Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hello Walls, time for a spruce up


It is a dreary and wet Saturday and what could be better than getting stuck into painting the walls of the home office? So, that is what we are about to do.

I can think of a thousand things I would rather do, but at least painting is one of those tasks that, as dreary as it might be in the process, a body can see the results at the end of it.

So, with that cconsidered -- and I would much rather be painting a picture -- that is where I'll be and I won't be around to scrutinize your blogs too much until the chore is done. Have a fine weekend, all.

< Picture


Friday, November 28, 2008

Lying awake at night, fretting over Jenny's plight

“It’s for you,” Wendy said, holding out the telephone handset in my direction and rolling her eyes heavenward, “It’s Jenniferrrrr – again!”

I also rolled my eyes, but took call.

“Hi, Rache,” I said. “S’up?”

She hates me calling her by her Friends name, but let’s face it, that long-running TV series was her brief moment of glory.

“So, hon’,” I said. “Yes, I’ve seen all the tab covers about poor you versus that bitch Angelina. And stop reading Perez Hilton. Actually, ‘read’ is too approving a word in the case of his gossip-mongering, but you get my drift. “He is obsessed with so-called ‘Brangelina’ and there’s nothing you can do about it. His readers are OC 17-year-old girls who fail to appreciate that Brad and weird alien Angelina are the same age as their parents – and about as exciting.”

The foregoing is, needless to say, a representation that doesn’t reflect any sort of reality.

But, it struck me yesterday at the supermarket, as I scanned the tabs that despite the fact the world’s economies are going to hell in a handcart, Jen and Angelina still make the preponderant copy. in those rags.

Even Canada’s self-christened ‘National Magazine’, Maclean’s – for readers outside Canada, Maclean’s is a north-of-the-border equivalent of Time and Newsweek as they were back in the days when they offered a little more reading than a Denny’s menu – has an article inset (and accompanying ‘analysis’ story inside) title Aniston’s fall from sweetheart to spinster. How that must sting. ‘Spinster!’ Spinster connotes hair-in-a-bun, sensible shoes and knees always held always tightly together except during private communion with the commode. Good thing there is about as much likelihood of Jen actually scrutinizing Maclean’s as there is of her browsing through Plato’s Republic.

It must be a galling thing for a public personage to find themselves an object either of derision or, worse yet, pity. ‘Jenny the loser’ is the underlining message. Dumped by her hunky hubby and left to while away her tabloid fodder by getting ‘involved’ with one nonentity dude after another, it must ultimately make it difficult to get up in the morning. How did it all go wrong? I mean, aside from that incursion by that bitch Angelina who, while she is out saving all the children in the world, seemed to see nothing morally offensive about trolling for other women’s husbands. Oh well, none of my business.

Jenny reminds me of those sorority chicks in my university days, much as did Meg Ryan before she astonishingly decided to trash her own lovely face in some sort of bizarre ‘enhancement’ process. You know, the sort of sweetie who would respond with a “Hi – whoever,” when a downmarket guy like me had caught her eye. She was too busy checking out which frat-rat was drving the hottest car that corporate daddy’s money could buy.

But, maybe I sell her short. Maybe she has more depth than a sheet of paper. Maybe all the silly stories about her pining away for her erstwhile Muffin Man are just that, silly stories.

Finally, though, she should probably grow up and face the grim reality that maybe “he just wasn’t all that into you.” We’ve all had to do that at one time or another, hon’, so this time it’s your turn. And, you can take a little solace in the fact that your straying former spouse actually has to live with and be ‘nanny’ for a woman who once carried Billy Bob Thornton’s blood in a vial around her neck.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Maybe there was a health advantage to being po' folk

Read a feature story yesterday concerning a 15-year-old kid who has recently been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

He is a bright and articulate lad who, refreshingly, blames nobody but himself for having come down with an ailment that has absolutely skyrocketed amongst the young in recent years. It's a story that might, however, inspire others to mend their ways. In that I commend both the boy and his parents for going public.

He told his tale of eating massive amounts of junkfood – he’d skip breakfast and then head out to the golden arches during a class break mid-morning. He also spent most of his free time on his computer and virtually never took exercise of any kind.

I don’t remember any kids with Type 2 diabetes when I was growing up. In fact, I don’t believe diabetes had even been placed in sub-category at that time. People would mumble about somebody having borderline diabetes (there is no such thing) and it wouldn’t get any more attention than that.

In reading the story (and I wish the boy well in his quest to radically alter a lifestyle that has potentially lethal consequences) I came to the conclusion that, despite all the awful stresses it invokes, there may be one advantage to our current recessionary time. The advantage being that we will not have the money to waste on crap. And we will not have the money to hand out great big sums to our kids on a daily basis so that they can indulge themselves on dietary crud.

Actually, the tale left me with a kind of wistful nostalgia for an earlier time – my own childhood and youth.

And what sticks most prominently in my memories about those times was that we never had any money. I mean, my father was a relatively well-paid professional, but not of that aforementioned relatively good pay came in my direction. If I wanted money, I had to earn it somewhere. My friends were no different. Parents simply didn’t fork over cash. They didn’t have it to spare. Kids understood that.

I did get a paltry allowance when I was in elementary school. I got enough money on a weekly basis to buy a comic book (for a dime) and some penny candy. Or, as a special treat, a store near my elementary school sold nickel-bags of French fries. Little brown paper bags that would be dredged, prior to consumption, with malt vinegar and salt. It was a heavenly treat.

I recall an incident when I was a senior in high school in which three buddies and I were out cruising yet again on a Friday night – determined to end our chronic ‘no action’ status and, of course, being unsuccessful – when we ran out of gas. Happened a lot in those days. So, we pushed my pathetic excuse of a car to a service station. We pooled our resources. Between the four of us we were able to muster 76-cents. We bought 76-cents worth, which was enough to get us home. We found nothing odd about the situation.

This dearth of largesse continued right through high school and into university. In university I had a good four-month summer job in a mill, at which I received union wage. But, all the money went to tuition, board and eating for the ensuing term. Not a lot of mad money.

Something else struck me about the diabetic boy’s story. He spoke of heading out to the ‘Big M’ for crappola during a class break (he would buy more rubbish at lunchtime. We couldn’t have done that. Mainly because it was a stricter time in which we were not permitted to leave the school grounds without good reason. We resented the hell out of this but there wasn’t much we could do. Anyway, if we did leave and head out to the store what could we do? We were broke.

Our broke status was something our parents believed was “good for you.” The girl who lived across the street (my age) came from a filthy rich family. They lived in a kind of antebellum mansion, had a maid and groundskeeper, hunting dogs, horses, 17 cars, the whole array. Gayle (my friend) never had any more. Her parents didn’t believe in simply handing out money. In her teens she got a part-time job like the rest of us. Smart parents.

