Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A day in the life of a day in my life

Ian and Wendy off on another excellent adventure

My friend and fellow blogger Wolfgirl (aka Kim) sent this my way, and being an obliging soul, I decided to complete it. Actually, it was kind of fun. And, at the end, like all memes, I have to tag five others, and I shall do that, too.

1. Name one person who made you laugh last night? Wife Wendy. We were discussing the perversities of her working for a bureaucracy and the boneheaded decisions made around our tax dollars.

2. What were you doing at 0800? Meeting my friend Bob for coffee (if the question refers to this morning. If it refers to 8 last evening I was watching ‘Pushing Daises’, which is a delightful newcomer to the ‘wasteland’ and has a lovely Tim Burtonish feel to it. It will likely be killed for that reason.)

3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago? Having that coffee with my friend, Bob, who is a HS teacher, so I patiently listen to his teacher woes, while not really giving all that much of a shit. I’m nice like that.

4. What happened to you in 2006? Many, many things. Some good, some less than good. However, the best was taking Wendy to Europe last October and November, since she’d never been. Three weeks in Grenoble, then a couple of days in Brussels, a ride on the Eurostar through the Chunnel, and then back to my old home town, Great Yarmouth, then to Bath to see dear cousin Angie and family, and finally three great days in London.

5. What was the last thing you said out loud? Medium dark roast and room for cream.

6. How many beverages did you have today? Five cups of coffee and a glass of milk.

7. What color is your hairbrush? Silver in hue, plastic in composition.

8. What was the last thing you paid for? Newspapers and a magazine.

9.Where were you last night? Home, watching TV with 18-year-old cat, Griffin. He didn’t like my viewing choices, and hasn't been the same about L&O since Jerry Orbach passed, so he went to sleep. He sleeps 23.75 hours out of the 24.

10. What color is your front door? White, highlighted by cat scratches.

11. Where do you keep your change? In my pocket.

12. What’s the weather like today? Overcast. Or, since this is coastal BC, normal. Overcast is the default weather.

13. What’s the best ice-cream flavor? How bland of me, I know, but vanilla. Good vanilla. The best vanilla is Alex Campbell’s Special from Thrifty Foods. My true favorite, though one can never find it, is orange. Same with cherry custard. Both seem to have disappeared.

14. What excites you? Aside from the obvious, embarking on a trip. Especially a trip to somewhere warm if it’s during the ‘normal’ season. Kauai serves me in a heavenly manner, but Palm Springs is awfully nice, too, as is San Diego. Mind you, I also love Europe, and Europe does have its warmer climes.

15. Do you want to cut your hair? I’m a guy. I get monthly haircuts. Gives me an excuse to see my cute longtime hairdresser, Cindy.

16. Are you over the age of 25? Far too over the age of 25. But, would love to have known at 25 what I know now. Life would have been much sweeter.

17. Do you talk a lot? Depends on who I’m with. I think I’m a decent conversationalist, and I like people well enough that I enjoy good and intelligent interchanges. Generally (and for a score of reasons) I prefer speaking to females. Frankly, I think women are much better conversationlists. A situation in which I dislike conversing is on the telephone. If I cannot see the preson’s face then half of the communication is missing, I believe. That’s why telephone commnets are often misconstrued. “Was she happy, or was she angry when she said that?”

18. Do you watch the O.C.?Nope. Not even sure what it is other than a TV show.

19. Do you know anyone named Steven? Yes, ‘ceptin’ he goes by Steve.

20. Do you make up your own words? Regularly. Define the following: Schmeglie, hik-boo, grebeley, for example.

21. Are you a jealous person? I have been. I try to avoid it. It’s wasted emotional energy, much as is envy.

22. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘A’. Andy.

23. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘K’. Kim, as in the one who gave me this meme, and a couple of other Kims, and I think there’s a Kathy in there.

24. Who’s the first person on your received call list? I have no such thing.

25. What does the last text message you received say? As a proud luddite, I have no such thing, nor do I want any such thing.

26. Do you chew on your straw? Real men don’t do straws.

7. Do you have curly hair? Nah. But, I did when I was a very little boy. I'm just thankful to have all my own hair.

28. Where’s the next place you’re going to? Hopefully Palm Springs in January or February, and Wendy wants to go Down Under next fall. We shall see.

29. Who’s the rudest person in your life? My former boss, before I took over his position. He is rude, obscene, intollerant, bigoted, crude, lewd, male chauvinistic and just about any other perjorative I could throw in his direction. He’s my exception to the rule which suggests you should foregive everybody. I don’t want to forgive him. It gives me pleasure to detest him.

30. What was the last thing you ate? A soft-boiled egg and toast with peanute butter.

31. Will you get married in the future?Puh-leeze! I’ve done it three times and am exquisitely happy with the third one. I have no desire to repeat the process ever in the future.

32. What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the past 2 weeks? On TCM, the 1962 flick ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’ (see pic above), which I’d never before seen in its entirety. A riveting tale of Cold War espionage which uses the always underused Richard Burton at his best, along with the lucious Claire Bloom and Oskar Werner.

33. Is there anyone you like right now? I like all of my friends.

34. When was the last time you did the dishes? Last evening.

35. Are you currently depressed? No more than usual. Really, I’m not depressed. Pissed off about some little things, but who isn’t. But, my state-of-mind is good.

36. Did you cry today? Why would I do that? I haven’t seen 'Old Yeller' in years.

37. Why did you answer and post this? Because Kim asked me to, and she’s a friend and a fellow writer. I think I'm supposed to pass this along to five people, so I'll pick Geewits, Angela, Jazz, Voyager and Get Off My Lawn.

They may respond if they choose.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Early to bed, early -- really early -- to rise. Damn

According to yet another one of those “researchers say …” articles that dominate our daily press in lieu of ‘real’ news I find that I am screwed – and not in a nice way, either.

You see, researchers say we should all get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, and if we don’t, we’re going to die. Here’s a flash for those researchers, we’re going to die, anyway. It’s sort of in the nature of being a living entity. We might not like it, but that’s the way it is.

Where I am screwed is that I never muster eight hours of sleep. I manage to get seven if I’m really lucky. Of course, if I get ‘lucky’ I don’t get seven, but that’s an entirely other (*TMI Alert) matter. Mind you, researchers have some views on that sort of stuff, too. Can’t recall if it’s good for you or bad for you, but that’s one habit I don’t plan to change.

What I find interesting about these researchers is how they feel compelled to tell us stuff that will disquiet us, and hence disrupt our sleep. I awaken at, say, 4:30 a.m. and think: “Holy shit, I’m awake at the 4:30! Not only am I probably shortening my life, but also I’ll probably end up with dementia, impotence, incontinence and a host of other disagreeable happenings, just because I awakened at 4:30. Must sleep! Must sleep!") Well, you know how that is going to play out. I’ll be more awake than I have ever been.

So, my question to the researcher guys is, how do you make yourself sleep longer – or shorter, if that is your problem?

I’ve read tons of stuff about sleep habits. Well, my sleep habits are fine. I turn in relatively early, unless I’ve had to go out to some function (in which case my sleep will be totally screwed because I’ll come home a bit pumped up); I don’t drink coffee, tea or colas in the evening hours, my bedding is nice (400 thread count sheets, if you please and a nice and cozy duvet), if it is warmish, the window is open a trace (except in high allergy season, which is only 11 months out of the 12 for me), there is no extraneous noise (and if there is, I use earplugs), Wendy is not normally a restless sleeper, so that doesn’t disrupt. I then cozy in, read for a while until I nod, and then it’s slumberland. Always works. I have nice dreams, too. I rarely have nightmares, so all the REM stuff is doing what it's supposed to. It’s at the other end that it doesn’t work so well for me. I want to saw wood for seven, but I rarely get more than six. And that is my reality. I refuse to feel guilty about it, and screw you researcher guys (I think somebody should, and then you wouldn’t be such OC dweebs, fussing and fretting about the habits of others and making nonsensical pronouncements just to upset the good folk out there in readership land.)

I awaken early because the world begins to encroach. I am not anxious about it or depressed, I just wake up and, silly me, I always assumed I woke up after 6 or 6 ½ because I’d had enough sleep. It’s true, if there is something pressing happening, like I’m going to be traveling that day, or getting married, or something, then I will awaken even earlier. I expect some poor guy who is going to be executed at sunup has a bitch of time getting in his sufficient allotment. “Oh, well. Maybe it’ll be better tonight. Oh, right, it will be whole lot better.”

