Friday, June 30, 2006

Scientists say: "We're all going to die!"

Perusing the morning paper I take note of the following story headlines: Study says diabetes risk same as aging 15 years; Wrinkled smokers cancer prone; Senior 'moments' could be serious. So, buddy, if you are a prune-like diabetic who suffers spasmodic brain-farts, you're hooped. That's what 'researchers' say in just once section of one newspaper. Yep, it's an insurmountable fact, dear friends, that at the end of our lives, we're all going to die, and there isn't a thing we can do about it.

Well, there is, those nameless researchers say. We can eat right, and exercise, not eat any trans-fats, or slightly charred barbecued steak -- especially not 'marbled' BBQ steak -- consume no salt, very little sugar, but certainly no artificial sweeteners, no soda pop it's fattening, but 'diet' has artificial sweeteners, so they're both out; cigarettes, goes without saying; booze, well maybe a little tiny bit, but not too much as it leads to alcoholism and shoots the liver to shit; but better to have a tiny bit than none, unless you're an alcoholic or have liver problems; coffee is good for you some days of the week, according to researchers, but the next issue of the paper may suggest it's bad; decaf used to lead to cancer, but most recently it's good for you, and will continue to be so until it's bad again.

Meanwhile, please obsess with worry about high cholesterol, unless it's 'good' cholesterol; hypertension; stress (no mention about the stress from reading articles that cite leading researchers); and the fact that virtually everything you consume or do as a lifestyle practice leads to cancer. Sex used to be off the hook, so at least a good, old-fashioned roll in the hay or between the sheets could alleviate stress and burn some calories. But only if it is with one whose sex history you know going back not just through him or her, but all their partners since the days of Adam and Eve. STDs, you see.

And so it goes. It goes in this way, I can only deduce is because we have all become obsessed with the idea of living forever. We must have, or we wouldn't be so anal (not a good thing; healthy bowel movements are essential for quality of health) about the whole damn thing. We are so self-important. Surely more so than any generation since the beginning of time. We must do all the right things, and then we will live on -- and on -- and on.

Or not. At the bottom line, there is always the old gene pool thing. If your parents and grandparents lived to a ripe old one, then no matter what despicable or disgusting things you do, the odds are on your side. If they all bought the farm before fifty well -- then -- sorry about that. You may as well have fun because no matter what wonderful things you do to preserve yourself, you just might be like poor old jogging proponent, Jim Fixx.

Researchers still have been able to come up with a sure fire route to immortality. So, if you're still this side of the grass (and you must be, or you wouldn't be reading this), maybe don't get too obsessed with it all. Have a giggle, and for God's sake, stop reading any articles that cite either scientists or researchers as authorities. They don't live any longer than the rest of us.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

No-No! It's the humidity, I tell you!

Something that happens on the coolish west coast everywhere from the Alaska Panhandle right through to San Francisco, at least, is the confusion that erupts in the populace whenever a few sunny days happen upon us.

At the moment we are in about the fifth day of "hot" weather. Hot here means it has gotten up to maybe 80 Fahrenheit. And, by the third day of such weather, somebody will proclaim:

"Oh -- it's so hot. Looking forward to cooling down a bit. Just makes it difficult to sleep."

And, the newspapers will refer to what is happening thusly: "This is now the third day of the current heatwave, and there is no end in sight. Forest fire hazard is way up, and municipal officials urge everybody to not waste water and to sprinkle lawns on designated days."

Come on, folks, I think. This isn't hot. This is warm. Sometimes people will proclaim "hot" when it is actually only "warm-ish." I have heard people from these parts exclaim in wonderment, if we have returned from a vacation in the islands. "You went to Hawaii in the summer? Isn't it horribly hot?" I reply that it isn't really very hot at all in the summer. Maybe around 90 at high noon, and there are always trade winds blowing, so it's very pleasant. "Well," they will reply in astonishment. "Ninety seems pretty hot to me. I know I wouldn't like it."

But, it's not hot -- or maybe it's just me. Maybe it's because I have been to actual hot places. I once drove out of San Diego on an August day (San Diego is not particularly hot, by the way), wanting to go out into the Mojave Desert, making the shores of the Salton Sea our ultimate destination. We drove many miles in our nice air conditioned rental Buick. Eventually, east of Julian CA. We drove down a very long hill, and by the bottom we were in the desert proper. I found it fascinating as we drove along, because it was so different from the wet, west coast. After a few miles my wife said: "Let's stop a while and get out and walk around." This was early in the afternoon and the sun was pounding down. Good plan, thought I, and pulled into a designated rest stop.

Of course, I had forgotten the car was air conditioned. I opened the door. It was like I had opened a portal to the gates of hell. A blast of torridness poured into the car. Yes, dear friends, it was hot. It was unbelievably hot. It was Sahara hot. We didn't take too much of a walk, I assure you. Watching the news that evening back in San Diego, we found it was around 125 where we were.

On such a day, in such a place, one would be justified in wanting to seek relief from the heat.

Meanwhile, our heat wave is continuing. I just checked the thermometer. It's 70 F (or, for Canadian bloggers who pretend they're comfortable with metric, 22 C). Somewhere in this town, at just this minute, somebody is complaining about the heat.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Our Passages

I just had an email from a cousin I haven't connected with in about 30 years, I think. Well, I have 26 first cousins, and sometimes we just don't darn well get together.

Anyway, she wrote to tell me that her father, my uncle by marriage, had just died. I was sorry to hear that. He was a nice man. I also thought that his death makes a clean sweep of that generation of my own father's family.

I realized as I was reading her letter that my own father died exactly a decade ago today. I'm still not certain how I feel about that. I was telling a close friend a short time ago that on the wall of my office is a picture. In the picture are my parents, my paternal grandparents, my dad's two sisters, his brother-in-law (the one who just died), his aunt and uncle, and my great-grandmother. Oh, and me. I am an utterly adorable little blonde-haired boy, and I realized that I knew all those people, and I knew them well, and now I am the only one this side of the lawn. I don't know if I find that chilling, but I certainly find it is a pause-for-thought moment. The pause being -- wow! That was fast!

Sunrise-sunset, swiftly flow the years. One season following the other; filled with happiness and tears.

I recall a friend telling me a few years ago, after his father had died, that an aunt came to him at the service and said, "Well, Harry. Now you're the older generation." Wait, he thought. I don't want to be the older generation. I'm not ready yet. I want my father to still be there to handle that end of things. I'm still trying to find myself.

Do we ever 'find ourselves'? Did my father ever find himself? I don't think he did. His wife (hey, that would be my mother, wouldn't it?) preceded him to the trip to the lower floor four years previously, and that knocked a lot of wind out of him. After that he mainly watched TV and played solitaire. I went to see him a few times. He didn't have a lot to say. I don't think he really died find himself.

I don't mean to be callous when I suggest I don't know how I feel about my father's death. But, really, I don't. We weren't exactly close. We weren't a real loving family. I've often wondered what that is like.

All I know is that in trying to 'find myself' I resolved at the time of my father's death to become the most loving person I possibly could. And I have. And it works. And it's quite wonderful.

Say, maybe he really did teach me something after all.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Women read and men fidget

In the July issue of Esquire there is an excellent, albeit disquieting article by Tom Chiarella called 'The Problem with Boys' in which he discusses in considerable detail how our schools and universities are failing to deal with the achievement and ambition deficits of young males, and maybe how those failures are reflective of a greater difference between the sexes than we have been prepared to countenance heretofore.

Chiarella cites such distressing statistics as the fact that 37 percent of 12th grade boys are scoring below basic levels in their studies, as opposed to a mere 15 percent of girls being in the same inadequate category. Today only 42 men for every 50 women go to college, and that the male voting rate has declined by 16 percent. More chillingly, five times as many young males as females commit suicide, twice as many males abuse alcohol in the 18 to 29 age group, and 95 percent of state and federal prison inmates under age 25 are male.

As a journalist and former high school English teacher, there is something I've noticed for years that directly indicates a gender difference that we see every day, and probably don't think much about. Go to Starbucks, an airport departure lounge, beach or poolside and observe the women, some of them young, immersed in books. I was in a coffee bistro the other day, having a solitary cup, and looked at the 25-ish woman sitting alone at another table. She was reading. Not reading a magazine, or newspaper, but a book. My thought as a male (and I am an inveterate reader, by the way, and have been all my life) was, how can you do that? Why would you do that? Why would you go to a public venue and pack a book along with you? And she wasn't reading some glossy piece of summertime nonsense. Her tome wasn't a cheesy potboiler, but a 'real' book. I could tell by the cover, even if I couldn't read the title from where I sat.

The best place to observe this is where people are forced to undergo a wait of some nature, like the aforementioned departure lounge. Check out the number of women, and even girls, who are quietly reading. Watch the men. They are impatient. They tap their feet. They pace around. They'll rapidly sheaf through a newspaper or magazine, but not really read anything within. They'll scratch, they'll yawn, they'll look at their watches, sigh with exasperation, attempt to engage their reading partner or spouse in conversation, without success. But, the one thing you will hardly ever see them doing is reading -- actual book reading. Oh, our male friend probably has a book with him. It's packed away in his luggage. He wouldn't think of leaving it accessible in his carry-on. It just never crossed his mind. He likes to read well enough (we can hope), but he probably reads like I do.

As I say, I have been actively involved with using the language for my entire adult life. My life is writing, and my life is reading. Always has been, as teacher and scribe. But, I honestly never, ever think of reading except at a specific time. That is when I am horizontal. If it is a quiet Saturday afternoon and I am a bit weary, I will haul out one of the books I am working on (there are usually at least five in this category), stretch out on the sofa, and read. I will last for 10 minutes, and then I will doze out, and that is the end of it. I also read at bedtime. I must read at bedtime. I couldn't sleep if I didn't read at bedtime. But, that's it. On the john reading is important, too, but that is usually a magazine. Books are for horizontal time.

