Sunday, April 30, 2006

Vive les differences always

I like the fact that boys and girls are very different. Aside from the obvious -- not to mention 'fun' disparities -- I am invariably fascinated by the subtle nuances in makeup that are more far-reaching than the fact girls sit down to pee.

By the way, in considering such gender-driven traits, I am not looking at any consideration that either males or females do things better than their opposite numbers -- just differently.

For example, yesterday, due to the fact that time, tide and technology had taken a brutal toll on my very aged computer equipment (my poor old Mac was practically steam-driven, so venerable was it), it behooved me to upgrade right into the 21st Century. So, here I am, writing my drivel on my 'over to the darkside PC laptop' (we Mac people are inexplicably loyal) and so far it seems to be very nice and unspeakably modern. But, I am digressing here.

Wendy and I went into a favorite little computer joint with which we do a fair amount of business. I mean, we could have gone to Staples, but I like giving local merchants a break whenever I can. So, we went in, and I asked the guy about a laptop I had looked at a few months earlier. He brought it down off the shelf, fired the puppy up, and that was it.

"I'll take it," I said.

"Wait a minute," said Wendy, "You haven't even asked him about the features."

"I assume it has the usual ones, considering the competitive nature of the marketplace," I replied. I am assuredly not a geek, and techno-talk bores me senseless.

Anyway, to cut to the chase. I took it. Wendy said she was amazed at how impulsively males buy things. And I know she would have made 19 trips to that shop alone, and would have also checked out every other computer business in this town and the town down the road, before she made anything resembling a decision.

"I understand perfectly," said the guy who was ringing up my purchase. "Ian was in her a few months ago, asked about this, and has probably been thinking about it since then."

"Men," Wendy muttered.

But, it is true. Men do, for the most part, buy impulsively. They believe life is too short to do otherwise. Furthermore, men hate shopping. They like having shopped. I have bought cars the same day and been perfectly content with my purchases. I have bought houses the same day. Why waste time. Neighborhood looks decent, the joint seems to be intact, and the gardens are nice. Good -- let's buy it. I was going to say that I have even gotten married or moved in with somebody based on a couple of dates. I confess, not always such a good idea.

But women; for them shopping is a process. She just recently bought a jacket; a simple windbreaker, after having 'looked' for more than a year. I mean, it was just a damn jacket, for heaven's sake. If she is looking for something complicated, in which fit is of the essence, like a bra, for example, I don't want to be with her. Not because lady undies render me uncomfortable (as I already indicated in an earlier blog), but because she virtually gets homicidal about the matter after she has tried 8 or 10 on and finds that they "just don't feel right." I mean, who am I to judge? I am more inclined to look at a bra in terms of esthetic appeal (of course), so I don't really understand the 'fit' issue. "Holds them in place and makes them look perky -- isn't that what you want?" No, I'm not really dumb enough to say that. But, I do know that this is not a shopping venture I choose to be part of.

Of course, the trying on of bras is another realm in which the sexes differ profoundly. Men never, ever want to try anything on. It's like dental surgery for them. I know my size. I'll trust the manufacturer is being honest when he says a pair of slacks has a 34 waist. Usually it works.

Women, on the other hand, love trying stuff on. They'll enter changerooms with 40 or 50 garments over their arms. Truly, this amazes me.

At the same time, it enchants me just enough that I am prepared to stay around for the ride, even after all these years.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

I told you, I just said "No!"

Human sexuality has become entirely too complicated for my liking. While it is well we have grown sufficiently in tolerance that we accept those of other persuasions and other predilections. So, we make space for heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, and all the people who like to indulge in acts that range from the charming and sensual, to the bizarre, to the downright icky. That's OK, though. Consenting adults and all that. I know I have no concerns with virtually anything done by consenting adults, as long as it makes them happy and hauls their ashes.

But, according to British psychosexual studies, there is a group that maybe some of us were not aware of, and those who devote their lives (and governmental grants) to making findings, feel it is time that we accommodated those of no sexual preferences whatsoever. That is, the group within the general population that has absolutely and utterly no interest whatsoever, regardless of the circumstances, in sex. Yes, it would be a cheap shot to suggest I once dated this person, but what the heck. But, seriously, they have found a group in society that has never had sex, has never hankered after sexual congress, and has not only virtually, but literally no libido whatsoever. Those same scientists (who I suspect look remarkably like the science nerd on The Simpsons) are so involved in this study that they believe it is only fair that these people, like homosexuals, heterosexuals, metrosexuals, transsexuals, etc. deserve their own category -- nonsexuals.
How weird is that?, as Einstein was often purported to have uttered. And, just how many people are we talking about who have never had an attack of the horny vapors. Evidently somewhere in the realm of 1.05 percent of the population. Not exactly stunning numbers, but if you multiply by populations of assorted place, it does make for a goodly, if not necessarily enchanting, crowd. For example, the US has a population of 295 million, and that means that there are around 3 million folks who are 'not' going to get too friendly with your spouse late in the evening at a party, if male, they are 'not' going to think all the girls in the bar are looking better at closing time. In fact, they are not going to care what the girls (or the boys) look like. They're just not interested.
I suppose there are advantages to being in that uncharmed 1.05 percent. You never have to worry about looking your best, since you are not trying to attract anyone. You never have to wonder, if single, who you are going to be with on a Saturday night. You never have to worry about unwanted pregnancy, STD transmission, or having to launder the sheets 'yet again this week.' One woman in Edmonton was reported to have said she has thoroughly enjoyed never having been aroused by anybody at any time, because this has left her life so uncomplicated and enabled her to get on with important things. What important things? Oh, I'm sorry. I guess I just cheapened myself by writing that.
All I can say in conclusion is chacun a son gout, I suppose. But, I must also be thankful that I am in the 99.95 per cent group, despite the number of complications in the old 'coupling' field I've had to deal with in my life.

So, bearing that in mind, and knowing that May 1 is on the immediate horizon, I leave you all with an authentic bit of Canadian doggerel:

Hooray-hooray. It's the first of May. Outdoor screwing starts today!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

O Demon alcohol -- sad memories I can't recall

"He's an alcoholic -- give the man a hug."

This was the oft-uttered introduction to a new client used by a counseling colleague at the recovery facility at which I worked a few years ago. What he meant by the statement was that in a facility that had become increasingly focused on the woes of those seeking help with addictions to illicit street drugs and other shit, the plain old alcoholic was, relatively speaking, a cakewalk for the addictions counselor's task.

I thought of this in light of very recent statistics about our 'legal drug' that have just been released. Stats the point out that alcohol-related deaths in our society have increased by 20 percent in the years since 1992. Well, as Gomer Pyle would have said: "Surprise-surprise-surprise." Yep, bit surprise that this 'legal' drug (I reiterate) that is pushed by governments, merchants, and media advertising to a degree that would make a major illicit dope dealer cringe at his ineptitude compared with the professional prowess of the booze-pushers.

It's arguable that there are only two things about alcohol that sets it apart from other drugs, including marijuana -- despite what pot's advocates would have you believe -- is that people don't necessarily drink alcohol in order to get high. In fact, most don't. Non-addictive imbibers appreciate a cool beer on a hot day, or will ecstatically marvel over the bouquet of a fine vintage. About eight out of 10 drinkers don't drink to get loaded. The only other thing about booze that makes it different is that, for adults at least, it's legal. But, such realities notwithstanding, alcohol still directly or indirectly kills, via related illnesses or accidents, more of us than all other drugs combined.

Alcohol-fueled MVAs are, for the young, a leading cause of premature death. In the workaday world, on vacation, and even at home, alcohol takes a huge toll in accidental deaths. As for its role in other deaths, there is sufficient Grim-Reaper potential in booze that it should give society much more pause than it does. Cirrhosis, which knocks off enough people that it qualifies as one of our leading causes of death, is a particularly horrible way to die. Believe me, I've seen it. You don't want that to happen to even somebody you hate. Usually the person dies, generally in a comatose state by that point, of a massive hemorrhage in the gut. The lead-up to that premature death is horrendous. By the way, in booze-addled England, girls as young as 15 are currently being diagnosed with cirrhosis.