There was a final thing. The kid spoke of hanging out in his room all day on his computer. As if that would have happened when I was a kid. Well, OK, we didn’t have computers, but what we did have was a parent who would say, “What are you doing hanging around in your room on a beautiful day? Get outside and do something. You can run to the store for me, and then you can rake those leaves on the back lawn. You’re not an ornament around here.”

Maybe being poor and unindulged was just a lot healthier.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

If they are 'odd', let's have more off-kilter cops

Police officers get a lot of bad press. Some of it is deserved, most of it isn’t, in my experience.

I know that I’ve never wanted to be a cop. That’s partially because I am a coward, but mainly because I know I wouldn’t have the fortitude to handle the stresses. Most of us wouldn’t.

There surely are benefits to being a peace officer, such as shooting bad people. The rest of us have to put up with crap from evildoers but a cop can just whip out the old 45 and blow the MF away. Oh, I mean, he or she would have to give a reason for so doing, but it would still be empowering.

I am, of course, being tastelessly flippant. Cops hardly ever like shooting people and sometimes have to go through intensive psychotherapy if they have fired their sidearm in a terminal manner.

It is normal for the youthful to have attitudinal antagonism towards the police. You can’t really blame them for that. It’s the lot of kids to be pushed around by those in authority, and they don’t have many defences against parents, bullying teachers and sometimes pushy cops. But with maturity I found, as do many, that the gendarmerie has a vital role in maintaining societal well-being and as long as they are scrutinized to guard against the odd and very rare case of excess, then they are to be cherished.

That said, I haven’t always been proud of the confrontational attitudes of some of the younger representatives of my own erstwhile calling; newspapering. Young reporters seize on tales of police excess and their impotent and pandering eyes light up when they get to inform readers about cops-gone-bad. Can eyes be impotent? Odd turn of phrase that I used. Never mind. Let me just say that bent coppers are manna to callow scribes. But, blessedly, the attitude changes with age. Much as many of the political attitudes of the very young are downright silly and reactive, so are their feelings about the police in our relatively democratic states.

In my middle age I was given the police beat for my paper. I must confess I absolutely loved it. I cherished the fact that the men and women in the local detachment recognized me as a known (in a good way, not as in ‘known to police’ way) commodity Indeed, our mutual trust built up to the degree that they even permitted me to be ‘embedded’ with them on a few occasions. They did this because they trusted me. So, I donned a flak jacket and went on marijuana grow operation raids with them. I scoured the local hills with a seasoned cop and a delectable young female constable whom I would have run off and married had we both not happened to be married at the time. That time I even was issued a 12-guage shotgun – for bears, I was told, but I suspected it was if we were actually ambushed by villains in our quest for their hidden drug caches. I didn’t need to use the gun, I might add.

Anyway, it was all heady stuff. It didn’t make me want to become a cop, but I really enjoyed hanging with them, swapping stories, expressing our joint admiration for the late and cherished Jerry Orbach’s depiction of tired old detective Lenny Briscoe.

Last night a number of us got to interact with some very special cops. They are members of a unique Vancouver Police Force body known collectively as the ‘Odd Squad’. Their beat is the wretchedly dysfunctional and terrifying patch known as the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Vancouver is Canada's third largest city, but comes in at numero uno in terms of drug addiction level.

There they ply their policing trade amongst the junkies, crack and meth heads, hookers and the severely mentally ill denizens of a few square city blocks known, and not hyperbolically, as the poorest chunk of city real estate in North America. The wretched inner city squalor of the place makes a Hogarth engraving look almost Eden-like in comparison. Definitely a chunk of turf the government of the province is 'not' going to want the poobah jocks and other notable visitors paying a call on during the over-hyped and over-costly Olympics next year.

Last evening the Comox Valley Community Drug Strategy Committee, of which I am a long-time member, brought two reps of the Odd Squad to won to make a presentation to parents and their kids about the realities of a life of drug addiction and depravity in this terrible place. They spoke and they showed clips of the denizens of this dreadful ghetto. Some of the clips – most of the clips – were shocking. They are designed to be so. For, aside from working with these pathetic souls, the Odd Squad also sees it as part of their duty to do some prevention presentations. For the cleanly scrubbed kids of this smaller community it had to have been an eye-opener.

It might have also been an eye-opener for the kids in terms of preconceptions about police officers. For, the one thing that was apparent is that these boys in blue – for one of them it has been his chosen beat for 20 years – carry out their duties with a great level of care and, dare I say it, love. You couldn't do it otherwise.

I hope that message wasn’t lost on the kids.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Yet another one of those manic Mondays

I took this from Tanya. I took this mainly because it is Monday morning and I feel uninspired due to the fact I have to make a ‘presentation’ to the community this evening and even if it is just pro forma, I’m not really looking forward to it.

This is actually a Meme, but I’m not going to tag anybody at the top end. For the second item, however, I will make a couple of connections, so be forewarned. Anyway, this meme is pretty easy and kind of fun.

1. Where is your cell phone? In my car’s glove compartment. I hate the intercoursing things and only keep it for highway emergencies, or to talk to my wife if she’s working out of town. I not only hate the dinky and awkward little items, I hate the culture they’ve spawned. Luddites Rule!

2. Your significant other? Finest wife I’ve ever had.

3. Your hair? Was brown, now a charming and beautiful light brown highlighted by Cary Grantish greying at the temples effect. At least I like to think so.

4. Your mother? Six feet under, when last I checked.

5. Your father? Likewise. But, I miss him more than Mom.

6. Your favorite thing? In all the world? How about second favorite thing? Lying on Kealia Beach on Kauai and wondering if I could force myself to go back into the water. Yeah, I could. Third favorite would be sitting in a sidewalk café in Annecy, France consuming a bathtub sized café au lait.

7. Your dream last night? I only remember that I was driving somewhere in a right-hand-drive car.

8. Your favorite drink? Coffee.

9. Your dream/goal? To have the freedom and resources to travel a bit more. Also, to finally quit smoking ‘completely’. Down to 7 a day with no impulse to make it more, but to keep knocking it down one at a time. Hey, the process is actually working.

10. The room you're in? Home office, which is in the midst of being painted.

11. Your fear? The economy.

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? A published author, still happily married to my current wife, and in good health.

13. Where were you last night? At home watching Doc Martin and New Tricks.

14. What you're not? Bigoted. Well, sorry, I have a low tolerance for assholes of any race, color or creed.

15. Muffins? Blueberry or cornmeal.

16. One of your wish list items? Nothing much at all. Would like a Mac laptop at some point. Had an old one. It gave up. Am coping with a PC that is OK.