So, as it stands, I’m just not going to worry too much about having insufficient sleep. I think if that is how long I consistently sleep, then I must be getting the sleep I need. Little sleep was of no real concern to Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison or Margaret Thatcher, and they did OK. I mean, isn't this really kind of arbitrary. All of us as individuals have different wants and needs in all areas of our lives, so why should sleep be any different?

In any case, when I think of the amount of sleep mustered by those hiding out in the London Underground during the Blitz, I can only conclude we are a generation of neurotic wanking whiners considering the stuff we stress about, considering the stuff people elsewhere on the planet have to stress about.

“I’m a bit concerned, Habib, I am simply not getting enough sleep these days.” “Probably the car bombings, Mustapha – probably the car bombings.”.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Oh -- 'Musketeers' -- I thought you said 'Mouseketeers'

Once again I swiped from my friend Jazz, mainly because I am at a creative impasse – dealing with boneheads on the Island Highway does that to a guy – and also because I am a bibliophile, and finally because I like lists. I like lists because half the job has already been done for a body, and all that body then has to do is respond appropriately.

So, if you want to do this, too, here is what you have to do, according to the rules:

Bold those you've read.
Add an asterisk* to those you have read more than once.
Italicize books you have started but couldn't finish. (I've also bolded 'cause I can't help but comment and comments are in italics)
Underline those on your To Be Read list. I did mine in Green because, like Jazz, I don't know how to underline.


A Clockwork Orange

A Confederacy of Dunces

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Unlike Jazz, I liked this because I like Joyce, except for Finnegan’s Wake which is downright weird, and 90 percent of Ulysses. Of course, virtually everybody has read the dirty parts and if they haven’t, they should.)

A Short History of Nearly Everything (I think I have read all of Bryson, and probably will reread some of his offerings.)

A Tale of Two Cities (It is a far-far better thing I do -- I think)

American Gods

Anansi Boys

Angela's Ashes (Liked it very much. Also read ‘Tis; not as powerful, but very readable. As a former teacher I appreciated some of his pedagogical musings)

Angels & Demons

Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand is Ayn Rand, so if you like crypto-fascists this is OK)


Brave New World *


Cloud AtlasCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Crime and Punishment (I think I read the Classics Illustrated version of this. Does that count?)


David Copperfield (A long slog, but a good story)

Don Quixote (Vile hard reading, but it offers some terrific insights into the human condition and the conflict between our animal and spiritual natures. Did you know Cervantes’ birth and death dates were identical to Shakespeare’s?)


Dubliners (Good collection of short stories and tells a lot about a fascinating city early in the 20th Century)


Eats, Shoots & Leaves (OK, but I thought it was overrated since she spends a lot of time stating the obvious)

Emma (Real men don’t ‘do’ Jane Austin, unless they have to, which is why I read the mind-numbing ‘Pride and Prejudice’.)

Foucault's Pendulum (Like Jazz, I should finish this. Probably I won’t)



Gravity's Rainbow

Great Expectations (Again, I should finish this, but the movie – the David Lean version – filled in a lot of the gaps)

Gulliver's Travels*

Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies

In Cold Blood

Jane Eyre (I think I’ve read it, but am not positive)

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Never heard of it)

Les Misérables (Read it when I was a kid and loved it. Good old Les))

Life of Pi: A Novel (Just like Jazz on this one. It’s sitting on a shelf. It may or may not be read)

Lolita* (Offers many insights into human sexuality, and is not just a dirty book; albeit it is that, too.)

Love in the Time of Cholera

Madame Bovary

Mansfield Park

Memoirs of a Geisha



Moby Dick (Oh, God, yes, but only because I had to. Believe me, only because I ‘had’ to for a course)

Mrs. Dalloway (Real men don’t do Virginia Woolf even more than they don’t do Jane Austin)


Northanger Abbey

Oliver Twist (That lovable old Bill Sykes)

On the Road (When I was growing up if you subscribed to any ‘hipness’ aspirations, you read your Kerouac. This is the book about which Truman Capote said: “That isn’t writing, that’s typing.)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest* (Yes indeed, and saw the movie, too (many times), even though Kesey hated it)

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Oryx and Crake


Pride and Prejudice (I’ve stated my case on this one)


Lolita in Tehran

Sense and Sensibility (A thousand times, no)


Tess of the D'Urbervilles (I like Hardy better as a poet, but his Wessex Tales are still all good)

The Aeneid

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

The Blind Assassin

The Brothers Karamazov

The Canterbury Tales (In Middle English, if you please. ‘Whan that Aprill with its shoures soote …)

The Catcher in the Rye ******* (About 17 times, I think)

The Confusion

The Corrections

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-

The Fountainhead (Ayn again...)

The God of Small Things

The Grapes of Wrath (Wonderful, along with most other things by Steinbeck))

The Historian

The Hobbit (I tried. It bored me senseless)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (He wasn't a true hunback -- He was only a quasi-modo)

The Iliad

The Inferno (I assume this refers to the Divine Comedy, in which case I’ve read it all)

The Kite Runner

The Mists of Avalon

The Name of the Rose

The Odyssey

The Once and Future King (I know this is the progenitor of Camelot, which is one of the pukiest musicals ever, so I never bothered reading the original)

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Real scary)

The Poisonwood Bible

The Prince

The Satanic Verses

The Scarlet Letter

The Silmarillion

The Sound and the Fury (Faulkner is difficult, but ultimately worth it)

The Three Musketeers (Ripping yarn)

The Time Traveller's Wife

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Saw the movie, liked it)

To the Lighthouse (I’ve stated my case about V. Woolf, and this is the book that made me feel that way. I want to yawn just thinking about it.)

Treasure Island* (“Yaaarrrrr”)

Ulysses (See ‘dirty stuff’ above)

Vanity Fair (All is vanity, nothing is fair)

War and Peace (Life is far, far too short. But, as Woody Allen said, “It’s about Russia.”)

Watership Down (Tried once. Yech!)

White Teeth

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Wuthering Heights (For Victoriana it’s a pretty good study of the class system)

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Lots more I would include here, but this will do for now.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Schoolkids at play, yet again

Maybe it’s a hangover from the 1960s, or maybe it’s the intrinsic rebel in me, or maybe I get a perverse pleasure in seeing people disturbing the mire, but I like to see a good donnybrook between the ‘little’ people (who do the work and pay the taxes) and ‘the man.’ The aforementioned ‘man’ being an individual or body who, by dint of their position, feel they not only have ‘all’ the answers, but also feel no obligation to abandon a course that those who pay the bills see as not only madness, but also disquieting and probably costly – to them, not to the man.

At the moment we have a right old pissing-match happening in our local school district. In this case the school board (never a body to be noted for any semblance of humility) and superintendent (I won’t even begin to describe my sentiments about assorted superintendents that have come and gone in our local district, but suffice it for me to suggest that professional talent and smarts are not essential ingredients for being raised to that ‘exalted’ and highly-highly paid position) have chosen a course of action that involves reconfiguration of the district schools. Ostensibly this is to save money.

What they, and especially the super (who has a ‘Doctor’ in front of his name, which doesn’t mean he can write you a prescription, nor would you want him to. Someday I’ll write a derogatory screed about those who are not medical practitioners who use choose to use this honorific, AKA the hubris title) want to do is gut the current formula and to rid the district of middle schools. Middle schools being those institutions we used to call junior highs. What they want to do is have the elementary schools run from kindergarten to the 8th grade, and then the secondary schools run from 9 to 12. How this is going to save money has never been, in my perception, adequately explained. How valid this is as educational theory isn’t apparent, but maybe it’s good. I dunno. But, it seems to me if there is an educational downside, which most teachers in the district seem to feel is the case, then maybe quality education should trump expenditure. Just sayin’.

Anyway, Dr. Super seems to have co-opted all the trustees bar two over to his way of thinking. Good thing those are elected positions, I might add. How does the public feel about this? Not good, according to the media and people I’ve spoken to. They, teachers and parents alike, seem to be outraged and truly are of a mind that education will suffer. They do have a point in that not one school district in the province follows the formula advocated by Dr. Super. But, it seems, according to his utterances, he knows, as does the board chair (what she knows about education is possibly open to question since she is a lay person), what is best for the kids and, by default, the parents, and utterly by default, since their views don’t matter a fig, the teachers.