When I was addictions counseling we had a client who was dying of cirrhosis. He was brain-addled due to alcoholic dementia, or "wet-brain", in the parlance, which symptomatically resembles Alzheimer's. We had to run this poor sonofabitch into hospital every few days so he could have the abdominal fluid that built up within him (making him look like King Kong's mother in the last stage of pregnancy) drained off. He knew he had only months to live, that it was indeed end-game for him, but he was determined he would die sober -- a bit late in the game, albeit. Whether or not he died sober, I do not know, but he only lasted three months after he left us. When he was in residence he looked like a ravaged man of 75. He was 43-years-old.

Cirrhosis is directly caused by alcohol abuse (women, by the way, are nearly twice as susceptible to cirrhosis than men due to their normally lighter body mass), but other illnesses not necessarily tagged to booze can also have a huge alcohol connection. Stroke and heart attack take many lives in this country, and a lifetime of two-fisted drinking can certainly be seen as part of the mix. Likewise, there is a correlation between alcohol abuse (combined with smoking) and throat cancer, and there are possible connections between alcohol abuse and liver and pancreatic cancers.

But, this isn't a temperance lecture. The majority of adults handle alcohol with the respect it deserves, and consumes accordingly. You'll note I said "adults." For young people the over-consumption of beverage alcohol is an entirely other matter, and it's a behavior that is outrageously downplayed in contemporary society. That's not only unfortunate, it's outrageously irresponsible. My particular gripe with societal and official soft-peddling of alcohol consumption is the hypocrisy.

Smoking, which is a highly unhealthy practice deserving of the censure it gets. Smoking is, of course, the governmental and health services crusaders' cause-célèbre. Yet, there is so little uttered to decry our other major killer drug -- booze. Smoking has been outlawed by all airlines. Fair enough. Why hasn't alcohol? How many incidents of so-called 'air-rage' have been alcohol fueled? Most of them. Yet, no sooner does the seat-belt light go off on virtually all flights, than out comes the drinks trolley. Combine those offerings with the two hours your seat-mate has been sitting in a departure bar prioto takeke-off, and you have a recipe for some unpleasantness.

Smoking is assailed from all quarters (this is emphatically 'not' defensece of smoking, by the way), banned virtually everywhere, packaging compulsorily must include the horror messages and pictures, and yet access to booze is liberalized. Outlets are permitted to increase, bars are encouraged (you'll note I didn't say 'permitted') to stay open later, and television advertising is wide-open with all sorts of colorful sceneof frolickingng young people pervading, with not one ad showing somebody puking on her shoes, being sexually assaulted, or being pulled out of a smoking car wreck.Where are the warning labels on bottles of alcohol? Why aren't there pictures of rotted livers, or skid-row winos? How about a bloodied couple bashing each other with their fists late on a Saturday night?

Why do governments reap huge revenues from alcohol sales, yet provide the merest pittances (if anything at all) for alcoholism treatment and recovery? Why does society, including officialdom still harbor the mental myth that alcoholics are rum-soaked derelicts picking through dumpsters and living under the bridge? In fact, alcoholics are among those making the decisions, passing legislation, sitting on judicial benches, and sometimes sitting across from you at the dinner table in your comfortable suburban home. The majority of drunks are a long way from the dumpster.

As I said, my observations are based on my own experiences, including working with otherwise decent people who, by dint of their abuse were left just as tragically addicted and dysfunctional as any crack or meth-head.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A little nest that nestles where the roses bloom

Few are the virtues of getting older, but there is one area (maybe a couple of others) in which I am pleased about not just starting out, and that is in the realm of dwellings and finding something suitable and comfortable. I have my house. It's not palatial; just a cute bungalow in a pleasant neighborhood. Even better, it's largely paid for. Even better yet it has accrued in market value about 150 percent since we bought it about eight years ago. Not so bad. If we offloaded tomorrow, we could pay off the mortgage and still have a lot of bucks to the good.

But, and here's the spoiler, we would then have to find a place to live, and that would leave us having to reassume a mortgage. So, I think we'll stay where we are for a while and revel in the fact we're not first-time homebuyers in a market that has gotten not only obscene, but "pornographic," as one scribe recently put it.

Pornography is, of course, salacious material with the declared and obvious intention of arousing sexual feeling and, if it's doing its job, bringing about orgasm. How does that tie in with real estate? Mainly because of the arousing pictorials and articles about intensely desirable dwellings which, while not exactly like the one pictured above, still fall into a realm that is so far beyond the reach of most of us, that its intended purpose must surely only be titillation because, I hate to tell you folks, 99.9 percent of us are never going to move into these joints, any more than we're going to coit with Angelina or Brad, depending on your persuasion.

What such irresponsible reporting of sumptuousness does is merely rub the noses of those desperate for some kind of reasonable accommodation right into the poop. In that context, I quit looking at the Homes sections in daily newspapers a long time ago; recognizing that they are nothing more than screeds for Realtors and developers, and of no consequence to regular folks. No consequence other than to render such people discontented or, even worse, to embark on acquiring mortgages that will pull out the lion's share of their incomes for homes that they will lose the moment interest rates rise even by maybe two percent. That's frightening.

I've owned a few lovely homes in my life. They were very nice and I'll say that I feel privileged for having owned them. One was on 80 feet of waterfront, and the other boasted a smashing in-ground swimming pool. My current home is not necessarily humble, but it is less extravagant than what I had in the past. And, in this current home I am infinitely happier than I was in the two earlier ones. That's mainly because I'm much happier with my life. And that counts much more than bricks and mortar.

But -- and it's a huge 'but' -- what ultimately is to happen to people in the wake of the reality of virtually no affordable housing? Why have the extravagant whims of the supremely affluent been encouraged to prevail and artificially spike real estate costs beyond the means of average income earners? Sure, it's a bubble, and sure, that bubble will burst eventually, but that's scant solace to those who want to dwell in a decent home in a decent community.

As I say, I have my home, and in that I feel privileged for having bought into the market a long time ago. But, I still care enough about those who aren't there that I find their reality disquieting.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Bovine ponderings for spring

When I was very young, about 4-years-old, I think, I was very afraid of cows. I lived in the city at the time, but we would often go to my grandparents' in the country and, while they didn't have cows, they would often provide pasture for neighbors with the the mammoth creatures. Well, mammoth to a little kid who rarely saw an animal bigger than the neighbors' Irish setter. I actually thought cows were carnivores, and if you weren't careful around them, they would eat you.

My views about cows have changed profoundly over the years. They are charming, generally mellow creatures who give good service by their lactating processes, and provide enough methane, should we choose to harness it, to feed our industrial and vehicular maws, enabling us to say "screw the Middle East, we've got cow farts sufficient to carry us to the next millennium."

Anyway, as the warm days of spring arrived just a little while ago, I thought I would pay my homage to creatures bovine -- about which Canadian poet Al Purdy once wondered if they were lesbian, since they spend so much time in female company -- by the rendering above. I was a cartoonist for many years, and I also paint these days, so I thought, out of respect for cows, I would pay this little tribute.

One of the problems faced by cows is that we profess to respect them on the one hand for all the milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, regular cheese and ice cream they provide, yet we also eat a few gazillion of them every day. These leads one to wonder if cows are getting really pissed by those mixed messages. Some think they are. Perhaps in answer to that question you should check out It's worth the trip. Make sure you play the video, if you haven't seen it before. Turn up the volume, because the sentiments (not to mention atrocious puns) will make your day.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Face the facts, folks, we're all hooped

It was ominous news for all of us, according to the papers this weekend. Indeed, so ominous that I believe none of us has a chance for a fulfilling life, and what we do or don't do, or take pleasure in, or don't take pleasure in is a-gonna kill us.

Yes, those weenie-wonks who take some sort of perverse pleasure in researching this stuff and then revealing their remarkable findings just to make the general public feel inadequate and fraught with despair can feel a smug sense of triumph in rendering life just a little bit worse.

Am I talking about Iran, Iraq, global warming or anything else involved assorted conspiring madmen and malcontents brimming with desire to take us out? Not at all. I am talking about the fundament of our lives. That is, our socio-economic status, our recreational pursuits, and our sexual activities.

