Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Acrophobia -- isn't that a little country near Romania?

I am currently sitting at my computer in a suite on the fifth floor of an apartment block. This place is my ‘other’ home apart from our suburban bungalow that we love dearly. Work, however, takes my wife to another town, so we have a residence here, too. I spend as much time working from here as I can, mainly because I cherish her company and don’t savor time apart. It’s not a big deal, and this is a nice place to be. I look out the window and see vistas of an appealing, mid-sized city that is very popular, for good reason, with tourists.

Yeah, it’s great. Except for one thing: The apartment is on the damn fifth floor!

You see, I am acrophobic. I don’t like being acrophobic, but that is what I am. I’ve mentioned before that heights disconcert me, and I also mentioned in the past that going up in an airplane doesn’t distress me at all (other than the fact that God did not intend us to fly), but being a few feet about ground creeps me out.

Phobias are such weird things because we usually have no idea where they originate. They just are. I’ve never fallen from a great height; I’ve never been threatened with destruction and mayhem by being thrown from a great height. Yet, great heights (or even relatively piddly heights) rattle me. The rattle me sometimes to the point of immobility. Wikipedia looks at acrophobia in this way:

Some neurologists question the prevailing wisdom and argue that acrophobia is caused by dysfunction in maintaining balance and that the anxiety is both well founded and secondary. According to the dysfunction model, a normal person uses both vestibular and visual cues appropriately in maintaining balance. An acrophobic overrelies on visual signals whether because of inadequate vestibular function or incorrect strategy. Locomotion at a high elevation requires more than normal visual processing. The visual cortex becomes overloaded and the person becomes confused. Some proponents of the alternate view of acrophobia warn that it may be ill-advised to encourage acrophobics to expose themselves to height without first resolving the vestibular issues. Research is underway at several clinics.

Phew, that was a relief. I’m not totally weird in this, just moderately weird. Part of my problem unfolds this way. I’m fine when I am in the apartment. I am comfortable looking out the window and like the view. It’s when I go out on the balcony that it all starts to fall down. The balcony is five unforgiving floors up. What if I stumble? What if I get some bizarre impulse to hurl myself over? I am not even mildly suicidal; never have been. So, where does that come from? Well, it’s another one that cannot be clearly explained, and it is a common manifestation of acrophobia.

Acrophobia isn’t uncommon. Neither are other phobias, like irrational fears of spiders, snakes, closed-in places, crowds, the marketplace (agoraphobia) and virtually every thing and circumstance you couilod imagine. Few are those who don’t have some phobia or other. This doesn’t mean that all fears are phobias, howver. If you happen to live in cobra country, then a fear of snakes would be common sense rather than a phobia.

My acrophobia first became apparent to me a number of years ago. My ex-wife (one of them) and I were in Seattle on vacation. "Let's go up to the top of the Space Needle," she said, all perkily. We went out to the Space Needle. I looked up at it from street level. "No freaking way am I going up there," I told her, and I didn't say "freaking." Just an overwhelming fear gripped me and I knew I had no desire to be up there. Last year my wife and I were in Waikiki staying at the Hawaiian Village. One afternoon I looked out the window of our 22nd floor (shudder) suite and pondered the tower across the way. There was a guy out on the balcony on probably the 25th floor. How can he do that, I thought. I found it uncomforable even watching him, yet he seemed blase as hell about where he was, and even leaned over and looked down. My stomach almost flipped and I had to look away.

Anyway, in my acrophobia, I felt much relief last evening when we went out to dinner at the home of good friends who live nearby. The host asked how I liked living part-time in the 5th floor apartment. Fine, I replied, it's a nice place, except I’m not crazy about being out on the balcony. He told me that was why he’d asked, because he – ta-da! – is also acrophobic. I didn’t know that before. It came as some comfort since he is an otherwise successful and rational man. In fact, his acrophobia is even more severe than mine. He has problems going up a stepladder, whereas I only balk if I’m more than halfway up a full-length extension ladder. If I’m still low enough that if I fell I would only break a leg rather than splatter myself over the pavement, I’m still OK. So, if a 2nd floor apartment becomes available, I think I'd be pleased. On the other hand, I am grateful we're not on the 12th.

Even so, should you walk by my place some day, don’t expect me to be out on the balcony waving at you. I might lose my balance and fall. I don't think I'll take the chance.

Do you have a phobia? Want to tell us about it?

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Here's how I see the world today. Tomorrow may be different

I pilfered this from my friend Donna's blog and it gave me a little food-for-thought this Tuesday morning. Of course, this is today's list. Tomorrow's might be completely different.

Anyway, 'la liste':

1. A song? "Layla", Derek and the Dominoes

2. An 80's rock album? Cyndi Lauper “She’s So Unusual” – Especially for ‘Time After Time’. Anyway, I love Cyndi. Anyone who would have Little Richard officiate at her wedding is OK in my books. If she and I weren't married, I'd want her to bear my children.

3. A singer? Peggy Lee, Dean Martin – If we’re just talking pure voice, then the traditionals can’t be beaten. No one sexier than Miss Peggy Lee

4. A man? My long-deceased best college friend, Dave Levang. Miss him always.

5. A woman? My wife, Wendy, my late mother-in-law, May

6. A writer? Shakespeare and Mark Twain. With those two you have much of the wisdom you will ever need

7. A book? So difficult to narrow down. In fact, I think I’ll leave this one out, as my favorite books have invariably changed in impact as I’ve aged

8. A word? All you need is ‘love’

9. A movie? Again a tough one. Probably ‘The Caine Mutiny’ (love Bogey) and ‘Chinatown’ (love Nicholson and cinema noir)

10. A wise statement? ‘Thank-you for your submission. We will be running it in our March 28 edition’

11. A color? Blue – especially the azure of a tropical sea.

12. A flower? A perfect rose

13. A fictional character? Huck Finn. He faces the moral dilemmas that strike us all with regularity

14. A name? Rufus Firefly (AKA Groucho Marx)

15. A guitarist? Eric Clapton, of course, with Stevie Ray Vaughn coming a close second

16. A guitar? The classic Stratocaster just because it’s so bizarre looking, kind of like a '56 DeSoto

17. An Age? 40, when I began to believe in me

18. A famous Historical character? Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt

19. A flavor? Vanilla

20. A meal? Roast prime rib (marbled), Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes

21. A country? Canada (because I live there), England (because I once lived there), Ireland (because it’s beautiful and charming), the US (because I visit regularly and Hawaii, Palm Springs and San Diego happen to be there)

22. A city? Kapaa, Kauai. Actually just a small town, but if I’m there, it means I am on Kauai. Otherwise, London

23. A monument? Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. Not very big on monuments, but Nelson’s is phallically impressive

Monday, February 26, 2007

And what about Arnold, may I ask?