17. Where you grew up? Burnaby, British Columbia. A bedroom suburb of Vancouver and about as stimulating was most BR suburbs.

18. The last thing you did? As morning coffee has transpired, went for a pee.

19. What are you wearing? Old jeans and a white Kauai sweatshirt.

20. Your TV? A 10-year-old 19-inch Hitachi. It’s uninspiring, but it works fine so I don’t plan to replace it. We also have a 12-year-old 19-inch Quasar in the bedroom. It works fine, too.

21. Your pet? Very, very old but charming and gentle cat, Griffin. Still breathing when last I looked.

22. Your computer? Acer laptop. Works fine.

23. Your life? Pretty much what I would want it to be, so that ain’t bad, now is it?

24. Your mood? OK. I mean, it is Monday, but it was a decent weekend.

25. Missing someone? I’m always missing someone. It’s in my nature.

26. Your car? Nissan NX2000. I love it.

27. Something you're not wearing? A merry widow bustier..

28. Favorite Store? Fortnum and Mason in London. Otherwise, good old Wal-Mart. Good stuff at low prices.

29. Your summer? Uninvolved if possible. That, and sunny..

30. Your favorite color? That really depends on my mood. Sometimes blue, other times various shades of green.

31. When is the last time you laughed? With the lovely middle-aged barristas at my favorite coffee joint this morning.

32. Last time you cried? Can't recall. I misted at Obama’s acceptance speech.

Now, onward:

My lovely, learned, and erudite friend cs has given me an award – a Superior Scribbler award. I am honoured to get this accolade from a person I never miss when I go through my blogroll. If you haven’t visited her blog, A little off kilter, then please do so and be assured she is never really off kilter at all, but usually spot-on kilter.

I don’t know if I am a superior scribbler. My process is quite simple. I merely get the germ of an idea and just dive into it and watch how it comes out. Sort of like my approach to life.

I don’t have to pass this on, but I am going to anyhow. All of my blogroll friends are superior scribblers but this time I am going to single out glorious ex-pat Daisy, always thoughtful Merely Me, eclectic soul-sister Jazz, and fascinatingly diverse and sometimes naughty, Leesa.


Friday, November 21, 2008

To pee or not to pee. That is the question

19 November is World Toilet Day – a day to celebrate the humble, yet vitally important, toilet and to raise awareness of the global sanitation crisis.

Missed it by a couple, but the above is, of course, not a joke. WTD is designed to bring to our attention that while we might take the right to ‘spend a penny’ in surroundings that range from the palatial to downright disgusting, there are those in much of the Third World who have no access to sanitary facilities whatsoever. The subsequent result is rampant disease epidemics, vermin, parasites and every other bit of hideousness you could imagine.

The vilest public facility I ever visited was many, many years ago in the Belfast Bus Station. Yet, I am sure there are those in many parts of the world who would find it heavenly. That notwithstanding, I was almost pleased to learn that a couple of years later that same bus station was a victim of an IRA petrol-bomb and burned to the ground.

Anyway, my point about WTD was to just bring it to your attention and to suggest you might find out more about it and how you might help in this regard. The rest is up to you.

My other point in this screed, however, is to look at a human functioning aspect a little closer to home. So, at the risk of being indelicate – and I’m not indelicate; I am one of the most delicate guys you might happen across; really – today I want to talk about peeing.

I don’t mean the function of peeing. We pretty much all know how that works. No, I want to talk about access. It has been said that people under the age of 50 – except pregnant women – pay little attention to where the public facilities might be located in whatever journey they have to make. Those over 50 know where they all are. They sometimes need to.

I once kept brief company with a young woman who had a bit of a ‘control’ problem. It was good because I learned where virtually all the potties were in this community, some of which I had no idea they existed. For her, however, it was essential so that she could avoid discomfort or, worse, humiliation.

Personally, I find, especially with an aging population, that too little thought is given to public access. Many businesses do not want the pubic using their facilities unless they are customers. I can understand their displeasure about granting access, because bathrooms end up being trashed. At the same time, it is a bit heartless.

I saw an incident once that proves my point. A woman entered a shop with a middle-aged mentally-challenged man who was obviously in extremis. She asked the clerk if the man might use the restroom.
“No,” said the clerk, entirely too curtly, “The bathroom is for paying customers only.”
“Sorry,” said the woman who had taken the man under her wing. “That won’t do. I am not going to see him embarrassed in public, so give me the key, please.”
The clerk grudgingly forked over the key, muttering under her breath. I made a mental note to not do business with those guys again.

And, while it is tough enough for prostate encumbered men of a certain age, it is even more difficult for women due to the logistical nature of their micturitions. Men can, as irritated women often point out, simply step behind a tree. I mean, they risk arrest for indecent exposure, but they can still do that.

Urinals, such as we have them in the west, at least, are not available or practicable. Consequently, at any public event like a concert or game, the queue outside the women’s biffy is 20 times longer than the men’s. I know women have railed about this injustice many times, but they should not give up the fight for more equitable access. It is the fact that an inadvertent public wetting can be, for many, traumatic enough that it can lead to agoraphobia.

I can suggest no immediate solution for this other than to suggest that communities have an obligation to make certain there is adequate access to bathrooms.

And maybe one step in the right direction is to get over our prissiness about this function that we all, both sexes, do. Back to the line up outside women’s restrooms, I have often invited women to come in and use the men’s. Even if there is a guy standing at the urinal, the interlopers cannot see anything – as if they were interested in any case. Likewise, a couple of times, at dire moments, I have used the women’s.

So, maybe we should be more like the Europeans who are more comfortable with ‘one size fits all’ public peeing. Having traveled a bit, and having shared public facilities with members of the opposite sex, I can recall no discomfort. So, maybe it’s time we grew up on this continent.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This is the nadir of the Age of Aquarius

“Don’t be discouraged by a failure. It can be a positive experience. Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid.”~ John Keats

I read recently of a high school in Saskatchewan of which the principal has decided that the institution will no longer hand out Fs for failing a course, but will substitute Is for Incomplete.

How sweet.

Yet, I didn’t even need to go to second glance to realize that there is a flaw in this metaphorical ointment, in that a letter is just a letter (and a kiss is just a kiss, but that’s another matter) and whether your slacker boy or girl out there on the bald prairie has an I or F on that report card, they will still need to repeat the course. This, of course, means that your kid FAILED!

The very caring principal (as opposed to the very 'I don’t give a shit' principal that I had) felt that the symbolic power of that F stood in good stead of utterly ruining your spawn, and possibly turning him or her to a life of depravity and/or crime.

To this I say ‘meadowmuffins.’