In the first case, a report on the weekend tells us that our family-of-origin determines our future wealth potential. So, if you were born and raised on a hardscrabble dirtfarm somewhere, anywhere, your future destiny is, at best, a trailer park. On the other hand, if you were born a Paris Hilton (seen above in some sort of momentary difficulty, about which I don't choose to speculate), you know, brain-dead, ego and estrogen-driven, but filthy stinkin' rich, you will continue to be so, and so will your children and grandchildren. In other words, if your formative years were the wrong side of the proverbial tracks, your chances of being president or prime minister are pretty damn remote. Does a guy like Bill Clinton put the lie to that. Well, yes and no. He married shrewdly and had more connections than he always chose to reveal. Anyway, that's bummer #1 for the guys who relish telling you bad news.

Secondly, it's been a hot day. You've been working hard and haven't been getting much exercise later. What would be better than going down to your local municipal pool and taking a dip, or, if you are so privileged, dive into your very own backyard pool. Aha -- not so fast. That cooling-off exercise could cost you your life, for reasons other than the obvious, like getting drunk and then attempting to dive into the shallow end. No, you see, the assorted 'Dr. Bringdowns' are telling us its all about the crappy nature of the water, especially in public pools. All sorts of pee, sweat and other unimaginable stuff being deposited in those azure waters render that pool no safer for your health than bathing in the septic tank, these guys say. Yep, you can get anything from impetigo to meningitis, to almost anything you might consider. Better to just head home and get into bed, according to the bummer #2 guys.

Get into bed indeed. And hey, on the surface, this looks like a good one. If you get into bed, do not get into bed alone. Get into bed with somebody whom you fancy. Better yet, with somebody to whom you are either married or in a long term relationship. You have it here. Sexual intercourse is good for a body. I've always suspected that, and a London Daily Telegraph article is happy to so inform us. And, ideally, such encounters should be at least twice a week for optimum health advantage. Nice thought, eh? Makes up for the aforementioned bad stuff. Well, maybe not entirely so.

The British research team that released its findings suggested that while indeed intercourse lowers the blood pressure, increases self-esteem, lessens depression, and slaps the prostate into shape, the criteria of such encounters are very specific, the article goes on to say. It is only talking about basic, missionary-position, penile-vaginal sex (not that there is anything wrong with that). So, of no clinical value whatsoever is oral sex, masturbation, or anything else you might have a mind to do with the various fun spots God gave us.

So, how is this good news for people who are alone? No point in net surfing with a goal of self-amusement in mind. That's not going to keep you healthy, or alive. What about men with erectile difficulties? What about gays? What about new parents? Furthermore, activities of the 'Monica-Bill' sort will take you out just as quickly as doing nothing at all.

In reading the article, knowing that it wasn't April Fool's day any longer, I wondered who commissioned such a study. The Pope?

So, my advice for today is accept the fact you're a peasant, don't go swimming and, if you have a very special intimate friend, go at it like there's no tomorrow. Maybe there isn't.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Evil is as evil does, my Granny used to say

TV spoof spy, Maxwell Smart of the brilliantly satirical series Get Smart back in the 1960s, once said of a KAOS agent he'd been forced to expedite untimely: "If only he had used all his talents for the sake of the forces of niceness."

Maxwell Smart believed in the "forces of niceness". So, blessedly, do many of us, or society would truly collapse into a morass of KAOS chaos, and we'd be the worse for it. Indeed, not only do most of us attempt to do good -- other than maybe raising a little hell once in a while, or making some bad judgment calls -- but we expect our societies and our governments to also be sitting on the side of the angels. But, in so considering such an enlightened society, are we prepared to accept the possibility there is evil in the world? And if so, how do we approach the genuinely evil, if we accept the possibility?

There are those who do not believe there are evil people. They are, in the eyes of their defenders, victims of circumstance, poor nurturing, poverty, sexual exploitation in childhood, lousy potty training, or whatever piece of mitigation professional advocates wish to trot out. Those who would 'attempt to understand' the motivations of a Ted Bundy or Scott Peterson can be found on the bench, on parole boards, in the schools and pounding out newspaper columns. They are those who refuse to accept that some people are 'bad-to-the-bone.' Maybe they're right, but in being right, they are offering scant solace to the families and friends of the victims of the men and women who perpetrate evil acts.

I once conducted an interview with Canadian prisoner's rights activist Claire Culhane. I asked her the pointed question if she believed some people cannot be defended in normal human terms; that some people are just plain evil. She denied such a possibility, and trotted out all the hobbyhorses of bad nurturing, society being at fault, and so forth. So, I cited a name to her. He was an inmate for whom Culhane had run interference. This was a man doing life for murder who seized a female guard, held her for ransom, and then methodically slit her throat -- fatally. Culhane winced at the mention of the name. "Yes," she conceded. "With the exception of him. He was the closest I ever came to true evil."

Throughout human history we have had monsters. Name them. Their numbers are legion. Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, and more. We currently are befuddled as to how we must take Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. Is he a fruitcake and saber rattler, or is he consummately evil? It is, needless to say, an important question in light of contemporary geopolitics. Remember, this is a man who has threatened, indeed predicted genocide against the state of Israel. This is a man who is laboring to render Iran (a state that is, and for years has been, arguably a much greater threat to the well-being of the West than Iraq ever was in Saddam's wildest perverted imaginings) a nuclear power. So, are diatribes against the guy really just so much political posturing, or should we maybe countenance the possibility that, while Hussein may have been a thug, this dude is a genuinely wicked human being in the mold of a Stalin or Hitler?

ultimately it comes down to how we view the world and our fellows. If there is such a thing as good and evil, and it's not all relative, must we accept a role in eliminating evil, and who is to make the decision? Would love your thoughts.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Knickers -- in a twist

Don't let the picture worry you, this isn't some sort of fetishistic entry in my blogspace, it's just an observation about apparel and confusion in the male psyche.

I have a dear friend who runs a very high class lingerie shop. Periodically I drop by to say hi, and to catch up on life matters with somebody I've known for well over a decade. Sometimes, if she is on the phone, or dealing with a customer, I'll glance around me and realize I am surrounded by items of nether wear of the sort that causes some men to be uncomfortable to the poiint of palpitations. Why is that? I don't think men's shorts make women uncomfortable, yet grown men can be embarrassed into foot-shuffling blushes, and other behaviors that are more suited to a schoolboy.

A few years ago another lingerie purveyor in the community used to mount an annual Christmas show for men only. I attended a couple of these as a reporter, and they were great fun. She supplied food, drinks, and then a fashion show featuring models wearing, in some cases, the skimpiest of attire items. Not a disagreeable newspaper assignment, you understand. One year it was a tiny bit self-consciousness inducing to me, since one of the models, wearing the bitsiest items, happened to be my dentist's assistant. It felt odd the next time I saw her in her crisp whites, and couldn't help but wonder what she was wearing beneath the uniform.

But, the point of the fashion show, as the proprietor told me, was that many men were simply too embarrassed to go into her shop and buy Christmas items for wife, or girlfriend. She said their self-consciousness was often palpable for those brave enough to venture in, and they would blush openly when they described what they might be thinking of buying.
"That would be OK if they weren't the same people who ogle the girls in Playboy," she noted, with a laugh. "I guess when it comes down to real women, and real women's underthings, a lot of men are cowards."

Yes, men can go off to war, explore the upper amazon, endure excruciating physical agonies, but hit a guy full on with a tiny pair of bikini briefs that he might want to buy for the missus, and he wilts. He loves their esthetic, and the idea of them no doubt, but he is psycholigically unprepared for them. He'll buy her a deep-fryer instead and then wonder why she is chagrined on Christmas morning. "No, really, it's a great fryer. You can do donuts and onion rings, one after the other without changing the oil. Hey, where did you go?"

At a personal revelation level, I am not cowardly about making such a purchase. I have bought a number of women silky, satiny items over the years, and have enjoyed so doing. Consequently, when I sit in my friend's shop, I'm not bothered. Appreciative of what's on display, but never embarrassed.

So, where does the distress come from in certain men? Is it because, especially in the case of panties, because they sit on the most intimate part of the body? That, I think, is part of their charm. Is it because these same men were caught surreptitiously and naughtilly looking up little girls' skirts in the schoolyard? Maybe. Is it because, and I'll turn Freudian here, their mothers wear knickers? I really don't know.

