Monthly Archives: May 2010

What’s with the chewing gum smut?

I’m not much for gum chewing. In fact, I’m not at all for gum chewing. I honestly cannot remember the last time I stuck a stick of Dentyne in my maw, or tried to avoid crunching the candy coating on a Chiclets.

I don’t chew gum because I don’t really like to do so, and I also have an irritating propensity to snap gum – an exasperating tendency shared by too many chewers – driving anyone in my immediate vicinity, like assorted wives into such less-than-friendly explosions of “Would you shut the fuck up with the gum!”

I was never much for gum chewing, even as a kid. Gum struck me as a waste of money since the flavor was always lost within minutes. And, once I had mastered the time-honored art of blowing bubbles with my good old Dubble Bubble, and had gotten a few bits stuck on hair and clothing, I let that slide and took up the much more agreeable practice of smoking.

Double Bubble did have some tiny virtues not given off by regular gum, however. Not only could you blow bubbles, but there was also literature contained within the little rectangular packages. There was a little folded up comic strip containing the adventures of Pud and the gang. Pud was a little fat kid in a striped shirt who bore an unintentional – I guess – masturbatory name of the sort that reduced us to gales of laughter much like the time all the boys collapsed with mirth in a classroom film that featured a kid named ‘Dink’. You know, the sort of unintentional smut that doesn’t make allowances for transliteration nuances, which is why Brits always smirk when somebody from North America proclaims, “She slipped and then she fell on her fanny.” “My God but that must have hurt,” will proclaim somebody from the UK.

When I was a kid I kind of liked Chiclets because of the candy coating, though the flavor didn’t last much longer than it did with regular stick gum. But, it seemed like you were getting an extra treat. My cousin once, when we were about 7 years old bragged that he could chew an entire package of Chiclets at one go. And he did. He was left with a huge wad of gum, but the flavor still departed.

However, my history with gum isn’t the point of this essay, what is the point is the chewing gum wars that seem to have permeated television advertising. What’s going on here? Has there been a paucity of gum chewing that has prompted manufacturers to bring out scads of variations on the theme that I’ve never heard of?

There’s one brand where either goons or a German-accented crypto-Nazi go around chasing some poor sod and then proceed to whack him on the head to get him to expel his gum. The ads are violent, nasty and utterly pointless. I suppose it’s something to do with the suggestion that the flavor last for a very long time and therefore chewers don’t indulge in the disgusting habit of spitting it out on the street once the flavor is gone. I suppose it wouldn’t serve a gum manufacturer to bring out a product in which the flavor never went away, because then a body could stick it on the bedpost and take it up again in the morning. I mean, we did that as kids even though the flavor had long departed.

Then there is another with some ‘layered’ gum in which a sappy teenage girl entreats the parents of a child for whom she has been baby sitting to pay her in gum rather than money. Then a whole bunch of service type people come out of the woodwork to also ask to be paid in gum. All that strikes me is what were they doing with the sitter when the folks were away. It’s a question that begs to be asked considering the illogic of the premise.

But, the most egregious offender in nouveau gum advertising is for good old Dentyne. Now, Dentyne is a traditional and it was one I quite favored when I grew past ‘candy’ stage. Cinnamon Dentyne had a bit of spunk. It was also, according to legend, the brand chewed by 1930s bandito John Dillinger, and if that didn’t make it cool, I don’t know what would.

But now Dentyne is running ads that are kind of suggestive in which the idle viewer is initially led to believe they’re talking about (heh-heh) condoms. “Uh – do you have ‘something’ ? queries the hot-to-go young babe to her horny swain, among other innuendos that are about as subtle as a BP oil rig. Who the hell is Dentyne advertising for? Is our society now corrupt enough that they believe this will bring in the tiny tots. I mean, even today, that is the predominant group of gum chewers. Oh, and as a message to those who are confused by the ads, Dentyne does not prevent unwanted pregnancy or the transmission of STDs.

