#182 – Canada: Branded Within, Excused Everywhere

Yes, Canada is a brand, and few people get it quite as cynically as #RealChange and his motley Synod of snot-nosed go-getters. And as with most branding efforts the goal is to have the consumer look at the shiny sticker and miss the obvious signs that the product you’re getting is actually a sockful of shit. Like wheat, which caker business is busy squandering Canada’s claimed reputation for quality by producing inferior shit. Don’t ask about Canada among lentil sellers abroad or you’ll hear tales of cheating and shit quality. But hey, it’s Brand Canada!

Brand Canada’s effects produce revision inside Canada, and that’s where we’re going today. Cakers love to think that Canada rolls up to the global trade party with the equivalent of an inoffensive potato salad. Harmless, right? Tee-hee, aren’t these Canadians just so silly and sorry! Never mind that Canada is actually the #2 supplier of arms to the Middle East. Profiting off of the misery of others is a Canadian speciality; after slaughtering and cruelly debasing the Indigenous Canada’s off to go ruin the lives of some more brown people! After all, if Canada doesn’t sell arms to barbarians someone else will! Or so says Stephane Dion, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. And why does Canada excuse itself for disproportionately contributing to misery and woe? Why, because that’s not in Canada’s brand!

The Canada Brand is of course obnoxious as shit, because it kind of has to be in order to drive out the truth about Canadian exports and business practices – namely, that they’re dirty, shitty for labor, and consequently kind of suck. But because Canadians can’t acknowledge the harm they cause and thus encourage some kind of filthy “improvement” or “humanity” in their ersatz-society, they pull out Brand Canada to make themselves feel better. What’s this about exporting a nad-radding medical scanner? Nah, man! Check out this beer! It says Canada on it so it must be good!

This is the kind of bait-and-switch that comes from a country that runs itself as a shitty, shitty corporation. Here’s Canada telling you that hockey is evidence that Canada has the most “heart” of any nation. I remind you that this is a country that uses poor peoples’ homes and countries as dumping grounds, a country that fairly uniquely opted against calling for a ban on the export of toxic waste. Speaking of dumping, did you know that four caker businesses actually seriously fucking invested in cluster bombs? The country whose capital shares a name with the global ban on anti-personnel mines is investing in other foul machinations of war.

But shit like this doesn’t look good in domestic markets! Canadians need to feel unduly special lest they actually look around and start demanding that Canada do things properly. I know – throw them a hockeymans commercial! That’ll baffle the semi-literate fucks.

The disparity between what Canadian believe about their country and what Canada actually does on a regular basis abroad is, I think, the result of Canadians getting pounded with caker-jingoism from the word go. Canadians are outwardly told what they should think about themselves, attitudes and ideas which are then confirmed or set aside as needed by way of branding Canada. We’ve talked about consumptive Canadiana a lot – this is consumptive Canadiana creating internally a national brand for which there is no evidence externally. Or for that matter internally – in a country that still can’t bring itself to see Indigenous voices as worth listening to here’s Tim Hortons telling you that Canadians are “brought together” by hockey:

But Canada can’t be arsed to act like a good neighbor, so it instead tells a pliant population that it’s totally cool you guys and implies that the rest of the world totally loves Canada because Canada acts like it does in caker commercials. A false image produced domestically prevents Canadians from meaningfully reacting to scenarios externally where Canadians are acting like their usual toady selves.

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#48 – Sports and Weather, Part Four: the Unspeaking Maw (of Mediocrity)

For a long time as a young child I wondered why my mind associated great food experiences with leaving Canada. The best meals of my life have had what I’ll call gravity to them. That is, the food was not the whole scope of the experience. I once ate at an underground wine bar in Copenhagen with an actual fireplace; the juxtaposition between the wintery outdoors and the warm, inviting space of the restaurant where my parents and I could relax, talk, eat some amazing seafood, and finally warm up is a large part of why I remember the meal at all. I recall mornings at Dennys off of some Interstate, drinking unending slugs of coffee and eating frankly damaging amounts of middling breakfast food while we planned the routes we would be taking to get to this city or that town and mocked one another as adolescents do. The joy of these memories has little to do with the food. It was the ambience, the conversation, the sense of what the Dutch call gezelligheid – that’s the stuff of good memories.

