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On Christy Clark and the bold-faced photo op

I know, I know, 'tis the season to be jolly, to ho ho ho one's way through the stressed hordes looking for the spirit of Christmas at the cash register. And I enjoy having a partridge on my pear tree as much as the next person. But despite the relentless urging of Burl Ives to have a holly, jolly Christmas, my inner humbug keeps surfacing.

With the spirit of Scrooge in mind, I timorously suggest that Christy Clark may have hit a new low in shameless photo ops.

Or perhaps there was a legitimate reason for the Premier of all the people, clad in a short-sleeved Vancouver Whitecaps jersey, to shepherd newly signed Korean star Lee Young-Pyo around a Coquitlam shopping mall on Thursday, besieged by adoring Korean-Canadians. And, if you give me a year or two, I'm sure I can figure out what it was.

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While not exactly a photo op, I also note the appearance in a skimpy morning newspaper of Ms. Clark and young son Hamish "staying true to the tree tradition." In other words, they bought a Christmas tree.

As a bonus, the article provided the Premier's five tips for selecting a festive fir. I particularly liked Tip 2: "Consider how long it will take to decorate, and how costly the decorations will be."

Thank you, Premier. Not even 10 lords a-leaping would have thought of that one. Of course, the subtext of the entire heartwarming event was: Adrian Dix hates Christmas.

And yes, coal for me.

Hot time for tailpipe standards

It's been below zero, dry and sunny in Kamloops-North Thompson this week.

No wonder Environment Minister and local MLA Terry Lake is having trouble getting used to the heat and humidity of Durban, host of the climate summit that has paid some attention to this province's emission reduction measures.

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The hot and bothered minister was observed fanning himself with brochures (old Liberal campaign promises?) to keep cool – in an air-conditioned room, yet! – during a panel discussion at which he hailed B.C.'s vehicle tailpipe standard. "This model of innovation at the sub-national level building momentum for federal action is compelling, and we hope to see it accelerate," Mr. Lake told transfixed, perspiring delegates.

Alas, the federal Environment Minister, former CBC news reader Peter Kent, was too busy bobbing and weaving and trying to appear concerned about global warming without committing to do anything about it. So Mr. Kent did not hear Mr. Lake's sweaty plea for Ottawa to do more on the vehicle tailpipe standard issue.

Frye's favourite things

Not many can spin an anecdote involving both Canada's greatest literary sage, Northrop Frye, and the NDP. But I can.

So, rather than give up my "Better Dead Than Socred" button, I hereby bequeath the following small tale, in honour of the B.C. NDP's 50th anniversary.

Some time in the 1970s, Henry Rosovsky, dean of arts at a place near the home of the big, bad Boston Bruins otherwise known as Harvard, was trying to lure Mr. Frye south.

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Exasperated by the renowned scholar's stubborn refusal to bring his shaggy sideburns and brilliant intellect to Harvard, claiming he would miss Canada, Mr. Rosovsky challenged him: "Name three things you would miss."

Before you could say T.S. Eliot, Mr. Frye replied: "The United Church of Canada, the CBC and the NDP."

No wonder the RCMP's crackerjack spy masters compiled such a big dossier on the closet pinko. Surprisingly, however, it wasn't Mr. Frye's dense theories of literary criticism that perplexed the lads in serge. It was something else. "At the present time, we are unable to ascertain what the initial 'H' stands for in Frye's name," a stymied constable reported.

An old vet remembers

A shameful 70 years late, the Japanese government has finally apologized for that country's inhumane treatment of Canadian prisoners of war. I immediately thought of Flash Clayton.

Mr. Clayton, still hearty in his early 90s, was hit and captured during Japan's onslaught against inexperienced Canadian soldiers and other colonial troops stationed in Hong Kong.

On Christmas Day, 1941, Japanese troops slaughtered all nurses and wounded soldiers on the first floor of a small hospital. Then they began to shoot those on the second floor, where Mr. Clayton waited to die.

Just before it was his turn, the allied forces on the island formally surrendered, and Mr. Clayton was spared, only to spend the next 44 months in a living, starving hell as a prisoner and then as a work slave in a Japanese coal mine.

Mr. Clayton watched many of his buddies die during their long, terrible captivity. It's a wonder anyone survived.

On Thursday, I asked Flash what he thought of Japan's apology. His response was quick and to the point. "This doesn't bring the guys back," the old vet said.

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