It is not uncommon for the more sensitive of pedants to have a very skewed view of life’s realities. I should know because I once worked with a few examples. When you through in an overweening political correctness, not to mention a desire to never offend a parent, you have a recipe for disaster. You have also shovelled a good dollop of coal onto the fire of an adolescent sense of entitlement. A sense of entitlement that is bound to get mighty short shrift in the more pressing financial and employment times we will be facing.

“Hey, dude, I didn’t flunk because I’m the best. My Mom said.”

What I don’t understand is how this prissy headmaster thinks what he is doing is a favor to a kid. You are, my pedagogical friend, denying the young slacker a specific right, which is the right to fail. I think that is written into the constitution. If not, it should be. Of all of life’s lessons, abject failure brings forth survival skills so that we have ammunition against ultimate failure.

Hey, here’s a thought, Mr. principal-man, we ‘learn’ from our hardest lessons and failure happens to be one of the pivotal ones.

Look at John McCain, he just failed. You don’t see him whining or feeling that he now must hang his head in disgrace. Look at Richard Nixon. Naah, maybe not. OK, Sarah Palin., Oh, right, her failure was 10th grade geography, the Africa chapter. Well, OK, maybe we don’t all learn, but you get my drift.

I failed senior math in high school. I failed senior math because I literally never cracked a book on the subject from September to June. I think it was something to do with the angora sweater person sitting across from me. So, I flunked. There it was. Great big F. No semi-neutral I on the card my folks had to sign. So, I didn’t officially graduate high school because of that one intercoursing course.

I had to repeat it. Fortunately in BC in those days they had such a thing called senior matric, or Grade 13. It was really freshman college in terms of credits, but a body could take it and make up for a failure. Well I, grudgingly, yet having no choice, took grade 13 and repeated my math course. The failure, and the mortification made me want to apply myself. I did. I ended up with the highest grade in the school in senior math.

From that point there was no looking back. Academically, at least. There was a certain amount of looking back in other realms. But, at least I’d learned how to handle failure and truly, despite what the principal believes, no stigma of failure has followed me in my assorted professional callings.

Flunk the little bastards, I say! It’ll do ‘em a world of good.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Yet another of life's imponderables

Reproductions are kind of lousy but it gives you an idea of what once I did
I had a curious internal change transpire in 1992. It’s one I am still attempting to find answers for, but have met with no real success. Indeed, I don’t really know where to look. I may be an accredited counsellor, but I am not a psychologist/psychiatrist. You got troubles with your bad behavior, come and see me. You want me to suggest possible reasons for your smoking of, injecting of, drinking of substances that stand in good stead of killing you, and I can probably take a stab.

But, you want me to assess the whys and wherefores of some of my own stuff, and I end up nonplused beyond the realm of guessing.

So, back to 1992. It was a tumultuous year to say the least. Sometimes agonizing, sometimes exultant, but always relentless. In early June of that year I took a trip to Vancouver Island’s west coast with my wife. Just a long weekend kind of thing that saw us residing in a little B&B near the resort town of Tofino, a stone’s throw from the thundering surf of Long Beach. I remember it all so well. I even have photographs from the weekend. Photographs that were on a film I didn’t have the nerve to get processed until about 5 years after the fact. When I saw them I was struck by how pastoral and lovely everything looked. But, they lied. We were both miserable and we both knew it was ‘over’. We didn’t know what the final crunch would look like, but we knew it was due to happen soon. I can actually still get rather sad writing about it. It had been a very long marriage that had likely run it’s course for us both a decade before the Long Beach weekend. Anyway, no more about that time specifically, but just back to 1992.

In early summer, after the marriage had folded, I began keeping company with the woman who would become my second wife. God is very mischievous in his ‘hard lessons’. So, she and I were besotted with each other and our besottedness was manifested in all the conventionally carnal ways and I thought I had died and gone to Heaven, little realizing my sense of afterlife direction had been compromised profoundly.

Again, not to belabor, she and I began keeping constant company and were like a couple of kids with a new toy. We moved in together the following spring. But, back to 1992.

In September of that year, my mother died. Unexpectedly and ‘expectely’. She’d had a very long bout with chronic alcoholism by that point and that she last until the age of 72 is still amazing to me.

I didn’t really grieve at her death. I tried, but it didn’t work. I didn’t know how to tap into such an emotion as pertained to her.

But, following her death something radical did happen within me. I stopped drawing. I didn’t even notice at first that I was no longer spending evenings in front of the TV with a sketchpad on my lap, turning out items of whimsy. Often cynical, sometimes profane, but nevertheless whimsical cartoons. I was actually kind of good at it. I should have been. I’d been doing it all my life.

I started to draw well before the time I went to school. Coloring books and other such pre-prescribed kiddie art offerings meant nothing to me, but give me a blank piece of paper and a pencil and I would draw. I would draw and draw and draw. Later I moved onto ‘funny’ pictures. My caricatures and so forth were honed and continually refined. I even had some stock characters and I worked out stories around them. I had a little crook whose name was Smudge. He had a dumb friend named Gus. Years earlier Smudge had been blown up by his arch-enemy (whose name I forget), and had been left with a hook, a pegleg and a patch over one eye. But, he carried on with his crookish ways always wanting to ‘get’ the man who’d maimed him.

So Smudge and Gus were later supplanted by cartoon girls (real girls in my dreams) – since I had discovered them by that point – and I found that their tendency to fill out sweaters in a soft and curvy manner added a new dimension to my art. A pleasing one. By the time I was in high school, what I wanted most of all was to go to art school. My parents wouldn’t hear of it. My father was an adult education administrator in Vancouver, and his bailiwick included the Vancouver School of Art. When I made the suggestion, he dismissed it posthaste and referred to those involved in such ‘aimless’ pursuits as “a bunch of beatniks.”
“I know they are, you philistinic fuck, that’s why I want to go.” That was what I thought, but didn’t express.

But, at a later date some of my avocation talents came into play. I actually became an editorial cartoonist at the newspaper at which I worked as a columnist and reporter. I loved it. And, some of my work wasn’t bad by that time. I even had an art show at a local gallery and attracted a sizeable crowd.

And then in 1992, as mentioned, I stopped. I have no idea why, as I also mentioned. It’s just not there any more. I still know how to do it, and my drawing technique hasn’t suffered from lack of practice, but the impulse left.

I’m really sorry about that, and it still confuses me.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

A not entirely bonnie Prince Charlie

The Prince of Wales (accompanied by an unknown nail-biter, no wait, it's the missus) shows his pleasure when his sister, Princess Anne accidentally breaks wind when being presented with a riding trophy

I think when the Queen passes on I’ll cease any affection tie I might once have had with the British Royal Family.

I know as a Canadian, hence member of the Commonwealth, the Royals are legally ours, too. But, really. Puh-leez, they are English through and through. In fact, I’ve decided that once the Queen goes, 20 or 30 years from now, probably, I am no longer going to support the Royals. I am certain this will be a disappointment to them.