There are other ads that fall into the same confusing realms that can only make me long for good old sticks of Juicy Fruit, Chiclets peppermint, or Beech Nut.

Too much to ask for, I guess.

Little old prolific me

My Vancouver friend Pinklea thinks I am a prolific blogger. Since I am an erstwhile Vancouverite – well, a faux Vancouverite, being from Burnaby, which Ms Pinklea regularly points out to me, she felt we had a certain kinship. We actually have a further connection, since she is a teacher and I am a former teacher. But, enough about that. I like her and I like her blog and I am grateful she thought of me as award-worthy.

 As most of you who read me regularly know, I am a former columnist and general newspaper guy who still writes professionally whenever the wolves really howl at the door. And, as jaded as I might be in many respects, though I am not about to tell you which ones, I still genuinely like writing. Not only do I like it, I get a cut-adrift feeling if I go too long without writing.

 So, I came to blogging because it gives me an outlet to express the thoughts and ideas I might not get a chance to deal with on a contracted freelance piece. Some of you like to read my stuff; some of you even are motivated to leave comments on occasion. I like it when you do. Feedback is good.

 I don’t write a blog every day, so I don’t know if that moves me out of the realm of prolific, but I try to get my licks in two or three times a week. I know some people write every day. I admire their perspicacity, but wonder how much they’re slacking off on their jobs and whether I have some obligation to let their employers know. Just kidding. That’d never happen. If you read me often enough you know how I feel about people controlling the lives of others.

 Be that all as it may – actually everything in the universe is ‘as it may’, come to think of it, I am flattered and delighted to get this award. Now, with this prize, as with all other prizes in life, like marriages for example, there is a price. I am meant to link back to Ms. Pinklea. That part is easily and gratefully done.

I am also supposed to link here, where the Prolific Blogger award is explained, and I am to add my blog to the blogroll there. OK. Done and done.

 Now I have to pass the blog on to seven other worthy bloggers. I hate doing that, both because it’s a chore, and also because I hate leaving people out. But, I shall try to follow the ‘prolific’ credo with people who write even more often than I do. Yep, that’s my standard – if you blog more than I do, you’re in.

 So, as usual, I’m going to break the rules and not follow that rule …

 Now, the people I list may or may not want to carry on with this exercise, but please accept the award and know that you deserve it. As follows are the people I deem to be Prolific Bloggers: Liz of Los Angelista, who faithfully provides us with diverting and eclectic offerings;  and speaking of eclectic, Laura Jane  of A Life in the Day of me is a sheer delight in her diversity and wit from both her own UK home turf and in her travels; Warty Mammal’s Anecdotally Yours is a genuine favorite; and Andrea of Coloring Outside the Lines is not only a prolific writer, she is also a prolific and hugely talented artist. And, that’s all there is, there ain’t no more. Which is a lie; there are many more but I have to move onto other things in my life now, so I’ll get to the rest of you, whom I love or you wouldn’t be on my blogroll, the next time.

Jascha Heifetz had little to fear from my fiddling competition

Sitting on a shelf in my garage is a violin. It is my violin. I’ve had it since I was in 5th grade. It has been stored away in assorted homes of mine since I was in, oh, maybe 6th grade. All of which adds up to about 363 of your earth years, by my estimation.

The poor old thing is by now missing all her strings, not to mention bridge, and the bows are a mass of random horsehair. Damned if I know what happened to the chunk of rosin I once had.

Inside the violin is a paper label that is very difficult to read, but the manufacturer is Vuillaume a Paris. This label means that it is extremely valuable, in the realm of 150 k or more, or it means that it’s a cheap knockoff worth, according to a few sites on the Internet, about 150 bucks. I have no idea which it is.

And compromising that is the fact that the instrument has a big crack on the top that, according to my violin teacher back in 5th grade, destroys the ultimate tone. Aha, I thought (at the time), it wasn’t lack of talent and perseverance that made my sound so awful, it was the damn cracked violin. 

