Tag Archives: Canada

Don’t Diss My Beaver

Monday July 1 was Canada Day, and I realized it’s been a few years since I wrote a ‘distinctly Canadian’ post.  It’s time I did, because somebody needs to defend the honour of our national animal (again).

Apparently our own esteemed Canadian, June Callwood, once said, “The beaver, which has come to represent Canada as the eagle does the United States and the lion Britain, is a flat-tailed, slow-witted, toothy rodent known to bite off its own testicles or to stand under its own falling trees.”

When I read that, I was crushed.  (Although not as severely as our dumb beavers, I guess.)  I had defended the beaver’s noble image back in 2011.  Surely there was some mistake.  Could I still be proud of our Canadian icon?

So your intrepid reporter delved deeply into the matter.  (Okay, fine; I spent a couple of minutes searching the internet.)  And it turns out that beavers do not, in fact, bite off their own testicles.  Whew.

That little fable started in ancient times.  They believed that if a beaver was cornered by hunters attempting to kill it for its castoreum (the gooey musk which the ancients incorrectly believed came from its testicles), the beaver would bite off its own testicles and throw them to the hunters, thereby escaping with its life.  The legend went on to say that if pursued by a subsequent batch of hunters, the crafty beaver would scurry to a high place and lift its leg to display its nutless status.

On to ‘modern’ times (the 17th century).  That’s when Sir Thomas Browne noted that a) Castoreum comes from the beaver’s anal glands, not its testicles; and b) Beavers don’t even have external testicles – they’re inside its body, so it’d be kinda tricky to bite them off.

Ha.  So once again the noble beaver rises above a scurrilous attack on its reputation.  (Although apparently beavers do occasionally get crushed by their own falling trees; but I’m gonna give our plucky little rodents a pass on that one.  Even professional lumberjacks sometimes have accidents.  It’s not stupidity; it’s just bad luck.)

And while I’m on my soapbox defending Canadian icons, I also want to address poutine.  First:  We Anglophones usually say ‘poo-TEEN’; but the correct pronunciation is rendered with a Québécois accent, which softens the ‘t’ to a sibilant ‘th’ and accents both syllables equally:  ‘pou-thsinn’.

But pronunciation doesn’t matter as much as authenticity.  I’ve run across some horrible bastardizations of the dish, and I want to make sure no innocent reader of mine believes that mess is actually poutine.

Check out the top right photo in this Wikipedia article.  That’s how poutine should look.  It’s NOT heavy opaque gravy poured over grated mozzarella — that’s cheese-fries-with-gravy.  Real poutine has clear savory sauce and nice big cheese curds that are so fresh they squeak when you chew them.  Don’t be fooled by poor imitations!

So that’s my community service for Canada Day.  Now, let’s have some poutine, and bring on the beaver jokes!

29 Comments

Filed under Humour, Life

I Fear The Eagle

I don’t know why, but the Internal Revenue Service strikes fear into my heart.  It’s weird.  I mean, hell, I’m Canadian.  I have a justifiable wariness toward the Canada Revenue Agency, but the IRS shouldn’t even be on my radar, right?

Wrong.

Maybe it’s because of my innate problem with authority figures.  Maybe it’s just from watching too much U.S. television during my misspent youth, or maybe it’s the fact that the eagle in their logo issues a subliminal promise to cheerfully rip out my entrails and snack on them.  For whatever reason, the IRS scares me worse than the CRA.

This wouldn’t be a problem if, like most Canadians, I never had to deal with the IRS.  But when I published my books, I began to receive royalties from none other than the U. S. of A.  Which meant I had to creep out of my comfort zone and confront The Eagle.

Navigating the government forms didn’t bother me – after years of dealing with legal contracts and business documents, the red tape felt comfortingly familiar.  But then, completed forms in hand, I had to actually phone the dreaded IRS.

Knees knocking, mouth dry, I dialled with a trembling hand.

When the agent answered I nearly hung up in a funk.  Unlike CRA agents who answer with their first names, IRS agents identify themselves with intimidating formality as ‘Ms./Mr. LastNameOnly’, and then they spew out a big scary-sounding number.

When I managed to summon my voice and explain what I needed, Miss Weebles turned out to be efficient, friendly, and helpful despite her long scary number.  My questions were answered, my account was quickly set up, and I hung up thinking, “It can’t be that easy.”

But apparently it was.  Several years passed without incident and I gradually overcame the fear that the IRS was lurking around the corner waiting to swoop down and gut me.

Then last week I had a terrifying thought:  I’ve never filed a US tax return.  I don’t owe anything since I pay income tax on my royalties to the Canadian government, but here in Canada you still have to file a return every year even if you don’t owe anything.  What if the IRS required that, too?

Ohmigod.  The IRS was finally going to get me.

Cue up the telephone scene again, with me looking even more scared than before.

I got a male agent this time, which somehow seemed more ominous.  Mr. Hartman snapped out his name and his long scary number and I nearly fainted before managing to stammer out my question.

And everything was fine.  Miss Weebles had done a bang-up job, everything was in order, and I don’t need to file US tax returns.  Mr. Hartman was pleasant and friendly.  He even joked a bit and was kind enough to ask about my books.

I hung up the phone with a feeling of unreality.  Has my fear been completely unwarranted all these years?  Or is the IRS just lulling me into a false sense of security before they unleash The Eagle?

Or am I just a paranoid freak?  (Never mind; don’t answer that.)

* * *

P.S. The new cover art is ready for Book 1!  At first glance it looks the same, which is what I wanted… but it’s all in the details. Now it’s a middle-aged woman, the gun is actually a Glock (though not the correct Glock 26 because it’s prohibited in Canada), and I own the images.  No more stock photos, woohoo!  It’s a slow process, but I hope the cover art will be updated for all the books within the next couple of months.  Here’s the new Never Say Spy cover:

37 Comments

Filed under Humour, Life