Thursday, January 31, 2008

Graham Bell's curse on us all

Is it just me, or do other people get a little twinge in the gut when the telephone rings? I know I do. Even if I’m not anticipating bad news, I still stress slightly when that little electronic bell invades my privacy. That’s why I have both an answering machine and call display. Those technologies give me at least a little power over Mr. Bell’s demonic (yet necessary, I admit) invention.

I suppose my problem with the telephone is that it is, by its nature, and invasion of privacy. Phones also tend to ring at the least opportune times, like when one is bathing, tending to calls of nature, relaxing in front of the TV at the end of the day, or when making love. Many years ago I recall (in a TMI) an incident in which my first wife and I were tending to a pressing matter in that regard, when the phone on the headboard rang. Despite my protestations, she insisted on answering it, though not necessarily stopping what we were doing. Well, it turned out to be her mother. Needless to say, she absolutely couldn’t persevere through to any sort of a mutually satisfying conclusion with Mom on the other end.

My other big problem with phones was when I worked at a newspaper. I didn’t mind there so much when the phone rang, because I was at work. But, I detested making cold calls. I would procrastinate forever with those. That was back in the days when we could smoke at our desks, and sometimes it would feel like I could go through a half pack of cigarettes before I actually called up the person I was seeking. If it was somebody who didn’t really want to hear from a reporter, the call was even harder to make, because I knew I would have to ask some difficult questions, and risked having the phone on the other end being slammed down. “Politician Blotz declined to comment,” would be the way that interlude would be reported in the paper.

When I was in my teens, the absolute worst cold calls were the ones made to whichever female I might have been besotted with at the time, and I was always besotted with somebody. Initially making the call, or leading up to making the call (which might take days, even weeks), was agonizing. I would run through various scenarios: what if her dad answers the phone? Dads hate teenage boys because they think (quite rightly so) that they want to get into their daughter’s panties; what if her mom answers the phone. Moms are usually OK, but not always to be trusted. What if ‘she’ answers the phone? Will I be so petrified that I hang up? In later courtships it would be, What if her kid answers the phone? Her kid hates me because I’m having sex with his/her mother.

Today, of course, we have the ubiquitous cellphone. I’ve already ranted about these, but I do not understand the sick impulse to always be connected in such a manner. My cellphone stays in my glove-compartment and is only used in emergencies. Of course, being only used for such a reason, the battery is normally dead, which renders the satanic little device quite ineffective.

My cellphone, I understand, has all sorts of wonderful features aside from just the phone feature. I have no idea what they are. I have no interest in finding out. I grew up in the era of party-lines. To me it was revolutionary when we got onto a private line. That’s still all I want.

Oh, and my childhood phone number was DE-3954Y. What was yours? Have you ever tried calling it to see what would happen? Do you think you’d reconnect with yourself as a child in a strange time warp? That would be scary.




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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Back to my craft or sullen art

A friend of mine who is a columnist in a larger city newspaper recently recounted how he was called upon to sit in on a journalism class at a nearby university. The object of the exercise, as the j-prof explained, was for him to sit in the class and just show the students what his ‘process’ was – what he did to pull a column together.

What a hideous exercise for anybody to have to undertake – sort of akin to what you do in the bathroom once the door is shut and locked – and, in other words, it’s just better not to know. Much as you don’t want to see what goes into sausages or to be entertained by a graphic account of your sister-in-law’s sex life. Make the sign of the cross and get outta there would be my advice.

Maybe that’s why I never took a journalism course. In my esteem, journalism is not something that can be taught. You either have an affinity and skill, or you don’t. The fact that somebody is inclined to publish my words is a reasonable indication there is a modicum of skill afoot. If somebody doesn’t, and especially if many people don’t want to publish you, this is an indication to get back to your mortician’s assistant apprenticeship program.

Anyway, my friend’s account of his process was quite amusing. And, of course, as such things do, it made me think of my own. I was once interviewed by a paper after I’d won a national award, and the young reporter wanted to know then how one of my columns came about. I still have the article. In it I lied outrageously and talked a lot about sweating bullets of blood, and so forth. Back in those days I was probably sweating bullets of the previous evening’s indulgence.

Today I no longer write a regular column, though I do write a lot of articles, some of them even quite serious. Lots of purple prose brings in those who pay the admission. So, rather than column-writing, I will consider what it’s like to write an article for which I have received editorial approval.

It goes like this:


* I have editorial approval. That is a good thing. That means I can get on with it. Cool, and at the end I’ll get paid.

*I have editorial approval. That means I’ll ‘have’ to get on with it. What if it turns out to be a piece of crap and destroys what little reputation I might fancy I have?

* But, with that approval, I’ll just have to get to it. ‘Getting to it’ is very definitely my own approach. It includes: having a further cup of coffee, playing a few rounds of solitaire, checking my email (they still seem to be concerned about the state of my penis), checking for blog comments, checking other people’s blogs, then back to getting to it.

* When I began writing many years ago it was via typewriter. At that point I would stare at a blank sheet of paper. Now I stare at a blank Microsoft Word screen. Same thing, somehow.

* Many people develop a ‘plan’ and try to adhere to it. My plan is in my head – or not. If it’s not then I go to the old newspaper trick of writing my lead sentence. If the lead is a good one, then everything else should fall into place. If the lead is not good, then nothing will fall into place.

* Continuing: I pour another cup of coffee. Try a little more solitaire and then check all the above things that I’d checked about 15-minutes earlier. After all, I have my lead, so everything should take off from here.

* Continuing: I look out the window. If Wendy is out-of-town I dash off an email to her. Sometimes I tell her what I am writing. Sometimes she gives me find suggestions for approach. Oftimes they work.

* Eventually I finish it. I then email to Wendy to edit. No sensible newspaper person trusts his or her own editing. Objectivity is needed. Wendy sends the corrected version off. I gasp at the number of typos and non-sequiturs that have leapt out at her. I fix them. Looks good.

* I send it off and await receipt notification from the paper. I check out another version of solitaire, happy that a fine job has been accomplished. About two hours later I check some scribbled notes I’d made beforehand. Oh shit, think I, I neglected to include this vital element. Will anyone notice? Think of how many things you read on a daily basis in which the journalist has “neglected to include a vital element.”

Scary business this is.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Fly in the ointment of democracy

As most people around the world know, there is to be a US election in the fall. Much to the relief of many, George W. has completed his two stints. So has that weasel Dick Cheney (arguably the scariest and most evil looking dude around), and a new era will begin. What it will look like is anybody’s guess at this juncture.

So, in thinking about that forthcoming election and its significance, Americans must be aware that much of what happens outside their geo-political realm will be based on what happens in the US election.

This has brought me to the realization that there is a flaw in all of this. If what happens in the US is going to impact me, as a Canadian, for example, so why don’t I get a say in the election?

There is a big fly in the ointment of world governance. That fly being that elections in democracies are restricted to the citizenry of that country. That’s just not right. It may have been right in 1850, but this is a different world; one in which we are in direct and instant touch with what is going on elsewhere. So, we should all get a say.

In that, I have a cunning plan, as Baldrick on the wonderful Blackadder was wont to say. My plan is this: everybody who lives in a democratic state gets to become an auxiliary citizen of all other democracies around the world. And, in being an auxiliary, he or she would get half a vote. So, if say 1.5 million Canadians vote for Obama, should he get the nomination, that would earn him 750,000 votes. Clever, eh?

And, think about it. Many of us travel. How nice it would be to go to a country and to know that you had a say in that country’s government of the day. Think that Gordon Brown guy in the UK is a bit of an anal jerk who became more obsessed with being rid of Tony Blair rather than doing the nation’s business? Throw the bum out. Believe that Sarkozy in France is more concerned about dallying with his hottie mistress rather than fixing that nation’s manifold problems? Have a say in replacing him. Believe that Putin in Russia is a tin-pot dictator who wants to hold sway for life? In the first place, he does. In the second place, maybe we should have a say in keeping that from happening.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. It’s a modest proposal, but one that just might have merit.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

'Do it my way and we'll all be happy!'

Riding the elevator in the Victoria apartment we live parttime, we were sharing with an elderly lady, who was perusing a new regulation notice posted in the lift. It was in response to something or other, and it meant that residents would no longer be able to do something they’d been permitted to do in the past.

“I hate being scolded,” the lady sniffed.

I agree. I too hate being scolded, and I balk with a vengeance against anybody who dares to tell me how to live my life. I am a law-abiding and responsible human being, and I am also one who is prepared to take my lumps if I screw up. But, don’t ‘tell’ me how to live my life.

I had controlling parents, a controlling first wife, and school I largely detested because it gave me so little room for anything resembling free will. And today’s society is filled with petty controllers; jerks that assume they know better than I do how to conduct myself. Assholes who give me no credit for common sense believe they reserve the right to direct me.