Now, it has been a long time since I taught school and had direct dealings with Supers (Drs or otherwise) so I am not really in any position to take a stand. But, the fight stirs up my juices regardless. I feel an impulse to shout: “Au barricades! Hell no, we won’t go! We shall overcome! Hey-hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today? Different issue in the latter case, I know, but I was on a roll. Maybe some strains of La Marseillaise in the background, just like the scene in Rick’s in Casablanca. That is always a stirring scene for the beleaguered.

Anyway, whatever is going to happen will happen, and the ‘man’ will prevail -- for a time. He always does. And, Dr. Super won’t fall on his sword, but you can bet your boots that his highers up have a nice position for him to segue into immediately after the next school board election in which his loyal trustees will be ignominiously returned to their civilian lives. Silly pawns.

Meanwhile, continue to fight the good fight, folks. I’m right behind you. In theory, anyway.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

What, me worry?

Materfamilias pondering the future as the family home is being erected

“Being too intelligent is a curse,” said Mumsy in one of her periodic embittered forays into temporary sobriety. I think it was on the occasion of my acquisition of a university degree.

“Thanks, Mom, you just really warmed the cockles of this boy’s heart,” I replied. Actually, I don’t think I said any such thing, but her statement at the time has always stuck with me.

My mother was, despite her myriad emotional, psychological and addictive woes, an extremely intelligent woman. She skipped school twice and graduated at 15. She evidently excelled in creative writing, English and probably lots of other things. In that, I suppose the apple doesn’t fall so very far from the tree. Yet, after school was finished she never, as the old saying goes, ‘amounted to a pinch of coonshit.’ Sad, that, I always thought. But, she made her choices, married an up-and-comer who would always keep her well, and spent the remainder of her 72 years steeped in discontent, frustration and anger, seeking ever increasing doses of her twin Vs – vodka and valium – to keep her going. Yes, very sad, that.

But, that isn’t my point here. My point is merely her statement about intelligence. My mother sought I was intelligent, too, so on the occasion of my graduation she (for whatever reason) thought it apt to bestow the ‘curse’ on me. I guess she saw it as a caveat.

I don’t know how intelligent I am. I have never checked out my IQ, and have no impulse to so do. If it’s higher than I thought (I mean, I have an idea of what it ‘might’ be, at least a ballpark of what it might be) then I am going to feel like a huge failure. If it’s lower, then I’ll feel all inadequate and lacking.

At the same time, I think my work and a few accolades I’ve garnered indicate that I must have a reasonable degree of smarts. Which leads me to the question: ‘If I’m so smart, why ain’t I rich?’ Well, that’s mainly because largesse comes from a different sort of intelligence than the kind I seem to have been blessed with. My mother’s least academic sibling, for example, ultimately became the richest. Uncle Bob deserved his wealth considering the awful crone he was married to. Smart about money, but not so smart about life-partner choice. I would have poisoned her tea.

Then there is also the matter of ‘emotional intelligence’. I may have been intellectually somewhat astute, but at an emotional level – certainly for a lot of years at least – I was a bit of a moron, considering a few of the decisions I made. But, those weren’t decisions that were made with the brain, or even the heart, but with quite another part of the anatomy. Enough about that.

Going back to mater’s premise, is intelligence a curse? Is life easier for the simple souls? Arguably, it is. If you are less aware of the panorama of everything you are possibly less stressed. You are also more accepting of that which is around you, in all likelihood because you won’t have explored all possibilities. I don’t mean this in a demeaning sense. I have known people with relatively low expectations, and their lives have revolved around home, hearth and family, and all the verities therein, and their homes are always comforting places to visit.

Comforting but, alas, a bit on the boring side at times. But, that’s just me. And, probably you considering the fascinating calibre of writing I see among the members of my blogroll. I don’t say that all bloggers are real smart folk, but the ones I’m in contact with, either on my roll or elsewhere in the sphere, certainly are.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A brilliantly updated Blast from the Past

Now, here's a thing to do if you are in and around Vancouver and want some delightful entertainment -- and that is to take yourself to the Firehall Theatre and see Tracey Power in Living Shadows. You utterly won't forget it.

OK, so this is a plug. A plug for a former Comox Valley resident and friend, but I wouldn't plug her at all if she and her play weren't amazingly good. The production blew them away at a national level in last year's Fringe Festival, but scheduling precluded a Vancouver performance at that time. Now she's making up for it. So, in pushing this, I am going to offer a reprint of the review I did for a local paper over a year ago. You can take it from there.

By Ian Lidster (Comox Valley Echo and Victoria Times Colonist)

If Tracey Power was weary -- and she confessed in a brief conversation after the show that she was wondering what it would be like to live “normally” for a while – following the final outing of some 75 performances of Living Shadows this season, she certainly didn’t show it when she took her one-woman production to the Old Church Theatre Saturday evening.

Actually, that was her second performance of the day. Demand for tickets was such, and the venue is so limited in space, that she decided to mount a matinee performance Saturday afternoon.

As it was, the chosen theatre was almost ideal for a relatively intimate performance of an aging actress’s agonies of deciding whether or not to relaunch her career after a hiatus of a decade. A decade during which she, Mary Pickford, once ‘America’s Sweetheart’, had largely slipped from public consciousness. Film audiences are not only fickle, they are notably short on memory, and the lady who was born Gladys Marie Smith in Toronto in 1892 knew that only too well.

The premise of Living Shadows is straightforward. In 1950 noted director Billy Wilder was attempting to ‘seduce’ Miss Pickford (then 58) into taking the role of Norma Desmond in his production of Sunset Boulevard. Wilder assumed quite rightly that this story of an aging silent picture actress attempting a comeback was the perfect vehicle for the woman who epitomized silent picture actresses.

As it was, Pickford declined the role that brought her contemporary, Gloria Swanson, back into prominence and a valuable late-in-life career. Power’s objective in penning Living Shadows was to show ‘why’ Pickford pulled back.

In showing the ‘whys’, Power asked the audience to suspend their take on reality and to join Mary in her tale. A tale that went right back to Gladys as a little ‘Hogtown’ girl, and carried her through to Broadway, and then to Hollywood, and ultimately to Pickfair. And they all were there in magnificent array – Doug Fairbanks, DW Griffith, Chaplin and Mary – as Power carried us down through Mary’s years of trials and triumphs.

Single person performances are notably demanding due to the limitations placed on the performer. Such vehicles can appear a bit phony, a bit hokey, and a bit too much to believe. No such pejoratives can be ascribed to Living Shadows, and it is no wonder that Power’s work has gleaned such rave reviews at fringe productions right across the country.

The story in itself is fascinating and holds together consistently. Tracey Power handles the taxing role with much élan, even more so when you consider that she not only offers us Mary, but stylized comments by Fairbanks, Chaplin and Wilder. All of it works; I would be bold enough to say.

One comment following the production suggested that while this individual enjoyed what he saw, he felt he might have gotten a bit more out of it if he had known more of the story ahead of time. I suppose it could be said that an astute knowledge of cinema history and the players therein might have enhanced the experience. But, it also is fair to say that it might have detracted, as well.

Power’s play is an interpretation of events, not necessarily the real goods. She doesn’t pretend to know exactly what went through Pickford’s mind as she agonized over her decision. Nor did she bother getting into Pickford’s ever-increasing reclusiveness or her alcoholism. Instead, Power presented the very human tale of a woman on the horns of a dilemma, as the playwright saw it.

And she saw it clearly. And conveyed it clearly. And deserves thoroughly whatever accolades she has been given. Tracey Power is assuredly an actress/playwright to keep your eyes on. No doubt you will be hearing more of her.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sensible sensations for the sensualist in us all

My brilliant blogger buddy (behold, alliteration) Jazz offered a list the other day in which she outlined all the elements that appealed to her five senses, as in her favorite smells, sights, sounds, tastes and "touches". She also threw down her diamond-studded gauntlet (God, that glvoe must be uncomfortable) to anybody who wanted to share their sensory titillations. I bit. Both because I love the word titillation, and because it was something that seemed a bit of a challenge. I am happy she restricted her list to the five senses and didn’t go into ESP realms, because that would have been too challenging. So, here goes:
Five smells I love:
Freshly cut grass – Jazz cited that one, and I can only concur. It’s fresh, it’s rural, and somehow it puts me in touch with an earlier time in my life. I have no idea why that is so, but it does. What applies to freshly cut grass also applies to freshly-mown hay, because that reminds me of the summer I worked on a farm when I was about 14.

