Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Humor in a Jugular Vein, indeed

Resentments over past losses are a magnificent waste of time. The time wasting aspect arises from the fact we can’t do anything about the loss, since it is in the past. The magnificence stems from the fact that if we let the resentments have their sway they can become so powerful that that will dominate our lives. How stupid is that?

So, my resentments over marriages and relationships lost, as well as having been saddled with amazingly unfeeling parents have, for the most part, in my moments of sanity, put on a back burner to maybe never go away, but at least to simmer gently.

But, there is one resentment I have that thoroughly pisses me off to this day. Pisses me off because if history had altered I might be a relatively rich man today. “Thanks, Mom,” he said in a voice dripping with sarcasm.
You see, when I was about 14 my mother strongly suggested I should burn all my old comic books. I had outgrown them, she adjured, they were taking up space, and so they must go on a bonfire. I balked, but then foolishly thought she was maybe right. I would soon be ready to enter man’s estate, and comic books just wouldn’t fit into a mix that would shortly include (no doubt) the New Yorker, Atlantic and Harpers. And, I must be candid, the undraped tits in Playboy appealed just a bit more than the shenanigans of Little Lulu and Tubby.

So, in total at that time I had over 200 comic books. And they ‘all’ went into the conflagration. (sob!) Have you seen what even single issues of those things are worth today if they’re in good condition? The collection probably would have bought me a condo in Dubai.

For some reason, however, three tomes escaped the conflagration. One is a Walt Disney Comics and Stories from 1953, another is a Bugs Bunny from 1955 and the third, and most prized of all, is a Mad Magazine from September 1956. The Mad is the most prized of all. I grant it is in ratty condition, but it’s all there, and it is only the third magazine-format Mad to be published. Therein in lies a bit of the crux of my creative life as it has unfolded.

One day, a couple of years before my mother exhorted me to burn my comic books, my same age cousin showed me two or three ‘comics’ he had found. I’d never seen them before. The books were called Mad Comics. Standard comic book format were they, with the colors and frames, but contained therein were spoofs of established strips. But, rather than cheap throwaways, the lampoons of popular strips were beautifully drawn by established artists like Will Elder and Wally Wood, among a host of others.

What struck me was the fact that not only were the spoofs of Archie, Superman, Prince Valiant and others screamingly funny, they also metaphorically gave the finger to everything. I had, ladies and gentlemen, found satire for the first time. I never looked back. They were irreverent, rude, crude, and sometimes lewd with a lot of very big-boobed girls in the renderings, hilarious and took the constipated society of the 1950s to task. I was in heaven with this stuff.

Down the years I ran along with Mad. Within a couple of years it went to magazine format and in its prime, before it became a tiny bit lame and predictable, it held down the satirical fort. There were facsimiles, but none came close to the original as published by William M. Gaines (a former purveyor of horror comics from his EC stable).

We, of course, grow out of everything. And, just at the right time, when I was young and feeling a little rebellious, the National Lampoon came along. This was more brilliant, more irreverent, dirtier and funnier than Mad ever was in its wildest aspirations.
Again, some brilliant, brilliant folk were involved, like the late Doug Kenny, PJ O’Rourke, Ann Beatts and so many more I could not begin to mention them all. Much in the same vein as Second City, the original (and best) Saturday Night Live, and SCTV; National Lampoon came about in the age of Vietnam and profound irreverence and cynicism.

The premiere issue was known simply as: 'The Sexy Cover Issue.' I own it, I am proud to say. Indeed, I own the entire first year of National Lampoon. That was arguably the best year as well. It was fresh, shockingly smutty, brutal in its politics, often cringe-inducingly sophomoric in its themes, it still reflects a time. The classic cover during that year is the one pictured here – the worried looking dog and the revolver. I was especially struck by that cover since the dog pictured is the spitting-image of my beloved and still lamented border collie, Murphy.

It was around this time that I first turned my hand to putting together some satire of my own. I was still teaching high school, and one of the projects that I got my senior creative writing class to turn their hands to was the creation of an anti-yearbook spoof. And we did it, and it was very funny considering it was put together by me, a group of high school seniors. Two years after that the National Lampoon did their inspired and brilliantly done yearbook spoof, but I like to think we did it first.

After I left teaching shortly thereafter I became a newspaper columnist. My columns were almost always irreverent, and I was periodically chastised by my editor for coming too close to the line. But, I also won a couple of major writing awards for the paper, so he didn’t balk too much. I continued with my satirical column for nearly 20 years, and can honestly attest that – especially before I developed my own style – that Mad and Lampoon had roles to play.

At the same time, I am still pissed about having to burn those comic books.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Keep the yogurt away, and we shall be fine

Sweet and innocent child being forced to consume yogurt

Has it struck you that there is an inordinate amount of television advertising for yogurt/yoghurt (your spelling of the substance will depend on your provenance)?

I do. I’d go so far as to call it wretched excess. I mean, it’s only yogurt, it’s not as if it were something important like coffee, beer, or Swiffer dusters.

I don’t much like yogurt, but normally, about three times every half hour of broadcasting I am bound to hear the expression ‘probiotic’ and to see a number of women reaching virtual orgasmic heights over the virtues of one brand over another. Rarely men in the dialogue, you may have noticed.

A particularly disgusting advert has a woman in the yogurt section of the supermarket – arguably the most boring section of any market after catfood – clandestinely guzzling down (with revolting gurgling noises) a mini-container of her favorite milk-bacteria concoction in the manner of a crackhead who cannot wait to stoke up after he has scored.

Now, don’t get me wrong about yogurt and indict me for not savoring a particular confection that is also ‘good for me.’ Just because something is good for me doesn’t mean I have to favor it.

Popular mythology holds that yogurt – a perfect substance for our fear-of-death obsessed society – has huge life-giving and longevity encouraging properties. We are all familiar with the tales of venerable Azherbaijanis or some other trans-Caucasus sorts who exist on diets consisting exclusively of yogurt and who live to remarkable ages, like 523 or something.

In fact, some proponents maintain that a diet high enough in yogurt – a gallon or so a day – will override all your other health-destroying habits so that you can know go back to smoking 3 or 4 packs a day and maybe take up heroin if you’ve always been curious.