Yet women I've known, have been with, have been married to, can pick up a book any old time, and they can read anywhere. Even a dental appointment calls for lugging the book along. My book, on the other hand, is on the bedside table, and that is where it rests until the end of the day and is put into use.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the disenchantment of male students, and Chiarella hints at this, is that our colleges and universities do not address such a fundamental difference between the sexes, and that college courses are often structured to accommodate the female majority rather than addressing the wants and needs of males where are, needless to say, different. Not better, not worse, but different. I think reading habits illustrate this fundamental difference.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Free up women to be 'real', thank-you

I was interested to note the number of comments on my most recent blog on ancient stag flicks, that pertained to the fact that Bettie Page, who was pictured looked like a 'real' woman, rather than some refugee from a Somali relief camp. Of course, the tragic Somali women have no choice in their skeletal bearing.

But, the point was well taken that the vogue towards a Kate Moss anorexic structure (well, we know of the nose-candy that brought hers to her), that keeps threatening to die, is still foisted on vulnerable and stupid young girls as some sort of an ideal.

The irony is that 1950s sex goddess, the benighted and ever-so-sad Marilyn Monroe would be deemed 'fat' these days. Check out early Madonna, pretty chunky Italiana there. Sophia Loren? Surely must be a case of excesses of Spaghetti Bolognaise.

Well, perhaps I date myself, but the aforementioned are to me provocative and sexually alluring women. I like curves, I like fullness, I like boobs and bums, I like a woman who can sit down and eat a good meal without going to the ladies to puke it all up, or having taken a laxative beforehand so she can shit it out and never gain an ounce.

So, who decided this? Who decided that young females should undergo a lifetime of eating disorders so that they might look svelte, boyish, and downright unattractive? Some blame it on
'60s fashion icon, Twiggy. Well, in the first place, as one who was there, I thought Twiggy was adorable. Secondly, her svelteness was natural. She was just a skinny young girl, and is reportedly as distressed by models who starve themselves as anyone else. And now that she is a grown-up middle aged lady (who still looks pretty hot) she is also quite acceptably covered, thank you.

Teenage girls take up smoking at a much greater rate than adolescent males. Why? Because smoking kills the urge to eat. The fashion industry, whence cometh so much of bulimia-chic, is rife with cocaine abuse. Kate Moss, the silly little sap, was just dumb enough to get caught. And, hey, even though she did get caught, she has reaped more contracts than she ever had before. There is no penalty for foolishness or unhealthy behavior.

Take Paris Hilton. No, don't. Enough morons have taken her already.

The irony of it all is, in a society that obsesses about anorexia, there are more overweight people than ever before. I guess only very affluent societies need to worry about overweight and underweight woes.

For the rest of the world it's just a matter of getting some food -- any food.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Whatever happened to garters for men?

  • I guess the success of the recent film on Bettie Page (pictured here) indicates there is some sort of interest in that early form of celluloid naughtiness known as the 'stag film'.

    At an earlier time, before the Internet offered images of every sexual behavior and kink known to humankind since the beginning of time, ranging from the cutely erotic to the ghastliest behaviors imaginable, there was a certain rite-of-passage for young males known as the stag film. Bettie acted in a few of those films, as well as posing for the (today very innocent, you can see more near nudity in a junior high schoolyard) 'provocative' calendar offerings that hung in gas stations, the old man's workshop, and other bastions claimed by males.

    But, aside from cute girls like Bettie, stags were populated by the most ludicrous and distasteful looking guys imaginable. Usually a skinny dude clad in singlet undershirt, boxer shorts, and socks always with garters. While the girls would be running around in charming dishabille the men looked always like a combination pimp and bookie, and offered nothing one would have thought would have appealed to any sweetie-pie girl, even the ones who sort-of 'acted' in these terrible short films of the 1940s and 1950s.

    The other name for stags was the 'blue movie', and they were ultimately killed by mainstream motion pictures that would have staggered the sensibilities of even the most avid 8-mm smut fan of an earlier time. Some of the mainstream 'dirty' movies have been good, others have been as terrible and exploitive and sexist as the earlier stags.

    So, for those who grew up in more contemporary times, what were stags like? Well, in the film the central male character, dressed like our aforementioned friend. His hair was always slicked back with a tube and a half of Brylcreem so that it looked like patent leather. And, he usually sported a pencil-thin mustache. And, of course, the socks and garters.

    The plots -- if you cold call them that -- concerned variations on a central theme common to all the films: Seduction via circumstance.
    Lovely young thing calls the plumber; bountiful miss is visited by the postman with a registered letter; gorgeous young thing invites in a vacuum-cleaner salesman wearing a dreadful suit; bountiful miss goes into store manager's office to register a complaint about something or other.

    A complication would arise. If the central character was the plumber, then the lady had somehow got herself stuck in the bathtub and he was called to get her out. How she managed to call him from the tub was never explained.

    If he was the vacuum cleaner salesman then her skirt would get caught in the suction of the hose during the demonstration, and then she would get to flash her own stockings and garters, not to mention her undies.

    And then things would really take off, and he would strip down to his BVDs and underneath his garb would be, yep, those socks and garters. They would never be removed even at the most intimate moments -- which were never shown, by the way, merely suggested. Cleavage and undies was by-and-large all the red-blooded lad of yore got to see. There were, of course, genuine pornographic films in those day, but they did not qualify as stag films, and we only heard about them by rumor, we didn't actually see any of those ones that, according to legend, not only included pubic hair, but also couples actually doing 'it'! The mind reeled at such a thought.

    So, just some thoughts on socks and garters. After my father died about a decade ago, my brother and I were going through his stuff, and we actually found some old 'man' garters. So, Dad wore socks with garters. Was dear old Dad in stag films? Not to our knowledge, though he did sport a pencil-thin mustache for a few years.

    Sock garters actually died out around World War Two (except in stag films) with the advent of elastic as we know it, so the vogue died out. But, prior to that, for young males, was getting one's first pair of garters sort of a rite of manhood? Boys were in short pants for a long time in those days, with high kneesocks held up by elastic bands. Then they graduated to knickerbockers (of the kind worn by the tough kids in the Our Gang films), and finally at about 16 or 17 they got their first pair of long trousers, and probably their first garters.

    "Son, do you know what these are?" asks father, holding out to bits of elastic with metal clips on them. He is holding them at arm's length much in the way a contemporary father might hold out a condom. "You needn't be embarrassed, for soon you are to be a man and will have to go off and fight and die for your country."

    "Wizard, Father. My very own garters. I shall take great care with them and always treat them with respect, much as I do with Polly-Jo next door."

    And so, replete with new tweed suit, and sure in the knowledge that his socks were appropriately gartered, our young man stepped forth into the world. Actually, he was going to visit his chum, Spud, next door, who had secured a stag film for the lads to view while his parents were at the church social.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Strangers in the night

Over the last few weeks we've noticed a lot of alien folk walking up and down in front of the place. Oh, I know they are just out for a walk in the manner in which people, myself included, are inclined to do. But, they appear to be strangers, and this evokes in me an impulse to think "We don't cotton much to strangers in these here, parts, stranger, so climb on yer horse and git!"

Well, no, I'm not quite that xenophobic, but it does evoke a basic human impulse to be wary about someone or something that hasn't been part of the scene for a long time. You see, when you live in a place for eight years you get used to the passing parade. A parade of normal people, and even a few weirdos. But, they are 'our' weirdos. There is a little old lady who goes through the trash container at the park across the street, every morning, come rain, come shine, come sleet or snow. But, she is a resident weirdo, so she is acceptable. In that she's not unlike the trio pictured at right -- weird but kind of lovable.

But recently the scene has changed. There is a real estate boom and houses are being sold, flipped and bought at a rapid pace. The house next door was on the market for a scant week before it sported a 'sold' sticker on the For Sale sign. More strangers. Housing here, while rising rapidly in cost (which is a good thing if you own one, which I do), but it is cheaper than the big city by far. And, the climate here is benevolent, so rich folk from the frigid Canadian hinterland (namely Alberta) are moving here in droves, bringing their foreign ways with them. Not sure what foreign ways Albertans have, but we can be sure they are, well, foreign. So, you see, that is why we get erstwhile non-residents having taken up residence and finding their way about 'our' neighborhood.

Xenophobia is defined by the dictionary as being a "morbid dislike of foreigners." Well, I can't then go so far as to say I am truly xenophobic, just wary enough to look out the front window and to see a couple walking by -- a couple whom residents of their former community regarded as a benevolent middle-aged couple, you know, pillars of their former community and church, and not given to child molestation, Klan membership, or homicidal instincts -- and to mutter to myself, "Who the hell are those people, and what are they doing walking down the street in front of the house? Why are they looking at our house? Are they crack-heads sizing up the places they plan to break into?" Like I say, 'wary'.

Such distaste alien elements in a community isn't even just a human trait, it's a basic animal instinct. Introduce a new hen to an established flock, and at the first the members of the flock will shy away. They will then cautiously approach the new hen, and finally they will beat the crap out of it, just to see what it's all about. Dogs are like that with strange dogs, and cats are even more ferocious with an introduced feline. At the human level, what kid at school is the most likely to get beat up? Why, the new kid, of course. Many of you will have seen the classic James Dean flick Rebel Without a Cause. Jim Stark (Dean) is the new kid. What happens on his first day at his school. Why, he is challenged by the school's resident hood to a switchblade fight. Later that evening he goes on a "chickie run", wherein the hood drives over the cliff and is killed. More mayhem ensues, and despite the fact he gets to make it with Natalie Wood later, it's still a pretty event filled first day, all based on the fact he is the new kid.