Homemade bread just out of the oven -- Reminds me of my grandmother’s kitchen when I was a child. She was of that generation that baked bread in a big old wood stove, virtually on a daily basis.
Creosote – Maybe that seems weird, but it is the smell of wharfs and pilings and it just smells like summer days when fishing was beckoning and a boat was about to be unmoored for an adventure. I still love wandering around marinas and fisherman’s wharves.
My wife’s hair – It always smells fresh and shampooed and I love smelling it either on her or on her pillow. If that’s TMI, sorry for violating my own principles.
Hawaii – Hawaii has a flowery fragrance that hits one, right along with the heat and humidity when one steps off the plane at Honolulu. When I get a whiff of that, I know I am back in my spiritual home and I feel ‘well’ right down to my toes.
Sweet peas – Cut sweet peas fill a room with a brilliant fragrance that must surpass even the rose. It lingers until the little flowers have faded and turned into crepe paper.

Fresh coffee – Nothing more needs to be said, other than if it’s fresh coffee combined with frying bacon fragrance on a Sunday morning. We may not have heaven on earth, but at least God gives us little hints.
Five sights I love
The Comox Glacier – I open the drapes on a clear morning and my eye is immediately drawn towards this stunning backdrop that is known as Queneesh (the great white whale) in the local Coast Salish language. It’s been there for eternity though, while refusing to accede to the so-called wisdom of Al Gore, I will concede that the ice-cap has receded since I came to the area.
Sunset on the open Pacific – There is something about a limitless expanse of ocean when the sun finishes its work for the day. I have felt at peace with the world looking at sunsets on the northern California coast, Hawaii and the Cook Islands
Coconut Palms -- I have a palm tree in my front yard. It is a rather handsome windmill palm and I’m very fond of it. But, it’s not a coconut palm. Coconut Palms won’t grow anywhere but tropical and subtropical climes. So, I know that if I hear a coconut palm rustling, and if I can look up its long, curving, hurricane-defying trunk, then I am somewhere very nice.

The desert – This one was chosen by Jazz, and I just have to go along with her on it. Any desert will do, provided it has cactuses, and roadrunners and the dry, dry fragrance that is endemic. We spent a wonderful day once at Joshua Tree National Park, right in the Mojave, and I’m longing to go back.
Children at play – By this one, I mean very tiny children; no more than three, or so. I love to hear their laughter, I love to see their sheer exuberance, and I revel in their innocent play, not yet bogged down with the cares of the world. Gives me hope for the future.
Five tastes

Seafood – In the brilliant, and much lamented comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes, that wise stuffed tiger once opined that the one thing that made life worthwhile was seafood. I’m in accord, be it lobster, prawns, crab, oysters, clam chowder (only New England, thank you very much), and anything else in the fruits de mer category.

Watermelon - It has to be obscenely sweet and so crisp that it snaps when bitten. Otherwise, I am not interested. But, I can honestly say that a primo chunk of watermelon is arguably my favorite fruit.

Corn – Freshly grown sweetcorn, only a few minutes from harvest, tender and inviting and absolutely slathered in artery challenging butter (never-ever margarine) and salt is mightily close to an orgasmic eating experience
Turkey sandwiches – I’m not so much on a roast turkey dinner, but that next day sandwich, on white or sourdough, with stuffing and mayonnaise beats the Thanksgiving Dinner hollow in terms of appeal to me.

Cognac - I no longer drink, which is probably a good thing. But, I still recall with sweet nostalgia the warming fragrance of a fine vintage cognac that cost as much as the GDP of Dubai but, somehow, was worth it at the time.

Homemade bread toast and peanut butter - It has to be natural, unadulterated PB (OK, I’ll admit I prefer salted) and the toast must be piping hot, and it has to drip. I tossed up between fresh blueberry flapjacks and this one and the PB toast won.
Five sounds I love
Elgar’s Cello Concerto - Elgar’s last notable work and it can, almost literally, bring me to tears because somewhere within it tugs at an emotion that has never truly revealed itself to me.

Layla – Eric Clapton’s plaintive love song to Patti Boyd is virtually magnificent as a testament to adoration of the unattainable (at that time, since she was his best friend’s wife).Of course, you know the tale. Eventually he got her, and then decided he didn’t want her. Funny how life can work. But, the best is the original Derek and the Dominoes (also featuring the late and brilliant Duane Allman) version.
Trains – When we were in Grenoble last fall our hotel was only a few hundred yards from the railway station. I loved the sound of the trains coming and going, and it took me back to childhood when I’d hear the long and lonely whistle of the trains when the passed in the night. The clickety-clack when I’m on the train works for me, too.
My late aunt’s voice – It was a wonderfully husky sound that sounded very reminiscent of actress Suzanne Pleshette. She had a laugh that was bawdy and joyous and she was such a cool woman with so much joie de vivre that I still cannot believe she was my father’s sister. Guess Aunt Freda got all the ‘cool’ genes. I miss her a great deal.
Ezio Pinza's voice – My parents had the album of the original Broadway production of South Pacific, and to hear Pinza sing ‘This Nearly Was Mine’ is bound to mist you up.
Five things I love to touch
A fellow could get all erotic and sensual about this category but, in a spirit of remarkable restraint I’ll avoid musings on silks and other exotic fabrics not to mention anatomical bits and pieces and stick more to the ‘suitable for audiences of all ages.’
Keyboards – I have been writing for so long that I actually regale in the feel of a keyboad beneath my fingertips. Writing for me, whiter it’s coming well or badly, is a bit of a drug and I can go through withdrawal if away for too long. Some people write with a pen or pencil. For me it must be a keyboard thing or my creative muse flees.
Soft leather automotive upholstery – The feel of the seats on a high end car (not to mention the fragrance) is quite wonderful. My car, by the way, doesn’t have soft leather seats. Wish it did.
Corduroy – I don’t particularly like the feel of corduroy when I’m wearing such trousers, and the ‘zippy’ noise they make when walking takes one back to every member of the 'projectionists' club' one knew in school, but the texture of the fabric under the fingers is kind of cool.
Beach sand – It must be white or golden and very fine to really work, but running dry sand through the fingers is rather sensual. .
Bubble wrap – All God’s children love bubble wrap. What more is there to say? I could include Velcro in the same category.
In all those categories of sensual and sensory sensations there is one very important omission which was omitted for the sake of propriety, but absolutely all categories apply in that realm, too. Nuff sed.
Give it a try. It’s kind of fun.


Monday, October 22, 2007

I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam


I have been turning my hand to fiction writing for the past couple of months and, even though my background is factual and journalistic, it’s been an interesting experience. I am actually very pleased about where I am so far. My only problem is an almost obsessive impulse to make my protagonist a variation of ‘me’ in one form or another.

In conversation with a couple of successful novelist friends, both maintained it’s virtually impossible to not be somewhat autobiographical. “You write what you know,” was the basic opinion. “The person you know best is yourself. With others, you can only guess from observation.”

It has been said, in that context, that Hemingway’s women really sucked because they only came from the perspective of his ‘macho dude’ persona. Yet, novelist Wally Lamb, with She’s Come Undone successfully wrote a tale of the trials and tribulations of an overweight female, and he carried it off so well that female readers couldn’t believe the book wasn’t written by a member of their own sex.

I mean, I really, really like women (too much, a few times in my past), but I am not so sure I could second-guess the psyche or motivations of females, even ones I know very well. I don’t think I would have been married three times if I was completely in tune with the way women think.

At this point in my writing process, I’m unsure of exactly the direction my book is going to take and that, of course, is part of the adventure. But, I do want to include some ‘rounded’ other characters, and I also want to include some events with which I might not have personally experienced. I’ll let you know how I do with that. However, I have decided, for the sake of veracity, to confine myself as much as possible to that which I either know or have experienced.

