Category Archives: current events ranting

It’s been a freaky couple of weeks here in Canada; and Curried Vegetable Bisque

I haven’t been posting lately because I’ve been too busy reading everyone else’s posts and trying to make up my mind about the dizzying amount of news that’s being generated around here.

First, a lunatic stormed the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, killing one soldier and terrifying everyone. It was no 9/11, let’s have perspective, but it did scare the bejesus out of us anyway. We all mourn Nathan Cirillo, our fallen sentry. It turns out the loony was a drug addict and a Muslim of the unbending type and he’d held up a McDonald’s here in Vancouver because he wanted to go to jail so that he could go into rehab. Sad. There’s been some debate about whether he attacked Parliament Hill because he’s a loony or because he’s a radical Muslim heeding the call of ISIL to attack unbelievers wherever ye may find them. He was shot on the scene so we’ll never really know.

Then last Sunday Jian Ghomeshi, host of CBC’s show Q, swept all this away with a Facebook post that gave the excuse to the Toronto Star’s publishing a piece about his alleged attacks on women whom he’s dated or worked with. Social media went completely apeshit. There has been a bewildering number of points of view and it’s really hard to keep up. I don’t even engage in Twitter so this is just me reeling from all the Facebook posts. Generally I don’t approve of people being accused, tried and convicted by anonymous accusers and an Internet mob; however, it’s looking more and more as though Ghomeshi may have done these dreadful deeds. More people are speaking out and attaching their names to their accusations which of course gives credibility to their statements. It just seems to me that we have a responsibility to make a police report when we experience assault; it’s important to protect yourself, and it’s also important to protect the next woman. A lot of sexual offenders escalate their attacks, and hey, he could have killed someone! Filing a police report does not mean that you have to also press charges and wind up in court. Also, you can request a publication ban on your name so that you don’t get pilloried by Internet trolls. So one thing that has become clear is that people don’t really realize the ins and outs of making a police report and what it entails and doesn’t entail, so we need some public education going on out there. These accusations would carry much more weight if there were a corresponding string of police or medical reports. If he did these things then it sounds like he should be in jail; but if he didn’t (I’m not saying anything) then his life has been needlessly ruined, and it was just that easy. I’m no fan of Jian Ghomeshi necessarily (I’ve only seen his interview with Billy Bob Thornton which is worth watching) and I’m certainly no apologist for sexual predators, but I think we’ve seen a really ugly side of social media here. Hopefully the police will be able to find grounds for arrest although good luck to them, he’s hiding out in Los Angeles apparently.

However, this incident has opened several lines of thought, one of which is workplace safety and sexual harassment in general, which is clearly necessary, as it is looking as though the CBC knew what Ghomeshi was up to and shielded him until it was no longer possible, upon which they quickly canned him; and the other is victims of rape and sexual assault feeling emboldened to come forward with their stories. I’m kind of surprised that it is still so difficult to expose a rapist. John Irving once described rape as the most violence a human being could suffer and yet survive (The Hotel New Hampshire). And we make it harder for victims to find justice? That makes me mad and sad and frankly, frightened for my daughters and their friends.

And then it was Halloween, which my kids have been talking about since last spring. I’m so glad to have that over with. Costumes, candy, teenagers showing up in ski suits as though they’re real costumes…. Then, at 11:30pm Halloween night, a child who I thought was asleep murmured, “Can I send you my Christmas list?”

So, all that has been occupying my mind and also I haven’t read anything particularly compelling lately. I did, however, create (quite by mistake) a lovely curried vegetable bisque which I will share here:

Curried Vegetable Bisque

The quickest soup for the coldest day. Smooth, creamy, warming, with a bit of heat. You can cut the vegetables any way you like (slice instead of chop or dice) as it’s going to be puréed anyway. The smaller you cut the vegetables the quicker it will cook.

1 T. olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
about 1 t. grated ginger
2 t. garam masala
2 t. curry powder
1/4 t. red pepper flakes (up to you)
1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
4 c. water
2 chicken cubes (or chicken or vegetable stock)

Sauté onions, garlic and ginger in olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat until softened and translucent. Add spices and sauté until fragrant.