So, I won't challenge any of the new people in the neighborhood to a switchblade fight, but I will tread warily with them, and should they ever invite us to a barbecue, my only hope is they won't be serving those fricaseed prairie-dogs what I'm told Albertans crave.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Life isn't all roses, you know

I know people who, on a daily basis, make out a 'gratitude list', in which they write down all the things for which they, on that day, are grateful. It's a nice idea, you know, positive-thinking and all that. And there is no question that I have many things in my life for which I am immensely grateful, and the mere fact they are part of me makes me feel blessed.

But, there is also a need for balance, for reality in our lives. Sometimes I think we in contemporary society have too much of an impulse to seek only "happy endings" to everything, rather than preparing ourselves to go face-on with those other realities -- the crappy ones. Life is, after all, a trade-off. There must be a 'yang' to our 'yin' or we wouldn't be strong enough to cope.

Bearing that in mind I, in a spirit of public blogger service, am about to help those who don't seek to be wrapped up in puffy cotton, some of the things we must contend with -- things that demand we expand our coping resolve. Don't worry, they can only make you stronger and firmer in your resolve to never let the bastards grind you down.

I have my 'things', you have yours, so it behooves you to create your own list. But, as follows are the irritants that for me make life seem just a little bit less blessed, but in confronting or enduring at least, render me a stronger individual, rather than just merely pissed-off. No, these are not things that are so bad that they would tempt me to 'go postal', just little, less than charming things and circumstances: (these are in no particular order)

* We all hate fingernails scraping on a blackboard. This is a universal, primal detestation, so I though I would include it as the kickoff item.

* Snoring bedmates; snoring people in the next room; the next house; in extreme cases, one street over.

* Accidentally blocking the toilet in somebody else's house, with the anxiety level rising proportionately if it is the toilet of a new love, your boss, prospective parents-in-law, or if the toilet just will not stop running and the water level is rising ominously.

* Being unable to remember the events of the "night before."

* Slopping coffee, tea or a drink directly onto your crotch area.

* Having to provide a 'specimen'. Having to produce one in the doctor's office because you forgot to bring one with you. Having to hand that specimen to a nurse who turns out to be someone you had a huge crush on in high school or college.

* Stubbing your toe, biting your tongue or cheek, bumping your head. No dignity here, just excruciating pain.

* Waiting up for someone who should have been home hours earlier.

* Responding to the smile or wave of somebody fantastic looking on the street only to find, to your mortification, their wave was directed at the person behind you.

* Parking your car in a rough neighborhood, returning to it at 2 a.m. to find a tire has gone flat, then being offered assistance by an individual who looks like he was rejected by the Hell's Angels for appearing too morally depraved.

* Being caught in traffic gridlock and really, really having to pee.

* Nearing the end of a four lane highway stretch only to find you are stuck behind an oil-burning '57 Rambler or the largest RV ever manufactured, that is being driven by the oldest guy on record who still possesses a driver's license.

* Being in unrequited love. This is almost as distressing as being the object of somebody else's unrequited love.

* Flashing red and blue lights in the rear-view mirror, or a cop car going in the opposite direction that makes a U-turn on the highway immediately after you pass by knowing well you were going at least 20-per over the posted speed.

* Arriving in Levis and sweatshirt and realizing everybody else is in formal.

* Motel bathrooms with walls so thin you can hear somebody tearing off toilet paper in the abutting bathroom in the next unit. Also, motel bedrooms with equally paper-thin walls that abut other bedrooms.

* The sounds of sirens at any time, but especially at 3 a.m. They can only mean something bad has happened to someone.

* Virtually all governments, at any level.

* Virtually all bureaucrats at any level -- the lower on the food chain, the worse they are.

* High school reunions. Just plain evil.

*Lifestyle questionnaires that indicate you should have died five years ago.

What are some of yours? Everybody else is itching to know.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Tending to my state of torpor

In a world ravaged by war, starvation, AIDS and assorted other horrors, it is well to know that our information-gathering networks remain obsessed with whether or not Princess Diana was purposely bumped-off or if Britney Spears is still actually and truly married to her downmarket creep.

But, Phil already posted an excellent blog on the trailer-park diva, so the less said about her the better, because I think even her one remaining diehard fan is bored to tears by now. Indeed, so it seems is everybody but desperately-trying-to-be-current NBC.

So, nothing more about Britney here, even though this treatise concerns the obsessive publicity granted to the most boring people in the known universe Late actor George Sanders committed suicide a number of years ago because he said, in his parting note, that he was bored. I don't blame him, considering the fact he had to consort with show biz folk.

Boredom is a state of ennui, of torpor. Human beings, always looking for titillation are sucked into sscenarios of the lives of notablesbecause too many of us suffer under the misapprehension that our personal lives are tedious and mundane. Not so, I attest. Why, just this morning I read the newspaper from back to front rather than in a conventional manner. I was quite stimulated by my behavior.

Yet, even with that, we are led to believe that the life of Lindsay Lohan, say, is more enchanting and fulfilling than our own, so we devour tidbits about her. And, if her PR people are doing their job, then we will be drawn to the tale just like flies are drawn to – the stuff flies are drawn to.
My point is, however, these ‘prominent’ people are collosally boring, and some of them are more boring than others. So, take a moment now and just consider all the hideously boring human beings that we are expected to, nay virtually compelled to put at the forefront of our personal radar. Consider the following overhyped people who populate our magazines entertainment TV offerings:

1. All the pop-tarts who would flaunt tits and belly in lieu of offering anything resembling talent.
2. Anything to do with any of the Kennedy clan. Depending on your politics, you may feel free to substitute Bushes or Clintons for Kennedys.

3. Ill-defined, mildly physically attractive starlets who are hyped as "stars!", such as J-Lo, Lindsay Lohan, and the ubiquitous and plain by any standard (I know girls who work at Wal-Mart who are cuter) Paris Hilton. I mean, what does Paris Hilton actually ‘do’ that anybody should care?

4. Anything concerning the monumentally untalented Ben Affleck.

5. All ink and photos given to Angelina Jolie, her children, her wonderful work in the Third World (there are scores of people who do much more in that regard, who get no hype at all), her relationships, and her tagalong Toy Boy. I will admit she has a hot mouth.

6. The still-dead but ever-wacky Princess Di. Save us from the conspiracy theories. She was a room-temperature IQ classy bimbo who made atrociously bad judgment calls. And they say that men only think with the 'little head.'

7. The Royals in general, with the notable exception of the Queen, who remains a class-act at 80.

8. All show-biz marriages/divorces/affairs or sexual persuasions, period.

9. Much of the cinematic oeuvre of Tom Hanks. Not to say he can’t be good, and he is usually likeable, but he is generally an overrated actor who has had some decent turns, but is not a genius on a part with Bogart, Tracy, Brando (in his good days) or Nicholson. The public embraces him because he is so non-threatening. Michael Keaton, who started around the same time, is a superior actor at all levels.

10. Even more the oeuvre of Meg Ryan, the consummate sorority bitch of the sort one lusted after at 21, with never a chance of getting anywhere near her pants, I might add. She has not matured well or easily. Good as a fluffy bunny, but hardly to be regarded seriously, especially in her current botoxed incarnation.

11. Demi Moore. Huh? Pu-lease. OK. Ghost redeems her a teeny bit. Otherwise, never much of an actress, never that beautiful, and never interesting at all. But, where is Molly Ringwald these days?

8. Anything at all that contains the name Michael Bolton.

9. The recovery sagas of show-biz dysfunctionals, whether its from drugs, booze, anorexia, stapled stomachs, gambling or sex. Why do we care about anything other than their skills as exemplified by their work? Nick Nolte is a hell of an actor. I don't care what he does in his personal life.

10. The political mutterings of entertainers. Who cares? I like the Dixie Chicks well enough, but they’re singers, not pundits. And, when you get to the hubristic self-righteousness of Bono, well I couldn’t find enough disparaging invective to direct against such monumental hypocrisy. Why somebody who makes far too much money doing a banal job should be able to speak authoritatively about anything strains credulity. Much as it strains credulity to hear people who make millions per annum embracing leftie causes. Power to the people indeed. This is in the context of filthy-rich John Lennon seeing himself as a working class hero.

Those are my biases, though I have dozens more. I am sure you have your own. If I have stepped on any of your pet icons, I apologize.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Betty or Veronica?? Hmm.

I am feeling conflicted today. Too many celebratory things happening. First off, it's Archie Andrews' 65th birthday. Although, being realistic, since he was a teen when the strip began, he would truly be about 82. Secondly, Paul McCartney turns 64, and she obviously no longer needs him, so there is no chance of her feeding him. And does he actually have grandchildren called Vera, Chuck and Dave? And finally, it's Father's Day. Congratulations to all dads except deadbeats.

First, Archie -- America's perennial teenager. With his criss-cross red hair and freckles, Archie was so damn cute that kids even today embrace him. He runs across three generations at least, and probably more. My mother loved Archie. I grew up with the comics and the daily newspaper strip, although Archie lost a lot of his charm (in my esteem) when the brilliantly funny artist/writer Bob Montana left the scene. To me, the Montana's renderings were best of all, and I offer an example of his work above.

I guess the big question that has befuddled many a red-blooded lad is the choice between Betty and Veronica. Seems old Arch, for whatever reason, had two curvaceous and bodaceous babes throwing themselves at him: pretty blonde and homespun grain-fed lass Betty; cute as a button and thoroughly decent; and gorgeous brunette rich-bitch Veronica who would often go slumming with Archie, mainly to screw-up the nobler aspirations of Miss Betty.

