because, you know, God can delegate. You look after everything; frankly, I’m not in the mood to start from scratch again. Consider this, I don’t know, Plan B. Noah probably grumbled at being handed the file. And then he had to start concentrating on Great Flood logistics. Okay, okay, birds and insects should be okay, well, the ones that fly anyway. Aquatic mammals, amphibians and fish? Fucking golden. So, just mammals and reptiles basically, mostly carnivores. What about microbes and viruses? Hang on, how am I going to feed all these fuckers for 40 days and nights? Cows! Pigs! Fucking extra cows and pigs! Brilliant!  Noah was the planet’s first caterer and event coordinator.

Visitors to the $100-million plus (US) ark park will be able to board the vessel. Inside they can explore and experience museum quality dioramas depicting Noah and his family, and mammals, reptiles and dinosaurs in their cages: rats, cats, anacondas and wooly mammoths alongside, honest, swear to God, velociraptors. Neither news story mentioned unicorns.