There are two reasons for my attitude. The first one is, I think it’s high time Canada grew up and became a fully-fledged republic rather than some sort of vestigial, metaphoric vassal state. Sorry, if I hear God Save the Queen I regard it as the UK’s national anthem, having nothing to do with me.

The other part of the equation is Prince Charles. Sorry, but I don’t do Chuck. Can’t go in that direction. He is a wacky, eccentric, over-opinionated waste of the UK taxpayers’ pounds.

But, since Canada is still part of the Commonwealth, I suppose I have to acknowledge that Chuck’s 60th birthday is about now. I don’t know if the law holds that I’d be beheaded if I didn’t accord respect to this senior citizen, but I won’t take any chances in that regard.

So, Charles Windsor, AKA Prince of Wales is 60. In many jurisdictions he would be pensionable. Come to think of it, he’s always been pensionable. Being on a lush pension is his job.

His other job is criticism. Criticism because he is a self-perceived expert on damn near everything from architecture to agronomy. At least he has the common decency to not include relationship counseling amongst his perceived skills. But in those areas he deems himself expert, he also demands that those with actual credentials in such fields listen to him and hearken to his criticisms. They say he talks to the trees. Do said trees listen to him and grow accordingly? If they don’t does he chop them down in a sort of symbolic beheading? That must be empowering for him.

Charles was once married to the splendidly beautiful, graceful, and borderline bonkers Diana. What a vision she was and, in case you haven’t heard, she died tragically many years ago. But she didn’t die, alas, before Charles had dumped her for somebody remarkably unbeautiful, ungraceful, and possessing some well worn treads on her winter tires.

Am I dissing the disturbingly unappealing Camilla due to the fact she is old? Not at all. Helen Mirren or Judi Dench could butter my toast any day of the week and I would be very happy. I diss her because she is a waste of space, dead lazy according to most accounts, a homewrecker and a pretty low-rent baggage for the heir to the throne. Evidently her appeal to the average Brit is much the same as stepping in something nasty on the footpath.

Charles discarded Diana for this woman, yet he expects others to heed his opinions on anything?

There have been other Princes of Wales who have been exploiters of the public purses, the hard-earneds of every Alf and Mavis throughout the land. There was debauched Prince Regent George IV, but at least he built the rather charming and quirky Brighton Pavilion. And, there was Prince Hal, who tried to snatch the crown off his old man’s head even before Henry IV (Part II) had croaked. But, then he went off and won Agincourt and redeemed himself. He also died young, which is a blessing in tearaway princes.

But, Charles is no tearaway. He’s like that tiresome and boring uncle who comes round for tea and bikkies on a rainy Sunday afternoon. An uncle of the sort who evokes a collective “Oh God,” from all and sundry in the household when Mum announces that he’ll be around on the weekend.

So, Charles wants to be my king when the Gracious Queen passes on. Well, I’ll heed the wisdom of Yogi Berra and say, if that is the case, then include me out.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Face-to-face with Facebook

Old 'realtime' friends

“I haven’t even looked at Facebook for months,” said a friend the other day. A personal friend, who is also one of my FB ‘people’, as are a number of you and many others from hither and yon. “Some of the people on my contact list – and you (she said in reference to me, phew) are definitely an exception – are not people I’m all that friendly with,” she continued, “and a few I wouldn’t want to invite into my home. So, I don’t bother any longer.”

It’s an odd thing, really, a worldwide network of people in varying degrees of separation, linking up electronically to say ‘hi’. I’ve been doing the FB thing – I am a very sparse attendee – for a couple of years now. As it happened my niece contacted me to tell me how “utterly cool” this network was, so I signed on to see what it was like. It was OK. Eventually my own list of contacts increased, and spasmodically I would touch base with individuals who were of more significance to me.

At first it was a lot of fun. I established my links with various people and had chatty online conversations. I also loved punching in names of possibles, just to see if they were out there. Often they were, so assorted bits of ‘auld acquaintance’ were garnered. I suggest that at first it was fun. It still is, to a degree, and I check it out about once a week or so, mainly out of curiosity.

The problem that began to arise for me, however, is that I am a privacy hog. I certainly share who I am with those whom I cherish or like a lot, but otherwise, I withdraw a bit. Furthermore, there are some individuals I have little or no desire to be in contact with, even at the FB level. And, some such individuals contacted me and wanted to establish a FB tie. In some cases I didn’t recognize the names. In others I did, but had no desire to establish connection.

And then I felt a bit guilty. Wait a minute. If a thing is supposed to be fun, why am I getting guilt pangs? Hmm.

In other cases, contact was made. Sometimes nice messages were sent back, and I responded, and so on and so forth. Other times, following the initial overture, a vacuum fell into place and I didn’t bother going back.

I think the reason for the success of Facebook is the sense of alienation so many of us feel at times, and FB establishes a pleasant tie. In that sense, if I get back to you after you have touched base, and if I continue to do so, you know it is because I value you. If I don’t it just might mean that I am past the junior high stage of evaluating my popularity on the mess of friends – Facebook or otherwise – I have garnered. I mean, my contact numbers lie in the 30s. Those whom I actually contact are probably fewer than 10. Hmm, sorta like real life.

Is Facebook different from blogging and are Facebook contacts different from blogroll friends? Absolutely. Even though in some cases ‘my people’ overlap, I know my blogger friends so much better. I know your thoughts, your philosophy, your politics, your loves, your hatreds, sometimes your sexuality, your style, and so forth – often in detail, even at times in TMI. But, that’s OK.

Facebooking, on the other hand, is a little snippet of who we are. It’s cocktail party chitchat as opposed to genuine conversation, which blogging often is.

Ultimately, however, the absolutely best conversations are those ones held live. I’d like to do that with all of you, and I have with some. But, since that quest is likely possible I will say my blog contacts are at least second best.

So, do you do Facebook and do you enjoy the experience and keep up regularly?


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Doggie Heaven? Makes sense to me

“If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.”
- James Thurber

The older I get, the less certain I am about the whole Heaven thing. It’s not a matter of whether I believe or disbelieve, for that is such a personal matter, but if I conceptualize what is to come, what will it look like?

Within our culture, we are proselytised from virtual infancy that if God decides to snatch us back, regardless of where we sit in the lifespan allotment, we will not really be dead, but just transformed to another place where we will dwell in bliss for eternity just hanging out with Jesus and all.

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

Yow, that’s a pretty scary prayer for a tiny tot. Reassuring Mom cajoles and says emphatically, “That doesn’t mean you’re going to die tonight,” but the wise kid knows the lines wouldn’t be there if there wasn’t a slight chance. Such terrifying thoughts tend to compromise the parental goal of dry sheets every night.