For years I always gravitated in the Veronica direction. Cool and sophisticated, she was always the more interesting of the two, in my esteem. Veronica was pate de fois gras and Betty was apple-pan-dowdy. Veronica was a very dry martini, Betty was a Shirley Temple. So, I loved Veronica, despite her treachery, until I married her. No, she wasn't rich, but had all the other attributes, both bad and good. It was just too much work, ultimately. So, I think now I understand the virtues of a Betty. Life is difficult enough without the complications of a Veronica. I hope Archie ultimately chose well. Of course, there was always Midge. Moose's girl was very cute, but Moose was a bit on the psycho side, so the risk might have been too great.

Now, what about Paul. Macca hasn't had a very good time lately. Personally, I think, however, he should feel just fine at 64. He doesn't have to worry about renting a cottage on the Isle of Wight. He can just buy the Isle of Wight, such is his largesse. And, he's got his kids. Of course, he'll ultimately have to pay a few gazillion pounds to the evil one, but he'll still have a pocketful of change, and he should be grateful to be back on his own. See my comments on Veronica above.

Finally, Father's Day. FD is pretty small potatoes compared with all the over-the-topness of Mother's Day, but it's kind of nice for those who have sired progeny to be remembered in even just a small way. I have never been a father (to my knowledge), and I am genuinely sorry I never was. I was a stepdad for a time, and I cherish those years (despite Veronica), but I regret I never had a tot to call my own. I think I would have made quite a decent father. I also think I would have wanted a girl, or girls. My stepdaughter convinced me of that. Growing up in a family of boys, it was nice to have a beautiful and smart young lass around the place.

As for my own father and my reminiscences of him. They aren't all good. He was not a particularly warm or generous person. He looked like Archie's dad (see above yet again), but Mr. Andrews was nicer. My father wasn't awful per se, he was just bad tempered, as I indicated in an earlier blog, and almost exclusively involved with matters that pertained to him. Let us say we never bonded much, so I don't understand those males who have those wonderful bonds with their fathers; who want to go hunting and fishing with them, and that sort of thing. My brother once said to me: "Guy at work told me his father was coming to visit for the weekend. He was really excited about that. I couldn't relate. But, in a way, I also felt we got cheated somewhere. I wonder what it's like to feel that way about your old man?"

All I know was that while other kids were excited when Daddy got home from work, we were filled with a certain dread. Not that anything awful was going to happen, it was just that the household seemed happier when he was away.

In retrospect, almost exactly 10 years after his death, my feelings remain mixed, though maybe tempered with a little more understanding of the man and the problems he had to deal with. So, in the spirit of the day, "Happy Father's Day" Dad.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

What are your guilty pleasures, huh?

It is called a a guilty pleasure. A guilty pleasure is an aspect of our lives in which we find a certain amount of joy or comfort, but that we don't want to brag about for fear of what others might think of us, in terms of refinement of taste and basic values. An example would be the true fact that eccentric piano genius Glen Gould was besotted with pop songstress Petulia Clark. So, I don't mean guilt in the sense of something disgusting or potentially illegal that you might favor in your very private moments, but just a thing, attitude, or preference that might take from the public impression that you have so carefully honed so that you might be seen as an enlightened, even exalted human being to whom others cannot help but look to in an upward fashion. I didn't invent the idea of guilty pleasures, but it is one that sort of tickled me when I first ran across it a few years ago. So, what I am about to do is lay myself bare (metaphorically speaking) and offer you some of mine. I would be delighted to hear some of yours. If some of my choices evoke in you a feeling of "What is wrong with liking that? I like that, and I think it'sreally good. Hey, that's OK. Tastes vary. It's just that for me, these things qualify as guilty pleasures:


It's My Party by the retro-angst-ridden Lesley Gore.

It's Still Rock-and-Roll To Me by Billy Joel, what can I say?

Mule-Skinner Blues, the Fendermen

Kum on Feel the Noiz, by Slade

Sixteen Candles, Johnny Maestro and the Crests. A good group, and this is pure, treacly nostalgia

Shaddupa You Face, Joe Dolce

Smoke-smoke-smoke that Cigarette, by Phil Harris

I Yoost Go Nuts at Christmas, by Yorgi Yorgesen


Tater tots

Toasted peanut butter and honey sandwiches; a kind of variation on Elvis's toasted PB and banana


Devilled ham: I think this falls into the potted meat category from the movie Sling Blade, which the little kid referred to as consisting of lips and assholes

Lettuce and mayonnaise sandwiches on cheap white bread

Cream of Wheat: I don't even mind the lumps

Batter fried anything: A coronary in a simple foodstuff; I indulge rarely.

Pigs in a Blanket

*Random guilty pleasures:

Visible Panty Lines on women and, in the same context, dark undies worn under white or light garments: A fashion gaffe I know, but not without its fans.

Samantha's evil and sexy sister Serena on Bewitched. I know they were both played by the exquisite Elizabeth Montgomery, but somehow Serena was more alluring in a 'bad' way.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

F-Troop, especially Larry Storch

Clint Howard in anything, which usually means a Ron Howard flick. Poor Clint. Ron got to be cute Opie, and later all-American lad Ritchie Cunningham, and Clint got to be, well, Clint.

Dirty Harry movies

Marie Osmond. Not for her singing, just because I have always kind of liked looking at her and wondering just how 'pure' she really is.

Donna Reed on the old Donna Reed Show. I wish I'd had a friend with a Mom who looked like Donna. Actually, I did have a friend with a Mom who looked like Donna, and I used to go and visit on the ruse of seeing my friend, but I really wanted to talk to his Mom.

To Know Him is to Love Him by the Teddy Bears. The wacky Phil Spector at his sanest many years ago.

I just could keep adding, but I would rather hear some of yours.

Friday, June 16, 2006

"Hey -- senorita -- baybee..............Screeeeech!!!

It was just one of those little items that catches a body's attention when perusing the morning paper. It seems that in the South American nation of Colombia that drivers ogling babes on the streets has been deemed one of the leading causes of traffic accidents. While cellphone use while driving was numero uno, accounting for 10 percent of all accidents, perusing the bodaciousness of female pedestrians accounted for at least one crash in 20. It is good to know that machismo is still alive and well in Latino countries.

I don't know what the North American stats are for such sexist inspired transgressions of traffic flow, but I suspect they are also rather high. I remember once, when I was in my twenties, standing talking to a friend on the street, when a female strolled by. She was in the tightest and teeniest of white shorts and an excruciatingly bust enhancing red top (see, I remember after all these years). Completing the ensemble image was a Bardot-like sort of chignon hair style, and bare feet. My friend and I, I confess, noticed her, and then went back to our discussion of the rise of the Hanseatic League in medieval North German kingdoms. Actually, what we did notice was a middle-aged buffoon in a car who was transfixed by the image sufficiently that his car actually mounted the curb and had an encounter with a power pole. The man was mortified, because he knew what had caused the accident. The young lady in question just kept on walking, but we suspected she was chuckling to herself thinking what predictable morons men are.

This is a very long preamble to a brief thought I have about assorted jurisdictions debating whether or not cellphone use in vehicles should be prohibited. In the province of BC they are refusing to budge, despite the fact that the roads, and even freeways abound with idiots who must remain so connected that the wellbeing of everybody on the road, not to mention the kids, securely trussed in the backseat, come secondary.

I am sorry, but to me it's a no-brainer. There is never a call that is so important that the driver cannot take time to pull off to the side and make or take his or her call. I mean, what is this. Are assorted governments in cahoots with cellphone services, or do those who govern us not want to give their rights to make contact with a bookie or escort agency? OK, maybe that's unfair. Maybe they want to keep in touch with the missus over the forthcoming church social.

Driving is a dangerous business, and I haven't been immune to assorted distractions over the years, so maybe some precautions are needed.

However, how does Colombia propose to ban ogling? I would be interested in perusing those findings.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

It's not your fault -- you have a disorder

My old man was a cranky sonofabitch. Well, in his day it was just called being 'bad-tempered', at a later date he would be deemed a rage-aholic. But now, and it's too bad he's not still around to be let off the hook, he would be told he suffers from intermittent explosive disorder (IED), and he would, like anybody who suffers from anything some 'experts' deem to be a 'disorder' would be let off the hook.

Anyway, it's a relief to know that my father wasn't just a real bastard sometimes (most of the time he was OK) but that he was unwell, and therefore I should be retrospectively sympathetic to his malaise and should only remember him with the utmost of fondness.

So, what is IED all about is, yes, uncontrollable rage of the sort that makes you pull a gun on the slow guy in the fast lane in front of you, or push the dork on the bicycle over the embankment. That's right, it's really-really bad temper that you -- wait for it -- cannot control. So, the moron who gets pissed up and terrorizes flight crew and passengers on a a plane and manifests what has popularly come to be known as 'air rage' can't be deemed responsible for revolting and horrifying behavior, because he has IED. And you can bet, now that this puppy has been both 'invented' and identified, that there are hack lawyers already rubbing their hands together thinking how they are going to get some freeway prick off charges in the courts of the land.

"Yes, your honor, while it would seem that my client forced the tour bus off the road killing all 35 passengers and the driver, he cannot be held responsible due to diminished capacity."

"Hah? Howzat?"

"Well, your honor, my client suffers from IED, and the tour bus had cut him off a while earlier and left him in a state of uncontrollable rage."

"Oh, well, in that case we'll just let him off with a darn good warning and advise him to get some counseling."

The point is, we seem no longer capable of taking responsibility for despicable behavior. We do not need to because somebody out there in the government-grant supported pseudo-scientific world, has decided to give what we do a name, and therefore an excuse.

We now need take no responsibility because if you state your case, and give all sorts of pie-in-the-sky reasons for behaving badly, then you'll get a walk -- metaphorically or actually.

Your kid's an asshole in school, disrupting other pupils and not getting his work done? Well, no longer is he a rotten kid, he suffers from ADD and therefore extra attention must be given to him in his plight.

Your deadbeat brother-in-law holds up a liquor store. Well, there is a reason, right? He is a heroin addict and he wouldn't have committed that crime except the pains of his addiction drove him to do so.