Of course much of what I just wrote is balderdash, but I do known that yogurt fanatics swear to its amazing properties and I suspect that much like anything that tastes evil being remarkably good for one, the claims for yogurt hold water – or putrefying milk at least. Funny how things that taste wonderful like crème caramel or strawberry shortcake are merely coronaries in a dish.

So, yogurt is good for you. This leaves me with a couple of questions. In the first place, if it is so excellent, why is it necessary to advertise the crud so much? I mean, shouldn’t everybody just know that? Secondly, if it is so good, why is there any necessity to have more than one brand? Isn’t yogurt just yogurt? I mean, nobody pretends one brand of 2 percent milk is better than another, so why with yogurt?

I said two questions, but actually I have a third. That is, if yogurt is so goddamn wonderful, why is it necessary to disguise it with all sorts of fruit flavours – you know, to ‘candify’ it? This leaves me with the sneaking suspicion that a lot more people than me think it is sour and evil to the palate and nobody would touch the stuff unless they disguise it. You know, it’s sort of like fancy-ass cocktails designed to disguise the taste of plain old booze.

Anyway, I am unrepentant in my aversion to the stuff. I don’t care what you tell me about its virtues, I will never like it and refuse to consume it. I’ve tried, but it was a failed experiment. I eat all my fruit and veggies, and keep red meat to a minimum. I hardly use any salt, and butter is just a dab for me, and transfats are taboo in our house. I’ve paid the price. So keep damn yogurt away from me.

And cut down on the TV advertising, can’t ya? Or, at least create some with imagination and honesty that suggest: “We know it tastes horrible, but it’s so good for you!”


Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's easy to get lost in 'Lost'

I’m not really what you’d call an inveterate television viewer. There are literally dozens of programs currently on that I have never watched, nor do I have any intention of watching them. No particular reason for that; I just haven’t gone there.

For example, I have never watched any of the so-called and completely misnamed ‘reality’ shows. I don’t like seeing nasty people at their most base. I can see enough of that watching the news – which I also rarely watch. Any of the ‘idol’ programs are well beyond my radar. Why do I want to watch predominantly talentless people being judged by equally talentless jerks?

I’m not judging those who enjoy the foregoing. Television is at best a diversion, so chacun a son diversion.

But, there is one TV series that consistently sucker-punches me. That one is Lost. Each year I vow I am not going to be dragged back onto the ‘island’ and each year I invariably am.

Right from the beginning I believed Lost was doomed to a premature demise. It would, like a couple of much-hyped predecessors that also started with promise, lose its mojo along the way and just become stupid. So far, that doesn’t seem to have happened.

The most egregious example of what I am saying is Twin Peaks. Great first season. Amazing cast. Absolutely gripping theme music. Wonderful first season. But, that was it. Then it was all downhill into inanity and contrivance. Northern Exposure was another serialized epic that began with promise and, despite a great cast and terrific first season writing, lost its way. And lost me. For those reasons I scrupulously avoided X-Files and 24.

Yet, right from the beginning, Lost pulled me in and it seems to have kept going. Confusing as hell it is, and even more convoluted but, for some reason, I still care about the people who were on that Oceanic flight into something or other.

It always helped for me that it is filmed on Oahu and the Hawaiian scenery eases something in my soul. It also boasts some striking women, like lovely Evangeline Lily and (for me especially) Yunjin Kim, the amazingly striking Korean cupcake who plays Sun.

Actually, a high point in my jaded life was in 2005 when we stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village and the entire cast from Lost came around to call one afternoon. And there they were, Sun and Kate, talking and laughing with each other. I fell instantly in love with both of them, and especially Kim who is just amazingly stunning in real life.

For Wendy it was sufficient that ‘Sawyer’ and ‘Sayid’ were there. Oh, and our man, Hurley, who is as girthful in real life as he is in the series.
Anyway, I think from that point we almost felt an obligation to continue with Lost because we had, you know, a ‘connection’. They were real people to us.

So, last evening we watched Lost’s offering. I asked Wendy if she found it confusing. She conceded that she did. I asked her if she wanted to stop watching it. She replied in the negative, but did sometimes think it was kind of like mastering a course of study in which you have to draw in earlier knowledge you have acquired.

“Sometimes it’s too much work,” she suggested.

Not many network TV productions could earn that criticism.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

This cougar, she can have sharp claws, too

“You know,” I said to a colleague recently at the business office at which I carry out my addictions counseling gig, “in all the tramping around I’ve done in the woods, I’ve never seen a cougar.”

“Hmm,” she, an attractive mature woman said, “You just may be talking to one right now.”

“Aha,” I replied (I’m quick on the uptake, I am-I am), “We’re talking about two different orders of cougars, and I must confess I prefer your kind.”

“Oh,” she responded with a laugh, “we can be every bit as lethal, and just might have sharper claws.”

So, nothing amiss here at all. She is happily married, I am happily married and we were just semantically goofing around during a lull period at work.

But, the ‘cougar’ concept is an interesting one. A male-dominated society traditionally held that it was both acceptable, and perhaps even desirable for some old geezer (usually a rich one) to take up with a little love muffin decades younger than he. Even respectable males could get away with this. You know, ditch the ‘old’ wife and acquire an immediate post-pubescent babe. So, you had Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Charlie Chaplin and assorted females barely out of diapers, and even Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and his sometimes pantiless Margaret.

Somehow this all seemed perfectly normal and such men were subjects of even a weird admiration and envy by many of their own sex.

I recall an incident involving a conversation with the second wife of a neighbor of my parents. He was a millionaire; very charming; very dashing; quite handsome (he looked like Larry Tate on the old Bewitched comedy); and he was married to a hottie (oh, she was) who was my age. I was in my mid-20s at the time. He had, by the way, ditched his contemporary wife a few years before.

So, we went to their astonishingly appointed antebellum house (the house was so splendid it was used as the mansion in the film Cousins of a few years ago) for drinkies one time when I was visiting my parents. I was recently married to my first wife.

At one point Darlene (the younger 2nd wife of the rich guy) said: “Now, if you kids would like to do such and such ….” She was, of course, seeing herself as being the same age as her generation older husband, and my parents. Her patronizing comment pissed me off.

“Come off it, Darlene,” I said. “What do you mean ‘you kids’? I happen to know you’re the same age as I am.”

