Sunday, December 30, 2007

Been there, done that, don't want to go back

Maybe it’s much too early in the game
Ah, but I thought I’d ask you just the same
What are you doing New Year’s
New Year’s Eve?

Dateless on New Year’s Eve: what could be worse? You had to plan months ahead sometimes – at least until you had a steady – to make sure you wouldn’t be without a kissy-face partner for when the ball dropped at that mystical time.

But then I found, once I had that kissy-face steady, that sometimes there were spare females wandering around a larger social gathering back in the days of my callow and heedless youth. Consequently, one time, after having visited the beverage site with too much indiscretion, and having noticed those spare females, I engaged one in very, very fond embrace in an upper hallway of the house in which the party was being held. In fact, kissing her passionately, and with my hand well down the back of her long skirt, my steady’s best girlfriend wandered by. Any excuse that I was administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation wouldn’t fly, I knew.

Anyway, girlfriend’s girlfriend never told my steady, but she was notably chilly with me for a few months after Jan. 1. As for the other girl; I have no idea what her name was.

And that to me epitomized all that I particularly loathe about New Year’s Eve. And, as the senseless hedonism of youth loses its allure, I find this fabricated festive time even more irksome.

Over the years I went to house-parties galore. Then we went to a couple of soirees held at local hotel ballrooms. They were singularly detestable exercises in forced frivolity. Do you really want to kiss somebody you don’t know, have never even seen before, and don’t even find especially attractive? I know I don’t. Not any longer I don’t.

So, it came as no surprise to me to read that a majority of Canadians, especially those past 40, essentially do absolutely nothing on New Year’s Eve. That news was also comforting. It let me know I am not either weird or antisocial. Well, the jury might be out on the weird part, but I’m not antisocial. I just don’t want to be told that this is an occasion in which I should have no-holds-barred fun. I’ve had that (see girl with long skirt) and it was a tiny bit enchanting. I no longer want that, anymore than I world want to wake up to an aching head due to overindulgence and lack of sleep.

Anyway, it's never been the same since Guy Lombardo shuffled off this mortal coil.

So, Wendy and I will have our own NYE. We’ll put on some nice music, the fireplace will be blazing, we’ll light some candles, and we’ll eat the lobsters we just bought.

I’ll then ask (from here on the west coast) if it is yet midnight on the east coast. If it is, we can have our NYE kiss without interference, and then maybe stay up a bit longer, or snuggle into our own comfortable king size. That does work for me, quite satisfyingly.

Happy New Year to you all!


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hmm, must reassess my views on chimpanzees

I’ve never been much into monkeys and apes. I make exceptions for the mighty and sad gorillas (in the mist, and otherwise), and the orang-utans of SE Asia. But, regularly monkeys I find to be dirty and nasty, and far too concerned with their own genitalia.

Among the more overrated of their lot are everybody’s favorite showbiz apes, the chimpanzees. I frankly don’t like them. I don’t find them funny when they’re anthropomorphized, and any film of TV show with a chimp in it is not going to be watched by me. Furthermore, chimps in the wild are truly nasty animals, not to be trifled with. I say, let’s not trifle with any of them.

But then I read something about chimps the other day that kind of redeemed them for me. Chimps, according to the article, really, really hate clowns. Clowns at a circus have to be very careful to not walk past the chimps because the chimps will (literally) go apeshit.

That speaks well of chimps. For even if I have some antipathy for their species, I dislike clowns much more. Everybody of sense and sensibility hates clowns – or should. Clowns are not funny, they are evil. Chimps seem to know that at some sort of primal level.

Actually, it’s odd about such primal fears. They’ve done experiments with monkeys in which they stick a rubber snake in a cage with young monkeys – young monkeys raised in captivity who have never seen a snake in the wild – and the monkeys will go insane with terror at the faux serpent. That’s genetic programming for you. In other words, somehow the message gets through at a cellular level that snakes are greatly to be feared in the wild, and the monkeys who will never see the wilds, still have the fear.

Back to clowns. Were there bizarre jungle clowns that terrorized chimps in the past? It’s similar to the question one might ask about the common housecat: what were cats most afraid of before there were vacuum cleaners?

Oh, and about clowns. I make an exception for Krusty because he shows the true sinister nature of the clown in all its debauched hideousness. I like his honesty.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Tiger-Tiger burning bright -- no more

TIGER, tiger, burning bright In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
- William Blake

A number of years ago an outdoors writer at the newspaper at which I toiled raised a bit of a foofaraw amongst the more sensitive of his readers by taking the side of a cougar in camping trip attack in which a family’s beloved toy poodle found its way into the big cat’s gullet. The owners of said poodle – which had been yapping at the giant feline that outweighed it about 100 times – were distraught over the incident, of course.

Our writer said, and I paraphrase: “Considering the number of cougars that have been tracked down and killed by dogs over the years, I think this turnabout was fair play.”

Cougars, the most magnificent animals to be seen in these parts, are invariably hunted by killers with packs of dogs which proceed to tree the beast so the paid assassin of cougars (and they exist and are called into play whenever a community is collectively wetting its pants over the sight of a -- gasp! -- wild animal in its midst) can expedite it with a bullet.

What the anti-cougar brigade tends to forget is that the cougar ain’t encroaching on their space, they are encroaching on his. And when the big guy turns nasty, he is only doing what he is programmed to do. He’s a carnivorous predator, that’s his job.

And carnivorous predator is what the poor, sad, and thoroughly lamented tiger at the San Francisco Zoo also happened to be. And for acting like a predator – a cornered and threatened predator – the big boy was ‘executed’. In heaven’s name, why? For acting like a tiger? If we don’t like what tigers do, why in the fuck do we lock them up so they can be gawked at by the public? My condolences to the family of the person killed, but that isn’t what is at issue here.

The animals under most threat on the planet are the big predators. Their numbers are diminishing the fastest. And, one of the reasons their numbers – be they wolves, bears, cougars, tigers, lions or sharks – are in decline is because we moronic humans are ‘scared’ of them. We disregard the fact that we kill far more of them than they ever do of us.

It’s the esthetics, you see. They have big teeth and sometimes cranky dispositions. Usually cranky dispositions because some human does something unspeakably stupid – like getting between a mama Grizzly and her cub. Human gets mauled. Grizzly pays the price. Cub is orphaned. Hey, that’s how it’s supposed to work, ain’t it?

I could make this a big diatribe against zoos in general, but that would be too easy. All I can say is I am saddened by the loss of that big tiger, and I’m even more saddened that such of his ilk should be confined to life in a restrictive peep show.

The world of animals comes to my mind from a thought that struck me once when I was snorkelling in exquisite Muri Lagoon on Rarotonga. I think I am at my most serene when I am snorkelling. I cruised along amongst the coral outcrops and the plethora of vibrantly colored fish and marvelled at how they weren’t shy. Indeed, they seemed to give little of a damn that I was there. I thought, why should they? This is ‘their’ world. I can only encroach on it as a visitor. They have their own society; one of which I can never be a part.

I like that. And I also feel I have no right to impose myself on the society of lions and tigers and bears, oh my.



A couple of weeks ago my delightful ‘Down Under’ blogger friend, Meggie, granted me an award. I was flattered and honoured that if came from her. The award is ‘A Roar for Powerful Words’ and maybe it applies to me sometimes. Anyway, I am honored that she so regards me.

