THESE days, the news is pretty much all bad, all the time. So thank goodness for the optimists -- those people who trundle along wearing a gigantic grin, invariably predicting a major upturn.
While they are usually a source of irritation for those of us with thunderously dark mindsets -- see the film Happy-Go-Lucky -- right now a dose of dippy, inexplicable high spirits is probably just what we need. Failing that, we’ll go for any emotional boost whatsoever.
That’s surely why the city of Edinburgh’s Evening News this month once again held its “Good News Day,” on which the newspaper prints only positive information for area residents, who are apparently called “Lothians.” The very prospect of it must have cheered up at least 16 dour, oatmeal-fuelled Scots. (For those of us unfortunate enough not to live in Edinburgh, there are websites that constantly devote themselves to this sort of thing, at places like www.happynews.com, which focuses on stories of “virtue, goodwill and heroism.”)
I can’t actually track down what ran in the Evening News on Feb. 7th, 2009, as its daily website focuses on its most recent yarns. But I can see why Good News was considered a Good Idea when I spot lugubrious headlines like this one, plucked from last Tuesday's edition, “Bethanie’s legacy to unborn child: Little cancer victim helps parents pick name of sibling she’ll never know.”
Not surprisingly, some inherently grouchy Scots refused to have their spirits raised by the Good News edition of the paper, even for a couple of hours. In the comments section of the Evening News, one person calling him- or herself “Roboter Park” recommended a few other themed issues the publication could try, namely, “An edible edition made of rice paper with a masthead made of icing… A moaners’ edition where people just moan and moan… An incoherent edition where all the words are jumbly and the pictures do not match the stories…”
That’s it. I’m moving to Scotland, where skeptics like me evidently abound. You can reach me c/o Roboter Park.
Anyhoo, I can’t knock the concept of Good News Day for Vancouverites. We are up to our Michael Bublé tattoos in tales of gangland slayings, Olympic Village cost overruns, devalued properties, Downtown Eastside horrors, and PETA’s plans to publicly link the West Coast’s 2010 Games with the East Coast’s reviled seal hunt. I say we ought to find chirpy stories wherever we can, and, where we can’t find any, simply invent them.
For instance, if you’re concerned about job losses, it will buoy you to learn that employment prospects for West Coast animals are looking up. According to Discover magazine, the U.S. navy is hoping to beef up its complement of trained dolphins and sea lions. Enough with the swimming around aimlessly -- now they’ll be working nights in Puget Sound, protecting submarines from terrorist attacks.
This is actually true. Equipped with strobe lights attached to their noses, dolphins will be sent out by human handlers in search of underwater intruders. If Flipper finds one, he’ll bump him, which will cause the strobe to pop up to the surface to alert all hell to break loose.
For their part -- and this, too, is true -- sea lions will be forced to stop licking their whiskers or whatever they usually do all day and will instead wander around the Sound toting a cuff attached to a rope. Any swimmer who strikes them as iffy (and sea lions are renowned for their judgment) will get a leg cuffed and then be hauled in. “Book ’im!” you can imagine the surlier sea lions shouting.
There’s plenty of potential in this American scheme. We Canadians must follow suit and get our undersea life working for us. Would it be so hard to train a King Crab, which is currently doing sweet eff-all, to frisk underwater suspects? And I, for one, have always wondered why we can’t find decent jobs for our sardines. Few of us eat the oily bastards, so they’re basically just cluttering up the seas. While they’re down there, shouldn’t they be forced to clean up a little?
Why aren’t we more productive in this country? Canadian crustacean unemployment never abates, while our mollusks are notorious malingerers. Don’t get me started on our nation’s snakes -- have you ever watched one loafing on a rock in the sun? It veritably exemplifies the term “lazy good-for-nothing.”
In other, less briny, good news, The Economist claims that given the state of, well, everything, “Rudeness is out and civility is the new rule.” Certainly in my house there appears to be a lot less hip-hop and a lot more Neil Young wafting about, which is a vast improvement. I have also read lately that high-end restaurant employees, even in New York City, are being less snooty in an effort to draw customers, and that Wall Street bankers currently ooze charm. I find both of these allegations hard to believe.
Still, an article in the Globe last week suddenly suggested that when we fire employees we should be nice to them, for a few reasons, not the least of which is that we might get fired ourselves soon and may eventually have to apply to them for work. Meanwhile, my province's finance minister, Colin Hansen, actually bought 100 pairs of running shoes for disadvantaged kids through the Salvation Army before introducing his budget.
Civility, compassion, charity -- what is this world coming to? It’s starting to sound like bad times are themselves good times. I ask you, where does that leave professional gripers like me?
Let’s hope all this positivity isn’t contagious -- I will definitely be out of a job.