So, I can write about:

- Having been divorced and remarried
- Having seen a dead person
- Having had a friendship (non-sexual) with a prostitute
- Watching a person go through heroin withdrawal
- Making love in the moonlight on a Hawaiian beach
- Being drunk
- Smoking pot – many years ago, and like Bill, I DID NOT inhale
- Having been in an adulterous relationship at the time of my first marriage
- Having been shot at (nothing to do with the adulterous r/ship)
- Having lived in the UK
- Meeting assorted so-called ‘illustrious’ people
- Having traveled fairly extensively
- Riding the London Underground
- Having been embedded by the police to join them in a drug raid for the sake of a story
- Riding in a jet fighter plane (way cool!)

And lots more during my years on the planet. But, you get my drift in this regard. By the same context, I would find it difficult to add an entirely truthful flavour to the following:

- Having murdered someone
- Having robbed a bank
- Using IV drugs
- Being in a war zone
- Having a homosexual encounter. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, as Seinfeld said, just not within my proclivities
- Travelling in Asia or Africa. Haven’t been to either -- yet
- Suffered starvation
- Been raped
- Been in prison. OK, once, when I was young and foolish, I was in jail for 12 hours (horrible experience but, hey, ‘material’). But, that’s not quite the same as the ‘big house’

Likewise, I could go on and on with this list. But, I think you get my point.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mama don't allow no reefer tokin' round here

There is no truth to the rumor that the BC Ferry Workers’ Union has added ‘Reefer Break’ to its next set of contract demands.

But, it wouldn’t be so far-fetched if it were, in light of the findings of the federal investigation into the sinking of the Queen of the North in which two passengers lost their lives. I blogged about the event on March 23, 2006.

Those findings, by the way, ascertained that crewmembers were regular partakers of cannabis sativa when they were on duty. Oh, and by the way, that aforementioned investigation has taken longer to see the light of day than I’m sure an investigation would have taken in any bureaucracy constipated former Soviet republic. Ponderously slow are the powers that be in this red tape and human rights issues constipated country of ours.

I won’t even go into the rumors that two members of the crew were also ‘making the beast with two backs’ in some lovenest when they were supposed to be on the bridge around the time that the big boat collided with an even bigger island that grim night.

Anyway, the findings of the investigation were largely moot, much as most British Columbians suspected. Anybody who knows anything about anybody who works on this (one of the largest ferry fleets in the world) collection of boats also is pretty aware that ‘BC Bud’ is heavily utilized, along with assorted other intoxicants on a frighteningly regular basis.

Even more shocking is the fact that assorted officers have been fully aware for years that the boys and girls sneak off for a joint either between shifts or even while on duty.

Most shocking of all, to me, is the fact that there has never been any mandatory pee-testing in place for the crews.

"We ain't smokin' no reefer, boss, really."
"Oh, well that's OK, then."

Now, I am not suggesting that 100 percent of the crew is ‘bogarting’ joints all over the place, but what I am suggesting is that if even one crewmember is intoxicated while on duty, said crewmember should have his or her ass fired posthaste.

But, say the feds, we won’t call for mandatory drug tests because they might involve violation of human rights. To this I say, I think the two people who died on that fateful night had their human rights violated to the nth degree. They had the right to continued life violated. So I say, screw human rights in this case. The feds, however, let themselves off the hook by saying the employer can bring about such testing, and has every right to.

The corporation, however, is running pants-wetting scared about that possibility. They point out (correctly) that tests for cannabis will run hot for a long time after use (about 20 to 30 days, as a matter of fact). So, they don’t think tests will work. I say, tests will work fine. And how they will work fine is that the use of marijuana is forbidden for those who possess those very highly paid jobs on the BC Ferry Fleet. Is that truly a hardship? If any crewmember thinks so, then said crewmember should maybe consider a little substance abuse counselling.

The thing of it is, the public has to rely on the safety of these craft. Why should my family or I ride on a conveyance that is being crewed by somebody who just might be (as we used to say in the rehab biz) “ripped to the tits” whilst on duty. Airlines, for example, have very tight restrictions on the use of intoxicants, any intoxicants, by crewmembers. And, violation results in firing.

That is exactly as it should be.

And that is exactly as it should be on the BC Ferry Fleet. Anything less than that, then the public can only conclude that its welfare is of secondary concern to both the federal government and the BC Ferries management.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Trying not to lose it at the market

It’s happened a thousand times, but it never fails to piss me off and bring out the latent curmudgeon in me. I’m at a checkout line in the supermarket with Wendy and the pert little 19-ish checkout clerk says chirpily: “So, how are you guys today?”

I resist the impulse to put a hand under one of my wife’s breasts and say: “See these? It should be obvious to anybody that she’s not a guy.”

But, my primary point is, why are you even using the overly-familiar and somewhat disrespectful term ‘guys’ with a customer? What is wrong with “you people, you folks,” just plain “you” or even the southern “you all?” The curmudgeon in me suggests it is both too familiar – I’m sure you are a perfectly nice young lady, but we are not buddies (unless we do actually happen to be buddies), so why the familiarity. Furthermore, I am older than you are, so maybe a little deference is in order.

To me it's bad manners, and I don’t know why employers don’t stress with kids (because it’s almost always kids) the proper protocols for addressing members of the purchasing public. I don't really blame the kids, I blame those who should have taught them how to behave and obviously didn't. If I ran a business such a level of politeness would be drummed into my staff. In fact, to be fair, two stores in which I've always been treated politely and respectfully are the big boxes, Wal-Mart and Costco. But, I also know they have distinct standards for staff behavior.

I don’t mean to suggest I’m not a friendly person. In the same context, I like friendly clerks. But, what a lot of young people don’t seem to understand is that there is a wealth of difference between friendliness and familiarity. Your customers aren’t your buddies, unless they happen to really be your buddies. There’s one young woman who works in our market that Wendy and I regard as almost a surrogate daughter. She’s a young single mom who is having a tough time working, finishing her education, and all sorts of things. But, we really like her and have built up a nice friendship with her. She too says “you guys” but, the difference is, she’s allowed to because we have passed that boundary into familiarity with her.

I guess my real point would be is that a lot of kids don’t seem to be trained any longer in any realms of politesse by parents, schools and business operators. Regardless of how a kid might they might like to see it, not everybody in their lives are their equals -- at least not at this callow point in their lifespans. Certain positions demand a certain amount of respect. It's just the way it is. If the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were to walk up to their till, it would be unacceptable to say: "Liz -- Phil -- howzit goin'?"

A number of years ago, when I lived in the UK, I had to be involved in a few meetings with one of the department managers at our local Barclay’s Bank. The meetings were to do with some fund exchange glitches between Canada and my account in the UK. The woman, who was a very nice person, was a Miss Schofield. I don’t know what her real name was. It might have been Judy, or Linda, or Susie-Creamcheez Schofield, but I only knew her as Miss Schofield. That’s how it should have been. And, to her, I was always Mr. Lidster, That was how it should have also been.

So, it still niggles a bit when I go into my local bank, deal with a clerk with whom I’ve never met before since she appears to be new, and at the end of the transaction, she calls me 'Ian.' It irks.

A favorite bugbear of many people in this regard is that their doctor will refer to them by first name, but demands the honorific ‘Dr.’ in front of his or her last name.

Sorry, this works two ways. Since my doctor ceased calling me Mr, Lidster a number of years ago, I took on myself to Call him Rob. He seems OK with it. If he hadn’t been and had raised an objection, I would have politely told him, “Then, my name, to you, is Mr. Lidster.”

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Friday, October 19, 2007

No-no, it's OK -- honestly -- really

So, I’m out for coffee the other morning and the proprietor of my favorite place, a 45-ish attractive woman whom I like very much, as she is friendly, chatty, funny and welcoming, just like a hospitality industry operator should be. I’ve been going there for a few years, so we know each other quite well.

“So, I’m off to Palm Springs in just two weeks,” she tells me. I say that such a trip sounds very appealing and that Wendy and I hope to take the same one in January or February, just to get away from the cold and wet.

“Only problem is, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t been able to get done all the things I want to do before I go away. I haven’t even made an appointment for a bikini wax.”

Wait a minute, I thought. Do I want to know this? Do I want my imagination to be going below your waistband rather than just thinking what a decent cup of coffee you offer. In other words, for me at least, that was ‘too much information.’

