Have compassion for most of the homeless but not necessarily ‘all’ of them

Homeless_woman‘ Buncha bums’ is the pejorative comment that won’t entirely vacate my consciousness when I think of the denizens of that so-called tent-city on the former grass next door to the Victoria Provincial Courthouse. Hey, how about Law & Order, Criminals In Tents, that’d work if I were of a more judgmental nature.

I am torn on this issue. A whole slew of folks protesting their homelessness have decided to ‘occupy’ a public space. Some of those homeless are actually British Columbians, so it would seem that our society is obligated to look out for them.

So the good burghers of Victoria, and to give credit where it is due, have rallied to find adequate housing for them, and in the process give them the boot from this little chunk of Victoria’s ‘green and pleasant land’. And I think, by any standards, what they are offering them is pretty darn decent.

I recognize that homelessness is a dire thing, not just in Victoria or Vancouver or virtually everywhere in the world, but also in this town. A few years ago I was commissioned to write the Homelessness Study and the findings were informative and sad in many cases and to a degree we have done bugger all about it other than to fulminate. Not saying there aren’t individuals who are involved in helping, just saying it ain’t going away.

I also could lapse into an apologist mode and say ‘I have been lucky’. But that isn’t really the case. I have worked hard all my life, have made sensible decisions and other than a foray into drinking too much many years ago, I am not addicted. The only area in which I am blessed is that my mental health seems reasonably functional.

That all means that I spent many years getting a decent education and after that suiting up each morning and going to work whether I felt like it or not. I was forced in that realm to kiss a few asses I didn’t feel deserved to be kissed. I also paid my bills and didn’t live extravagantly. All good. And better than the lot of some folks, I will concede.

But, back to the tent-city and the poor. The ones I have always felt for are the so-called ‘working poor’; those with the shit jobs (and shit jobs are the norm not just in this community but in many communities) minimum wage and no benefits and no hand-outs like the welfare folk get. That is so fucking wrong, in my esteem

Anyway, both the City of Victoria and the provincial government to some degree have attempted to find a solution to the impasse there and to get the denizens therein the hell out. They have found some housing and to their credit some of those unfortunates have been grateful for what has been offered and are moving on.

But there are others who maintain that what has been offered isn’t good enough. If they don’t get exactly what they want they will stay put and are currently defying orders to depart. Who are these hand that feeds them biters? I don’t know and I resist the impulse to want to see the police go in with mean dogs, but the thought has crossed my mind.

But I am left with the thought for that ilk; you contribute nothing to the discussion or to society and therefore I am left with no sympathy. Get a life and move on. If you cannot do that, that is one thing. But if you ‘will’ not do that, it is another. Screw you and get out and I am sure the decent t but impoverished people will be happy to see your backsides.


So Rattenbury was a bit of a rat, but he still deserves a statue

empressI think I became a student of history about five minutes after I was weaned. I have always been intrigued with the tales of men and women who went before and their attainments and their failures. I’m not stuck in the past and attempt to live my days for the moment in which I am currently dealing with life, but historical awareness enables me to put it all in context. That I was for a time a history teacher was really no surprise to anyone who knew me.

Of late there has been a bit of an editorial page dustup in staid old Victoria, what in light of all the evil changes the newcomers have perpetrated on the old Empress what with killing that bastion of the glory days of the Raj by getting rid of the overpriced and uninspired Bengal Lounge.

And of course the Empress makes me think of Francis (Rats) Rattenbury, the dude who designed and built the thing. The dustup aforementioned revolves around the fact that there is no statuary depicition of old Rat in Victoria, whose architectural attainments in the city include not only the Empress, but also the Legislative Buildings, among others

Of Rattenbury’s legacy, I can only say this. As in Christopher Wren’s London, Victoria is a case of “if you seek Rattenbury’s monument, look around you.” In his day, some loved Rattenbury’s efforts, others loathed them and found them false. One critic said of his Legislative Building that it looked like a railway station in some remote state in India. I’ll reserve comment from an esthetic perspective, but I kind of like its appearance.

But, I think, muckraking journalist that I am, that it’s the personal story of Rattenbury that intrigues. It is the oh-so human history of a man who didn’t just think with his ‘big head,’ as the saying goes. In other words, the appelation ‘Rat’ was kind of well-earned.

At the peak of his success (actually at the beginning of the downhill slide) Rat took a mistress. She was a Vancouver girl named Alma Packenham; a classical pianist of moderate success, 30 years his junior, a looker, already twice divorced, and she smoked cigarettes in public. In other words, a hottie way back around the time of World War One.