You grabbed your next door neighbor when she was hanging out the wash and fondled her breasts. Well, you shouldn't be charged with sexual assault because you are a certified sex-addict and you happened to have missed your 12-step meeting that week.

And so it goes. Eventually it will come to pass wherein none of us will have to take responsibility for anything bad that we do, because somebody else will offer a 'scientific' reason for what we did.

Never among those reasons does the matter of 'making positive choices and having respect for our fellows' ever seem to arise.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Come on Sweetie -- we're going for a ride!

So, do these people hate their kids, or what? You see them every day. Stalwart, enviro-conscious moms and dads (nothing wrong with being enviro-conscious per se) pedaling furiously on their bikes, with their tiny tots being towed in a tiny canvas, wire and spit rickshaw like thing out in back. Now, this is hardly much defense against the huge Mack 12-wheeler that is coming up from behind, now is it? So, my question is, in an age of neurotic obsessiveness with the safety of children why are these contraptions legal? Truly, it amazes me that they are.

Just last week I read an article about how a child below a certain age will be more secure in a kiddie-seat stuck in the back, and facing backwards. In other words, in great big SUVs, the tots are to be trussed and belted and positioned so that no harm can befall them. Probably well-and-good, even if a bit anal, in my esteem. Sure does cut down on those old fights over which kid gets to sit up front with Mom, however. And, in the same context pudgy Britney Spears is lambasted for letting her child sit on Mommy's lap while the vehicle is cruising down the highway. Now, Miss Britney probably deserves to be dissed for many things, including appalling tastelessness, but if she is to be hit with this brickbat, why do the kiddie-trailer towers escape unscathed. Truly, if Britney had positioned her kid in one of those trailers, it would have earned her points with the save-the-worlders. Weird.

So, we run around keeping Shiloh and Darth Vadar Jr. all secure in this mean old world. We don't let them play with lawn darts, set off fireworks, or ride in the car unfettered, but we let them ride on crowded highways and byways, populated by street-racing morons and drunks, seated in a contraption that would blow over in a decent breeze, let alone lose in any conflict with a Hummer's front tire.

Why not just encourage them to play backyard catch with live handgrenades?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Marvin's in the hall -- the world is OK

I ran a check this morning after my shower, and there he was, 'Marvin the Hall Spider' sitting just outside the bathroom door. He reared back for a moment and then relaxed realizing it was me, once he'd checked me out with all six eyes.

Marvin has been there for about a week now. I'm not sure what his name really is, and maybe Salticidae Phideppi (jumping spiders) have a different form of nomenclature amongst their own kind. His name might well be either Wendell or even P1/2&gh%iii@ in the Phideppi dialect. But, I named him after Marvin the Depressive Robot in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Not to suggest that Marvin is a depressive. I don't know if depression is a factor amongst arachnids.

Anyway, Marvin is a Jumping Spider, as I suggested We get a lot of jumping spiders in the house this time of year. I regard them as fine little harbingers of spring. And when they come indoors, they take up residence in a specific area, and generally do not move away from there. Marvin is in the hall. We had one on the fridge door for a couple of weeks. Last year I had one near my computer keyboard. He never bothered me, and I never bothered him. One morning I came in and found that he had passed away. I felt bad about that, because there was no indication that he was even sick.

You might think that my acceptance of spiders is just so much foolishness, but it isn't really. Spiders do a wonderful service. Since I am a bit of a Buddhist about killing things and, as I have stated before, will try to encourage an intruding insect to head outdoors. I draw the line at flies, mosquitoes and earwigs, just because they are nasty and spread disease. But otherwise, I defer to the spiders in the house. They are my mini-hitmen, and they are really adept at carrying through with a contract. I find little insect corpses, especially in the garage, all the time. And, my more sensitive sensibilities remain intact because I have had no direct role to play in their demise.

Spiders are actually fascinating creatures. I recall an article I read one time in which the entomologist relating factoids about arachnid behavior pointed out that they are, hands-down, the most efficient and vicious killing machines in the animal kingdom. They are utterly without remorse or hesitation. Spiders kill. They devote their brief lives to killing. They make big predators, like tiger sharks, for example, seem almost as benevolent as guppies, and grizzlies as kindly as Labrador puppies. But, with spiders, there are no flights of remorse or sympathy for their victims. Now, you gotta respect that.

So, just checked again. Marvin's still there. The world is still as it should be.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

By God -- you can get there from here!

Vancouver Island, upon which I live, is the largest island on the west coast of North America, with a length of nearly 400 miles. I have lived here for far more years than I would care to mention. I grew up a city kid, in Vancouver, but came here to teach high school when I was in my early 20s. So, yes, I have lived here for a while. And, in all the years I've lived here, I had never gone up north.

People who live where I do, about 130 miles north of Victoria, which is right at the southern tip, and is the largest community by far, tend to get irritated by those in Victoria (for thousands of excellent reasons) because Victorians tend to believe that the stodgy old and far-too-quaint place is the epicenter of the universe, and that there is nothing of worth to the north -- all 400 miles of the north. We who live to the north know that the bias of Victoria is, to use the clinical term, bullshit. It's fabulous in our part of the Island. Tourists flock here in droves for swimming and boating in the summer, and skiing in the winter.

But, and this must be my confession, I had in all the years I have lived here, never been farther north on the Island than about 50 miles north of here. Primarily because, I think, all the population centers of this place are in the south. So, I just never had the impulse to go 'up there' to where there might well "be dragons."

But, last week, after having discussed the matter for years as in, "I think it's terrible that you've never been to northern Vancouver Island," -- emanating from my wife, who isn't even from here, and has only been on this rock for a few years, but who has, I must admit, been up north.

"What's up there?" I'd often asked her. She would describe places of pristine beauty and magnificence. While I wasn't unimpressed with her descriptions, I generally found excuses to not go, like, maybe we could, if we are going to take the time, go to Victoria instead because, even if they are self-important assholes, they do have good bookstores, nice pristine city parks and all the other accoutrements a city guy like me tends to gravitate to.

Anyway, one day last week, with time at our disposal, Wendy said, why don't we take a day trip to Telegraph Cove. She'd often talked about the tiny village on stilts way-way up north. I looked at the map. It was as far north as Victoria was south. Our place to Victoria -- where all but a few of the Island's 800,000 people live. "How many people live up there?" I asked. "About nine?" She assured me there were more than that.

Anyway, on the day in question we set forth. We drove first to Campbell River about 30 miles north, and a place with which I was very familiar. I even lived there for a while with the woman who I foolishly married at one moment of madness, but that's another story. From Campbell River we drove another 50 miles or so to Sayward, a tiny burg not especially notable for anything of much consequence. That was the farthest north I had ever been, and that was ages ago.

And then, it was into virgin territory. It was miles-and miles-and miles-and miles of virgin territory consisting of mainly trees. Trees and clearcuts, and more trees. Periodically a fairly spectacular mountain would loom into view. Even more periodically the shining water of a lake could be glimpsed through the evergreens. But, mainly it was trees.

Hours later we reached Telegraph Cove. So named because a telegraph station was established there in World War Two -- back in the days before email, even before fax machines. How did they cope? It's a cute wee place with a resident population of about 50, I believe. But, the summer months fill this village on stilts over a lovely bay with probably way too many (in the esteem of locals, no doubt) artsy-fartsy sorts, and venerable day trippers of the ilk who wear Bermuda shorts with business shoes and black socks (if male), or frightening looking halter-tops for females. Telegraph Cove has also become a Mecca of sorts for those who like to interfere with orcas (killer whales) in their natural habitat, since they abound here.

But, it was kind of fun there. We had a picnic. We then drove on 10 or so miles to Port McNeill, the only community of any consequence in the area, that even boasted supermarkets and gas stations.

The gas stations were a good idea, since we knew we had miles-and miles-and miles of trees to pass through on our way back to the genuine outer world.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

My little Kimmie -- I hardly knew you

I think I feel like sending Kim actress Cattrall to her room to think about her transgressions against both propriety and good, clean family wholesomeness. I might even ground her for a month.

Then I remind myself that she is an actress playing a part, and I'm not her father,
in any case. So, what am I doing being all paternal and stuffy?

I must remind myself that the sexual hi-jinx of Samantha on Sex and the City are not ‘my’ Kim at all, but just Kim doing a job of work in the context of: "I'm not really a doctor, but just an actor playing one." But, it's hard, because Kim and I go back a long time. Back to the days when she was a picture of pristine and innocent young girlhood.

In that context, she probably says to herself with much regularity, "I'mvnot really a hypersexualized, middle-aged, albeit immensely glamorous woman, but just an actress pretending to be one." This would be the same thing as if Sharon Stone didn't forget to wear her underpants as Sharon Stone, but as her character in a movie forgot her underpants whilst in the

So, as Kim Cattrall exhibits tendencies towards carnality in the role of Samantha, it's really only Samantha doing it. Kim, the real Kim, is at home doing needlepoint homilies for the wall.

Getting that all sorted out in my mind makes me feel a little better about Kim, but maybe no less paternal. I have a hard time letting go. Intellectually I know that Kim, my former student (hence the paternal impulse) is an actress, and a good one. But just maybe she'll think about
playing a nun sometime. Such a role would improve my emotional acceptance of the situation. After all, Audrey Hepburn played a nun once. She also played girl-about-New York (read 'high class call-girl), Holly Golightly and was every bit as believable as both Holly and the nun. So maybe Kim could play a nun, too, now that her series has long-since finished.

When sweet and young Kim Cattrall was my student back in the early 1970's, I regarded her with exactly the correct pedagogical attitude as prescribed by my role as teacher. But, I was also very fond of her as the talented and personable young woman she was. She sat there in my English and creative writing classes, and was just like any other student of mine. She was cute, attentive, polite, pleasant – and innocent.

