Popular Religion.

My daughter has, for whatever reason, a lot of toys, videos, games, books, drawing instruments, building blocks, dolls and other familiar commercial kid fare. Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out what religious denomination each of the main characters are. Here’s a preliminary list.

  • Barbie. Christian.
  • Strawberry Shortcake. Christian.
  • Madeline. Christian, likely Catholic.
  • Curious George. Christian.
  • Arthur. Christian. Possibly agnostic.
  • Caillou. Christian.
  • Berenstain Bears. Jews converted to Christianity, or Jews for Jesus.
  • Clifford. Christian.
  • Piggley Winks of Jakers. Irish Catholic.
  • Teletubbies. All Christian.
  • Buster of Arthur. Christian.
  • Francine of Arthur. Jewish.
  • Little Bear. Christian. Perhaps Episcopalian.
  • Max and Ruby. Both Christian.
  • Franklin. Christian.
  • Dora the Explorer. Catholic.
  • Diego, her cousin. Catholic.
  • Pablo, Tyrone, Tasha, Uniqua and Austin, a.k.a. The Backyardigans (perhaps the best written and most interesting visual and musical kids show out there). Christian.
  • Maya. Catholic.
  • Miguel. Catholic.
  • Big Bird. Christian.
  • Elmo. Maybe Catholic.
  • Winnie the Pooh. Christian.
  • Kipper. Christian.
  • Polly Pocket. Christian.
  • Angelina Ballerina. Christian.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine. Episcopalian.
  • Oswald. Christian with Jewish friends.
  • Sleeping Beauty. Definitively Christian.
  • Belle of Beauty and the Beast. Christian.
  • Cinderalla. Christian.
  • Gorilla, in Goodnight Gorilla. Non-denominational.

These are just guesses.


As a new subscriber to the daily Winnipeg Free Press, after reading the front section and the business sections, I occasionally turn to the obituarites. It’s not out of any real morbid fascination, though my analyst might disagree. Rather, I look carefully at the cropped, black and white formal and informal photographs of individuals who grace the pages of small text and commemorative, sad, or celebratory content. Laid out in row after row, the faces are scattered on the pages. Sometimes, a photo of someone from 1937 or 1973 will be seen next to another photo of the same person from 1995. The changes in appearance are inherently shocking; once young, vibrant and polished grinning faces turn into wrinkled and sometimes grimmacing ones. But what’s even more shocking is that sense of mild shock. Why should I, or anyone, be amazed by the transition, which is as normative as a tree dropping leaves in the Fall? I know that much has been written about the Seven Up! series but my quick theory is that we’re amazed that we are alive to witness not being alive.
I want to write more about this but I can’t.


A fine bookstore, Burton Lysecki Books, sits just around the corner from us. It is literally two blocks away. It took me seven months to turn the corner, past the all-day 7-11, and walk into the store. What I found was relatively astounding. Like many Winnipeg institutions, the outside is extremely unprepossessing. Half-finished siding, a hand-lettered sign, dirty windows and sidewalks filled with sand and snow decorate the store’s exterior. Once inside, I was faced with thousands upon thousands of books, most of them immediately old, aging, and beautifully produced. Whole shelves were filled with now-ancient encyclopedias published by companies that are no longer extant. Other shelves were stacked neatly with gold-edged, leather-bound, small books, at one time issued in series. At the top of one shelf, I saw the entire works of Emerson. I couldn’t reach high enough to pull one of those works down, which seemed apropros. Multiple rooms led to other rooms, some more cramped and claustrophobic and some more open. There were “art” books (with none on “design”) as well as a large area dedicated to “science” and other to “ideas.” (This is the first time I’ve seen a used bookstore with a category called “ideas.”) Sure, there were stacks devoted to science fiction, Penguin fiction, new paperpack fiction, and erotica. There was even, wonderfully amidst the arcania, a collection of 1980s-vintage Playboys, wrapped together in groups of 4 or 5.
Lysecki Books isn’t the only used bookstore in North America. The store, though, is renowned for its superb collections and, from what I understand, well respected among academics and collectors in this city. I used to make a habit of visiting used bookstores years ago in all of the places I’ve resided and visited: Philadelphia; Providence; Boston; Paris; Washington, DC; Krakow; Warsaw; Berlin; Albany; Troy; Brooklyn and Manhattan. I loved feeling the weight of old hardcovers in my hands and knowing that that book held recoverable knowledge that would soon, perhaps, be secretly mine. I loved knowing that troves of information were being archived by the used booksellers of the world and that these purveyors of the written were also the private guards of our collected knowledge.
Today, I felt the immense weight of two bookends squeezing stores just like the one I visited. One bookend is a collection of companies that go by the names of Amazon.com, Chapters, Barnes & Noble and eBay. The other bookend includes the huge, uber-friendly and coffee scented chain stores like Chapters, Barnes & Noble and local large scale retailers. It took me seven months to visit Lysecki Books because I visit, honor, and take tremendous pleasure in the bookends.