In Cakerstan food culture hits so many wrong notes that it makes those precious places where conversation is even possible all the more exceptional.  And I do have to say that Canada does have amazing food experiences here and there. The problem is that Canada does all that it can to create and normalize canned, blasé, eating spaces with consequently dead interiors and dull conversation. The bulk of Canada’s food scene is samey and discourages long conversation and the kind of quiet calm that allow for all of those ancillary components which make dining out so special.

Here’s a good one – why is it that seemingly every remotely cheap bar in any English Canadian city feels the need to practically wallpaper their interior with televisions and blast loud-ass music into the place? I get that turning a profit is important and that restaurants in particular are known for dying on their feet, but could you not blatantly suggest to me while I’m eating with friends that you tolerate my presence only insofar as I spend money? Why is the whole experience tuned towards squeezing money from me, and why would I want to go to a place where I feel as though I’m being fleeced?

For the middle-class fancy in none of us there is Canada’s disturbingly large chain restaurant scene. These massive boring bundles of boxes and microwaves and uncomfortably tight uniforms for servers are raking in nearly 66% of the eating-out budget amongst cakers. And once again only the Quebecois deign to give a shit about their own culture, taking nearly half of their meals to local places. I get that there’s a place for fast-food and microwave box restaurants, but the pervasiveness and completeness of their annexation of Canada’s culinary culture is a strong tell as to how mediocre food here really is. Oh, and did I mention that these profiteering box restaurants have horrendous sanitation records? Better hope those flecks are peppercorns, Martha!

(S) We can’t even name our own shit-chains after ourselves. Talk about inferiority complex!

At the core of this problem, I think, is what I alluded to earlier. Eating out in Canada means that you are victim to caker business, which in turn overwhelmingly stresses the screwing of the consumer and the maximisation of profit over all else, even to the point of destroying the raison d’etre of your establishment. Instead of looking to legacy, pride, the simple enjoyment of a job well done, or any kind of positive virtue Canadians accept and almost pride themselves on being fiscal sponges, splashed into and out of dull, constructed spaces designed to wring them and throw them away as quickly as possible. This obviously does Canada’s culinary scene, with all of its enormous potential a fat lot of no good.

#24 – Sports and Weather, Part Two: Sports for Glory

Sports are of course one of the approved topics of conversation in English Canada. To ask your average caker Canadians winning at a sport reflects the glory of Canada. of course, when the Canadians are losing the topic should only be broached by way of clicking disapproval for people who are trying their best in a field of competition that they obviously enjoy. Canadian athletes aren’t worth the caker’s time to talk about unless they’re winning, and when they are winning cakers respond with nationalistic dribbling and feigned interest in a sport they barely knew existed until maplewank got involved.

Individual competitors and teams who previously were completely unknown suddenly become the bearers of national pride whenever they’re wearing caker-colors and competing on an international stage because celebrating capable people is obviously far less important than mindless yay-Canada splooging. They will continue to be half-remembered until we reach the point when they either lose and are forgotten instantly or win, whereupon the CBC puts out a piece proclaiming the glory of Canada before the actual victor is disappeared. The span in between those two points of blissful ignorance is home to some of English Canada’s most banal conversations  – idiots pretending that they’ve always cared about a sport that Team Canada is doing tolerably at.

The CBC in particular is notorious for stoking nationalist fires with coverage of sports that nobody cares about save for the few weeks every four years that the Olympics are on. The flag-waving during the Olympics is absolutely nuts and leads the vapid population of this dump to cheerlead and chant for medals as if the Olympics are an indication of national merit or indeed represent anything more than an individual or a team doing well against their peers. To those who would suggest that medal counts are an indication of anything postive about a country recall that medals were regularly used as propaganda by East Germany and the Soviet Union. Good company to be in for sure.