Where she was different was that she was Kim, the future actress! In conversation, when life plans came up, her eyes would assume an intensity as she told of her quest in life. She was, even at age fourteen, when I first knew her, possessed of a fierce, burning, unwavering ambition, and that was to act. In those days, before the gender-neutrality-political-rectitude-brigade took command and ordered all thespians to be 'actors', Kim was going to be an "actress" -- a noted one -- a star. There was no "want to be" about this ambition, it was what was going to be!

She had her career mapped out in her mind and her determination not only to get there, but to succeed beyond the anybody's expectations was her driving force. High school was merely a stop along the way; something to be endured until she could seek out the serious training that would lead her in the direction of her chosen vocation.

Other high school kids have ambitions, too. They want to be doctors, lawyers, teachers or beauticians, and some make it. Others bask in the realm of fantasy, as in: "Wouldn't it be way cool to be a rock-star?" Indeed, some even want to act -- maybe -- someday. Kim was different. Kim 'was' going to act. And she was going to act big-time, on Broadway, in
London's West End, before the bright lights of Hollywood -- not in some rinky-dink local theatre society. Nothing was going to stand in her way. By the second half of her grade twelve year, her dreams were falling into place for her. It was then, in 1973, when she was notified that she had been accepted as a scholarship student in the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic
Arts in New York -- the youngest student ever to receive such an invitation. She was on her way at the tender age of sixteen.

The rest is, as they say, history. She was in good films, and bad films, had good live theatre runs, such as her personally cherished stint in the Rocky Horror Show in Toronto. She got fine reviews for the Canadian flick Days of Heaven, in which she played a downright scary, hyper-adrenaline cheerleader for a religious cult.

She was in the raunchy teen-pic Porky's in 1981 and, Shades of Samantha, she bared her ass as the nymphomaniac gym teacher in this critically-slammed but box-office boffo flick. As an aside, she once told me the bum in question belonged to a stand-in, and was not her own. I had
no way of knowing one way or the other, alas.

With all her choices, good and bad, Kim has had a long and, by any standards, extremely successful career in a ruthless business. Now that her Samantha has joined the Bewitched Samantha in the lexicon of former TV hit characters, I am certain Kim will be a success at it at whatever she turns her able acting hand to. I'm sure she has lost none of her determination, nor her ability to stay newsworthy. She's very good at that, making sure she is 'glamming' it up a la Samantha at events both high-impact and trivial. Of course, there is nothing new to Kim getting her name out there in the media. She even once dated Pierre Trudeau. You might be driven to say, "Who didn't?", but that's not the point. Kim has always known how to court publicity, even co-writing a book on the joys of orgasm with her former husband. Although it might be observed that it wasn’t quite joyful enough, since he is a former Mr. Kim Cattrall, but I digress. The book kept her current, and just a teeny bit controversial.

I followed Kim's career closely in her early days, and was thrilled for her successes and, I must confess, slightly dazzled at times. This was heady stuff. Indeed, I am still thrilled for her success in a ruthless business, albeit the pipeline of our connection has now become quite lengthy.

I went to see her in a little play in Vancouver after she had been in her first film, the underwhelming Rosebud, in 1975. She was still getting her chops, and any time she was given a chance to perform, she would take it. So, she was happy to do a stint on the Vancouver stage. She once told me she invariably preferred live performing to film or television, but the bucks and the notability are in the latter.

Anyway, she was delighted I took the pains to come to the play, and I was thrilled to see her. She was still very much the kid who had been given a good break, and she was still wide-eyed about how her romance with stage and screen was playing out.

I didn't see Kim again for quite a few years, by which time I had left teaching and had become a newspaper reporter. At some point during this time Kim paid an "official" visit to her hometown (she makes a fair number of unofficial visits to see friends and family, but normally doesn't let it be known), and I set it up so I could interview her for my old newspaper. It was a pleasing meeting with an old friend She was still unspoiled by success, and very much the same person I had taught. We had a lingering lunch, and after lunch she wanted to go and pay a visit to some old haunts, like her high school. I escorted her on her calls, and was charmed to do so. This would have been in about 1980.

We corresponded for a few years after that, and she would often call when she was in town. A few times we met fleetingly, but her career was really starting to take off and she, understandably, had some very big fish to fry in her life.

Losing touch again, I didn't see Kim again until 1993, when she decided to attend her twenty-year high school reunion. She was a bit trepidatious about the event, and was hoping nobody would jealously demean her, as in "Who the hell do you think you are?" To my knowledge no such thing happened at the reunion. I attended the event and, as far as I could see, she was treated like any other alum. People who had known her in student days were delighted to see her, and she chatted with assorted groups as just another former student. I was impressed both with the alumni and by the way she carried it off.

Much has happened in Kim's life since that time, but I am content to assume she is not Samantha, but merely the slightly hyperkinetic but fun kid who loved hockey (as she reportedly still does) and was planning to go off and become a star.

And that she did. Good on her.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Just another area of insecurity

This morning at the mall I watched people, mainly women (though the comment is not intended to be misogynistic) with cell-phones stuck in their ears. I wondered why. They were only going shopping. Why would they need to be chatting with someone? Can't they leave friends or family for a half hour without checking in? Are they so afraid of being cut off? Of being rejected? That's scary.

Leesa recently raised a point in her invariably well-considered, thoughtful and often witty blog the other day, about Blogger etiquette. We write our blogs, and we hope to elicit comment. We like it when our friends connect, and we especially like comment from bloggers whose blogs we genuinely admire -- and there are some mighty fine ones out there. So, you write your blog, and somebody responds. The question Leesa raised is, do you respond to them? Do you respond in your own blog commentary column? Do you go to their blog and make a comment on one of theirs, just to touch base? Do you do so in the hope they will keep coming back to yours? I love it when somebody in their own comments column responds to my comment. Yet, I must confess, I am sometimes remiss in responding to theirs in mine. I mean, do people check back? I do. But, maybe I'm neurotic. Maybe I'm afraid of being rejected. I've seen blogs in which people get right hostile because nobody had responded to something they had written, and they let their displeasure be known in a subsequent blog.

You see, this all becomes an area of fear of rejection, and it adds another dimension to this primal fear in our lives. We went through it in school. We believed that everybody was more popular than we are. That everybody is having a wonderful time, while we are sitting home alone popping corn for ourselves and watching TV with Mom and Dad.

Once, when my stepdaughter was about 14, and at a loose end because all her friends had something happening on a Saturday night -- emphasis on 'all' her friends, or so she believed -- and she had nothing happening. My wife and I decided to take in a movie. We asked her if she would like to come along, since I knew it was one she had wanted to see. She grudgingly said that she would. She came with us. She actually ducked down when we passed friends of hers on the street. She could not be seen with us because, you see, she had been rejected. I asked her if she really thought all of her friends were out doing fabulous things that evening. She replied that she did. When we got to the theatre and purchased tickets, she immediately parted our company and went and sat on the far side, by herself, just so she wouldn't be seen with us, such was her shame at her perceived rejection.

Are there bloggers that go through the same thing? Can we take this pressure? Should there be a 12-Step program for blog rejection obsession? Or, should we simply advise bloggers to just carry on, write another blog, and simply grin and bear it when they receive that old zero comments at the bottom of the blog. I know it hurts, but I think we can do it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

How did we come to this?

On an old episode of All in the Family daughter Gloria dared to utter, in mixed company, the word 'menstruation'. Archie was aghast. "Private," he wailed in dismay. "That's private stuff, and you said it in mixed company!" Now, we know Archie as a troglodyte reactionary buffoon, so we found this to be the stuff of fine comedy. And it was.

But somewhere we seem to have crossed a line in which any subject, no matter how personal, is open to discourse, thanks to TV advertising. Last evening I saw a TV add in which a guy is sitting in an office boardroom looking highly uncomfortable. Meanwhile, a woman is presenting a project to the staff in which she is making every innuendo reference that could be made about either needing to or actually breaking wind (but metaphorically in the context of her presentation). And then the viewer, boasting a higher than room-temperature IQ can easily deduce, hey, this guy really needs to fart. So, in the advance of civilization down many millennia, we have come to this, dear friends. Nothing is sacred. It is finally acceptable to overtly discuss, in the comfortable confines of your living room, something that is common to us all, but was invariably, in the past, relegated to being a private matter. But, dammit, I guess if you have some sort of flatulence-fixer to merchandise, then we should just come right and do it.

Guy is sitting in a hot tob with two babes. Things are looking promising. His buddy comes by and says, "Say, Frank, how's your diarrhea?" Babes rapidly exit. Yep, chatting about having the runs is no longer taboo, either, and we must have that thrust in front of us.

Unfortunate lady is on a sightseeing bus. It becomes apparent she is on the verge of wetting her pants. Not such a nice thing to have to really "gotta go" in a public place, with no apparent relief in sight other than a humiliating 'accident'. But, do we really need to be informed of this in such a manner. Don't people with such problems already have some inkling of how to deal with that, or diarrhea, or flatulence, or any other of a host of heretofore extremely private matters being interspersed in an episode of CSI, or whatever happens to be on at the time?

I'm the farthest thing from being a prude, or ultrasensitive -- believe me, I am very open-minded about almost anything. But, in a way I somehow think that a certain style or grace has been pulled out of contemporary society and has been replaced with a Rabelaisian baseness that gets kind of creepy.

We are loath to discuss war, poverty, illiteracy, crime and its causes, hunger, addiction, environmental depredation and a host of other blights that can and should be addressed, because we are afraid to label ourselves politically, but it seems we can now, with impunity, talk about stuff that most people, even now, stick behind the door of the lavatory.
"Say, Mom, I think that you need some Bean-o if you're gonna keep doin' that!"