All I do know is that of all items of female apparel, panties, from Bridget Jones' granny garment, to the teeniest thongs have the power to bring about an attack of the vapors on the part of a lot of males, and maybe that men are more shy than a lot of women think they are.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Turn the other cheek? Oh, pshaw.

The following is an excerpt from a manuscript penned by me, that is currently lying in seeming limbo on a publisher's desk. Hopefully there rather than in his round-file. The book, thematically, is a guide to life for middle-aged men. Enjoy -- I hope.

No unknown enemies here. You're fully aware of who those bastards are that have ground you down with impunity throughout your life. You've had to deal with plenty of them as you have slogged through your days, wanting always to do the right thing, but being thwarted by agenda driven adversaries.

Consequently, there is nothing you'd like more than to see those guys get what they deserve. After all, you have told yourself, more times than you'd care to admit, that what goes around, comes around and we don't get mad, we get even, and other impotence inspired cliches that offer little real solace of the sort you might get from an Uzi.

Certain people have done unspeakable, intolerable and unconscionable things to you. Things you haven't deserved. And the people that have laid this shit on you haven't been far-away enemies, but instead, your so-called nearest-and-dearest, like your parents, siblings, other family members, neighbors, lovers, and spouses. In your outer life, you've also had to dodge the blows and backstabbings of teachers, bosses, cops, drill sergeants, postal clerks, bankers, customs officers, colleagues, and in fact representative examples of virtually every group on the planet.

And, it's just not right that they should have gotten away with it. Some people have hurt you more than others either because they had larger and more dominant roles to play in your life, or the nature of their transgressions went beyond the commonplace. In some cases the wounds never really went away, but still drag you down whenever you let your mind go to the time and circumstances of injury -- which it seems to do far too often. The masochistic exercise of 'poor me' is like worrying a bad tooth with your tongue. You know it's going to hurt, but you compulsively go there anyway.

You have sought recompense, or at least some sort of acknowledgment from those who have hurt you, since they owe you at least a gesture of contrition. If that hasn't happened -- and it rarely does -- then your mind has turned to thoughts of vengeance. You want to see them whimper. You want to see them beg you for mercy. You want to be like Dirty Harry Callaghan and direct them to "make (your) day!"

You've watched court cases in which you've personalized the of those ofthose who have had a child molested or murdered, or a wife raped, only to see the scumbag who carried out the crime cop a plea and get off with apathetic and unjustifiable manslaughter sentence. You've thought, if it were my wife or daughter, I'd hire somebody to waste the bastard, since the courts in our fair land no longer seem willing or able to carry out their ordained duties.

If you've dwelt long enough on the rotten things others have done to you, then usually by middle age you've become a festering mass of resentment sores, and your life has never had a moment's peace, since you've not been able to let go of the ways in which you've been brutalized physically, emotionally and spiritually. I'm not suggesting that you might be exaggerating your pain. People truly have transgressed all areas of your integrity and perpetrated terrible acts of cruelty, disloyalty, and out-and-out vileness. It happens all the time, and few of us escape unscathed by the thoughtless, self-seeking, cruel, and even evil dealings of our fellows. I know I haven't.

To put it right, we say that all we're seeking is justice. And in our hearts, we are. But, what we really want is revenge. Revenge tastes sweet. An act of revenge tells us we're not powerless, and woe be to those who thought we were. They will see the error of their ways -- won't they?Unfortunately, they won't. If somebody who has wronged you (possibly unwittingly) feels ashamed, they might make some sort of amends to you. They might indeed seek your forgiveness. Such a person will likely do that because he or she is a decent human being like you are.

But, in many cases you will get no apology. There are a few reasons for this. One, you have done something to hurt the person in question, and they are seeking their own revenge against you by retaliating in a way they knew would hurt you. Two, the object of your detestation is a psychopathic shit. Or three, and more commonly, you will get no contrition because this person sees the situation from his or her perspective, not yours. From that vantage point, everything looks jake. And, be honest, isn't that a bit like where you are coming from in your vengeful consternation? Consider the scenario that follows:

Let's say your wife is working late at the law offices Fosdickand, Fosdick and Fosdick, and the senior Fosdick comes over to her and says there are some business matters he wants to discuss. But, he wants to get out of the office, so he suggests they go for a drink. After a moment's hesitation, she agrees. And she goes. And she and Fosdick have a drink (Fosdick has three because he's a lush, but she only has a glass of white wine), discuss the business issues and she departs for home the moment it's completed. She arrives home an hour late. You're beside yourself. Where was she? Why didn't she phone? She might have been in an accident. "What, you went for a drink with that oily bastard Fosdick!" You're outraged. How dare she go out drinking with another man? She patiently tries to explain the situation, but you'll have none of it. You rant and froth at the mouth, demanding that she apologize for the terrible thing she has done. She knows she has done nothing wrong and finally, since you've pushed all the paranoid codependency buttons in the household, she tells you to go off and have sexual intercourse with yourself. You storm out of the room and go to the rec-room to pout. You ponder divorce; wonder if she and Fosdick are involved in an affair; think about how you might 'get' Fosdick, or maybe you should just pop him one at the next staff party. It's an ugly scene all around. If you really want to milk it, you can carry on for days and make yourself and everyone else in the household miserable.
What's happening is you are viewing the incident from your perspective and she is viewing it from hers. There is no resolution to this sort of domestic overkill other than time, since no apology is going to be forthcoming. No apology is needed. Once you have calmed down, if you have an ounce of maturity, you' ll face that 'fact.

What I discovered in recent years is that I spent too much of my life going about this thing the wrong way. I too, in the past, suffered 'Fosdick Angst', all of it based on my insecurity. As I've gotten older, and have gained more life experience, I've found that I am able to see situations just a tiny bit more from the perspective of another. Furthermore, I've actually found that my heart has gotten bigger. Life is short. I don't want to be mired in resentment. Therefore, I've concluded that I have to take matters into my own hands, and I have to carry out the act of forgiving people who just might have wronged me.

Have I gotten soft? I hope not. But, I have gotten more realistic in my perspective. If people have wronged me, then I have also wronged others. And I have often done so unwittingly, and have been shocked when my transgressions were pointed out to me. How many people have hurt me equally unwittingly? We're all inclined to have our heads up our own backsides much of the time, and none of us pays as much heed to others and their wants and needs as we do to our own. So, we don't have clean slates ourselves.

The irony is that in gaining some understanding, I have also gotten more unwavering and less tolerant in some regards. I believe society is often misguidedly conciliatory, and I am convinced that for the smooth operation of our systems, people have to take responsibility for their infractions. Terrible behavior is granted tacit acceptance due to weak-kneed and cowardly judges, overburdened courts and prosecutors who will opt for the plea-bargain or deal in lieu of the just sentence, because it's cheaper and less messy.

Likewise, too much consideration is given to the so-called 'human rights' of the perpetrators, and too little is given to the uninvited grief that victims, their families and loved ones undergo. Yes, justice should be tempered with mercy, but only to the degree that it doesn't interfere with recompense to the injured. I believe in justice, true justice, and I resolutely believe in accountability. I loathe such cliches as 'Do the crime, do the time,' but sometimes they are apt. We are too quick to find mitigation for major infractions of the general weal. If the debt to society has been paid, then I am prepared to forgive. But, my general view of forgiveness has little or nothing to do with the persecution and prosecution of society's misfeasors.

In a way forgiveness is a selfish act. It's a means of unburdening myself, and it also negates any power my erstwhile adversary might think he or she still holds over me. I can win even when it might appear I am losing by being civil to a bastard. In offering my contrition to those I believe I have wronged, I neither expect nor demand the same from them. A trusted friend said: "Pray for those who have wronged you; those who you think you hate. Don't pray for those who love you and are nice to you; that's too easy." I like the idea. It works. How it works is that it gets you into a mode of positive thinking. If you forgive, the endorphins will start flowing in good directions. Forgiveness is not 'the' key to happiness, but it has a lot of power. Try it. You might like it.

But, if forgiveness doesn't work, I do know some guys who will do 'anything' for a few bucks.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Not entirely like Barbie and Ken after all

"We were regarded like the Barbie and Ken of the community," said a friend over coffee this morning, in reference to a marriage that had gone goodbye a few years before. "Everybody expected us to stay married forever. We were role-models for what a good marriage should be." He suggested that he and his ex-wife probably stayed together much longer than was healthy for either of them -- just because it was 'expected.'

