…intended as a Portuguese–English conversational guide or phrase book; however, as the “English” translations provided are usually inaccurate or incoherent, it is regarded as a classic source of unintentional humour in translation.
Even a quick glance at its suggested English phrases and you’ll see the humour. It reads more like a guide for the speech of the beloved character of Manuel in Fawlty Towers than a guide for visitors and immigrants: “We will first to see him in outside, after we shall go in there for to look the interior.”
The book was originally published in France in 1855, with Pedro Carolino named as the sole author. Later editions added José da Fonseca as a co-author. The original title translates as “The New Guide to Conversation, in Portuguese and English, in Two Parts.” A British edition came out in 1882, with the title wittily translated as English as She is Spoke, and it stuck in English editions thereafter.
To the tune of Sounds of Silence, with apologies to Paul Simon…
Hello, winter, my old friend
I have a bone to pick, again
Because a snowplow softly creeping
Passed my house while I was sleeping
My driveway’s blocked and I’m shovelling again
My back’s in pain
I curse these days of winter.
Every day we play this game.
Digging out then filled again.
The snow drifts reach up unto my knees
Beneath the heavy snow my pipes do freeze
Each time I clear my driveway of the heavy load I know
There’ll be more snow.
I hear the plow a-coming.
And in the morning light I saw
Ten thousand shovels, maybe more
People shovelling without speaking
People shovelling their backs creaking
People piling snow on mounds that tower high
To reach the sky
The daily curse of winter.
“Fools,” said I, “You do not know
Snowdrifts like a mountain grows.
Snowblowers may throw it far and wide
But the drifts never do subside.”
From above, as the silent snowflakes churn
The plow returns
I curse the days of winter.
And the snowplow flew and sprayed
Another driveway wall it made
And shovels rose up and fell again
As the neighbours groaned and backs did bend
And the snow it continued to fall down
The plow turned ’round
Just another day of winter.
Brian Saunderson needs a new campaign slogan, now he’s officially filed papers in his ill-fated race to become mayor against the hard-working, well-liked, ethical, community-minded, former police chief, John Trude. It’s not good enough for Brian to run on his slogans from last election – “I’ll Show ‘Em Who’s Boss!”, “My Way or the Highway!”, “Why Be Open and Accountable When Secrecy and Deception Get My Way So Much Better?” and the local favourite, “I’ll Get Even With All of You!”
Last election, he launched his campaign on the coattails of a phony OPP investigation based on innuendo, wildly unfounded allegation and a nasty conspiracy theory. That story was hyped by his ski-hill buddy, a CBC reporter. But because the public are onto his game and know the story was a hoax – after more than six years, the police have not identified or interviewed, much less charged, anyone – now Brian must fling his feces from new places to gain traction.
This spring, he launched his campaign by burdening taxpayers with a potentially $6 million, yet entirely unnecessary judicial inquiry to look into an open, transparent and legal process that happened way back in 2011-12. Sure, it’s another transparent attention-getting hoax cooked up with his desperate campaign team, and I suspect it will carve him a place in local history as the most vindictive, petulant politician ever. But it did get him attention among sycophantic local media and the echo chamber of Collingwood’s version of Faux News lite (run by his BFF).
And guess who he brought to town to publicize the inquiry even before anyone in the public or local media heard about it? Right: his CBC buddy from the ski club.
His local pet barnacle – so divorced from facts and truth in his online spume that he makes alt-right harridan Alex Jones seem credible – filed a complaint with the integrity commissioner against Mayor Cooper for trying to do her elected job honourably and honestly. And to twist the knife in her back, Brian and his Block minions gleefully made sure that the Integrity Commissioner came to council to publicly humiliate her. Nothing like a public flogging of a popular woman to garner votes, eh, Brian?
Like last election, Brian still has no cohesive platform for managing the intricacies of bureaucracy, holding the line on spending, keeping taxes low, maintaining infrastructure, engaging the citizens, collaborating with others for the greater good, helping the economy, or ensuring safe streets, clean water and clean air. So instead, he desperately needs to distract voters from his egregious lack of substance and commitment with an unrivalled show of nastiness and pettiness well beyond even that he has exhibited these past four years. It’s already well underway.
A few preliminary verses for your consideration this holiday season… perhaps my readers might like to offer their contributions or extend the verses below.
To the tune of The Holly and the Ivy:
The folly of our council,
So evident to see
Fumble, flail and bumble
Of this we all agree.
O the rising of our taxes
And consultants not a few
The lawyers that they hired
Block vendettas to see through.