Indeed, the increase in regulation has assumed an exponentiality that seems endless. The rule boys and girls have already turned air travel into a nightmare, but they are not content to stop at that. We are also told how we must eat, how we must drink, what we must feed our children, and what lightbulbs we should be burning in our homes. We’re even told how to pee – or at least what to do after we’ve peed. More and more restrooms now have signs directing us to wash up afterwards. Well, if Mom didn’t already do that, too bad. And yes, I do wash my hands, but I don’t need some teeny-minded bureaucrat to remind me. Mainly because if I choose to ‘not’ wash, it’s nobody’s damn business.

Reminds me of an old story.

Army sergeant and sailor are standing next to each other at a urinal. Sailor finishes and goes to exit the restroom. Sergeant says to the departing gob: “Army washes its hands, sailor.” Sailor replies: “Navy doesn’t piss on its hands, sergeant.”

About three years ago a young man in BC named Grant DePatie made a really dumb decision. He was faced with a gas-up and run creep at the service station at which he worked. Grant’s dumb and tragic decision was to go after the creep. He ended up being dragged by the car and killed. Awful story.

Now, as of February 1st, all service stations in BC will be pay at the pump. No ifs, ands or buts. That is, everybody is to be inconvenienced thanks to a very bad judgment call by one young man. It is called ‘Grant’s Law’ and has been imposed by the government. Nobody asked me or anybody else if they were seeking such a law. Nobody asked service station operators if they were seeking such a law. Well, in a more reasoned time, it would have been up to the business owner if such a rule were to be put into place. In other words, it was none of the government’s goddamn business. Still ain’t, in my esteem.

It’s not a big deal for me to pay at the pump, since I already do. The big deal is being told by officialdom that I must. Give us all some credit, for heaven's sake. I don't need a 'benevolent' police state to protect me.

Now, don’t even get me started on this fluorescent lightbulbs that they plan to impose on us, but have offered no suggestions whatsoever how those mercury bearing twisty bits of pseudo-light are to be disposed of in an environmentally safe manner.

And that, dear friends, is your Monday rant from me.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Have we got a question for you


A meme that comes by way of cs originally, and I picked it up from Echomouse, and I kind of enjoyed working through it on a day without a great deal of inspiration. I'm not going to tag anybody, but try it nevertheless; it's fun.

1) Three Exes I would pretend not to know today: I don’t do that sort of thing any more. I went for quite a while ignoring my second wife because I was so angry and hurt with her. But, eventually I softened and ultimately I forgave her, sort of. If one continues to hate, then the other person has power over one. She has no power over me. Ironically, she only lives a block away, and we wave pleasantly if we pass, or we stop and chat in the local grocery store on occasion. My first wife and I get along well now, though five minutes conversation with her leads me to thank God I am no longer married to her. And, I love my ex-paramours very much, though I rarely see any of them.

2) The most scandalous rumor to pass through my high school: Highschools are rife with rumors, most of them false. I cannot think of any that were egregiously scandalous. There were the usual male teacher screwing female student ones, though none were verifiable or led to ugly marital breakups. It was rumoured that one of the female gym teachers was in a lesbian relationship with her star female athlete. Maybe they were. I don’t know, and certainly don’t care by this point in life. Hey, as long as they were happy, I don’t judge.

3) The time I knew Santa didn't exist: The last time I remember fully believing in Santa. was Christmas when I was five-years-old. I recall trying to stay awake until he arrived, despite the fact I was told if I was awake I would only get coal in my stocking. In any case, I didn’t succeed in staying awake, and it was a good thing, because that was also the only Christmas I got exactly what I’d asked for. For whatever reason, by the time I was six, I had become jaded and unbelieving about the whole business. Christmas lost some of its charm at that point. Fantasies can be better than reality in many realms.

4) The funniest thing I did in a house of worship: I put my mother into giggling hysterics at my younger brother’s wedding. I was sitting with my mother on one side and my wife on the other. I was leafing through the hymnbook when I spotted a particular hymn title that struck me as hilarious. It was called “Through the night of pain and sorrow, O Lord deliver us.” That’s what Colin and Lynn chose as their wedding hymn,” I told Mom. She laughed so hard tears were running down her cheeks, and was furious with me about it all. Considering the brief duration of my brother’s first marriage, I think it was appropriate.

5) Best excuse I came up with for being out past curfew: Any excuse I would have given would have never been believed, so I simply had to bear with being in deep shit yet again. Was the story of my adolescence.

6) Saturday cartoon character I had a crush on: Maybe Betty Boop. She was pretty darn cute with her teeny little flapper skirts that showed off her panties. Showing off panties always worked for me. Still does.

7) Cartoon character I wanted to be: Can’t think of any cartoon character I particularly wanted to be. I guess maybe Superman who could fly and had that X-ray vision which would let a lad get up to all sorts of shenanigans. Batman had a great costume, but there was that Robin thing, you know. I always really liked the little Martian in the Warner Bros. Cartoons, but I never wanted to be him.

8) Foods I can no longer stomach: Green peppers, which will stay with me for days. The loss of that one doesn’t bother me as much as raw onions. To me a burger is incomplete without a big slice of raw onion. But nearly lethal heartburn has been the result of such usage for the last decade or so. Consequently, I refrain, much to my displeasure.

9) Tacky pick up line you used that worked: I actually had “I know you from somewhere, don’t I?” work for me once. It didn’t work immediately, but it opened up conversation in trying to decide what the connection might be. We actually found we did know somebody in common. Eventually it did work, because we stayed in touch for a while. My friend used to be more basic. He used to say (usually after he’d had too much to drink), “Hey there, wanna (basic F word expression for ‘indulge in carnality’)? Surprsingly, it paid off for him on a couple of occasions. I never had the nerve to try it. Anyway, I am a bit out of practice. For some reason my wife objects to me picking up females in bars. She's funny that way.

10) Secret Hangover recipe: The basic one is to not drink too much, then you don’t need to worry about it. Otherwise, only drink ‘white’ booze, like vodka or gin. But, alas back in the days when I still drank, and often way too much, the only thing I found that worked was the proverbial ‘hair of the dog.’

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

It's really not so bad after all

Sometimes I use this space to embark on semi cynical diatribes and rants against all that is evil, unfair and corrupt in the world, and God knows there is lots to rail against.

At the same time, that’s life. We still (at least here in the western world), despite our travails, live in the best of all times for the greatest number of people since the beginning of humanity. Individual examples of crappiness don’t take from that basic fact.

Furthermore, I’m assuredly not a cynic. I love life, and love and the whole damn thing, and I think (despite a few episodes in my life history that have been utterly wretched) I have been preternaturally blessed. On this particular day I have a nice home, a life-partner whom I love and she loves me, an ability to put meals on the table; I have (as far as I know) decent health, no hideous habits, my sanity, am reasonably presentable and clean (clean is good), and I further know how to read, write and cipher, have a basic understanding of the laws of the land, and know what my obligations and rights as a citizen happen to be.

Not so bad, all told.

At the moment I have been requested to tabulate the findings of a two months’ study by a group of citizens, and commissioned by the mayor, looking into homelessness in the community. I have to turned this all into a handy-dandy publishable report by the end of February. In this, I have been looking at life’s realities for some people: the mentally ill, the addicted, the mentally challenged, the physically ill, the jobless and the working poor who literally have no idea where they might be sleeping tonight – on a generous friend’s sofa, or under the bridge. What, and you want to feed yourself or your children? You want heat and light?

My God, how awful such a life would be. And, all I could think was, holy shit, am I ever fortunate. Am I ever blessed.

And, in my denial of cynicism, I’d also like to say there are actual human beings that I admire immensely. People who perhaps have also come to believe that they are blessed and therefore would like to (or have in the past) extent themselves beyond their personal realms and areas of privilege to do for some others what those others may not have been able to do for themselves.

My personal heroes and heroines are too numerous to mention, but I personally know, and know of, individuals who put me to shame in their altruistic impulses to ‘give back’ in gratitude for the good hand they’ve been dealt.

Not a bad thing to do. It’s a kind of attitude of gratitude. Do you have heroes, either globally or in your own neighborhood?

Of course, none of this means that I won’t whine and bitch once in a while. But, that’s only because there are people who should be set straight about their own greed and self-indulgence.


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Friday, January 25, 2008

A horrible way to solve a problem

Have you been deeply impacted by the Hollywood writers’ strike? I haven’t. In fact, I’ve scarcely noticed. My TV viewing consists largely of rerun viewings of L&O, CSI, the Simpsons, PBS offerings (when they’re not on one of their interminable fundraising drives,) and TCM. If not, there’s always DVDs, or a good book. So, really I have noticed no change in my life. In other words, I don't really care if it's never resolved.