“But wait,” says Mama, trying her damnedest to soothe, “that only means that when you die eventually – when you’re very, very old, you will go to a lovely place and see Grandpa again and be very happy.”

Unimpressed with his mother’s theological grasp, the kid eventually nods off, having been promised a new Play Station for Christmas.

But, really, all we do end up being left with is a relatively bland concept of what Heaven might be like, and many of us have formed our own ideas about what we’d like it to resemble, even if we don’t really believe in it. I mean, if you subscribe to the “fire and brimstone” view of religiosity, then you specifically believe in it, much as you believe that the alternative (either for sinners or for those subscribers to cultural groups we don’t really like) is too ghastly to be imagined. Therefore such people strive to be in that select few of ‘saved’ folk.

But, what does such salvation mean? What does it look like?

Somebody once said that while so many people long for eternity, most of them have no idea of what to do with themselves on a wet Sunday afternoon.

A couple of years ago, I was reunited with my oldest friend in this world after a hiatus of more than 15 years. I mean, we’d kept in touch, but hadn’t actually been in each other’s presence for nearly two decades. So, the encounter was wonderful. We discussed this and that and just had a fabulous time. And then we reached the point of starting to grasp for conversational items. I mean, our lives had diverged a long time before. We may have still loved each other, but we had little life stuff in common.

From there I go to thoughts about Heaven, about the afterlife, an afterlife that will last for eternity. My dear friend and I had a challenge making it for two hours.

So, you see, part of my vision of Heaven has included being reacquainted with those who have gone beyond long before us. How wonderful to once again see those whom we’ve cherished, like:

- My grandparents. I still miss them. I still find some spiritual solace in reaching out to them in my heart. Yet, Granny died when I was 14, and Granddad when I was 15. I was pretty unformed. We might not have a lot in common.
- My parents: Oh, probably a lot of unfinished business there. I mean, I do have a lot of questions for both of them, but you know, then we’d end up in an argument, and that sort of behavior is probably frowned upon in Paradise.
- A dear friend who died when he and I were 37. Great guy. Loved him dearly. We went through university together, drank too much beer, fancied our selves great seducers and might handsome fellows -- back then. But, in looking at some material about him, I now realize that he and I diverged somewhat in our political and attitudinal views. Wasn’t apparent at the time, but is now.
- A beautiful lady who was just one of those ‘flings’ and who passed away very prematurely. Would love to tell her how much I cherished a ‘brief encounter’ but, in Christian context at least, our ‘friendship’ would fall into the ‘sin’ category, and might be frowned upon in Heavenly circles. It would just be too complicated.
- On the other hand, I can heed the great wisdom of James Thurber and think how I would utterly cherish seeing my dog, Murphy again, and how we could run and he could chase sticks through the Elysian Fields forever.

But, seriously. Eternity is an awfully long time. Forever? Truly, bend your thoughts around that. Barring reincarnation possibilities (in which we have to do this crap all over again), we must be in some sort of place and state of spirituality in which time and space are no longer relevant.

Dr. Who understands that stuff, but I still have a problem.

So, what is your view of what lies beyond, even if you don’t truly believe and it’s all just speculative on your part? I mean, let’s face it, that’s all it can be in any case.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Take a moment from your day tomorrow

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod.
All went lame; all blind;Drunk with fatigue;
deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
- W. Owen, Dulce et Decorum

Near Great Yarmouth in the English County of Norfolk, a few miles along the Beccles Road there is a placid little lake known as Fritton Decoy (pictured above and so called because of a mean-spirited little ruse of olden times that used to involve luring wild ducks into large nets in a rather unsporting manner). It lies a few miles from where I lived in England in 1980-81, and I was given to driving up there just to walk through the placid lakeshore park.

Included at the park-site was an impressive little war museum. One exhibit that struck me was the wreckage of a USAAF Thunderbolt fighter plane. One sunny day back in 1944 this craft and a sister Thunderbolt were taking off to do bomber escort duty over the North Sea. Somebody miscalculated and the two planes collided and plummeted into the lake. It was only years later they were pulled out of its deep, cold waters. Along with the aircraft also came the remains of the two young pilots whose brief lives had ended abruptly that bright springtime morning.

There was poignancy about the whole thing that struck me profoundly and I wrote a long piece about it for Remembrance Day one year. I think it was one of the better things I’ve ever written, primarily because I was so moved by the whole thing. Unfortunately, I’d have to sift through boxes of old stuff to find it, or I’d offer a reprint.

Aside from the tragic loss of two lives, I was left with the thought that I have never been called upon to do such a thing as take up arms in anger for the sake of my country.

This doesn’t make me feel guilty, but it does leave me feeling immensely grateful both that I was spared but that there were others who had, and continue to make those sacrifices.

Tomorrow, November 11th is Remembrance Day in Canada, and Veterans Day in the US, and I cannot help but be struck by the magnitude and horrors of the lives of those who did serve – and continue to serve. Essentially I am an avowed pacifist with Quakerish tendencies, yet maybe there were times when such dreadful jobs needed to be carried out. I have known many veterans of many conflicts, and most are fine and decent men (and women), but at a certain level I know I cannot relate.

Almost exactly two years ago I was sitting in a train travelling rapidly from Lille, France to Brussels. It was a wondrously bright late morning. The flat fields were all that pastoral should be, with cows and sheep and hedgerows, punctuated by small deciduous copses. It was all terribly nice.

And then a thought hit me like a thunderclap to a degree that I almost gasped aloud in my seat on that sleek French train. This place that I was passing through was the ‘Western Front’ of World War One. This serene scene was the muddy and filthy, rat, excreta and corpse-strewn trenches in which literally thousands of young men from many nations lost their lives for the sake of preserving the wealth and privilege of a handful of bankrupt and disgusting little monarchies and aristocracies. This was the neighborhood of Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge, and not too far from the Somme and the Marne and Ypres.

Many years earlier I was idly looking in shop windows on a street in Amsterdam. In one shop there was a display of vintage photographs. A particular photo struck me, as it was a scene out the window of this same shop, looking into the street I was passing along. The only difference was the old picture was dated 1940, and the bustling street of trolleycars, vehicles and bicycles was instead populated by jackbooted Nazi stormtroopers.

Later on that same day we went to the Anne Frank House, No more needs to be said about that visit.

The madness of the world continues, be it in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia or the Congo Republic and politics remain as hideous as they always were, but please spare a thought tomorrow for those who, for whatever reasons, patriotism, guilt, need for adventure, were (and are) there. Spare, however, fewer good thoughts for those that sent them. They don’t deserve it, in my esteem.