Now, despite its value, or lack thereof, I had aspirations back at that tender age of learning to play the thing. I fancied I liked the sound of the violin and while other kids were toiling with the piano, I would learn something different.

Today, aside from the other regrets I have in life – like never having made it with the girl I was in love with in high school, and not buying Microsoft stock when it was virtually free – I truly regret not being able to play an instrument. One of the instruments I cannot play is the violin.

I did honestly try for a time. But, whatever I produced was the sort of sound that makes people detest badly played violins. Now, Jack Benny made a career out of playing badly (though he actually played well), but I wasn’t sharp enough to think of that. The worst part of the violin thing was having to practice. I hated practicing; giving up cherished free time to spend an hour or so a day with an instrument I rapidly came to loathe. I didn’t mind the classes so much because I could fool around with the handful of other kids who were undergoing the same torture. Problem there was, however, some of them didn’t fool around all that much. They actually took this business seriously, as did our stern Mennonite teacher.

As for the value of practice, I have a friend who is a professional cornet player and he once told me that if he – after virtually his whole lifetime with his instrument – should miss even one day’s practice, it’s noticeable – to him, at least.

Anyway, I passed on to my father her comment about the crack in the violin. His response involved suggesting that since I wasn’t bothering to practice he wasn’t buying the excuse, and damned if he was going to fork over for a new instrument. He crushed my dreams, he did. Well, not really. In my shortsighted way I was delighted at being able to bail out at the time. It’s only now that I regret it. I almost felt a tear of nostalgia when I pulled the old thing out of its case to take a photo of it.

Actually, when I took up the violin what I wanted to learn was the process so I could graduate to being a bass player. Even at that tender age I thought the idea of playing a full bass was cool.

And the cello. That would have been an option, though it is much more favored by lovely females, it seems. I only mention cello because Jacqueline du Pre playing Elgar always brings tears to my eyes.

And, of course, the ravishing and talented Vanessa Mae shows exactly what can be done with the violin.

‘Drop that Pepsi and assume the position, creep!’

I hate to tell you this, kids, but the dystopian message from public health fascisti everywhere, and their handmaidens in the form of politically-correct, nanny-statist government wienies at all levels is that sugar is evil and we’re going to do our damnedest to make sure you never (in future) — you potentially diabetic little porkers, you – get to enjoy it. 

That is because those who don’t figure you’re smart enough to figure out things for yourself so must be protected, believe that sugar is the new tobacco and must be banned for our tiny tots (and our big tots will follow). Now that terbacky has been thwarted so effectively, which is why you never-ever see anorexic looking 14-year-old girls standing on street corners smoking, right?, then the soda pop industry is the next culprit in the eyes of those who must see that we do right.

Now this is not a defense of Coke, or Pepsi, or Mountain Dew, or any other sugary confection in between. I’m not a big soda consumer, I wasn’t even as a kid and, while I might enjoy the odd cola on a stinking hot day, I rarely pine for the stuff, and suffer no delusion that such things are healthful potables. They’re not meant to be. They are meant to be a bit of fun, and used in moderation.

Here in BC there was a big drive a while ago to get rid of pop machines in the schools. Good thing. We didn’t have such things when I was in school and the strap was wielded with impunity, so why should modern kids have them? School should be grim and tedious, not a fun and diverting place to be, so I saw that move as being on the right track. All frivolity aside, I certainly believe this was a good move for the schools, and they do have that right. At the same time, there is a simpler solution and that is to cease providing kids with so much access to money and to start monitoring their expenditures. In that, I have to blame the parents. I never had any money, and I turned out fine. A bit embittered, but generally fine.

On the other hand, banning the soda vending machines in the schools, as they did here, was a bit fatuous and unrealistic in the sense that a kid only needs to wander over to the Kwikee-Mart across the street and Apu will whip up a slushie for him or her. Of course, when I was in school back in the middle ages we had an answer for that, too. We were not permitted off the school grounds during the school day. Maybe a bit severe, but possibly not a bad thing.