Yet, I guess, as a person who earns a living of a sort as a creative compiler of words, I should be deeply sympathetic. Indeed, with the writers' cause, I am deeply sympathetic. For decades the film-biz’s scribes have been treated like something a braindead glamourpuss stepped in on the sidewalk, and all cameras will be on the braindead glamourpuss with little thought going in the direction of the underpaid and unheralded guy or girl who put the script together – trying to hold back on words of two syllables or more so that peabrained multimillion dollar pay glamourpuss GP can actually learn the script.

As I say, I have great sympathy with their cause. I have very little sympathy with their technique. That’s because strikes, of any kind, are dreadful things and never hurt the people the strikers are hoping to hurt. Mainly it’s those on the picket-lines who get to hang onto the dirty end of the stick. That’s combined with the fact that strikers rarely gain back what they’ve lost during the dispute. Needless to say, their union bosses never tell them that when they are exhorting them to go out.

I have lived through one strike. I never, ever would want to repeat the experience. It indeed was probably the worst experience of my life. I have told people, not entirely waggishly, that my divorces were easy compared to the big strike.

It was in the late summer of 1994.My newspaper, of which I was assistant/city editor at the time, had just celebrated its 103rd anniversary. Thanks to union behavior and a huge conflict between the union boss, and the newspaper’s publisher, it wouldn’t see 104. The boys and girls of the newspaper guild hit the bricks in August.

It was ugly. Former friends became enemies, or at least adversaries. Because I was management I was deemed by union colleagues to be a bad guy. This was a joke, since I made considerably less than printers and compositors (union members) and didn’t have a union to argue for me. My domestic partner of the day had an even harder time. She was a very unhappy union member, and she was one of a group deemed to be “sleeping with the enemy.” She finally quit the union and any hope in future to not be deemed 'hot' (in the union, not pulchritude sense) in disgust, and I will also suggest this dispute was the beginning of our domestic downfall.

Anyway, the end result was sad and stupid. Other than the ugliness of of my having to cross a picket line every day and be jeered at by former workmates, and pathetic attempts to try to get the paper out with management at the helm, eventually it unfolded that everybody lost. The multinational publishing company shut down the paper without so much as a by-your-leave; something the union told its lackeys would never happen, and we were all out of work. This was a job I planned to do right until retirement, because frankly, I loved the work.

Journeymen ultimately had to go out of town to get employment; the impact on the business community locally was big since the paper employed 150 people, which is a lot in a smaller community, and bitter resentments had been formed, and they took a very long time to heal. Even union members developed animosities to each other, the militants against the moderates. Solidarity forever, my ass. Some people have never really healed and remain bitter and adversarial until this day.


The local paper that was formed after the strike was immediately deemed a “scab rag” (which it wasn’t) and there are still those who will have nothing to do with it. It’s the local paper to which I contribute, by the way, and I served on its staff for four years, part of the time as assistant editor, with a salary that didn’t resemble the one I got at my former paper. The bucks just weren’t there.

So, I cannot fathom why, in this day and age, strikes are still considered to be viable alternatives to decent and respectful collective bargaining. Then again, that would be like asking people to seek intelligent solutions to disputes. That doesn’t seem to happen much.

So, will network television ever fully recover from this dispute? I’d be prepared to suggest that the impact will carry on for years, even after settlement. It seems to work that way.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Two-by-two they go walking by



Jazz passed this on to me and suggested she made this choice because ‘I do what she tells me to do’ (Jazz is 'she who must be obeyed', just like Mrs. Rumpole). Anyway, it is January doldrums meme time so I will do what I was told. Doing so also allows me to save my planned blog on the Rise of the Medieval Hanseatic League until a later time. So, thanks, Lovely Jazz, and I’ll see what I can do with this Noah’s Ark reminiscent two-by-two thing.
Two names you go byIan and ‘Mr. Lidster’. The latter because I used to be a teacher. I have never been given a formal nickname. Although, a few have been applied to me by lovers and other strangers. Some are cute; others are absolutely not for polite and sensitive company.
Two things you are wearing right now – A beige sweater and an old pair of jeans.
Two things you would want (or have) in a relationship – Mucho romance and a lot of laughter. I have both.
Two of your favorite things to do – Read and travel (same as Jazz). If you thought I would write something really intimate and personal, I decided to refrain.
Two things you want very badly at the moment – To get inspiration for an article I’ve sold but not yet written, and to visit the john (morning coffee and probably TMI)
Two pets you had/have – Right now I have 18-year-old cat, Griffin, who is healthy since he spends 23 ½ hours sleeping each day. And I still miss my border collie, Murphy. There have been countless others, cats and dogs.

Two people you think will fill this out
cs because she’s good at these and has a pleasingly infectious view of life in all its parameters, and casdok because she has a wonderfully eccentric and funny take on life, regardless of the bad stuff that gets thrown in her direction.

Two things that you did last night – Watched a new episode of Law & Order (I still miss Lenny, however) and went to a Community Drug Strategy Committee meeting.
Two things you ate today – A boiled egg and a piece of toast..
Two people you last talked to – Joanne and Joanne, two baristas at my favorite coffee joint.

Two things you’re doing tomorrow – Interviewing some people about that article I am supposed to be writing right now rather than doing a meme.
Two longest car rides – I love going places, but I hate long drives. My ass gets sore. I suppose the Comox Valley to San Francisco (and back, needless to say), and last September’s trip down the Oregon Coast and up to Crater Lake, and back. I was surprised at the end of it the number of miles we’d chalked up.
Two favorite holidays – Groundhog Day and St. Swithin’s Day. No fuss and no muss, and you don’t need to send cards to anybody, and you don’t feel hurt if you didn’t get exactly what you wanted.
Two favorite beverages – Dark roast coffee and a good milkshake. There once were other choices, but that was then.
Two people no longer alive who you’d like to talk to – Like Jazz, I am not going to go for the exotic, and Attila the Hun and I wouldn’t speak the same language, anyway. So, I am going to say my beloved maternal grandmother who was hit and killed by a car when she was crossing the street, way back when I was 14. I still miss her. And, my father. Mainly, what I want to know is WTF with all his attitudinal stuff, and did he really hate his kids, or did he just not know how to express positive feelings? As I’ve gotten older I have come more to suspect that latter was the case. So, come on down, Dad. ‘Some’ is forgiven.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oopsie!

Just a little bit premature here, as it were. Here I went and prattled on about the new season of Lost beginning tonight. In fact, it begins on January 31st, as Jazz so thoughtfully pointed out to me, and she didn't even call me a moron, or anything.
So, sorry. And, if you'd changed your plans for this evening or had set up your machinery to record the episode, again I apologize.
On the other hand, the material I wrote, just apply it to next week -- OK?

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Something of a family tradition by now

In case you hadn’t been paying attention, Lost comes back tonight. This will only have relevance if you have been a Lost follower. I did become a Lost follower only because Wendy started watching it when it first was aired and, since I’ve gone along this far, I may as well continue.

Wendy started watching because she’s a sci-fi and fantasy aficionado. I’m mostly not. But, I got sort of hooked fairly on, despite how patently ridiculous some of the scenarios are. But, otherwise it’s really well-scripted and very well acted, and you end up liking some actors and loathing others. It’s sort of like Survivor but with a good script and not so many assholes.

And, it’s got Kate. The divine Kate makes if for me. With her freckly nose, amazing beauty, and ‘bad girl’ backgound, what could be better for a middle aged fantasist?

Lost is one of those maddening series, however, that is in fact a serial. That is, if you miss bits, it’s difficult to catch up, and it’s well-nigh impossible to come in at the middle. Consequently, I have never watched 24, and I didn’t watch X-Files. Well, I mainly didn’t watch X-Files because I thought the premise was stupid. But, that’s just me. As I said, I’m not a big sci-fi buff.

I don’t eschew all science-fiction, mind you. I like the concept of time travel; I get enchanted by afterlife scenarios, psychic phenomena and the like. I don’t necessarily believe in those things, but they do leave room to speculate. It’s kind of like God, if you get my drift, and I don’t mean to be blasphemous at all. I really like the idea of God, and think it would be just splendid if it were so, but I’m not always sure about it.

The kind of sci-fi that doesn’t enchant me much is that which involves aliens. Well, except for Alien itself, but that was mainly because it involved Sigourney Weaver.

Back to Lost. I am interested to know where they are going to take it. With the surprise flash-forward at the end of the season we saw that tiresome Jack and yummy Kate got off the island. But, they don’t seem to be together. Jack is bearded like the pard and hitting the sauce with a vengeance, and says he has to go back. OK. Good place for him. What of Sawyer? Sawyer’s the genuine dude. Corrupt as they come, but smart, and with a distinctive hillbilly charm.