And that’s just the Olympics. Don’t you worry – there’s always a chance for caker-chatter to be bent by jingoistic media into pained conversations about sport without the Olympics. In North American sport the “Canadian” team is an instant crowd favorite and the media endlessly brays about how they carry the nation with them if they ever achieve anything. Don’t believe me? The Globe and Mail referred to the 2015 Jays making the postseason in baseball last year as a glorious event for the country. There’s certainly nothing wrong with Toronto being excited that it has a shot at another World Series. But what the fuck does Vancouver or Halifax have to do with how the Jays are doing? But because the Jays are the only MLB team in Canada the success of the Jays becomes evidence of Canadian potential and the Jays get to become the hope of a nation as expressed in maudlin idiocy.

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(s) What was to come ended up being defeat by the Kansas City Royals

What this means for conversation is a near-lethal dose of conversational knuckle-dragging. Do you care about whatever sport Canada is hyping this time? No? Well then fuck you – here are dozens of opinions recycled from the CBC by people with various gaps in their literacy. Should it not be of some concern that tennis player Milos Raonic chose to play for Canada and has said that he might consider not doing so if the pressure gets to be too much? Or that golfer Mike Weir’s Masters win didn’t translate into a newfound popularity for that sport despite that being the narrative presented as a justification for rabid flag-waving?

Those are both potentially interesting points of conversation about why and how Canada expects individuals to perform in the world of sports, but Molson doesn’t make ads about meaningful conversation so it’s off to the caker-races waving the flag around whenever someone wearing a maple leaf does something. Why walk about the state of the country when you can use sports to cover it up?

#21 – Tim Horton’s Brown Sludge Water™, Part 2: King Tim

Consumptive Canadiana is one of the most viscreal displays of caker nationalism, and few are champions of that trait more than the nasty bastards behind Tim Horton’s Brown Sludge Water Product. They’ve inveigled themselves into the caker consciousness to such a degree that even the national broadcaster effectively advertises for them. This of course perpetuates the perception that Tim Horton’s and its Brazilian-American parent company is a touchstone of Canadian identity that deserves special recognition despite serving up shitty wages that domestic Canadians won’t work for, poor treatment of foreign workers who were misguided into coming here, and ill-conceived growth in locations and menu size that relies on the continued import of poor people. These are values that cakers claim to abhor; is it really kosher to have the CBC singing Tim’s praises?

Before we begin, let’s remind ourselves of the CBC’s mandate:

“…the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as the national public broadcaster, should provide radio and television services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains;

…the programming provided by the Corporation should:

  1. be predominantly and distinctively Canadian, reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions,
  2. actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression,
  3. be in English and in French, reflecting the different needs and circumstances of each official language community, including the particular needs and circumstances of English and French linguistic minorities,
  4. strive to be of equivalent quality in English and French,
  5. contribute to shared national consciousness and identity,
  6. be made available throughout Canada by the most appropriate and efficient means and as resources become available for the purpose, and
  7. reflect the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canada.”

Let’s play a game with this. It’s called “Where’s the Mandate?”, and the prize is a deep sense of shame and disgust. Round one: what does the headline “Tim Hortons lineup on Christmas Day at least 100 cars long in Truro“contribute to “[informing], [enlightening], and [entertaining]” Canadians? I’m pretty sure the state of the Tim Hortons in a podunk Maritime hole isn’t information that I needed, thanks. And before a caker does this, you don’t want to have to lean on the line “but it’s Canadian!!” because the business conforms in no way to your other claims of “progressive Canada“. Put it this way – do you really want your identity associated with terrible labor conditions, bad food, poor urban form, and globalization?

Here’s thing number two, coming from YouTube. The post is entitled “Refugee family checks out Tim Hortons for the first time“. This could not be less useful footage – it’s just people standing in a suburban dump of a building gearning and praising Canada. And the irony is that this kid’s folks could well end up working in one of these shitholes where they’ll soon learn of the “safety” that comes from not making enough money to progress in society. “Hello Canada” indeed.