Now, my job is to find some other recipients. As always in these cases, I would like to choose virtually everybody on my blogroll, but I cannot. So, I am going to choose the following as recipients:

Heart in San Francisco: Primarily because her musings, sometimes droll, sometimes powerful, sometimes almost painfully poignant bring me back time and again.

Cs at Another Tangential Thinker: This is a tough and tender person (what a combination) who is intelligent and perceptive and unflinching about dealing with her realities.

Angela at Blog it Like You Mean It: Angela is droll, original, highly intelligent, funny as hell in an often anarchic manner and more. If you haven’t visited her, you should.

Get Off My Lawn: This writer arrives at many conclusions similar to my own, and that can never help but impress me. Just kidding. But seriously, he offers an always thought-provoking and highly eclectic blog, which is what it’s all about.

I could suggest many more but I think I will limit it to this aforementioned group.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Have the merriest Boxing Day

Today is December 26th, and in Canada and the United Kingdom, this is known as Boxing Day. While you might think this has something to do with drunken brawling -- and perhaps for some it does, everybody celebrates the season in their own way -- it is to do with the time-honored (and largely ignored these days) practice of giving gifts or gratuities to those who have served you during the year. That is, you put the gifts in a 'box' along with some fancy foodstuffs, and so forth.
I say it is largely ignored nowadays for a number of reasons. We don't get mail delivered to our door, but to a box at the end of the block and, anyway, screw the mailman, he makes more than I did on a good year. He should be giving me a box. And, our garbagemen have good union jobs, too. I like to give charity to those who actually need whatever beneficence I can bestow.
Anyway, the 26th has dawned brightly and the Glacier (shown) is looking all winter wonderlandish, and as long as the snow is up there rather than down here, I am content.

Otherwise, how was your Christmas? Mine was OK. Actually I was feeling like crap since the cold I was dealing with last week turned into a nicely full-blown sinus infection. So, I started on antibiotics this morning and hopefully that will slap me back into shape. But, sinuses notwithstanding, it was all quite nice. It was also quiet and unchallenging, but with good food (what little I could actually taste), nice music and general laziness.

We got each other things we actually wanted and could use. Griffin, meanwhile, has developed a Christmas tree fetish and is now choosing to lie under it full-time.
A Christmas Carol was viewed, and A Child's Christmas in Wales was listened to, and I also read an article in Vanity Fair in which Angie Dickinson wouldn't come clean about whether she actually had an affair with JFK. But, since everybody else of note did, why not her?
Anyway, that's about all for now and I am only delighted that I have no impulse to go out to the Boxing Day sales -- I forgot to mention that is what Boxing Day is truly about in contemporary Canada. BD is the equivalent of the American Black Friday after Thanksgiving. For me, anything I really want I can't afford, and anything I can afford, I don't really want.
So, Happy 26th. Anticlimaxes can be better than climaxes if you work it right.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Just a little Christmas ritual

All households that adhere to Christmas have their own rituals and rites for both the day and, especially, Christmas Eve. I like Christmas Eve because it remains a time of hope and aspiration. The day is all-to-often a kind of anticlimax that can make all the anticipation seem a trifle hollow. But on the Eve, all things are possible. The day to come might unfold as that archetypical Christmas that never seemed to manifest, yet each year we've gone on hoping that it will. That this year will be the one.

Some families make Christmas Eve a sacred event and go off to attend church services. Some years I do exactly that. While not being an organized religion person, I do like the ritual and I love the music.

For other families the Eve is a time of gathering friends and families together. That was always the case with my ex-wife's Christmas Eve, because that was indeed the family time and gift-giving time because she was of Swedish heritage and that's the way they do things. I don't know if I liked that so much because it didn't seem to leave much for the day other than turkey sandwiches and sitting around staring at one another.

I have a special little item on my Christmas Eve agenda, and that is a viewing of A Christmas Carol. Not just any old Christmas Carol, but the one with the inimitable Alastair Sim as Scrooge. Other versions of the Dickens tale interest me not at all. The moody and grim, black and white version with Sim, which was released in 1950 (and ran in theatres of the day as Scrooge, by which name it is still known in the UK) is to me the epitome of the Christmas story in its true meaning.

To work its magic a Christmas Carol must be viewed on Christmas Eve, or the miracles mean less. As I say, the Sim version is remarkable in showing the transformation of a man from the mean and cruel Scrooge, venal and heartless, to the magnificently transformed entity he becomes at the end. Of course, perverse bastard that I am, I am especially charmed by the mean Scrooge, for never did a man have a nastier face that pre-transformed Scrooge as played by Sim. Somehow his big puppy-dog eyes at the end of the tale are almost less enchanting.

I have viewed A Christmas Carol on the Eve every year since I was about 12. For years I've had it on video. I know the dialogue virtually by heart and can irritate family members by reciting the lines before they are uttered. Call it a weakness.

So, that is Christmas Eve for me. As for the day, it calls for my recording of Dylan Thomas himself reciting A Child's Christmas in Wales. Never was a tale so enchanting and nostalgically evocative, especially considering the drunken reprobate who pulled the story together. Anyway, that's it for me. Give me those two and I am content.

Blessings to you all, and thank you for the lovely sentiments you expressed on my 'Merry Christmas' blog. They mean a lot.


Friday, December 21, 2007

As John Lennon said: "Merry Krimble"

Depending on my scheduling and time at my disposal I might write another blog prior to Christmas. I’ll just have to see what time permits. If I don’t (or even if I do) I do want to wish all my valued blogger friends an extremely Merry Christmas.

You’ll note that I wrote ‘Merry Christmas’, not ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Season’s Greetings’ or any of the other euphemistic expressions that abound these days so that we don’t offend the sensibilities of those who don’t ‘subscribe’, at least in titular fashion (like me), to the tenets of Christianity.

Not that Christmas has much to do with Christianity in the first place. In fact, for centuries Christmas was largely disregarded by your clerical sorts, who placed much more emphasis on Good Friday and Easter, what with the message of salvation and all.

In fact, many of our cherished and time-honored Christmas traditions are Teutonic in origin and probably even a tad Druidic, what with the mistletoe and all. They were rendered popular in Britain when Queen Victoria married Albert, who was a Germanic sort and brought along those Tannenbaumen mit him. Anyway, those traditions transferred to North America and that is where our traditional Yuletide frolics come from; right down to the eggnog and ‘figgy pudding.’

I only bring about the ‘Merry Christmas’ issue because of a newspaper item I read yesterday that observed that ‘most’ North Americans are more comfortable with such aforementioned references as Happy Holidays and Season’s Greetings, just in case they don’t offend fellow citizens of other persuasions.

What a bunch of spineless wienies we’ve become, if that’s the case. I have no problem with other seasonal traditions adhered to by other faiths and cultures. I think Hanukah and Ramadan and Diwali are ever so jolly (rhyme unintentional) and would defend to the death the rights of the adherents to those faiths to honor what is sacred to the.

I just want to see ‘my’ traditions honored in the same manner. And, surprisingly enough, Jews, Muslims and Hindus have never asked for us to cut them slack in that regard. In fact, most respect those of Christian background who honor their heritage as well.

