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Steve talks with his two sons, Eric and Mark, about Eric’s work as a professor at the University of London and about catching crabs in Vancouver.
Steve: Here, today, I’m very lucky because I have my two sons here.
Eric is visiting from London and, of course, Mark lives in Vancouver, but he happens to be at our house this evening.
So there’s the three of us and what are we going to talk about?
First of all, should we talk about our crab adventure?
Well, no, we won’t, let’s talk a little bit about what you do.
Eric, what do you do, tell us?
Eric: Well, I’m an academic, which means I teach at university.
I teach Politics with a lot of History mixed in.
I do, also, a fair bit of research on issues pertaining to demography, religion and politics, amongst others.
Steve: Mark, what do you think of your brother being an academic?
Mark: Well, you know, I’ve never actually seen him teaching his classes, but sounds like a lot of hogwash to me.
Steve: Now “hogwash” is a very important term which people should learn.
It means nonsense; would that be a fair term?
Mark: I think that’s a pretty good approximation.
Certainly they, at their university, find lots of things to talk about, but whether, in fact, it’s of any great benefit…that’s still up in the air.
Steve: Eric, would you have any comments to come back with on that?
Eric: Let’s just say that he wouldn’t get in the door.
I know he went to the esteemed Ivy League University known as Yale, but I also know that he spent most of his time in courses like football skills and tapping for credits.
Steve: Mark, have you got a comeback to that?
Mark: Well, I mean, of course those courses don’t exist at Yale, but I think we’re skirting the main issue, which is we have yet to figure out what it is exactly that you do.
Steve: However, you have to admit Mark that one of the bright spots is that because Eric is a professor in England we’re not paying for it.
Eric, tell us a little bit about what exactly your academic activities involve and would you think that your students benefit tremendously from the opportunity to hear you, you know, elucidate certain fundamental concepts of life to them?
Eric: Well I’ve heard my students describe my lectures as an epiphany in their lives.
I would say no one who comes through my lectures comes out the other side unchanged in some fundamental, positive way.
So let’s just say that, you know, those of you out there who have a desire to be enlightened, Birkbeck College, University of London, Department of Politics and Sociology.
Steve: Now I understand Eric, if we can come back to you right away here, that you are a bit of an expert on Northern Ireland.
I have even seen a video of you interviewed on British television and I think one of the major things that you have achieved is that you have developed a bit of an Ulster accent.
Is this significant?
This is an important part of your research?
Eric: Well, absolutely, and before I do get into my Ulster accent I would urge all of you to go out immediately and purchase my book entitled simply: The Orange Order: A Contemporary Northern Irish History.
Now to the peace process in Northern Ireland.
That’s my Ulster accent for ya’.
But, well, what happened really was a concerted campaign by the republican movement born in the tradition of, the physical-force tradition, blood-soaked tradition, attempting to subvert British democracy in the North and the Unionist population resisting this assault on our civil liberties.
Anyway, that’s…you get the picture.
Steve: We get the picture.
Okay, that’s good.
But, again, getting back to Eric, since we don’t always have the opportunity to talk to him and, perhaps, in a little more serious vein, a lot of your work has to do with the impact of demographics on changes in our society.
I believe that one of your articles was actually featured in Newsweek magazine and can you give us…is it possible…I just suddenly spring this on you, but to give us a bit of a sense of the kind of work that you’re doing right now?
The argument is, basically, that even if some people leave organized religion, because religious people have more children than nonreligious people, they can more than make up for that loss to seculars.
And so, over time, you would have increasing religiosity, as I think we’re going to see in Europe through demography, so that means immigration and also religious people having higher fertility and the same thing happens in other parts of the world like Israel, United States and the Muslim world.
Part of this whole argument is that far from seeing the end of religion, which was prophesied by many writers in the last couple hundred years, actually, we may see a resurgence of religion, especially fundamentalist religion.
Steve: So what you’re saying is that amongst call it the intellectual class there’s a certain disaffection from religion, science-based if you want.
We’ve had some books published recently by people like Richard Dawkins and others and, of course, for certain kinds of people this confirms their call it secular beliefs.
But the reality in terms of demographics is that the religious people, who are not at all persuaded by these arguments, are increasing faster than the secular people and that’s true in Christianity, in Judaism, in Islam.
I don’t know about Buddhism or Hinduism, but it’s fairly wide-spread.
Eric: Well that’s right.
Because, if you think about it, all religions encourage people to have children, encourage the women to stay at home rather than go out to work and discourage contraception and abortion, so it makes sense.
And, also, they’re more family-oriented and long-term oriented, so they’re less individualistic.
So it makes sense that they would be…if they’re able to retain their children to any degree they will expand, so that’s the argument really and that’s sort of what I’m researching.
Steve: Well when you say retain you mean, in other words, keep them as believers.
Eric: Yes, yeah.
And I know I’ve been at presentations that you’ve made and you don’t attempt or you don’t want to make any value judgments on all of this, you just want to explain the trends that are happening out there.
Is that correct?