To the tune of: We Three Kings of Orient Are:
We the Block of Council votes are
Conflicts of interest we bring from afar
Sell our airport, sell the utilities
Follow our CAO…
O we don’t need your public voice
No consultation or input
We know what’s best, we know what’s right
The meeting door stays closed shut
To the tune of Silent Night:
Silent night, in camera night
All is secret, that’s our right
Round yon interim CAO
Gather and listen to what he says so
We do his bidding, we must
In his deep wisdom we trust
To the tune of Good King Wenceslas:
Cam Ecclestone he raised his hand
And voted to defeat it,
When recorded vote was called
He stood. It was approved.
Could not recall his vote that night,
When the media asked him.
Brian had to lecture him,
On The Block’s agen-en-da.
To the tune of It Came Upon a Midnight Clear:
The Block they went in camera
They wanted no public to hear.
When selling our utility
Their private agendas were clear.
To the tune of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer:
Kathy’s a happy councillor
Her expenses she thinks are fab
She flies around the country while
Taxpayers pick up the tab.
All of the other Blockheads
Voted for her to play
She parties without restrictions
While the rest of us must pay.
On the first day of Christmas my council gave to me:
An interim CAO.
On the second day of Christmas, my council gave to me:
Two tax hikes,
And an interim CAO.
On the third day of Christmas, my council gave to me:
Three sole-sourced contracts, two tax hikes,
And an interim CAO.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my council gave to me:
Four integrity investigations, three sole-sourced contracts, two tax hikes,
And an interim CAO.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my council gave to me:
Five insults to the CGMH, four integrity investigations, three sole-sourced contracts, two tax hikes,
And an interim CAO.
On the sixth day of Christmas, my council gave to me:
Six airport rejections, five insults to the CGMH, four integrity investigations, three sole-sourced contracts, two tax hikes,
And an interim CAO.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my council gave to me:
Seven hundred dollar an hour lawyer, six airport rejections, five insults to the CGMH, four integrity investigations, three sole-sourced contracts, two tax hikes,
And an interim CAO.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my council gave to me:
Eight outside consultants, seven hundred dollar an hour lawyer, six airport rejections, five insults to the CGMH, four integrity investigations, three sole-sourced contracts, two tax hikes,
And an interim CAO.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my council gave to me:
Nine ethical violations, eight outside consultants, seven hundred dollar an hour lawyer, six airport rejections, five insults to the CGMH, four integrity investigations, three sole-sourced contracts, two tax hikes,
And an interim CAO.
On the tenth day of Christmas, my council gave to me:
Ten in camera meetings, nine ethical violations, eight outside consultants, seven hundred dollar an hour lawyer, six airport rejections, five insults to the CGMH, four integrity investigations, three sole-sourced contracts, two tax hikes,
And an interim CAO.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my council a gave to me:
Eleven phony reports, ten in camera meetings, nine ethical violations, eight outside consultants, seven hundred dollar an hour lawyer, six airport rejections, five insults to the CGMH, four integrity investigations, three sole-sourced contracts, two tax hikes,
And an interim CAO.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my council gave to me:
Twelve attacks on Collus, eleven phony reports, ten in camera meetings, nine ethical violations, eight outside consultants, seven hundred dollar an hour lawyer, six airport rejections, five insults to the CGMH, four integrity investigations, three sole-sourced contracts, two tax hikes,
And an interim CAO.
As we reach the end of our Council’s second year in office, halfway through its mandate, it is time again to assess the collective performance and list the accomplishments of our elected officials.
To avoid accusations of egregious negativity, I will list council’s accomplishments first. And to avoid further accusations of meandering through overly long diatribes (mea culpa, I do ramble a bit…), I will split this post into two pieces. The good (this post) and the bad (a subsequent post).
For a historical comparison, you might wish to refer to my analysis of council’s first year prior to reading this piece. It will give you some context. And maybe a reason to drink, too. It was that kind of year.
So here it is: all of the remarkable achievements and accomplishments of Collingwood Council by the end of its second year:
You can no longer toss birdseed onto your driveway or patio.
Now don’t be misled into think this legislation isn’t a significant achievement. Consider the ramifications of having people toss their birdseed willy nilly around their property. It would be chaos. And it might attract squirrels. The very notion that squirrels might get at the birdseed makes some folks at the table apoplectic. It must have taken hours and hours of in camera discussion and secret negotiation to get this passed. Given the calibre of the minds at the table, this is The Block’s greatest intellectual accomplishment this term and could possibly be council’s most fondly recalled legacy for decades to come.