But what about white people, says the reactionary flubberguts that usually frequent Tim Hortons? How about this one, which gets a bonus punch of consumptive Canadiana in the form of hockeymans nonsense: “Tim Hortons wedding: Hockey-mad Alberta couple brew up very Canadian vows“. That’s not news, assholes – that’s boring people making regrettable choices. Again, why is it okay that the national broadcaster is telling you what to call Canadian? Is that not more than a little bit bush-league Pravda crap? Oh, and yes – cakers are really this retarded that they think getting married in a fast-food joint is worthy of national news. This is not an isolated incident. And while we’re at it why the fuck is dogsledding to Tims a “Canadian” mode of transportation to a Tim Hortons? Most Tims I go to look like this:

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(s) What, you mean you aren’t proud of sitting in a metal box waiting for a metallic coffee?

The mythology of Tim Hortons is one of consumptive Canadiana. The company plays up its Canadiana through marketing but in reality is just one more inferior car-centric fast-food chain on the wrong side of history. Whether they’re giggling about hockeymans or using Tim Hortons as a set-piece to make-believe about how loving and tolerant cakers are (go back and look at the dislikes on the YouTube video of the refugees enjoying being regarded as akin to parrots in a zoo if you doubt how loving Canada is), the CBC uses Tim Hortons to contruct an ersatz nationality. As always, the shadowy guys in suits win and cakers are deluded further into drinking shit as well as eating and living in it.

#20 – Mere Canada

Caker humblebragging is the absolute goddamn worst. Because modesty is a presumed part of the caker identity open idiotic nationalism eventually gets to be too much even for caker-doublethink. But what to do when the caker facade falls apart? Acknowledge problems? Fuck no! More nationalism! But-quieter more nationalism. This human centipede of an idea is self-enforcing: humility creats something to brag about creates a need to appear humble so as to shovel the shit into the next gearning mouth.

The tee-hee-we’re-so-humble meme makes its way deep into the caker mythos. And so does humblebragging, which is quite probably the most passive-aggressive and cowardly method of self-aggrandizement possible. The two can live side-by-side in the caker consciousness because feels. Feels are what happen when you challenge Canada’s claims to humility – irrational, defensive screeching like a car alarm instead of wondering why it is that two seemingly mutually-exclusive ideas are able to live side-by-each within the caker’s cultural frame of reference.

What’s even worse is that these contradictory impulses abet some of the worst parts of Canadian revisionism. The concept of AmeriKKKa is to some degree predicated on this capability to brag about being humble. Canadians in their predictable way typify Americans as brash and boorish by comparison at every possible turn, going to the point of humblebragging about it and thus using it to puff their own chests. This shit is incredibly pernicious because of that neat little feedback loop – like rats seeking food pellets the logic of caker humblebragging is sustained by small bursts of reward until the poor animal is reduced to desperately performing a rote action in hopes of scoring another hit of that sweet dopamine. Pressing levers, barking bullshit and holding completely unchallenged mututally-contradictory moves – both are learned and drilled until they become normalized.

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(s) The caker-level dispenses Kraft Dinner and farts but only if you press like you mean it

An extension of the concept of doublethink elucidated by how cakers claim values they don’t have is how we get to Canada’s weird relationship with international sporting too. Sport is easy for Canada to brag about because Canada often has little to do with them – the individuals frequently end up in financial hot water as a result of their training. Canadians love to claim that they are just so shucks-golly proud to have “the boys” on the world stage; the reality is that caker atheletes are paid by the number of medals they bring in for the Canadian medal standings. Rather than having funding that doesn’t leave top atheletes poor and broken Canada would rather cycle through the hard work of others for cheap nationalism than have a meaningful support system that recognizes a reciprocal relationship between country and individual. You know, like a country that had genuine affection for the athletes they claim to love would have.

Thus we get a weird disconnect that cakers don’t mind. We love you! You do us proud! Now back to the Starbucks mines with you! And when Canada underperforms against its own quota you get navel-gazing shitposts that portray the Olympics as relevant to Canada’s global prestige. In the same breath as we’re told that we love and adore Canadian athletes we’re prepared to basically mine them for prestige and chuck the remains off to the side after the Olympics are through.