OK – I’ll admit it. I didn’t watch the Oscars last night. In fact, I hadn’t seen any of the nominated films, so why bother? Anyway, I felt that since Paris Hilton wasn’t nominated, there was no point. Then I learned the Oscars were for ‘acting’ not ‘acting out.’

But seriously, I lost interest in the Oscars when Arnold Stang (pictured here with Frankie) missed being nominated for his tour de force as ‘Sparrow’ in The Man With the Golden Arm in 1955. No, that wasn’t really serious, but Stang was good. Watch and you’ll see what I mean.

There are two reasons why I don’t watch the Oscars and haven’t done so in I cannot remember how long. They are:

1. All the Oscars are is a big in-house (I was going to say ‘circle jerk’ but my intrinsic politeness made me refrain) love-in. They are not really a reflection of critical esteem or film quality. Academy members, not critics or the public undertakes the voting. And, Academy members in a certain category by their designation can only vote for others in that same designation. At least, that is what Kim Cattrall told me a number of years ago, and I suspect she would know. So she, for example, as an actress, can only vote in the actress category, she cannot vote for best actor. So, if somebody Kim had brawled with in the past was up for a nod, she wouldn’t get Kimmie’s vote, in all likelihood. That’s just plain silly.

I don’t go to the movies. I believe God invented DVDs for a reason, and that was to keep cranky guys like me away from movie houses. I think the last two movies I ever saw were Saving Private Ryan (not a well-known fact that Tom Hanks won World War Two), and Titanic. If you haven’t seen it, the ship sinks. That one was redeemed by Kate Winslet, but not much else.

I quit going to the movies because I no longer found it a pleasant experience, but one that brought out my more hostile instincts. Why would I want to sit in a venue in which movie house operators scour the streets and then populate their venues with the rudest people they can possibly unearth. Movie audiences that used to be in raptures with what was unfolding on the silver screen now seem to be nasty, boorish, loud, inconsiderate and just not the sort of company with whom I want to be stuck being only an armrest away from. They talk; they answer cellphones; they present their stupid critiques of plot lines and they are forever going back and forth to pick up further drums of ersatz popcorn or enough milk-duds to provide confections for the population of Somalia.

And movies are so loud. Why are they so loud? I assume most people there can hear, so why should the (generally bad) music, and (generally bad) dialogue be hearable in the next town?

Sometimes I think about going to a movie. And then I find my crankiness (if I’ve so decided) increases as the day of the movie approaches. When that day actually arrives I am in such a pout about it all, there is no point in going.

Don’t get me wrong. I love movies. There are good movies, and there are even ‘great’ movies (not so much this year, from what I read), and there are movies that I have seen over and over again on TV or DVD.

In that context, I do recognize that watching a DVD version is not the same thing as seeing it all on the big screen. But, I want to then see it on the big screen in one of the cinema palaces of yesteryear. Those wonderful venues with their chandeliers and plush seats were part of the overall experience. Those crappy little multiplexes at the mall do not make it. They offer little improvement over a DVD offering. Added to which, my home isn’t populated by boorish louts, like the multiplex will be.

A final point in favor of renting a movie, I think stems from the number of occasions in which we have sat and perused a recent offering and then said: “Glad we didn’t pay real money to watch this sucker on the big screen.”

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Me? Fight Mike? Lemme at 'im!

I pilfered this from Me’s blog and it struck me that it was a kind of variation on the Proustian Questionnaire. However, I won’t be mean and tag anybody for this, although I would be agog to know your responses. These questions offer some choices about how you see yourself in the universe, and wherein lie your truths.

So, would you rather:

1. Be famous now & forgotten after you die or forgotten now & famous after you die, forever? & Why? Ideally I’d rather have both. Wouldn’t we all? However, I’ll take the fame now, especially if it’s accompanied by money. Actually, I’d take money now over fame. Not a lot of money. Just enough money to allow me to live in the style to which I’ve become accustomed, and to indulge myself with lots of travel. But, fame might be OK, too. After I’m dead? Why should I care?

2. Give blood or read Hamlet? & Why? Oh, read Hamlet most definitely. Anyway, the question is one of choice. Of course I would rather read Hamlet. I love Hamlet. Well, not at a personal level. He was pretty creepy, neurotic, and borderline incestuous, and what was wrong with that nice Ophelia girl? But, you get my drift. However, the moral answer would be to give blood, so I would feel more obligated to give blood. On the other hand, I can’t give blood. I lived in England for a year in 1980-81 and people who resided in the UK at that time are off the hook because of the spongeiform (Mad Cow) virus.

3. Be extravagantly rich, but hated by others or be well loved and admired, but dirt poor? & Why? Aw gee, does it have to be dirt-poor? Couldn't it be just slightly unwashed-poor? OK, I’d love to be mildly rich, but would detest being hated. So, I’d have to opt for being loved and admired, both for my ego and because I like sleeping nights. And, if people love me, they might just help out with the bills of this dirt-poor guy.

4. Be imprisoned for the rest of your life or kill someone? & Why? OK – can I choose whom I can kill? I have some candidates in mind. On the other hand, I have a pathological fear of being imprisoned. So, if I could kill somebody I find extremely evil – or boring – or irritating – or vulgar – or stupid – I think I could handle that.

5. Fight Mike Tyson or talk like him? & Why? Mike Tyson can talk? Now, there’s a concept. Don't get me wrong, Mike. I meant no offence. Aww, don't get mad. Anyway, I don’t want my brain pulverized, so I guess I would have to settle for the speech thing.

Bonus (as in optional): Whom would you kill if you were guaranteed to get away with it? I have a few candidates, and one in particular. I don’t know if I would actually want to kill him, but I’d be happy to contract it. Or at least see him die a painful and disgusting death – after much suffering. I know forgiveness is a virtue, but I so cherish detesting this guy. If you knew him, you would too.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Like Popeye, I yam what I yam, and ain't nothing I can do about it

Today I am trying to decide if I want to do any work whatsoever. I’ve sold two stories this week, and that’s pretty good, and I have a business appointment later in the afternoon concerning website material I’ve written for a local business, so I think I’m kind of caught up.

And, anyway, it’s my birthday. No, please, no fanfare; no to-do. Just simple greetings and warm wishes will suffice.

Anyway, birthdays are weird things. In fact I am only one day older than I was yesterday, not a year older, so why do we make such a fuss about them? Yet we persist in doing so. Really, the birthday should only be significant to the person impacted, since it is the one day of the year that he or she can actually claim as his or her own. Well, their own along with all the other people who share that birthday.