As I said, I’m not a practicing Christian. I was raised Anglican (Episcopal) but essentially dropped out after I was confirmed (my mother’s only demand in that regard). I have my own set of beliefs and they serve me quite nicely, thank you, without benefit of clergy.

However, I happen to like the sacred message of the Christmas story, and I love the sacred music of Christmas, and plan to keep doing so.

We’re saddled with enough guilt at this season, what with fretting about the homeless and the impoverished and the morons who go wacky with their credit cards. I refuse to let Christmas (so-named) to make me feel guilty.

So to you, dear friends, a Very Merry CHRISTMAS. And, to non-adherents, have a wonderful season. I do happen to believe in inclusivity as much as anything else.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Looking at a 'different' Christmas

Christmas is a time of music. Often too much music that begins to infiltrate our consciousnesses much too early in the season. Its ubiquity notwithstanding, I do have my personal favorite pieces, and even my favorite collections.

A cherished possession is an old cassette tape of Christmas music from the Kings College Choir of Cambridge. I actually bought the tape at Cambridge in 1976 after having had the privilege of hearing the famed choir rehearse. Their rendition of O How Amiable still can give me chills.

But, there are others; sacred ones, secular ones and even goofy ones, like Rolf Harris’s Six White Boomers, and Jimmy Boyd singing I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. I also confess to affection for Presley’s Blue Christmas, and of course ‘der Bingle’s’ White Christmas.

But one piece that is rarely played and that I have a huge affection for is Fairytale of New York, as offered in a (probably) drunken growl by the Pogues’ Shane McGowan and the inimitable and wonderful late Kirsty MacColl (pictured). This one really does give me genuine chills, even though the sentiments offered seem to be contrary to our clichéd images of Christmas.

It’s appropriate to consider this piece right now for a few reasons. First and foremost because it’s Christmas and we’re often inclined to forget what Christmas means, or doesn’t mean, for society’s forgotten denizens. Secondly because the stodgy BBC recently wanted to censor the song and delete references to both ‘slut’ and ‘faggot’, as in “You’re a scumbag, a maggot, a cheap lousy faggot …” The Beeb ultimately reneged due to a huge outcry.

And finally because it is almost exactly seven years ago that the heavenly voice of Ms. MacColl was forever silenced when she was hit by a speedboat while scuba diving with her sons off Cozumel, Mexico. She was hit by the boat in an area that was banned for boating traffic due to diving. The inquiry into her death continues, but the Mexican government has consistently refused to own up to any negligence.

Why the sentiments of the piece work for me (far more than John Lennon’s Merry Christmas, War is Over) is that it’s a sincere study of the desperate lives of the street people, winos, junkies and the misbegotten and forgotten in New York City, or your city.

If you are unfamiliar with it, take a look on YouTube. You might love it, or hate it (which would be understandable, too) but I guarantee it will have impact.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Very jolly old elf indeed

All I can say is: Is nothing sacred?

My disquietude is prompted by reading an item concerning a 65-year-old department store Santa Claus in Danbury Conn. Who was sexually groped by a 33-year-old woman who was sitting on his lap.

What is the world coming to?

One Sandrama Lamy has been charged with sexual assault and breach of the peace for her shenanigans. No suggestion has yet been made as to what she actually groped, but we can probably guess. Why did she do it? That’s the outstanding question. Had she been listening to the sultry voice of Eartha Kitt purring Santa Baby? Had she been downing a little too much eggnog at lunchtime? Does she find portly gentlemen in red and white suits sexually arousing? Who can say?

All I can say is I wish I could get a free pass to her trial just to hear the spicy testimony. I think if you live in that neighborhood, you should drop in just for the entertainment value.

What I would also like to know is what Mrs. Santa thinks about this. That nice lady, who looks a little like Aunt Bea on Andy Griffith, has come to accept the fact, I am sure, that it’s not just tiny tots who want to sit on hubby’s lap. Big girls, for whatever reasons, have been known to want to do so as well.

But, in the past the concern might have been the thought that old St. Nick might be wanting to grab himself an enticing handful, rather than the other way around. But, women of today are a little freer to express their proclivities, as evidenced by the assorted Britneys and Lilos of the world, so I guess we had to expect this sort of thing.

In the wake of the incident, however, the store is relieved to note that they’ve had no end of applications to take on the task next year, or to relieve this year’s Mr. Claus should he be too traumatized to persevere.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Are you the 'coffer' or the 'coffee'?

Recently the Washington Post ran an item concerning a contest in which readers were called upon to supply alternative meanings for common words. As follows are the winning entries:

Coffee (n)the person upon whom one coughs

Flabbergasted (adj)appalled by how much weight one has gained. Especially appropriate this time of year

Abdicate (v)give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach. (see ‘this time of year’)

Esplanade (v)to attempt an explanation while drunk

Willy-nilly (adj)impotent

Negligent (adj)answering the door when only wearing a filmy nightgown

Lymph (v)to walk with a lisp

Gargoyle (n)olive flavored mouthwash

Balderdash (n)rapidly declining hairline

Testicle (n)a humorous question on an exam

Pokemon (n)a Rastafarian proctologist

Oyster (n)a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

Keeping in the spirit of the contest, I’ve coined a couple of my own. They are:

Ambivalence (n)an emergency vehicle operated by EMTs who really don’t give a damn

Vulvo (n)a very sexy new Swedish car model

Please feel free to include any of your own. I’d love to read them.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Gene-Gene made a machine -- it seems

I was watching a popular sitcom the other day and in the episode a rather pretty and vain blonde female was putting on some outrageous airs in front of a male she deemed a lesser mortal and certainly not of the caliber in which she would be interested. Anyway, in the midst of her diatribe against this poor sap the aforementioned blonde farted audibly.

At first I thought I had misheard the flatulent episode, but then reference was made to it. I was astonished. When did we cross the ‘breaking of wind’ barrier in the sitcom world? Mary Richards never once farted in all the years of Mary Tyler Moore; even crusty and crude old Archie Bunker, who might have made reference to an accidental expulsion of flatus, never actually did the deed, nor was it ever referred to by it’s basic name. In the sitcom I watched, it was. The guy actually said, with a satisfied grin: “Hey, did you fart?”

I know that television programming has become increasingly basic over the years, and some of that is good. But I must ask, where is the crudity bar? Do we need to know about people’s bowel activities in order to find humor?

I guess in a way a body would have to blame Mel Brooks with Blazing Saddles. Everybody remembers the cowboys eating the beans scene, and the violent eruptions that ensued following the repast. But, that was Mel Brooks. He’s able to handle that sort of thing with a certain élan. Men thought it was funny. Women of the day thought it was disgusting.

But, I guess the times do a-change. I mean, my mother thought that even the word ‘fart’ was, if not exactly profane, crude enough that it wasn’t to be used in polite company – like around her home. I don’t think it was until I was married for the first time that I was even aware that females too, inadvertently of course, could ‘let one go.’ Young girls, when I was growing up probably left themselves wide open to all sorts of intestinal distress by holding back the wind at all times.

Fart humor is, of course, part of the general realm of ‘potty humor’, all of which is considered to be extremely juvenile. Children love fart jokes, and pooping jokes, and peeing jokes. The assumption is that we grow past that and find our humor elsewhere, like with sex.