My comment offended her and she walked to the other side of the room. I was, on the other hand, rather proud of myself.

Anyway, back to cougars. A cougar is as follows, according to on Internet definition:

"I have recently encountered the words 'Cougar Women' - a term dreamt up by some male or possibly jealous young female to describe an older woman engaged in a relationship with a younger man. The description 'Cougar Woman' infers a predatory mature woman (35-50+) who hunts, stalks, lusts after and imposes her attentions upon some innocent, inexperienced young male."

That’s right, a reversal of the time-honored. And in that I say, why not? Why should a woman ‘of a certain age’ settle into ‘frumpdom?’ So, the cougar is a predator just like her randy male counterpart and she is attesting: (Older) girls just wanna have fu-un!

Some, of course, even go so far as to marry a younger man. And sometimes those marriages actually work out quite splendidly. Sometimes they don’t. Marriage is a crapshoot at any time, as many of us can attest to.

But, the taboo is still there. There was considerable tumult in the ranks when actress Demi Moore took up with her young bucko. Yet, if the situation had been reversed, such as Harrison Ford with his ‘Stick Insect’ there was scarcely a murmur.

In considering such a societal phenomenon we must be careful to not confuse the Cougar with the MILF. The MILF (and I won’t spell out the acronym for the sake of propriety in my blog, you know, tiny tots and all – are there tiny tots that still know how to read? If they do, they know what MILF means in any case) is younger than the Cougar and often arouses salacious thoughts in contemporaries, older males, and stripling lads. The Cougar, on the other hand is invariably older and in the finest sense should have money and influence.

Her ‘toyboy’, however, is not to be confused with the old fashioned gigolo. Gigolos call the shots and the older woman is at his behest. The Cougar, on the other hand, is very much in charge and knows what she is doing. And, she could just as easily shuck her lad as the gigolo could shuck his older inamorata.
In any case, I quite approve of the switch. I have always found mature women to be attractive as hell -- I mean 'some' mature women, not 'all' -- and in that I concur with Benjamin Franklin who also sang their praises. Something to do with experience, I believe.

But, to end it all, really what I was talking about was the mountain lion type of cougars.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

From them to me and from me to you

The wonderful Deb Sistrunk recently stroked and stoked my ego and flattered me greatly by granting me the Premio Dardos Award for my scratchings in this space. The award coming from her was immensely gratifying since I regard her as a consummate pro in the field of communications, so thank you, Deb.

What’s the Premio Dardos Award?Premio Dardos means “prize darts” in Spanish. It is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing.What do you do once you’ve received one?There are some rules to be followed.

• First, accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and link to his or her blog.

• Second pass the award to another 15 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment. Because I am a bit pressed for time today and also because I know some people don’t like being tagged, I am merely going to list those I think are worthy of the award and they may either accept or pass it on. OK?
Who are the next recipients? After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve chosen 15 bloggers, listed below in no particular order. If you wish to check them out all you need to do is refer to my blogroll.

· Dr. Deb Serani
· Jazz
· Voyager
· CS
· Heart in San Francisco
· Thailand Chani
· Andrea
· Merely Me
· Pearl
· Leslie
· Liz
· Dumdad
· Meggie
· Wolfgirl
· Lady MacLeod

Congratulations to these talented bloggers and again I could get on a roll and name virtually everybody on my personal list!

A new reader of my blog – or at least a new reader to bring it to my attentiont that she was a reader was ‘Down Under’ blogger Suziii. And she in her kindness gave me an award and I thank her profoundly for considering me worthy. She stated her choice this way:

“Was reading all my favourite blogs this morning and realised there are some blogs that I just have to read each day or at least each day that I log on; like a morning coffee they have become part of my morning ritual. There are probably a few dozen blogs I simply can't miss.”

Her premise was to go to the first five blogs she couldn’t miss each morning and to grant them this award. I won’t follow suit with this one because my five (and others) would be included in my initial list in this posting. So, if you were selected for the first award, please feel free to take this one as well.
I know it's very indolent of me to not make all the links here but, as I said, I am on a tight schedule today and I assure all of those listed that I will be notifying you. I don't think that's too much of a breach of protocal. But, if it is, then I guess we shall all have to live with it and move on from there.


Friday, March 20, 2009

A fullsome fifty favorite things (not that movie, by the way)

The world has been filled with an unnecessary amount of doom-and-gloom of late and I, like many others do, tend to lose heart just a little bit if I let myself.

But, it’s all in the state of mind and if we permit negativity to prevail, then we reap negativity. The media fills its pages and screens with portents of economic collapse and then pundits wonder why in the hell consumers aren’t buying. That’s because they are lying in wet panties under their beds awaiting the next blow to any sense of well-being.

Bearing that in mind, I have decided to accentuate the positive by listing 50 things that either make, or have made, my life just a little more worth living. Things, in no order whatsoever, that give me sufficient hope to want to see what tomorrow may bring. The choices range from the ridiculously simple to the sublime, but they all work for me.

What ones work for you? I would love to see your lists.

1. Springtime (since it’s the first day of spring, even if it doesn’t feel like it)
2. Seafood
3. Pancakes
4. The London Underground
5. Mussels in Brussels
6. Browsing for gifts in lingerie stores
7. Miss Peggy Lee singing Manana
8. A morning shower rainbow off Na Pali, Kauai
9. The view from my living room window of the Comox Glacier
10. Sex
11. Taking the T-roof panels off my car for the first time each spring
12. Looking at the tiny sneer on the rosebud mouth of Deborah Harry
13. Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street
14. Bogey’s magnificence in the Caine Mutiny
15. First robins of spring
16. The trumpeter swans of the Comox Valley
17. King-size beds
18. Joshua Tree National Park
19. Killarney, Ireland
20. Good conversation
21. Good strong hugs
22. Cheek kisses (giving or receiving)
23. Sexually attractive older women
24. The throb of a marine diesel on a tugboat
25. The underappreciated comic genius of poor, sad Tony Hancock
26. Nat King Cole singing Nature Boy
27. Close dancing at a high school prom to Misty
28. Don Knotts in Andy Griffith
29, Take a Walk on the Wild Side by the Velvet Underground
30. Sending off an invoice for a well-earned large sum
31. The fragrance of pillow cases that have been dried outdoors
32. Green sea turtles
33. The bum from behind of a Rarotongan woman on a moped
34. Chuck Berry’s ‘duck-walk’
35. French kissing
36. Nude swimming
37. A book or film that lives up to all expectations
38. Reading at bedtime
39. Drinking café au lait at an outdoor table anywhere in France
40. Pastries from the Bon Ton in Vancouver
41. Stanley Park
42. Lee Remick in Anatomy of a Murder
43. Sunsets and sunrises
44. Tropical snorkelling
45. Coconut palms
46.The laughter of tiny children
47. The society of dogs
48. Fireplaces and wood stoves, beachfires and campfires
49. Crème brulee
50. Afternoon naps

