Tom Oleson

  • Abortion should be debated continuously

    An old Slovenian proverb proclaims a good fart is worth nine doctors. And that may be true. But even if it is true, no matter how beneficial it might be, health-wise, we don't rip one in the office or anywhere else in polite society. It's our wives and our children who have to endure our health-care program in the privacy of our homes.
  • She was some woman

    There are many different reasons for mourning. The British writer of nonsense verse, Harry Graham, defined one of them:
  • Answer your tattoo, your phone is ringing

    THE only good thing about having a cellphone is that you can turn it off. When whomever is tugging on that electronic leash asks you, "Why didn't you answer when I called?" you can always say "I was at a meeting," or (my favourite) "I was at church" or explain the Inkster Industrial Park where the Free Press and other unlucky industries have the misfortune to be located is mostly a dead zone, which has the advantage of being true about everything except cellphones so one can say it with some conviction. But imagine a cellphone that can never be turned off, that would ring wherever you are and no matter what you are doing. It would be kind of like having a GPS device implanted in your brain -- you can be tracked and mapped, stalked even, by whomever is tugging on the other end of that leash.
  • Loud, proud and willing to pay $11 for a hot dog

    I finally got to see a Jets game at the MTS Centre recently. The tickets came courtesy of my niece Susan and her husband Kevin -- the Free Press has never invited me to sit in its box -- and before that gift I didn't think I would get a chance to see a game during the first year of the Return of the Team. But I did and it was great. The Jets won, which was good, but it was also mostly incidental. Win or lose, the odds of them making the playoffs were somewhere between slim and none.
  • One to watch...

    Brian Pallister

    THE Manitoba Progressive Conservatives have effectively been without a leader for more than six months, ever since Hugh McFadyen's disappointing performance in the Oct. 4 provincial election.

  • Yikes! They want to make pensions fit future pensioners

    I am part of the "lump of labour" that critics say would be created if the eligibility for the old age pension is raised from 65 years old to 67. I know this is true because I saw it on the CBC this week, where one of the "Bottom-Liners" on The National spelled it out in some detail. It seems that every old-timer who clings to her job rather than going home to vegetate or, preferably, from a budgetary point of view, decently die and save the rest of us the health-care costs of her dotage is keeping some young person out of the workplace, thus further upping the costs of senile security.
  • Time to catch up with the real world... hah!

    My daughters bought me a pair of sweatpants this week, which reminded me of just how tricky a thing time is. Time is almost beyond normal human comprehension, regardless of how many watches and clocks and cellphone alarms we may be surrounded by in the course of a day.
  • Stumbling through the garden of life

    In Western cultures, in most Eastern cultures -- in fact in almost all cultures -- family lineage is traced through the male line of descent. The father's ancestors, the father's descendants, form a continuous stream of DNA that proclaims the family's presence in the world today, in history and in the future. It is also basically stuff and nonsense, as every woman knows. The only cultures that have any guarantee of a continuous stream of DNA up and down the generations are those that trace their lineage through the mother. Everyone knows, every time, who the mother of the baby actually is; the child's paternity, on the other hand, is pretty much an act of faith.
  • Too Catholic for the Catholic Church?

    According to social media reporter Lindsey Wiebe, who knows a lot of things about electricity and websites and stuff, a news story about a Catholic school, an enthusiastic principal and an anti-abortion vigil late last year elicited more comments from readers than any other story in the history of the Free Press website -- 1,002 to be precise. And that doesn't include the comments that accompanied the followup stories that came when the combination of these three elements coalesced into a crisis that has turned the life of the principal upside down, embarrassed the Catholic school system and may have brought back into the public mind the long-dormant debate over the morality of abortion.
  • Contentment, it seems, is the gift of poverty

    According to a recent poll, of all the people in the world, Icelanders are about the most contented with the quality of their lives. There might be an island in Polynesia where people are happier -- and who would not be happier on some warm Pacific atoll than on a wind-swept piece of rock in the North Atlantic? -- but if there is, it doesn't show up in this Capacent Gallup poll. "Happy Icelanders" sounds a little bit -- quite a lot, actually -- like an oxymoron. The New York Times once referred to Icelanders as a notoriously lugubrious breed, and the immigrants who came to Canada in the 19th century brought that same sense of solemnity with them. If you have ever heard a joke about Icelanders or Icelandic-Canadians, please share it -- as an Icelandic-Canadian, I would like the opportunity to stop taking myself so seriously.
  • Bad law is really taxing

