Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sucks To Be Right

In last week's post, I commented on my local mayoral candidates, speculating that one of them, who hadn't done much campaigning on the advice of his doctor, was liable to "keel over and die" within his first year in office, even if he did win. Well, thanks to alert reader "Tubes", I learned that he did just that - on the day of the election, no less! Damn, it sucks being right all the time!

My first reaction on learning this news was to feel like a bit of an jackass for denigrating the poor man just before his death. My second thought was ... "What the HECK is the guy doing running for mayor if he knows he's that sick???"

My third thought was realizing that, even if this candidate, who came in second by the way, had won the election, our incumbent mayor still would have re-taken the office when the winner died, assuming that he would have been the next runner-up.

So here's a man who had only two competitors for the mayor's office, neither of which provided serious competition, and only one of which could have actually ousted him for good. How badly would you have to suck to lose under those circumstances?

I hope he isn't patting himself on the back too hard.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Halmanator For Mayor

In a couple of days, most Ontario communities will be holding municipal elections. Municipal elections are notorious for producing the smallest voter turnouts. This is probably because many deem them to be of lesser importance than federal or provincial elections, since we're not voting for a Prime Minister nor even a Premier. It's just a bunch of city councillors, some school trustees and ... oh yes ... the mayor. Who cares, right?

In many ways, the people who prevail in municipal elections affect our daily lives much more directly than does either the Prime Minister or the provincial Premier, so we really should care. Our property taxes, leaf collection, snow removal, fire and police services and access to community services, not to mention the general quality of life in our home towns, are directly affected by the decisions made by these people. Still, I can't entirely fault those who fail to vote.

Unlike federal or provincial elections, where one votes for a party moreso than for an individual, municipal elections are very much contests between individuals. There are a lot of people running and, although the local newspapers and the internet try to provide coverage, most of us don't know all the candidates or their backgrounds and researching them takes a significant amount of time and energy. Thus, sadly, many either simply don't vote, or those who do simply vote for names that they recognize, which means that the same people keep getting elected over and over again, regardless of their suitability or lack thereof.

It becomes even worse when you live in a town like mine. I have a choice of three people when it comes to choosing our next mayor. One is the current incumbent, with whom I'm not particularly impressed and whom I would love to see replaced.

The second, according to an article in my local paper reviewing the three candidates, is a fifty-eight-year-old "former manager in the manufacturing sector who has worked as a consultant on local political issues and helped with a local business since closing his own home-renovating business more than a decade ago". Okay, so he has some practical business and management experience - that's good - but a spotty success record - not so good. He further promises to "re-evaluate the salaries of city employees when contract negotiations come up". Sounds good at first first blush, except that this could easily mean that he intends to freeze the salaries of city employees, some of whom actually earn their pay, while doing nothing about his own over-inflated salary or those of the city council members. He proposes to find the savings necessary to minimize municipal tax increases by possibly trimming back the number of community centres. That may sound like fiscal responsibility if you happen to agree that the city has too many community centres ... unless, of course, the one that you like to use happens to be one of those that gets shut down. Finally, the news article notes that this particular candidate "has not done much campaigning this election on the advice of his doctor". Great! So, even if I actually like him, he's liable to keel over and die on me within a year of taking office. Next!

The third candidate is a 46-year-old who is "currently on disability and has been receiving assistance through Ontario Works for the past several years" and apparently didn't even own a phone before deciding to run.

"I'm just a regular guy," he is quoted as saying. "Any person in this city could be mayor. I truly believe that and I think our mindset has been befuddled into thinking you have to have certain qualifications. That's not the case. It's all about your heart." Translation: I have no particular qualifications for the job, but please vote for me anyway. This candidate promised to freeze taxes and "only keep a portion of the mayor's annual salary." I guess he figures that even just a percentage of the mayoral salary has got to be an improvement over welfare, which is what "Ontario Works" is.

So I'm left with a choice between an incumbent whom I'd like to vote out, a business manager with a questionable track record who might not be long for this world, and a welfare bum. Given choices like these, it's easy to understand why so many don't see the point of voting. Maybe I should run for mayor next time around!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Wrong Decade

After typing out last week's post about Battling Tops, I turned to Google's image search, as I usually do, in search of an appropriate graphic with which to dress up the post. Whilst searching for pictures of the Battling Tops game, I came across pictures of several other games from the same period. One of these was the sixties version of Milton-Bradley's Battleship.

You've gotta love that! Dad and "Junior" getting in some quality male bonding time over a friendly game of Battleship, while mom and sister smile approvingly from the background as they do up the dishes like good wenches. Man, I was born in the wrong decade!

Incidentally, I've updated the Battling Tops post with a couple of embedded YouTube videos. One shows the original seventies TV commercial, and the second shows four grown men playing the game, and totally getting into it. I think the latter really captures the flavor of the game. Check it out!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Battling Tops

If you're part of the baby boomer generation (like me), you likely remember a host of games from the seventies by Milton-Bradley, Mattel and Ideal such as Battleship, Don't Spill the Beans, Ants in the Pants and Ker Plunk! These games tended to feature some kind of gimmick; a plastic case containing a grid full of ships and pegs, a large pot on a swivel that you filled with beans, a plastic pair of pants into which you flicked colorful plastic ants or a transparent plastic tube full of holes into which you stuck colourful straws, atop which you piled marbles and then proceeded to pull out the straws one-by-one trying not to drop any of the marbles. These "games" were essentially built around interesting toys and very much targeted at younger kids. One of the most memorable, for me, was a weird little game called Battling Tops by Ideal.

Battling Tops was a game for two to four players that featured a circular, slightly concave arena with four gates or corrals at the top, bottom and sides. Each gate or corral belonged to one of the players, who would wind a little plastic top into it using a string with a finger-loop at one end. A quick yank of the loop would unwind the string and send the player's top spinning out of its corral and into the arena, where all four tops would collide and bounce off each other. Eventually, of course, the tops would lose their momentum and fall over. The last top left spinning was declared the winner. Each top bore a sticker eblazoned with a funny moniker such as "Hurricane Hank", "Dizzy Dan" and "Twirling Tim".

This sort of game provided endless hours of entertainment to one as easily amused and as transfixed with spinning objects and buttons and gadgets as I. Once in a rare while a collision between two or more of the tops would pop one up into the air and right out of the arena (I recall the TV commercial for the game showing just such an occurrence). But I recall one incident in particular that was so bizarre that I wouldn't believe it myself if someone related the tale to me, yet I swear that I am absolutely not making this up (® and TM Dave Barry Enterprises, inc.)

One evening, while playing Battling Tops with my sister, my mom and my dad (yes, back in those days, families actually played games together sometimes) my hapless top did get knocked out of the arena, just as described above. Surprisingly, it landed upright on the table, outside of the arena, still spinning.

Amused, I decided to let it go and continued to watch it. As it shimmied slowly across the table, its base hit a seam (this was one of those extendable tables, you see) which caused it to pop up into the air, right back into the arena, where it landed, still spinning! The moment this happened, the other three tops, which were also still going, converged on the upstart survivor, as if to punish it for its audacity, mercilessly beating it to the ground. My top didn't win, but it sure did try!