Guess I’ll find out.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The 'Reaper' never rests, it seems


In my ongoing quest to keep you informed of those things that make life just a little less savory, it falls to me to keep you updated about all that is wretched.

I’m not alone in my resolve here, since the media, both print and electronic, as well as the scientific and medical ‘research’ communities are working diligently to bolster our obsessive-compulsive complexes and to render us just a little less optimistic and hopeful.

I mean, what is this? Is it some sort of boomer realization that we too (just like all the generations that preceded us) are also mortal? Yes, just like everybody who went before, we too are going to die someday. And, if we don’t die directly, we are going to succumb to manifold distresses and chronic ailments, physical, mental and emotional.

So, why are we such whiners about this? Why does the media believe we are all paranoid snivelling cowards and therefore they must enable these insecurities. Why have we lost our ‘shit happens’ impulse and replaced it with “please make the world safe and don’t let shit happen to me.”

Anyway, as I said, my quest in this regard is to keep you informed. So, here are the offerings of the (so-called) Life section of a local newspaper yesterday:

Toxoplasma tied to schizophrenia: According to one of them studies, and as reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the old toxoplasma gondii parasite carried by cats and farm animals will turn you schizo. Yet another reason to avoid cleaning the litter box.

Pollution linked to heart attack: Kind of a well-duh finding, but it attests, according to a UCLA study that the smallest amounts of particulate from vehicle emissions triggers heart plaque build-up. Hmm, a UCLA finding. UCLA is in LA. Why hasn’t everybody in that car-obsessed city succumbed to the ‘big one?’

Birth height suicide related: Bad news for Tom Cruise, because it seems, according to a study reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health that short male babies run twice the risk of violent suicide in adulthood. Hasn’t it already been said that “short people got no reason to live.”

Aspirin resistant patients at risk: If the emissions don’t blow your ticker asunder, a Canadian study attests that being resistant to Aspirin makes patients four times more likely to died from a heart attack or stroke. “So, Mr. Jones, take two Tylenol and call me in the morning if you’re still alive.”

MDs differ on depression: What? MDs having divergent opinions? How can that be? Oh, it’s one of those male-female sawbones issues. Acceding to the Society for Women’s Health Research, female doctors are more sympathetic to women’s tendency to depression during two key periods, puberty and just before menopause. Teenage girls bitchy? Naah. I’ll make no comment about menopause because I am contentedly married.

Anyway, have a really nice day.

_________________________________________________________


But, since we are looking at mortality, I have another observation, and this is a sad one. I have to note the passing of the splendiferous Suzanne Pleshette. She was only 70 and was, in my esteem, the most dazzling brunette in the entertainment business.

And then there was that ‘voice’. She had a speaking tone that would put Lauren Bacall to shame, and perhaps one that was only matched by late English actress Joan Greenwood.

I once told a favorite aunt of mine that she had a voice like Suzanne Pleshette’s. “I take that as a supreme compliment,” said Auntie. “Now, if I only looked like Suzanne Pleshette, I’d really be happening.”

Anyway, Suzanne did not have a stunning film career, but it was on TV she found her forte. Brilliantly matched with the inimitable Bob Newhart, there was never any doubt that the two of them had a brilliant love life, as there were hints galore in the show.

And, I can still hear her uttering in mock dismay: “Ooooh, Bob.”

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

An idea just a little before its time



DFI (dumbfuck idea) of the month award has to be given to Ford Canada in which some smartass advertising sorts thought it would be kinda cute, and maybe appealing to younger drivers if they offered the slogan, pertaining to its vehicles, ‘Drive it like you stole it!’

Isn’t that clever? You know, attract the harebrained and felonious young drivers to your product. Or, at least, the junior criminal wannabes.

What does drive it like you stole it actually mean? What did the Ford jerks think it meant? Did they think it meant that their product was so cool that a young dude would feel it verged on something one of his homies might be driving through city streets at astonishing speeds and maybe wiping out a young mom and her kids that she has just picked up from soccer practice? That is because real car thieves are known to scoff at traffic lights and the other niceties of responsible driving.

Car theft, especially by the young, is a huge problem in Canada. And car theft, via draconian Canadian jurisprudence is often punished with penalties that range from, oh, getting a darn good talking to, to perhaps something as severe as ‘conditional sentencing.’ This means staying at home of an evening playing with your probably stolen Gameboy while your buds are out lifting other people’s cars. Maybe even Fords, but probably not, since Beemers are a little more enticing.

Anyway, just when you thought society was populated by thoughtful and responsible corporate minds, I felt we needed to be set straight.

By the way, Ford decided to nix the campaign after innumerable complaints over its tastelessness and irresponsibility. Complaints especially from those ‘whiners’ who had actually lost family members due to the terrifying driving behaviors of car thieves.

Do you think the failure of the campaign will be reflected in this year’s Christmas bonuses for Ford ad execs? No, neither do I.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Everybody's thinkin' of you -- PS I love you

This is indeed a puzzlement. I just read that Graham Greene, one of my favorite novelists, thought that Ralph Richardson, one of my favorite old-school English actors, was an intolerable old hambone who took liberties with the writings of others when he performed. He told Ralph (pron. ‘Rafe’) so in a letter. Now I’m conflicted. Can I still like and admire them both? Sort of like when best friends get divorced. Is it still OK to like both Scott and Zelda?

Anyway, the Greene revelation came about from reading an article in the Globe & Mail’s ‘Books’ section from last weekend. The section was devoted entirely to the collections of selected letters from various writers and performers that have been published in recent times.

Included in the reviews were the epistolary musings of that gay old dog (gay used in both senses of the word) Noel Coward, the astonishing and exhausting Mitford sisters, the aforementioned Greene, and so forth. Enjoyable reviews and I am tempted to acquire some of the collections.

It put me in mind of the fact that letter writing was once an ‘art’ and it is one that has sadly been lost. It may not ever be found again, considering the fact that, in terms of the younger generation, ‘literacy’ (not text-messaging argot crap) is a criterion. Indeed, it is virtually mandatory.


"I'm gonna sit right down and text-message myself a letter." just would not work.

I am as guilty as the next person in this regard. Technology has killed an impulse that had both legitimacy and romance connected with it. But, like you, I am inclined to email. It’s so easy, and you don’t have to deal with the weasels at the post office in order to acquire stamps, etc.

But, there was a time in which I wrote letters. I actually sat down with pen (preferably of the fountain sort, it just went with the territory) and nice stationery, and you turned wonderful words into prose – often very ‘purple’ prose if it was a love letter. Love letters, sigh. Not in the sand, but on perfumed paper. Love letters that closed (you hoped) with ‘Love’ or even better ‘Love Always’ and then this stuff XXXXXXXXXOOOOOOOOO. Man, that was almost as good as sex. In fact, in those days that was about all the carnality a lot of guys got, so it had to do.

And, a body felt obliged to keep letters, to store them away in old shoe-boxes. I still have all the letters sent to me by my steady girlfriend at the end of high school as she carried out her summer job at a resort on Gabriola Island on BC’s coast. I don’t know why I kept them, but I am glad I did. They’re not especially salacious – she wasn’t that kind of girl; well actually she was, but not in her letters – but they’re cherished nevertheless.

I also have letters from later sweeties, and also from male friends, aunts and uncles, my grandfather and many others. They cannot be discarded. I cherish them and the senders who took the trouble to write them. One of my very best friends died in an accident in the spring of 1981. I still have his last letter posted to me while I was living in England for a year. I cherish that letter above all others. It was written only a couple of weeks before his untimely death.

As I say, technology didn’t shoot the messenger, but it changed the messenger. It made all of us lazy seekers of convenience and speed. So yes, I email regularly, and snail-mail virtually not at all. But, I do not text-message, nor do I plan to. I have some standards, and retaining a modicum of literacy is one of those standards.

And, I blog. And my blogs, like so many of yours, keep the letter writing tradition alive. So, there is hope.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

It all depends on the situation

When I was brushing my teeth one morning I was struck by a thought at the time of the rinsing part of the procedure. The thought originated with the bathroom glass. I picked it up and held it to the light, and was mutely fascinated by the fact it was just barely translucent. It was a veteran of many brushings, water residue, and the use of more than one person. That it needed washing went without saying, but the more important point is we, members of a household who live in close proximity aren’t always entirely fastidious.

The bathroom glass is an example of situational esthetics.

If I were to go to the kitchen cupboard and extricate a glass from within and it was an ugly, scummy distasteful looking receptacle, I would thrust it from me, wonder how it got into the cupboard in such a state, and find another, cleaner glass.