Add rest of ingredients, bring to a boil, stir, then lower heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.

Purée well in blender. Add 1-2 cups of milk (your choice; you can use 1/2 c. of cream if you prefer for a richer soup) and continue to blend. Pour into bowls.

You can dress it up with some chopped cilantro, a dash of plain whipped yogurt, and homemade croutons. Papadoms would be good!

If you choose to omit the red pepper flakes, those who desire heat can always add it with a dash of Sriracha, or hot sauce of choice.

You can also make this vegan by using vegetable stock instead of chicken and coconut milk instead of milk.

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Filed under current events ranting, Food

Social Media and Food Criticism

This article in the August 13 issue of Maclean’s magazine really struck a nerve.

It’s about people who visit a restaurant and then tweet negatively based on perceived (not always justified) inadequacies – and then the restaurants feel that they have to rush to appease this person who is trumpeting their displeasure. We have also had this experience. It’s amazing to me that people who do not bother to mention their dissatisfaction to the restaurant manager, or their server, or even directly to us via our website or by calling, will then make a sputtering fuss via Twitter or a blog  about their perceived negative experience. Of course their behaviour was perfect, so if there was any dispute at all they blame the restaurant staff and call them rude. We’ve had people who have got drunk and done terrible things and disturbed other guests as well as staff then pretended later that they didn’t do anything wrong and the police were called for no reason at all. It’s all our fault, of course! Every restaurant has similar stories.

I used to write restaurant reviews and if I couldn’t write something positive I’d skip that review altogether. Because…you don’t know. When do we feel a tweet is justified? Well…if you’ve spent many years in the industry, and you can tell the difference between a server having an off night, or the kitchen experiencing an equipment malfunction (happens all the time) and an establishment that really doesn’t care, and if you’ve spoken to the manager and he essentially tells you to pound sand, then, maybe. But not really. It’s courtesy. You didn’t like it? Don’t go back.

We really care about our food and service, so when we catch a tweet like that we do a lot of forensic work – we contact the tweeter, ask them which location they visited, when they were there, where they were sitting – because we do want to improve service and make guests happy. It’s our entire raison d’être. Why open a restaurant otherwise? But we really wish they had said something to the manager when they were on the spot, because it would be much easier to figure out what went wrong – and to make amends then and there. But it’s interesting that these people are often quite shy in person, so they’re reluctant to talk to a human being. But a vicious tweet is totally within their comfort zone because they feel safe and anonymous! Usually when we ask the manager when we’re trying to follow up one of these complaints, they will say that the table was fine and seemed to have no problems. So why the nasty remark? There’s some unjustified arrogance here. Not to mention bad manners.

1. I think there’s an inflated sense of self-importance in the sphere of social media. (Yes, I realize the irony of blogging this.) If you collect a lot of Twitter followers (here’s how hard this is: you follow people and out of courtesy they follow you back) or have people following your blog, you start to feel that your opinion carries more weight than maybe it should. We have found some food bloggers are at the point where they consider themselves very influential, at par with professional print reviewers, and they often demand comped meals, freebies, and they expect to be treated like royalty. So you wonder about the level of integrity here. Mind you, there are a whole host of food bloggers who do great work and are respected by industry professionals including us. They do their research, they generally base reviews on more than one visit, they get to know the staff, they are thoughtful and even-handed and they do not expect to be comped. When they have reservations, so to speak, about a restaurant’s performance they try to be fair and not vindictive. Plus, their writing is often delightful and inspiring.

2. The Dark Side: It appears that some Twitterers have figured out that a lot of restaurants will comp meals or provide gift certificates in order to persuade a tweeter to say something positive next time. The Maclean’s article suggests that some negative Twitterers are playing this game. If so, bad karma and shame on them!