I realized that I could have found 50 more, so maybe the world’s not such a bad place after all. If the powers are willing, I think I’ll stick around for a while. Give this a shot if you are so inclined. It’ll boost your spirits.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

'Helloooooooooo -- is anybody out there?'

Humans have wondered since the beginning of time – or at least since the beginning of HG Wells, and maybe Orson Welles, and possibly even Mel Welles, an obscure actor who was in such epics as Attack of the Crab Monsters and the original 1960 version of Little Shop of Horrors (worth the price of admission just to see Jack Nicholson long before he became Jaaaaaaack!) – whether or not we are alone in the universe.

The possible existence of occupants on other planets is an issue fraught with debate. Primarily, there are those that believe, and those that think it’s all bullshit. I have always been of the school that holds “of course there are.” They are there, I have deduced via mathematical logic, but just not in the immediate neighborhood.

My mathematical logic holds that since it is believed there is an infinite number of galaxies and an infinite number of solar systems, and we live on a planet that is occupied by folks, ergo there must be an infinite number of planets upon which creatures of some sort have set up housekeeping.

For a long time I was one of the decriers about extraterrestrials, and that was despite the fact I had actually seen a UFO. I thought the Roswell fanatics were utter flakes. Come to think of it, I still do. Further, I don’t believe for a second that anybody has had a close encounter of the third, let alone first and second kind. And those who claim to have had sex with aliens I believe are people who don’t get to have sex with anybody human.

But, back to the possibility of aliens. Recently released have been the possibilities offered by the new LOFAR space telescope. In other words, rather than just relying on the mental meanderings of wackos and ET junkies, we have some serious professional geek input on the matter. To wit:

ASTRON is researching the potential role of the LOFAR
telescope in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). This initiative has been taken by Professor Michael Garrett, General Director of ASTRON and professor of radio techniques in astronomy at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Researchers from all over the world will contribute to this effort to find ways in which LOFAR can be used in the search for extraterrestrial life.

There are about 100 thousand million stars in the galaxy and most of these are expected to harbour planetary systems; some of these planets might actually be suitable for life. Many scientists believe that life is probably wide-spread across the galaxy, although technically advanced civilisations might be relatively rare or at least widely separated from each other.

So, what else do we need? I believe that the foregoing thoughts will suggest that there is life on approximately 37,964 planets, and we’d better get ready for some visitations.

Or not.

Science guys, being science guys, look at all aspects of the scenario, which is called either ‘scientific method’ or ‘raining on your romantic parade’. What they point out is that these solar systems are so damn far away that we will never physically connect with us, or we with them. Or, they could be civilizations that have come and gone well in to the past. Or, they could be totally primitive and lacking in the means of communication. Or, they might be so advanced that they would find us unspeakable primitives with poor social graces and would want nothing to do with us. OK, I made the last option up, but the others are legitimate considerations by the science boys and girls.

There is also the fact that even should life exist, it may be in a form that we cannot relate to. You know, the Planet Gzrk17b may be just primeval forms of life. Not the sort of inhabitants familiar to us other than in the odd bar at closing time, or in the political mutterings of Rush Limbaugh.

So, in concluding I will ask: Do you believe other planets in other solar systems are inhabited? Do you think we will be in contact with them in your lifetime? If they don’t actually come to call, do you think they might at least write?


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

By golly, I'm a virtual paragon of healthy living

When I was in school it was relatively common practice for teachers with shoddy mastery of disciplinary fairness to punish the entire class for the misbehavior of one knucklehead. I’d like to think that no longer goes on, but I’m sure it still does.

I guess there is some merit in invoking blanket disciplinary decrees for the sake of a few miscreants, though it grates on me. Ninety percent of us would never dream of screaming through a school zone at 80 mph (273 kmh in metric, I think), but for the 10 percent of morons who would, there must be school zone laws and speed-traps. Other laws and restrictions work in the same way. Rules are in place because of society’s morons and felons. I guess we have to live with it, but it pisses me off.

A year ago I’m standing at an elevator in the Victoria apartment Wendy and I lived in part-time for a couple of years. An elderly lady is standing beside me and she is reading a notice on the wall. It is yet another restriction in block. Another restriction posted by the new and controlling building manager. The lady sniffs in indignation when she finishes reading: “I hate being scolded,” she says.

I too hate being scolded. So, as kind of a postscript to my most recent blog I have to say that I took the matter of the imposition of draconian laws governing trans-fats as a case of official scolding. I added later in my comments section that I was being tongue-in-cheek about it all. I was doing so because, let’s face it, any of us with a lick of common sense will try to live as healthfully as possible, and we don’t need some bozo in a legislative office to tell us how we ‘must’ live our lives. At least 'I' don't think we do. Probably I'm wrong.

So, you read it here first: I do eat my veggies and my fruit. We try to have fish at least once a week (though now they tell us fish isn't all that good, and here I've wasted decent meals by eating $#@% fish), and a meal without meat does not terrify me. I have good vegetarian friends at whose homes I have pleasingly dined. I don’t choose to embrace their lifestyle, but I applaud them if it works for them. Raw food diet? Forget it. I happen to 'like' food and regard it as more than just mere sustenance. That's on a par with suggesting (as some do, the idiots) that sex is just for procreation.

I also mentioned that while I get significantly irritated by self-righteous anti-smoking crusaders, I am in full approval of restrictions on the places in which one can indulge an unhealthy habit. I think smoking restrictions became such a pain in thee ass that many people chose to give up the fight and reached for the Nicoderm patches in lieu. Now if the crusaders would just shut up, then I would be happier.