That’s why the bathroom glass situation is, well, situational. One expects a bathroom glass to be a little less than perfect. In fact, you can walk into anybody else’s bathroom and -- after you finish inspecting their medicine chest to see what kind of addictive drugs they’ve had prescribed, or are abusing -- look at their glass. It may be even worse than yours. And, even if their glass is pretty ratty looking, you probably don’t think less of them as human beings, and will continue to assume they shower and change their undies daily. On the other hand, there is no way you're going to use 'their' dirty glass. You'll stick with your own dirty glass.

From the time we are children, we are taught that certain things are nice and certain things are nasty. What makes them nasty? The divine decree of Mom, usually. Therefore, we learn that picking one’s nose is nasty. Everybody does it, but we reach a certain age and try to avoid doing so in front of others. Likewise, breaking wind. Just not acceptable in public in well-regulated households, and should such a thing happen accidentally – like on a pretty girls doorstep at the conclusion of an otherwise splendid first date – we are mortified. We’re mortified because we have been taught that this is not the right situation in which such an eruption should transpire.

Take this case of situationality: A fine fellow walks down the street and he spies a wonderful looking woman. The sort of woman a chap would like to get to know better. His mind races, and he thinks this is the sort of woman I would like to know as well as I could know anyone. I would like to hug her and kiss her, kiss her very deeply, and then to make mad love to her. That is what I would like to do. So, let us say that he, in his lust-fuelled mind, has indulged in all those intimacies. And let’s say that same beautiful woman has noticed our man ogling her. So, she turns, smiles and walks over to him. She looks more luscious than ever when she gets up close. She speaks.

“I watched you watching me,” she says with a seductive smile. “I think you are very handsome and very sexy looking. And I was wondering, I’ve finished chewing my gum now, and I was thinking I could give it to you to chew for a while. Wouldn't that be sexy?”

His lustful feelings would vanish in a minute and he, who wanted to kiss her deeply, is repelled by the thought of chewing the spearmint she’s been munching on for the past hour. Situational esthetics again.

We will permit a cat to lick a child. Would we permit the child to lick a cat? Why not? The same bacteria are being transferred in both cases. The cat has been licking the baby’s fingers; the baby sticks her fingers into her mouth. But, children don’t lick cats. It’s not done. It offends.

Other examples of situational esthetics:

* We delight in eating escargot (at least some do). Escargot is snails. We would be repulsed at being offered slugs as a viable alternative. It’s the same animal, but without the shell. But, no matter how much garlic butter we might slather on them, slugs are out of the question. Likewise, we revel in seeing lobster, crab and prawns on a menu, but would be horrified to see scorpion or tarantula on the bill of fare, in even the finest restaurant.

* We demand that public businesses like restaurants and shops provide loos for both men and women, yet both sexes use the same potty at home. Some especially world folk don’t even bother closing the door. I’m not that worldy.. I think Europeans are a little less anal (if that’s an appropriate term) in this regard.

* We can spit without hesitation at a dental appointment, but few are those above the age of fourteen who would do such a thing in the street – thank God.

*
We permit a doctor, who may be a perfect stranger, to become extremely familiar with the most intimate areas of our bodies, and do things we wouldn’t permit even a really, really good friend to do, and we don’t suffer (much) embarrassment as a consequence.

* We delude ourselves into thinking an airline hostess has a more glamorous job than a restaurant waitress. Likewise, we tell ourselves that those who travel on airplanes are a superior class of people to those who must take the bus. Bus passengers may be poorer but, considering some of the trashy people I have flown with, they aren’t necessarily inferior. just because they are forced to go Greyhound.

What are some situational esthetics situations with which you’re familiar?


Oh, and by the way, I really think the bathroom glass is due for a washing..

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It's the wave of the future -- maybe we should get used to it

Fellow blogger and artiste extraordinaire Andrea mentioned in her comment on my last blog that she was pleasantly surprised that there was a train running from Courtenay to Victoria on Vancouver Island. Indeed there is, and has been since 1914. I wrote an earlier blog (Feb. 5, 2007) on how I loved that little old train.

I am a rail romantic. I love that clickety-clack and watching the world whisk by via the backdoors of people’s houses. Casey Jones is my hero, and the only ‘other’ Gordon Lightfoot song I like (other than If You Could Read My Mind) is Canadian Railroad Trilogy.

When I lived in England 25 years ago I used the train all the time. It was costly, and was rarely on time, but I still loved it.

I like the freedom and relative comfort of trains. You can get up, walk around, grab something to eat or drink and do whatever you wish to fill in the time. A highlight of my travel experiences was getting a bedroom and traveling across Canada by train. I have also traveled around Europe on a Eurorail Pass (even went on the Orient Express – no spies or murders, by the way), and passed through the Simplon Tunnel. I have been on the crack new French trains (which are amazing), and took the delightful coastal trip on Amtrak from San Diego to LA. I heartily recommend that one.

Oh, I could go on and on. And I must suggest that one area in which the Europeans put us to shame is in their embracing of rail transport. And why not? If we are really serious about our so-called carbon footprint, that is where the government should be dumping its (our) money, rather than enhancing intercoursing freeways. If you want to get people out of their cars, then let them take to the rails. The rails on main lines, commuter lines, and street railways.

Grenoble France has a wonderful and modern street railway system (see picture). We used it all the time when we were living there in 2006. Never once did we feel the lack of a car in terms of our ability to get around quickly and comfortably.

I write this because it was just announced that the feds are dumping a gazillion dollars on local governments to upgrade their transportation systems. What is moronic Victoria doing? It’s establishing special ‘bus’ lanes? Don’t be suggesting light rail transit. Not in the cards. No, hydrocarbon spewing buses will have their own lanes and that will allegedly answer the problems and get folk out of their cars. Regular old diesel engine (not even electric) buses will be the wave of Victoria’s future until at least 2030 says the good minister of all that stuff.
You sir, are an ass if you don’t see the logical flaws in this. Those buses will still use the product of our diminishing oil reserves, will still be adding their crud to the atmosphere, and will not discourage people from using their cars. After all, buses are buses – buses are the only form of transit even more execrable than commercial aircraft.

Light rail runs on electricity. Is silent. Does not pollute. Does not interfere with street traffic. Offers a pleasing alternative to the private vehicle. I will ask of the governments, both civic and provincial the same question a fellow counsellor used to ask of addicts and alcoholics in denial: “What don’t you get?”

British Columbians and those who live in other places in which their governments at all levels embrace freeways and petroleum guzzling private vehicles and buses should use their lobbying power to let the brass know: We're mad as hell about this, so get with the program!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Steal our cab and you die, you rude person

So, here’s the thing. We were nearing the end of a train ride from Courtenay to Victoria yesterday. We often take the train in winter due to road conditions. And, as he always does as we approach the destination, the conductor asks if anyone wants a cab at the station. We did. Wendy gave her name to secure the cab, and that was that. We’ve done it many times before, since it’s a bit of a hike from the station to our apartment when you're hauling bags.

We get there, disembark, walk over to the cab area and there is a woman (who was on the train) climbing into 'our' pre-booked cab, and then they depart, leaving us standing there in the chill evening air with our bags. The complete and utter bitch! She knew it wasn’t her cab, but she was going to take it anyway. Unfortunately, the cabbie had neglected to ask for a name, but saw the woman and assumed she was his fare. The bitch, I repeat. The completely self-indulgent, sense of entitlement, it’s all about me, bitch.

We’d seen her on the train. She was 60-ish. She went to the restroom at least four times on the 130 mile journey, and spent about 15 minutes each time she was in there. People would gather jiggling outside while she was doing what? Showering? Hard to tell. She had more sense of entitlement than Hillary assuming it is her ‘right’ to be the next President of the US. We had her number.

What an insufferably rude society we have become. By that, I mean I wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing. That doesn’t make me special, it only means I was raised to be heedful of the feelings of others. I was raised to be empathetic. I was raised to care about how my actions might impact others and, at all times, to be as honest in my dealings as I could. As I say, nothing special about that. It’s a mark of civil behavior.

But, some people ain’t got no couth. We see it around us all the time. We see pushing in line, we see road rage directed at poor sods who are following the highway rules, but are somehow impeding a brain-dead asshole whose destination and pace in getting there are more important than the safety and well-being of the hapless souls with whom he’s sharing the road.

We see it with air rage (which is often fueled by libation liberality on the part of airlines – why don’t they smarten up about proffering unlimited potables?) in which a drunken jerk proceeds to put everybody at risk at 35,000 feet because the world isn’t going his way.

For the cab-stealing bitch I’ll ask her to read the scenario through and see how her behavior might have played out. Let’s say we were forced to walk the 10 blocks (which we were), but let's also say I was mugged along the way, or Wendy was raped and I was stabbed on the process (the streets of Victoria aren’t particularly benevolent after dark). Her simple act of ‘me first’ could have turned the lives of two other people into a nightmare.