And for those with the thought in the back of their minds – yes, this is the logic the Soviet Union had towards its athletes. But heaven forbid we notice that or reflect on how profound the gap between what we say about ourselves and what we enact as policy! I don’t care about the Olympics or specifically about athletes outside of their ability to illustrate the caker doublethink – proclamations of love and affection for the individual atheletes coupled with a system that effectively says “medal or nothing” to them. Canadians loudly yelp when someone wins a medal in their usual nationalist zeal and proclaim it as a Canadian triumph, but the failure and the difficulty – nah, that can stay on the individual. Even though cakers are supposed to pride themselves on not doing shit like that.

 

#16 – A Trivial Take on Canada’s Place in the World

Cakers have an odd predisposition to find anything related to Canada in events that have nothing to do with the country. The second some maple-stink wafts from a project or an idea that has global interest Canada rushes into action to try and make the story about itself. Because Canada has no meaningful place in the world outside of its resources and general ability to conduct negotiations and sign treaties, these efforts frequently devolve into comically-irrelevant trivia derailing conversations about the actual thing itself.

The conversation usually starts simply enough with two people trying to discuss an event without shitting their pants. Lacking any sort of thought on the matter itself and without wanting to appear idiotic, one person invariably will mention that the latest blockbuster hit set in “Metropolis” was actually filmed in Canada. Whoa! Amazing! You mean that Canadian cities are nondescript and can stand in for others at a moment’s notice? Can we talk about about weird and kind of…oh, no. We’re on to hockeymans blather now, apparently.

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(s) I bet Toronto is proud to have hosted this movie.

Heaven help you if a blockbuster is filmed in Canada – you’ll inevitably get to hear that totally irrelevant bit of trivia at every turn. What would actually impress me a lot more is if the city played itself – you know, demonstrating that a global audience could appreciate a narrative actually happening in Toronto.

But that’s not the only form of trivial self-attachment associated with Canada. Cakers have a bizarre relationship with tennis wherein the sport matters as much as a discarded condom until a Canadian gets somewhere near the semifinals of an international contest. Then it becomes a patriotic duty to pretend to give a shit about a sport that had previously meant nothing to them and that invariably wanes when the Canadian loses. Golf is another one, which at least provides me with some malicious amusement in that anyone joining the bandwagon gets to experience the profound boredom of watching golf. If the Toronto Blue Jays or the Toronto Raptors (the only teams of their kind in Canada) make it into the postseason the team instantly becomes a vehicle for Canada to desperately play at importance vis-á-vis America. What Americans take as sport cakers take to be an epic contest to prove the superiority of Canada. I pity the fans of both teams who get to deal with bandwaggoners, because the Jays are a really solid team that I can respect (though Rogers, their owner, can die in a hole) and the Raptors…well, they’re a basketball team. I don’t know much about basketball.

But merely annoying people within Canada by blathering about unimportant trivia as opposed to actually talking about the thing at hand isn’t enough for cakers. Time to export your love of cakertown to the uncaring world by way of trivial displays of consumerism! Canadians love to wear their flag about when travelling to showcase that they in fact are Canadian. And rather than being interested in the world around them cakers would rather share meaningless tripe. Check out this hideous display of consumptive Canadiana where Molson tells cakers to reveal that they’ve got their passports on their person in the name of getting a free bottle of beer that is undoubtedly vastly inferior to anything on offer in a local pub. Who wants meaningful cultural exchange? Certainly not Canada, not least since cakers have nothing in that department to offer in the first place.

Yes, this is supposed to be a proud, nationalist experience for Canadians. You know why Australians don’t wander about with a Foster’s free fridge? I suspect it’s because Aussies understand that Australia doesn’t have to bare idiotic displays of overdone nationalism abroad and that it doesn’t have to be attached to everything and anything currently in the news. In other words, Australians aren’t insecure chumps trying to show their commitment to their home by shoving noxious clichés into the civilized world in hopes of deluding themselves into believing that they matter.