So, I can only imagine that this retrograde humor ties in with an item I read concerning a Midwestern college in which the students in certain fraternities and sororities have taken up a fad in which the loser in a competition must wet his or her pants. They even film each other and post the clips on You tube. Now, this is truly reversion to the basics of juvenile incontinence.

Now, these are college kids, you understand. These are potentially our leaders of tomorrow, the crème of the intellectual de la crème. What the hell is this all about?

When I was in my late teens and early 20s I was desperate to be taken for an adult in all my endeavors. I had to learn to drink scotch neat, discuss the writings of Camus and Sartre (even when I hadn’t read them), and take up various causes to make the world a better place. I also wanted to be intimate with sophisticated ladies and chat somebody up in a nice piano bar with cool jazz riffs playing in the background. I no longer wanted to tell fart jokes.

Anyway, this isn’t so much a judgment call as an observation about how the concept of shame no longer seems operative. Maybe it’s better. But, somehow I don’t think so. I’ll still take the jazz in the piano bar.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

The trouble with angels

There are Christmas songs I like, and Christmas songs I loathe (so far this year I’ve been able to escape the irksome to the point of making my skin crawl, The Little Drummer Boy). Particular favorites of mine are those seasonal pieces decked in clerical garb. While I’m not particularly churchy, I think religious inspiration should be the motivating creative force in a song about Christmas.

Sitting in a Starbucks this morning (that wasn’t a plug, but if the SB people want to give me free Americanos for the rest of my life thanks to my reference, that’s OK with me) I heard, aside from the Charlie Brown Christmas theme music (love that Vince Guaraldi) was Hark the Herald Angels. It was a choral version, as it should be.

I recall when I was a very young child that I thought the song was about an angel called Harold. You know, you had Gabriel and Michael, and Maybe Harold, all wing-bedecked, sitting next to God.

That led me to thinking about angels in general. Not only how many could sit on the head of a pin, but also about popular misconceptions about angels. For example, you have the ever-popular (and deservedly so) film It’s a Wonderful Life. Aside from Jimmy Stewart, and the wonderfully adorable Donna Reed, there is good old Lionel Barrymore – “You’ll rue the day, George Bailey!” And, there is Clarence the angel who doesn’t yet have his wings. Cute. But, the problem is, Clarence is a violation of scriptural tenets.

Children, because they are confused and nonplused by death (ain’t we all?) are benevolently told, if say a grandmother has died, that she has gone to Heaven and become and angel who will watch over grieving grandchild. Therefore, kids grow up thinking that if you are really good, that when you die you will become and angel.

Only problem is, that is not what Christian doctrine (or Islamic or Jewish doctrine) suggests. It’s certainly not in the Bible. The scriptural view on the matter is that God created everything, included human beings, beasts of the field, etc. as well as angels. Angels were simply another order of creation. They were never human. Furthermore, and this confounded medieval and renaissance artists, they were neither male nor female. So, if you give a girl angel boobs or any angel a belly button, you are sort of denying how they came about.

My second wife still held to the theory that angels were ‘late’ human beings, and she grew remarkably indignant at my suggestions to the contrary. Mind you, she grew remarkably indignant about many things I ran past her. Anyway, she was content to stick with her view of the celestial situation.

We also assume that angels are pretty, well, ‘angelic’ creatures. That was definitely not always the case. Satan, for example, was an archangel, which sat him right up there alongside the aforementioned Gabriel and Michael (and maybe Harold). Then, when things weren’t working out at the office for this ruthlessly ambitious Young Turk , when he wasn’t getting ahead like he thought he should, he staged a palace revolt. God was thoroughly pissed and kicked him out, and that was how he became the Prince of Darkness. I know that is so because I’ve read my Paradise Lost.

Gabriel too had his cranky moments, and sometimes God (especially Old Testament God, who was much stricter than New Testament God) sent his angels to do His dirty work, kind of like Seraphic hitmen. Unlike that damn (literally) old Satan, they knew to obey and do what it took.

Thus endeth my little theological musing in this Christmas season.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Missing and presumed ???

The case of Mr. John Darwin of Hartlepool, England is one of those ‘little’ stories that tends to capture the imagination of a world that is feeling ‘Iraqed’ ‘Afghanistaned’ and ‘Darfured’ to death.

It seems that Mr. Darwin, and his wife, Anne hatched out a little scheme a half decade ago that would call for him to take a kayaking trip, to ‘go missing’, and then, after the appropriate wait, he would be declared dead and then the insurance money would pour into the coffers of poor, bereaved Mrs. Darwin. And, the pounds did indeed pour in.

But then, a few weeks ago, the story assumed a twist. John Darwin suddenly reappeared and claimed he’d been suffering from amnesia but that he was very much alive. And, since they already had the insurance money, and the missus had quite honestly believe he was gone, then too bad for the insurance companies.

Alas, somebody began to smell two king-sized rats, and the Darwins (who had managed to secure themselves a little tropical hideaway in Panama, were busted. Or, are at least have been arrested.

In fact, for the past three years, John Darwin had actually been living right next door to the memsahib, and probably indulging in all the activities that come with connubiality, unbeknownst to anybody.

Well, I guess I am of two minds about this. In the first place, you somehow have to admire a person who scams an insurance company, considering how much they take us for every year, and how loath they are to ever pay out. It’s kind of like a tale of a gang busting into a bank vault. Nobody got hurt, so aren’t you inclined to think, ‘go for it. Hope you get away with it.’

The ‘missing persons’ thing must be a tough one on insurance companies, because how do you ever know for sure?

We had a case closer to home a few years ago. Now, I am not about to cast aspersions in the matter, but watercooler chat invariably led some of us (like me, for instance) to think there might have been an alternate scenario.

I’ll assume my best Rod Serling voice and say, “Witness the case of one Myron Krebs.” Myron was married to ‘Starchild’ Krebs and the two of them were expatriate Americans and late-blooming hippies living on one of our offshore islands. Myron drove a battered pick-up and didn’t seem to do much other than those ubiquitous ‘odd jobs.’ Starchild, a woman passionate in her convictions, held a black belt in veganism, and devoted her energies to propounding her views on the evils of sugar, milk, chocolate, and assuredly anything of animal origin. That’s OK. She was entitled to her views. I’m only glad I was never invited to dinner. I tried one of her recipes once; it was for a rhubarb tart that contained no sugar and was to be sweetened by ‘natural’ apple juice. It was just awful.

Anyway, one weekend Starchild was away, at a vegan conference, no doubt. Myron was at a loose end, so he went to a social gathering off the island. He enjoyed himself, according to witnesses, and partook of beer and other ‘herbal’ offerings during the course of the evening. He left relatively early so he could catch the last ferry home. He never made it home.

The next day his pickup was found at the ferry terminal. He had obviously missed the last boat. Since it was summer, some assumed he had tried to swim across to the island – a foolish move, since there are strong currents. His clothes were neatly folded on the seat of the truck. His wallet and ID were also there.

‘Missing and assumed drowned’ was the official statement. Starchild waited the appropriate time, and eventually collected on the insurance. There is no doubt in my mind that she, unlike Mrs. Darwin, had no role in what happened, and it was a sad ending to the tale of her marriage.