Now, I’m not a delicate soul, and I have been down certain roads sometimes too many times, and I know how most things work human anatomy-wise and otherwise. Furthermore, I am the farthest person from being prudish. But, you see, it’s a matter of seeing certain people in certain contexts. She serves me coffee. We don’t share a locker-room, bathroom or bedroom, nor am I seeking such intimacy.

Much as I decry the modern era, there are certain facets I like very much, including the breakdown of unnecessary prudish mores. At the same time, I am struck by the fact that some people just maybe go a little too far in their ‘sharing’, some other people go ‘waaaaaaaaaaaaay’ too far in their sharing. Unless I’m your gynecologist, there are just certain things I don’t want to know. I kinda like ‘mystique’, if you will.

So, I have (as a public service, you understand) divided unwelcome information into two categories. They are: Too Much Information (TMI), and Way Too Much Information (WTMI).

It’s all a matter of degree, of course. There are things I might share with my wife or other loved ones that I will not share with the public at large, no matter how fond I might be of individuals therein. Consider, if you will:


- The aforementioned bikini waxing and other intimate cosmetic procedures
- Anecdotes about family members whom I’ve never met, unless there is a tale of great importance in a general sense
- Marital woes of an intimate nature
- Stories of your mental breakdown or suicide attempt at 17. I’m not your therapist
- Stories of how drunk you got at some shindig or other. Tales of the debaucheries of others are horribly boring
- Longwinded stories about your pets
- In-depth recounting of the plot of a movie or book
- Declaring how urgently you have to pee at the moment of conversation. Just go, then, for heaven’s sake. I don’t need to know
- Your own political, religious, or racial views. I don’t want to hear about them and, if I find them repellent, I will have to change my assessment of you. At times it’s just good to shut-up.


- unless I’m in an intimate relationship with you, I don’t really want to hear about your favorite sexual techniques, turn-ons, kinks, and infidelities
- infidelity as a category of its own. If I know your spouse or sexual partner, and you tell me that you or your opposite is fooling around, I will have to reappraise both of you
- your intimate behaviors with your partner
- Criticisms of a spouse or partner when he or she isn’t present. That’s both tacky and cowardly - Tales of abuse in your marriage. Scary stuff. So, what do you want from me. Should I call the cops?
- Any recounting of bowel or bladder habits and woes, incontinence, frequency of movements, and so forth, are just plain distasteful. This is between you and your intimate partner, or you and your doctor

You can probably think of many, many other TMI and WTMI examples, but those are mine for today.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

This is for the birds

I noticed yesterday that my fish have stopped feeding. That means that fall is in full sway, and they’re beginning to go into winter dormancy. They’re not such amazing fish – just a single koi and three oversized goldfish – but they’re mine, have been around for a few years, and I quite like them. No fuss, no muss. They just live in their little pond world. It’s not only their world, but it’s their entire universe. It’s all that they know, so their wants and needs are simple.

Once they’ve stopped feeding though, I know it’s time for the birds to come back. I’ve seen a few towhees, chickadees and juncos, so I’ll have to get the bird feeders up to look out for their needs. Some killjoys say you shouldn’t feed wild birds, because it makes them dependent and lazy about foraging for themselves. Well, considering that the average ‘foraging for himself’ wild bird has a life expectancy of something like 11-months, I won’t lose sleep over my violation of nature in the raw. I compromise by not feeding them in the summer. Then there is a lot of stuff they can find on their own.

I like my birds. When I was young I couldn’t think of anything so dorky and unappealing as bird watching. Now, I watch birds. Last year we got a lazuli bunting around the place for a few days. It was very cool and beautiful. So, yes, I bird watch, and even note them down. No, I don’t go on expeditions, but I can understand why people do.

Birds have always gotten a lot of bad press. They’re considered stupid. Well, dumber than mammals, hence expressions like “birdbrain.” Not so, of course. Parrots, for example, are remarkably smart, as are crows and ravens. Hell, crows even use tools. Birds are also capable of emotion. Geese, swans and eagles (among others) mate for life, and if one member of the couple dies, the other will often pine away. Ducks, on the other hand, will screw anything, and indulge in even gay encounters, or will cross species attempt to get it on. Ducks are the barflies of the bird world.

Anyway, I have some favorite birds, domestic and otherwise. They include:

- Towhees
- Robins
- Crows
- Ducks
- Chickadees
- Stellers Jays
- Swallows
- Hawks
- Owls
- Pelicans
- English robins
- Cardinals
- Brazilian cardinals (Hawaii)
- Zebra doves (Hawaii)

And a lot of other ones. There, that’s my testament to the avian world this rainy fall day.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The race will go to the slick

If I’ve learned nothing else in my few years on this planet, I have learned this: The fix is in!

Doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, or what philosophy or faith you adhere to, the fix is in and accolades, plum jobs, contracts, awards and so forth will go to people that other people in positions of influence have decided should get the strokes. Those who labor in the ranks will largely go unrecognized and unlauded.

What, for example, of the nuns who toiled away in festering Indian communities in the cause of Mother Theresa? Mother T. got the hype and the face-time, but Sisters Cecelia, Marie-Celeste, and Bambi (well, there may have been one called that) went unrecognized.

As another example, were you really remotely surprised that Porky Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize? Do you think Hillary Clinton had to change her undies when she soiled them after hearing the news? Scatological cheapshot notwithstanding, I had to wonder about this, just considering the guy just might try now to get the Democratic nomination, despite the fact he (sort of) lost to a ‘loser’ one other time around.

At the same time, I remain perplexed about him winning the prize he did. I mean, it’s the ‘Peace’ prize, for heaven’s sake, not the ‘Flavor of the Moment’ Prize. In this I do not take from Gore’s quest to save the world from ‘us’ and he has raised some points that must be regarded with the utmost seriousness, despite the fact he is not (stress ‘is not’) a climate scientist. But, he is big news at the moment, so he slipped in quite effectively in a global competition that has become in recent years something of a popularity and political contest, rather than a genuine award that truly recognizes those who have made great strides in the direction of global peace, or science, or medicine, or literature. Otherwise, how does one explain those who write in Finno-Ugric or Basque winning the literature prizes? “Great books and understandable to at least nine people worldwide.”

At least, that’s what I think.

It has been said that the world consists of B-students working for C-plus student managers who answer to C-minus student corporate bosses. Not saying I agree, but certainly not saying I disagree. Just think about some of the people you have either answered to, or continue to answer to.

When I worked in the school system I saw rampant and flagrant examples of accolades and rewards going to a certain inner circle – an inept and untalented inner circle as often as not. That was because those who made the promotion decisions were ‘slap-you-on-the-back’ group of philistine ex-jocks. So, who was to be named to a principalship? You got it, and it wasn’t the studious English or biology teacher who was a master of his or her craft and to whom students remain grateful to this day.

At my wife’s high school, the vice-principal was a well-known ex pro football player.

“He was a moron,” says my wife. “And worse, he was obnoxious and self-impressed.”

But, he was a jock old-boy. Even better, he was a ‘name’ jock old boy.

All bureaucracies are rampant with these inequities of Peter Principle in action. Government agencies are required, for example, to advertise executive job opportunities. Good little drones from the ranks send in their resumes in hope of moving on from wherever they happen to be. Yet, why should they bother? Those in the position to make the decisions have already decided who will get the position, so the job posting was just pro-forma bullshit.

Do I say these things out of bitterness? Not a bit of it. But I say tem as a reflection of one of life’s little realities. A reality that makes me happy that I work for myself. I can praise myself or indict myself as I see fit.

As a final thought, especially if you are inclined to get overly exercised about rewards going to the undeserving, remember that there is absolutely no mention in the Bible or other Holy Books about “fair.”


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I don't want truth, tell me the bad stuff

Everyone knows the tale of Lizzie Borden, the Massachusetts spinster who did whack her mom and dad with an axe 40 times, as the legend goes. What many people either don’t know, or choose to not believe, is that poor old Lizzie was acquitted.

  • Fatty Arbuckle, the rotund silent film comic who did, it was said, force his drunken carnal attentions on a young party girl at a time she was in dire need of a pee. The result was, her bladder burst during the encounter, and she died of peritonitis. Fatty was charged. But, again it is not generally known is that he was exonerated.

