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Stories from abroad
My perspective may be skewed
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27th-Apr-2014 04:32 pm - London Bridge: Falling Down
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Originally Posted at Mr. Topp and the Big Bad Blog.

Music: Traditional
Lyrics by Maggie.

London Bridge is falling down.
Falling down.
Falling down.

London Bridge is falling down my fair lady.

Weasel, weasel up again.
Up again.
Up again.

Weasel, weasel up again my fair lady.

tower bridge from the docks

12th-Apr-2014 10:14 pm - The Dictionary
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Originally Posted at Mr. Topp and the Big Bad Blog.

I appear to have run out of stories (or, at least, stories worth sharing) written in childhood. But I do have something of similar entertainment value.

My home(?) made dictionary.

The dictionary, below, is written out in full. This is not an excerpt. And it is bizarre on so many accounts.

It begins with abominable. Many letters have no entries at all — there is still an entire page dedicated to the letter in my notebook. There are no definitions — I apparently knew the definition of all these words, and did not feel they needed to be looked up.

The first few entries might suggest that I was trying to remember the spelling of these words, but “feeling” and “queer” do not strike me as words I was likely to misspell at that age. Also, “lonely” was misspelled (though I correct it below).

What motivated the dictionary? Why these words? What was I hoping to accomplish? (Abominably, while lonely. Probably nothing.)

Alas, all is speculation. The dictionary:

























11th-Apr-2014 10:52 pm - Gravity
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Originally Posted at Mr. Topp and the Big Bad Blog.

A number of stories written in childhood have been uncovered, and I have been spending the past few days sharing excerpts of these — more details are here.

The Planet Called X279805YZANX275L8K250MNO

An excerpt, written by an eleven-year-old Mr. Topp

The year 2015. I was on a spaceship — the first one ever to leave our solar system.

As son as we left, yellow, blue, black, white, orange, and green rocks began hitting our spaceship. In fifteen minutes, our ship blew up. I was the only survivor.


Our only conclusion is that the concept for the film Gravity was brazenly stolen from my grade 6 notebook.

Alfonso Cuarón, I shall pop by to pick up my Oscar.

10th-Apr-2014 10:35 pm - The Great Gugluk Mucks
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Originally Posted at Mr. Topp and the Big Bad Blog.

Don’t know what the hell has happened to the Big Bad Blog?

Check back a couple of days — to The Money Tree — and see why stories I wrote in my childhood are taking over the Big Bad Blog.

The Great Gugluk Mucks

An excerpt from a story written by Mr. Topp, aged 11.

The Gugluk Mucks are people who look exactly the same as normal people, except they can urn into mud puddles.

An odd thought

Gugluk Mucks could not survive in the brutal world of children today, and their treatment of muddy puddles …

I suspect that Peppa Pig represents an extinction event for the Gugluk Mucks.

On the other hand …

Later in the story, the Gugluk Mucks crash a whole lot of airplanes, and always survive the crash. In fact, it appears to be what they do, rather than landing them. Apparently they never bothered to learn to land, or something.

All of which is to say that they can probably survive being jumped upon by pigs.

9th-Apr-2014 10:25 pm - The Mystery of the New Zealand Beach
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Originally Posted at Mr. Topp and the Big Bad Blog.

If you missed what this is all about, I suggest that you revisit yesterday’s post about the Money Tree, to understand why strange things I wrote during my childhood are appearing here.

The Mystery of the New Zealand Beach

An excerpt from a story written by Mr. Topp, aged 11.

He saw someone run across the beach. That was not strange but what was strange is that he had a mask on and he was wearing heavy black boots and heavy clothes he also had a revolver he went into a cave and came out with a briefcase a piece of paper fell out of it he picked it up it was a 100 dollar bill!!!!!!!!!!!

The Mystery of the New Zealand Beach – analysis

At eleven, I had a run-on sentence problem. And an obsession with money. (See yesterday.)

And also, not much of an idea of how to describe an odd person at the beach.

23rd-Feb-2014 11:01 am - Advice, from Kurt Vonnegut
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Originally Posted at Mr. Topp and the Big Bad Blog.

In 1988, Kurt Vonnegut – amongst others – was asked to give advice to the people of 2088.

The full letter can be read over at (the excellent and recommended blog) Letters of Note. The Big Bad Blog, however, will concentrate on the short list of things Mr. Vonnegut supplied. Things that people ought to be doing to ensure that humankind can continue to survive on this little ball of rock flying around in space:

  1. Reduce and stabilize your population.
  2. Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.
  3. Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.
  4. Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.
  5. Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.
  6. Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid.
  7. And so on. Or else.

Not a bad list, I think. And now that we’re twenty-five (and a bit) years on, how are we doing?

Pretty miserably, it would seem.

Population? Not reduced.
Air, water, soil? Still being poisoned.
Our kids? Not (generally) learning to be any better than we are.
And we still seem to be assuming that future generations will get along fine, no matter what we do.

The one thing that we seem to have done?

We have stopped thinking that science can fix anything, given sufficient funding. In fact, many legislators have stopped believing in science. Others have stopped believing that the problems exist, and think that attempting to discredit science will make the facts change.

In short, we would be better off if we were still where Mr. Vonnegut believed we were in 1988.

22nd-Feb-2014 09:19 am - The princesses, ranked
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Originally Posted at Mr. Topp and the Big Bad Blog.

The Maggie-A-Day project has reached last year’s trip to Disney World, and while there, Maggie ranked the Disney Princesses (well, some of them) into three tiers.