Anyway, in holier-than-Jesus Toronto they are about to ban the sugary crap like pop and so-called ‘sports drinks’ (which I think are detestable, anyway) and replace them with healthy stuff. They’ve already done away with bottled water (environment, y’understand), and they will replace the fizzy confections with such healthful stuff as fruit juices (which, in quibbling point-of-fact contain virtually as much sugar as soda, albeit less sodium), and milk. Probably soya. Yucko!

Now, the point that strikes me, and maybe some others, if Johnny and Jessica are being profligate in their liquid crap consumption, shouldn’t it be a matter for parents to deal with. With this draconian decree parents, and the public in general are being told, we don’t trust you to make these fussbudget decisions by yourselves so the health Gestapo must make them for you. Excuse me! Who are these people? Why are they so obsessed with what I or my kids (metaphorical, of course) take into our bodies? Oh, I know, with our much-vaunted and somewhat overrated public health system in Canada, we have to know how to get folks out there and make them healthy in spite of themselves.

Now, I’d believe these people – especially government people – a little more if they had the courage of their convictions. They don’t. Access to beverage alcohol in Canada has increased in a magnum manner in recent years and, surprise-surprise, a lot of its advertising is aimed at ‘swinging’ young folks. So, if Johnny is a little porker at 18 that seems to be of more concern than if Susie is pre-cirrhotic at 25, mainly because governments don’t get huge revenues from Dr. Pepper, but they do get them from wine coolers and brewskis. So, let’s not officially touch booze and limit access (hey let’s increase access!), but assail fizzy (yet non-alcoholic) drinks. Tobacco is, of course, beyond the pale and was invented by Satan himself, unlike alcohol, which is virtually holy and even Jesus liked a belt once in a while, so how could it be bad?

These obsessions with nutritional health aren’t just Canadian or North American, they are global. Damn it, doesn’t the globe have more serious matters with which to be concerned than the lifestyle habits of its kids. Do our kids have crappy health due to overindulgence? So we are told. I also see a lot of kids out playing ball in the park across the street from my home every evening in season, and they look pretty damn fit to me.

And the ones that are slopping down the street sucking slurpies at the same time, are going to do so no matter what decrees do-gooders want to invoke. It’s like human nature, y’know. But, if you want to stop it, start a drive for parents to stop handing money out holus-bolus and to maybe monitor what the kids are sucking in on a daily basis.

Mares may eat oats, but does do whatever they damn well please, so don’t mess with them

In the old Disney animated film, Bambi, most people regarded the shooting of Bambi’s mother by hunters as grim and tragic. A couple of weeks ago a particular incident drove Wendy to almost think that the hunting incident might be the best part of the movie.

“Get that vicious thing,” she thought. “Mow ‘er down. Damn doe!”

She didn’t really express the sentiment, but it would have been understandable if she had. Wendy, you see, was recently confronted by a highly aggressive and confrontationary doe. It was at Fort Casey State Park on Whidbey Island in Washington State. It’s a lovely park in a splendid setting that overlooks the meeting point between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the start of Puget Sound.

We had just crossed on the ferry from Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula and were on our way to meandering up through mainland Washington to cross the Canadian border about 65 miles east of Vancouver at a little hicktown called Sumas.

As it was, we stopped at the park just in case good dog Max needed to ‘spend a penny’, as it were. Well, when we were there I too needed to spend the proverbial so I stopped in at a public restroom and advised Wendy to carry on with Max and I’d meet her back at the car. She carried on traversing a grassy path, and I ultimately moved on towards the road, and both pathway and road would meet back at the parking lot.

I got back to the car and I waited. And I waited and waited. I looked down across the field in the direction they would be traversing. There was no sign of them. Odd, I thought. Eventually I saw them coming along the roadway behind me.