Otherwise, I walk when I can avoid driving, I recycle, I drive an unthirsty car, and I think the level of public transit in North America is appallingly lacking when compared with Europe. And, I absolutely no longer use plastic shopping bags.

If such sterling behavior doesn't get me into Heaven, I have no idea what will.

But, I adamantly hold to the belief that people who try to control the behavior of others are not going to get into any Heaven I subscribe to.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Please, Lord, protect us from ourselves

I don’t know what a trans-fat looks like. Wendy, who was once in the culinary trade, attempted to explain it to me -- something about ‘hydrogenated’ oils or some such -- and then my eyes glazed over as it often does about matters scientific, and I wondered if there was still cake left over from the previous night’s dessert. Cake would be nice. And ice cream.

At the same time, I don’t know what a vitamin looks like, either. I know lack of this indescribable entity leads to conditions like scurvy, beri-beri, yaws and ungulate fever and other unspeakable things, so I guess they’re real enough.

Probably trans-fats are, too. At least that’s what the government is telling the people of British Columbia, so who am I to quibble? You know I always adhere to the tenets of do-gooding officialdom.

But, where is it going to end? Are we soon to expect brown-shirted ‘enforcers’ telling us what we must and must not insert into our gaping maws? Will we be dragged off at 3 a.m. due to a neighbor reporting we were seen sneaking out of McDonald’s with a container of fries? Will child turn against parent? Will Mel Gibson get pissed up again and blame it all on the loss of the Latin Mass?

Truly, those who ‘know better how to take care of us than we do’, have already rendered public smoking a virtually capital punishment offence. And there are many screeds against the evils of second-hand smoke (I don’t necessarily disagree, I just detest the heavy-handedness), and now, if you haven’t heard, it is third-hand smoke. I’m awaiting the arrival of prohibitions against fourth-hand smoke, which is, I believe, those cases in which your great-grandmother once dated (but did not marry) a rakish Yale lad in 1927 who was given to sucking on a meerschaum periodically.

Meanwhile, pregnant women have been exhorted for ages to stay away from the booze due to the possibility of fetal alcohol syndrome (fair enough), but a recent Oxford study states quite emphatically that the fairer sex shouldn’t ever indulge in even a small glass of plonk since any consumption whatsoever of alcohol will lead to breast cancer, and assorted other cancers.

And now, cut out those damn trans-fats and the BC government has decreed (just so we might not notice there are other social issues that maybe, just maybe deserve to be addressed) that we will be a trans-fat free domain henceforth. What remains of my beleaguered heart swells with pride at how our dauntless leaders are protecting us. We will be the first geopolitical enclave in North America to be trans-fat free. I am not making this up.

Burger and fries, pshaw, we will give you carrot sticks, celery and radishes and you will ultimately thank us for it and you will disregard the fact that those streets that are not crawling with homeless, abused children, gun-totin’ criminals who will never feel the force of the law, due to your infatuation with a benevolent government that will protect you and your arteries.

For indeed you are not sensible enough yourself to cut out eating shit like hotdogs at ballgames, pizzas before the Superbowl, or nachos at the pub on a Friday evening, ‘ve haff vays of makink you do zo!’, or words to that effect.

Personally I believe this is a vast conspiracy designed to appeal to certain obsessive women who are determined to get men to eat veggies, so they will get officialdom to help them out. Nothing like storm-troopers to get the point across. Most women no longer accept male protestations that ketchup and relish are vegetables, even though menfolk persist in adhering to such beliefs. I mean, if the ketchup thing was good enough for Ronald Reagan, who are we to disbelieve?

Actually, there are two other vegetables I embrace: corn on the cob, and potatoes in absolutely any form. Both actually taste like real food if slathered with the right condiments.

Oh, and as far as corn goes, I think I am on the winning side here. No trans-fat laden margarine for me. I am a butter man all the way.


Friday, March 13, 2009

There was a reason for this

I am sitting in a pub known as The Feathers. It's situated in the Great Yarmouth, England suburb of Gorleston, a place I had called home for nearly a year.

That particular day I am in a funk and in an emotional impasse. Soon my wife of the day and I are slated to return to Canada. My emotional angst stems from the fact I do not want to go back. I do not want to rejoin my life as it was. For a number of reasons, including some of which I am not proud, I do not want to rejoin my marriage on the other side of the Atlantic.

I sit quietly nursing my pint of Norwich Castle Bitter and somebody strides over to the jukebox (they had those back in 1981). He inserts a coin and hits his selection. It's Gerry Rafferty's almost agonizingly (for me) poignant piece Baker Street. The saxophone riffs in that song devastate me if I am in a down mood. It also captures so much of what I have been feeling about giving "up the booze and the one-night-stands, and maybe settling down in some quiet little town and forgetting about everything."

Ultimately I did go back to my own little town, and my dog Murphy who inspired me to return more than anything or anyone. I was finding it painfully sad in terms of what had happened to the hopes and dreams of a marriage and a lifestyle. So, dutifully I guess, I went back.

But, ever afterwards a hearing of Baker Street takes me back to that rainy afternoon in a Gorleston pub.

Life is so very much better now, but the pathos still hits.

Life's like that.

Enjoy the music.


Gerry Rafferty Baker Street

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bring on the clowns

There’s an old and cynical jape that holds that all the people who call the shots in the world are former C students.

In recent months (or maybe years) I’ve concluded that the statement is too complimentary. I think it’s the C-minus students holding control over our destinies and the future of the planet. That’s chilling, but I am not seeing much these days to convince me otherwise.

Oh, and those C-minus students are arrantly corrupt.

Make you feel better? Me neither.

Now, as a possessor of many good and gentlemanly Cs during my student days I not only resent those who were greater slackers than I filling out the power ranks, but they scare the bejesus out of me.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, goes the adage. And absolute power in the possession of really dumb guys and girls is the most corrupt of all.

There’s nothing new about this reality. Go back through history and you will find many examples of stupidity prevailing and becoming the inspiration for policy decisions.

Take World War One, for example. A fat, buffoonish heir to the vile imperial throne of Austria-Hungary gets blown away in Sarajevo one bright day, and the next four years saw decisions being made to send literally tens of millions of young men all over Europe and elsewhere on the planet to premature graves in the ghastliest conditions to that the remaining fat-ass elites could retain their vile thrones and remain in power.