I was thinking about birthdays in a general sense, however. When we are very young we long for our birthdays. We are impatient about them. We always want to be older so we tell people we are five-and-a-half, not a mere infant of five. Or, maybe ‘going-on-six.’ That sounds even more impressive. When you’re very young you can’t offer much to impress people, so your age will have to do.

This fascination and obsession with ones age continues into the teen years because by certain ages you can do certain things that had formerly been denied, like drive a car legally, drink alcohol in a bar legally, vote, and join-up and risk being blown to ratshit in Afghanistan or Iraq. And, ultimately you can pass that magic bar that suggests you are finally a ‘grown-up.’ This is only a legal status, however. At an emotional and behavioural level, however, some people never pass that mark.

For me, I stopped being enchanted by my age when I was around 30. Actually, that was a pivotal birthday for me in the sense that I didn’t like it at all. My twenties were over and somehow I felt I had missed out on grabbing the magic ring on the carousel ride. I hadn’t made it by 30. And, nobody over 30 could be trusted, went the wisdom of the day. After that I tried to stop paying attention to my age, mainly because I liked it less and less each year.

I haven’t reached the point of lying about my age, or of subtracting years. I haven't truly entered the realm of curmudgeonly geezerdom yet, I don't think. Still have all my own hair and some of my teeth and am still most positively impacted by my wife's pretty face (and other stuff.) On the other hand, I no longer tell people my age. I want my creds to still have impact professionally and personally, and don’t want to be reduced to the realm of ‘old fartdom’ by somebody who just stopped peeing the bed two years earlier.

Anyway, there is solace. Winston Churchill didn’t even become Prime Minister of England until he was 68, and Ronald Reagan was well over 100 when he became president.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I guess Mom knew best

“Don’t sit so close to the TV, you’ll ruin your eyes,” Mom used to say back in my childhood.

Little did she know that she was only partly right. For, according to an item in today’s newspaper, TV also raises the risk of, aside from messing up your eyes, obesity, premature puberty and yes – autism. Autism, while being a genuine affliction for those genuinely afflicted, seems to have become the new ADHD in diagnostic circles.

But, back to the evils of TV matter. Odd that the study said nothing about really terrible programming rotting the brain and destroying all critical abilities, but that’s neither here nor there.

But wait, there’s more. The study, published in the science journal Biologist, found that watching television inhibits the production of melatonin, which negatively impacts the immune system; sleep cycle, and the onset of puberty. It also causes a propensity to believe that assorted non-talents on American Idol are going to be the next best thing. Well, no, it didn’t make the latter point, but I think it should have.

Oh, and the study also deduced that older folk aren’t going to get off the hook easily if they devoted an inordinate amount of time in their youth to perusing the old cathode ray tube – and it takes as little as just one extra hour of TV a day – for TV might be a contributory cause of Alzheimer’s. Or maybe, if you watch too much TV, you’ll just give the appearance of having Alzheimer’s.

But wait, there’s still more. TV is not only associated with irregular sleeping patterns, it also significantly increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The author of the study, psychologist Aric Sigman, issued a caveat against those who might see his findings as kind of ovestating the obvious and not really being worthy of a hell of a lot of attention, and suggested they are playing a foolish game. He warned that ignoring what he has found could “ultimately be responsible for the greatest health scandal of our time.” That's right, screw HIV-AIDS, malaria, rampant tuberculosis in some parts of the world, and all the other afflictions we might see as health scourges and focus (using the term advisedly) on TV.

At the end of it all, and after having found his watershed study of the evils of television – late comic Ernie Kovacs once said that television is referred to as a ‘medium’ because it’s hardly ever rare or well-done – to be even more riveting than the accompanying article pondering the increase of cancer in Tasmanian Devils, I am left with a couple of questions.

They are: 1) did Sigman watch a lot of TV in order complete his study? And 2), does watching very little TV lead to excessive outpourings of ego over simplistic findings? Just wondering.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

That's more than sad -- it's pathetic

A particular exchange from my days as an addictions counsellor sticks in my mind. One day I asked a client what it was that had made him decide to turn his life around from being a falling-down drunk to a person seeking a life of sobriety. It was a question I often asked because I wanted to assess if the decision had come from the individual himself, or if somebody had put his back to the wall and demanded he get help. In such cases the process is often doomed to fail because it’s under duress.

“It was something my wife said,” he told me. “She said I was pathetic. That really hit me. I wouldn’t have minded her calling me a drunken asshole, a waste-of-space, a jerk, or whatever else she’d thrown at me hundreds of times over the years. But to say I was ‘pathetic’ really hit me. Pathetic. That’s what you call a skid-row wino eating out of dumpsters. I wasn’t one of those – I didn’t think.”

He was right. Pathetic seems to indicate beyond hope and therefore, finally, an object of pity rather than contempt. According to my dictionary, pathetic is: arousing or capable of arousing scornful pity. Yep, that was right where the poor guy was. It wasn’t just that he had done something pathetic; in his long-suffering wife’s esteem, his entire being was pathetic.

I don’t know if the guy was successful in his quest. After 28-days he left and the facility tended to lose touch. I hope he was. I hope he’s no longer pathetic.

But, I’m afraid that the term ‘pathetic’ was the only one that could cross my mind when I saw the photos of poor, sad Britney Spears with her shaved head. No doubt you’ve seen them. My feeling was, I don’t want to read any more crap about your misspent life. I don’t want to see you baring your (ahem) ‘fundament’ to the world again, I find your life has become pathetic, and only you can do something about it. I’m altruistic enough that I like to hear of people – especially people with very few tools – resurrecting themselves and becoming functional humans.

I feel that about her because she was a kid who came from the metaphorical trailer-park and, like Elvis, whose background was similar, suddenly was thrust in the limelight, suddenly had more money than an emirate, and suddenly was expected to perform, and perform and perform to the greedy public’s content. She was expected to do this with no inner resources to carry her through. So, she ended up pathetic and sad.

In that she is like Courtney Love. We all watched poor old Courtney, who became increasingly pathetic on her downhill slide, and we all waited for the out-of-control car to hit the overpass. But, amazingly, it didn’t. Love of her child shocked her into awareness, and I hope the tales of her recovery are true.

I don’t feel that way about Paris Hilton, for example, or other spoiled and self-indulgent individuals like her. She had every advantage any human could ever expect and has devoted her energies to not only offending virtually everybody who crosses her path – even bad people – but also showing an attitude of greed and entitlement that is repellent. Oh, and she also insists on dragging easily-influenced younger females down with her. Paris ain’t pathetic. She’s just offensive, so screw her. Why not? Hundreds already have. Sorry, I had to have my little joke.
But, all I can say to Britney is, check yourself back into that rehab that you checked out of within 24-hours, grow your hair back, gain some maturity, and recognize the fact you have two youngsters who might like to have functional and loving mother And no, toddlers do ‘not’ take the wheel of a car, regardless of how cute you might think it is.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Take my advice -- Ignore all advice

In days gone by, men were expected to work things out for themselves. They were supposed to have a grip on their lives and if, for some reason, it got too tough to carry on, then the reasonable man went and talked to his father, priest or pastor – or got drunk. Most got drunk.