Rattenbury ditched his wife, Florrie – and even went so far as to cut off the heat and lights to the family home – and moved to palatial digs across the street with his new squeeze. Eye-candy on his arm, he then stepped out into staid Victoria society. It never really worked. Folk disapproved and began to shun them.

Ultimately they decided they should go off and make their impact elsewhere. They moved to England – to the Channel town of Bournemouth, mainly because Bournemouth is very reminiscent of Victoria (and it is, I’ve been there and was struck by the similarity). But, Bournemouth, which was designed to represent a fresh start, instead marked the beginning of the end.

And such an end it was. It was the stuff of a movie, and it has been. A British made for TV film from 1987 called Cause Celebre tells the grim tale. Alma in the film is played by none other than Dame Helen Mirren, and a fine job she does of it. Cause Celebre captures the Rattenbury/Alma denouement brilliantly.

OK. Here’s how it goes. By the time they’d set up housekeeping in England, old Francis was pretty much past it in terms of (ahem) keeping Alma satisfied. Advancing age combined with severe alcoholism had taken the lead out of the pencil, as it were. Alma, meanwhile, talks Francis into hiring a chauffeur. They do so, and that chauffer, a dimwitted lad of 17 named George Stoner, began to do more with Mrs. Rattenbury than just drive her around to the shops. The boy was also seething with jealousy and resentment over old Francis and to make a long story short, one night in 1935 he goes into the parlor and bludgeons the old boy to death. A very sad ending. But wait, there’s more.

There is a trial, and poor Stoner is convicted of Murder One and sentenced to hang. Alma, despite having huge complicity in the evil act, gets off scot-free. However, gossip and the rumor-mill will not let her alone. So, one day, a few months after the trial, Alma, in a deep depression, wanders down to a riverbank and there, most dramatically, commits hara-kiri.

Stoner, meanwhile, is released shortly after Alma’s death – she left a note attesting to her role in the matter – and according to recent reports he was still very much alive.

So, those are the thoughts that run through my mind when I consider a statuary commemoration of old Rat and can only think, why the hell not? He should be remember ed for his work, not for what he did (or didn’t) do with his dick.



Did you ever wish you were an Oscar Mayer wiener? This may be why

osxarUse Ajax, the foaming cleanser

Use Ajax the foaming cleanser

Floats the dirt right down the drain

You get a lot to light in a Marlboro

Filter, flavor, flip-top box

Kellogg’s Sugar Corn Pops,

Sugar Pops are tops.

And so those and many more went in the golden era of the commercial jingle. The boys in Mad Men, when they weren’t drinking themselves senseless, chain-smoking or shtupping cantilever bra-ed secretaries, devoted a great deal of creative energy to composing effective jingles. If you’ll recall in the final sequence, after his melt-down Don Draper devised a them song for client Coca-Cola. And we all know it to this day, “It’s the real thing” and it gave a big boost to the singing career of Carly Simon, if you recall.

Jingles were viral elements of the advertising biz because at the time often a single sponsor would bankroll a TV show and therefore the product had to be associated with the show. “See the USA in your Chevrolet,” sang Dinah Shore since her very popular show was known as the Chevy Show. Jackie Gleason’s show was sponsored by Buick and at least once on the show the Great One would intone “Mm-boy, it’s a Buick.”

You don’t hear jingles much any more and I think that’s a pity for the advertising racket. The jingle provided an identity for a product. A jingle stuck in the mind. In fact they stuck in the memory like earworms and Madison Avenue knew that. The rhymes were simple and always associated with the product:

N-e-s-t-l-e-s, Nestles makes the very best , chocolate.

Light up a light smoke, a Lucky Strike. The light smokes the right smoke, Lucky Strike. For the taste that you like, light up a Lucky Strike

Even in Canada we had Bob Goulet (remember him?) also intoning the politically incorrect in current context the virtues of a tobacco product:

Smoke DuMaurier for real smoking pleasure, DuMaurier, the cigarette of great taste. A mild cigarette with the best filter yet, that’s why the trend today is to DuMaurier.

And while in Canada, how about an ad for an actual Canadian car – we had them, you know.

If there’s a great car out it’s the Meteor. The finest everyone will agree. It’s the longest, lowest Meteor in history …

Now the virtue of the jingle is that the things stay with you – forever and ever. None of the ones I have included in this blog were looked out. They are etched in my fevered little brain. Masses of ads just stuck there until the day I die.


So, did you lose yours at the movies, too?

EWThere has been a huge foofrah over this year’s Oscar nominees because there seems to be a plethora of white folks nominated and a complete paucity people of color.

As if I give a shit. Well, I do give a shit about racial equality in our fractured society – Canada’s fractured society, too, you smug bastards who live up here north of the border – but about the Oscars I don’t give SFA of a shit about.