God of our fathers, known of old--
Lord of our far-flung battle line
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine--
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

- R. Kipling, Recessional

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Finding serenity -- it's a tough slog

I cannot remember where I got this bit of life philosophy musing. Perhaps it was from one of you. However, I made a point of saving it because I thought it had wisdom and should be explored further. So, that is what I am doing. I find all of the subcategories to have more meaning as time goes by and my wants and needs change.

I flippantly say in my profile that I am working on my curmudgeon certification, but this really is no longer an aspiration. I don’t want to be a cranky old bastard like my father became. Come to think of it, he was a cranky young bastard, too. At the same time, I will reserve my right to discriminate and hope I continue to recognize cant and bullshit and avoid both.

At other times I thought I might want to become a randy old goat, foisting unwanted attentions on females of my acquaintance that charm me. That is also kind of untrue. Not that I am uncharmed by females (never would be so), but I am also happy in a fine relationship that has much meaning for me. A little over a decade ago I got to play the carefree bachelor game. It was fun for a little while, but it got boring and shallow eventually. I always bear that in mind.

So, here is where I am today, on Friday, November 7th, 2008, and here is maybe where I’d like to be.

Rules of life to be aspired to

1. A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears of past experiences --
I do have a past. Some of it was good; some of it was not so good. But, rather than be filled with fear over those past experiences, I hope I learned from them.

2. An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment—
All I have is this precise moment. Oops, it’s gone. No other period in time matters. Memories and future aspirations are just vapors and should be accorded no more import than that. I mean here, we have memories we cherish and memories that have led to the totality of what we are, but if we dwell on them, we get lost.
3. A loss of interest in judging other people – I really don’t want to care what you do, with what part or parts of your body, and with whom, as long as you don’t molest children or commit crimes. Then I do care. That is, to me, part of being a responsible and caring citizen. Otherwise, expect no moral judgments from me, although if what you are doing is really fun or scandalous, I might be titillated with your shenanigans momentarily, until they start to bore me.

4. A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others – I don’t know why you do the things that you do, and I don’t want to know why. I also don’t want you interpreting my reasons for doing what I do. I may pass an internal judgment on you, but I’m not going to challenge you.

5. A loss of the ability to worry – Wouldn’t that be grand? I’m not there, but I’d like to keep working on arriving at that blessed “I don’t give a shit” place in my life. Philosophically, such an attitude has nothing to do with apathy, and everything to do with accepting the things I cannot change.

6. Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation -- I have this some of the time, and sometimes I do get overwhelmed about the love of my wife, my friends, my comfort in my home, a stunning sunset, the blue of a tropical sea or even the grey North Pacific sea in these parts. My biggest appreciation is the appreciation of hope. It allows us to carry on.

7. Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature – God is great/God is good/God jumped over the candlestick. Wait, that’s not how it goes. Probably by this stage of my life I do feel more genuine connectedness with the important people in my life, and certainly with nature. Hey, I’ve got bird-feeders, how much more connected could a body be? Not too crazy about raccoons, however, since I have a fishpond. Oh, and wolverines? They’re beyond the pale, though I don’t wish them harm.

8. Frequent episodes of smiling – So, I’m not quite sure what this means. Does it mean wandering around with a stupid grin all the time? People who do that creep me out. My favorite smiles are those that are exhibited by normally taciturn people. Flashing their white choppers can really light up a room. I have been told I have a ‘beautiful smile’, but I never see myself smile. I think I smirk pretty well.

9. Letting things happen instead of forcing things to happen – Oh, huge wisdom in that one mainly because things will happen the way they happen and never will if I try to force them. It’s like trying to ‘make’ somebody love you. Can’t be done.

10. A willingness to be vulnerable and show emotions—“Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve,” Mama used to tell me, usually after I had tried to make somebody love me – like Sandy in 11th grade. Frankly, I think Mama was wrong because all it left me doing was to look sardonic and unemotional regardless of what happened. I still have a hard time crying, but I can show a little grief. As for crying, Mr. Obama’s speech the other night brought me pretty close. Maybe even ‘Old Yeller’ close.

11. A giving and receiving of love without strings attached – Unconditional love is always the wisest course, and one that is very difficult to attain. I’m still working on this one.
Author unknown (Third cousin to ‘Anon’, I believe)


Thursday, November 06, 2008

What was the lesson that Eve learned?

Another one of those impulses today to get all Andy Rooney-esque and offer a pastiche of my thoughts on eclectic subjects. I don’t know if the incentive to ponder relatively commonplace questions is a matter of age – for I am not as old as Mr. Rooney, but nobody is – or just a matter of divesting myself from some of the genuine woes of the world. Like the Seinfeld show, this particular blog is about nothing. Yet, our ‘nothings’ truly are more important than the earth-shattering ‘somethings’ of the world.

On the other hand, those earth-shattering somethings do happen, and sometimes those 'somethings' are for our betterment. We always hope that is the case.

For example, today (at the time of this writing) is the day of the US elections. I don’t know how it will come out. I know how I’d like it to come out – I think, though quite frankly during my years on the planet I have never come across a politician that didn’t ultimately disappoint and disenchant – but I have no power over that. Therefore, I must accept that people will vote as they will, and the final tally will be the result of that.

Later: Of course, we now know how the thing played out and it played out to the satisfaction of many, many people, myself included. Regarding my statement about how politicians invariably disappoint, I truly do hope I am wrong this time because I feel quite pumped about the entire matter. I cannot recall the last time I misted up over the acceptance speech of a politician (I don’t even bother watching them as a rule), but in the case of Mr. Obama, I did.

I will say, or reiterate, in fact, that I believe everybody should get to vote in the US elections since the results in that nation will impact all of us. Actually, you could carry that further, since we all share this mudball; everybody should get to vote in every other country’s elections. Wouldn’t that make for an interesting world?

Otherwise, moving on:

We had a nasty vehicle accident about 70 miles south of here the other day. It involved a whole bunch of kids from this community, however. In the incident, the kids (high school age) had been at an overnight bush party and were all piled into a van in which seats had been removed so they would all fit. Seatbelts were, of course, out of the question under the circumstances. According to scuttlebutt they had all been drinking so they decided their designated driver should be a young girl who only had a learner’s permit. They came out a side street to the main highway and then this unskilled driver proceed across four lanes of traffic to turn onto the highway and the inevitable happened: they were hit. One kid died and the rest suffered various injuries when they bounced around like BBs in a boxcar with the impact.

Further scuttlebutt holds that the van was parentally owned and that somehow some person with the legal entitlement to have children thought it was a fine idea for kids to do an overnighter 70 miles from home at which the booze would flow and that those same kids would make responsible choices.

They didn’t. One young woman’s life has been destroyed in the wake of one of her classmates being dead.