But, back to the gossip. We thought of this possible scenario: Mr. Krebs, as an American citizen, would have had no trouble returning to the US. He then could have gotten lost somewhere in America, assumed a new identity (which was why he left his ID back in Canada), and now is merrily scarfing Big Macs, fries and chocolate shakes like there’s no tomorrow. He will never have to consume vegan foodstuffs again. He has a nice little suburban bungalow, a conventional little wife and chicken-fried steak and barbecue are mainstays at their place. They belong to the chamber of commerce, and voted for Bush in both elections.

As I say, that probably didn’t happen but I like to think that it did.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

I hab a code id da dose

Don't you just hate intercoursing colds? I assume you do. Well, I am here to tell you that I have a coiting cold, and it's not a pretty scene.

I am sneezing; my nose is running; my sinuses are blocked and that vicious little virus is just working the most wondrous magic.

To top it off, mid-day I have to take a 4-1/2 hour train trip. I just want to go to bed, or laze on the sofa with the fire on and doze.

Now, my request to you all is that you feel very, very sorry for me because, believe me, this is a 'Man Cold' and MCs are noted for their severity and ability to render us normally virile and stalwart males whimpering, simpering pathetic creatures.

My other request is that you send me dozens of hugs and messages of sympathy. Oh, and chicken soup wouldn't hoit.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

'In my craft or sullen art ...'

I think I have mentioned before that sometimes, when the stresses of writing weigh down upon me, .leaving me with a need to escape, then ideally I want to (must) leave my chosen (I think it chose me, rather than the other way around) creative realm and find a safe harbor.

Ideally, that safe harbor would be Nawiliwili on Kauai, but when that ain’t possible (like now), I go elsewhere to get away. That ‘elsewhere’ manifests itself by my finding my brushes and my acrylics and turning my hand to creating a painting.

I don’t know if I’m very good, but what’s more important, is I don’t care if I’m very good. The moment I begin to care, then the freedom is gone and the ego becomes involved, and then the process is doomed to become another source of rigor in my life.

Don’t get the impression from this that I dislike writing. I cherish it, and I cherish whatever skills in that regard I was given. I’ve been doing this thing for over 30 years and have always earned some sort of living at it, so I suppose my work is decent enough. Frankly, I think I am well more than ‘decent’ at it, or I wouldn’t be inspired to persevere.

But, with art it is different. If somebody comes into the house and likes a painting that I’ve done, I’m delighted. Of course, that person doesn’t see the flaws that are glaringly obvious to me. Yet, at the same time, I really don’t give a damn about the flaws because this is purely hobby, doing what a hobby is meant to do. The second a hobby becomes an avocation, it moves into a different realm.

Actually, I’ve been involved in the visual arts for longer than I’ve been writing. I began to draw before kindergarten, and I continued throughout school with cartoons. I cartooned avidly well into adulthood, and even middle age. Some of them aren’t bad. Some of them are quite good. Some of them are funny. Some of them are dirty (but ‘funny’ dirty). I even had an exhibition back in the 1980s. Actually, I should get a few made into jpgs so I could share them here.

My first newspaper job was as an editorial cartoonist. It was a challenging task.

That killed my love of cartooning, you see. A hobby became work, and it lost much of its charm.

So, sporadically, beginning about 20 years ago, I started painting. I’d do it. Then I’d leave it off. Life would intervene. Sometimes not the most charming aspects of life. But, for the past two or three years, painting has been a bit of a continuum. I still like it.

The painting (just completed) is a scene of a dramatic canyon near Crater Lake, Oregon. I probably don’t capture the vista as magnificently as it looks in the raw. But, what the hell? I enjoyed doing it.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

We love you Conrad, oh yes we do

A couple of people have asked me for my take on the sentencing of Conrad Black to 6-1/2 years for various forms of financial shenanigans over the years. The decision came down yesterday in Chicago.

While Conrad is probably better known in Canada than in the US, despite the fact the charges were filed in the US and pertain to various dealings south of the Canadian border, he actually chose to become a British subject a few years ago, mainly so he could attach ‘Lord’ to his name.

So, how do I feel? I was expecting to feel a great deal more schadenfreude than I actually have. Following the ego-driven and arrogant man’s behaviors over the past few years, and certainly paying considerable attention to his trial, I thought I would have greater sensations of “Throw the book at the sonofabitch, just for being an arrogant, self-righteous, tasteless snob” but surprisingly I did not.

It was sort of akin to having a wonderful erotic fantasy about someone and then actually having an encounter come true, and finally thinking, after it’s over: “Is that it? That wasn’t so much after all.”

In truth I find Conrad Black to be a crashing bore in all his dealings. He comes across as a sycophant and delusionary. While no doubt bright, his quest was not only to rise to the top (wherever that is) but also to nab a title to go along with it. Especially in the days when he owned (on paper, anyway) the august London Daily Telegraph, he fancied himself on a par with such moguls of the media biz as Rupert Murdoch and compatriot Ken Thomson. They laughably dismissed him as being nowhere near their league in terms of power and influence, an also ran. They would be right.

But, Conrad nevertheless set out to curry favor amongst those he deemed influential in arch conservative realms, like Margaret Thatcher and Henry Kissinger. Surprisingly, he was able to suck them in – for a while.

Another conquest of Conrad’s was in acquiring the bountifully beautiful Barbara Amiel. Frankly I find Barbara much more interesting than Conrad. Nearing her upper 60s she’s still a head-turner and has had all the nips, tucks, botoxing and boob jobs to make sure she stays that way. Conrad seems to be one of those guys who finds it a turn on to think that his missus might arouse other men.

Barbara is terribly bright, and I must confess, an astute and powerful journalist when she chooses to be. While her worldview is a little to the right of the Waffen SS, she still wields a mean pen and is always readable. At the same time, I find it odd to find that her focus appears to be rather than an intellectual one when she enters a salon, than one of: “My tits. Do you think they’re noticing my tits?”

Anyway, Conrad got 6.5 years in some club fed somewhere (he gets sent up in the spring), and we’re sure he will appeal and we’re equally sure he will only do a fraction of the sentence.

But, on the other hand, he didn’t kill anybody, he just played fast and loose with money he didn’t have, and with an ego (in my opinion) that did not match his actual talents. If he’d had genuine talent he wouldn’t have been so swayed by mammon, and would have made decisions that would have kept him from the Big House.

So, I should feel more jubilant that he got his come-uppance, but can only conclude he was a rather sad man and much ‘smaller’ than he will ever admit that he is.


Monday, December 10, 2007

'But will you love me tomorrow?'

Maybe (probably) it was lack of much tangible mother-love in both childhood and later in my life that left me with a residual fear of rejection. I don’t write this to assail my mother; not at this late date, rest her soul, but just as a statement of fact.

So, my fear of rejection and long-time lack of trust was invariably transferred to other females in my life, such as my first two wives, and many females with whom I shared intimate adventures.

I never feared rejection by males because my father, as tyrannical as he could be at times, generally loved me and cared about my well-being. Even when he was being a prick, that was largely because he cared and didn’t want me making boneheaded decisions that would hurt me. Hey, ‘level-of-care’ is ‘level-of-care’ regardless of how it manifested. I always knew that if I were in a jam, the old man would help out. Mother, not so. Jams put her into full-bore, self-indulgent panic mode.

