Darwin and a Model-T Ford launch the silly season

By Pat Watson Wednesday December 12 2012 in Opinion
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Here’s how we know we’re into the silly season: Darwin. The end-of-year, Christmas season is the happy excuse used by journalists and reporters to slough off the horrors it is their duty to report on daily and rather to engage in a little levity.


As people who report the news the rest of us consume, the accumulative effect of detailing war, famine, murder, mayhem and injustice, not to mention blazing buildings and auto accidents, can take its toll. So it is that one perquisite scribes allow themselves is to indulge in news of a lighter kind come Christmas.


That might explain the worldwide attention to Darwin, the seven-month-old rhesus monkey stylishly dress in a well-fitting, beige shearling coat, captured on film while running around the parking area of the local Ikea. A boon for getting the name of the furniture giant all over the airwaves, it was more so a moment tailor-made not just in terms of Darwin’s coat, but perfectly timed for the silly season.


Because it works like this: Escaped rhesus monkey, maybe newsworthy. Escaped rhesus monkey fabulously dressed in a coat and escaping a locked car in an Ikea parking lot – a gift from the silly season gods. And one doesn’t even have to check Twitter to confirm this, although doing so surely will.


There is Darwin with the obvious photo-shopped pairing of Rob Ford at City Hall, and there’s Darwin sitting on rap star Drake’s shoulder. Jokes abound about how the little guy got out of his cage and then the owner’s car using an Allen key, that little tool used in assembling many of the products sold at Ikea. But my favourite has to be the one with Darwin in escape mode in the parking zone with the caption taken from a well-known Ikea commercial, “Start the car, start the car.”


One can just imagine executives of some of the other big box stores wondering why they couldn’t have had the good fortune of the monkey landing in their parking lot. They couldn’t buy this kind of publicity.


Swept into the silly season net is the headline “Model-T Ford breaks down”. The Economist magazine got into the season by reporting on the “short, chaotic reign of Rob Ford”, characterizing Toronto’s 64th mayor’s “bombastic, polarising manner” and the “turmoil surrounding him” which it says “has added to the troubles of Canada’s business capital… struggling with an unwieldy political structure, financial strain and horrendous transport problems.”


Granted the article did not take a tone of silliness, but dealing with the subject of Ford’s tenure means observations on some of the foolishness we are all by now aware of would, of necessity, be included.


This time of year means we can link the plight of hockey fans and the parents of elementary school children. That would be the current lockout during the National Hockey League Players’ Association negotiations with the team owners and the standoff between Ontario’s provincial government and protesting teachers. Talk about face-offs. For the hockey professionals it’s about the money. Hockey fan are in series withdrawal, actually counting the days, now nearing 90, since the negotiations began. Many are bitter.


At the same time, some teachers’ unions have already made their peace with the province but the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), with membership of 76,000, is having none of it. Their argument with the government is less about money than the government’s decision to take away their right to strike.


Parents who have to make alternate plans for their young children may not find it amusing that they have to face rotating one-day strikes, including today in Toronto.


In response, high school students have been rallying with a call for the adults to start being more mature, which is always a weird turn. But it also means the kids are receiving an unplanned civics lesson that will resonate far more now, and in years to come, than any classroom lecture.


Finally, back to Darwin. What does it say about our times that there are monkeys out there better dressed and better insulated against the weather than some local people?


A note for those who missed a Christmas classic…


If you have children, or you’re still a child at heart, there is a Christmas tradition that comes with living in this adopted country: watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas with family. But if you didn’t catch the annual airing of this animated gem earlier this week on CBC, you may have to wait until next year.


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