I think that, overall, if you have a negative experience in any establishment, be it hospitality, retail, service, whatever, you owe it to the establishment to let them know first and give them the opportunity to rectify the situation. If you’re going to complain, have the guts and the courtesy to complain to someone to their face, not behind their back. If you have a positive experience, then trumpet away. I’ve written a few glowing hotel reviews for hotels.com when I’ve had great experiences. When I’m disappointed, I let management know and I keep my mouth shut. I think anything else is cheap, petty and irresponsible.

(Just my opinion as a restaurant owner and as a reviewer of restaurants and hotels myself, not the official position of the restaurant. Because the restaurant’s policy is:  RUSH to address complaints, and we even appease spouters of negative social media!)

I actually wrote this post about a month ago but I didn’t post it; I consulted with some senior staff first. They liked it but I hesitated to post. But just today we had a negative tweet and it seemed like the right time:

Tweet: “still can’t get over the rude service we received last nite”

Our response: “Sorry to hear about your experience. Did you follow up with a manager in the restaurant? Many don’t and take to Twitter.”

Their tweet back, complete with grammatical errors: “we’ve talked her but she did nothing about it and left us… People have the right to know via twitter and other means.” (I love this; people also have a right to know that the twitterer’s behaviour was less than exemplary but I guess there isn’t enough room in a tweet to include that part.)

Our last response: “As you can imagine, it is very hard to follow up with so little info. If you could, please email us at….”

The manager at that location emailed us about this – apparently someone booked a large party of 8, but then arrived with 10 people. We always let people know if we need the table back for another reservation later and if they don’t like that then they don’t continue with their booking; this person was fine with it (I’m starting to think we need to make people sign something to prove that they agreed because the odd one fusses about it later). So they were late for their reservation and then were outraged when they were told that we needed the table for the next party. The person who made the reservation and agreed to the time limit then pretended that she didn’t and called the server a liar! The manager spoke with them but they were impossible to appease and were very, let’s say, difficult, so of course now our staff is upset. And then she tweets about us? Not to mention they refused the 18% automatic gratuity (for large parties) and left a $4 tip on a $200 bill.

Wow.

What kills me is that the managers are being so sweet about it – they are asking that we tweet asking these people back (!!) so we can shower them with kindness and try to change their minds about us. They are bigger people than I am.

There are days when I wonder why we thought the restaurant industry would be a fun place to be. Incidents like this are destroying my faith in human nature. I know that there are some miserable people who are impossible to please and we shouldn’t worry about them, but I just wish they wouldn’t come to our restaurants and upset our staff and then say unfair one-sided things about us via social media.

OK, going to have the rest of my Sunday….

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Filed under current events ranting, Hapa Izakaya-related

Kate Middleton, the invisible royal – not!

Back in July I posted about the whole Queen-humiliates-Kate fuss and I opined that Kate would know her place and do the royals proud.

Um, not so much and she didn’t waste any time about it either. She must think she’s invisible. Take off your clothes and you’re totally undetectable! This is what happens when people fuss about what you’re wearing all the time, I guess. You just want to be free!

Was her privacy violated? Yes. Should she fully expect it to be? Yes! By the time you’re in your late twenties, you should be able to assess any situation you’re about to involve yourself in. So, marrying a royal? Pros: fame, riches, meet interesting people, lead a privileged life few get to experience, and of course, prince charming. Cons: your entire life is under a microscope and you’ll have to watch your step every minute. Actually, this was the deal before they were married. Kate’s a smart girl; she went to university. I’m sure she had reminders from palace minions hissing in her ears every chance they had. So there’s no way she should be surprised by telephoto lenses. But now she feels all violated. I think. That could just be the party line. For all we know, she wanted the world to see her topless.

