Unidentified pie-ing objects

Peter
Peter Jackson
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The so-called "silly season" seems to have arrived early.

In the news-starved haze of midsummer, the media often resort to offbeat yarns to fill the void. But this past week has been a week like no other. Call it "The X-Files" meets "The Three Stooges."

First, we had the mysterious missiles off Harbour Mille. A woman and two friends were out admiring the sunset near the Burin Peninsula community when they spotted missile-like objects streaming across the sky. She snapped a few photos and launched several days' worth of public speculation and gnashing of teeth.

The so-called "silly season" seems to have arrived early.

In the news-starved haze of midsummer, the media often resort to offbeat yarns to fill the void. But this past week has been a week like no other. Call it "The X-Files" meets "The Three Stooges."

First, we had the mysterious missiles off Harbour Mille. A woman and two friends were out admiring the sunset near the Burin Peninsula community when they spotted missile-like objects streaming across the sky. She snapped a few photos and launched several days' worth of public speculation and gnashing of teeth.

To be fair, this wasn't a UFO story in the old tradition. In the old days, people took UFOs seriously. For decades, Hollywood had everyone on edge spinning tales about wide-eyed aliens buzzing the Alabama countryside, spooking horses and snatching up human specimens to poke and prod.

Then came "Mars Attacks!" (1996), a star-studded sendup featuring singer Tom Jones as himself and Jack Nicholson as, well, himself (but billed as a U.S. president). Nicholson et al face off against raygun-wielding invaders clad in bulbous space helmets and shiny robes.

Aliens may be passÉ now, but test flights launched from secret government installations are still very much in vogue.

When someone discovered that France had been conducting missile tests in the Atlantic recently, tongues got a-waggin.' Those slippery Parisians must be at it again.

Only problem is, the French weren't testing anything at the time.

Then someone at the Prime Minister's Office had a brainwave. They wrote a letter to the rocket lady suggesting the objects were just toy projectiles. How or why they arrived at this conclusion will probably never be known.

Finally, a handful of online observers solved the puzzle. No need to be alarmed. First, the Burin Peninsula lies along a popular commercial airline corridor. Second, the sightings occurred during sunset.

Bingo! The setting sun cast a tinged light that made the jets and their plumes look like flaming rockets. Think about it: what else, other than commercial jets, would fail to raise an alarm on radar screens.

Call off the bomb shelters.

Then, from the skies, we turned to pies.

Early last week, federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea was pied by a protester with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In retaliation, someone dressed as Downhome Magazine mascot Salty Dog pied a seal-suited PETA protester outside the Delta Hotel in St. John's Friday.

Now, there was a time when shoving creamy filling into people's faces was all the rage. "The Three Stooges" got the dough rolling in the 1930s, and the tactic has become a favourite diversion ever since.

The life of pie took on new vigour about 10 years ago, when a protester in P.E.I. planted one into the face of then prime minister Jean Chretien. The assailant spent eight days behind bars.

At the time, there were several self-proclaimed pie brigades around the world, including the San-Francisco-based Biotic Baking Brigade and a number of affiliates in the U.S. and Europe.

According to Vancouver writer Geoff Olson, Canadian brigades included Montreal-based Les Tartistes, Vancouver's Meringue Marauders and Winnipeg's Balaclava Bakers.

Smearing the rich and famous was in. Among the more prominent victims were Microsoft's Bill Gates, who got his fill of filling in Belgium in 1998, and Enron's former top scoundrel, Jeffrey Skilling.

But pie-throwing - one can only hope - has gotten a bit stale of late. It achieves nothing, after all, other than embarrassing the victim in public, and probably garnering him or her more sympathy than mockery.

It's also assault, and you can do time for it.

When Shea was hit last week, many saw it as a rare chance to take the high ground. Here was PETA reduced to theatrics on the level of Larry, Curly and Moe. Seal hunt supporters were above that, weren't they?

Nope. It's become a farce. And the circus-like tone was only heightened by the choice of caricature. A dog? In yellow oilskins and a sou'wester? It belongs on a shelf next to the Screech-in certificates and the Newfie mugs with the handles on the inside.

Another opportunity lost.

So, let's save the sci-fi schlock and cartoon frolics for the summer, shall we? There's too much important news going on right now, and we need the space.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram's commentary editor. He can be reached at pjackson@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Delta Hotel, Biotic Baking Brigade Microsoft Enron

Geographic location: U.S., Hollywood, France Atlantic Vancouver St. John's P.E.I. Europe Montreal Winnipeg Belgium

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Recent comments

  • Sequoia
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    'So, let's save the sci-fi schlock and cartoon frolics for the summer, shall we? There's too much important news going on right now, and we need the space.' - Peter Jackson

    So your point is that you don't want to cover these news items ?

    You just made a column out of them. They certainly justified your position at the Telegram. Maybe you just want to go home and retire. Stop whining and pick up your paycheque.

  • Sequoia
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    'So, let's save the sci-fi schlock and cartoon frolics for the summer, shall we? There's too much important news going on right now, and we need the space.' - Peter Jackson

    So your point is that you don't want to cover these news items ?

    You just made a column out of them. They certainly justified your position at the Telegram. Maybe you just want to go home and retire. Stop whining and pick up your paycheque.