I understood his words. I've been there. I've been there twice, I am actually quite ashamed to say. And, in the case of my first marriage, my wife and I probably did stay on board about a decade longer than we should have, mainly because it seemed to be 'expected' in our case, too. At the same time, I did suggest I was ashamed to admit to two divorces. That has something to do with failure. I don't like to fail. None of us do. In fact, I'll even venture to suggest that divorce is probably taken too lightly by many people, and that possibly fear-of-failure should guide us a little more than it does. But, divorce is much more than that. It is a life-altering trauma that is guaranteed to put anyone with a modicum of sensitivity and decency through a goodly amount of hell; and an even greater amount of grief.

We tend to think of divorce as being not so much more than the legal dissolution of a marriage. On the surface, that's what it is. Underneath it's very much more. It is a radical shift in your self-image, your self-esteem, and the dreams and aspirations you had for a life for the duration with somebody you were once madly in love with. And, even at the legal end, you don't get out easily. There are settlements and agreements and pissing matches over trivial bits of property, and alienated family members, and alienated friends and it all becomes a convoluted Shakespearian tragedy. And that's just when the process goes smoothly. When you throw kids, and joint properties and other little niceties in the mix it can get really messy. Messiest of all is if there is residual bitterness over somebody running off with somebody they had no business running off with. Fortunately, in both my cases those complications weren't at issue. But it was still unspeakably hard even without them.

The denouement of my first marriage came about because we had simply 'grown apart', as the saying goes. We had divergent interests, and those interests continued to grow increasingly divergent. We'd started out in the same professional field. We had that commonality. I left the field after seven years and entered another one that made me very happy in my work, but that she couldn't ever understand or show much interest in. And so it went. We didn't get hugely acrimonious, but eventually life became hollow for both of us, so when the day finally arrived, it was with more of a whimper than a bang.

In the second one, it was a fleeting rebound that grew out of a hugely torrid liaison with the most enticing piece of eye-candy I had ever met. I was besotted with her. She, it seemed was besotted with me. And so we frolicked and partied and had the sort of intimate life that was heavenly for a jaded mid-life guy. Eventually we realized that all we had in common was our interest in what lay within each other's undies, and not so very much more. It was, as I say, a rebound, and should have stayed at the fling level. But, I don't regret the adventure of it all. I am a romantic. And we still get along well, after some initial mud-slinging episodes. And, as I said in an earlier blog, the wonderful thing I got from that relationship was my amazing, and cherished (from afar, sadly) step-daughter.

I guess I am put in mind of all this stuff because my anniversary with my third (and utterly wonderful) wife. It is our seventh. I cherish all my moments with her and, if it pleases God, I would like it to stay that way. I do not want to go through the other ever again. I don't think I have the energy, nor do I want to lose a third house. Not with today's real estate prices.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Seduction

The story is told with a kiss,
a look,
a thrust of the hips.

She sashayed into his boredom;
sashayed is the only word to define her walk.
That was all that was needed.

He drank her body on the illicit bed.
Closer, deeper,
please-please consume me so that the 'I' goes away
and becomes you.

She smiled contentedly.
She was done. She hadn't even started.
But she had done what was needed.

In trying to repeat that moment,
he gave away himself repeatedly
as the years and the times went by.

His name, his art, his face -- his love.
So nobody could see him any more.
'He' went away.
'He' became 'her'.
'He' had died.

One day she thrust him out.
Her body and her spirit rejected
now that she was nourished.
He was born again -- dead!

But, his stillborn corpse pulled a tiny Lazarus trick,
Much to her consternation.
"You're supposed to be dead!"
She muttered in vexation.

"They always die!"
Maybe she hadn't completed the job!
There must be more work to do.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Festive times in an orphan's world

The day before Easter of 1981 I actually hiked up the long steps of Blarney Castle, in Cork, Ireland. I remember the incident fondly, despite being hungover from surfeits of Guinness the previous evening. I think my hike to the castle and up the long steps was a modicum of penance for my transgressions. In a bit of gratitude I tried to recapture some of the spiritual (as opposed to spiritous) aspects of the experience in the painting at right. Easter of 1981 is one I remember with fondness and even a modicum of grace. Ireland, with its entrenched, albeit convoluted form of Catholic Christianity seemed to go well with the Crucifixion and Resurrection tale.

I have a problem with festive times of the year, both Christmas and Easter, for it is at such times I am struck by intense sensations of isolation in the universe. Oh, I do not intend to be dreary. There is a world of difference between sensations of isolation, or aloneness, if you prefer, and loneliness. I am rarely lonely. I have many friends whom I cherish and would do anything for, as they would for me. No, it's more a sort of existential aloneness that comes from a virtual lack of family. That reality can lead to a feeling of loss-of-place in the world. I am happily married, and my wife and I cherish each other deeply, but that is a relationship of choice, and not family in quite the same sense. My parents have been gone for many years. I don't miss them so very much because ours was not a warm and cuddly home. I have a brother whom I love deeply, although we see each other rarely. I have another brother who chooses to remain utterly detached from any familial connections. That's his choice. I respect it. Maybe even understand it.

But, festive times can make me acutely aware of loss. Here I will mention a person whom I love unto death. I have no children, by choice of my first wife (a choice I respected but was hurt by). But, I do have a stepdaughter by my second marriage. She is my child, and my only one. We have not communicated for a decade. She was in the midst of her teens when her mother and I fell apart. She was caught in the middle, and there were, quite naturally, and sadly, areas of conflict between her and myself in which she took her mother's part in all of it. So she should have, despite the fact that fault existed on both sides. Oh, don't worry, this isn't a whine or a blame thing. Shit happens in God's universe. In my own way I will always love her mother (never trust, but certainly love), and she and I communicate at a very 'civil' level. But, fences were never mended with my stepdaughter. Oh, she's doing fine, and I have contributed at some small financial level many times in the past. She is currently working on her masters on full fellowship at a Norwegian university. She is brilliant, beautiful and talented. I know all of this. But, even if she were a dud, I'd still love her. I have tried to communicate with her, but to no avail from her end. I respect that, even if I don't like it.

Ultimately, even though I have lost many others in my life, and miss many others who have gone, I think I miss young Ms. A most acutely. She, the child I almost had.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

What do eggs have to do with Easter, anyway?

Much as is the case with Christmas traditions like trees and mistletoe, Easter eggs represent a little bit of paganism tacked on to a Christian ritual. Eggs representing spring, rebirth and all that stuff became intertwined with the tale of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, which is, to the believer, another form of birth. Ta-da. There, aren't you happy you know that?

So, some random thoughts on Easter that will lead in no particular direction.

I remember being decked out in dorky little bowtie, and even dorkier little blazer so I could accompany my parents to church on Easter morning. It was one of those things children of an earlier era were compelled to do at Easter and Christmas before they were entitled to get to the good stuff. Presents at Christmas, and chocolate eggs at Easter. Little boys and little girls -- with pretty hats, clutching tiny plastic purses -- dragged off to pay homage to "What Easter really means," in my mother's words.

"It would make me vomit, to see your Easter bonnet," sang my brother, before being chastised for vulgarity by my mother, attempting to stifle a grin while trying to appear stern.

About two days before Easter my mother would put on a large cooking pot and fill it with water and white eggs bought especially for the occasion. Easter egg coloring was a wonderful time as we gathered around the kitchen table attempting to create multi-hued ovoids that, while falling far short of Faberge splendors, nevertheless satisfied us and looked fabulous when put into a wicker basket and nestled into straw. I wonder if I would still enjoy doing that? Ultimately the rainbow hued eggs were to end up as blue, green or red-tinted egg salad for school lunch sandwiches.

Easter baskets of my recall contained entirely too many jellybeans and not enough chocolate and marshmallow. We also hope for a considerable array of fluffy baby chicks in the purple and yellow baskets. My brother and I, once we had consumed all the chocolate and some of the jelly beans, would then have cock-fights with our chicks. Mine won always since I was older, and my brother would end up in tears since the little beaks were very poorly secured and would end up being amputated around the same time the little black eyes were gouged out. My father would invariably promise to glue the ravaged bits back on, but I don't recall him ever getting around to it.