Anyway, my first wife (with all her virtues, and they were many) was probably more similar to my mother than I realized. She didn’t drink, which made her seem different. But, otherwise, she had a similar aloofness and rendered it difficult to get to know her completely. I was never really allowed ‘in’, in the metaphorical sense – the physical one was just dandy, thank-you. After we had decided to separate I once said to her: “You know, I have been with you for many, many years and have absolutely no idea who you are. You’ve never invited me in.” I still don’t really know who she is.

My second wife, beautiful, flamboyant, hyper-sexual (or so I thought in our courting days, since that was the message she gave. I was wrong); mercurial, and sometimes downright scary, gave me a different message. It was a message that indicated ‘I must not trust this woman’ because she makes it all seem so wonderful. Again, a post-separation conversation in which she said: “I always figured you believed I always had one foot out the door in our relationship. In that you would have been right.” That was all I needed to know.

As for other relationships, intimate and non-intimate, there have been a few. I always tried diligently to not fall in love. That would leave me vulnerable. It gave me the right to leave in a non-codependent manner. Didn’t always work. Anyway, I still have an important group of non-sexual female friends and I cherish them all deeply. I am happily and resolutely faithfully married, so my friends are no threat. But, it remains important that they are there. They offer something that Mom was obviously unable to offer. Wendy does likewise. In that I am finally blessed and have moved on.
Wendy also knows me well, and she knows my sensitivity to rejection. Therefore she has often wondered about why I chose a calling that lives and breathes on acceptance/rejection, and that is being a writer (or anybody in any of the related creative arts). And, I find that most writers and artists I know are very similar to me in their rejection angst. Yet, they masochistically do what they do. I do it because I ‘must’, for whatever reason. I have no choice but to write, others of you here who either write or create art strike me as remarkably similar, which is why we have our ties with each other.

I like to tell myself that rejection of a created work doesn’t bother me all that much, provided I think it’s good. But, that’s a lie. Acceptance is just ever so much better. Acceptance is a validation of sorts. Acceptance means that Mom really likes me.

So, currently I have a manuscript off at a couple of publishers and still hope for either acceptance or the will to send it out again (and again, and again etc.) if it is rejected. If I fully believe in what I’ve done, I will do that.

Like I said, masochists.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

A fool and his pool were soon parted

“Don’t wish too hard for anything,” said chere Grandmere, “Because you just might get it.”

She was right. She almost always was.

All my life from the moment I first dipped a toe in water, I’d wanted my own swimming pool. Even when I lived in a waterfront home, which I did for 17 years, I still thought a pool would be the proverbial icing on the cake of blissful bucolic living, even though the ocean was quite swimmable out front.

Later, when I was first living with the person who was to be my second wife, we decided that we must buy a house together. A love (ha!) nest, as it were. We looked at many houses one long Saturday, and then the realtor showed us one with a pool. I thought my dream had come true.

There it was in the back-yard (indeed it was most of the back-yard); a large kidney-shaped (notice pools are never liver or heart shaped) pool, filled with lovely azure water, and beautifully landscaped around. We, needless to say, fell in love with it. Added to which, we had a 12-year-old girl, who also fell in love with it. To complete the picture, we could actually afford the place. Well, we couldn’t really afford it as such, but we could meet the mortgage qualifications.

We bought the place, and I was just longing for the day I could take my first dip in ‘my very own pool.’ One Friday we moved into the house and then Saturday dawned ever-so-brightly. Look out pool, here I come! We walked out onto the patio, my new lady looking ever-so-scrumptious in the new swimsuit she’d bought for the occasion – and then we gazed out at the pool.

Something was very, very wrong. Half the water was missing! We were aghast. We phoned the pool guy who had checked it out for us. “You must have a leak in the vinyl lining,” he said. “These things happen,” he added, showing an utter lack of concern. I asked him what I should do. He suggested hiring a diver to find the leak and then patch it.

Divers are very costly. I thought I could don mask and snorkel and find it myself, since the pool guy said I’d be able to hear the water whooshing out. I damn near drowned, and gave the task up in short order. We hired a Scuba diver at $100 per hour. He found the leak and patched it, all in about 10 minutes. He still charged the C-note.

And so it began. We filled it up with the garden hose, and that took a while. But, truly, that first swim was heavenly. Daughter put on her new little white bikini for the occasion. She dove handsomely into the water and then emerged. As she climbed up the ladder mother and I realized that the swimsuit had turned utterly transparent and you could see her birthmark and every other little bit in fine display. Mortified she ran into the house and refused to go back in the pool for days, even wearing an alternative and non-revealing suit.

Other things I found out about pools:

- They’re hideously expensive to operate: You have to heat them in chillier climates, like ours. You have to maintain perfect balance or they go all murky and disgusting. Then when you dump heavy chlorine shocks into them – known as burn-out – you can’t use it for a couple of days. And, the chemicals cost a king’s ransom.

- They get plugged up with leaves and other bits of effluvia, and so they have to be skimmed.

- They get dirty with cruddy yuck that settles on the bottom. So, they have to be vacuumed. Adolescent girls, even under threat of loss of pool privileges, never want to vacuum the pool. She would have been quite content if the pool’s condition was the same as her bedroom’s – disgusting.

- They attract frogs. Cute little frogs regularly found their way into the pool. Once in, they couldn’t climb up the steep and slippery sides to get out. They’d end up in the skimmer reservoir and I’d rescue them and liberate them. But, if we went away for a few days, it would be too late for them. I’d find them in that same skimmer reservoir, bleached white from the chlorine. I still feel bad about that.

- When the pool is started up in the spring the pump has to be primed to get it going again. This is an agonizingly frustrating task that always seemed to be on a complexity par with launching a space shuttle.

- People pee in pools. Mainly kids are to blame for this. But, there is a natural tendency when immersed in water to have an urgent yearning to also pass water, even with adults. That used to thoroughly piss me off, if you’ll pardon the expression. You can’t really ask visiting adults to make sure they visit the toidy before going in the pool. But, if you had any sort of social gathering, you knew the next day was going to be a write-off as far as pool-use was concerned because the balance would be screwed. It doesn’t take many parts per million of urine to water to change the whole chemistry. What I wanted was to find an alarm that would sound the moment a person had transgressed, and a dye that would create a bright-purple stain around the pee-er.

- Eventually the thrill is gone and you end up using the pool simply to justify owning the sonofabitch.

- Pools actually detract from the value of a house. When we split a few years later and were selling the place, it took us ages to find a prospective buyer. “Most people simply don’t want pools,” the realtor said.

“They’re very wise,” I added.

Today, if I were terrifically rich, I might own a pool again. But, that would only be if I could afford somebody to care for it on an ongoing basis. Otherwise I will continue to heed Granny’s wisdom on the matter.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Take a moment from your day

A number of years ago I was standing gazing out of a big plate-glass window in a major department store in the Pearlridge Shopping Mall in Honolulu.

I was gazing out because right below the huge store lay Pearl Harbor. And as I looked I could see in the distance the Arizona Memorial and below the memorial and highly visible was the outline of the hull of the USS Arizona. Within that hull, of course, are the remains of 1,177 sailors and marines who remained trapped after the attack.