But seriously, I lost interest in the Oscars when Arnold Stang missed being nominated for his tour de force as ‘Sparrow’ in The Man With the Golden Arm in 1955. I am just being facetious here, but truly Stang was good. Watch the classic film and you’ll see what I mean.

There are two reasons why I don’t watch the Oscars and haven’t done so in I cannot remember how long. They are:

1. All the Oscars are is a big in-house (I was going to say ‘circle jerk’ but my intrinsic politeness made me refrain) love-in. They are not really a reflection of critical esteem or film quality. Academy members, not critics or the public undertakes the voting. And, Academy members in a certain category by their designation can only vote for others in that same designation. At least, that is what Kim Cattrall told me a number of years ago, and I suspect she would know. So she, for example, as an actress, can only vote in the actress category, she cannot vote for best actor. So, if somebody Kim had brawled with in the past was up for a nod, she wouldn’t get our Kimmie’s vote, in all likelihood. That’s just plain silly.

2. I don’t go to the movies. I believe God invented DVDs for a reason, and that was to keep cranky guys like me away from movie houses. I think the last two movies I ever saw were Saving Private Ryan (not a well-known fact that Tom Hanks won World War Two), and Titanic. If you haven’t seen it, the ship sinks. That one was redeemed by Kate Winslet, but not much else.

I quit going to the movies because I no longer found it a pleasant experience, but one that brought out my more hostile instincts. Why would I want to sit in a venue in which movie house operators scour the streets and then populate their venues with the rudest people they can possibly unearth. Movie audiences that used to be in raptures with what was unfolding on the silver screen now seem to be nasty, boorish, loud, inconsiderate and just not the sort of company with whom I want to be stuck being only an armrest away from. They talk; they answer cellphones; they present their stupid critiques of plot lines; they stick their gum under the seats and they are forever going back and forth to pick up further drums of ersatz popcorn or enough milk-duds to provide confections for the population of Somalia.

And movies are so loud. Why are they so loud? I assume most people there can hear, so why should the (generally bad) music, and (generally bad) dialogue be hearable in the next town?

Sometimes I think about going to a movie. And then I find my crankiness (if I’ve so decided) increases as the day of the movie approaches. When that day actually arrives I am in such a pout about it all, there is no point in going.

Don’t get me wrong. I love movies. There are good movies, and there are even ‘great’ movies , and there are movies that I have seen over and over again on TV or DVD.

In that context, I do recognize that watching a DVD version is not the same thing as seeing it all on the big screen. But, I want to then see it on the big screen in one of the cinema palaces of yesteryear. Those wonderful venues with their chandeliers and plush seats were part of the overall experience. Those crappy little multiplexes at the mall do not make it. They offer little improvement over a DVD offering. Added to which, my home isn’t populated by boorish louts, like the multiplex will be.

A final point in favor of renting a movie, I think stems from the number of occasions in which we have sat and perused a recent offering and then said: “Glad we didn’t pay real money to watch this piece of crap on the big screen.”




The deaths of icons sometimes more difficult than real deaths

hollyToday is, in the lexicon of Don McLean (and no I am going to make no judgment on allegations he has chronically smacked his wife around; that’s for the McLeans to sort out) “the day the music died.”

I am aged enough that I remember that day as the first time some rock-and-roll heroes bit the dust. Actually, and I wouldn’t hesitate to assert this, Holly, the rube from Lubbock. Texas was arguably a musical genius of rock or any genre – miles ahead of Presley, who never wrote a damn thing in his life – and on a par with Elvis as a stylist. Very young at the time of death Ritchie Valens was no slouch, either. And the Big Bopper was just sheer bawdy fun.

Over the years since a lot of youth musical icons died; some by misadventure and bad habits, like Janis, Hendrix, Garcia, Cobain and countless others going right through to the brilliant and much-lamented Amy Winehouse. And some died through misfortune like Stevie Ray Vaughn, John Denvier, most of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Duane Allman and so forth. And, of course, the ultimate indignity was the assassination of John Lennon. And finally there were those who died of illness, like Bob Marley and George Harrison.

It’s the latter category that has become prevalent of late. And it has been largely the illness that comes with age like heart disease and cancers. That’s a difficult one to get around, especially for those of us who are advancing in our years. Within the past few weeks we have lost the iconic and inestimable talent of David Bowie and the wonderfulness of Glen Frey of the Eagles. I for one happen to think Hotel California is the best rock song ever and the only other one that comes close, in terms of emotional impact on me is Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street.

The thought that strikes me about these demises, premature or of natural years is, I didn’t personally know any of these individuals, I only emotionally so is my (or your) emotional grief any less valid. I truly have no answer for that, but such deaths can seem just as real.