Ultimately, Easter ended up being a little disappointing. The largesse wasn't as impressive as the Christmas haul. And, once you had done the basket thing and the church thing, what were you to do with the rest of the day? Easter dinner was kind of a disappointment, too. My mother always did ham. I didn't like ham when I was younger. It didn't seem as festive as turkey. Now I prefer ham, which is a comment appropos of nothing, really.

So, in fear of driveling on relentlessly, I will simply wish all and sundry a happy Easter.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

How do you like your blue-eyed boy, Mr. Death?

Do not go gentle into that good night!
Rage-rage 'gainst the dying of the light!
- D. Thomas

"You know what I hate? I hate it when they die in batches. That always brings me back to my own mortality." That, said an acquaintance the other day, was in reference to a funeral we'd both attended on Saturday.

A lot of death has been happening lately. I don't like it because, like my friend, it brings me to my mortality. I've attended two services in the last month. Then yesterday a former colleague bought the proverbial. Hmm, things happen in threes, n'est ce pas?

Albeit all the 'late' gentlemen were considerably older than I am and, in the case of one, he led for many years a lifestyle which, while not to be envied, probably was a lot of riotous fun thirty years earlier, though ridiculously ill-considered once he reached pensionable age. That, alas, didn't seem to deter him.

Do not, dear reader, misconstrue the message of these musings about the hereafter, for I am not feeling especially morbid, I was just struck by not only the fact that each demise of someone we care about diminishes us all a little bit, but that we are also forced to look at ourselves in mortal context. I think, to be honest, that frightens the shit out of me. So, periodically I ask myself, exactly what is it that we (as in 'I') find scary about shuffling off this mortal coil? Everybody since the beginning of time has died, even the most nervous individuals. So, are we afraid of pain? Well, when death actually comes, pain goes away. For me, there are two things that chasten me. One, I have a lot of people whom I deal with to greater or lesser degrees, whom I love and cherish in the most ridiculously warm-hearted way. I don't want to leave them. The other element of death disquietude is that there remain many, many things I would like to do, and many, many places I want to visit. Finally, it astonishes me that it has all transpired and passed so quickly. I consider my age and think, "That can't be right. I must have lost a couple of decades somewhere, and once I find them again, I can sigh with relief in knowing it was all just a dream." But, I know that isn't so. I know that many years have passed despite the fact I sometimes think I just graduated from high school or lost my virginity a couple of weeks ago. No, in answer to a question that might have popped into your mind, both didn't happen on the same weekend, by the way, despite pleading entreaties on my part. In fact, if you'll indulge testosterone-driven braggadocio, the virginity thing happened (ahem!) four years earlier.

But, back to death. I have realized it doesn't do to look and ponder how many years ahead I might have because that drives me to think -- let's say I give myself 30 -- of what I was doing 30 years ago. Not good. Memories are still fresh. That was 1976, for God's sake. The Beatles had already broken up years before that, and John Lennon would be shot only five years hence.

Maybe none of this is good. On the other hand, the daffodils and tulips are in full bloom, and spring is a time of rebirth. There, that feels better.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Serenity and grace in the days of spring

My fish are feeding again, and that is a certain sign of spring in my world. After having lain dormant somewhere in the nether realms of the pond during the winter, they are now eating like there is no tomorrow. I began throwing them food on Sunday, and by today they are awaiting my morning arrival with avid anticipation.

I don't have so many fish, just two koi and three goldfish (my pond isn't terribly large), but I am delighted that all survived the winter and seem happy and healthy. Actually, I don't know if they're happy since fish aren't given to smiles, but I am assuming they are if they have good appetites.

I have had outdoor fish at three separate residences over the years, and I don't think I would ever be without them. They demand little and yet they give back more than you might think. What they primarily give is serenity. If I'm feeling stressed, even 10 minutes of piscatorial viewing makes negativity melt away. I can understand why the Japanese have always equated them to beauty and serenity. Sometimes I wonder what it is like for them being in captivity. Do they have fish dreams about broader expanses of water? I mean, my pond is virtually all they've ever known. It is their world, their universe, so I doubt if their wonderings extend beyond the pond's confines.

They do have enemies, of course, and keeping said vermin at bay demands vigilance. Raccoons love sushi, and more than once the pond has been ravaged by the furry bandits. Consequently, I now keep the pond screened overnight. Equally fond of a good feed of fish are the herons. Normally shy, they won't hesitate to assail a backyard pond. Once, at my former home, I heard a screech from the upstairs bedroom. I ran up to see what was happening. Since my ex was given to voluble histrionics at many things I thought it was probably nothing much. She, sputtering, pointed to the window. I looked out and there was a heron standing ankle-deep (do herons have ankles?) in the pond, contentedly plucking koi from the waters. I ran downstairs and out to the deck (below which the pond sat) waving my arms and exhorting the otherwise magnificent bird to depart immediately. He looked up, then ignored me and went back to his task. It was only when I got close enough to touch him that he gave up on his quest. We put a screen on that afternoon.

But, predators notwithstanding, my fish are back for the season and now I can truly welcome spring.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A toast to both venerable folk, icons to an era

I see where the Queen and Hugh Hefner both turn 80 this month. Two octogenarians who are, in their own ways, icons of a few generations. The Queen, beloved and dedicated head of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, and Hef, master of his own domain, and an icon for legions of 14-year-old male wankers of all ages for years and years.

Indeed, they both began their reigns at almost the same time. The Queen the year before Hef in 1952, and both have watched their respective empires wax and wane as the years have gone by. But, God love them, they have carried on with an unremitting sense-of-duty in both cases.

There are some other parallels, too. They are both relatively fastidious about personal habits. Hef is an abstainer of alcohol, and the Queen is a very, very slight tippler, favoring the odd small glass of dry white, or a G&T after a beastly day of state-duties or being forced to make nice with Charles and Camilla. They both live in palaces of sorts. They both must endure the brown-nosing of fawning pages who hope to win favor by either lucrative appointments on the one hand, or a date with Miss February on the other.

The Queen has always been (of course) monogamous. Hef, on the other hand, has been a serial monogamist, eschewing the favors of more than one at a time. Both have seen style and tastes change during their many, many years in office. The Queen has seen a goodly part of the Royal household deteriorate into scandal and has seen her children involved in sexual escapades that might either bring a chuckle to old Hef, or maybe even cause a blush in his cheek. The Hefner household, on the other hand, has been remarkably scandal-free, ironically.

However, in both cases, I think a toast is in order. Furthermore, both personages provide an inspiration to those pathetic wimps who think that just because they have reached a certain age, they must retire from active life and go out to some sort of pathetically boring pasture. Nonsense, say the Queen and Hef in unison. Life is just beginning, so carpe diem and continue to imprint your own style on the lesser mortals who pay homage to you.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

I'm madly in love with Jackie

I think I am in love with Jacqueline duPre. Not to worry about the state of my current union, since the divine cellist died in 1987, but her almost visceral allure for me lingers on and can be repeated any time I want, just by listening to her rendering of Elgar's Cello Concerto, and feeling the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, and tears come to my eyes. Tears for the sheer beauty of the piece, tears for her interpretation of the piece, tears for the soul gripping sound of a cello when well-played, and especially when well-played by a beautiful woman (and all cellists should be female, in my esteem, though I am not quite certain why, and tears from the knowledge that this musical genius was plucked from us by the ravages of multiple sclerosis, and quit this vale of tears at the tender age of 42, having been rendered unable to play for many years before she succumbed in 1987.

MS is a brutal and cruel destroyer of vital young people. I know. I don't know from being so afflicted, but from having been married to a woman who was (and is). Her's is not the galloping pernicious kind that so devastated Ms duPre, but of the lingering, attacking-remitting sort that hits without warning and leaving her never knowing if she will stumble and fall, or if she'll keep her underwear dry during a day at work. It's cruel. Whatever problems my ex and I may have had, I was always struck by her courage in the face of this nasty chronic condition. And, as an aside, the illness had absolutely nothing to do with the ultimate demise of our marriage. There were other and unrelated issues afoot therein, and I'll say nothing more about that.