Strong men at one time weren't allowed to have insurmountable problems. Men were to be in charge. In command of not only their destinies, but also those of their families. What kind of a real man would have gone whimpering to a shrink or counselor if, say, he thought he might be hitting the sauce too hard and wanted to know why?

"Drinking too much? Get a grip on yourself, man, and cut it out!"

That would have been old Doc Jones’ advice in grandfather's day. Either that, or Jones would join his patient for a few jars.

And what if a man in that 'golden era' was faced with an -- ahem -- sexualproblem? What if he, say, became unable to ‘perform’ like he'd been able to when he was younger? In all likelihood 'nobody' would have known about that little problem. Maybe, in a case of extreme duress about the matter he might have gone back to chat with Doc Jones or maybe even his priest. The doctor would have advised a hunting trip just to get away from it all, and the priest would have suggested appropriate scriptural passages, and a more liberal use of whiskey in his daily life.

Men didn't get help at an earlier time because the prevailing belief was that a 'real man' didn't need help. Womenfolk needed help and guidance toget them through their ongoing rough passages, and children periodically called out for a good back of the paternal hand, but men. Men were tough.Such attitudes prevailed until quite recently. I know my father never willingly spoke to a counselor in his entire life -- though God knows he needed to. I mentioned “willingly”. He once accompanied my mother to a psychiatrist she was seeing for a bout of depression she was undergoing at the time. Actually, she was undergoing a bout of depression at virtually any time in my recall, but that’s another matter. Anyway, my father went once, and refused to go again. He hated the experience because the counselor turned around and actually blamed him for some of his wife’s concerns. That wasn’t right, in his eyes. So he never went back.

Guidance seeking on the part of males is a recent phenomenon. If you had entered a bookstore prior to 1970 it would have been unlikely for you to find a 'Self-Help' section for men. There would have been a smattering of tomes on psychology and perhaps even sexuality, but not sufficient books on male issues to warrant any shelf space.

As far as actual guidebooks (as opposed to clinical offerings) in anearlier day were concerned, there were rare items like the Kinsey Report,which, at the time of its publication in 1948, was deemed so frank and revolutionary that the innocents of the day couldn’t figure out whether it was a scholarly study or just a dirty book. Consequently, it was usually sequestered in the old man's underwear drawer, just in case youthful eyes should happen upon it.

There were a few other studies around, but most of them were deadly boring, and not particularly helpful in aiding folk to deal with their lives. Guidebooks as we understand them didn't truly proliferate until the 1970s when people of the boomer generation were coming into their own and were demanding, not to mention creating reference material designed to help us cringing neurotics deal with the perils of modern living.

These books not only were written in massive numbers, some of them even became best-sellers.Books galore. Books dealing with every human concern, real or imagined. General sex guides weren't enough. There were and are books to address gay sex, geriatric sex, sado-masochism, transexuality, polygamy, and so on and so on.

There came into being guides to marriage, divorce, common-law living, blended families, older men/younger women, and older women/younger men, and we can anticipate, considering how that generation is aging, lots more stuff on geriatric love-making and how tantric sex is becoming increasingly the trend of the moment, since holding on gets so much easier when a guy’s past fifty.

Some of these books are good, and some are very, very bad. Some are well-considered and scholarly, and others are nonsensical and excruciatingly 'new-agey', and a few are downright dangerous.

For the most part I am wary of experts and their guidebooks. I attempt to be as circumspect as possible when I glean through the 'effective living' thoughts of another. I've read a lot of them, both out of interest, and in my work as an addictions counselor. For me it comes down to a matter of caveat emptor. The only advice I can give is that if you are reading a guidebook that sounds like faddish bullshit, it probably is faddish bullshit. And, within a year, it will be as stale as, well, last year’s new theory of the moment.

And then there is the entire realm of the Internet. A body doesn’t even need to avail himself of a pricey book; not when he can look it up, and then proceed to tell his doctor or psychiatrist that he knows ‘exactly’ what is wrong with him, and he needs no further clinical assistance, because some ‘theorist’ has suggested he doesn’t.

Instant expertise is one result of Internet browsing. Instant hypochondria is another, in which the peruser deduces, from what he reads, that his symptoms are terminal so there is little point in carrying on. The doctor might have told him that his upper right quadrant discomfort stems from a surfeit of fried onions at bedtime, but our website checker has become convinced it’s pancreatic cancer and he’s a goner.

Maybe it was better when men ‘pretended’ to have everything under control.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hey -- the world actually can get cheesier!

Just when you think the world can’t get any cheesier, it goes and surprises you.

Case in point: One of the major cell phone service providers in these parts, taking note of the fact that a lot of young people spend their days and nights walking around with these electronic appendages stuck in their ears; that’s when they’re not shooting questionable videos which they will then post on You Tube – you kids are going to be so ashamed in years to come when one of your own kids finds that old flick of you sitting on the potty and being filmed when you were 18 – or text messaging their friends or that predatory creep who is passing himself off as 19, when he is really 47.

So, OK, thought whizkids at this company (I hope none of the decision-makers actually have spawn of their own), if young people are doing all this salacious stuff on the Internet, why don’t we tap into this market? Why don’t we provide smut as part of our mobile-phone service? Really, I am not making this up. And they decided this would be a good thing. Aren’t you relieved to know that the corporate world is really caring about the well-being of your kids?

I say ‘kids’ because most people past a certain age – like me – see a cell phone as merely a telephone (hence something to be largely reviled). Anyhow, I don’t know how to do anything with mine other than to make or take a call, and I have no interest in doing anything else with it. I mean, nothing wrong with a little naughtiness in the right time or place, but not on my phone, for heaven’s sake. My mobile-phone, as I’ve stated before, mainly sits in my glove compartment for use if I have a highway emergency, or if I have to call home for some reason.

I’ll grant that I grew up in a different era. We got our libido-boosts from perusing the bra and panty ads in the Sear’s catalogue, or the very tame early Playboy mag, but I still know tackiness when I see it. In a world so replete with vulgarity of the lowest common denominator, do we need just a little more? Guess this particular company thinks so.