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I got my kicks on Route 666

So, it's 6-6-06. Scared yet? It's going to be a century before this puppy rolls around again. So, in all likelihood this will be the only manifestation of this numerical conjunction that most of us will experience. Just as well I'd say.

As well all know, 666 is the number of the 'Antichrist'. But, most of us are a bit unclear about what that means, so we'll look at the more popular conception, which is that 666 is the mark of Satan. You know, Mephistopheles, the Devil, the Lord of the Flies, Lucifer, Old Nick (not to be confused with Jolly old St. Nick, although some parents assembling toys on Christmas Eve would be forgiven for confusing the two), and so on and so forth. We have a lot of names for this familiar dude. We have lots of thoughts about him, too.

We who are raised in Christian, Jewish or Islamic faiths are taught to hate him, yet we must admit that we have a kind of fascination, too. Mick and Keith even expressed 'sympathy' for him. But, I don't think he needs our sympathy other than for the fact that we seem to expect him to work overtime so often do we call for his services. But, that is where the metaphor in the song comes in. We blame Satan for all the terrible things we do. I think we're missing the point. We were given free will to make our choices. Satan, as a sort of amalgam of oily car-salesman, on-line Viagra huckster, and politician (any politician, anywhere, any time in history) merely shows us the options we have if we want to sin. And, a lot of sins are pretty darn enticing, just ask Faust or Dorian Gray.

I think we have to consider something else, too. Satan is in the untenable position of knowing he can never win. God is still the boss -- has to be because Satan is merely a lapsed angel, so therefore was created by God, and blasted out of Paradise for being too damn ambitious -- sort of like a lot of mid-management types. So, Satan was left being boss of just one sector. Of course, he does the best he can with his sector.

One thing he does is invite a lot of mighty interesting folk to be there. I mean, would you rather spend your eternal time with Errol Flynn or Mother Teresa? Oh, not to impugn Mother Teresa, but I bet old Errol has a lot of interesting stories to pass the time. He might even share some of his babes, too, since probably a lot of them are down there with him, too.

I have no real answer for this 666 matter, other than to think it's complete nonsense. On the other hand, I am happy my street address is 658 rather than eight numbers farther along in the numerical scale. It's just a matter of being on the safe side.

Truth delivered in many ways

A dear friend told me a while ago that she had always cherished the classic cartoons in the New Yorker. Me too. When I was in my teens I used to babysit for a family that a huge bound volume of the best of NY's classics through the years from the 1920s. Everybody from James Thurber to Chas. Addams to the gem at the left here, which was kind of a perennial favorite in which the caption is still regularly used to describe something somebody finds alien and distasteful. It's so simple, and yet speaks volumes.

Part of my fascination with cartoons lay in the fact that I was, for a brief time period, an editorial cartoonist for a small newspaper. I had always drawn cartoons, from the time I was very young. It wasn't however, until I got the newspaper gig that I was put in the position of having to devise gag-lines for my drawings. Harder than you think. I soon came to realize that the drawing was the easy part, it was the gags that were difficult. And, of course, you must think of the gag first, and then devise a drawing that is appropriate to the comment.

As I did my own stuff, I remained resolutely fascinated by the skills of others in the field throughout history. Editorial cartoons began to see the light of day as commentaries in the works of Rowlandson and others in the early 19th century. They continued through Thomas Nast's expose of Tammany Hall corruption in the later 19th century, and some of the most powerful exposes of the grimness of human endeavor can be found with Bill Mauldin's brilliant 'Willie and Joe' cartoons of the lives of two GI dogfaces in World War II. Snoopy traditionally raised a tankard of rootbeer to old Bill Mauldin every year on Bill's birthday, just to show Charles Shulz's admiration for the man.

Yes, cartooning can be fun, but it's also a deadly serious business. So serious that a considerable chunk of the Islamic world was enraged by the European cartoons that recently were seen as poking derisive fun at the faith. Maybe they were. Maybe that is what commentary is all about.

In fact, cartoons can and have been about virtually everything, from good clean fun to the most sordid sex, and anything else in between. Playboy used to be a fount of fine cartoons. Maybe it still is, I just haven't looked at one in a long time. And, of course, I only ever got PB for the articles and cartoons -- right? Of course I did. Speaking of dirty magazines, there used to be a cartoonist for Penthouse (only for the articles and cartoons, right? The graphic virtually 'intrauterine' shots were simply too much for this lad) who went by the name of Fieldvole. Circumstances were that I actually met the guy, and spent a rather sodden evening with him in a Norwich, England pub. At some point in the evening we had a 'drawathon' in which others present would suggest an image and we would both draw it. Eventually Fieldvole looked at me in a rather irate way. "I just can't match the girls you draw," he said. "Yours are so pretty, and mine are so homely. How do you do that?" I had no answer. I could only suggest that I really like girls, and I guess I want to flatter them rather than insult them. Sometimes flattery can have a lovely spinoff effect. "Hmm" he said. "I'd never thought of a cartoon as an aid to seduction." Neither had I in all honesty. It was just a thought that came to mind at the time. I won't tell you if cartoons actually can work in that regard. That would be telling.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sometimes it's not a bad thing, but it's always awful

When I was a kid it was obvious to me and to my brothers that our parents had a really terrible marriage. Consequently, and unlike a lot of people, I always wished they had gotten divorced, just so there would have been some peace and quiet around the place.

Just this morning I read another blogger who expressed the same sentiment about her parents. Was nice to know I wasn't alone in my feelings. Also, her thoughts led me to speculate on the whole topic of divorce and what it means, what it looks like, how it comes about, and essentially what happens. Be forewarned, it's never a pretty sight.

I know that because I have been there, a couple of times. I don't ever want to do it again. Sometimes, like root canal, or a prostate exam, it has to be done, but the process is never enchanting.

Anyway, in that regard, I am going to outline a bit of what goes on, and how it all comes about, and what it plays out like. Sort of a public service on my part. This offering is, of course, from a male perspective, mainly because I am male; or was last time I looked. My wife, also a divorced person, has some different perspectives from a female point-of-view. But, I wouldn't presume to go there. Maybe it's not always a case of 'too soon old; too late smart.'

The stages of divorce

I. Discomfort: One morning you look across the breakfast table, and there, head slumped beneath the top of the Cap'n Crunch box is your bride of five-ten-fifteen-twenty years. She is slurping her coffee, making that noise you used to think was cute, but now it sets your teeth on edge. For whatever reason her presence at the breakfast (lunch, dinner) table has become intolerable to you. You think about Samantha at the office, with whom you had lunch yesterday. She slurped her coffee, too, but on her it seemed adorable. You shake your head ever so slightly, and reach for your bit of buttered toast, and return to your paper. The moment you do, she looks at you, and sees the groom of yore, feeding his fat face with a billion grams of cholesterol, all-the-while letting the butter drip down his chin(s). She has so come to loathe watching him eat in his disgusting manner. She finds his presence as exasperating as he does hers.

II. Action: There are many ways out of this morass of disenchantment. They include: ignoring the situation; talking it out; getting counseling; temporary separation (either moving out for a while, or just living your own lives within the household); or real separation, which may or may not lead to divorce. There is also the murder option, but that is messy, illegal, and traumatic for the kids, and there is not a soul on the planet that is worth doing life in the joint for. So, we won't take that one seriously, even if we, being human, might have thought about it in moments of extreme duress.

So, we'll look at other considerations.

a) Ignoring the situation: This usually doesn't work, primarily because that is
likely what you've been doing over the last few years. If there are problems, and there always are, regardless of how 'healthy' a marriage seems to be, then they should be dealt with. If you have a tire that persists in going soft every week or so, then you get it fixed. So, that leads us to:

b) Talking it out: Normally about as effective as ignoring. You have big communication problems and that is why you're both so disenchanted. But, the process can be worth a try. Get to the root of it all. Ha! So, what's wrong? Do you really, really want to boff Samantha, and can't get her out of your libidinous little mind? Are you knocking off a quart a day after work? Are verbal brawls increasing? Have you simply grown apart? Such things happen. Life happens. It's probably too optimistic to think that at the age of twenty-five you will still be the same person at fifty, and that you and your bride will have as much in common as you once did. Sometimes such ongoing solidarity transcends other problems, but not as often as idealists would like to think. It is always to be hoped that both partners will grow with time, but there is no rule that says we have to grow in the same direction.

c) Getting counseling: A few (or many) sessions with a good counselor have saved some marriages. I expect counselors get torn in this line of work, primarily because if your marriage stays terrible, he/she can get you to attend more sessions, and will earn more money from your strife. But, let's say that most counselors are not motivated by venality, and are honorable folk who truly want to see you come to grips with your domestic crises and sort matters out. The real problem with counseling is if the marriage is in such a state of chaos that you are seeking an outside opinion, it's likely beyond repair. A wise marriage counselor once said to me that some marriages have an expiry date. No matter what you do, if you have gone past that date, the two of you aren't going to come together. The couple may pay lip-service to the counselor's suggestions, but their post-counseling behavior probably won't amount to much more than hollow gestures. "Hug each other every morning before you depart for the day's chores." Well, hell, if you weren't already spontaneously hugging each other, maybe the marriage is beyond repair.

d) Trial separation: Kind of like a vacation from each other. Maybe with some self-imposed isolation, clearer heads will prevail, and you will each be able to objectify the situation. Some counselors advise this if the relationship has gotten ugly enough to warrant action being taken, but neither of you is yet ready to call it quits irredeemably. This process can work, but trial separation is fraught with pitfalls. For example, it could be, if she agrees readily, just an excuse to get you out of the house -- permanently, with the 'trial' part being a ploy to avoid a nasty confrontation. Or, you may take it as tacit approval to dust off your Tomcat Kit and get yourself embroiled in some tawdry liaison from which there will be no return. Or, it just might be that this is the first step to a genuine separation.

e) Marriage in name only: This is a kind of pussy way to fool the kids by pretending that everything is just lovely and Mommy and Daddy are still together. That's working from the assumption your kids are deaf and blind. Forget that ruse. They know what the hell's going on. Sometimes such a sham marriage is also an attempt to fool the in-laws and the neighbors. In the process, husband and wife continue to share the family nest, but they sleep in separate rooms and cross paths as little as possible. It's a scenario that's about as much fun as pulling out nostril hairs with tweezers. Not advised. Causes tears and mammoth stress on both parties, not to mention the aforementioned kids.

f) Real separation: Enough pretending, this is the true SLTD (separation leading to divorce). This is, in my experience, the most agonizing part of the process of legal disentanglement. Emotions will be trashed and you and your former blushing bride will say things to each other that you didn't think you were capable of uttering, and for which you will be ashamed for years afterward if you're any kind of a decent human being. Tempers flare in times of maximum stress, and the thought process is a bit skewed. Separation is an ugly and uncivilized life episode that is better to be rid of sooner rather than later. Some people carry the pretending on for years. I advise against it. If you've made your decision, then get a lawyer and move to a divorce. It's easier for all concerned.