The attack was exactly 66 years ago today, on December 7th, 1941.

She still bleeds oil, does the Arizona. She no doubt bleeds metaphorically, too.

The head-shaking moment of that day came about with my realization that the megastore in which I was standing was Japanese-owned.

The cruel irony struck me at the time. If the Japanese had only put off their strategic (and ultimately doomed to fail) plan, they might have been there, setting up shop, regardless.

There need have been no stinking jungles of Guadalcanal, no Bataan Death March, none of the horrors of flamethrowers in pillboxes and hideous POW camps which left even the survivors broken and maimed physically and spiritually forevermore. Ultimately, as pertaining to Japan, there would have been no Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

But, there was. And that is the reality of it all and the madness of human affairs throughout history.

Take a moment to remember the day and ‘all’ its meanings. They are manifold.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Here is my plan for the future. Seems to work for others

'Ha-ha!' We got ours and you paid for it.'

Know what I’m going to do? I’m going to secure a very high-end position with some publicly-funded enterprise – something that will pay me, oh, about half a mil a year, along with assorted fringe benefits like exotic vehicles for Wendy and me, annual winter vacations in the Caymans, and summer sojourns at assorted European spas. It will all be good.

Then, I’m going to stick with the position for a year-and-a-half, say, and then I’m going to get myself dismissed for my utter heedless incompetence, and following that I will glean a big enough ‘wrongful dismissal’ settlement that I will be able to retire in luxury for the rest of my days.

Sound like a plan? Of course it does. It must be a plan because it happens every day of the week. Lazy and incompetent boneheads are toasted and they end up being pampered for the rest of their lives – often out of our pockets.

So, what is this?

In the first place you’ll notice that those in the heady upper atmosphere of positions never get ‘fired’, they ‘tender their resignations.’ Bullshit, of course, they were indeed fired, toasted, sacked, kicked out on their well-fed asses, and deservedly so. But, don’t let us say ‘fired’. We don’t say that because it casts aspersions on the judgment of the bozos who hired the ‘waste-of-oxygen’ in the first place, it also is disrespectful in a euphemism-mad world, and finally, in the wonderful world of litigation, it might leave somebody open to a big lawsuit; thus garnering even more unearned money for our aforementioned slackass.

What I fail to see is why those in the public sector, like health authorities, universities, and school superintendancies are paid so handsomely. The taxpayers, who live in an entirely different realm, see nothing within major decimal points of those figures. Furthermore, and pardon the cynicism, we also know those positions are very rarely based on genuine talent, but are more inclined to be reflective of having the ‘correct’ political attitudes, the correct ‘friends’, and a jolly good ability to brownnose in the most obsequious manner. Looking cute (for both sexes) and dressing well helps, too.

Of course, we only look at the rate of pay with such terminations; we don’t even begin to go into the realm of the perks. That’s when it gets genuinely disgusting.

As I said, I am referring to those settlements that arise in the public sector. What happens in the private corporate world matters less to me. That’s all up to the corporation and its stockholders. My only caveat here would be if the wonderful, wonderful settlements for firees are to be found in a privately owned utility, then the price of such settlements will be passed on to subscribers.

Do I write out of jealousy? Not at all. More out of confusion. My confusion lies in the fact that such settlements are rarely challenged, and the truth of the matter is, and you can check it out, these settlements (as well as the dishonesty in not outright firing someone who deserves to be fired) wreak havoc on the economies of our societies. Yet our courts rarely seem to consider this ripple effect. So, if the head of your publicly-funded health service provider gets the axe, believe me, you will pay for it. We all will. He or she, meanwhile, will be basking in a Bahamian sun.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The good, bad, ugly, and inexcusable

I grew up reading the funnies. Probably most of us did. The average child’s introduction to the newspaper comes via the comic strips, and that is, in my esteem, a perfectly acceptable intro.

I think that I – and certain of us of a ‘certain’ age – have a distinct advantage in that we spent childhood in an era in which the funnies were a big deal. The weekend color pages were not only big enough to see, they seemed to go on forever.

Even the daily black-and-white spreads were impressive and substantive and worthy of juvenile (and even adult) attention in the days before television began to debase and defile all that should be holy in childhood.

Meanwhile, strips have come and gone over the years. Some of them, like Calvin and Hobbes, the Far Side and the always-lamented Pogo (for political satire at both its finest and most cutting), are sorely missed. Others really aren’t. One old-timer did fascinate me by its unique approach, and that was Gasoline Alley, if only because the characters all aged at an actual human rate. Therefore, old Skeezix would have to be pushing 100 by now.

And then there are the bad ones; the ones that keep going on-and-on and nobody seems to understand why. They aren’t funny, they aren’t cogent, and they seem to have no redeeming virtues, yet there they are.

As follows will be a list of personal favorites, and after that will be a list of strips I think are horrible and give nightmares to budding good cartoonists who can’t secure a syndication to save their lives.

Personal Faves (in no particular order):

Calvin and Hobbes – still lamented. No sugar on this one, but tons of wisdom
Pogo – brilliant and demanding of a certain level of current events knowledge, literary background, and appreciation of the abstract.
The Far Side – I can still look at Gary Larsen offerings that I’ve seen a dozen times and still find them hilarious.
Zits – a relatively honest depiction of what it means to be an adolescent, at any time in history.
Pearls Before Swine – a relative newbie, but ruthlessly funny and cutting. Badly drawn, but that is almost part of its charm.
Tina’s Groove – This is a Canadian strip about the trials and tribulations of a restaurant waitress that is funny and honest. It’s a bit like Friends in comic strip form. And, even though she’s only a cartoon, I find Tina kind of sexy.
Peanuts – Even though they are all reprints, for obvious reasons, it often still works Not always, but often.
Dilbert – comes and goes with me, but anybody who’s ever cubicle inhabited gets it. Meanwhile, Wally, the patron saint of slackers everywhere, is my man.

I could think of more, but I think I’ll move on to my least favorites:

The Family Circus: Why is this still around? It’s unfunny. The children are totally banal and say things real children will never say or even think about. The parents are two of the blandest and most boring people who’ve ever given spawn. This one is the winner of my most detested.
Cathy – I only realized the other day that this atrociously drawn mass of clichés still existed. “Ooh – Cathy’s trying on bathing suits and dissing herself!”
Tank MacNamara – I guess if you are a major jock this might work for you. I have never found it amusing or diverting.
Opus – I know there are those that love this. I try. God knows I try, but I just find it charmless. Doonesbury – Probably brilliant satire, and I used to read it years ago, but grew weary due to its stridency. I don’t like to ‘work’ when I read a strip. Maybe it’s really because Gary Trudeau shares a surname with my most reviled prime minister, and because he’s married to Jane Pauley, who has always held a special place in my heart.
Nancy -- Long gone but all time contender for the unfunniest comic strip to ever appear (forever and ever, it seemed) on the comic pages.

As a closing note, what are your favorites and your most detested?


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sugar and spice and all things hyped ad nauseam

I have always had a special place in my heart for female vocalists, and love them all from Peggy Lee to Cass Elliot to Linda Ronstadt to Juice Newton to Jann Arden to Holly Cole to Kiri Te Kanawa to Jo Stafford to Lena Horne to Sarah Vaughan to Ella Fitzgerald to Cyndi Lauper to Dusty Springfield to Diana Krall to Madonna (at moments) to Deborah Harry to absolutely too many more to mention.

