What today’s U.S. midterm elections look like to a foreigner like me

vote buttons

These “vote buttons” are totems that Americans who have come of age wear to encourage their fellow tribespeople to participate in the “election” ritual.

I grew up in Canada and only recently arrived here, so my view of today’s U.S. midterm elections isn’t all that different from this Slate article, which describes the elections in the way the U.S. media would, if they took place in a different country.

Here’s an excerpt:

President Barack Obama’s ruling party will almost certainly lose seats, but whether or not the opposition is able to take over the upper house will be determined by closely fought races in the nation’s torrid southeastern swamps, central agricultural region, and even frigid Arctic villages thousands of miles from the capital.

There is no shortage of pressing issues, from a sluggish economic recovery to multiple foreign wars, facing this large and diverse society. Still, elections in this vast nation can often be characterized by idiosyncratic local rituals. In this campaign season, feats of strength involving dominating animals have been popular. One opposition candidate for national office has boasted of castrating pigs

…another of wrestling alligators:

While the country’s citizens have migrated en masse to large cities in search of greater economic opportunity, specialists in American folkways say people here still value these demonstrations of rural aptitude. Not to be outdone, government loyalists have boasted of their marksmanship

and snowmobiling skills:

Appealing to nationalist sentiment, the opposition has accused the government of allowing too many immigrants to make their way across the country’s southern border, tying this issue to fears of deadly viruses and terrorism. There have also been disturbing unconfirmed reports of a “war on women” being waged by religious extremists in the country’s Western mountains.

In this deeply traditional society, where great import is accorded to family ties, powerful clans build patronage networks, and political office is often passed between relatives. Remarkably, one race pits the cousin of a former governor against the daughter of a former senator.

Go, my American friends, and vote for the warlord, chieftain, elder, or archon who will best represent you and your clan!


I want a GaffGun!


If only this thing were around back when I had regular band gigs at bars and clubs. I may just have to get back to gigging to just to have an excuse to buy a GaffGun!

Thanks to Emmett Plant for the find!


The pumpkin spice-ification of America continues unabated

Seen at my local Publix today:

hershey's pumpkin spice kisses

I’m still waiting on pumpkin spice Crest toothpaste. Get to work, Procter and Gamble!


Bear selfies: A self-correcting problem, but still…

bear selfie 1

Apparently, “bear selfies” are getting so popular that the U.S. Forest Service had to issue an announcement telling people that they’re a terrible idea:

It should be a self correcting problem, but once a bear has mauled a human, it’s got to be put down, and that’s not the poor creature’s fault. Enjoy nature, enjoy bears from a distance, and don’t take bear selfies!

bear selfie 2


Because I’m all about that mace (or: My “Kevin Vickers, Sergeant-at-Arms” Halloween costume)

While a handful of my fellow Canadians decided that it might be funny to dress up for Halloween as disgraced former radio host and accused abuser Jian Ghomeshi, I chose to go with a suggestion I’d made earlier on this blog and dress up as Canadian hero and Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers.

For those of you who don’t know about his recent act of heroism, I’ll let Stephen Colbert tell the story:

And for those of you who want more details, here’s Evan Solomon from the CBC explaining how Vickers saved the day:

I assembled a quick Sergeant-at-Arms costume on Halloween afternoon, and here’s how it turned out:

joey devilla - sergeant at arms - mace

Here are its constituent parts:

  • Black suit and white dress shirt (already had them)
  • “Historical hat” from the Goodwill Tampa Superstore and bent into the right shape ($5)
  • Metal lawn torch from the Goodwill Tampa Superstore ($10)
  • Metallic gold spray paint from Loews ($6)
  • Pimp chain from the nearby Spirit Halloween pop-up store ($5)
  • Finial ribbon from Walmart ($2)
  • More-awesome-than-I-realized toy gun from Walmart ($8)

joey devilla - sergeant-at-arms - gun

When I showed up at my friend’s Halloween party down here in the Accordion Bay area, I was both surprised and pleased to find out that people recognized the outfit, thanks to the tribute piece that Stephen Colbert had done the night before.

Mr. Vickers, I hope I did you proud.