You know what? I guarantee that the aristocrats are saying things like, “Well, of course she wasn’t born to it, so she doesn’t know how to behave properly,” conveniently forgetting Diana’s misbehaviour. Whenever someone who has jumped classes screws up, it’s always attributed to their origins. Remember Fergie? Because it’s all about class. I’m thinking that Kate isn’t so worried about the Queen; she’s worried about her mom. I would be. When I wore a yukata (summer-weight kimono) to a matsuri (Japanese festival) my collar was away from my neck a couple of inches because I didn’t put it on properly; my mother was mortified because apparently that’s kind of slutty, the Japanese equivalent of J-Lo’s navel-low Versace neckline. That was just two inches of the back of my neck! What must Mrs. Middleton be thinking? All their new posh friends are suddenly remembering that she and her husband were once flight attendants. I bet Pippa’s all, How do you like me now? Not to mention Harry.

I’m just shaking my head. I don’t wander around my house without clothes on and I don’t have paparazzi hiding in the shrubbery. What did they need to be naked for? Is it that thrilling? Didn’t Kate learn in her early twenties, like the rest of us, that going topless is overrated? It takes just 5 minutes of uncovered chest in the sun of the Southern Hemisphere to get burnt and it’s very awkward trying to scratch that sunburn. Lesson learned! I guess that was before she was married; she minded herself then, but now that they’re legal, it’s like, What are you going to do? That’s pretty cheeky!

I just can’t understand how Kate and William can imagine that they can be naked in public anywhere and not have their picture taken by some intrepid photographer. I’m sure this guy can’t believe his luck. It’s not like he broke into the place either – they were right out there and he was across the street. And then for the royals to demand jail time? Because Kate and William were being foolish? Seriously, the one who belongs in the Tower is Kate.

…with Harry who should be in there for all that Vegas nonsense. Why can’t these people keep their clothes on? Are they competing to see who can be naughtiest? Someone needs to tell them that streaking is passé. Soon there will be enough photos of royalty unclothed to produce a coffee table book called Naked Royals. Yes, the human body is a natural thing, we shouldn’t be ashamed, etc., etc., but who are we kidding? If you absolutely must take your clothes off because you need to be all sexy in public, keep your cool when the photos come out and don’t act all outraged and righteous about it.

These are yukata. Mine is arranged in a way that says, “Hello Sailor!” My sister’s is arranged properly. Here’s why: I arranged hers and she arranged mine. To be fair, neither of us had any idea that one of us was dressed like a slut, but there you go. This embarrassed my mother no end. I’m going to bring up Kate and remind her about this.

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Filed under current events ranting

Life&Style Magazine: “Queen Humiliates Kate” – say what?

There’s a Life&Style magazine around here (July 16, 2012) with the weirdest cover – apparently the Queen “humiliated” Kate by making her curtsey to William’s cousins, Fergie’s daughters. Do Americans not understand the concept of royal hierarchy? They are born royalty; she married in (plus she’s a commoner, hello? not that there’s anything wrong with that!). There is an order of precedence and the Queen didn’t invent it. I don’t think the Queen would stoop to thwart anyone, no matter how uppity she might privately think they’re getting, and it seems to me (not that I pay a lot of attention) that Kate is minding herself just fine. It’s not like she’s all, “I have to curtsey to these bitches?”  No, Kate gets it. Hence no need to be put in her place, and the Queen doesn’t do that anyway. Not her style, darling. Plus I definitely get the feeling that the Palace Minions are in charge of that kind of thing and that the Queen doesn’t even notice who curtseys to whom as long as everyone curtseys to her. (I actually think Kate’s got a lot of leeway as the Queen is so scarred by the hijinks of Diana and Fergie that Kate could armpit-fart the national anthem in her underwear – sorry, knickers – and the Queen would be all, Whatever. Fergie set that bar LOW, god love her.)

Have we not figured out by now that the Queen is, above all, proper? She is all about duty and doing the right thing. Her entire raison d’etre rests upon convention and tradition and she’s holding up her end amazingly well. We don’t think she enjoys visiting endless hospitals and openings of new parks and whatnot, do we? That’s her job. And she didn’t get to choose it, either. Have you noticed she doesn’t even smile that much anymore? She’s tired! But she soldiers on. She may be one of the last monarchs who is truly fulfilling her role. She’s not going all eat-pray-love because she “doesn’t know how to be a royal”. Because she understands it’s not all about her. She understands that all that incredible privilege and status comes with a price. And she is paying that price, every day, in the most gracious way possible. May she live for ever.