But, I’m sure she slept well. Such people always do.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Life of toil in the tall trees



As I sat down one evening,


'Twas in a small cafe;


A fifty-year old waitress


To me these words did say:


I see you are a logger,


And not just a common bum,


'Cause no one but a loggerStirs coffee with his thumb.

Arguably the second most popular Monty Python song after ‘Spam’ would be the ‘Lumberjack Song’. Deservedly so. However, the song makes reference to the vast forests of Vancouver Island, where I live. My picky point about this is nobody who toils in the bush on Vancouver Island is called a ‘lumberjack’. He is a logger. Nor is he a ‘forester’, that’s fancy-schmantzy academic talk. He again is a logger!

Logging was the mainstay of British Columbia for decades. Millionaires were made, and vast empires were formed from the labours of those who carry out one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet. The death and injury toll, even today, is hideous. Few would be the people on the west coast of BC who did not know at least one person who’d died in the bush.

Loggers are a mighty tough breed. It’s a bleak and lonely life, and they have to be tough to take it. They also have to accept a lot of bleak loneliness in their isolation in the camps.

Yet, there was always a certain allure for young bucks. They disregarded the ‘old guys’ (sometimes in their 40s) who walked with limps and were missing assorted fingers, and who were destined to be invalided out because their backs wouldn’t take the toil any longer, and their livers wouldn’t take the trips to town any longer.

Lots of my friends became loggers, and others went to the bush (to the ‘weeds’) for summer jobs when they were in university. They began as ‘whistle punks’ and if they did well they might become ‘chokermen’ all in the course of a summer. I didn’t go logging, but the forest industry paid my way through university as I got a job in a mill. A little less dangerous and I didn’t need to face the isolation.

The forest industry in BC is now a shambles. A shambles due to exploitation of the resource and hideous mismanagement both by the corporate world (most of it is now multinational, which means they don’t really give a damn about maintaining the resource), and by government. Latest blow has been the hugely destructive pine-beetle devastation of the province’s interior. What will come of that is anybody’s guess.

And bearing those thoughts in mind, I thought our loggers deserved a nod this morning. Chew a wad of ‘snoose’ for me.

And now for something completely different.

---------------------------------------------------------------

In a soft and subtle Clint voice I could request someone to make my day, especially if they “feel lucky.” But, despite the title of this award accorded me by the inimitable cs (which makes the award even more cherished) I do indeed have those bloggers who in various and often delightful ways, make my day. I look forward to their thoughts, musings and writing talents and want to (as the rules demand) pass this award onto them.

But, rules being rules, their numbers must be narrowed down to 10. That’s tough because if you’re on my blogroll you do make my day. Furthermore, cs selected a number I would have. So, here you are in all your glory: My 10. Check them out. They’ll probably make your day, too.

Rise Out of Me

Ellee Seymour

Leesa

jmb

Voyager

Heart in San Francisco

Casdok

Liz

Merely Me

Wolfgirl


And, for the rest of you, after this arbitrary selection, catch you next time.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

How are you handling your 7, or 8, or 230 deadly sins these days?

Just a warning to all of you who might be seeing your New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside with more rapidity than even you expected, Lent begins early this year (on Feb. 6), so all the things you haven’t been able to accomplishment in terms of personal betterment, will continue to be unaccomplished for 40 days after Feb. 6.

But, here’s something to make you feel better, wayward sinner and decadent human being that you are, some theorists hold out hope via resolution compromises. Sort of like trading carbon points, if you will.

For example, chocolate cake and ice cream consumed in the dark doesn’t count as a violation. Furthermore, consuming a new cocktail you found you didn’t like at all (maybe a kumquat and chocolate syrup martini) doesn’t count as a drink. Feel better about yourself now?

***
Onward, as Mort Sahl used to say – maybe he still does. Is he still alive? – and consider the topic of journals. How many of you keep a journal? In the old days journals used to be called diaries. But, ‘diary’ has a patina of pre-adolescent girl about it (except in the case of Samuel Pepys) so now thoughtful grownups keep journals. Seems sorta more professional, like something a ‘real’ writer would do.

Speaking of ‘real’ writers, what is a real writer? Is that a man or woman who gets paid for their print musings? An awful lot of shit, if you look around you, is done for pay. And, I have no doubt an awful lot of fine bits of literary musings have never seen money or kind exchanged.

Back to journals. I keep a journal. I have for about a dozen years, and I did so sporadically before that, from the time I was in my teens. “She likes me! She really, really likes me! She must; she referred to me by name today rather than ‘whoever’. Of course, she called me Brian rather than Ian, but what’s two letters?”

My current journal is much more adult (God, I hope it is), even sophisticated. If I now deduce somebody ‘likes me’ I merely refer to her as “interesting.” Lets me off the hook.

Speaking of which, how candid should a diary/journal be? I mean by that how we all have thoughts and musings that aren’t necessarily for public consumption (or for other people in the house consumption), so do we censor ourselves?

Do you censor yourself if you keep a journal?

Supposedly the journal loses its therapeutic impact if thoughts are deleted that perhaps should be explored. Good old Sam Pepys in 17th century London didn’t censor himself. He explores his various trysts with comely maids (and there were many) to coming home drunk and pissing in the fireplace. Nice.

Anyway, I probably do some self-scrutinizing. Sometimes I haven’t, and when I look back at old journals I find myself feeling a bit uncomfortable at some of the thoughts I expressed. But, they say that’s OK, too. If some aspect of your life that seemed vital in 1998 is no longer of any import, it may show you’ve grown. Or may not. Life’s like that.

***

And finally:

Watch what you write department: Sign at the express checkout at my supermarket (which also contains a dry cleaning department): “Why not drop off your pants?” I asked the clerk if the sign meant right there as I was standing in line? What an enchantingly friendly place.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Let 'them' pay the tax -- leave me alone

OK – I’ll state my position right at the outset: Screw the idea of imposing a carbon tax on gasoline.

There, that should establish me immediately as a rednecked anti-environment reactionary who doesn’t believe that human activity has put the planet in a perilous place.

But, that would be wrong. I am quite big on the environment, actually, and do what I can to not leave an unacceptable footprint on my patch of turf. I recycled faithfully, I drive a vehicle that does not suck up half the reserves of the Alberta oilsands every time I fire it up and if I can walk or use public transit, I do so. I don’t leave lights burning needlessly, and I applaud such esoterica as the preservation of wetlands (we used to call them swamps) – and drylands, and regular old in-between lands.

But, I will not buy into the proposition that the best way to preserve the well-being of this persistently assaulted planet is to impose another tax on a long-suffering public.

So, not only screw the idea, but screw the people who propose such things.

Who are these people, anyway? They are usually science nerds who have comfy government jobs and contracts, with dandy pensions and health plans, and mighty fine rates of pay. They form bodies of enviroweenies who predictably tell assorted governments that if we want clean air, then we must damn well pay for it.

In the first place, the illogic of a carbon tax is glaring. How am I going to help the environment buy paying more for my fuel? As I said, I don’t drive a thirsty car, and I count my pennies, and I don’t drive frivolously. So, if they jack up the price, I am going to feel it. I am going to be punished by it.

So is the housewife taking her kids to a soccer game, the guy who runs a small delivery company who is ‘just’ making it, the cab company that will be forced to raise fares, as will the cross-town bus company.

Who won’t be affected? The sonsofbitches who drive the Hummers and Escalades won’t care if the cost of fuel goes up to $30 a litre, because they can afford it and they will keep driving those gigantic porkers.

Another little matter, one that especially applies in Canada, and that is the collusion of the suppliers to keep all fuel prices at a certain level. If it costs $1.07 today at the Chevron station up the street from me, it will also cost $1.07 at the Shell down the street, and the Petrocan across town. These jackasses let us know this is just mere coincidence. Meadow muffins, I say. Added to which, we already pay nearly twice as much for our gasoline already than do motorists in neighboring Washington State. That’s because our fuel is already inordinately taxed at an obscene level.

And yet there are those who think it should be taxed even more.

And they think the revenue gleaned from that extra taxation will go into environmental protection?

I have some Florida swampland I want to sell these people. Furthermore, if they are so dedicated to the idea, they should have the courage of their convictions and be prepared to assume the burden and leave the rest of us alone.

Taxes are a necessary evil, but we must never lose sight of the fact that they are ‘evil’ and never to be spuriously embraced or, God help us, suggested to a government.

The Canadian government has, in its wisdom (well, wisdom in some things, anyway) spurned the idea of a carbon tax.

The British Columbia government ain’t entirely sure it’s a bad idea.