Public discussion, input or consultation has been shut out.
Democracy is far too messy already to allow the public to hear what council is saying about major policies and operations, so everything worth discussing has been moved behind closed doors where public scrutiny won’t embarrass anyone at the table. And why should the public be allowed to comment on things that affect them? Better they don’t know and so they can’t respond. That way the oily gears of governance and patronage won’t be slowed down by having to deal with messy public input or media oversight. So what if it’s your utility, your airport, your taxes? The Block will decide what’s best for us without asking our opinion. You don’t matter: only their opinion matters. And just in case you thought you could complain, The Block fired the Integrity Commissioner. Why have public scrutiny when you avoid public input? And forget those election promises of openness and transparency. You knew they were just kidding, right?
Our reputation is ruined and our relationships with our municipal neighbours is in the dumpster.
Utility boards have been alienated. The hospital and medical staff enraged. Developers infuriated. The OEB is investigating council. The Information and Privacy Commissioner is investigating council. The Ombudsman is investigating council. PowerStream hates us. Collus hates us. Clearview hates us. Wasaga Beach hates us. New Tecumseth hates us. The airport users and developers hate us. The hospital board hates us. It can only be a sign of strength to stand alone. The Block has proven Collingwood can go it alone without regionalism, support, allies, partners or friends. The town’s strategic goal has been to emulate our governing Blockheads and be friendless and mirthless. And in this endeavour they have been highly successful. You don’t think that’s impressive? The Block and our administration put unstinting effort into making Collingwood is the North Korea of Ontario municipalities. Imagine how little we’d care about Kim Jong Un if he had international friends or was a competent ruler. He’d be like us. And now we’re just like him. Well done!
There you have it. Everything this council has accomplished this term. Three major accomplishments that in olden days would merit a rousing song from a bard, and plaques or even bronze statues scattered about the community.
With the positives safely out of the way, in an upcoming post I will examine the downside: the Blockheads’ failures and debacles, their endless efforts to destroy people, institutions, and relationships, their gobsmacking waste of tax dollars to pursue petty vendettas and personal agendas, their arrogant self-interests, their conniving, their secrecy, their blatant dishonesty and their egregious ineptness and all the rest. But so as not to keep you in too much suspense, here’s a quick preview of all the things council did wrong, all of their evil, malicious and underhanded actions to date this term:
I missed my calling. I realize that, now I am semi-retired and counting my pennies. But I could have been like Deepak Chopra: rolling in dough, had I been astute enough to see the trends. Too late, I suppose, for me, but maybe not for you.
All my life I have criticized and lampooned New Age notions as fuzzy-headed, pseudoscience codswallop. But I should have embraced them because, it seems, there’s money to be had in conning and conniving. Lots of it. Instead of debunking and deconstructing the diaphanous piffle that gets spewed from these folk, I should have been plagiarizing from them.
I’m a writer. I could easily tossed together a word salad of New Age bafflegab liberally spiced with buzzwords, phrases and aphorisms lifted from classical and Oriental sources. Written a pretentious self-help book full of woo hoo, like Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret” or “The Power” – bestselling pap for the hard of thinking. Both of which were the butt of a merciless critique in 2010 in The New York Times:
“The Power” and “The Secret” are larded with references to magnets, energy and quantum mechanics. This last is a dead giveaway: whenever you hear someone appeal to impenetrable physics to explain the workings of the mind, run away — we already have disciplines called “psychology” and “neuroscience” to deal with those questions. Byrne’s onslaught of pseudoscientific jargon serves mostly to establish an “illusion of knowledge,” as social scientists call our tendency to believe we understand something much better than we really do. In one clever experiment by the psychologist Rebecca Lawson, people who claimed to have a good understanding of how bicycles work (and who ride them every day) proved unable to draw the chain and pedals in the correct location.
Or I could have written a New Age book that tossed science and reason out the proverbial window and filled the pages with pseudoscience nonsense, like that supreme wingnut, Masuro Emoto’s cringeworthy book, The Secret of Water. He claims water’s feelings can be hurt by yelling at it. Stop laughing: that’s just what landed me here. Follow the path to riches instead. Embrace your inner con artist.