But, back to Jackie. If you are interested in the woman, and she warrants as much interest as you want to give, assuredly see the film Hilary and Jackie, which was based on the remembrances of her nearly equally brilliant sister, Hilary. And, read the book Genius in the Family, more reminiscences of Jackie by Hilary and her brother, Piers duPre.

What is great about their remembrances of this amazing person is that she wasn't always lovable. She was temperamental, she was exasperating, she had a difficult time keeping her undies in place when certain males (including her sister's partner) were around. She was ego-driven and maddening. She was, in other words, a genius, and geniuses are never easy.

But a genius who can speak through the ages and provide such balm for the soul as Jackie, bow in hand, and cello between her shapely legs (and yes, she played it like she was making love to it, by the suggestion of many), could do, must be forgiven all excesses and temperamental displays. She had the right in a world filled with the banal and the gormless who pass themselves off as talents.

Anyway, I love her, and won't hear a bad word about her.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Time to exorcise them old demons

I want to be like the cat in this picture. It's not my cat, but a pretty reasonable facsimile of the feline that has been part my my life since 1997. He has never evidenced any remote hint of stress or anxiety. He mainly sleeps. Sometimes gets up. Sometimes eats. Sometimes preens. Sometimes pukes. And then he sleeps again. I am envious. I have been especially envious this past week. I have been suffering what is clinically referred to (or should be) as Donut-hole Syndrome. In other words, stressed.

The donut hole reference comes from that hollow, empty feeling in the gut that tells you something evil is afoot; something just isn't right. The sufferer can't easily define it, but there it is, unmistakably. It's the sort of feeling you got when you were a kid and were summoned to the principal's office, and later when you passed a radar speedtrap on the highway insecure in the knowledge that you were traveling at least 20 over the posted. It's the anticipatory angst you can get before a sexual encounter with somebody new, or that I used to get near the denouement of my last marriage when my not-so-loving-any-more wife pulled into the driveway.

So, I have been going through this. I know it will pass, but it's just not very much fun. I know it's work related. I have been doing a contract job for a guy who, while he pays well, is kind of a two-faced controlling bastard who nitpicks everything ad nauseam. I mean, I'm self-employed, so why should I give a shit? He's not my boss; I'm my boss. But, if I don't perform to his liking, then the cheque won't be in the post when I need it. My impulse for the past four days has been to say: "Fuck you. I don't need this at this stage of my life, when I've already proved I have a modicum of expertise in a few areas." But, I couldn't say that because I wanted the money. And, avaricious bastard that I am, I don't want to burn bridges for future reference because, as I say, he pays well, and always comes through. It's just the trip that's not so much fun.
OK. That's my rant. And the donut hole has diminished somewhat.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Judas -- good guy, or still a weasel?

Damn those Coptic revisionists! I think Homer Simpson exclaimed in such a manner at one point -- or should have. Here we have gone throughout the history of Christendom condemning the lapsed disciple as being the acme of betrayal for the sake of filthy lucre, and now the newly-found gospel of Judas suggests he was nothing like the duplicitous creep we've all been told he was since we were infants in Sunday school. Indeed, the man has been a metaphor for all that is sleazy and greedy. While he may have been a role model for certain politicians or business magnates, it has never been considered a compliment to be accused of being a Judas.

But, the newly-uncovered Gnostic gospels suggests that not only has Judas Iscariot been a victim of remarkably bad press over the last two millennia, but that he was not only a pretty decent dude -- good to his mother, kindly with tiny tots, a friend to Jerusalem's down-and-out -- but he was, in his so-called "betrayal" of Jesus, actually doing what the boss wanted him to do. If Christ was to be released from the flesh, then he had to be turned in so that the Romans could do their dirty deeds. After all, this was preordained as we've always been taught, but I guess there had to be a catalyst, and Judas who, according to the Judas scrolls, was well-respected and deeply trusted by his CEO, was deemed to be the guy who would pick the short straw. In return, he would earn 30 pieces of silver, which was pretty big bucks back in those days, and would have to suffer the scorn of not only the other disciples, some of whom were pretty darn self-important, but of much of humanity down through the ages. But, maybe it attests to his love of Jesus that he was prepared to make the sacrifice. And, 30 pieces of silver could maybe get him a decent condo on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and an up-to-the-minute chariot.
Of course, like all matters pertaining to scriptures, this will be open to debate for arguably the next millennium at least. Where do you sit? Would you rather see Judas continue in his traditional depiction as the Christian heavy, or would you like to see a revisionist version, all smiles and sincere in his adoration of the Lord, as in the picture above? Mind you, JC is looking just a teeny bit suspicious in that depiction. But, that's probably because the artist believed the old Matthew, Mark and Luke version of the tale, rather than the Gnostic version.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Sorry, no whiskers on kittens or crisp apple strudel

A Few of My Favorite Things
(In absolutely no order)

Since I exposed (so to speak) my negatives the other day, I thought it was time to accentuate the positive. Take note, Wendy C.

1. The serene feeling that comes from knowing I've done a job well, and have been praised to the skies for my brilliance, wit and Insights.

2. Early spring

3. Plumeria (frangipani) blossoms and their fragrance

4. Friday afternoons

5. The view of the Hanalei Valley on Kauai from the lookout at Princeville. (see picture; I painted that, I did, I did)

6. The Comox Glacier from our front window

7. Visible panty lines

8. Memories of my wonderful Border Collie cross, Murphy

9. Memories of good times with my ex and stepdaughter but (shudder) not the bad ones.

10. Arriving at a destination at the beginning of a month-long stay somewhere wonderful.

11. My T-bar roof and the car under it on a sunny, warm day

12. Bedtime (however you want to construe that).

13. Grocery shopping in a different community (or country)

14. The fragrance of the ocean at the Courtenay River estuary at high tide on an early summer evening.

15. Seeing an article (avec my byline) on a printed page

16. Having written

17. A good book, and time to read it.

18. The turquoise of the tropical Pacific, and the fish therein

19. Post coital bliss

20. Memories of my grandparents' house

21. Coconut palms

22. Watching dawn come up over the sea in Hawaii

23. Having finally been south of the Equator

24. Having lived in England

25. Having traveled in Europe

26. Having made love to some enticing and interesting females, with no bad memories about the encounters.

27. Having flown on at least two dozen different airlines in my life, and not ever having found one that surpasses sorely missed and lamented Wardair.

28. The laughter of children at play.

29. Never-ever having to write a final exam again in my life.

30. Being twice divorced and maybe finally having got a handle on this relationship thing. Or maybe not. But, today it seems to be working.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I scream -- you scream -- we all scream ...

So, what is your least favorite ice-cream flavor? Consensus in this household awards the laurel to maple walnut. That was my father's favorite. Perhaps there is something Freudian afoot here, but I loathe MW. Nothing against my father and his tastes -- actually, I have many things against my father and his tastes, but that's not is what is at issue. I think I mainly hate MW because I do not like maple flavor -- except as maple syrup, smothering pancakes or waffles -- and I detest walnuts in any manner they might be used. The only time I approve of walnuts is when they are hanging from the branches of the magnificent tree that sits in the forecourt of the wonderful Rocky Mountain Cafe in Courtenay.

But, enough negativity. This is intended to be a song of praise for a wonderful substance. One for which, I am told, we must thank the Moors, who were given to scaling the Atlas Mountains in days of yore to secure ice and make a confection delighted in by assorted sultans and potentates. From North Africa, it traveled easily across the Mediterranean to Italy, and that is why Italian gelati are some unspeakably enticing.

As far as flavors are concerned, I am a bit of a traditionalist. The most popular flavor, according to assorted polls, remains vanilla. I like vanilla very much, even though psychological profiles of vanilla lovers indicate that the consumer is inclined to be boring, staid, unimaginative, and sexually unadventurous. I 'like' to think the foregoing are not accurate descriptions of who I am, but you would have to ask others to make sure. Strawberry, good strawberry, with chunks of berry within, can be quite jolly. And then there is chocolate. If I am in the right mood, there's nothing I want more than chocolate ice cream. If I'm not in the mood -- maybe if I'm feeling sexually unadventurous -- then I'll revert to vanilla. Haagen Dazs, by the way, makes an absolutely killer double chocolate ice cream bar that I've only been able to find in the US, never this side of the border. Such a pity, for this is ice cream as pure sensual decadence.