“I thought you were coming across the field,” I said.

“You won’t believe what happened to us, but we were confronted by a deer.”

“A deer?” I had seen a number of does in the area, but had paid little attention. They were does, after all. Now, young bucks in rut are not to be trifled with. But does? Babe deer? They’re gentle, you know, like Mrs. Bambi Senior 

So, she told me the tale. She and Max were merrily trotting along when a doe ventured onto the path. Wendy attempted to shoo it out of the way, but the doe not only refused to budge, but actually began pawing the turf with her hoof. Not a good sign. Max, who was leashed, cringed back, but Wendy had visions of the dog attempting to confront the deer. He bared his teeth and snarled. Uh-oh. Wendy pulled him back, and in the process he wrestled himself out of his collar. Bigger uh-oh. However, rather than aggress, the dog actually shrank back and lay down. She immediately beat a hasty retreat, with the doe still pawing (hoofing?) the turf. They walked quickly away and that ended the encounter, but she said it was a frightening thing and she was happy to get out. She assumed that there might perhaps have been fawns in the area, but whatever the reason the doe let it be known she wasn’t to be trifled with.

Now, here in the Comox Valley we’re very used to deer. They’re as common, even in our neighborhood, as sparrows. But they’re Vancouver Island deer, and they’re about the size of a Labrador retriever. Wendy’s cantankerous deer was a Mainland – read MAINLAND deer. They’re big. Really big in comparison, getting up into the realm of steer-size.

So, are deer, including does, dangerous? Consider the following, which I found on an Internet search:

While deer appear to be harmless creatures, the number of attacks on humans by deer is on the increase. An attack by a deer can be brutal. Deer antlers can cause puncture wounds. On occasion, deer attacks have been known to result in severe and permanent injury to people and even death. To reduce the risk of being a victim of a deer attack, people are encouraged to observe the following suggestions:

  • Never provide food to a deer. When a pattern of regular feeding has been established deer become protective of the food source and may attack those near the food source – even those people providing the food.
  • Never, under any circumstance, approach a deer. Deer are wild animals. While they may appear docile, their demeanor can change without warning.
  • Be especially cautious of deer with fawns. Mother deer are very protective of their young.
  • Bucks can attack people without provocation, especially during the “rut” season – October through December.
  • If you do see a deer, observe it from a distance, preferably from inside a structure or vehicle

In fact, if you consider vehicle accidents involving deer, that human/wildlife interaction takes more lives annually than similar incidents with such animals as bears or cougars.

It’s OK, though. It hasn’t truly soured her on the species, and she still thinks that fawns are the cutest damn forest creatures. Just keep Bambi’s damn mom away.

Abandoned in the desert land of muse-courting

Writing can be a vile and difficult way to make it through this life. Periodically I have a nightmare that tells me that one morning I shall awaken and not be able to proffer two sequential words that will make sense to anybody else. This sensation is usually at its most manifest when I have a freelance deadline – like right now. 

And right now I am feeling decidedly blocked and the good stuff isn’t flowing as I wish it to. And, it’s all about the flow. When I’m feeling good about the process, the words fall into place and appropriate synonyms suggest themselves just by magic, rendering no need for a thesaurus, other than a mental one. I feel blessed when that happens. Right now I’m not feeling so blessed.

Take blogging, say. There are times in which I have a scribbled list of five or six different topics that are worthy of being shared with my handful of faithful readers. Au courant, I have nothing on my list. I have started three or four different blogs and when I read through the few paragraphs I’ve etched, I think ‘lame’. When I am blocked I also am stuck for words more appropriate than lame. Like maybe inconsequential, banal, bland, trite, pointless, fatuous and, worst of all, boring.

I know I’m a good writer at a certain level. I’ve earned a decent living at my craft and have even won prizes and awards on occasion. Today I feel like I have never written anything decent in my life and, you know, who the hell do I think I’m fooling, huh?