    Whether or not the aforementioned were really guilty or innocent doesn’t matter, the point is that we choose to believe they were guilty because it makes the tale more enticing. Neither Lizzie nor Fatty will ever get a posterity break. Unfair? You bet it is. And it’s not far removed from one of us believing that a friend is involved in an affair because you saw him or her having a drink in a bar with a desirable person of the opposite sex. In fact, it was a sharing of a potable after a business meeting, and nothing more questionable than that. But how much more fun to believe the gossipy possibility. “Frank and Helen broke up? Well, I’m not surprised, because you know he was having an affair.”

    That’s because there is a human tendency to believe gossip more than truth, according to a study mounted by the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Even when we know the truth of the situation, we are (at least some of us are) more enticed by the seamier side of possibilities. We will listen to what others say rather than opt for that which is real. Eventually the falsehood assumes a life of its own and that part lives on in legend.

    As an example, most people know that British naval hero Lord Nelson was blind in one eye. And down through the years he has been pictured as having a black eye patch. In two films on his life (focusing his torrid affair with Lady Hamilton) he was depicted by Olivier and Peter Finch as sporting an eye patch. Truth of the matter: He never wore an eye patch. But, isn’t it much more fitting for a randy old seadog like Nelson to have a patch? Of course. Hence the patch.

    There are others who are so obsessed with their own version of the world, that conflicts with the reality, that they devote time and energy to finding validation of a belief that suits them best.

    Hence, you have:

    - A few thousand Elvis sightings every year.
    - A belief that Jim Morrison of the Doors is still wandering around Paris
    - An obsession that man never walked on the Moon and that the whole landing thing was filmed in a highly arid area of Arizona, Nevada, California or New Mexico
    - That there is an alien sequestered away somewhere around Rosewell
    - The Royal Family was behind a plot to bump off Princess Diana
    - A belief that Paris Hilton underwent such a transformation in jail she is truly going to devote the rest of her life to good works.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

I think I'm doing OK in 'all' areas, thanks

I had no idea I was so inadequate in the sexual equipment department, but it seems like about 10,000 spammers seem to think I am, considering the number of times they exhort me to check out their products to enhance both my ‘protuberance-ness’ and my performance.

So, my only question would be, does anybody ever respond to this crap? Is it a viable marketing option for somebody out there? Are mega-millions being made because some men are feeling inadequate dick-wise.

“I know that’s why I never get a date. I just don’t have enough ‘there’ there. It’s got nothing to do with my hideous personality, controlling nature, propensity to violence, major addictions, appalling personal hygiene, or the fact I look like Quasimodo on a bad day, it’s because I’m inadequate down there.”

Anyway, the motivation for this blog has little to do with sexual performance, but much to do with ‘advertising’ in all its glory.

The world quite literally revolves around advertising, branding, cajoling, and references to all our inadequacies, in such realms as sex, beauty, domestic bliss, child-rearing or, as a nod to an aging boomer population, not wetting yourself in a public place.

My ex-wife was an advertising sales person. That was essentially all she’d done in her adult life. She sold ads for newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, and she made a reasonable amount of coin in so doing. But, she hated the business. She hated it because she said the job is a means of selling somebody something they really don’t want to buy, but feel they must if they want their business to prosper. So, if they opened up a big account, and their business still failed they, of course, blamed her.

Of all the forms of advertising, however, there is one that galls me the most. No, it’s not sexual performance enhancers, it’s insurance. I have friends in the insurance business, so I don’t want to offend them, but I have to say that I think insurance is one of the crassest businesses around. It’s crass because it prays on our fears and our desire to not been seen as an awful human being.

“So, Charlie must really hate the wife and kids because I tried to sell him a full-life policy the other day, and he balked.”

Well, Charlie may indeed be a selfish sonofabitch who doesn’t see why he should spend big money on something he’ll never get the benefit of.

“Screw them. What do I care what happens to them after I’m dead?”

I’m being silly there, of course, and I think also that Charlie is a selfish sonofabitch for not seeing that the family is well-cared for should he suffer an early demise. And considering his nasty attitude, he probably suffers from road-rage and somebody’s gonna take him out with a .38 prematurely.

And, there are other forms of insurance that I must concede are essential, like auto insurance. If I’m left paralyzed by some drunken yoyo on the highway, I want his insurance company to keep me for the rest of my days.

But, I am left with an important question. Why is my bank going into the insurance racket? Why is a major department store at which I have a credit account in the insurance business? Why are they trying to sell me insurance at my age? Why don’t I tell them to take a flying jump at themselves for having gone into a business they shouldn’t be in?

Well, actually I have. But, relatively politely. That’s my problem. I’m too polite. They should have insurance for that.

Oh, and regarding my sexual equipment and/or prowess. I get no complaints, so quite spamming me.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hey, you smell like Kew Gardens in lilac time, really you do

That big date! She's beautiful and you are handsome and you spend the evening at a fine restaurant, and maybe go and do a little dancing later. Yet, at 10 p.m. she begins to yawn and protest she's very fatigued and that perhaps it's time to call it a day. Your heart leaps up. This was all code, because she was really saying: "Let's go back to my place Big Boy, and I'll show you wonders you've never experienced before!"
Yet, you arrive at her doorstep all agog, but all you get is a perfunctory handshake and she's gone. You call her over the next two weeks, but each time her mom says she's washing her hair, and she'll get back to you. She never does.
And then, it comes to you. You realize what your problem is: Halitosis! You, buddy, have rotten disgusting breath and she was trying to keep from retching all evening.
Of all the possible sources of personal insecurity, halitosis is a really big one. You can stink under the arms like a barn on a torrid July afternoon, but if your breath smells bad, you're toast, date-wise. Seriously, people feel really inadequate about their breath. They mainly feel inadquate because they who emit foul fumes cannot tell if their breath is bad, whereas if you're exuding other disgusting odors, you generally have a pretty good idea.
Now, be honest, how many of you have ever blown into your own hand, hoping to discern the state of your breath? Doesn't work. Of course, certain factors may be a giveaway. If your teeth are rotting out of your head, if you've just been on a three day binge, if you've consumed a gallon of strong coffee and a carton of cigarettes, you probably don't smell bandbox. Otherwise, however, your breath is a mystery.
But, a team of researchers have put a pox on all of this. Recent findings, as reported a couple of days ago, have shown that 80 percent of people who live in fear of halitosis have absolutely nothing to worry about. True halitosis is actually remarkably rare, and often tells of an underlying medical condition rather than just lousy oral hygiene.
So, keep on chewing those garlic cloves prior to a big date. Not only will your girl not be offended, she will be reassured that you are keeping werewolves at bay. Or is it vampires? Probably works for both.
So, take that Listerine and Lavoris


Friday, October 12, 2007

These musty tomes meant something to me

This enjoyable meme was passed along by susan at heart in sanfrancisco. When I saw it, I couldn’t resist. It’s all about books, you see and, like so many of you, despite all the revolutionary electronic changes about us, I still like the feel, look, and even smell of pages between covers. Needless to say, the content delights me even more.

Of all the pleasures of life, and there are many, books are still my mainstay, my anchor, my solace at the end of the day, or visiting the john in the morning. I learned to read before I went to school, and essentially taught myself. I guess it came as something of a natural that later I should earn my living via the printed word. I did some work one time with a local literacy organization, and it was beyond my comprehension as to what it would be like to be unable to read.

By the time I could read with some ease, all and everything (well, at least some things) opened up for me. And, from that point, I read voraciously. I remember a conversation with a bunch of young yahoo friends (of sorts) in eighth grade in which I made an observation about something: “How do you know that, Lidster?” one of the unenlightened young urchins asked in a challenging way. “I read it,” I vouchsafed. “Whaddya do, fuckin’ read all the time?” he asked, as if reading was something shameful. After that I was inclined to keep my mouth shut for a while, really until I got to university, at which time it was acceptable to read once again. I kept my mouth shut in the intervening years, as I suggested, but didn’t stop reading.