As for other flavors, ever since I was a child I have adored orange ice cream, but it's very, very rare. If ever I find it, I immediately buy it, and delight in every spoonful, much in the manner one should enjoy a superlative cognac or expensive single malt whisky. Blackberry is also a fine flavor, as is black raspberry. I wonder why they never seem to make regular raspberry ice cream. That would be good. Another one I remember loving when I was a kid was cherry custard. You hardly ever see that any more. Too bad.

As for kiddie confections that have chunks of cookie or candy bar in them, I'm not really drawn in that direction. A little too unsubtle for me. However, the best ice cream cone I ever had was one I bought from a joint in Waikiki many years ago. It was a massive praline confection, dripping with whipped cream and assorted other accoutrements. Its consumption verged on the orgasmic.

Of course, if you really want to experiment with all the ramifications of ice cream and its possibilities, get yourself a Donvier ice cream maker. Such an appliance will open the universe for you. Ever fancy watermelon or rhubarb ice cream? Make either one. They're surprisingly good. The only thing with a Donvier is, don't follow the rules. Where the recipes will suggest a combination of milk and light cream, opt for heavy cream and whipped cream in combo. You want significantly clogged arteries and a premature coronary, then this is the way to go. And what a decadent ride.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Marshall McLuhan -- you're still a-doin'

My apologies to Dr. Tompkins, Marshall McLuhan is nothing resembling a fraud, huckster, or pop-philosophy trendy dude of the sort that used to be found or at least cited by the excruciatingly uninformed and unformed at virtually every late 1960s 'be-in', 'smoke-in' or even 'screw-in'. I mean, he was cited ad nauseam by the sundry unwashed and/or stoned, but most of them had no idea exactly what was meant by such bits of esoterica as: "The medium is the message," not to mention, "The media is the massage."

So, I vouchsafed, with the intellectual smugness of my puerility, to Dr. Tompkins, that I thought McLuhan was a fraud and in so suggesting, that his ideas were bullshit. Dr. Tompkins, a mature and remarkably intelligent female academic suggested, ever so politely, that perhaps it was that I didn't truly understand what McLuhan was saying or writing. I was miffed, even a bit mortified, as only the young can be when they sense they have been patronized and subsequently dismissed.

And then, I was sitting at my ancient Mac yesterday and thinking about McLuhan. As I pounded on the keyboard of the venerable LC630, it became clear to me just what the "coolest Canadian of the 1960s" had been on about. You see, I had been reading an article in Vanity Fair (OK, I confess, I read VF) about Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs -- like, he was the guy who brought my LC630 into being. And, since I have always been an Apple aficionado, and would regularly disdain the lowly Gates-ish PCs in all their incarnations (OK-OK, I am writing this blog on a very current PC, mainly because my antediluvian Mac ain't quite up to the task), I realized that Jobs has been living the McLuhan dream and that for him, and every Mac buff, the medium indeed is the message. It's not so much about how your Mac, i-Mac, i-Pod or whatever does what it does, it's 'that' it does what it does, pure and simple. McLuhan foresaw what the world would be, and people like Jobs have attempted to bring the dream to realization. Bill Gates definitely hasn't. He is a marketer of a service, and one has to give him credit that he, like Henry Ford, saw a need, a filled that niche, and we are where we are. And now we connect via blogs and the like, and such a concept would have been so far beyond the pale even a decade ago that to suggest such would have been dismissed. Except by the people who knew where we were going.
So, I cite the Laugh-In resident versifier of yonks ago, Henry Gibson, who would often ask in one of those blackout sketches: "Marshall McLuhan -- what're you doin'?" Marshall McLuhan did know what he was doin'.
And, as a trivial aside, Marshall McLuhan's brother ran a service station in North Burnaby. He was a bit unclear on the musings of his brother, too.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Love you all, but these things I loathe

Generally I am a pretty easy-going chap, not given to anger and bitterness. I am kind to animals, and I love the sound of the laughter of small children. But sometimes, just sometimes, the world around me can get me down just a tiny bit, and then I have to turn to my darker, more depressive side and itemize those elements of the planet and (mainly) my fellow inhabitants that, well, not to put too fine a point on it, simply piss me off. Feel free to share with me those things that hit you in a similar manner.

1. Bigotry in all forms. Of course, I will excuse my own biases as being well-founded.

2. Dishonesty at virtually any and all levels, except when one's wife or significant other asks whether a certain garment makes her look fat.

3. Sexually teasing women, but certainly not sexually straightforward women. Sexual honesty is a trait that must be cherished.

4. Vulgarity

5. Malicious gossip, unless the recipient really deserves it

6. Moodiness -- I hate mercurial and unpredictable personalities.

7. Abusiveness, physical, mental, or emotional

8. Violence and/or rage

9. Drunkenness

10. Ingratitude and disloyalty

11. Whining

12. Pretentiousness

13 Arrogance

14. Two-facedness

15 Self-seeking at the expense of others

16. Politics and most politicians

17. Blind ambition

18. Self-importance

19. Unquestioning loyalty to an institution, thing or person

20. Blind nationalism

21. Fanatical embrace of any cause

22. Mocking of those who cannot defend themselves

23. Ridicule of beliefs others might cherish

24. False friendship

25. Advantage taking

26. Attitude

27. Uncleanness

28. Cruelty

29. Ignorance (Oh, this above all. As the spirit said to Scrooge: "This boy is ignorance, this girl is want. Beware them both, but most of all, beware this boy."

30. Humorlessness

31. Idolatry

32. Shallowness

33. Loudness

34. Nagging

35. Unwillingness to change

36. And, worst of all, paunchy, middle-aged European men in teeny Speed-o bathing suits.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The joker is also the knave, never forget

We are such a stolid, serious crew in this country. Here it is, April 1st and I am yet to see any sort of April Fool joke imposed on the gullible. I read the paper first thing this morning, and there were no gags, there was no pseudo-serious leg-pulling. It's sad to let such a day as this go to waste, but I guess we have more serious matters to tend to, such as those big national and international jokes, otherwise known as politicians.

I believe that the British are the most inspired April Fool jokers of all time. When I lived in the UK years ago I was awe-struck by how seriously the matter of moving an unsuspecting and gullible populace into the realms of 'sapdom' was taken.

Notably the most inspired public hoax was one perpetrated by the BBC a number of years ago, in which television viewers were invited to ponder a 'documentary' dealing with the annual spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. Shown were lovely bits of film footage showing nice ripe strands of pasta being plucked from the branches of the spaghetti trees that only grew in that Alpine nation.

One that was foisted on the public when I was there was an advisory from Westminster noting that certain towns and villages, chosen at random, would be shifting from driving on the left to driving on the right. This was to accommodate the fact that the UK was now part of the European community, and the scheme had been mounted as a means of slowly acclimatizing the British driver to European modes. It was not indicated at the time exactly which towns and villages would be shifting to right, so the public was advised to check with local authorities before they set out the next day.

There have been many more such fine bits of fraud perpetrated on an unsuspecting public, and if you are interested, you might check out. It's fun.

As I say, though, I was distressed by the fact that nothing of such a 'challenging' nature was imposed on the readership of my morning paper today. At the old Free Press in this community, we never let an April 1 go by without attempting to pull the collective leg of that same community if the first happened to fall on a publication day. Our pseudo-story was always given front page play, sometimes with photographs, and always with a very serious tone.

Favorites through the years (many of which I, ahem, wrote), included: The major freeway interchange through prime real estate and forest on Comox Hill to connect with the Inland Highway; the draining and diking of Comox Bay so that the reclaimed land could be turned into an industrial park dominated by a steel mill; and finally, the tapping of the Comox Glacier's ice to feed the bottled water industry.

Of course, to make such a saga work, it is essential that the tone be deadly serious, and that the tale looks entirely like a conventional news story. One particular story, the draining of Comox Bay, was taken very seriously by a go-getting new reporter who wasn't aware of the gag. He was so distressed by what he read that he called up our MLA in order to get comment. Needless to say, he was mortified to find out that the tale was a hoax. Later we were happy about that, because the guy turned out to be a jerk.

At the end of the story, however, we would usually put a disclaimer that would read something like: "Remember the date on which you read this story." It was amazing how many people, however, would miss that final comment. To which, I would say, more fool them.