#15 – Channel Surfing, Part One: Scratch the Vinyl Cafe

The Vinyl Café is revisionist tripe wearing nostalgia’s stolen britches.

Stuart McLean’s version of Canada looks like a Norman Rockwell painting. The most famous but by no means only part of the Vinyl Café is called the Dave and Morley Stories. These stories revolve around a list of personality-free caker morons. There’s the father, Dave, a shucks-golly record store owner with the bumbling exterior of the Good Soldier Svejk but with none of the internal narrative, depth, or sass that makes the Czech figure so fascinating. Joining this non-character is a figure-skating missus named Morley who in a totally-original and not-at-all clichéd way has to fix Dave’s frequent mishaps, a moody teenaged girl named Stephanie, a hockey squire named Sam, a dog named Arthur who steals potatoes, and a cat. Wowie, a suburban caker-family filled with tropes and clichés. How exciting.

These rich and meaningful cardboard cutouts living in a Toronto that mysteriously doesn’t seem to be plagued with any of real Toronto’s actual problems. I mean, just look at the cover of this book:

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When the stories focus on wacky hijinks like forgetting to buy a turkey for Christmas it eliminates any sort of meaningful deeper conversation. Take Svejk again: his activities are daft and silly but they point to real criticisms of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Svejk is an everyman who invites us into his shoes so that we too might understand why the War was so awful. It’s funny, relevant, poignant, and useful all at the same time. While child-Dave derps about stuffing frogs into an elementary school we don’t see a real image of the hard-scrabble life of the Maritimes so much as wistful turns of delightful detail. In what Toronto do lawyers and accountants live around people who work in theaters and run tiny record stores that apparently turn profits despite never changing, far less interact with them á la Bert and Mary Turlington?

The presumed timelessness of the setting actually makes the work even less meaningful because we don’t know when or where this happens. There’s a reference to Dave walking to Brock Avenue in five minutes (yes, I listened to some of it for you), which means that they could live in Brockton Village. The architecture sort-of fits:

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But the neighborhood itself is a canvas of make-believe because there’s no timeframe outside of a few hints. How did Brockton Village deal with suburbanization, or has that even happened yet? What about the Portuguese who currently live in the neighborhood? There’s an Arabic family improbably slapped into the story and a Chinese guy running a Scottish bakery (apparently making Chinese food isn’t nostalgic enough), but where are Joao and Carmella? When did this happen? Where did this happen? None of this is answered. Where Svejk waddles through known towns in a narrow band of time, this story ambles through a palimpsest of a neighborhood where time and history don’t mean anything.

The Vinyl Café is one of those hokey Canadiana things that English Canadians desperately want to believe was real, so McLean and the CBC hawk the Vinyl Café abroad in hopes that having foreigners fall for the non-place will convince cakers that the halcyon Toronto of…whenever this is set is real. So far they’ve scored BBC 7, which is so important to the British people that it was collapsed into BBC 4. We’ve also enlisted listeners on 80-some iterations of PBS in the United States to the cause of retrofitting Canada’s past. McLean’s turd-stacks are pushed as something akin to Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, except that Leacock was clearly writing with a place and time in mind (Orillia, ON at the turn of the century) and he deigns to admit that small-town Canada had its shitty parts with his obviously tongue-in-cheek praise of Mariposa at the time.

With the Vinyl Café McLean had a chance to address and speak to the history of urban Toronto and rural Nova Scotia. There are topics to dig at here with profound value to Canadian history and it is wholly okay to use fictive characters to make the work of digging easier. It’s one thing to erase the Indigenous (which of course McLean does because they really threaten ersatz nationalism these stories pump out); it’s quite another to claim nostalgia from a fiction set in a overly-fictionalized, frozen iteration of an actual place. Comedy has incredible potential – look at Svejk – but employing it in the service of revisionist Canadiana bastardizes the whole point of satire. Without that bite, all these stories boil down to are awkward chance happenings and clichéd characters designed to elicit Canadiana. Haplessly pissing your wife off is the kind of comedy best reserved for Garfield, except with the lasagna-loving cat there isn’t a narrative of make-believe peddled behind strained laughs.