In power without the best-and-brightest of the next generation there to take up the slack.

And then 20 years later they did it all over again. They had to. Those C-minus students had set the scenario in place.

This is not to say there haven’t been some supremely intelligent individuals at the helm over the years. Go back a number of years and you can certainly cite Roosevelt ad Churchill as shining lights that guided us through perilous and terrifying times. Bill Clinton, Rhodes Scholar and astute politician tended to think more with his dick than he should have, but was generally effective. Margaret Thatcher, love her or loathe her, brought the UK out of economic chaos, albeit with a social cost. Currently President Obama seems to hold huge potential in terms of intellect and we can only hope skills at unheralded levels.

There have been other capable and extremely intelligent individuals who while they may have had the IQ qualifications, didn’t necessarily have the political acumen to be effective.

Jimmy Carter was a bright man and hugely compassionate, but was generally a poor politician who paved the way for the dubious-to-disastrous two terms of Ronald Reagan, who paved the way for Bush Senior and eventually Bush Junior. Enough said about that.

In Canada Pierre Trudeau was intellectually brilliant, but left in his wake a house hugely divided. Divided, in my esteem, so that he could assuage an eccentric ego as big as his intellect.

But, it isn’t the boss men and women I am talking about in terms of the C-minus student fuckups who suck hope and inspiration from our societies. It’s the underlings; the toadying little jackals that wield far too much power and hold leaders in their sway. Those are the buffoons of the bureaucracies around the world; the banking and investment cartels; the weasels of the legal profession and judiciaries, broadcasting and media, and for some ungodly reason, entertainment, who set the patterns we must adhere to.

Who do you think has kept, and will continue to keep the people of the United States from quality and equitable health care? Not your leaders, or even George W. during his dubious, inept and scary tenure, but the self-seeking lobbyists and bureaucrats in health care. Those who have theirs are not about to share with the unwashed. Do I oversimplify here? Probably. You can do that with your own blog. This is a rant, after all. But, seriously, why would a political leader want to keep you or Aunt Hattie from reasonably priced meds or therapy? To accomplish this would be a wonderful legacy. For vested interests, the C-minus students in morality at least, not a chance?

In one of my own fields, addiction, there is an inexcusable lack of subsidized treatment available for those that want it. At the same time we soil ourselves about the derelict addicts on the streets. But, addiction isn’t sexy so politicians are persuaded to go in other directions. Directed by people who know literally nothing about the realities of addiction, and I include some C-minus medical practitioner advisors in that realm of interference.

Oh, I could go on and on, but I won’t.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

That enlightenment -- it don't come easy

If you have reached middle age and have not experienced some personal hell,then you either haven't been living life to its fullest, in all its colors and perversities, or you have been preternaturally blessed. Or, you could be lying. If you haven't yet reached middle age, think what you have to look forward to.

I prefer to deal with and socialize with the flawed amongst us -- those men or women who are marred by a bit of spiritual scar-tissue. It means they have suffered, but have hopefully learned, and have come out the other side with maybe some of wisdom. People who learned nothing from their direst mistakes have forsaken life's most splendid opportunities for growth.

Also, such people are rarely very interesting.The cliché holds that the most important lessons in life are the hardest ones. As clichés go, it's not a bad one. Significant deterrents can only be found in happenings that have had at least a smattering of emotional trauma connected with them. If the trauma hadn't been there, you'd have kept on doing the thing you were doing that put you in a bad spot in the first place. That’s no damn good. Pain can set you free if you regard it in a judicious way. Once something hurts too much, those who are blessed give it up and move on. Speaking of clichés, there is another one that says: The definition of insanity is to keep on doing something destructive in the belief that this time the outcome will be different. It never will be.

By a certain age most of us have been forced to deal with suchunnerving stuff as illness and death, injury, family calamity, marital strife and in some cases maybe even break-up, emotional crises and collapse, cruelty, abuse, abject loneliness, crime and at an extreme maybe even incarceration or institutionalization.

Yes, into each life a little shit must fall. It's an ugly and scary world out there, and what can go wrong sometimes does.Do you ever have those dreams where you are in a specific situation, maybeflying on a plane, and you think, my God, I hope this plane doesn't crash? The moment you think the unthinkable the dream-plane goes into a spin, which sends it plummeting to the ground four miles below. Unfortunately, sometimes that happens in real life. Our worst fears can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Screamin' Jay Hawkins has "put a spell on you." It's only coincidence, but it doesn't seem like it at the time.

Take the guy who professes to love his wife with all his heart, and who regularly ruminates on his greatest fear: that the light of his life and fire of his loins might someday leave him. How does he deal with such an anxiety? Why, by doing the opposite of what he should have done to keep her safe and happy with him. He boozes, he screws around, and he is abusive to her and the kids at every turn. One day she packs her bags and walks out the door, never to return. He's devastated. "How could she hit me with my worst fear?"

Easily. He set the process in motion. He unconsciously pushed the relationship to the limits just to see how far he could take it. To see how much she really loved him. And then he found that there were limits. She would only take so much. Leaving him to self-righteously exclaim: "Aha! I knew she couldn't be trusted -- the bitch!"

This sort of thing happens a lot in marriages and long-term relationships that aren’t based on trust and honesty. We've all pushed when weshould have opened our arms and embraced.The man who has learned nothing from such misfortunes then falls back on tried and true reactions of resentment, disappointment and anger, and like Miniver Cheevy in the E.A. Robinson poem, keeps on cursing and "(keeps) on drinking," or whatever he does that keeps the family lurching from crisis to crisis.

The seeker of enlightenment, on the other hand, is the guy who approaches such a situation with more honesty, and a genuine quest to understand whyhe did what he did, and to figure out how he can keep from doing it again.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

To die, to sleep, to sleep perchance to dream ...

I found this meme at Chani’s thought-filled blog (if you are not a regular reader of hers, then you must give it a try) and since she invited anybody who wanted to take part to indeed take part, I decided to do so.

It’s all about sleep and some of its realities for us as individuals. Here are my thoughts on Zs bagging.