So, as follows are heart’s questions, as passed onto her by another blogger:
1. How many books do I own? Probably a thousand plus, but I’ve never really counted. I have books I bought last week, and I have books from my earliest childhood, including conventional Beatrix Potter, the Alice books, Winnie the Pooh, and a later much-decried little curiosity from a much more racially stereotyping time, concerning three little black girls and their “Grandmammy.” The girls were known as Rowena, Teena and Tot and they went picking blackberries with the aforementioned Grandmammy.
2. What was the last book read? The Quiet American, by Graham Greene. I’m near the end of it. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it. It offers some excellent insights into the origins of the Vietnam conflict, but in novel form.
3. What was the last book I bought? Difficult to narrow down, since I usually buy more than one at a time, and I love book sales of the sort mounted locally by Friends of the Library and the Rotary Club. The last new book, from a remaindered bin, was Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith, by Andrew Wilson. Ms. Highsmith is the ‘troubled’ (to state the case mildly; she makes Carson McCullers look like an advertisement for mental health) author of a number of riveting tales, including Strangers on a Train (filmed by Hitchcock decades ago, and still gripping) and The Talented Mr. Ripley, the consummate study in psychopathic behavior. I rarely read only one book at a time, so the aforementioned have been interspersed with assorted ‘true crime’ tomes, especially those by the brilliant Ann Rule, whose tale The Stranger Beside Me is considered the the definitive study of the evil Ted Bundy.

4. Five meaningful books that I've read:
i. Dr. Zhivago: I read this in my early 20s, around the time Pasternak won the Nobel Prize for literature, but was forbidden by his Soviet overlords to pick it up. It was challenging, and the Russian names were confusing, but at the end of it, it was worth the effort. It’s a brilliant novel, filled with meaning, both human and political,and has a cruel twist at the end. The movie, the delectable Julie Christie notwithstanding, doesn’t really do it justice.
ii. Huckleberry Finn: I have often attested that if a person were to have access to no other writers, he or she couldn’t go wrong with Mark Twain and Shakespeare. HF is a brilliant novel (and not one designed especially for young people, as was Tom Sawyer. It is a study of freedom, and it’s a study of bondage, and Twain shows brilliantly that freedom and bondage are not necessarily what we think they are. It’s also an exquisite expose of a harsh, cruel and corrupt time that, in some regards, isn’t so different from today.
iii. Anything by Shakespeare, but especially the historical plays: I minored in British history, and I am a complete anglophile, and Shakespeare takes me to an earlier time in these studies of power, and the corruption of power. To top it off, the strength of the language is, well, delicious. Especially enchanting to me are the studies of Henry IV and Henry V.

iv. Candy, by Terry Southern: This came out in the 1960s, and it’s a might dirty and obscene little book that is also side-splittingly funny and has never received the accord it should have been given. It’s a spoof of Voltaire’s Candide, but much, much naughtier, but kinda cute in its own way.
v. The Rainbow, by D.H. Lawrence. This book is the precursor to Women in Love and is, to me, a superior vehicle. A study of class conflict, human passion and status in the early 20th Century. Much, much better than the somewhat overhyped Lady Chatterley's Lover, though not quite as bawdy.
OK, this was very difficult. And, each time I put a book down in my list of five, I thought of 10 others. If you are a reader and take on the task, you’ll find the same thing happening. I mean, hell, I didn’t even touch on Dorothy Parker, Evelyn Waugh, Kingsley Amis, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Margaret Lawrence, Kurt Vonnegut, John Updike, Paul Theroux, Bill Bryson, Thomas Mann, and about 40,000 others that come to mind.At the end, I am not going to tag, much as heart didn’t, I am only going to reiterate that if you feel so inclined, please note it so I can read your selections.


OK -- now it's time to come clean about this 'practice'

I admit it. I’m weak. I sometimes succumb to the temptation, and after I have given in to my baser instincts, then I end up racked with guilt and vow to not go there again – at least not for a while.

Do I refer to carnal vice, unspeakable sexual practices, porn surfing, or any other salacious activity? No, those are all OK in moderation. What I am referring to is ‘Googling’. Yes, now it’s out and I almost feel a bit cleansed by the admission, for I am periodically given to ‘Googling’ myself. Now that I have declared myself and my weakness, I’d just darn well like to know how many of you do the same thing.

There was a time once when we would go through life never really knowing what sort of impression we made on others. If we were public figures, we got a bit of press and TV coverage, but if we were ordinary schmoes, then we could only rely on the lies of our loved ones to know if we had any sort of profile.

And then came Google, in all its manifold glory. All I (or any of you) need to do is type in your name and see just how many references there are to you. If you have a fairly singular name (as do I), then it’s pretty easy, since most of the references under my name, will refer specifically to me. If your name is John Smith or Susan Jones it’s likely a bit more of a challenge.

When I first began self-googling I made excuses for the practice. I told myself (filled with denial, of course) that I was only doing it for professional reasons. I mean, I am a writer and I wanted to know if any of myself was being picked up and reprinted elsewhere. But then, as always happens with our vices, it became a bit obsessional. I did it more regularly, and began seeking obscure references to myself, you know, way up on screen #15 or somesuch. Ultimately, and to my shame, indeed mortification, it became a daily practice. That was too much. I grew afraid that others might find out.

What is the motivation for such a thing? I guess I’ll have to concede that it’s ego. We like to know we’re having some sort of impact. And, ego is not such a bad thing. If Michelangelo’s had no ego, we wouldn’t have had ‘David.’ If Shakespeare hadn’t been ego-driven, then the Hamlet manuscript would have been left in some Tudor dustbin because humble Will didn’t think it was “good enough.”

So, we all need a tad of egocentricity. And, if you are feeling shunned and rejected; if things aren’t going so well at work; if your spouse thinks you’re a putz or putzette, then get out there and Google yourself. You might be refreshingly surprised.

So, time to come clean. How many of you Google yourself once in a while? How many of you Google other bloggers?

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Monty's Jade will go on, and on, and on, and on

The other day I was vacuuming (as opposed to having sex, in case you were wondering, because you know you can’t do both) when I knocked over Monty’s Jade Plant while in the process of moving the dreadful thing. I got jade plant bits and potting soil all over the place. But, I cleaned it up. I did, however, think this was a good excuse to be rid of the goddamn thing forever.

OK – why ‘Monty’s’ Jade plant, I am sure you are all asking? Well, it came about a few years go when I was running the rehab I’ve told you about. One afternoon at the end of the day, the cook came out and pointed to the top of the refrigerator and said, in her own inimitable way, distilled (no pun intended) from serving grub to junkies and alcoholics for years: “Why don’t you take that fucking thing home with you?” She was pointing at a bedraggled looking jade plant that was sitting on the fridge top. It was dusty, cobweb festooned, and just generally wretched. “I don’t think it’s been watered in a year,” she continued. “I was hoping that would kill it, but it doesn’t seem to have worked.”

She told me the plant was given to Monty -- one of my predecessors as administrator -- by a client.

“The client must have really hated him,” I opined.

You see, at this point I must say that, as a lover of all things green and bountiful, I have an almost singular detestation for jade plants. I find them ugly, spongy, and uninspiring. 'Succulent's is a word I find rather sensual, but not when it's applied to a certain type of plant -- like jade. I do not want a jade in my house.

But, as an afficionado of herbal stuff in general, I didn’t like the idea of the plant suffering; being slowly murdered, so I acceded to the cook’s request. Maybe Wendy might like it, I thought. I didn’t know if it would change my feelings about Wendy if she did actually like it, but I was prepared to find out.

Now, I must point out that while this plant had been sort of maimed and mutilated, it was also rather huge, and sat in a pot that seemed to weigh about 75-pounds. But, I got it in the trunk of my car, and home it went with me.

I cannot say that Wendy was enchanted when she saw it, but she felt it might be ‘ressurectable’. Worse luck, it was. So, we’ve had it kicking around for about five years now. In the winter it gets to stay indoors, cluttering up the front window, and in summer it goes on the patio. It seems to like that fresh air. It’s green and lustrous, but still a jade plant. When Wendy took the job in Victoria about a year ago, and we needed to set up part-time digs in an apartment, I suggested she take the Monty Jade with her, just as a reminder of home. She agreed she would, and in Victoria the thing has prospered even more. It’s larger and healthier than it ever was.

The real Monty died a few months ago, which was sad, as he was a nice guy, but I think this gave the jade a stronger grip on survival, as a kind of commemorative thing. On Monty’s death it sprouted a lot of new growth.

And then there was my incident (I think it was an accident) of a couple of days ago. But, the Monty Jade was unfazed. I think it’s laughing at me and saying, “You won’t get rid of me that easily, buddy. Monty’s gone, but I’m doing better than ever. Maybe I’m telling you something.”

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