*Cautionary note: You might be tempted, due to residual love, lust, nostalgia or whatever else stirs you to want to 'do it to her one more time.' This is dangerous territory, and can lead to even more emotional torment. I suppose there are cases where a little nookie has gotten a couple back together, but it's rare. If marriage was just about sex, then you wouldn't be getting divorced.

g) Divorce: The ultimate failure to communicate. Once you've sorted out all the crap during the separation period, the final decree is justbit oftof an anti-climax. Of course, what you did have to sort out prior to the final decree was just a tad more demanding than the breakup of General Motors would be. If there are kids, there is custody and visitation, and the fact that they will forever after hate you when it suits them, and love you to bits during those intervals when they hate your erstwhile spouse. There's money. There's lots of money involved. Scuttle those plans for early retirement, because life will get much costlier from this point, unless you married an heiress. There's the house. No matter how much you love it, if she's got the kids, she will live there. You will live in a trailer or seedy apartmentent. There's property. She'll get all the nice china and cutlery, and you'll get the Wal-Mart bargain bin everyday shit. Don't know why it works like this, but it seems to. You, on the other hand, will get the outboard motor, the chainsaw, the moose-head, and the socket-wrench set. There, now don't you feel better?

Finally, there's the emotional devastation. You never thought it would come to this. When that final decree is completed, there is a certain sense of relief, but also deep sadness, too. Couldn't we have done better? Maybe, and maybe not. You have to learn to live with that, and hold fast to the belief that life will improve. It will if you let it. But not for a while.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

And then I want to do this!

Carpe diem goes the conventional wisdom. That is, seize the day and make it work for you. I think about that quite often -- especially when I am feeling the overwhelming need for a nap. Uh-oh. Shouldn't do that because there is no guarantee of a tomorrow, and think how pissed-off I'll be if I've wasted this day if it turns out it's my last. Damn -- now I won't get the chance to do 'that', whatever that happens to be.

Bearing that in mind, I (knowing, and accepting only grudgingly that I am mortal) have decided that this is what I want to do before I die. It is my ultimate personal list. You will have to devise your own. I'd love to hear about yours.

1) I want to go back to Rarotonga. I want to go back without the duress of 9/11, as happened last time I was in that tropical paradise. I want to go back to see if I can get more of that Pacific within me. And when I've done that, I want to explore more of that same Pacific. So, my simple requests: an unlimited amount of time; an unlimited amount of money; and wings of my own to glide over that ocean.

2) I must return to Kauai as many times as I am allowed tby longevityty, health and money. It's my blessed place. How can I therefore deny it?

3) I want to have my book published, and then I want to write others. As many others as 'my' time will permit. I want their sales to make me stinking rich. Oh well, if not stinking rich, then to earn me at least enough so that it doesn't really matter if I have another published.

4) I want to travel the whole of North America by train. I've gone across Canada, and all over Europe, so I want to familiarize myself with the rest of the continent while sitting back in a comfortable compartment, beverage in hand, good book beside me, and watching the world go by.

5) I'd like to read War and Peace and Ulysses in their entiretybuttI know I won't. Not this time around, anyway. Like most other readers, I have perused the dirty parts of Ulysses, and I suppose that if you consider the midnight musings of Molly Bloom to be the only part of note, because they are horny, then really the task is done.

6) I once thought I wanted to make love
to every attractive woman I ever happened upon, and especially those of my acquaintance whom I happened to 'like' very very much. And God knows I gave it the college try in the past. I don't think I want to do that any longer. I'll cut the 'every' down to just a select few in my fantasy realm.

7) I'd like to win big on the lottery
, just so that I wouldn't need to worry at all about money for the rest of my life, and then I would be able to devote my waking hours to worrying other things.

8) I'd like to travel to many, many places. I recently heard from a close friend who had just returned from a trip to Laredo, Texas to visit her grown daughter who works on a horse ranch down there. She said she now has itchy feet. Her professing that gave me itchy feet by proxy. I'd like to go to Laredo, too. Not that I'd ever thought of Laredo in the past, but yeah, it seems like a nice idea. And, if I had a friend who had just returned from Sarasota or Helsinki, or anywhere else I haven't been, I'd like to go there, too. In fact, I'd like to go virtually anywhere that I never before considered. But, maybe I don't have the time. I have another friend who is near the end of a two-year sabbatical in Egypt. She is divorced, her kids are grown, and when the opportunity arose for her, she just said: "Fuck it, I'm going." Actually, I do not know if she said, "Fuck it," because she's quite lady-like, but that is what I would have said. Anyway, she is loving it all, and writes to tell me all about the bazaars, the oases, the caftan-covered creeps who slathered over her beautiful adult daughter when the girl came to visit Mom, and the noise and clutter of the streets of Cairo. Now, when her stay is over, she is going to South Korea for a year. I admire her so much for doing that, and am ashamed to admit that I might not have the chutzpah to do such a thing, and that makes me admire her all the more.

9) I would like to be free from all fear. I would cherish reaching a state of full acceptance of the perversities of life, and attain a Zen-like state of seeing it all as a manifestation of a natural order. This has grown to be an increasingly pressing desire as I've aged. At the same time, I am less afraid of such trivia as making or not making the grade socially. It is not that I think I am socially undesirable; I just give less of a damn about such irrelevant matters as making a good impression.

10) I would like to recapture some of my losses. Not financial losses. Money lost is experience gained. Good and bad experience. But there are people losses I regret. Sometimes the contacts in our lives are at different levels at the same time. While a soul connection may have existed, the other stuff wasn't a fit. We have all kissed friends and lovers goodbye in the past, probably not prematurely, but at just the right point. Problem is, we change and grow and reach a point where we know instinctively the thing would now work. But, the time has passed, and now it wouldn't work for the other. We fall into the "if only" trap, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it other than to bask in a reminiscence of a time past. A mark of maturity is to recognize that a then can rarely become a now. Don't try to get it back. The potential for heartache is too great. So, before I die, I am not going to try to "go back".

11) I want to be confident that despite all the wrong things I've done in my life, I'm held in decent esteem, and I hope that the good I've accomplished will outweigh the bad when the final tally is made. This is nothing to do with ego, but what I consider a functional human being's purpose. We have to be here for some reason. Hope i is s a good one. If we have a purpose, then part of it has to be our role in helping others; making a dent, as it were. In that context, maybe I can then hope, if I have need, that somebody might help me. That is a pretty fair trade-off.

12) I want to quit wasting time. Throughout my life I have spent a lot of time in FTD pursuits. FTD is less politely known as Fucking the Dog. Or, as the more refined amongst you would have it; having carnal knowledge of the canine. Wasting precious moments and harboring an attitude that suggests I'm gonna live forever, so I can procrastinate, I can defer decisions, I can be steeped in reality denial, I cannot be bothered to fix what can be fixed. Then one day -- and it sneaks up on you gradually when you are wasting time and you realize the time is running out. All the 'things' you wanted to get to are demanding more time than you might have. It is a sensation that assumes omnipresence past a certain age; I'm not certain just how much time I do have left. That was always actually the case, but earlier I was less aware of a looming figure, shrouded in black and carrying a scythe. So, I don't want to waste any more time.

I want to do the things I've a mind to do, and I want to do them as soon as possible. A while ago I got back to painting. Years ago I did watercolors and, while they weren't necessarily of Louvre quality in their artistry,they were OK. I liked them. Even a few others liked them. But, more importantly, this act of creativity took me away from my other stuff and I could get immersed in a world over which I had control, since I have no control whatsoever over the 'real' world. Then, for whatever reason, about a dozen years ago, I stopped doing my art. I didn't consciously stop doing it; I just didn't get around to it. My paints got hard and worthless, and God only knows what happened to my brushes. Some of my favorite paintings I gave as gifts to a former wife and she, as testament to some sort of support for my dubious talent, I guess, refused to return them to me when we parted our ways. A backhanded compliment in a way. She may not have liked me very much, but she did like my work. Something in the context of Dylan Thomas being a loathsome boor of a human being who happened to write divine poetry. About two years ago I got back to painting.

At first my hand was shaky and initially I lacked confidence that I could do it at this later stage in my life. My first attempts were, in my esteem, pretty pathetic, and amateurish. But then, slowly, my renderings became more respectable. Dare I say "good?" No, I don't yet dare say that. But, "satisfactory", maybe even OK would work. Satisfactory for me, at least. In the area of painting, therefore, I had stopped wasting time. It felt, and continues to feel good, and now we are running out of wall-space and I'm thinking of calling the Louvre, or at least Joe's Art Gallery and Small Engine Repair.