Let us dispel a currently-held myth. Young people are not capable of making reasoned choices. Their brains aren’t even fully formed, and they are governed by hormones. So, folks, lose your fear of stifling their brilliant independence, rein them in and establish some boundaries of responsibility. Otherwise, you have no right to have them.

I know this all from personal history and think back at some of the ridiculous, testosterone-driven decisions I made, and the risks I took when I was very young. I also know this from having watched my stepdaughter in her formative years. She was an intellectually rather brilliant young lady, but many of her decisions needed to be tempered by reasoning adults.

There is, after all, a reason why armies always want their soldiers to be young. They’ll take risks sensible adults wouldn’t.

Another case in point. In the drybelt interior of BC there is an extensive wine industry. The wineries have tastings, as wineries do. According to a newspaper article today, it has become fashionable for young males to get a bit of a snootful at the tastings and then, as only young males can do, go out to test their manhood by harassing the rattlesnakes that abound in the area. Doctors have reported a huge increase in potentially lethal snakebites as a result.

Back in the political realm again, the Sarah Palin rumors just don’t quit. Surf the net, it’s such fun. Latest offerings include the observation that Sarah wanted to speak following McCain at the time of his concession speech. His team refused her, and left her all pouty. Oh, and in the world of Sarah, the continent of Africa is a country – which I guess makes Kenya a province or a county, and the national membership of NAFTA is a blank in her knowledge, despite the fact that Canada, a member, is right next door to Alaska.

“What’s the difference between Sarah Palin and a pitbull? Eventually a pitbull lets go.” This is a tale repeated by the British Ambassador to the US and was supposedly told to him by McCain himself.



Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Perhaps hope does spring eternal after all

May I offer my American cousins who peruse this page a great big group hug and wet kiss?

Wow, wasn’t that a show?

Now, as some Canadians say, keep your stick on the ice and move on with hope in your hearts and perseverance as your mantra. For it is, as has been suggested so many times it has become cliché, that what happened yesterday was truly the dawning of a new era. A new era not only in your nation’s history, but a new era for the rest of us too. Provided it is all played as it should be played.

Unlike some of my compatriots – fortunately just a few – I love Americans as a people. I don’t always love your government and some of its attitudes, but neither do you. I have traveled extensively in the US and have never been treated badly. Indeed, I rarely feel I am in a ‘foreign’ country at all.

Anyway, love the US or not, whatever fortune befalls your nation impacts the rest of us to a huge degree, so we must pay attention. In our household we certainly watched the whole scenario unfold. It was a time of epiphany – good epiphany this time, rather than the sort that came with 9/11 in which we knew the world was going to change irrevocably, and not in a good way. Maybe yesterday was the final answer to 9/11 and it’s time to put paid to it and move on. Maybe.

For one thing, George W. staked virtually his whole governance on that tragic event, and acted accordingly. Unfortunately for all concerned. Including the rest of us that share the planet.

Of course the fact that your new president is black is also amazing. Utterly amazing. I mean, I am old enough that I remember the days of Selma and Montgomery too vividly. I had university friends who joined the Freedom Riders. I remember the assassinations of JFK, Robert, and Dr. King. I remember such names as Medgar Evers and Rosa Parks and old Orval Faubus and Little Rock Central High. Wow, again. It almost brings a tear of amazement and disbelief to my eye.

“I really hope Obama wins,” said a counseling client of mine yesterday. A client who, incidentally, happens to be black. “But, I don’t hope he wins because he is a black man, I hope he wins because he seems to offer the promise to be good; to bring about change. Quite honestly, if McCain seemed to me to be a better candidate, I would hope that he would win.” I liked that philosophically, because that is truly relegating race to the back burner, which is where it should always have been.
So, maybe it’s time for the lyrics to the anthem to become: “We did overcome!” And, symbolically, you did. You didn’t overcome everything but we did overcome a particular stigma which often cost the US credibility in the rest of the world.

At the end of the day, what the US and the rest of the world were left with after yesterday was ‘hope.’ And, in truth, hope is all we have in all our endeavors. Throw a smattering of faith in with that and maybe we can all move on.

But, I must grant a concession to the other side. John McCain was immensely gracious in defeat, and it spoke well of him. But, I would have expected nothing less of the man. He fought a good fight, made some gaffes, but was largely the victim of the times and the unfortunate Bush legacy. A Promethean task that circumstances conspired against.

To a degree I’ve admired Mr. McCain for a number of years, especially when I read of his three years of torture and agony in Vietnam. As Obama said in his acceptance speech, my opponent has undergone ordeals of which the rest of us can only imagine. So, all other things considered, I was sad for McCain. I was also said he didn’t get his chance back in 2000 when he might genuinely have had impact. Impact that ‘Junior’ was never able to muster in a positive sense.

And may Sarah go back to Alaska and be the best she can be. Thanks for the fun, babe.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Unexpectedly, Sarah thwarted the Heathers

For all of her manifold flaws, you have to hand one thing to Sarah Palin: she doesn’t play the game of the 'mean kids.'

On the eve of the US election I was struck by this thought. I mean, here is this bumpkin rube chick from far and away who arrives at a junior high schoolyard in her mukluks and flannel shirts, and all the mean kids with their fancy-schmantzy clothes, the ‘Heathers’ gang up on her; tease her, taunt her, diss her, try to make her cry, wet her pants, fall down, and ultimately run away back to the boondocks. Or, at the very least, to make her really mad so that she'll satisfyingly explode in outrage and send rivulets of mascara down her cheeks before she stomps off.

She never rose to the bait – once.

That bothers me.

This means either that Sarah is way stupider than anyone countenanced – or that she is far smarter than her enemies initially perceived. I shudderingly suspect the latter.

I suspect what she is is wily. She’s like those wolves she enjoys blasting off the tundra. She slowly stalks her prey, quietly waiting for the time to strike. She’s waiting for her chance to get even. Let’s hope that a big majority tomorrow don’t give her the chance because it could be ugly. The taking of prisoners likely isn’t in her songbook.

Meanwhile, throughout the taunting and teasing, Sarah just played along. She even went on SNL herself as a kind of good-humored counter to Tina’s version. Advice to the divinely talented Tina Fey, watch your back if McCain and Sarah should actually accomplish the seemingly impossible.

Yet, surely Sarah isn’t that superhuman and in such rigid control of her emotions. In the dark of night she must have been outraged. What did she do to sublimate? Was she blasting squirrels out of the trees? Hard to say.

Meanwhile, Sarah has continued to be unwavering in her self confidence, guided by her mantra that tells her: “I’m a hottie and men vote with their dicks.”

I hate to think that she might have that right, too.

Quite a piece of work.

To all my American friends, have a good election. Remember, we’re counting on you to do the right thing. And, for God’s sake, vote.