The British Columbia government is dead wrong on that matter and they should probably consider the political fallout. The people who ‘like’ more taxation vote for the other guys, anyway. Just sayin’

Anyway, there is my rant for today and damn, it felt good.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Miss Molly in middle age

I was kind of ashamed of myself.

When I saw Molly Ringwald in 16 Candles a number of years ago all I could think was how much I’d like to kiss her on those luscious 16-year-old lips.

I was considerably older than 16 at the time.

I only make mention of Molly because last night I was watching her in an obscure Mazurski film called Tempest, which marked her screen debut at the age of 13. Even at 13 the mouth and flaming red hair gave her away.

Getting curious, I checked her out on the Internet and realized that Miss Molly turns 40 this year.

That was about the age I was when I thought it would be nice to kiss her yummy mouth.

Anyway, this isn’t a saga about middle-aged lechery; I’m really quite well-behaved. It is more to consider why Molly didn’t go as far as an actress as she showed the potential for when she was a kid.

She gained her initial fame in such delightful (and genuinely funny for the most part) John Hughes teen-oriented flicks as the aforementioned 16 Candles, the Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. And, you know, that was about it, which is amazing considering the almost preternatural talent she showed.

I liked her because she was a departure from the average adolescent female featured in movies. She wasn’t a bimbo, and she wasn’t an ugly ducking, either. Her strength came from the fact she played just ordinary girls, with all the angst, despair and also cuteness of ordinary girls of that age. Often, of course, it came to pass that young males recognized there was much more to this girl than the preconceived bombshells. She was genuinely attractive because she was so real. That should happen more often in real life. The divorce rate in young marriages would plummet if young bucks recognized 'potential' and character, rather than banal glitz.

That was why Anthony Michael Hall’s crush on her in 16 Candles had some veracity to it. He too was just an ‘ordinary’ kid with delusions of coolness, despite his geek friends (one of whom is an impossibly young and mega-geeky John Cusack). Therefore, who better to want to steal Molly’s panties?

Anyway, following her Hughes period, Molly’s career has been largely desultory. She has made films, but virtually none are notable. However, she is, as is the case with so many, invariably better than her material. I'm waiting for her comeback.

So, this is just my little nod to Molly. My teenage crushee long after I was young enough to be having teenage crushes.

But, there was that mouth, you see.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Absolutely not fade away

When I’m alone and going about various tasks, I tend to sing. Not ‘tend to’, I ‘always’ sing. I got that trait from my mother. She always sang songs from her era, so even today when I hear wartime ditties like ‘It’s Been A Long, Long Time’, or ‘I’ll Buy That Dream’ I’ll feel a slightly misty nostalgic tug and think of what might have been had she been a different person. But, water under the bridge, she did have a nice voice.

I have a reasonably decent voice and even sang for a while in a church choir when I was young. I was once singing in the car when we were riding with friends many years ago. The wife said, “Don’t sing, Ian, let Barrie sing.” I was insulted. On the other hand, Barrie once sang with the Norman Luboff Choir, the sonofabitch, so I could hardly compete. But, I continue to sing, nevertheless.

Lately I’ve noticed that I have been singing a lot of Buddy Holly songs. They’re good songs. Nice and melodic. Even my Glenn Miller era mother thought Buddy Holly was good. He also wore glasses and a shirt and tie, and was good to his family, not like that oily hoodlum Presley, in Mom’s esteem.

Buddy Holly was my absolute favorite singer when I was in high school. I don’t idolize people much, but he qualified. In fact, in high school I wore black-framed horn-rim glasses just like Buddy’s. I also looked a bit like him, so I was stuck with the nickname Buddy throughout my highschool years. I wasn’t entirely unflattered.

I realized when I was singing those songs, not the big blockbusters like Peggy Sue or Everyday, but lesser known offerings like Words of Love, Listen to Me, or Not Fade Away, that Feb. 3 is the anniversary of Holly’s unspeakably untimely death. It is not only the anniversary, but it is the 49th anniversary. Time goes fast when you’re having fun, no?

Charles Hardin Holley (sic) was born and raised in Lubbock, Texas. He was a decent but musical kid. One day he and his friends went off to relatively nearby Clovis, New Mexico and cut a record. The rest is, as they say, history. During his unspeakably brief career (he was not yet 23 when he died in that plane in a snowy February cornfield) he composed a mass of timeless, and sometimes brilliant songs that have never left us. Presley (and I don’t mean to demean him as a stylist) never composed a thing.

People have paid homage to Buddy Everybody from Gary Busey in the quite well done Buddy Holly Story, to Don McLean with the longwinded American Pie.

Who knows where Holly would have gone if he had led a normal lifespan (he’d be 72 now)? But, he didn’t, so we can rest content with the huge songsheet he turned out in his very brief time on earth.

What was I doing “the day the music died?” I was a young kid riding on a bus to a dental appointment. I was already bummed out, so the news of Holly’s death just added to my angst.


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Monday, January 07, 2008

Here's how to save the kid




Two things, via my two-bits, that Britney needs in order to ‘survive’ figuratively and, yes, literally – because something that the carrion-eating scumbag paparazzi are collectively creaming their jeans over is the fact this kid is in deep peril of having a terminal Anna Nicole moment – are both an intervention, and a Col. Tom Parker.

This is one time in which I have to agree with bombastic, hubristic and lovably ‘mean motor scooter’ shrink, Dr. Phil in his public statement that this kid is in grievous peril. She is. She is addicted, she is unbalanced (very unbalanced), she is manipulated by venal and parasitical family and others, and she’s dumb. Mega-dumb. What a perfect victim. Just like Princess Diana, except for the addicted part.

She’s also an obsessive target for the baser elements of the gutter press, as well as the legitimate (and they should be ashamed of themselves for giving this messed up kid more copy than Barack Obama). Granted, she desperately panders to them by seeking them out, forgetting her underpants, appearing drunk and disorderly and semi-dressed in public, and so forth. She's reminiscent of the late Jayne Mansfield late in her tragically short career.
And she’s an obsessive target for the rest of us, too. What will the human train-wreck do next? Hey, if the kid didn’t exist then Perez Hilton’s screeds on “Unfitney” would leave a big empty space on his daily website.

Back to Dr. Phil. Having been in the trade, I fully believe in interventions. And, if you want a professional word on the matter check out Dr. Deb’s Jan. 4 column, it offers some excellent insights. Personally, I have seen interventions work. They work when the individual is too addled and threatened to make reasonable decisions on their own. If you don’t believe in the virtue of this approach, just ask Betty Ford.

Not that interventions always work. Sometimes when the patient gets sober they are antagonistic to interference in their lives and will bolt from whatever facility in which they have been placed. But, sometimes they don’t. I have seen this. I have seen rehab clients (who got there via family intervention) who were initially brooding and resentful, and yet, at some point, maybe a couple of weeks in, a kind of transformation would occur. We called it the ‘miracle moment’ in which a certain serenity and sense of wellness would permeate the client. Of course, such a moment offers no guarantees. There is much work to be done afterwards – literally a lifetime of work, hard work – but it can be done and is being done every day. I would rather read that such a thing had taken place for Britney, then to check out whiny and hypocritical obit comments.

My other suggested need was, yes, a Col. Tom Parker. Despite the fact that this fake Kentucky ‘Colonel’ was .a manipulator par excellence and as greedy and exploitive as they come, he protected his young hayseed (albeit magnificently talented) charge and guided his fortunes – often badly. But, the point is, nobody got close to Elvis Presley without going through Col. Tom, and when he sprited Presley away from small-town Sun Records (still the best collection of his earliest, and arguably finest renditions) and took him over to giant RCA, the Presley career soared unlike that of any of his contemporaries. Equally talented (in my esteem) Jerry Lee Lewis could have done better with a Col. Tom. And so could Britney Spears with a Col. Tom equivalent.

Like Elvis, Britney too is a dumb hayseed, and easy pray to parasites. Like Presley, she is manipulated by her family. A Col. Tom would wrest her away from that and just maybe guide her into a good career. She’s nowhere near as talented as Presley, but she has definite musical skills.

So, that’s my two bits on the matter.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Just an old-fashioned smut song



When I was about 12-years-old I was hanging out one afternoon in the home of a kid up the street. We were in the family rec-room and were playing assorted records on the stereo.

“Hey, I know what,” he said, suddenly rising and going over to extract from a case some aged looking ‘albums’. Those of you who weren’t around at the time should know that for venerable 78s, albums were exactly that, albums. Bound book-like things that held a dozen or so wax records. While the 78 had long fallen into disuse by even that time, most households still had their old collections that could be played on a three-speed turntable.

He rummaged through one of the albums until he found what he was looking for.