I’m not even going to talk about Diana because she is at this point, essentially a saint. So you cannot be critical of the People’s Princess.

Ah, I’m going to anyway. I loved Diana too, but mostly because she did all that goofy stuff when she was younger. She was a member of the aristocracy but I think that the level of privilege she enjoyed growing up gave her a bit of a bulletproof attitude towards life. I used to live in England and let me tell you, nobody curses like the upper class. They are bulletproof and can get away with anything because of the poshness. It’s the working class that are all worried about manners and being genteel. So they’re all rigid and tense about it and chew you out if you forget to shake hands at the end of a round of golf. The upper classes are different – their manners are real, ingrained yet totally unobtrusive and are geared towards making everyone feel comfortable, as opposed to taking mean joy in pointing out other people’s errors. And they use the f-word a lot. A LOT. So Diana grew up totally entitled, everything she did was awesome – but when she fell under scrutiny and was also held to a higher standard (set by her mother-in-law) she had a wee bit of trouble. It’s ok to be all careless and upper-class and entitled if the world isn’t watching and judging, but marry into the royal family? Big leagues. I think Kate will do better as she isn’t posh except in the moneyed sense and if she ran with the posh crowd you can be sure they kept her down. Remember all that nonsense about her mother telling the Queen, “Nice to meet you.” Oh, Jesus wept! “Nice to meet you!” The horror. Quelle faux pas, n’est pas? I mean, seriously? I had that from English people too, when I lived in Malaysia so I feel for Mrs. Middleton. To this day, I say “How do you do?” because I don’t know if it’s nice to meet you yet, do I? Needless to say, it’s not the posh people who drummed this into me but the striving crowd terrified to set a foot wrong. They corrected me endlessly even though I explained to them that I was Canadian and therefore exempt from all their stupid rules and if I wanted to be all English I would signal it to them with a genteelly crooked little finger when I had my tea.

The tragedy of Diana is that by the time she finally understood the demands of public life, and the role she could potentially play on the world stage, her life was cut short, and that she truly didn’t grow as a person until she left the royal family and found her vocation as a campaigner for human rights and against land mines. She found a way to turn her celebrity to good use and her warm-heartedness and ability to empathize with the unfortunate endeared her to the world, including me. I don’t care what she was doing with Dodi; she was a private citizen (sort of) at that point and entitled to date whatever dipshit took her fancy. I know the English are totally racist about this; the outrage when Al-Fayed puts up Diana and Dodi’s pictures together in the windows of Harrods during the month of the anniversary of their deaths, linking them eternally (or as long as he’s in charge of the window-dressing, anyway) is rather funny. Although it’s not pure racism; there’s a lot of snobbery there too. If he’d been a Middle Eastern prince or similar sultan-type person  it would have been better but he was just the playboy son of (gasp) a merchant! “Just a jumped-up souk dealer!” (actual quote) Ouch. It’s so ironic in a country where people are jumping like a madman all the time to get ahead so they can pretend to be posh. Why do they want to be posh, anyway? So they can say the f-word, that’s why!

Whoa, tangent. Let’s get back to princesses and royalty.