My book would be replete with similar deep-sounding but essentially meaningless statements and nebulous epithets that no one can quite counter because to do so makes the challenger seem shallow and dim. Like these (can you guess the sources?):
“The unexplainable unfolds through existential molecules.”*
“Your heart is the continuity of a symbolic representation of facts.”*
“The goal of meridians is to plant the seeds of karma rather than desire.**
“You and I are dreamweavers of the quantum soup.”**
“There is no fixed physical reality, no single perception of the world, just numerous ways of interpreting world views as dictated by one’s nervous system and the specific environment of our planetary existence.” ***
“No matter how closely you examine the water, glucose, and electrolyte salts in the human brain, you can’t find the point where these molecules became conscious.” ***
“Consciousness conceives, governs, constructs, and becomes the activity of the body.” ***
I found it! I stumbled across the secret manifesto The Block is using to destroy Collingwood. It’s in a book called “13 Ways to Kill Your Community” (Frontenac House, 2010) by Doug Griffiths and Kelley Clemmer. And pretty much everything in it outlines The Block’s not-so-secret plan to turn this community into rubbish.
I know, you’re going to object, “But Ian, you know The Block doesn’t read! How can something as big as a book be their secret manifesto when they won’t even read Municipal World or their own budget?”
Because, dear reader, the book was written in 2010, before they came to power. No doubt their handlers reduced its contents to simple sentences and one-syllable words, then wrote them out in crayon for The Block to digest before the 2014 election campaign. Trust me: once you see what’s in it, you will realize this is the path The Block have followed since they were elected.
Here for example, is the list of chapter headings:
Don’t have quality water.
Don’t attract business.
Ignore your youth.
Deceive yourself about your real needs or values.
Live in the past.
Ignore your seniors.
Reject everything new.
Don’t take responsibility.
See? This list precisely lays out what The Block have been doing since the election. And I’ll get to each in detail, a bit further along. Call it the Thirteen Commandments of The Block.
Of course you will also object, “But Ian, this list doesn’t cover The Block’s destruction of Collus PowerStream, the airport industrial development, or their sabotage of the hospital redevelopment. It doesn’t mention The Block’s secrecy, their sense of entitlement, or raising our taxes needlessly.”
And that’s sort of true, but contained in those chapters is the seed for all these activities. Plus, as the authors note, their list isn’t comprehensive. There are other ways to destroy your community, and – trust me – The Block is very ingenious in its efforts to turn everything they touch toxic. They have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
I’ve often commented that the cartoon strip Dilbert, by Scott Adams, is closer to a documentary than it is to a cartoon. Not just about the quagmire of corporate life: Dilbert applies equally to the sodden bureaucracy of government. And here are some strips to prove my hypothesis, at least on the local level.
I culled these strips from around the web, from many, many sites, but the copyright and credit all belongs to Scott Adams. I hope he won’t mind me using his work as an example of how things work in Collingwood. It’s very, very instructive, after all. And true…
For this expository, I’ve chosen strips about lawyers, consultants and management. The former two reflect how our Council depends on these two species of barnacles to tell them how and what to think. The Block has opted to abdicate its responsibilities onto the shoulders of outsiders and let them do the work. But clearly, as the strips show, this is not unique to Collingwood. It is endemic in every poorly-run, top-heavy, bureaucratic corporation. See below if you agree…
Here, for example, is how town administration might have approached one of its chequebook lawyers to re-concoct the Shared Services Agreement with Collus PowerStream:
I’m pretty sure that’s why a simple 30-minute task is still not completed after two years. And this is how one of those lawyers might have reacted to the original Collus share sale agreement:
Then the lawyers work on it, busy little minions gleefully tabulating the hours they get paid, working to the pleasant musical hum of the cash register. And when they’re done, the administration dumps the result on staff.
Imagine, say, Collus staff being presented with the administration’s revised concoction about the share sale, a frightening dog’s breakfast of wild imagination, egregious fiction and paranoid fantasy:
And of course the staff have to live with the consequences when this toxic material gets into the media. Imagine Collus staff being subsequently ordered to manage that codswallop by town administration (for whom they do not work but who demand of their time and energy regardless):
BRIAN: We’re giving Powerstream two days to dismantle the entire apparatus of the Collus utility, and if they don’t agree immediately, we execute the shotgun clause.
TIM: You mean, cut their nose off?
DEB: Cut all our noses off. To spite our collective faces. Show them we’re not to be trifled with.
BRIAN: Also, we’re demanding a ten foot mahogany statue of the former mayor with his conflicts hangin’ out.
KATHY: What? They’ll never agree to that, Brian.
BRIAN: That’s just a bar– a bargaining counter. And of course, we point out that they bear full responsibility when we sell our utility and the rates go sky high, and that we shall not submit to blackmail!