Now, the company in question (I’m not going to name them because they happen to be my service provider, and I don’t want to have my service cut off out of spite, as little as I use it, but I’ll give you a hint, their corporate name begins with a ‘T’) defends its decision as sound marketing. They deny that they are pandering or lowering the limbo-bar, but instead suggest (really) that in giving such a ‘pay’ service to wanking 15-year-olds they are keeping them from exploring the really evil stuff on the Internet, because they are only going to provide pictures of nudes, with no sexual interaction happening. Thin edge of the wedge, I say.

My point is – and I am no prude, but pretty broadminded about any shenanigans and frolics consenting adults want to get up to (I specify adults) – I find this indeed to be pandering of the lowest and most venal sort. It’s an attitude of, “they’re doing it anyway, so why don’t we cash in?”

Like I said, cheesy.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

For me February 14th is always special

Valentine’s Day is more than a Hallmark Cards manufactured special occasion for me. Oh, it is all of the poignant suggestions of hearts and flowers, candlelight and love, and assorted cherubim flitting about the pace. I am a genuine romantic at heart and soul, and I love everything to do with sharing one’s devotion with another person.

Valentine’s Day makes me think of school days when we had a big old heart-festooned Valentine’s Day box in the classroom, in which assorted waifs could ‘mail’ their little messages to an adored other, but always disguising the sender of the message, or maybe including the first and last letter of the name, and connecting them with a bunch of little dashes. Difficult to discern maybe if the girl’s name was Ermingarde Clytemnestra von Dusseldorff, but if it was plain Jane Smith, it was kind of a giveaway. The more caring among teachers, recognizing the potential for cardless Charlie Browns in the class would ask each kid to send a Valentine to every other kid, just so nobody got left out. A kind thought, though it was one that sort of defeated the purpose if you wanted to send a really special card to somebody for whom you had a huge passion. And children do have huge passions, whether adults like to think so or not. I spent most of my school days being madly in love with one little girl or other. Of course, I never declared that ardor, so Valentine's Day gave me the opportunity to come out of myself. I doubt if I ever did, though. I probably gave as a closing salutation on a card to one I especially adored, "Yours Truly" What can I say? I was a kid, and there are few kid lotharios.

All of that notwithstanding, Valentine’s Day, however, has another meaning for me, and it’s one that is in some respects more than a commemoration of St. Valentine. To me it’s a commemoration of my maternal grandmother, for February 14th is her birthday. I always remember that because she was, in so many respects, the pivotal and most adored adult of my childhood.

To say I didn’t come from a happy and secure childhood home would be on a par with saying Al Capone had control issues. My parents did not have a good marriage and, while they may have provided us (my brothers and I) with such things as food and lodging, they weren’t to be noted for their affectionate natures. Maybe they loved us – probably did – but they never really expressed it. This isn’t a whine, by the way. They were who they were and I can’t do anything about it at this juncture. I’m only pleased, if I can be candid, that I didn’t grow up like them in my attitudes to other people. I think I’m a rather warm and caring person.

And that impulse within me I attribute to my grandmother. She lived only a block away when I was growing up, and on my way home from school I always dropped in on ‘Grannie’ and shared a cup of tea with her. It had to be tea, because she was more English than the Queen. She was an upper-middle class girl who married my 30-year-old grandfather when she was 18 and came to the wilds of western Canada about 1910. However, she never lost her salons of London sense of refinement.

I loved her and cherished her. She was funny, very intelligent, well-read (she more than anyone else introduced me to books and gave me a love for them), and showed the love of an elder for a child. As the story goes, within days of giving birth to me, my mother came down with a severe illness of some sort. She was staying at Grannie’s house because my dad was away in the navy. Anyway, this left Grannie to care for me in my earliest days. So, she and I bonded. We imprinted. And she subsequently became more of a mother to me than my own.

Then, when I was 14, she was hit and killed by a car when crossing the street. She was only in her late 60s. Her death was utterly unexpected, so no emotional preparation had been put into place. My brothers and I were devastated. We were devastated for years afterward. Oddly – or maybe not so oddly – my parents never asked how we were dealing with this untimely death.

OK, this is getting dreary. Unintentionally dreary. Grannie wouldn’t have liked it, and would have admonished me to: “Stop writing nonsense!” OK.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day to you all, and an especially Happy Birthday to Grannie.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Here's a thing that works for me

Time to take a break from cranky blogger items. Mainly because I am not a cranky person. I mean, I have my issues and I sometimes rant and fulminate against a world gone mad – but mainly I’m a pretty mellow and good-humored guy.

Sure we live in a world gone mad. Everybody that’s been around since the beginning of time has lived in a world gone mad. In some realms the old planet gets better, and in others it gets worse. Therefore, we must arm ourselves against the vicissitudes of life by arming ourselves against them as best we can. The best way we can do this is by indulging in ‘particular pleasures.’

“Booze, broads or the Bible,” whatever gets you through the night, Sinatra was once purported to have said. He lived by that maxim, so I have read, but he still died (his huge talent notwithstanding) an ill-tempered, alcoholic old sonofabitch, so maybe he wasn’t really with the program.

By particular pleasures, what I mean is something more innocent, and less demanding. I am looking towards a simple thing that succeeds in the manner of balm in the manner of which Hamlet saw blessed sleep as a thing that “knits up the ravelled sleave of care,” (sic) – no, nobody knows what in hell that really means, or what a ‘sleave’ is, for that matter, but it sounds comforting and that’s what counts.

So, I think all who are relatively sane, have some relatively harmless items or practices that work to dispel the demons and blue-meanies in our lives. It may be reading a good book or the Bible; it may be making sweet and gentle love; it may be hugging a friend or spouse; it may be a good family meal; it may be a day on the slopes skiing; or it may be just a time of quiet meditation.

For me it’s a bath. I don’t mean just any old bath. I mean a bath in our big Jacuzzi tub. The selling point in buying our house a decade ago was that it had a large and commodious ensuite Jacuzzi. This opened up a world of all sorts of titillating possibilities a deux, but it also offered what is to me the ultimate of balm.

Every time I’ve been away for a few days, as I just have been, one of my first thoughts on the way home is that I can indulge in a ‘big bath.’ I can run the water, and then turn on the jets and then utterly luxuriate. I wash, of course, and shampoo, but mainly I just luxuriate I do this once a week. Most of the time I shower. Showers are quick and efficient and I like feeling the hot water coursing down my tan, lean and studly torso – ha! But seriously, showers are efficient and to-the-point. Jacuzzis aren’t. They are indulgence. A good Jacuzzi sets the world right for me, not only during the time I’m within, but for a considerable time afterwards. Of course, if my wife wants to shower after I’ve Jacuzzi’d, then she has to wait because I’ve used all the water. Oh well, a bit of self-indulgence is part of what a ‘particular pleasure’ is about.

What’s your particular pleasure?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I guess we all love a train-wreck

Until well into the 19th century public hangings were much the vogue as entertainments in Great Britain and other western countries. Legions are those today who love to go to demolition derbies and other vehicle competitions, because they cherish the wrecks. They don’t ‘really’ want to see anybody get killed or maimed, but they’re not averse to the idea that such things happen.

Yes, it’s human to like our ‘train wrecks’, and we take mute fascination in the consequences of bad choices.

Hence our uncalled-for fascination with the egregious, short and pathetic life of such a person as Anna Nicole Smith. A newspaper columnist on the weekend wrote that Fox News granted more airtime to the utterly inconsequential death of Ms. Smith than it did to the recent demise of Gerald Ford.

But, we knew that Anna Nicole was a “train wreck” and we just couldn’t wait to see how it played out. Every time she slurred more nonsense and drivel in that voyeuristic bit of excess on her so-called reality show a while back, people wondered just how darn long she was going to last, as her weight went up and down and the booze and drugs were consumed.

Yet, the show was popular, and it really doesn’t speak all that well of us that it was. I’ll wager there were those that were disappointed, in similar context, when Courtney Love cleaned up her act and didn’t stagger off the planet prematurely like poor ol’ Anna Nicole.

And now that she has gone, the gawkers will have to content themselves with the antics of such wastes of human space and potential as repellant Paris and Britney. Maybe there is hope for Lindsay (who actually has a modicum of talent), but not too many more chances, my dear, so smarten up for chrissake!

Of course hyperbole has run rampant since Anna Nicole’s tired body decided to call it a day about three decades before it should have. There have been the obvious comparisons made with Marilyn Monroe of whom, it is said, AN idolized. Well, a few points of consideration here. Marilyn never made a public spectacle of herself; Marilyn’s substance problems were not apparent until after her own untimely demise; Marilyn did like the boys, no doubt, but even the Kennedy crap wasn’t really known until later; and finally, Marilyn was talented, extremely talented, despite her dysfunction. Watch her in The Seven Year Itch or Some Like it Hot, and see one of the better comic actresses of not just her time, but any time. And finally, and not to be unkind, but Marilyn had it in a country mile over Anna Nicole in the looks department.

So, it really is too bad in a way about Anna Nicole. Any human life is a sad thing to squander in such a way. But, it really is of no consequence other than the train wreck connection. We all have more significant things to fret about.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Err on a G-String

“We don’t want your dirty money!”

Did you know that some charities deem it to sniffily be their right to refuse donations because they are offended by fundraisers who aren’t “our sort”?

That seems to be the message, as reported in a Vancouver newspaper, that was offered by the Breast Cancer Society of Canada, which recently refused to accept a $3,045 donation by the Exotic Dancers for Cancer group, because it deemed the funds to have come from “controversial” sources. In other words it was "ooh-ick, dirty money from dirty girls."

This group of charitable ecdysiasts had raised about $6,000 in their annual cancer campaign, of which they had earmarked the aforementioned $3,045 for the Breast Cancer Society. The rebuff from that body of "very important and elite folk" obviously stung, and also offended.

“We were very disappointed,” said peeler spokeswoman Trina Ricketts. “For a disease that doesn’t discriminate, it seems bizarre that an organization would. It almost seems snobby.”

Not “seems”, Trina, it “is” snobby, insufferable, and self-important, and smacks of leaving within me the thought that I might be more careful in future where I send my charity bucks.

Needless to say, breast cancer is a vitally important cause, so what thought would enter the challenged and ‘precious’ brains that make decisions for that society that the strippers have no ‘right’ to proffer their hard-earned bucks? Very hard-earned bucks. Would you like to doff bra and panties day-in and day-out before a group of slathering creeps in order to feed your kids?

As Trina points out later in the article, what they do for a living (though not everybody’s D-cup of tea) is perfectly legal. They are not prostitutes, they are not drug dealers, they are not anything other than a group of women who take off their clothes for a living and do a bit of sensual dancing for some lonely guys.

The exotic dancers also -- like all women -- can fall victim to potentially fatal breast cancer, and it was with that thought in mind they assumed they had the right to contribute to a charity -- just like regular citizens. But, the Breast Cancer Society decided they are not regular citizens.

For shame!

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Don't Bogart that joint, my friend ...

Blogger favorite, and deservedly so, psychologist -- glad she’s not my shrink because I think I’d end up falling in love with her in one of those Freudian ‘transference manifestations -- Dr. Deborah Serani a perceptive and thought-provoking piece on Feb. 7 that looked at the impact of the cerebral insula on addiction.

The addictions connection comes about, so a study indicates, from observed situations in which the insula area of the brain has become damaged, and smoking patients reportedly lost their cravings to light up. Dr. Serani suggests, and I agree, that more study of this connection between the Insula and addiction could rid society of many of its psycho-social woes.

There is one consideration that must be regarded, though, when looking at addiction. While a craving can be killed in a physical sense, there is also a psychological one that is agonizingly pervasive.

Many smokers (despite the fact the practice is deemed, aside from being unhealthy, also to be loathsome, dirty, icky, smelly and yucky in the eyes of non-smokers) really, really like to smoke.

“Oh, yeah. I should try to quit (yet again), but my problem is that I really like to smoke. I wish it wasn’t so unhealthy because it’s truly one of my pleasures in life.”

Smokers like the ritual. They like breaking open a fresh pack and unwrapping the cellophane. They like looking at the cigarettes all neatly in a row in their little (coffin-like?) pack. They like lighting up and seeing the smoke wafting into the air. They think of Bogey in Casablanca, or Mitchum in countless ‘noire’ flicks, and they somehow feel, in their heart-of-hearts that they look sexy and sophisticated.

There is a similar connection with other drugs. Many people successfully kick alcohol addictions via counseling, rehab, and involvement with AA. But, there are countless others who don’t. It’s not that they can’t, they just don’t want to. Again, they are seeking the psychological solace and esthetics of the ritual. They like pouring a fresh scotch into a glass and swirling it around; they like the look of a frosty bottle of Corona with that slice of lemon or lime stuck into the neck. Of course they do, and the advertising racket caters to this human impulse.

“Each time I crack open that bottle, I vow that this won’t lead to a binge,” clients would tell me. Each time, of course, it did. But such individuals were determined not to give up something they ‘liked’ so much, even if it was ruining their lives. They just wanted to learn how to drink without the woes of the addiction. Good luck.

With illicit drugs it was the same. There is an inviting process in rolling a doobie and passing it around, a distinct ritual with cocaine – the mirror, the razor-blade, the lines. A female friend once told me that she, in her cocaine days (she has been clean for many years now) would come very close to orgasm just watching the ‘blow’ ritual. That part was more important and stimulating (even sexually stimulating) to her than the rush that came from the drug itself.

That’s the problem with all addictions; people do them because they ‘like’ them. And as long as they like them, the therapist has an intolerable problem to face because somehow he or she has to convince the client that there is nothing to like in what is being done.

I once asked a former colleague, who was in the later stages of terminal lung cancer, if he had quit smoking.

“Of course not,” he replied. “Why would I bother now? Anyway, I still enjoy it.”

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Rock on -- Rod the Mod

In a brief period of a little over a year, beginning in the summer of 1970, three very high profile musicians died. They died as a result of their wretched excesses, and all three of the ‘Js’ are missed to this day, primarily because they were pivotal, each in their own way.

They were, of course, Janis Joplin (Piece of My Heart tells us anything we ever needed to know about pain and rejection); Jimi Hendrix (play Purple Haze at full volume in a sports car with the top down on a sunny day on a winding road and experience bliss), and Jim Morrison. (Jim was an angelic looking, arrogant drunken prick, but only his voice would carry Light My Fire as it should be carried – sorry, Jose Feliciano).

As students of the genre know, none of the aforementioned made it out of their 20s.

And then Denny Doherty of the Mamas and Papas died a couple of weeks ago. And then there was one – Mama Michelle. Denny lived to a moderate (though not old) age. John Phillips was, as everybody knows, a raging addict for years, and Mama Cass Elliot, with her sweet and wonderful voice (Dream a Little Dream can actually make me misty) departed most prematurely in 1974 as a victim of both her excess adipose, and a major drug habit which she worked diligently to hide.

Such a depressing and stupid way to die, is all I can think – for all of the victims of self-indulgence of any kind.

But then I saw a great photo the other day. It was of Rod Stewart chatting amiably with Prince Charles. “Rod the Mod” who was on the Queen’s Honours List this year. The bluesy, boozy, husky voiced hellraiser from North London not only survived it all, but he has actually become something of a ‘gent’, albeit with his Rod hairstyle still in place six decades into his life.

Not only is Rod (who was one of the best blues stylists in the business) made it through and thwarted his excesses, he has realistically settled into a crooner of standards – kind of a latter day Tony Bennett. Good for him.

Likewise, Eric Clapton, also raging consumer of anything mind-altering in his day, has remained brilliant and has achieved a certain serenity in his life that would be the envy of anyone who has struggled with the vicissitudes of life.

Of course, the fly in the musical ointment is ‘Keef’ – Keith Richards, with a propensity for falling out of palm trees – who makes no apologies to anyone and sports a visage that looks like it has lived at least three lives. I like to think with Keith (who is musically sans pareil in my esteem) carries on because he is not only brilliant, but doesn’t give a sweet goddamn about what anybody thinks of him. I also like the fact he cuts his own hair – and it looks it. Now, there is a man who is secure in who he is.

I envy Keith in that. And, I’m glad he’s still alive. As I am glad about Rod and Eric and all the others who ‘chose’ to survive, and who ‘chose’ to recognize that one day youth would be gone, but the smart people carry on, and reinvent themselves.

Monday, February 05, 2007

My baby takes the mornin' train ...

It’s decrepit in a funky (almost charming) way, and it shudders and rolls from side to side, added to which it makes odd (and one hopes not ominous) noises as it wends its way along to its hoped-for destination some 135 miles distant.

I’m referring to the E&N (Esquimalt and Nanaimo) ‘Dayliner’. This is the single diesel unit railway coach that runs from Victoria on Vancouver Island to Courtenay (the end of the line) and then back again to Victoria on a daily basis, come rain, shine, snow, sleet, flood or earthquake. This aged relic is the last vestige of the first transcontinental railroad in Canada and it came into being in return for British Columbia’s agreement to join the Canadian Confederation – which to this day isn’t deemed an agreeable situation in many minds in these parts.

Politics notwithstanding – or, in truth, maybe ‘withstanding’ – the feds, or their railroad handmaiden, Via Rail (Canada’s Amtrak, so you know what I mean), have been trying to kill the E&N for decades now. They don’t like it. It doesn’t turn a profit (as if any passenger service does), and what the hell do they care about the transportation concerns of a handful of people in the never-never land. It pisses them off that they were able to kill the ‘Newfie Bullet’ in Newfoundland (leaving that province without rail service), but they haven’t been able to do it on the west coast. Pisses them off indeed that the courts have always found that they would be wise to honor a century and a quarter old undertaking, or that all sorts of shit would be flying around the corridors of power in consequence.

So, as a relief to Vancouver Islanders and others who have used the service, the old, old, old ‘Budd’ cars still ply the wavy and bumpy rails each day. Of course, Via’s way of continuing to give the finger has been their steadfast refusal to replace the rolling stock with something that even resembles late 20th century, let a lone 21st. Oblivious to any considerations of the environmental virtues of mass transit so that travelers can eschew their cars (don’t these morons read the papers?) they would rather we fire up private vehicles to make our trips up and down the Island. It is testament to the E&N’s mechanics in Victoria that they are able to, with spit, baling wire, curses, and pirating from one diesel unit to another, keep these relics running.

And I, for one, am happy they can, and I hope they shall always be able to.

Lately I’ve had occasion to ride the old E&N numerous times. Business in Victoria has made it necessary to do a sort of commute on an irregular basis. It’s winter, so the driving is challenging, what with sleet, fog, heavy rains and all the other elements of inclemency. So, I’ve been taking the train. Not a challenge for me. I love trains and all the romance associated with the old ribbons of steel. I have traveled across the continent by rail, along the southern California coast, throughout Europe and the UK, and their enchantment never leaves me. Added to which I find, with no suggestion of snobbery (OK, some) that you get a higher caliber of passenger on the train rather than on a bus, say.

So, I embark at Courtenay and sit back for the ensuing four hours. The Dayliner doesn’t travel at breakneck speed (not even at the mildest whiplash speed), but that’s OK. I read the paper, do the NYT crossword, and look out the window. For the first hour or so it’s mainly scrubby forest. If you’re lucky, you might see deer, elk or black bears. This is ‘their’ turf, after all. Farther south the train runs along the water for a few miles. It stops at little stations, and lets on or picks up passengers. There are also designated whistle stops out in the wilds, where the conductor will honor any request stop. There’s no arrogance or bloody-mindedness about the E&N conductors. To a one they seem to be great guys. They josh with passengers, tease kids, admonish students to keep up with their studies.

The highlight on the Vancouver Island trip, in terms of scenery, would be the so-called ‘Malahat’ just north of Victoria. This is a spectacular hike by the old train into the high hills. The Malahat is a horrible road trip, but it’s a delight by rail, especially when going across the two major canyon trestles along the route. The drop to the stream below is not soothing to the acrophobic, especially in light of the fact you cannot see the actual trestle, just the sheer expanse of air before the rocks and tiny creek below.

If you’re seeking a different vacation, and you find yourself in Victoria sometime, give the Dayliner a try. You won’t regret this jostling step back in time. Check it out at:

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Welcome to the age of the wino fashion-plate

Many years ago I was bearded. I had quite a nice beard, and it adorned my face for about five years. It was a well-maintained beard – not one of those ZZ Top or hippie accoutrements with straggly stray hairs stuck out all over the place, or egg yolk crust contained therein – yuck!

I have an old photo of myself en profile, wearing a white, embroidered dashiki kind of thing, and my hair is to my shoulders, and I daresay I almost look a bit Christ-like – no blasphemy intended. The appearance caused difficulties, however, because people kept asking me to perform miracles and (especially at parties) wanting me to turn water into wine.

Seriously, though, I finally got rid of my beard. The secondary reason was that I never found it entirely comfortable. I like having my cheek on a cold pillow or a warm wife at night. The primary reason was, however, I found the beard to be much more difficult to maintain than taking a simple shave in the morning. So, I have been clean-shaven ever since, and that is for many years.

So, in the context of masculine hirsuteness, here is something I don’t get. What’s with the attraction, especially in young males, with the ‘bum’ look? How was it ever deemed esthetically appealing for a dude to look like a junkie or street wino from the neck up? I pick up an Esquire mag and check out a fashion spread. Here are guys wearing beautiful suits and shirts that bear pricetags well beyond my reach – yet above those pricey collars they look like vagrants. They look like Henry Fonda in Grapes of Wrath as the Joad family wended its way across Death Valley.

To whom does this look appeal? My mother used to slap my father on the back of the head if he didn’t shave on a Saturday, and never bought the excuse, “But it’s the weekend!” “No reason to look like a derelict,” she’d reply.

My thought is, either shave (daily) or grow a beard, but get rid of the half-way there look. The look suggests you are in some way uncommitted, or indecisive. Do I want a beard? Do I want to be clean-shaven? I know – I’ll do a bit of both.

For example, Lost is coming off hiatus this week. One of the lead characters is ‘Jack’, the neurotic doctor who is more obsessed about getting into adorable ‘Kate’s pants than he is about curing the sick. But, my point is Jack is not a bad looking chap, but he also looks like a refugee from the bad part of town. You might think it’s because he’s trapped on this metaphorical desert island. That is not so, however, because in flashbacks he is still stubbly. Would you go to a doctor who looked like that? I wouldn’t. He looks unclean.

I’ll make an exception for Josh Holloway, who plays ‘Sawyer’ (and who succeeds in separating delectable Kate from her undies). He may be hirsute as well, but he is cool, and cool always overrides any issues of appearance.

I also have a question of logic about Jack’s dishabille, and that is how does he keep his scruffy whiskers at exactly the same length month after month. By this point he, and all the other males, should be bearded like Shakespeare’s ‘Pard.”

Anyway, that is my rant for this morning. I would like to see males in my town and throughout the western world looking like they actually care about their appearances. That may make me appear superficial, but at least I’m clean-shaven when I go about being superficial.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Uh-oh! Real smart guy says we're all lonely losers

Bloggers are losers!

So says a University of Calgary prof – and who can ever argue with a tenured, publish-or-perish academic, since such people are so much brighter than the rest of us?

According to Prof. Michael Keren, as stated in his timely tome, Blogosphere: The New Political Arena (catchy title, that), bloggers are living in a world where emotions may be real but everything else is make-believe.

Damn! Here I was going along, thinking I was a relatively well-adjusted and affable fellow with a petty wide array of real-time friends and acquaintances, who does a decent job of whatever I’ve turned my hand to, and have served on countless ‘real’ boards and committees, and have even earned some ‘real’ writing awards, and have traveled to ‘real’ foreign countries, and even make ‘real’ love to my ‘real’ wife, and yet I find that only my emotions are real, and everything else around me is a wispy hologram.
Yes, the good professor argues that individuals who bare their souls on blogs are isolated and lonely, living in a virtual reality instead of forming real relationships or helping to change the world. Shit, I guess I better give up my committee and board work since it seems that by being a blogger I am doing nothing whatsoever to change the world – unlike overpaid academics are wont to do for putting in what? Fifteen, maybe 20 hours of work a week for about eight months of the year.

“Bloggers think of themselves as rebels against mainstream society, but that rebellion is mostly confined to cyberspace, which makes blogging as melancholic and illusionary as Don Quixote tilting at windmills,” the author says.

Well, I must confess, labouring hack writer that I am, I am impressed by such literary allusions as “Don Quixote”, and finding it necessary to mention the “tilting at windmills” cliché, just to make sure everybody ‘gets’ his drift.

But, metaphors notwithstanding, I am more impressed by those who make sweeping generalizations about not only their findings, but about those whom they might choose to indict.

Or maybe we, my friends, are just failures as bloggers. I haven’t noticed a great impulse among my friends here to carry out a lot of rebelling against mainstream society. Oh, we may be pissed off about certain things – and probably should be pissed off about much more, but I have yet to notice any cry of “Aux barricades!” or even slight suggestions that blood should be flowing in the streets. I guess some of us aren’t with the program that Prof. Keren suggests we are.

Oh, and not to be outdone by his Don Quixote reference, Keren adds (I suspect to show how ‘hip’ he is) a reference to Father McKenzie in the 40 year old Beatles song, Eleanor Rigby, who is writing a sermon nobody is going to hear.

“Some of us (bloggers) are going to be embraced by the mainstream media, but the majority of us remain in the dark, remain in the loneliness,” says Keren.

Oh, woe. Not just loneliness, but ignorant and dark loneliness. OK, come clean, how many of you, when you got the impulse to blog, foresaw a Pulitzer around the corner, or maybe a desk job at Newsweek? No? Me either.

So, why do you write your blog?

I write mine because I really enjoy doing so. It gives me a space in which to express myself and to hope that others find some tiny germ of truth in what I write. I also write it because I am a professional writer, and blogging is like callisthenics. It warms me up for my day. And finally, I write it because it has allowed me to connect in a very pleasing way with people from throughout North America and the world in general. I like my blogging friends, and have made some valued associations here and I like my ‘real’ friends. I have also met some of my blogging friends in real-time and found that I didn’t notice a huge disparity between who they are as breathing human beings, and what they present themselves as being on their blogs.

At the end of it all, however, I’d like to be an academic. If you are an academic you can make relatively unfounded assertions, disparage a good section of the populace, and still bring home nice bucks.

On the other hand, I bet those Calgary winters are cold and lonely. Maybe Prof. Keren should try blogging.