Sometimes I think Americans don’t understand the whole deal with royalty. It just doesn’t go with the whole America-Freedom thing. Take their interpretations vis-a-vis the Disney princesses. The latest one is Merida in Brave (love that movie! love Pixar!). She’s a princess, and it’s her duty to marry well in order to avoid war. The whole movie is about her fight for the freedom to choose a life for herself – an American ideal – and the arguments used to try to make her fall into line are not compelling. I can’t remember what they were, but the one that matters, the trump card, is the concept of duty, and it’s never implemented! If I were her mom, I’d be pointing out that, as a princess, she’s free to run around, she has her own horse, she gets so much free time to practice archery that she’s a crack shot, and does she think that this is just her right because she’s awesome and has killer hair? I would point out to her that she could be working in the fields, or milking cows, just to survive like everyone else, but she’s not doing that. Instead, she gets all this privilege, but in return for this she’s expected to marry well. That’s it! Of course the prospective bridegrooms would make anyone jump on a horse and head for the hills, but that’s beside the point. How many princesses in history have made happy love matches? Not too many.  Think of all the gruesome examples of “royalty” that as a princess, you could be joined to for eternity. Off the top of my head, Charles II of Spain (extensively disabled in just about every way, the gnarly Hapsburg jaw being the least of it), for an example. At least he was impotent! Why do we think Elizabeth I refused to marry? Because she had a pretty good idea of all the horror shows out there with crowns on! No, thank you! The point is, your subjects are toiling away providing you with riches and they don’t ask much, just some stability so they can keep on toiling in peace, and if your end of the bargain is to marry some chinless wonder, then you shut up and do it (except for Liz I who is in a category of her own). That’s the catch! I realize that this stipulation is no longer applicable – obviously – but there are other duties associated with being royalty and the point is you have to suck it up. Plus, if your life is too ridiculously sweet, and depends on the sweat of others, and if you’re clearly indifferent to the suffering of those others whom you’re meant to look after, then the people storm the Bastille. Nobody’s storming the Bastille whilst Elizabeth II is on the throne.

Can I talk more about Disney princesses? Take Ariel. She’s a real star. My kids love her but she endangers her entire community with her selfishness! She has to marry some guy she’s only just clapped eyes on (and is it just me or is Eric a bit of a doofus? Classic royal.) and she’s willing to become a completely different species in order to do it. This is not like she’s Jewish but she has to convert to Catholicism because Eric’s mom has threatened to kill herself if her son doesn’t get married in the Catholic Church. (Imagine going the other way: swapping legs for a tail. At least with legs you can still swim in water; with a tail you can only drag your dumb didn’t-read-the-fine-print ass around on land. So I guess it wasn’t totally stupid.) Anyway! It’s a major change and the price is her voice, so she can’t even explain herself. I notice that there’s no Mom there and there rarely is in a Disney princess story, Brave excepted. Because Mom would be like, “Explain yourself young lady! Don’t wave your hands at me! TALK TO ME!” That’s because the dads don’t really pay attention so the girls get up to shenanigans and nearly cause apocalypse and Dad notices right at the end just when everything is about to go to shit with a giant fat creepy lady octopus making gumbo with the ocean. So let’s review: King Triton first mismanages his daughter by being oblivious and then making a big display with explosions and everything (bit of overkill) instead of being fully present in his daughter’s life. So then, because she’s never been yelled at before and can’t believe Daddy raised his voice to her (such a Millennial!) she runs away and finds a sympathetic if creepy older woman who inveigles Gullible Girl into taking this ridiculously irrevocable step. Ariel just met her! She doesn’t check out references or anything. So lazy, again, Millennial. If her mom was around, this wouldn’t have happened! It’s weird that she’s got all these older sisters (Gen Xers!) and they have no clue either? What? She’s not close enough to even one of them to ask for a little advice? An older sister might have had something to say. “You’re going to get rid of your tail and get legs? It’s not like a tattoo, you know! If things don’t work out, then what? Will you wear a scuba tank the rest of your life?” Needless to say, at the end of all the mayhem she caused and other people had to fix, Ariel is rewarded for being such a selfish wagamama and Daddy gets her a new sparkly dress to boot. This is why I’m really strict with my daughters.