Maybe that is just a silly thought. But about certain things I am prepared to be silly.


Up at the muni pool Spiderman really does save the day

spider 2

On Sunday mornings Wendy and I go to the pool(s) at the Comox Valley Sports Centre. It’s good and healthy recreation and it is our simple way of trying to fend of the rigors of incipient old fartdom.

A few weeks ago, whilst lolling in the pool Wendy looked up and noticed a tiny figurine up on the high overhead skylight. It was a minute Spiderman toy figurine. She was intrigued about it being way up there and pondered why it was there.

So, since she has some connections with officialdom in the community she made some enquiries of the sports and rec folks. Turns out the mini-superhero has been around for some time. Periodically it blows off the skylight, but it is always replaced to it’s spot of prominence on that skylight. And there is a reason.

Tiny tots using the pool are often pretty intimidated by lying and floating on their backs. Therefore, to reassure them they are encouraged to look up and see Spiderman. He too looks like he is floating on water so, the message is, it must be safe. Evidently it works like a charm. A superhero saves the day and just may even keep a kid from drowning at a later time because Spiderman taught him or her how to float. I admire people with the sort of imagination that can put something like that in place.

I don’t know much about Spiderman. In fact I know nothing about him at all other than he is one of those ubiquitous fetishistic ‘superheroes’ that prevail today. I don’t quite understand their popularity other than the world is a frightening place and therefore maybe some sort of humanoid hybrid can save us from whatever bogeymen are out there.

Even when I was a kid superheroes meant little to me because I knew there was a lot of fakery afoot in creating them. I’ll admit I did enjoy the first two Chris Reeves Superman flicks because they were well-acted and scripted and had a lot of whimsy about them. And I liked the dark and depressing Michael Keaton Batman movie, but that was mainly because I like Keaton in anything he does. Oh, and I was a big fan of the old Mighty-mouse cartoons, but for an entirely different reason.

Other than the aforementioned I have seen no others and have no desire to. But I will give a nod to Spiderman for his sterling work at the Sports Centre pool.

So much nonsense about people needing to spend a penny

Yesterday an email friend and I got into a silly discussion that revolved around a well-known singer accidentally voiding into her pants while performing, but I won’t give you away, OK, Fergie. My friend and I did think it might be advised for performers to have a kind of nanny to check with them if they need the potty before they go out there before the public.

So, what follows will be a discussion of this rather delicate matter. A delicate matter that involves something that we, of both sexes (oh, and not to forget the transgendered, and more about that later) carry out a few times every day – and often far too many times a night, in my esteem.

That is the simple act of urination.

I have often thought we are a bit uptight about the matter in North America, since it is something we all do, but we try to keep it separate as far as the sexes are concerned. I recall, many years ago, going to the loo in one of those old British hotels in the days when you didn’t have a facility in your own room, so you had to traipse down the hall. In any case, early one morning I was standing at the urinal when a middle aged woman trotted in, said good morning, and then entered a stall and went about what she needed to tend to. At first I thought I was in the wrong place, but that was apparently not the case. It was a coed can.

And why not, I concluded. I had my back to her whilst I peed, and she went into a cubicle and was hence in her own sanctum for her elimination. Why do we insist, for example, that stores and restaurants have one for ladies and one for gents? As long as you can maintain your privacy, then two aren’t needed. We don’t have separate facilities in our homes.

I think we are relaxing a bit, though. I have noticed on some TV shows, like NCIS, for example in which a man will be standing at a urinal in the restroom and a female college will come in and carry out a needed conversation at the time. And again, why not? We all do it, and his back is to her. Often the show will depict a bit of discomfort on his part initially, but not for long. I know it really wouldn’t bother me, but I am fairly immodest, I can only conclude.

Of late the issue has come up of how to accommodate the transgendered. I don’t get this one. If the ‘trans’ person (male, let’s say, changing to female a la Bruce Jenner) still has his ‘junk’ intact then he will use the men’s room. If he has made the physical switch, he will utilize the ladies. I mean, why is this an issue? We are only talking about a minuscule percentage of the population (like less than one percent) so I don’t think revolutionary changes are in order to accommodate.

If we really want to serve the peeing public then every bit of new construction that is installing restrooms should provide two (or even three) potties for females for every one for men. Women waiting in queues in desperation, I have been told, often stand in jeopardy of humiliating themselves because there is no available place to pee. I have a few times invited desperate women into the men’s during which time I will willingly stand guard at the outer door. Hmm, maybe the potty paucity is a conspiracy by the people at Depends.

Whatever the case, let us accommodate women before we worry too much about the transgendered. And maybe let’s work towards becoming a little less delicate about a normal human function.