1) How do you sleep at night? Is your sleep affected by the national angst? Do you drop off easily, as you always did? Or does it take a while to get to sleep?

I recite in my mind the Serenity Prayer. ‘Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” And then, after reading for a time, my eyelids get heavy and usually I nod off to sleep quite quickly. Sometimes I’m feeling more hypersensitive and am impacted by any noise or movement by Wendy. Then I get keyed up. Simple solution, since there are only two of us in the house, is to depart for the other bedroom, which has a beautiful brass bed (headboard and footboard are brass, not the bed itself because that would be very uncomfortable) and a fine duvet, and I usually then go to sleep quickly. As for the national (international) angst, of course it makes me anxious and I feel greatly for those who have been displaced, but I can do nothing about it other than ride it out and accept the fact that a big chunk of my retirement investments have been royally screwed up the backside. C’est la vie. At least we still have our home.

2) What strategies, if needed, do you use to get to sleep?

I read. I must read. Usually non-fiction. Often true crime a la Ann Rule or her ilk. I used to love forensics and detection and the meting out of justice when I did cop work by handling the police beat at my paper. Sometimes we watch TV for a half hour or so before turning to our respective books. To be candid, I used to like lovemaking. No, I still really like lovemaking, but not just before lights out time. The adrenalin rush is not conducive to sleep.

3) Do you wake up in the middle of the night, plagued by obsessive thoughts?

At one time I did quite significantly. I also suffered from bedtime insomnia. Quite frankly I found that cutting out alcohol enabled me to get to sleep more easily and sleep through the night. But sometimes, if I wake up at say 3 a.m. and need to pee I can then have a very difficult time getting back to sleep as daytime thoughts intrude and all my insecurities come to the fore. Indeed, many mornings I end up wandering around the house at 3:30 wondering if it’s too early to put coffee on.

4) What strategies do you have to get back to sleep?

I try to clear my mind. I change rooms. If I go to the other room I sometimes turn on the light and read for a while. If nothing works, I just get up. No point in lying there and getting more fretful. Anyway, an advantage of working from home is that I can always nap in the afternoon.

5) Are your dreams affected? Are they more anxious than before? Do they wake you up in a sweat? Or are they peaceful, innocent, undisturbed by the general malaise?

Not really. I have good dreams for the most part. Sometimes adventurous. I do a lot of traveling in my dreams. Sometimes they’re sexy and I have had amazing encounters with people with whom I have never had such encounters. Sometimes they are nostalgic and will include people like former wives, lovers or friends. Sometimes I am extremely sorry when I awaken to find that the dream was not true. I used to have a lot of such dreams about my stepdaughter in which we were reunited in a warm and loving way. Those aren’t happening as much now. I never really analyze my dreams or discuss them with others. Mainly my dream life is an escape from reality. I like that about the process.

So how are you doing? Tell me your experience. As was the case with Chani, I am not going to tag anybody with this, but would be delighted to read your tale. If you decide to do it, please let me know so I can read your responses.


Friday, March 06, 2009

Taking issue with toilet tissue

Perhaps one of the good things to come out of the economic meltdown is that the public is finding itself forced to be a trifle less self-indulgent and perhaps we will learn to be more accepting of a few inconveniences and discomfort.

And in that the self-righteous crusaders at Greenpeace are way ahead of you. You see, Greenpeace cares about how you wipe your bum.

For centuries human beings had been driven by a desire to find an ideal way to, ahem, clean up after answering nature’s inevitable call. In none of this do I intend to be indelicate, by the way but, hey, we all do it. Even the Queen does it. It’s that great human leveller. Winston Churchill once suggested that the ideal way to rid yourself of stage-fright if you are called upon to speak in public is to picture your audience, no matter how distinguished it might be, naked. I’ve often thought that even better would be to picture those people moving their bowels or urinating.

But, dignity aside, the quest has always been one of dealing with the realities of the situation in the most comfortable way possible. That is delicate territory down there and we naturally seek a way to deal with the situation that reflects that delicacy. Even back in Renaissance times bawdy old writer Rabelais penned a tale of Pantagruel trying to find the ideal means of, you’ll pardon me, wiping his ass. He finally settled on the soft feathers to be found on the neck of a goose – still attached to the living goose, by the way. He doesn’t suggest what the goose thought about this, but for Pantagruel it worked.

Down all the years people have made do in many ways, including the time-honored Sear’s catalogue hung up in the outdoor biffy. Travelers from North America to the UK in the old days were often horrified by the quality and harshness of the toilet paper there (it has improved immensely, by the way) and some even took to bringing a few rolls of back-home softness on their travels.

The Continent wasn’t much better in those days. I remember some in Bavaria back many years ago that was literally the consistency of the crepe paper you’d use to decorate the gym for a sock hop.

Over the years, however, it got better and better both sides of the ocean. And that eventually brought us right up to today, and evoked the wrath of the Greenpeace prigs. There target is the Kimberly-Clark people who a few years ago began smearing lanolin or cold cream or something between the sheets for an even smoother and more comfortable ride on the porcelain throne.

It seems that the fancy bumf is environmentally unfriendly and takes thousands of years to break down in the landfills and lays waste forests all over the world for the sake of our bum comfort:

"We have this myth in the U.S. that recycled is just so low quality, it's like cardboard and is impossible to use," said Lindsey Allen, the forestry campaigner of Greenpeace.

Campaigners hope the guide will counter an aggressive marketing push by the big paper product makers in which celebrities talk about the comforts of luxury brands of toilet paper and tissue.

Environmentalists say those specialty brands that put quilting and pockets of air between several layers of paper are especially damaging to the environment.

Luxury brands such as three-ply tissues or tissues infused with hand lotion are now considered part of the fastest-growing market share in a highly competitive industry, according to paper manufacturers such as Kimberly-Clark.

The company’s latest television advertisements show a woman caressing tissue infused with hand lotion.

The New York Times reported a 40 percent rise in sales of luxury brands of toilet paper in 2008, and as the recession deepens, paper companies are anxious to keep those percentages up.

So, what’s our alternative? Go back to unfriendly single-ply coarse stuff with the odd wood-chip in the mix or keep pampering our pretty asses? Will eschewing the multi-ply softness drenched product of a wasteful society make you feel flushed with pride?