And girl groups; crazy about those from the golden era of The Shirelles, Crystals, Supremes, Vandellas, Shangri-Las, the Ronettes (Be My Baby; must agree with John Lennon that it is one of the sexiest songs every sung and yet it contains no smut) and hosts of others. I even like the later girl groups like the Go-Gos, Bananarama, and so forth.

And then there are the Spice Girls. I thought they’d died, but suddenly here they are again. This past weekend they kicked off their North American Tour in Vancouver, and to read of the joint orgasm all the music scribes in otherwise respectable newspapers were having, you’d think that Christ had dropped into town again. Vancouver likes to think that it isn’t still a small town, and then something like this happens and you know it is.

Anyway, I never did ‘get’ the Spice Girls. Never did the first time around about a decade ago and don’t know why there seemed to be some sort of need for a ‘second time around. It’s probably not for me to say, but I always regarded this quintette of moderately comely Brit girls as a victory for studio sounds and lots of hype – kind of like the Monkees at an earlier time, except that they turned out ultimately to be actually talented. Haven’t quite seen that with the SG yet, but I’m in really no position to judge.

For the uninitiated, I think the SG consist of people like that anorexic Beckham chick with the sour puss and silicone boobs out to here, and the one who had an ill-considered liaison with the formerly funny Eddie Murphy, and somebody named Posh and then I think Sneezy, Grumpy and Dopey, but I can’t be certain.

Anyway, I commend the SG for their promotion machine. I mean, we’ve just been inundated with them constantly and consistently for it seems like weeks.

I really am in no position to judge the SG, since I don’t think I’m in the demographic of their fan base, which I suspect consists of 11 to 15 year old females. Why girls of that age would be interested in singers that would be around the same age as their mothers is beyond me. I doubt that the SG have a big male following, or at least I’ve never read of such being the case. That doesn’t suggest that young males have better musical taste, but that their interests go in other directions.

Anyway, let everybody have their fun but just let me say that I am really, really tired of Spice Girl hype and hope that they don’t consider a third incarnation a decade from now.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

We probably deserve God's wrath -- but, geez ...

We had a huge, nasty, disgusting, and unrepentant inundation of snow on the weekend. It was a detestable turn-of-events.

Snow, if you didn’t know, is God’s way of saying: “You’re all hopeless and vile and I’m going to screw you up so you can’t do anything other than risk a coronary by trying to get rid of what I threw at you. And, when you do get that driveway cleared I am going to see that two things happen: One, the triple-overtime earning snowplow drivers are going to fill up the entrance to your drive and walkway with dirty, nasty ‘street’ snow that is all hard and icy and filled with pebbles and possibly used condoms and hypodermic syringes. Secondly, once that’s done, I’m going to make it snow again.”

“Oh, and don’t trust those bonehead forecasters,” He adds. “They all work for me and that is why they are 100% wrong all the time, yet never get fired. So, I had to laugh when you actually bit on that few flurries bit; you know, the crap the forecasters handed you that led you to believe that maybe you’d get out Saturday and do some Christmas shopping; maybe look for a tree, and get all Christmas spirity. Well, screw you. You’ve messed with me too much lately, and you don’t deserve any breaks.”

At least, that’s how I see the origins of the weekend ghastliness.

We got, I think I heard, about 30 centimetres. That is, in ‘real’ measurements, like the kind I grew up with, hence understand, about 17-feet – or so it seems.

But, after much digging, I did get out today. God felt we’d been punished enough – for now. I ran a couple of errands and stopped off at a local drug store on the way home so I could pick up a newspaper. The clerk is this stunningly gorgeous woman I’ve known for years and about whom I’ve had all sorts of untoward thoughts. But, it’s OK, she’s also happily married to a guy who makes Brad Pitt look kind of average, so I never felt I stood much of a chance, even in my inter-marriage days. Anyway, this ravishing person proceeded to say: “Wasn’t it a lovely weekend? Oooh, I just love the snow. It’s so beautiful and peaceful and quiet. Heavenly.”
I felt all my age old, salacious musings vanish in a trice; mumbled a pleasant good day to her, took my paper and left. I didn’t want to risk saying what I really thought but, alas, it did diminish her just a teeny bit in my esteem. Anyway, her husband’s probably really boring, and that’s why she likes to get out and play in the snow.

All of this is to say that even though I live in Canada, we don’t generally get a lot of snow out here on the west coast, so I have to wonder why God is punishing us. He is supposed to keep punishing those who live elsewhere in Canada because a) they deserve it more and b) they’re used to it and probably don’t drive like they’ve lost all of their brain cells the moment the first flakes fall.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Here's a toast to our volunteers

It came to my attention via the lovely, informative, and ever so bright Dr. Deb, that December 5th is International Volunteers Day. I didn’t know such a thing existed, but I am happy to find out that it does. About time the hard-working and unsung got a few accolades. It doesn’t make up for getting no money for their labours, but it helps a bit to get a nod.

I like the idea of volunteerism. It takes things out of the hands of bureaucratic weasels and, as a consequence, tasks actually get accomplished. Once you move a paycheque and benefits into any mix, the pay and the perks become the primary concerns of those who work for officially sanctioned organizations. I know that’s biased, but since this is my blog I can be as biased as I choose to be.

Anyway, and not blowing my own horn, I have done a fair amount of volunteering in my adult life. I have also served on over a dozen boards, and continue to serve on a couple. That doesn’t make me special, it just makes me a citizen doing what I believe a citizen should do, and that is to give whatever talents he or she might have to serve the well-being of the community.

But, what I do is small potatoes when compared with those volunteers who actually risk life and/or limb for their fellow citizens. At a local level I am put immediately in mind of volunteer firefighters and volunteer search-and-rescue people. Now that, to me, is ‘service.’

Firefighters just amaze me, and this was an impulse I had long before 9/11. A favorite uncle was a fireman when I was growing up. I worshipped him. I also saw him take huge risks and get badly hurt on a couple of occasions. Firefighters actually suffer a statistically greater loss of life than do members of police forces. Their chances of injury are mammoth as well, and very few firefighters go through a career unscathed. None of this is to mention the increased cancer risk due to the inhalation of noxious and caustic fumes. There is another facet of their risks as well, and that is the much more widespread incidence of emotional breakdown among firefighters than is generally reported.

And, our local firefighters do this as volunteers! I am consistently astonished by this.

Locally, too, there is another group that regularly puts their personal well-being at risk, and that is the ground search and rescue crew. We live in mountainous terrain and with too much regularity the unschooled and risk-seeking take to the hills, improperly equipped and thoroughly lacking in backcountry experience. They get lost, or they get hurt. And the volunteers of ground search and rescue go out to find them. Usually they are successful, blessedly. But, they too get hurt. They too fall down embankments and break limbs.

And they too do this as volunteers.

Oh sure, some of the young bucks in both realms are the glory boys. God love their energy. Yet, interestingly enough, the majority of them stay on board for the duration. We have volunteer firefighters in their early 60s, who have been doing the job (alongside their regular jobs) for 40 years. That’s service. Those are people who deserve to be recognized.

Raise a glass to our volunteers.