Today, I share her views with you.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Topp is proud to present…
Maggie Rose’s Authoritative Ranking of the Disney Princesses:

Worse than breakfast

The least interesting of the Disney princesses are less interesting than breakfast.


In last place amongst princesses is Sleeping Beauty. This is perhaps not surprising, as the lady here is famous for little other than taking long naps. Maggie is more interested in some sort of croissant thing.

She looks into the camera, decidedly unimpressed by Princess Sleepy.


Coming in slightly ahead of Sleeping Beauty is the Little Mermaid.

Still not as interesting as the croissant, but at least Maggie seems happy about things. Probably unimpressed that she wanted to change who she was in order to impress a boy.

Worse than magic

We move now to princesses who are more interesting than food.


Here we see Maggie with Jasmine from Aladdin. Like the earlier princesses, Maggie considers her to be secondary to something else — in this case, a magic wand.

Unsurprising. In the movies, after all, Jasmine seems secondary to a magic genie. Are we really so surprised that she cannot measure up to a magic wand?

Love and Awe

Not all princesses are ignored in favour of food and magic however.

Occupying the top spot in Maggie’s leaderboard are Cinderella and Snow White.



Hugging princesses? Seeming out of her mind happy and shocked that Snow White has come along and sat beside her?

Oh yes, this is a girl who is quite happy to be happy for the right princess.

But which is number one?

It’s too close to call, in my books, but I’m tempted to give a slight edge to Snow White, given the size of the smile.

And what does Maggie say? Cinderella. I like Cinderella the best.

Shows what I know.

7th-Feb-2014 11:16 pm - Rotation
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Originally Posted at Mr. Topp and the Big Bad Blog.

Rotation No 1

A slow shutter speed, a colourful subject, and a half twist. It’s amazing how simple these were — I love them.

Click on any of them to see them bigger over at 500px.

Rotation No 2

Rotation No 3

Rotation No 4

Rotation No 5

Rotation No 6

2nd-Feb-2014 11:02 am - Ankles and paperwork
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Originally Posted at Mr. Topp and the Big Bad Blog.

En route to a very average result at the Slough Open yesterday, I twisted my ankle.


Which isn’t much of a story. It wasn’t a bad sprain, and I don’t even think it affected the quality of my fencing. But, given a twisted ankle, I walked (gingerly) towards the part of the room that had a big sign that read

First Aid

And I asked for a bag of ice. Because that’s what you do when you turn your ankle: apply ice.

They only had ice packs, which they couldn’t give away, so I was stuck sitting in the first aid room for the duration of my “treatment”. Which constituted holding a cold pack against my ankle.

And they asked me questions.

Did I lose consciousness? (No, I twisted my ankle.)
Do I have a history of heart disease or stroke? (Seriously. I just want some ice.)

And on. And on.

Every question, it seemed, that could be related to any type of emergency they might respond to, had at least one question. And they all had to be asked, no matter how little they would apply to a sprained ankle. And all the answers had to be recorded on a form, in triplicate.

The list of questions on the form was sufficiently long that I was still being asked questions after we took the ice of my ankle, after ten minutes.

Now, it has been about ten years since I last found myself on the receiving end of first aid (if that’s what you want to call asking them for a bag of ice), but when did this bullshit start? Is it a British thing? A St. John’s Ambulance thing? Something that started in the last decade?

Are people really so worried about liability over a missed symptom, that they need to ask somebody with a twisted ankle about their heart condition?

What gives?

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Originally Posted at Mr. Topp and the Big Bad Blog.

The Globe & Mail is reporting that the Canadian government is considering scaling back its consular services for Canadians abroad. Possibilities under consideration include refusing to assist Canadians with dual citizenship, or Canadians who have lived out of the country for longer than five years.

I’ve been out of Canada for nearly eight.

While this would not make me de facto stateless, this would have that practical effect – I would be unable to call on the Canadian government to assist me should it be required. Nor would I be able to call on any other government to do so, not being a citizen of any other country.*

Of course, this could be avoided by becoming a citizen of the United Kingdom, although this would make me a double offender under the proposals.

A Canadian citizen who holds dual citizenship and resides elsewhere is said to hold a “citizenship of convenience” according to the recommendation. And I would agree. It’s just the citizenship that can be termed “convenient” is not the Canadian one.

Think on this a moment. If I were to become a citizen of the United Kingdom, I would gain a number of benefits: I would no longer be at the mercy of the Home Office for my right to remain in the country I call home, I would have an easier time crossing European borders, and at a time when nationalistic anti-immigration rhetoric is increasingly popular, I would move into the (presumably) much safer “citizen” category.

I am able to vote in the UK already, but if this were almost any other country, that would be another benefit I would gain by taking citizenship.

Maintaining Canadian citizenship? It allows me slightly easier entry to the USA and Canada. That’s it, as far as I can see. And British citizens do not exactly have a hard time crossing either of these borders.

So which citizenship is the convenient one?

Not the Canadian one, as far as I can see. All it does is take my time and money, while placing me at the wrong end of endless jokes about Rob Ford and Justin Bieber.

No, the dual citizen living abroad doesn’t maintain his** Canadian citizenship because it’s convenient. He does so because he identifies himself as Canadian, and he is proud to be Canadian. The foreign citizenship, which he only has to allow for free movement, voting privileges, and to be assured that he won’t be forced to leave? That’s the convenient one.

So, Canada — remember, these people are the people proud to be Canadian, who represent Canadian values to the rest of the world, in their own small ways, every day.

Don’t repay them with statelessness.


*As a white dude, this probably isn’t strictly true. But it would be true for plenty of others.
**Or her. But I’m kind of talking about me here.

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