The rest of them…Belle’s fairly on the ball, but she’s not a princess until she marries the Beast at the end so she doesn’t count. Good example of a commoner marrying into a royal family, though! No family to speak of, however, it’s just him. Which I bet anyone who’s married into a royal family has wished for at some point or another. Just kidding! Pocahontas is a good princess – she’s concerned about her people and she helps with the work too, picking corn and squash and not just going kayaking and cliff-jumping and then doing some shrooms and talking to the trees. Mulan too, sacrifices herself for her father although it’s important to note that she’s sort of feeling like there’s nothing else for her, like when your life goes to shit so you join the military, it’s just convenient that it dovetails with the duty/sacrifice thing. Best of both worlds! The older Disney princesses, though. Who got hit with the squeaky stick? Snow White! Plus she’s sooooo dumb. Shallow end of the gene pool, I’d say. Oh those inbred royals. Sleeping Beauty – she grows up in a tiny cabin with three fairies (not the interior-designing kind) and never figures it out? Hello! Cinderella – ever heard of a lawyer? There are no family friends who are like, This is odd. Did you see the way she was dressed? And why was she doing all the fetching? She’s not a princess until she marries, like Belle, but unlike Belle, she’s none too bright. Cinderella falls in love with the first guy she dances with  – it could have been anyone! If it’s not a mouse, she’ll marry it if it will get her out from under Mean Stepmother’s thumb. And you know she will be all forgiving of her dysfunctional stepfamily when she marries the Prince. She is such a sap! I prefer the original fairy tale where the mean stepsisters cut off parts of their feet in order to fit into the slipper and to no avail as they’re ratted out by magic birds. Who then peck their eyes out. Yeah!

The best thing about this Life&Style cover is this: the big picture is of Kate looking awesome as usual, and there’s a little picture of Beatrice and Eugenie wearing somewhat matching outfits in two shades of purple, with funny hats, looking….remarkably like the mean stepsisters in Cinderella! Coincidence?

Check out the Mean Stepsisters in the bubble!

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Filed under current events ranting, Popping off about something random

Monty Robinson won’t serve any jail time! (cue gasp)

I’m going to deviate from eating-well-on-vacation posts because I’m just so annoyed by our latest bit of British Columbia-style justice, a.k.a. competition to see which judge can raise the cynicism level of our already-jaded province the highest by letting some total criminal (a.k.a., ex-police officer) off the hook.

If you live in BC, you’re probably sick of hearing about Monty Robinson already – not because he’s in the media a lot but because it reminds you of all that is apparently corrupt about the RCMP – a law enforcement organization that is supposed to uphold the law and protect us. Instead our tax dollars are hard at work building them a canteen that serves liquor (!) and paying lawyers when their members stray from the straight-and-narrow. In Robinson’s case, he’s swerved completely off the map.

In 2008, he had 5 beers at a party and then drove home with his kids in the car. See, I’m up in arms about that and he’s only just getting started. On the way, he struck and killed motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson. Instead of acting like a normal, feeling, thinking person, let alone a police officer who should bloody know better, he rushed home to do a few shots of vodka in order to disguise the fact that he was drunk when he hit Hutchinson. I know, right? The rest of us would be freaking out over the welfare of the person we’d struck, but Monty is more concerned about his own dear self. And he’s in law enforcement so he knows exactly how to mess up a Breathalyzer test, so that’s good. Imagine, your child is dying by the side of the road and the person who hit him is doing shots of Stoli in order to avoid being nailed for it. Never mind helping the victim, just get real drunk so you can return to the scene, and say, Yeah I’m real drunk now but when I hit this guy I was A-OK. It would make the angels weep. Oh, and he said in trial that he did the shots to “dull the pain” he was feeling. Poor guy! Again, it’s all about him. He’s the real victim here. But. I wonder what Orion Hutchinson was feeling?

Anyone else would wind up spending many years in jail for these kind of shenanigans, but what happens to him? Loses his job. Big deal, anybody else would lose their job too. Otherwise, he’s just getting house arrest for a blink’s worth of time. The judge is taking into account the fact that he’s an alcoholic? It’s been four years, people. Now he needs rehab? That’s super-convenient. Exactly when he’s being sentenced. What has he been doing for the past four years? What, killing someone wasn’t enough of a wake-up call? And she’s concerned because he’s native. If I were a native person I’d be hopping mad about that bit of racism. It’s exactly that kind of patronizing attitude that weakens the native community.

The judge also points out that he’d need to be in protective custody. I don’t buy this either. He strikes me as exactly the kind of guy who knows how to work any angle. Don’t they have rehab programs in prison? Two birds, one stone.