“This is it,” he said, and deposited the disk, owned by his parents, on the player and adjusted the speed to accommodate it. What I heard ushering forth from the scratchy disk was a woman’s voice. A woman’s voice singing songs unlike any others I had ever heard.

There were just two songs on the record, an A and B side. On the A-side was a little ditty called ‘Davey’s Dinghy’ and on the B was a slightly less metaphorical offering called ‘Loretta the Sweater Girl.’

He was playing ‘dirty songs’. Dirty songs right there on a record. These, you must accept, were very innocent times and, while the songs would now pass muster on a kiddie-oriented sitcom in these days, at that time the lyrics were shocking indeed.

“Ship ahoy, sailor boy. Don’t you get too springy. The admiral’s daughter waits down by the water. She wants to ride your dinghy.”

Or, from Loretta the Sweater Girl,

“The bombardier threw off his hat, saying he couldn’t miss with targets like that.”

Nudge-nudge. Wink-wink. That’s exactly what they were. Nuance, innuendo and double-entendre without a profanity in the lot. To us, however, they were as depraved and as decadent as the gates-of-hell; hence hugely alluring. I felt just a little more grown up that afternoon. I was listening to ‘adult’ smut on a thing called a ‘blue’ record.

The most famous ‘blue’ recording artiste of the day, and the author and singer of those songs and many others was one Ruth Wallis. This only comes to mind because I read in the obit section of my newspaper that Ruth had passed away in her home at South Killingly, Conn. at the venerable age of 87. I felt an obligation to make note of Ruth’s passing because I doubt that you’ll see much more about her elsewhere.

And today it seems amazing that she was once hustled back on an airplane that landed in Australia and all her vile recordings were deposited with her. The Aussies were not about to accept that kind of ungodliness on their pristine shores. She was also, by the way, banned in Boston, and banned in the Irish Republic.

Ruth's glory days were in the 1940s and '50s, before Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and George Carlin opened up society to a bit more frankness about our sexuality and everything else. Ruth, however, had no truck with social commentary. She just wanted to have fun by singing some dirty old songs late in the evening when people had consumed too much beer after the barbecue and mistakenly assumed they were doing something very sophisticated.

And, considering the filth that passes for song lyrics on ordinary airplay these days, the renderings of Ruth seem nothing more than quaint by this point in history.

Rest in Peace, Ruth, and may you be raising a chuckle in St. Peter with a few, good old-fashioned bawdy choruses. He likes a good laugh.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Baby, take a walk on the wild side

I am in the post-Yuletide dead zone slump. I know it’s 2008, but my mind and body still believe it to be 2007. It’s anticlimax time. I’ve always preferred pre-climax, but that’s entirely another matter.

What I am contending with in this neutral time is awaiting the beginning of things for the forthcoming year. One of those ‘things’ that is meant to begin shortly is a contract offer that, while it seemed like a good idea at the time, now doesn’t exactly fill me with enthusiasm.

A couple of months ago I was approached by a woman (whom I know quite well) who manages a local job-search business. This is one of those places where they take the jobless (for various reasons) and try to match them up with suitable employers. A noble quest and one that is probably pretty thankless a lot of the time.

In her work it had become apparent to her and others in the field that there are two categories of unemployed folk: 1) those for whom this is a temporary bit of misfortune in which they had been downsized, had suffered an illness, the firm had closed its doors, and so forth – and 2) those for whom unemployment fit hand-and-glove with ‘personal issues’ that were rendering them ineligible for the job market. In the latter category there might be reasons as diverse as lack of education, lack of marketable skills, attitude problems, mental illness or – and this is the biggest one – abuse of a substance at a chronic level.

In other words, active junkies and alcoholics do not make primo potential employees.

No doubt.

However, she is also wise enough to know that alcoholics and drug abusers in genuine recovery can and often do make superb employees, and many of them populate virtually all levels of the economy with great success. So, she thought, if somebody could help show these unfortunates ‘the way’ then they might be able to get away from their unproductive lifestyle.

She thought that maybe I could be that someone.

As I have said before, I used to be an addictions counsellor. Well, actually I still am, I just haven’t done the job for a few years. So, she offered me a contract position on a per-client basis. And I agreed to give it a shot. Now, I’m not so sure that I want to head back into that fray. But, I’ll do it, just to see how it works out. One advantage of doing contract work is one can walk at any time.

Part of the reason for my apprehension is that I do not accept the current ‘wisdom’ in addressing addiction. The current wisdom – generally expressed by those who have never actively and directly worked in the field -- is a thing called ‘harm reduction.’

I don’t buy the premise. What I buy is you get off whatever substance is disabling you and you become a functional human being again – or you don’t. There is no middle ground.

Here in British Columbia the harm reduction premise has gone nuts. Rather than providing viable treatment options for those afflicted with addiction, the harm reduction folk have opted instead to make life much more pleasant for addicts. This includes providing them with so-called ‘safe’ injection sites so they don’t have to shoot up in alleyways. And, they can shoot up with nice, clean and sanitized syringes, that are also provided gratis (except to the taxpayer, who pays for the fucking things).

And now, get this, please GET THIS; the provincial health authority is going to provide clean and sanitized crack pipes for those who choose to rot their brains in that manner. And the pussies in provincial health maintain this is a good thing because this allays the spread of HIV and Hep-C amongst crackheads. My first thought is, HIV and Hep-C among crackheads: I should give a shit? My second is, why in God’s name are you not doing something to get these poor sods off the crap rather than enabling them? After my fit of pique is over I opt for my second thought.

So, when I go back counselling I trust they will be comfortable with me not propounding harm reduction, because if they want me to, I will be gone.

Anyway, I can attest to dozens of people I know who have successfully kicked addictions and have become functional and productive citizens.

Oh, and as an aside, this provincial (so-called) health authority does ‘not’ provide free syringes to diabetics.

And that is my rant for January 4th, 2008.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

What -- me worry? I resolve not to

I don’t do much in the way of resolutions at year-end. Exercises in futility and guilt is my belief about this ritual activity in which well-meaning folk resolve to do things like: lose weight, cut down on the booze, quit smoking, stop lusting after people they’re not supposed to lust after, and be ‘nicer’ to their spouses, kids, neighbors and so forth.

Noble aspirations to a one, no doubt, but they invariably end up being guilt-inducers when the resolver fails or begins to backslide into his or her old ways. In fact, resolutions can be so stress-inducing that some in the mental health field believe we should not indulge the impulse. I’m all for that.

If we persist in wanting to make resolutions, however, these same mental health pundits suggest we narrow it down to a couple of possibly handle-able resolutions. Just had your 8th DWI? Maybe it’s time to take a serious look at your drinking. Your remaining lung causing you problems? Perhaps smoking is the culprit.

As for me, I have made but one resolution this year. That is to stop worrying. A tall order, you might be inclined to think. Indeed it is. That is why I’m going to do it in degrees. What I am suggesting is that a person cannot stop worrying completely, but a person can stop worrying about things about which he or she really shouldn’t give a damn.

Therefore, for 2008 I will continue to worry about such things as my health, my prospective longevity, my finances, the state of my relationship, the condition of the world environmentally and politically, the well-being of my family and friends, and whether I am still a dazzling looking dude.

I will not, however, worry about the following, and they will provide a good start on my quest to ultimately be worry free:

1.Britney Spears
, with or without underpants. She’ll just have to carry on without my help.

2. The 47 new lifestyle things as recounted in today’s newspaper have a direct causal relationship with cancer.

3. The growing obesity plague in society. Why do I care? If you want to court diabetes and die prematurely, maybe that’s your business.

4. The plight of the recording industry. Hey, they’ve ripped off consumers and artists for decades, so if people are illegally downloading, why should it concern me. I don’t do that, by the way. Mainly because I no longer hear anything worth downloading.

5. Grandstanding showbiz folks telling me how I should regard famine, pestilence, or environmental collapse, not to mention how I should vote. Face it folks, many of you are in showbiz because you’re too dumb to do honorable work.

6. Who killed Jon Benet Ramsay.this year? Sad tale, folks, but we’ll never really know.

7. How the world will be a better place if Candidate B is elected rather than Candidate A. No it won’t be, so I won’t fret about it. By the way, Oprah as pundit? Why?

8. That I don’t a) drive a hybrid car or b) use fluorescent screw-in bulbs. I won’t worry about a) until they bring the prices down out of the realm of the ridiculous, and b) when they tell me how they’re planning to dispose of the mercury in these wonderful ‘environmentally benevolent’ bulbs. Until then I am going to hoard the old-fashioned incandescent kind.

9. Past indiscretions. Hey, they must have been fun or I wouldn’t have done them. And, I can’t change them now.
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10. The future. It will be what it will be and no number of sleepless nights will give me the power to change that.

There, that’s a good start. Just wait until next year when I can work on being entirely worry-free.

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