    Life would be a lot easier if we could somehow do away with refrigerator magnets and police photo radar and red-light cameras. In most homes, refrigerators seem to be constantly covered with messages attached by little magnets in the shape of Yogi Bear or some other dismal cartoon-character as a reminder of just how bleak your childhood really was. None of these message is ever good news.
  • Teeing up a new cold war

    AS global warming continues, as the Arctic ice caps melt, New York City will find itself underwater, the flagpole of the Empire State Building being the last, lorn sign there was ever civilization there at all (it kind of sounds like a bad science-fiction movie but it's too, too true, according to environmentalists.) As temperatures continue to climb, Manitoba's grain belt will turn into either an arid desert or a lush jungle, depending on which apocalyptic predictor you prefer -- personally, I would prefer the jungle, as long as there aren't big spiders and snakes.
  • It's the cold of human companionship

    BABY, it's cold outside. That should hardly come as a surprise to any Winnipegger, but somehow it always does. The weather goes along nicely at least through September, but then, starting sometime in October, it gets a little shabby. There's almost always snow before Halloween, but except in the worst of years, it goes away. Sometimes, even November can be nice, as it was this year, but we always know the snow and the cold will come as inevitably as death and taxes.
  • Better for daughters, better for sons

    There is nothing like one of the brats having a birthday to make a man feel old. My eldest daughter, Jennifer, turned 24 on Thursday. To mark the occasion we went for dinner at Rae and Jerry's, which is a nice change from McDonald's. At the table, there was, of course, the birthday girl herself and Megan, a friend of hers who is about the same age. There was a close family friend, Bob, who is in his 80s, there was me, who is kind of 60ish -- not that I'm trying to be coy about this -- and my wife, Jen's mother, who believes she is still in her 30s and I am not about to argue with that. If there's one thing you learn during a 40ish-year career in the newspaper business, it is survival skills.
  • ‘We are more than nothing and deserve better’

    MANY of the problems and predicaments we find ourselves facing in life are the result of the simple fact that, as individuals or as members of a group, we are not as free as we sometimes think we are. This oppression may not be so much a problem — a problem, after all, implies there is a solution — as it is a condition of life that we all have to live with, but that does not mean there are not ways to deal with it.
  • 'We are more than nothing and deserve better'

    Many of the problems and predicaments we find ourselves facing in life are the result of the simple fact that, as individuals or as members of a group, we are not as free as we sometimes think we are. This oppression may not be so much a problem -- a problem, after all, implies there is a solution -- as it is a condition of life that we all have to live with, but that does not mean there are not ways to deal with it.
  • What's a poor sinner to do, nowadays?

    MY wife thinks I am an angry man. She is wrong about that, as she is about many things about me -- I am actually taller than she, and, to be honest, most people think I am. You would think after more than 30 years of marriage she would know me a little bit better. In truth, I am not angry or short; I am just shortish and easily annoyed, as both of my long-suffering daughters can attest. Anger is sometimes thought of as one of the seven deadly sins, but, in fact, it is not. Anger is, rather, a virtue. You may have heard of righteous anger. That is what you feel when something happens that is so egregiously wrong that it compels you to react, even if that reaction is nothing more than a silent scream or something so powerful that it makes you want to go to war. Rude store clerks and late delivery of your newspaper are enough to prompt the lesser reaction; events such as 9/11 and Iran's manufacture of a nuclear bomb to use against Israel are an example of events that evoke the more serious response.
  • Ode to a loved one's dangling, greyish parts