I mean, of course, you know, for secular people it could be quite scary, but my only job is to sort of look at the trends and try and draw conclusions from that, so, yeah.
Steve: Now, Mark, from our perspective here in Canada enjoying nature here, today we went out and checked our crab traps; in fact, Eric and I, we put out a crab trap.
We rowed all the way out there to do that, rowed back in in our little rowboat, went out again and found that the crabs…there was one crab that was too small and our bait, which was our fish scraps, was gone; we had to row back in, put out more fish scraps.
We went out again today and the buoy, the crab trap, the line, everything was gone.
That’s reality for us.
So getting back to Vancouver reality, Mark, could we get some learned comments from you on what you heard from your esteemed and, you know…
Steve: …eminent scholar brother?
Would you like to bring us back to earth here?
Mark: Well, I first want to start with the fishing, crabbing story, crabbing expedition that you just described.
It’s probably worth mentioning that shall we call it the “skill level” (in quotes) of the crabbers was probably on the low end.
Mark: Ah, nonexistent and that certainly played a big part in the lack of success of the crabbing expedition.
When I arrived here for dinner this evening I was led to believe that perhaps the Coast Guard or some such organization had made off with your trap, but I think the more likely explanation is that the line was floating and got cut by a passing boat.
At any rate, the net result is the same, no buoy, no line, no crab trap, no crabs.
I can’t say that I’m surprised, but, you know, I’m sure that you’ve all come away from this experience…
Eric: Point of information, point of information…
Mark: …much wiser.
Eric: Point of information please, am I to take it from this that you have snared many crabs in your lifetime and, in fact, are a bit of a professional?
Steve: I can answer that question.
First of all, I will hear from Mark who has snared crabs when he had the…
Steve: …help of his wife who not only knows about crabbing, but can grab them from the behind and avoid getting the pincers snapping at her fingers, which is a skill that I have not yet acquired; so Mark is skilled.
But we have caught a crab, but I think in retrospect that the crab that we ate and which was delicious was probably undersized.
Because what I’ve now discovered after our defeat in crabbing — I went to the Internet and I looked up the instructions for crabbing here locally — you’re not allowed to take females, you’re not allowed to take any crab that is under 165 millimeters in the width of the shell.
I thought it was six inches, but six inches is 150 millimeters so, in fact, it’s actually 165 millimeters.
What I also discovered was that you need a permit, which we don’t have, and you can only take males.
You can’t take females, so you can only take males that are larger than 165 millimeters.
I can’t say for sure that the crab that I ate the last time wasn’t a female smaller than that; we’re learning.
We could have ended up in jail, so yeah, we’re learning.
Mark: You realize this is being recorded.
Steve: Is it just me?
Eric: I know.
Mark: I hope the RCMP doesn’t get a hold or the Coast Guard.
Eric: Department of Fisheries.
Mark: Department of Fisheries…
Steve: That’s true.
Mark: …isn’t online studying English and…
Steve: I was only joking.
But, no, we’re going to do it again.
We’re going to get a proper buoy.
Apparently, you’re supposed to have a brightly-colored buoy.
You’re supposed to put your name and phone number on it, you’re supposed to have proper weights on your line so that they can’t be cut by passing motorboats, get a license, I’m even going to get some pincers, you know, some prongs or thongs so that I can grab the crab.
Mark: A thong is something else.
Steve: …so I don’t have to grab it from behind, which is not something that I want to do.
Although, I gather that both your wife and your children are quite adept at grabbing the crab from behind and…
Mark: Yeah, they have no problems grabbing the crabs and rubbing their bellies and putting them to sleep.
Steve: So rubbing their bellies puts them to sleep?
Mark: Well, yeah, if you know what you’re doing.
I mean I certainly don’t do it myself, but my wife and kids do and that’s before my wife chops them in half with a hatchet.
Steve: Eric, any comments on this?
Eric: Well, it was my first experience crabbing.
Actually, I thought yesterday we had a nice juicy one, but apparently my brother Mark scuttled that and I’m not sure I forgive him yet because actually it looked plenty big enough.
Steve: Well we were very happy.
We rode out there with your son, Stewie, and we snared this one crab and he looked pretty big and mean to us.
Lo and behold, Mark shows up in his kayak – in my kayak, of course, but he comes in a kayak — and says no, no, no, we can’t have it.
We were very reluctant to throw that crab back in the water.
Eric: I think we would have thrown Mark back into the drink had it not been for a bit of goodwill.
Mark: Let us say there was grudging assent to put that crab back in the water.
But, you know, well, what’s right is right and, you know, there’s no point breaking the law.
Mark: Just in case the fisheries are listening.
Eric: All I know is it will be a long time before we catch a crab again, since our crab equipment is at the bottom of Howe Sound.
Steve: Okay, I think we’ve covered a number of subjects from Ulster to crabbing and our reunion here.
I’m very happy to have my two sons visiting and the sun is setting and, of course, we’ve got the women doing the dishes; that’s pretty good.
Mark: Well, you know, everything is right in the world.
Steve: Except they’re coming in to get us, so bye for now.