Friday, November 25, 2005

CULTURE: The Cremation of Sam McGee

This poem is culturally significant to my family, and has to do with the hardships of the northern climate.

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam ‘round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell.”

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;
It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he, “I’ll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.”

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
“It’s the cursed cold, and it’s got right hold till I’m chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet ‘taint being dead--it’s my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you’ll cremate my last remains.”

A pal’s last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn’t a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say:“You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it’s up to you to cremate those last remains.”

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows—O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I’d often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn’t like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don’t know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: “I’ll just take a peep inside.
I guess he’s cooked, and it’s time I looked;” . . . then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: “Please close that door.
It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear you’ll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

by Robert W. Service

"Robert W. Service, a Canadian poet and novelist, was known for his ballads of the Yukon. He wrote this narrative poem which is presented here because it is an outstanding example of how sensory stimuli are emphasized and it has a surprise ending.

Robert William Service was born in Preston, England, on January 16, 1874. He emigrated to Canada at the age of twenty, in 1894, and settled for a short time on Vancouver Island. He was employed by the Canadian Bank of Commerce in Victoria, B.C., and was later transferred to Whitehorse and then to Dawson in the Yukon. In all, he spent eight years in the Yukon and saw and experienced the difficult times of the miners, trappers, and hunters that he has presented to us in verse.

During the Balkan War of 1912-13, Service was a war correspondent to the Toronto Star. He served this paper in the same capacity during World War I, also serving two years as an ambulance driver in the Canadian Army medical corps. He returned to Victoria for a time during World War II, but later lived in retirement on the French Riviera, where he died on September 14, 1958, in Monte Carlo.

Sam McGee was a real person, a customer at the Bank of Commerce where Service worked. The Alice May was a real boat, the Olive May, a derelict on Lake Laberge.

Anyone who has experienced the bitterness of cold weather and what it can do to a man will empathize with Sam McGee’s feelings as expressed by Robert Service in this poem." -

Thursday, November 17, 2005

MOTIVATIONAL: Buttprints in the Sand

I heard this from a friend once.

One night I had a wondrous dream,
One set of footprints there was seen,
The footprints of my precious Lord,
But mine were not along the shore.

But then some strange prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, "What have we here?"
Those prints are large and round and neat,
"But Lord, they are too big for feet."

"My child," He said in somber tones,
"For miles I carried you along.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait."

"You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk of faith, you would not know,
So I got tired, I got fed up,
And there I dropped you on your butt."

"Because in life, there comes a time,
When one must fight, and one must climb,
When one must rise and take a stand,
Or leave their butt prints in the sand."


Saturday, November 12, 2005

ADVICE: How to get a girl to like you

A few tips on how to get the girl of your dreams to like you.

1. Be confident
Most girls like it when a guy acts like he's in charge. Even if you do something stupid, if you can do it in a confident way, it is still attractive. This is because women are attracted to security. If you're confident she can feel protected.

2. Don't be too emotional at first
Don't linger too long, leave her with a sense of wanting. Also, in the courting stage, feelings for guys are meant to be felt, and not shared. When you tell a girl how you really feel, unless she feels the same way she can get scared off. You need her to think she's more interested in you than you are in her. Make her earn your attention just a little bit, she'll appreciate it more.

3. Don't be too nice to her (at first)
This can scare her off. A lot of times girls like guys who are a little mean to them sometimes. This is why nice guys finish last, and why girls like jerks. Just remember, don't show her all the cards.

4. Don't get too attached (at first)
If you play like you're not emotionally attached to her its one thing, but its another if you are actually not attached. You're less likely to do something dumb or scare her away. Everytime you take two steps forward, take one step back. Of the feelings you've expressed towards her, and the feelings she's expressed towards you, there needs to be a balance. One cannot dominate the other and you still have a healthy relationship. If you like her more than she likes you don't show it yet, there will come a time.

5. Be yourself
The girl of your dreams can't fall in love with you if you're fake. If shes going to fall in love with you she has to know who 'you' are. But if you have bad habits/mannerisms fix them, don't use this as justification to avoid improving who you are. You need to improve on yourself, but don't be fake. When looking for your dream girl, it is important that you be the dream guy for her.

6. Be seen with other women (when you're single)
A roommate told me this once. It is okay to flirt with other girls than the one you are interested, and its better if the one you're interested sees it. This is because girls like a guy who is in demand. This will also help her work even more to get her to look at you.

Above all, be happy.
Even when you feel depressed, if you can choose to be upbeat, you appear less emotional (2), and appear more confident (1) and become more than you are (5).

These are some tips I learned so far this year that ought to be common sense for all guys. Doing these allow you to pick a girl with good moral standards, with a personality that matches yours, and then get her to like you. It really works. The alternative is to make a list of the girls you can tell are interested in you and hope you like one of them back. Statistically speaking this doesn't work very well.

Friday, November 04, 2005

NEWS: Canada releases the world's first painted coin

On October 21st, 2004 ( the canadian mint released the first painted coin in the world. It is a quarter whose paint is said to last under regular use for 3 years. On one said it has a painted red poppy, a symbol in canada usually associated with November 11th, Remembrance Day.

The symbol of the poppy as a War Memorial symbol originates from this poem:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

-- Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

A history of the poem can be found here: