Monday, April 30, 2007

Heeeeeeeeeeere's Jaaaaaaaaack!

It has come to my attention that Jack Nicholson recently turned 70. That means he has been in the movie business for 51 years, since he made his first film, a Roger Corman cheapo called Cry Baby Killer when he was 19. That’s quite a career. One suspects the guy must have talent.

Jack, of course first came to widespread public attention with the sort-of biker pic, the iconic Easy Rider playing the failed Midwestern alcoholic, football helmet donning, latecoming stoner alongside Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda. He’s the poor loser who gets his brains bashed out by a couple of rednecks, but he is the pivotal persona of a film that, while it hasn’t aged well, still boasts arguably the best soundtrack of any film. And it boasts Jack, and his career fully took off from there.

He is also probably the best film actor of not only his generation, but one who can sit right up there in the pantheon with Brando, Bogart, Tracy and whoever else you might consider a giant, and he is arguably more versatile than any of the aforementioned. Of his contemporaries the only ones who come close to Jack would be Morgan Freeman, Pacino, Duval and DeNiro.

But, what makes Jack even more significant is that he is ‘cooler’ than all of them. He’s still cool at an age in which most people have been drawing a pension for at least five years. He’s cool in the true sense of the word, much like Bob Mitchum was, and that is that he’s not self-consciously cool. He just is.

I’m not even going to attempt to list Nicholson’s collection of works, but only to say he can do brilliant comedy, intensity, terror, and pathos with equal élan, and he isn’t even afraid of self-parody, with the difference being, he carries it off.

My favorite Nicholson films are Chinatown, The Last Detail, A Few Good Men (Tom Cruise and Demi Moore notwithstanding), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and About Schmidt. But, I would also be prepared to say about Jack is that I’d watch him and listen to him reading the telephone book.

What’s your favorite Nicholson film?

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Not to the manor born? That speaks well of her

Poor Kate Middleton’s mum. She pays a visit to the Queen and when introduced and after Her Majesty had said: “How do you do?” She replied (rather than with another “Howja do?” as is done in polite circles, she instead said: “Pleased t’meetcha.” Not done, you see.

And then, later after tea and bikkies, and realizing a pressing need for the potty – and who wouldn’t in such a situation – asked for the whereabouts of the “toilet” rather than the lavatory. Again, utterly déclassé.

Finally, at the ceremony marking Prince William’s completion of his Sandhurst training, Mrs. Middleton was seen to be, wait for it, chewing gum! Not just déclassé, but pure trailer park Britney Spears that little gaffe was.

Evidently William’s toffee-nosed little overprivileged and incurably snotty friends spared no expense to indict the Middleton materfamilias (above left with Kate) for her commonness. After all, she was an airline stewardess, for heaven’s sake. She actually had to work for a living. And, young Kate, sweet ‘thang’ that she was, ended up being considered in the same light as her intolerably bourgeois mum, just by default. Surely not the sort suitable for the future King of the Realm.

Fair’s fair, and William himself was never heard to utter any such, opinions on Kate, nor on the woman who might have become his mother-in-law. Neither did the Royals themselves express any displeasure with the somewhat plebian origins of Miss Middleton, but it goes to show that the UK is a society in which class truly still matters. And, maybe it’s still a society in which William might be better linked up with some brain-dead spoiled brat with a pedigree as long as Wilt Chamberlain’s arm rather than somebody not to the manor born.

In any case, in my esteem Miss Middleton’s better off out of it. Even though she is probably brighter, I believe she stood in some jeopardy of being another Princess Diana who, albeit with a slightly more patrician lineage, was still far from genuine royal circles. Part of being with the royals is having an abiding understanding of “how things are done.” Diana never ‘got’ that. Probably neither would Kate. Anyway, despite the largesse at your disposal, I don’t think it would be an enviable life.

I do, however, know a little bit about that sort of snobbery. The sort of snobbery that would demean all of those who might be in “trade,” as the saying goes. My believed grandmother was of that ilk. Raised in relative comfort by status-seeking middle-class parents, Grannie had delusions of societal worth, and those delusions could only be nurtured by disdaining those who were not “our sort.”

As she had a youth and childhood with servants, and was essentially home-schooled, as was the case with young ladies of status in her day, she at 18 married my 30-year-old grandfather and headed out to the colonies. My Granddad was of the right class, and all was still good in frontier British Columbia at the time.

Then it all went to hell. World War One intervened, money was lost, wealth that was once there, vanished. By the Depression of the 1930s it was all gone, and my grandparents did not possess that proverbial pot in which to micturate. She wouldn’t have said “piss” if her life depended on it.

She spoke with disdain of her English cousins who were in “trade”, and felt she somehow offered her children a kind of moral doggedness based solely on ‘who’ they were, rather than their means. I visited those English cousins, and grew very fond of them over the years. They lived in lovely homes and drove nice cars. My grandparents lived just this side of Dogpatch. But -- and to Grannie this was important -- none of her children ever grew up referring to that thing you wipe your face with after eating as a ‘serviette’, it was always a ‘napkin.’

That to her was important. I guess to some of William’s friends that is important, too. I guess Kate’s mum didn’t know that.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

I'm merely conserving my energy

Right now I have an article to complete, an email to send to a friend, another article to set up, a phone call (maybe two) to make. I’ve had those obligations hovering over me for a few days now, and the mere thought of them gives me a certain anxiety. Yes, my friends, I am a procrastinator. I invariably always get things done, but I wait, and wait and wait before I tackle them. It’s not that I am lazy; it is because I am an avoider.

The impulse to procrastinate in me can be found in a number of areas, such as:

1) Avoiding the distasteful or scary -- like a prostate digital test, seeing about that mole that looks kind of ‘funny’, getting a root canal, getting a cholesterol test.

2 Avoiding the confrontationary – complaining to a business or store about shoddy merchandise or service, calling a charge-card provider due to a $270 charge from Pussycat Exotic-Erotic Lingerie Inc., verbally challenging the stoned and drunken teens who are raising hell in the park across the street at 2 a.m. – oh, wait, I’d procrastinate on that one forever; there is such a thing as common sense.

3) Avoiding self-esteem challenges – this form of procrastination originates, for males at least, in the teens and involves delaying calling a certain girl to ask her out. There are two reasons for this, the first being she might refuse the date (or laugh riotously at the suggestion), and the second being, she might accept; continuing on through life, and certainly in my line of work, it involves avoiding sending off manuscripts or freelance stories for pretty much the same reasons as avoiding calling that girl. a) the work might be rejected, causing a stunning blow for the ego or b) it might be accepted, causing one to question the sanity of a publisher who might accept such ‘shoddy’ work and also that future work will then have to be produced.

4) Avoiding work – this is, of course, the classic, and stems from a general lethargy about tackling something you know is going to be challenging and time-consuming, and not necessarily pleasurable. The general process here, for me at least, is deferment. Deferment that may include such time-users/wasters as: beginning with a minor and easy task just to get the ball rolling and to give a feeling of accomplishment; cutting the grass (the lawn really needs it); creating an exotic gourmet dish; having sex (somebody has to do it); dusting; playing solitaire; playing more solitaire; surfing the net just to check out what this ‘porno’ stuff is that everybody talks about, and so on and so forth.

And so it goes, and procrastination is never excusable, yet most of us tend to do it. Sometimes I feel guilty about it, and hearken to the wisdom of a friend who once opined: “Procrastination is like masturbation; in both cases you’re only fucking yourself.” In truth, though, with excessive procrastination, you might actually be fucking other people, too, and that doesn’t lead to a very efficient society. Consequently, I sincerely hope that it’s mainly me who is the procrastinator, and that those I am counting on to serve me are paragons of efficiency and hard work.

Do you procrastinate? If so, what is your quotient? You might want to take this simple test, which is found at, and see where you sit in the scheme of things. I got 37%, which isn’t atrocious, but is a bit off perfect. I should try for perfection in this regard, but I keep putting it off.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cascadia, the gem on the ocean

I was born on the west coast. My parents were born on the west coast. Even my grandparents came to the west coast as relatively young people, back around the turn of the 20th Century. That makes me kind of an anomaly amongst all the rogues, scalawags, rounders and villains who came along later and really populated the place up.

Consequently, my sensibilities are coastal. Equally consequently, I am a great admirer of the concept of Cascadia. Cascadia, for those from elsewhere, is a mythical kingdom (so far) consisting of – in one model – British Columbia, Washington State and Oregon. And, of course, named for the coastal mountain range that dominates the Pacific strip. To see that version you can check out and see what the ‘republic’ looks like. As I say, that is one version. Other versions of Cascadia include in the mix Alaska, Alberta, the Yukon, Idaho, Montana and California. I like that one better because I think there is more economic potential as a separate entity. I also, due to a personal bias, would throw Hawaii into the mix, primarily because I really, really like Hawaii and it’s sort of on the ‘far’ west coast.

The point of the issue is that we in the west – both western Canada and the western US – have long suffered under the exploitation of the eastern and central parts of the continent, who have regarded us basically as colonies to be raped of our natural resources, but are granted very little political power. This lack of genuine impact is nonsensical and fueled by Starbuck’s, we could definitely go it alone.

The latter issue is especially true in Canada where decisions are made in a far away place called Ottawa. Ottawa is a moderately pretty town with a climate a little worse than that of Murmansk, and Ottawa is the place that steals my money every April (and at other times during the year, on a regular basis) and issues directives telling me what to do and how to think. Ottawa asks me to think in directions that are utterly alien, and offensive to me.

In a conversation for my former newspaper with an Ottawa-based drone for the federal fisheries ministry (these are the guys who, by the way, with their boneheaded decisions have virtually ruined the west coast fishery; that was after they had destroyed the east coast one) he referred to Georgia Strait as “a lake”. I patiently tried to explain the concept of saltwater and the Pacific Ocean to a dude who assumed that once you were past Lake Superior you would fall off the face of the earth. I don’t think I likely succeeded in my explanation.

Now, the aforementioned website is pretty rednecked and makes points that I do ‘not’ embrace, but it does address the fact that we in the west, on both sides of the border, are alien colonies in the eyes of our official overseers. I have much more in common with somebody living in Seattle or Portland, or even San Francisco, than I have with somebody in Ottawa, or Toronto. I take my vacations in Hawaii or the southwestern desert and feel utterly at home among the folks there. The concept of so-called “cottage country” in Ontario means nothing to me. I’ve been there. The provincial ‘bird’ of that part of Ontario is the black fly.

Just recently the premier of BC broached the subject of Cascadia following a recent economic agreement with oil-rich Alberta and after conferring with 'Ahnold' over the sharing of environmental (and fiscal) connections with California. Nice to hear a Cascadia mention from actual “officialdom”.

I first heard about Cascadia years ago during a late evening boozy conversation with the late Bob Hunter, in those days the Vancouver Sun’s resident hippie scribe, and later a founder of Greenpeace. I was fascinated by the concept and Bob, right to his premature death, never lost his fascination with that great and powerful nation on the shores of the Pacific in which the people could share their common ties and realize the true benefits of what being a Pacific Rim nation could be all about.

So, Hail Cascadia, may you sometime prosper.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I'd doff my hat (if I wore one) to distaff writers

As a writer of sorts I sometimes sit in envious, brooding resentment of others whose literary attainments make mine seem pallid, banal and ephemeral. The “brooding resentment” reference is a bit excessive and that only happens on badly blocked days, so for the most part, I’ll settle for the “envious.”

I’ll be candid. I envy many writers of various genres, for both their output and their turns-of-phrase. Douglas Adams of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series almost made me cringe with his drollery, wit and huge intelligence. I know that chronic writer’s block led him into so much stress that he died at an early age. But, maybe to peak too young is better than to not have peaked at all. Likewise, I love all the trips, external and internal, of Bill Bryson, and I want to be just like him when I grow up, despite the fact he’s younger than I am. Meanwhile, I have traveled the world with Paul Theroux, and have solved crimes with Ann Rule, and there are many more I could mention, but shall refrain. I haven’t even gotten into the wisdom of such columnists as Mike Royko, P.J. O’Rourke (both as columnist and book writer), Peter Hitchens and the late and terrifying bizarre Hunter S. Thompson, the Jerry Lee Lewis of the printed page.

As I said, I have envied, and have even aped some of the above in attempting to find my own voice. But, there is one group of writers that I envy thoroughly in vain, and that is the females. Female columnists, novelists, social commentators, and even bloggers offer something that no male can possibly attain and that is the ability to take a simple domestic or personal situation and turn it into the sort of hilarity that can only make a lowly male think, I wish I could write like that. I wish I could go to the commonplace situation and present something that will make my readers wet their respective pants.

I may mention the ‘biggies’ first, because they attained a kind of mundane nirvana with their wanderings from kitchen to vacuuming to bedroom hijinks. My early favorite in this, and she has long since departed the world, is the late Betty MacDonald. Betty, writing out of Seattle in the 1940s, first gained fame for her screamingly funny tale of chicken farming on the Olympic Peninsula, called The Egg and I. It was also turned into a film in the 1940s, starring Claudette Colbert and Fred Mac Murray, and introducing us all to Ma and Pa Kettle (shown above, who were based on real neighbors of Betty’s.) A later book, called Onions in the Stew, told of raising two adolescent girls on a small island in Puget Sound. Personally, I think it’s even funnier than Egg.

A huge admirer of Betty MacDonald was the late Erma Bombeck, whose earlier stuff especially, resembled her mentor’s. She later developed her own style, and became a deserved media darling. Again, she devoted her musings to real life and the pitfalls that we happen upon throughout our lives. I could go on and on through other female wits like Jean Kerr (Please Don’t Eat the Daisies), and everything by my special heroine, Dorothy Parker.

But, I also wanted to mention female bloggers. I read one a few weeks ago that to me was publishable at a higher level than as a mere blog, and that was a writer’s description of the horrors of applying bikini wax. You know, that was something no mere male could ever appreciate, but after reading he would certainly have a new admiration for the sheer courage of his wife or girlfriend, and what she might do in the name of ‘daintiness.’

There are females with whom we’re all familiar on these pages, people who come and visit my blog or your blog, who I find immensely amusing and thoughtful. I won’t mention names, though I’m tempted to, but I have often left comments on their blogs attesting to how funny I find them.

And sometimes how envious I am of them. Envious because while I get to stand up to pee, I can’t convey the commonplace like they can. Some of them could even offer a funnier tale of standing up to pee than I could.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Just don't 'tell' me what to do, OK?

Yesterday was Earth Day. A good thing for the most part because, the fulminations of Carl Sagan and assorted Trekkies notwithstanding, this particular planet seems like all we’ve got and no doubt we treat it with the same sort of singularity and selfishness that we treat everything else. That's a very bad thing that we see all around us every day, from festering landfills to the assholes who chuck cigarette butts and Starbucks cups out the window of their fuel-guzzling SUVs.

The trouble with Earth Day (or ‘Dirt Day, as we used to call it at a newspaper where once I worked) is that it, like everything else, is that brings out a vast array of both the self-righteous and the agenda-driven. The self-righteous I can take, because everything attracts that smug, holier-than-thou crew, but the agenda-driven, or the suspected agenda-driven piss me off. Mainly because these are the folk who are not graying hippies or the painfully young who might tut-tut in my direction but do nothing more; no the agenda-driven are the ones who seek legislation to ‘tell’ me or you what we must or, more importantly, must not do.

My problem, I think, is that I was reared in a family with a tyrannical father and an aloof mother, and I always balked at being ‘told’ what to do. Consequently, I have spent too much of my life reacting to directives. Sometimes (often) this has been counterproductive and I’ve ended up denying myself that which might be good for me. Doesn’t matter what the thing might be. If somebody attaches a ‘should’ to a thing, or especially a ‘must’, then I’m outta there. I’ve never read any books in the Lord of the Rings series, for example because too many people have said, “You ‘should’ read them because you’d really enjoy them.” In the first place, how does another know what I’d really enjoy, and secondly, and more importantly, you have killed any thoughts I might have had of perusing the opus of Tolkien, because you have directed me there. No, I must find it on my own.

Anyway, back to Earth Day in all of its both sensible and nonsensical ramifications and meanderings. One of our local newspapers ran a feature page yesterday outlining the 100 touchy-feely things we all can do to make for a happier planet. At first I wasn’t going to read it because it was going to be, in effect, telling me what to do, and also finding me lax in all the holy things I wasn’t doing. I’m big on sins of omission. But, I glanced at it nevertheless.

To my surprise I found that I wasn’t doing too badly. I recycle faithfully; I switch off unneeded lights; I hang clothes out on the line in balmy weather (because I love the fragrance); I drive an economical vehicle; and I don’t buy new appliances for the sake of having the trendiest models. Our TV is a decade old and it works fine. The sexy new flatscreen ones are ever so pretty but, as I said, the old one works fine. When it quits working fine I’ll get a new one.

But, one of the suggestions really stuck in my craw. That was because it was one of those agenda-driven directives I mentioned earlier. It was calling for the exclusive use of those twisty-looking fluorescent light bulbs. You know the ones that cost eight times as much as ordinary incandescent bulbs.

Then my hackles rose up. I am supposed to replace all my current bulbs with these? I hate fluorescent light. It gives me headaches and depresses my mood. It’s harsh and makes people look stark. Added to which, for the lovers of the earth, there is not much environmental soundness to fluorescent lights. They contain PCBs and they also contain mercury. What do you do with them when they finally burn out after 87 years, or whenever?

Then I read further and learned that the province of Ontario (a place that is essentially a foreign land to those of us on the west coast) is going to legislate mandatory use of these things by 2010, or whenever. In other words they are going to ‘forbid’ people to use regular bulbs. They are going to ‘tell’ people what they must do. Screw that.

If my own bailiwick should try the same thing I’ll man the barricades and be the last incandescent bulb holdout. Take me off to the joint, but I’m not going to be ‘told’ how I must light my lamps. Basically, it is none of bureaucracy’s business, and especially when the alternative they are 'ordering' the people to acquire is of dubious worth at all levels. How precious. How arrogant.

Many years ago there was a drive in assorted large North American cities to do away with street railroads. “Rails to Rubber,” it was called, and was presented as a wonderful alternative to those clunky old streetcars. The end result was, of course, city gridlock, and the loss of some fine and environmentally-friendly transit systems that cities are now trying, at huge cost, to replace. They already had them, goddamn, and they chucked them due to an agenda driven by automobile manufacturing and tire manufacturing industries. Something in this directive smacks of the same sort of thing.

So, excuse me for being skeptical. At the same time, I do love Mother Earth, and I’ll do my damnedest to help her. Just don’t ‘tell’ me what to do. I like to be asked.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Well, not always a 'gentleman' it seems

All I know is that if my wife had seen film of me putting a torrid smoocheroo on some gorgeous woman like Richard Gere did with that ‘Bollywood’ babe, then I would have some ‘splainin’ to do when I got back to home and hearth. Poor wife Carey Lowell, one of my favorite L&O ADAs.

Damn Buddhists. Knew they couldn’t be trusted. Wonder what the Dalai Lama thought of his boy getting so carnally carried away with that subcontinent ravisher that he offended most of the 87 billion people in that country. Tsk.

My ex-wife didn’t like watching Richard Gere movies because she said he reminded her too much in looks of her former husband. Actually, he does. I, however, had no such problem with Gere, or her ex, who is actually quite a nice guy.

My problem with Gere is that I have always run hot-and-cold with his opus. I liked An Officer and a Gentleman mainly because I like Lou Gossett Jr and David Keith, and Debra Winger’s husky voice does interesting things to my libido. Gere was, in many respects, the weakest link in that film, and he invariably looked like he was ready to burst into tears, which he did a few times.

Meanwhile, the premise of Pretty Woman stank. There is nothing romantic, sweet, cute or Julia Roberts-ish about prostitution. It’s a sordid, seedy and highly dangerous calling. My heart goes out to women who have chosen such a path to make ends meet or to feed a drug habit, and make no moral judgment on them. I do make a bit of a judgment about their clientele, however.

But, enough about Richard Gere’s oeuvre. What I want to talk about is attitude. I want to talk about smug and sanctimonious public figures that believe that by dint of ‘who’ they are, they have a right to set themselves up as moral arbiters for society. Richard Gere is and has been for a long time a practicing Buddhist. Good. Great philosophy and one in which I have done considerable reading. But, this doesn’t mean he has a role as a spokesperson for peace and love and everything in between. In essence he is a guy who has studied in a certain area. So has a goodly lot of the population of Asia. Why do I care about his views?

In all of this, Gere is no worse, nor any better than dozens like him who come to believe their public personae. I think that is called hubris. Who, for example, is this Irishman Bono that he should present himself as a person who should be reckoned with? Well, in the first place, real grownups generally go by two names, but that is neither here nor there. Why do genuine leaders come to kiss his ring? He’s a bloody musician who has expressed concern about the plight of the starving and dispossessed. Good for him. He has also lambasted world leaders for not coughing up more in that regard. Maybe has a point. How much of his personal fortune does he sink into his quest? When did he last get his hands dirty labouring in an African village? Basically, does he ever miss a meal?

And so it goes, our People Magazine fodder popular heroes who do not come close in heroism to those who slog in the field in vast numbers at huge risk to their safety and health, and never get invited to take tea with the Queen, or the Dalai Lama.

I saw a documentary a few years ago on an Englishwoman who was widowed in middle age. Distraught with grief, she entered a convent and became an Anglican nun. She then took herself off to Cairo where she was spending her declining years living and working in the Cairo city dump, and tending to the needs of the people who dwelt therein. Turns out there are whole generations of impoverished Egyptians whose entire lives, down the generations, have consisted of sifting through the fetid garbage in torrid heat in order to eke out an existence. This lady devoted her life to them.

That to me is sacrifice and courage of convictions. I couldn’t come close to being that selfless and neither could any dozen Geres, Bonos, Angelinas or Geldofs. But, I wouldn’t presume to. They somehow do.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Why do such sickening things happen?

I was waiting for it, and today it transpired in at least one report I’ve read on the Virginia Tech “massacre”. What I was anticipating was for the suspect in the hideous madness to be called a “troubled loner.” A troubled loner who gave signs galore that something upstairs had slipped a cog and trouble just might be a-brewing.

That, according to accounts, was definitely the case with Cho Seung-Hui, who is believed to have been the perpetrator of the largest act of academic terrorism thus far in history. All the signs were there, reports indicate, including creative writing exercises in which he decried the “debauchery” on campus, railed against rich kids, suffered a grievous sense of rejection, and showed all the trappings of the wack-jobs at Columbine, Montreal and everywhere else such bits of hideousness have taken place.

Cho had been referred to the school’s counselling services, but it’s unclear what was recommended. But, in light of commentaries from those who knew him, it becomes agonizingly clear that he had a fuse that was burning down rapidly and that he should have been removed from the campus at any of those hints.

I’m neither psychiatrist nor psychologist, so I’ll leave such matters up to the experts like Drs. Serani and Tempest, both of whom we’re privileged to have as fellow bloggers, and Dr. Deb has some good insights and references in her blog of today, but I can only say that the mental meanderings of those who would do such a thing go beyond any speculation I can offer here.

FBI profiling expert, John Douglas, in The Anatomy of Motive offers some insights into the mental workings of the mass murderer, which Cho is alleged to have been, and Douglas points out that the mass murderer is a different breed of cat from a serial killer or a spree killer, and certainly different from an assassin, who has a specific target in mind. At the same time, however, we are still left with the question ‘why?’ A profiler can suss out ‘who’ they guy is (and it’s invariably a male), but to me they don’t come close to addressing why somebody does such a ghastly thing.

The point is, the huge majority of us would never dream of taking a life. We might be called upon to do so if we are combat soldiers or law enforcement officers, but to take a life, even in the line of duty, is agonizing, even for the most hardened.

Sure, we’ve all been enraged. We’ve even thought “I could kill him or her for doing that,” but we would never do so. During a very stressful time of my life, following the break-up of a marriage, I was asked by a counsellor I was seeing if I felt suicidal. I responded in the negative. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. He then asked, which surprised me, if I felt homicidal. “Good God, no!” was my immediate response. No matter how angry I had been in the preceding weeks, such a thought literally never entered my consciousness. “I had to check,” he responded.

Sometimes I’ve thought that if somebody were to threaten my wife or child, I could take their life in terms of protecting my nearest and dearest. I say that. I don’t really know if I could. I’d want to, but I still don’t know if I could.

This is a rambling offering because such human tragedies send the mind in many directions.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Personally, I think we're alone, but that's just me

A recent national poll in Canada showed that while assorted residents throughout this vast country are firm in their beliefs that extraterrestrial ‘aliens’ are already here and doing their dirty deeds with all and sundry, nowhere was the belief more pronounced than in my part, British Columbia.

Could this have something to do with BC being the pot capital of Canada, and that the infamous BC Bud approaches near lethal levels of THC? Or, is it just that we’re weirder than the rest of the country? Anyway, here is how the poll played out:

78% of Canadians believe in the existence of life elsewhere in the universe. More than 52% believe that some UFOs are alien spacecraft. Only 12% of people who have seen UFOs actually report their sightings. More than 57% of Canadians believe there is a military or government cover-up regarding the existence of UFOs. Older Canadians tend not to believe in UFOs or cover-ups. Younger Canadian adults are more likely to believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life.

I’m afraid I have to cast my lot with those old farts who tend not to believe in UFOs or cover-ups. Not that I’m ‘old’, y’unnerstand, for I’m very young at heart, but I have to confess that I am, at the very least, sceptical about the matter.

Ever notice how UFO sightings always seem to take place before a couple of good ole boys sharing a jug on a riverbank in Moose Groin, Saskatchewan, or Tuskalooskawatchi Crossing, Mississippi, rather than setting down in Times Square, Washington, DC or some other place that you think might entice ET leaders.

Then, of course, the aliens themselves either go into people’s bedrooms and sexually interfere with them, or take these same people on the mothership, and again sexually interfere with them. I mean, why would somebody who traveled light years across space be all that damn interested in our plumbing? Wouldn’t our brains, such as they are, be more to the point in terms of scientific interest?

Now, I say all of this, despite the fact that I think Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a terrific movie, and despite the fact I have actually seen a UFO. I’ve seen one, but I still don’t really believe in them.

We were camping with friends on a little island near here about 25 years ago. It was a beautiful and starry night, and the four of us were lying on the beach, drinking beer and marvelling at the wondrous sky. Then we saw it. All four of us saw it. A light moved in a straight line across the sky. A plane or satellite, we thought, even though it was moving much more rapidly than the average aircraft. Then, about half way across the expanse of sky, it zigged rapidly to the right. There was no glide into the zig, it just went immediately to the right, and then beyond our field of vision. We were fascinated, I must confess. Was it a UFO? Well, it was certainly ‘unidentified’, was indeed ‘flying’ and may or may not have been an ‘object.’

That considered, there is also a mathematical consideration in all of this. We are an inhabited planet in the universe. The universe is infinite. Ergo, there must be an infinite number of planets that are also inhabited by some sort of creature. Surely we’re not so important that we are ‘it.’ Makes sense, and the late Carl Sagan bought into that idea.

But, deep in my heart of hearts, I still don’t really believe in them. Do you?

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Is your blog completely honest?

I was thinking, especially in light of Dr. Deborah Serani's blog regarding publicity surrounding the Don Imus ‘bigoted bonehead’ comments about the female Rutgers basketballers -- a vile crack it was, which led me to think of poor benighted Ralph Kramden who used to plaintively proclaim when he’d gone too far with a comment: “I’ve got a biiiiiiiiiiiiig mouth!” And, of course, Imus has said much the same as Ralph in a public mea culpa that was reminiscent of the backing and filling carried out by Mel Gibson and Michael Richards during their respective public disgraces.

Anyway, Dr. Deb offered some well-considered comments by actor/playwright Harvey Fierstein in which he, while deploring Imus’s comments (as would most of us), wonders how many of us disguise what we really think about different races, alternative sexual practices, and so forth. We may be dismayed by the glaringly obvious display of bigotry (or stupidity) of an Imus or a Mel Gibson, but what do each of us have deep inside ourselves that we might not wish to present for public scrutiny.

Everybody who reads this has, at some time, done or said something for which they are ashamed. That’s OK. Shame is a good thing because it suggests you are essentially a decent human being. Likewise, all of us have within ourselves, attitudes, interests, even fascinations with things that others might find distasteful or weird. Consequently, we are not about to share those things with others.

Thinking of that, I’ve periodically considered writing an alternative blog as a separate exercise. A blog in which I could reveal things and attitudes I don’t share with this one. Yes, I’ve toyed with it, but I don’t think I’m going to do it. I don’t think I’m going to do it because the blog that you are reading here comes as close as I want in terms of sharing who I am, what my thoughts are, and what I choose to reveal. I’m a relatively private person and I find cringeworthy some of those ghastly ‘My Space’ offerings in which young women (especially) get right down to sharing discussions on their knicker-stains and other things that are really, really private matters.

At the same time, I have asked myself how ‘honest’ my blog is. Do I share what I think, or do I aim to please those who read me? A while ago I wrote a blog that included a photo of an unclad young woman. I thought it was an amusing picture and I in no way intended to be tasteless or offensive. It wasn’t a salacious picture, and there was nothing sexual about it, it was merely a young woman with undraped breasts. Well, one of my regular readers found it offensive and chose to no longer visit my blog. That is entirely her right, and I don’t need to doctor my blog to please anybody, as do none of us. Yet, I did feel a bit bad about it. I’m not some cheesy old horndog who slathers after undraped females, well, not a lot, anyway, just at normal frequency. Anyway, I let it pass but decided maybe I should be a bit more circumspect about that which I write, or illustrations I choose.

But, if I censor myself, am I being honest? If any of us censors ourselves, are we being honest? I think we are. I think we are conveying the image we choose to convey, in self-censoring. We are using our blogging “inside voice,” if you will. It’s maybe a bit like putting away dirty magazines when the pastor comes to call. Is that dishonest or hypocritical? I don’t really think it is. I think it is showing respect for the dignity and well-being of a houseguest.

What do you think? Do you think your blog is fully honest?

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Friday, April 13, 2007

What's with all the potty mouths? Effing cut it out, I say!

The time has come, dear readers, to offer some random thoughts about the currently ubiquitous use and misuse of ‘that word.’ OK, out in the open and no point in beating about the bush, as Ebenezer Scrooge said, the word is Fuck. But, now I’ll wimp out and be discreet and offer the kindly euphemism utilized by Lynn Truss in her informative and entertaining polemic on the state of the contemporary world, Talk to the Hand, and opt for Eff, or Effing.

The point is, the word has been used and misused to the extent it is being rendered meaningless, not to mention lamebrained. Not that I am averse to using it at times of stress or anger, but often think that the word is best applied, and should be reserved for sexual situations in which, quite frankly, no other word will ‘do’ as well. But, that’s a whole other matter.

Walking down the street I pass a little coterie of otherwise respectable looking girls of 13 or 14 years, or so. And I overhear them – I couldn’t help but overhear them. People at the end of the block, including the guy operating the jackhammer, could overhear them.

“So, I’m like I’m not effing doing that.”
“No effing way.”
“It’s effing true. So, I'm like go and eff yourself.”
“What a effing asshole. Eff!”

I was, quite frankly, shocked. Do you kiss your Moms with mouths like that? Have you no shame! Do you realize what you sound like? And so on, and so forth. And remember, I don't shock too easily. After all, I used to work with junkies and some of them would have had no vocabulary whatsoever if that word hadn't been available. And, I certainly used it myself when I worked with them, because it made them feel less alienated.

But, the patter of these little girls put a different spin on the issue. I remember a linguistics class in my long ago university days when one of our exercises involved analyzing the use of language in literary works. One of the young women in the class chose a particularly lurid and erotic passage from Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Before she began she apologized and made mention of the fact the passage she would be reading did have the ‘F’ word in it – used in sexual context, I might add, and not as a profanity. She then read the passage, this nice and scholarly young woman did. The rest of the class shuffled just a tiny bit, uncomfortable at her blue utterances, even if it was in the name of scholasticism.

My point being that at the time, polite young ladies did not use that word, except in the throes of passion, at which times it had significant impact. Guys used it, even then. We used it sitting around the pub, or working in a sawmill in a summer job. It was a kind of ‘guy’ thing. But, we then tended to watch our language around females. In front of our Moms! There are not enough degrees in the hell that we would be sent to at the end of our days if we ever said eff around our moms.

Now, of course, elementary school kids tell teachers (and likely their moms) to eff off.

And that is ultimately my point. Aside from the shudder inducing distaste that arises when hearing the word blithely bandied about in public, there is the linguistic fact that a perfectly good word (in context) has been defused and is rapidly losing its impact. That’s too bad. Within a decade I predict eff (in its non-euphemized form) will join ‘bloody’ in being a neutral term. Bloody, I might add, was once considered a blasphemous and somewhat shocking term, which is why we have such euphemisms as ‘ruddy’ or ‘bleeding’.

So, if we want to preserve ‘fuck’ (there, I said it again, just to conclude) in its purity of linguistic impact, we effing well have to stop using it so blithely. Such a step would also make public discourse sound just a little less moronic and abrasive.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Damn, the &%$#@ phone is ringing!

“Ahoy-ahoy,” says the sinister and corrupt Mr. Burns while answering the phone on The Simpsons, in one of those wonderful jokes only appreciated by those who realize that “Ahoy” was the salutation suggested by Alexander Graham Bell to be used with his new invention.

My grandfather, born in the late 1870s, never quite ‘got’ the phone. If you happened to reach him at the other end of the line, he would yell, somehow believing, since you were miles away, he had to make his voice heard across the geographic chasm.

I don’t think I – or indeed other males – quite ‘get’ the phone, even to this day. Girls are different from boys (in some quite enchanting ways) and one difference is the female relationship with Mr. Bell’s invention. Indeed, if the doughty old Scots-Canadian hadn’t invented the phone, then surely a woman would have, since they understand them, and dare I say, ‘need’ them more than men do.

Women phone people. They like to phone people. They look forward to sending calls, and they look forward to retrieving them. Men hate to phone, whether it be calling or answering. If the phone rings (and I am not expecting a call from somebody) my gut immediately tightens. If Wendy is here it’s more like: “I wonder who that could be?” She has a sound of enthusiasm in her voice.

Wendy will call her friend, Rosie, once in a while. They talk for days. I mean, she could be on the line with Rosie and I could go out and do a major grocery shopping, wash the car, take a walk on the seashore, go to a dental appointment, have coffee with a friend, and then return home and, odds are, she would still be talking with Rosie. When she finally hangs up, I’ll ask: “What’s up with Rosie?”

“Nothing much. I’m meeting her for coffee in an hour.”

How could you be meeting her for coffee? What on earth would you have to talk about that hasn’t already been discussed?

But, that’s because women have a different relationship with the telephone. For them, I think, it is a distinct means of communication. For men it is a convenience that suggests this episode of life should be expedited rapidly so life can return to normal.

In my youth I found it agonizing to call a girl. My terror was based on two things: 1) her dad would answer the phone and, 2) I would have to think of something to say. I would have to sound as urbane and witty as a 17-year-old youth could manage. What I dreaded were lags in the conversation in which I would sound even dorkier than I felt at that moment.

But, what about phone sex? I imagine you are asking. Well, there is that – I have heard. But even then, I think most males feel a bit cumbersome with it. I can’t say how the female on the other end of the line might feel about this level of communication of some mightily intimate stuff, but I think males are still probably hopeless for the most part.

“So – uh – what’re you wearing? Oh – that sounds quite nice. So – uh – what’re you doin’ now? Uh – so – this is kind of cool, huh? Oh – are you still there? Right, yeah, I can hear you breathing. So – uh …”

As for the ubiquitous mobile phone, I think statistics would bear out that females have a much more intimate relationship with their cells than men do, as well. Young guys are more interested in the games and dirty downloads than actually talking on them. Older guys (like me) put them in their glove compartments unless they’re expecting a business call. Women, on the other hand, ‘use’ them. You see them on the streets of town, at the park at the mall, on the beach, hand and little phone nestled against the shell-like.

Again, I wonder what you could have to talk about that couldn’t wait until you got home.

Finally, in my esteem, the telephone wasn’t the greatest communication invention. The adjuncts, call display and the answering machine, were much more vital. They mean I have the power to take or not take a call. I prefer the latter. And I say this not to suggest that I am in any way anti-social. Quite the contrary, as a matter of fact. But, I like the old eye-contact thing when I am conversing.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I'll just sit here quietly and chew my cud, thanks

A very good friend of mine is vegetarian. Other than that she is very nice, and very normal. I don’t mean to impugn her vegetarianism because I like her and respect her wisdom in all things too much. In other words, she's the sort of person who, if she is vegetarian, has well-founded reasons for so being.

When we went for coffee the other day I asked her the whys and wherefores of her lifestyle choice. The ‘why’ part was simple for her. She doesn’t believe that any animal should die so she and her family can eat, and she also thinks it’s healthier. She may be right.

As for the wherefores, I only asked because we want to have her and her husband (also a broccoli muncher) for dinner and I wanted to know what our limitations re foodstuffs might be. Obviously I knew that thick marbled and rare prime rib slathered in gravy with Yorkshire pudding on the side was out – damn – but I wondered about seafood. I’ve known vegetarians who cannot resist prawns; despite the fact the little crustaceans boast faces (of a sort).

No – no seafood. But, eggs, cheese and other dairy. Phew! OK. I can handle that. In fact, I could even live like that. Indeed, if it came down to me actually murdering the animals I consume, I would opt for that form of vegetarianism. I love lamb chops, but cannot think about fluffy little springtime lambs gambolling in the meadow. In fact, I once loved fishing, but gave it up a few years ago because I couldn’t bear killing the fish. A few years ago a friend laid a big crate of live Dungeness crabs on me. The problem was, I had to kill them. They were ultimately delicious, but the expediting of the poor critters was depressing. Now I just buy dressed crab. I know they were still killed, but I didn’t do the killing. The idea of going out and shooting a deer is beyond my comprehension. I have no aversion to others who choose to do so as a sport, and I have a lot of friends who hunt, I just don't choose to do it. I know that makes me sound like an apologist Nazi, but you get the idea.

Anyway, a few weeks ago we went to dinner at the home of my aforementioned friend and her husband. It was a lovely evening, and the dinner (all vegetarian) was remarkably tasty. Well, except for the yam puree thing. I don’t do yams. But, my mother raised me to be polite, so I endured.

OK – so vegetarianism I can accept as a lifestyle for the reasons I suggested above. My stepdaughter decided at 15 she was going to go vegetarian (as so many girls do. One wonders about the male-female breakdown in this choice) and she actually prepared some fine meals, like vegetarian lasagne. I don’t know if she’s still vegetarian, but it doesn’t matter to me if she, or anybody else is.

Who I don’t get are vegans. No dairy? No eggs? I’d rather starve. How do you prepare a decent meal that way? I have gone to a local vegan eatery (under duress). Their foodstuffs were, for the most part, incredibly overpriced troughs of glop. Furthermore, I have to wonder about the healthful properties of such a diet, especially for children. Added to which, most vegans I’ve met look even worse than Keith Richards, and at least he has fun.

But, finally, the ones I really don’t get are the ‘raw food’ folk. I mean, compared with these ‘ruminants’ regular vegans seem frivolous, even frolicsome in their relationship with food. Added to which, no matter how they might try to defend their excruciatingly dreary lifestyle, it flies against nature. We have digestive systems that demand we be omnivores. Ruminant animals like cows or deer have intestinal tracts the length of Route 66 to pull out whatever nutrients they need from their fodder. Furthermore, they tend to barf up what they've initially swallowed, and then sit and chew their cuds for hours to get even more benefit from their food. Omnivores like us have city-block sized guts by comparison, and we don't have teeth designed for cud-chewing. Ever noticed those 'canine' teeth we possess, my raw-food friends?

Anyway, I think I’ll probably continue to be an omnivore and keep my red-meat intake to a minimum – which I’ve done for years, anyway. And I do thank whatever gods might be that I don’t have a peanut allergy because I could imagine life without PB even less than life without barbecued burgers.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

He always got 'satisfaction' where he could find it

That Keith Richards! That lovable rascal who flies in the face of every advocate of clean-living and piety, who looks like he died decades ago (and should have, considering he has likely ingested every unhealthy substance known to humanity), keeps on going like the Eveready Bunny, and goes laughing all the way.

Old ‘Keef’, the living Dorian Grey, except his excesses are etched on his marvellous face rather than on a painting in the attic, remains a mass of contradictions, always, but tempers it all by being ‘the’ musician in the best damn rock-and-roll band ever. This guy was so excessive in his really heavy drugging days that he actually would go ‘on the nod’ while on stage, and still, somehow, subliminally turn out guitar riffs that lesser pluckers could only dream of.

Of course, you’ve all heard of the latest addition to the Keith legend of excess – last year’s was falling out of a coconut tree -- and that was his “confession” that he once mixed his father’s cremated ashes with his coke stash and did a few lines. That’s sort of an ultimate transubstantiation if you want to look at it metaphorically, I suppose. But, since he obviously succeeded in grossing out even some of his most stalwart fans, he has since backtracked on the matter and suggested he was misinterpreted. This was combined with the fact that Richards Senior passed away in 2002, and Keith asserts he hasn’t touched the white powder (or powder of any stripe) in years. So, was Keith just having us on? That would certainly be like him.

Despite a visage that appears like it has lived three lifetimes (and probably has), Keith has a waggish sense-of-humor that has never really known any bounds. He is, his excesses not withstanding, one of those utterly lovable rogues that a lot of guys would like to be, but know that their health would not withstand such onslaughts. He’s cut in the mould of a Jack Nicholson, a Bob Mitchum, a Humphrey Bogart and a John Huston, but probably, unlike many of the latter, what he seems to be is pretty much who he is.

No sense of decorum, and certainly not possessed of a pretty face (he even cuts his own hair, they say), Keith is equally possessed of a massive musical talent (there would have been no Stones without him, despite how much Mr. Jagger might want to protest that point), a steely intelligence (which shines through no matter how bombed he might seem in an interview, and a vibrant sense of joy, that must seem confusing to advocates of clean-living and excessive spirituality.

He’s also married to a fine woman, whom he loves deeply. And the Missus is a classy and patrician lady who loves him dearly. She is also a devout Christian, and his daughters, who are also Christian and attended convent schools, also revel in everything about dear old Dad.

And, you don’t seem them cutting up or dropping their knickers in public or using massive amounts of drugs and booze. Keith has actually suggested that he provides them with a (still) living model of how you don’t want to live your life. The message hit home.

So, here’s to you, ‘Keef’, and I don’t care if you snorted your Dad. That’s between you and him.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

A resurrection of sorts

I intend no blasphemy whatsoever in the title of this piece, other than to suggest that what is is a resurrection than the rebirth of life. I found this pretty little tulip lifting its head out of the prosaic and functional composting box as a perfect metaphor for the time of year.
Spring is about rebirth, much as for Christians, Easter is about rebirth and life and hope springing eternally.
However you view it -- and I don't reveal my spiritual convictions any more than I reveal my politics, mainly because both areas of life are 'my own' -- the primary wonder of nature and this Creation upon which we live, is that it invariably renews each year, and from a bunch of rotting and seemingly dead plant matter comes a vibrant and hopeful blossom just to let us know that with life there is always hope.
May you all have a good Easter, no matter how you celebrate it, and no matter what it means to you.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

It's always something!

The late-lamented and very funny comic actress Gilda Radner penned an autobiography when she knew she was terminally ill entitled It’s Always Something. The title was riff on one of her SNL sketches, and it was a look at no matter how good things might be in your life, some fucking thing will come up to put a damper on it all.

We spend our days dealing with various problems and sometimes are driven to think, If only (whatever it is) would be resolved, then I would be happy. The point is, you wouldn’t. Because immediately after that problem was solved, another would come to take its place. Hopefully not a problem as severe as dear Gilda's.

Like the other day, I cashed out an old life-insurance policy I’d contributed to for years. But, it was a policy I’d bought years ago and, as it was, I once took a loan out on it, so the interest from the loan was eating up all the cash value. Furthermore, its net worth had diminished sufficiently enough that Wendy once said: “So, if you died, then I would probably be able to live for a month on that particular life insurance.” Exactly.

So, I got rid of it, and they sent me the money. That was a good thing. I like getting money. Like all of us, I tend to worry about solvency far more than my actual circumstances call for me to do. I’m not loaded, but I’m not three days from living in the streets and eating out of dumpsters, either. But, I worry about money, nevertheless. So, cashing in this policy left me feeling just a little more flush, and left my fertile imagination free to fret about other things. That’s because, ‘it’s always something.’ You see, income tax time is coming up and I am certain I’ll owe those ‘revenuer’ bastards something, and then they'll spend it on crap that is either meaningless to me, or offensive to me. Then, in June, it’s property tax time, and that means those bills in my little cash fund from the insurance policy are going to grow wings like they do in cartoons, and flutter out the window. And then I’ll be back worrying about cash reserves again.

I often wonder about those people who win millions on the lottery. I mean, what is it like to know that you have so much money that you would have to take three lifetimes to spend it? It must be the most amazing feeling to know that not only can you buy any damn thing you want; you will never, ever have to worry about money again.

But, from what I’ve read, those people are not supremely happy. In fact, some of them are downright miserable, if you can credit that. Evidently if you are stinking rich you worry about such things as your health, your longevity, your appearance, whether you are accepted in certain social circles, whether somebody is going to kidnap your kids and demand a ransom the size of Dubai’s treasury. And so on and so on.

I can suggest no answered to this quandary other than to fall back on the old Latin maxim: carpe diem. Seize this day, my friends, because it is the only one we have. If you can feed the kids today, and keep the rain off overnight, you’re doing OK today. Tomorrow is a crapshoot. It always is. And, guaranteed there will be “something.”

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I got keys, you got keys, all God's children got keys

They say you can judge how complicated your life is by the number of keys you pack with you on a regular basis. Right now I have eight. I have keys for each of our cars, a key to our house, a key to our apartment block, two keys for our flat, a key for our mailbox, and a key to my safety deposit box. That’s not too bad because there have been times in my life when I’ve packed more. I’ve had office keys, keys to buildings in which I’ve worked, a key for the can in the building in which I worked, and probably more. I think I’m simplifying.

But, it’s still too many keys. It is a sign that there are remaining complications in my life, but I don’t know how to get around that. Furthermore, I don’t know how I compare in key quotient with other people.

I don’t like having a lot of keys because I always end up fumbling for the right one. I have a visceral fear that I’ll end up fumbling for the right one at my front door just as a maniac is closing in on me with a machete. That’s not a comforting thought.

The other thing I don’t like about keys is not so much losing them, as acquiring them. I have a drawer that is full of keys for which I have no idea which slot somewhere they might be insertable within. If I chuck them out, will I find out that I have expedited one that I use every decade or so? I don’t know what such a particular key would be for, but it could happen.

The other keys in this drawer are motel and hotel room keys. I have a habit of not giving those back, and some of them go back years and they’re for hostelries in North America, Europe and Hawaii. I’m glad most rental accommodations have gone to key cards. They’re handy and will fit in a breast pocket, and if you forget to return it, they just change the code for the room. That’s sensible and represents a departure from the tiresome traditional key.

We paid a call on the Tower of London in late November, and I noticed in the Bloody Tower they have ancient prison guard’s keys on display. They’re huge things and I thought that if 15th century Tower guards had been in possession of hip pockets, those keys would have left quite a welt. As it is, my current keys can sometimes bruise my hip. They will also eventually poke through the pocket lining and leave a hole from which little change, like dimes, will fall through. Hey, a dime is a dime. They add up.

My point is, however, my current keys aren’t very different from those Tower of London ones. You’d think they’d have improved on the technology by now, but modern keys work in essentially the same way as the ancient ones. We don’t take our laundry and a big stone down to the river to do the wash any more, so why do we still unlock our doors using the same technology that Shakespeare did?

As it stands, I can’t really part with any of my current keys for the time being. How about you? How many keys on your ring?

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

How truthful are our memories?

“We human beings are nothing more than the sum of our memories – combined with hopes and aspirations.”

For the last year and a bit I have been writing a tale of the community in which I grew up. The project was originally intended to be a tongue-in-cheek spoof of the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby and what it meant to me in my childhood and youth. It would be a kind of semi-history and community sociological smartass bit of sarcasm and (hopefully) wit, and nothing more.

But, as many who have turned their energies to the nasty business of writing what they hope might turn into a book have found out, these things have a tendency to assume a life of their own. What was to have been a spoof has become something of a memoir of an earlier time. And memoirs by their nature involve memories, and once I found myself getting down into memory-lane, as it were, things took off from there. One incident would suggest another; a recollection of an early love interest would cast my mind back to the person; a recounting of a day in elementary school would bring back the smells, sounds, and sometimes the anxiety associated with the situation. Anxiety that had been long since forgotten, I thought, but then realized that the same anxieties still permeate my being. I am the sum of my parts.

I’m now nearing the end of the project, and am doing my basic editing. But, there is peril in that, too. I will come to a passage and realize there is more to it than what I have stated, so everything ends up being expanded upon.

And, what of those memories? How many are true. I cite an incident that took place in my senior year of high school in which the students, weary of an ever increasing set of rules and regulations imposed by a heartless and lacking-in-imagination principal came close to fomenting a riot one spring day. As follows is the way in which I recount the event:

“It was at just one of those aforementioned Monday assemblies that the principal’s fan became dung-splattered and the repercussions were huge. It was in the late spring, as I recall. We had been guilty (we were always guilty in the man’s little mind) of some sort of new malfeasance, and therefore we were to lose yet another privilege. The audience greeted his decree with silence. And then somebody – I have no idea who – began to stamp his feet on the gymnasium floor. And then another picked up on it. The stamping grew louder and louder until, or so it seemed, the entire gym was stamping in unison. Nixon, a look of panic crossing his face, raised his hands and demanded our silence; he uttered threats; he told us our conduct was disgraceful and that we would pay for it; he even threatened to call the police if we didn’t cease the behavior. His face blanched as students began rising up from their folding chairs and started to approach the stage. The man retreated, and his place was taken centre-stage by the vice-principal who appealed to us to calm down. We did, sort of, out of a certain respect for the veep. He exhorted us to go back to our homerooms. We shuffled back, taking as long as we wished to reach those destinations.”

Did it really happen like that? In my memory it did. The incident took me directly back to the time and it seemed like I was reliving it. Maybe my memory exaggerates. Maybe it was nowhere near as dramatic as I indicate. I wrestled with thoughts about that for a number of years afterwards. Then one day, probably two decades later I became acquainted with a man who was actually Burnaby’s superintendent of schools at that time. I asked him about it. I told him of my recall, and wondered if it had come to the board’s attention. He responded thusly.

“I remember it well. We were very concerned. We saw a good school being destroyed, and not by the students, but by the very bad choice of the man we had picked to be principal. But, the good thing was, we were looking for an excuse to transfer him. The students at Central gave us that excuse.”

Aha – so I wasn’t suffering from false memory. It was roughly the way I recalled it. OK, then it shall stay as it has been recounted in the book.

And now I’ll carry on with my editing and my memories.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

How big is your enviro footprint? Check and find out

I am skeptical about concept faddism. Issue fads are cheap, easy, and so often untrue, and that is one of the reasons people glom onto them, adjust their lives according to them – or pretend they do – and turn them into tiresome, and ultimately meaningless clichés.

One problem with this, however, is that such stimuli to the popular imagination aren’t always untrue, and that elements of them at least might well be true and we could ultimately rue the fact they were used and abused and ultimately relegated to fad status, forcing the more cynical members of the population to ignore them in their entirety, rather than just in the parts that should be ignored.

Popular fad of the moment is that the human race has done and continues to do such a hatchet-job on the environment that eventually dear old Mother Earth is just going to vomit and eliminate all of us. As the doomsayers would have it, we are drinking all the potable water, killing all the fish, cutting down all the forests and just basically paving paradise and putting up parking lots all over the place.

Our collective greed – especially in the (held to be) craven Western World, demands that we all drive Hummers, spew out hydrocarbons and poop in the oceans whenever the need strikes us, and to hell with all the rest of the planet, because they can all damn well starve, which they already seem to be doing a good job of in some places. In this we flagellate ourselves thoroughly for our greed, but don’t do much about pointing collective fingers at, oh, say, China, that defiles the environment more than the rest of us put together and has no intention of rectifying their behavior in that regard. We don’t say much because we we really like to trade with the Chinese.

Anyway, all of the above is what we are led to believe, and we’re told to feel very, very bad. Maybe not bad enough to actually get rid of that Hummer, but bad, nevertheless.

At the same time, governments are already picking up on the buzzwords and they are relying on our collective guilt to grant them permission to mount a few great big tax grabs the like of which we have never seen before, all in the name of the environment.

OK, a few points about this. Just because the environment has become a faddish concern doesn’t mean for a second there isn’t peril afoot on the planet, Maybe our hydrocarbon emissions aren’t responsible for climate change, but maybe they don’t help much. If they have a role, then it is better that we make some changes. I don’t necessarily place myself on that global warming bandwagon, but I have lived long enough to know that the climate has changed from the time of my childhood, and it seems to be continuing to change. Have I had a role in this? I don’t know. But, if I can do something to rectify some of my wastefulness, I am happy to do so.

As it is, my wife and I don’t live particularly high on the hog. We drive fuel-efficient vehicles, we recycle steadfastly, we grow some of our own vegetables, and we don’t leave lights burning in rooms we’re not using. Small potatoes (just like the ones we tend to grow) to be sure, but every little bit helps.

Anyway, want to know what sort of impression you make on the planet; what your points are in terms of your impact on this old sod? Then check this out and find out how big is your ecological footprint. At the very least, it’s kind of interesting. So, pay a call to and take the quiz. By the way, the parts of the quiz are metric, so you’ll have to do some converting, but it’s not a big deal.

My footprint is 7.8 hectares. That’s below the average for North America, but if everybody on earth had a footprint even that size, we’d easily run out of planet.

What size is your footprint?

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