    SNAKES crawl at night, as the song sings, and since most of us don't like snakes, that reminds us that we also don't much like things that go bump in the night, or things that only sneak around in the darkling of the day — mosquitoes, for example — and spiders and mice and rats and gangsters in Winnipeg's core area or even its suburbs. One wouldn't think, however, that this list would include an orchid. Orchids are, in our imaginations at least, pretty flowers that guys sometimes give to girls, or, perhaps in these more enlightened days, girls sometimes give to guys, although personally I have never been given an orchid by a woman, which may say more about my own social inadequacies than it does about the state of contemporary social mores.
  • I'll pass on those salty Brussels sprouts, though

    PROBABLY the only thing that almost everyone agrees on about salt is that it tastes good. And pretty well everyone agrees if something tastes good, then it has to be bad for you -- if you want to live forever, you should eat nothing but Brussels sprouts. They taste terrible, but like most foods that taste terribly bad, they are supposed to be good for you. Why is this so? Well, no one ever said God had to be a nice guy. I continue to pass on the Brussels sprouts -- who wants to live forever anyway, especially on those terms? -- but I continue to eat more salt than is probably good for me just because it tastes so good on almost anything.
  • Stay out of my bedroom, please

    King Solomon had, according to reliable reports such as the Bible, about 700 wives and 300 concubines as well as assorted paramours, including the Queen of Sheba. He was also notoriously wise. We all know the story of the disputed baby and his decision that the child should be cut in half and each half given to one of the disputant mothers, a wise but otherwise ugly decision that had a fortunate outcome -- the true mother offered to forfeit her claim to her child rather than see it killed and Solomon awarded sole custody of the kid to her.
  • Don't blame the Pill; it's your own damn fault

    THERE are, as every responsible adult knows, many urgent reasons to practise safe sex. Even irresponsible teenagers -- we might as well be realistic here -- understand, at least in principle, why safe sex is a Good Thing, even though, like many responsible adults, they don't pay much attention to it when they get right down to the real nitty-gritty. Among those good reasons that are so often ignored is the old hobgoblin of unwanted pregnancy that haunts us all -- or at least that haunts most of you since I have already had to deal with Accidental, Unexpected and Caboose, three of the finest children you would ever want to meet -- and, of course, the plethora of sexually transmitted diseases of varying degrees of deadliness that we and Mother Nature have collaborated in creating.
  • Dislike our decorum? Well, x-word you!

    FIDDLESTICKS!” fussed Manitoba NDP member of Parliament Pat Martin when the federal Conservative government led by (expletive deleted) Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced closure on debate over the budget. Actually, Martin did not say fiddlesticks. He said a word that is more commonly heard in his constituency than that antiquarianism and which is more familiar across the country as well, even if you will never read it in the hallowed pages of the family-friendly Winnipeg Free Press or almost any other newspaper in the country, or for that matter, on any TV or radio news show, where skirting around it is a little more problematic.
  • Embracing the future will cost you an extra quarter

    WHEN did the "public" part of the purpose of the Winnipeg public transit system disappear? That's a rhetorical question, of course. It disappeared from the minds and the dreams and the hallucinations of city planners, the day the words "rapid transit system" seduced their rationality. We could be glamourous, prosperous hives of tourism and economic activity if only we had a rapid transit system. It's not so much that we need one in any practical sense; it's that we need to have one no matter what the cost, what the impracticality, what the sacrifice to other city services -- starting with that traditional sad-sack of civic life, public transit -- because that's what big cities do.
  • As social media spread, Big Brother gets tech savvy

    No matter however often you might "flog the dolphin" in Pakistan, you can't talk about it on your cellphone and you definitely cannot tell a friend in a text message that you have done so. If you do, you risk going to a jail where flogging the dolphin will be a fond and distant memory. The government of Pakistan has released a list of words and phrases that cannot be used in text messages and "flogging the dolphin" is one of them.
  • Go ahead, wash your hands -- if you are a sociopath

    THIS is kind of a delicate subject, so if you are an overly sensitive person you might just want to move on, but it occurred to me recently that the whole idea of washing one's hands in public washrooms, as they are presently constructed, is counterproductive. Consider the whole process. You go into the comfort station, you pee or you potty, depending on your preference or the compulsion, and you fix yourself up to go back out into the public eye. So far, you have touched almost nothing but yourself; you are no more contaminated by any germs, viruses or bacterial zombies than you were when you went into the loo.

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