(Is it a coincidence that in 2007 he was a member of the crack team that walked into YVR and killed the hapless tourist Robert Dziekanski? Aren’t cops taught to talk people down? No, they couldn’t wait to use their lethal little toys on him. And they killed him – because he didn’t pipe down quite fast enough for them, and they gave him a whole 20 seconds. What, four guys can’t calm one exhausted guy down? Any mom with a 4-year-old could have done a better job. Just sit down cross-legged on the carpet and announce it’s circle time. Pass some snacks: Cheerios in a plastic cup, tetra-pak of apple juice. Be real calm, smile – what’s hard about this? It’s just a tantrum! No, instead they zapped him with enough electrical current to stop a bear. Easier. More fun. And then….they totally lied about it! Even though there was video, can I have a duh for the brothahs? Angels. Weeping.)

OMG, I’ve been dying to get that out for 5 years. My heart is with Dziekanski’s mom, Zofia Cisowski, and the parents of Orion Hutchinson, whose pain I feel today. It’s just insult on injury when wrongdoers walk away from out-and-out crimes, and when those wrongdoers are members of law enforcement agencies it’s a monstrous betrayal of the public trust. Frankly, I think that when police officers commit these crimes their punishment should be more than for the average person. Like when they threaten to double the fine when you speed in a construction zone. Sometimes the average citizen idiot breaks the law just out of cluelessness, or laziness, but a cop? Should know better. And they do it anyway. Like the officer that was selling weed? That’s baaaad. And the punishment should be commensurate with that fact. We should hold them to a higher standard.

I know there are lots of police officers out there toiling away and doing a great job, like the guys who came out when I called 911 because someone banged on my door in the middle of the night. As it turned out, there was a car parked in front of the house with its lights on and the person was actually being a good Samaritan and trying to let us know. But he scared the bejesus out of me and I called my husband and then I called the cops. So the police arrived lickety-split, and while they were looking round the house and the yard my husband comes screeching around the corner like a bat out of hell, startling me, startling them, and….well, I’m just glad they didn’t have tasers and were very calm people, that’s all. Also they were VPD.

Although….sometimes I wonder about the VPD too. We are members of RestaurantWatch, which is an organization designed to make drug dealers and gang members regret their means of livelihood by essentially identifying and shaming them when they try to go out to a restaurant for a meal. Basically like BarWatch, except that with BarWatch the officers can just come in to any bar and have a wander round, and nab the “baddies”. With RestaurantWatch the staff are obliged to call RestaurantWatch squad and have them come in and roust the identified alleged gang members. They make them pay their bill first, which is the important part. Now the RestaurantWatch squad are well-trained in discretion and don’t make a big deal about moving people along. But here’s the thing. The officers responding to the call aren’t always trained in RestaurantWatch protocol! That’s when it gets exciting. More than once we’ve had a small army come tromping in, say in loud voices with pointing fingers, “That them? Looks like them!” and turning to the horrified manager, “They’re the ones you called us to kick out, right?” In full view and hearing of all patrons. This is unbelievably mortifying and terrifying to our staff. Although it must be said that the identified persons are almost always beautifully-mannered about it, or at least don’t give the staff a hard time. There was one time that a few guys came back but it turned out they had forgotten to tip and were returning to rectify that little omission, God love them. So while RestaurantWatch, while an admirable program designed to take a bite out of crime by not allowing crime to have a bite of anything at all, in theory, is not perfect in practice. And that’s not the fault of the guys heading up the program, who are awesome. I guess it’s going to take a little time to get a bit more seamless. But I would think it’s just common sense, wouldn’t you? They way they do it, they may as well bring a big bullseye to spang on the manager’s shirt. So, while the VPD are on the whole a well-disciplined organization (great restraint during the riot; I was worried it would look like a Punch-and-Judy show with batons going up and down but it wasn’t), they aren’t perfect. But who among us is?

Whew! My goodness! So self-righteous! Tomorrow I’ll have to talk about makeup or similar just to balance out the vitriol.

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