The only thing that spurs me on is the belief that it will get better. Sometime soon, maybe even later today, it will fall into place and readers will be enchanted, entranced, stimulated, maybe even aroused with whatever passions need arousing when they scan my bons mots.

On the other hand, courting one’s muse is a bit like courting a girl upon whom a fellow has a mammoth crush, and she has shown nothing but disinterest. A mug’s game, in other words.

Maybe I should just take a drive in the country and wait for the pretty thing to realize how much she has missed me.

Whatever its flaws, Lost never quite lost me as a viewer

Unless you have been in a coma for the past 6 or so years, you are likely aware that the TV series Lost reaches its final denouement next week, and tonight’s offering will be the penultimate one. But, if you are not a fan of the serial series that has transfixed an inordinate number of people for more than half a decade, why should you give a shit?

You shouldn’t. Any more than I, a non hockey-fan gives a sweet goddamn who is playing in the Stanley Cup. Nothing against hockey fans, I’m just not one of them.

In the beginning I hesitated to get involved with Lost. I mean, it seemed intelligent and a bit mystical and I’m a sucker for that sort of thing. Yet, I had been burned by the promise of Twin Peaks and was wary about going down that same road again, only to resent the fact the thing flamed out by its second season. And the serialized element puts demands on a viewer in that you must continue to watch, or the vehicle is rendered largely meaningless. I never got into either 24 or The X-files because I missed the early episodes so nothing that happened meant anything. Actually, I did watch a couple of episodes of X-files and found it rather fatuous and not scary at all.

But Lost sort of reeled us in from the beginning. It was well acted; the characters were virtually all good in their roles, and rather appealing at both obvious and subtler levels. For the obvious I felt compelled to include a couple of absolutely gratuitous photos of Evangeline Lily, who plays Kate, and is a hometown Vancouver girl, and the delectable Yunjin Kim, who plays Sun.

As an aside, a few years ago we were vacationing on Oahu and the cast of Lost dropped by for an autograph signing. Prior to that I had been a bit entranced by Lily until I cast my eyes on the real, live Kim, who I found to be utterly stunning in the flesh. And Hurley is every bit as big a boy as he appears to be in the series. By the way, writers of Hurley’s part, the ‘Dude’ thing is becoming a bit old.

Enough of that. Wendy generally tossed up between Sawyer and Sayid in terms of male allure, and I know as a man I’d really like Sayid to have my back in any conflict.

But, enough about that. What the hell is Lost? I cannot tell you that. It’s not that I ‘won’t’ tell you that, is that even after all this time, I have no idea what the damn thing is about, and neither to most other viewers and that is what keeps them coming back, I guess. I do not envy the writers in whatever they’ve devised to pull the thing together for the grand finale. I mean, they were so anal about the movement of the vehicle; they didn’t even clue in the cast as to what the ensuing episode would say. Crafty.

So, is Lost a biblical metaphor and something to do with the Fall of Man? I dunno. Is it to do with the threat of environmental havoc on the planet? Maybe. Is it an indictment against corrupt science? At times it is.

Sometimes, actually often, things and people aren’t necessarily what they seem to be and part of the guessing game of the series is figuring out who the players are and what they represent. Is there a connection between the character John Locke and the British empiricist philosopher and namesake in the 18th century. He was the man who believed we weren’t divine in inspiration but gained our survival skills via experience. Brothers Jacob and the Man in Black have become pivotal. Jacob and Esau? Might be. There is also an argument for Cain and Abel. Jack Shepherd has an historical namesake in the 18th century highwayman and escape artist. Alusions keep falling from my head. To hell with it.

In conclusion, I can only say, and I am not a huge TV series buff (though I still miss Get Smart) I am interested in how they pull it all together, and I confess that Lost has largely been worth the trip. Oh, and I’ve always rooted for Sawyer to get Kate in the end, but eventually I realized that Sawyer is a classier act than she is.