I have no answers. I mean, hey I use cloth shopping bags and drive an unthirsty car, I recycle all that can be recycled. Do I now have to feel guilt each time nature calls and I must fret over the fancy soft stuff we have?

I’m of two minds. I live in paper-mill country and these operations are closing down and throwing my fellow citizens out of work. My conscience tells me that bolstering my local economy should take precedence over Greenpeace’s angst about cutting down trees. Trees that were, after all, raised to be cut down and processed. Convince me, GP, that virgin forests are being laid waste to pamper our bottoms and I’ll switch to single ply. This works for me.

Otherwise, leave people to their morning, afternoon, or evening 'meditation' in comfort in these stressful times.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Guess what? Avalanches do happen

I am not a winter sports person. I have no desire to ski, snowboard or indulge in any endeavor that involves cold and damp. My idea of recreational pleasure is swimming, snorkelling and gazing upon turquoise seas washing up on a beach.

Oh, and turtles. There must be endearing green sea turtles poking up their heads in those same azure seas.

So, why do I live where I do, you might be prompted to ask. Because, I guess this is where I live and people pay me money to do whatever work will enable me to bask down among the sheltering palms.

None of the foregoing is apropos of anything much other than to introduce the perennial winter topic in the chilly part of the world, which is: Morons ski and snowboard out-of-bounds, get zapped by avalanches or lost or maimed and expect society to spend great sums of money extricating them from the results of their sheer stupidity and self-indulgence.

Screw those people, I say.

I read in today’s local paper that a kid got hit by an avalanche on our local ski hill (which is a big, world-class one) and ended up having both legs broken. He was snowboarding out-of-bounds. To him I say: "Hard cheese and let that be a lesson to you. Be grateful it wasn’t worse."

Last week in a tragic incident two skiers from Quebec indulging in winter sports in the hinterland of this province were causes celebres in an awful story about yet another incident of RCMP failure to do what they are commissioned to do, which is to serve the public weal of this country. Anyway, the couple was in avalanche country. They were another example of folks cavorting in the fluffy white in an out-of-bounds area, and the woman ended up dying of exposure. Awful stuff, and the failure of the constabulary to heed an SOS stamped out in the snow is a disgrace at all levels. Yet mitigating this to a degree is that they were out-of-bounds. Why were they, who were not even familiar with that perilous turf, out-of-bounds?

And, if these idiots don’t get hit by avalanches, they get lost. And searches are mounted. Highly expensive searches in which the SAR volunteers put themselves at considerable risk. Sometimes they are successfully rescued. Sometimes it’s too late. But, the final point again is, always, they were out-of-bounds.

So look, egomaniacal boneheads who think you are the most adept skiers and/or boarders on the planet, temper that testosterone and realize those winter sports boundaries are there for a reason. If you choose to flout them then I say I don’t really care so much what happens to you.

But, here is my modest proposal. Those who venture out-of-bounds and get lost and must be rescued should have to bear the entire cost of the search and rescuer operation.

Those who consistently violate the out-of-bounds regulations should be banned from not only the winter sports facility from which they were originally booted out of, but also all others North America wide. Their pictures should be posted on the Internet and all other winter sports emporia should be notified.

You want to ski or board, idiots? Then good luck in finding a place to do so.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Extra! Maybe you won't be able to read all about it

"All I know is what I read in the papers."
- Humorist Will Rogers

I can go on line and tap into any newspaper anywhere in the world. That is a wonderful thing. If I want to know the local spin on what is happening in London, New York, Paris or Tel Aviv, then I can be there in a trice.

The technology of access today is a marvel. It’s also increasingly exponentially and an almost terrifying pace. It’s excellent at all levels.

Except the consumer one. Especially for a consumer past a certain age who is steeped in habits that while they may seem antediluvian to techno-trendies, nevertheless constitute the person I am.

I mention this because I am aghast at what is happening to newspapers all over this continent and elsewhere in the world. The forces of ‘evil’, both technology and the marketplace, are killing them. This has nothing to do with not being moderately current with what there is, but I’m having difficulty with the idea of the printed journalistic page being relegated to some sort of fashion-dictated rubbish bin.

There are many factors leading to the demise of newspapers, including high production costs, newsprint costs (which are massive), levels of pay, union-dictated featherbedding of employees who should be redundant, loss of advertising revenue to television and the Internet, and loss of readership.

In the last while a number of papers have folded in the US and Canada and I couldn’t begin to list them all, but the 150-year-old Rocky Mountain News out of Denver is publishing its last issue on Friday, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, nearly as old, packed it in last spring, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is on its last legs and under serious threat are the Hartford Courant, the Baltimore Sun, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. In Canada Canwest News Services, which publishes dailies in Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary and a few other spots is gazillions in debt with little hope of rising from the burden.

At the end of it all, maybe I am a relic of an earlier era. To me my news must come from the journals I browse every morning and night. I want ink on my fingers and I want to read stories at my leisure, in my living room, with a cup of coffee. I don’t want to read news stories of my computer at my fucking desk. I mean, I call up papers for research or information, but not for leisurely perusal. That is a different process.

And, I am old-fashioned in that regard and I resent the fact that a post-literate generation – products of hi-tech, crappy schools with diminished standards and stunningly ill-informed teachers – should be dictating change in society. Do I overstate? Probably. But, it’s my blog and I can do that. I can also say snarky things about teachers, since I used to be one and I know that I am not maligning good teachers, and there are such pedagogues, blessedly.

Yet, how many homes today get a daily paper? I will suggest a fraction of those that did 20, 30 or 50 years ago. And, the kids out of J-school, what are their journalistic aspirations? Television or some aspect of the electronic media. How many kids want to do newspaper work? Not much calling for ink-stained wretches nowadays. I grieve for that.

While not exactly in my dotage, I began my journalist career with a manual typewriter and turned out copy that would actually be proofread by people who knew how to string two words together. IN the papers of yore, not only were the scribes literate, everybody in the place was in pre-spellcheck days. That archaic process was only in the late 1970s, and it continued until the late 1980s, when we go our first archaic and unreliable word processors.

Anyway, cannot stand in the way of ‘progress’. I don’t even want to. Have all your hi-tech stuff, and I indeed have mine and wouldn’t be without it, but I wish you’d had the decency to leave me my newspapers.