After waking my computer up from a long night of sleep, the monitors starting looking kind of fuzzy and then, a few moments later, lots of lines and dots and dashes in patterns of many colors and sizes started appearing, out of nowhere, all over the screens. I have two monitors, side by side. And they typically work wonderfully, providing lots of visual real estate for my Photoshop and email habits. But today, well, it looked like techno-Santa came to roost in my machine. It’s kind of pretty. Lines moving across the horizon, vertical greens and pretty reds on one monitor dancing along with black dashes in bunches of ten flickering on the other monitor. Through the haze of the digital miasma I could still see my desktop and look at my files so I knew that the underlying hard drive was okay. I called Apple (I have three months remaining on my AppleCare insurance, which gives me about, oh, twelve weeks to start looking for a new computer) and, after having to speak the words “PowerMac G4” a number of times into the phone and saying twice that I’m not an educational customer, was put through to Raj in India. At least, I assume it was in India. It could have been Pakistan or the Phillipines. My assumption of geographical identity is based on the last telephone call I had with AppleCare about one year ago. I recall asking John where he was located and he laughed politely and said, “India, sir.” I didn’t feel like knowing more. Today I didn’t feeling like knowing anything except how to get the linear test patterns off my flat screens. I had a feeling it was a dead video card and, indeed, it was (or is). (FYI, yes, I ran Disk Utility from the startup disks and then used DiskWarrior to rebuild and nothing would take care of it so I was pretty sure it was non-disk hardware.) Now, and until tomorrow, I can’t use the computer unless I want to squint through the linear maelstrom.
Luckily, I’ve got my little backup laptop and that’s where I’m at.
Actually, I was at the parking lot of a supermarket just an hour ago and learned something. I’d like to buy a truck. In particular, I’d like to get a Ford F-150 pickup. I know what you’re thinking: Andy with a fricking truck. Yeah. It would be great. I watched a man step out of his F-150 in the parking lot. By the look of him, he was probably going to go purchase some steak and a few loaves of bread and some apples. But that truck, man, it was nice. Lots of height in the cab. A nice sized, black cargo box situated at the rear of the cab, perfect for holding tools and whatever else I needed to keep protected from the elements. A large but not pretentious wheel base that wouldn’t throw other vehicles off the road. Couple that with a 4.2L V6 and 17″ machined aluminimum wheels and you’re talking lots of possibility. It would suit my new personality, which is all about expedience, certainty and manufactured optimism. And it would allow me to haul things, whatever those might be and whenever they might need hauling. The best part of owning a small pickup is that you’re riding high and no one can fault you. No one knows whether you’re a cowboy, a farmhand, a machinist or a Rotarian. With a car, people know you’re a wuss. In an SUV, people assume you’re a waste of natural resources. With a minivan, they know someone calls you dad. With a large truck, they know you’re in heavy industry. They just know from your pickup that you have a need for hauling some shit. Sure, if you got one of those Cadillac pickups, it’s easy to tell who you are. But with a regular pickup, no one knows. Pure anonymity and the likely perception from afar that you’re tougher than most. I realize I might have to change my appearance some, bulk up, and lose the glasses, but I’m into it.


We went today to a local synaogogue’s Purim celebration for kids. It was incredibly well-organized and thought-out. Volunteers from all segments of the congration, including teenagers and staff and those from the sisterhood and brotherhood were on hand to make balloon animals for kids, paint their faces, help them throw rings around small objects, and watch them jump up and down in one large and one small bouncing air machine thing. Drawing and crafts abounded. The rabbi (I think it was the rabbi because it typically is for some reason) got to have sponges thrown at his face while staring through a Daffy Duck cutout. He took it serenely and with good humor.
I thought that his response to having small (and some not so small) kids throwing sloppy, wet objects at his face was the response that I would like to have to general setbacks. How do you get that? I figure it comes with a bunch of humility mixed in with nerve, self-confidence, a belief in goodness coupled with a sense of complicity with the most honest facets of the world. Mix in a little humor, a love for innocence and an acceptance of self-violation as well as a bit of sheer naivite and you’ve got a mensch.
Happy Purim.


I recently purchased the domain name manoverboard.ca.
The whole process was very uninteresting, except that, during checkout at my online registrar, I had to check off one box from the following list so that the Canadian authorities could ensure that my ownership of a national domain is legitimate.

Corporation (Canada or Canadian province or territory)
Canadian Citizen
Permanent Resident of Canada
Government or government entity in Canada
Canadian Educational Institution
Canadian Unincorporated Association
Canadian Hospital
Partnership Registered in Canada
Trade-mark registered in Canada (by a non-Canadian owner)
Canadian Trade Union
Canadian Political Party
Canadian Library, Archive or Museum
Trust established in Canada
Aboriginal Peoples (individuals or groups) indigenous to Canada
Indian Band recognized by the Indian Act of Canada
Legal Representative of a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident
Official mark registered in Canada
Her Majesty the Queen

This list says more about contemporary Canada than most books out there on the subject.