Monthly Archives: May 2011

Where you gonna be when the Rapture comes; and come it will?

The end is nigh folks. The Rapture is upon us tomorrow. Watch out for locust torrents and widely-scattered toads to fall from the skies. The same skies into which the righteous are going to be sucked by a celestial Dyson vacuum cleaner. The rest of us are going to be left down below festering amongst the toads and locusts. And the rest of us are going to be vast in numbers, whereas the sucked away are going to be few.

Pisses me off because tomorrow is the beginning of a long weekend here in Canada. But, it’s worse for my American brethren because you’re going to miss the Memorial Day weekend entirely, since all will be gone.

Furthermore for me, I am heading out on vacation, so that sucks even more. I’d like to ask Rapture Guy, Harold Camping if the whole mess couldn’t be deferred for say three weeks when I’m back in my own bed and therein to await salvation (ha!) or damnation (well, duh).

I haven’t really checked out the Book of Revelation lately, as probably haven’t a number of us apostates, but I do recall it foretells of a lot of bad shit a-comin’ down on that fateful day. Well, I’d always thought it would be far in the future, and at least not on a weekend, for crissake.

But Harold would have it otherwise. Mind you, old Harold has been wrong before and that was only because he suggests he miscalculated and this time he’s on top of it.

Am I worried? Well, I am a bit of a worrywart at the best of times but somehow I feel, since ‘endgame’ has been predicted about 47,876 times since the beginning of history, by virtually every culture on the planet, I think the odds are still on our side that the ball of mud will still be intact come Monday.

But, just to be on the safe side, I have applied to change my house number from 666. Can never be too cautious. Meanwhile, see you up there or down here. Hint: Better parties down here.

The conspiracy folks warned you but you just wouldn’t listen

I like to think it all started with Hitler. Conspiracy theories, that is. After the end of World War Two there were innumerable sightings of old Adolf. Usually in South America where he would have been espied sitting in a Buenos Aires sidewalk café with Martin Bormann sipping a mate.

Actually, it goes back much earlier than that considering the sightings of figures as diverse as Jesus to the little English princes that were allegedly murdered in the Tower by Richard III.

The point is, there is a certain element of humanity that persists in believing that what is reported by officialdom has to be — because it is reported by agenda-driven officialdom – agenda-driven bullshit meant to quell the masses into some sort of compliance with what they are fed.

I am, you may have gathered from what I have already written, not a believer in conspiracies. I’m not a sap, either, and I do know that governments, especially in times of conflict, tend to color the truth for propaganda reasons. Sometimes this is, in fact, a good thing because it keeps up morale. Sometimes it’s a bad thing, designed to feed somebody’s political agenda. I am nobody’s dupe, but when evidence is obvious I’m prepared to go along with it what is apparent.

So, I do believe that those tragic commercial jets crashed into the Twin Towers back in 2001, rather than seeing it is some Bush engineered ‘implosion’ designed to justify whatever he needed justifying. You may have thought ‘W’ was a shithead but I don’t think he would have wiped out a few thousand people just to look like a hero.

I do believe that President Obama was born in the United States. In most countries it wouldn’t have mattered if he had been born in Kenya, as the conspiracy bigots maintain, but it does matter in the US because the Constitution states that a president has to have been born in the US of A. Well, Hawaii is just one of those states that qualifies, even though a lot of fine and decent Hawaiian independence advocates wish it didn’t.

I do believe that a team of Navy Seals wiped out international fuckpig Osama Bin Laden and all I can say is, good for them. He is dead-dead-dead, just like Saddam Hussein is.

But, conspiracy-theorists are an interesting breed of cat. They cross the political spectrum from loony lefties who blame all of the world’s grief on greedy capitalists; to greenies who blame all of the world’s grief on perceptions of global warming and the greed of (again) filthy capitalists; to loony right-winger survivalist sorts who see Big Brother government around every corner sapping our “precious bodily fluids” like the evildoers in Dr. Strangelove, to even more right-wing and wacky religious fundamentalists who believe the end is nigh (this weekend, I believe) and hedonistic nations are behind it all. When ‘Jee-zus’ comes (as he will) all will be put right and we’ll learn the truth about everything especially how rampant homosexuality, fornication, blasphemy and other bits of perceived depravity have brought this all on.

Have a lovely weekend and watch out for locusts and toads.

Into each life some crappiness must fall

I know people who, on a daily basis, make out a ‘gratitude list’, in which they write down all the things for which they, on that day, are grateful. It’s a nice enough idea, you know, positive-thinking and all that. And there is no question that I have many things in my life for which I am immensely grateful, and the mere fact they are part of me makes me feel blessed.

But isn’t there also a need for balance, for reality in our lives?. Sometimes I think we in contemporary society have too much of an impulse to seek only “happy endings” to everything, rather than preparing ourselves to go face-on with those other realities — the crappy ones. Life is, after all, a trade-off. There must be a ‘yang’ to our ‘yin’ or we wouldn’t be strong enough to cope.

Bearing that in mind I, in a spirit of public blogger service, am about to help those who don’t seek to be wrapped up in puffy cotton, some of the things we must contend with — things that demand we expand our coping resolve. Don’t worry, they can only make you stronger and firmer in your resolve to never let the bastards grind you down.

Here are some of my personal betes noire

* Snoring bedmates; snoring people in the next room; the next house; in extreme cases, one street over.

* Accidentally blocking the toilet in somebody else’s house, with the anxiety level rising proportionately if it is the toilet of a new love, your boss, prospective parents-in-law, or if the toilet just will not stop running and the water level is rising ominously. Ironically, this is always an ‘accidental’ happenstance. I don’t think anybody ever blocks a toilet on purpose. Oh, maybe Charlie Sheen, but that’s about it.

* Slopping coffee, tea or a drink directly onto your crotch area.

* Spilling a hot drink on somebody else. I once did that on a train in England. As I passed through from the vestibule the train suddenly lurched an my coffee went right to the most tender parts of a lady sitting there. She screeched, but was fairly understanding. I felt like crap. I still suffer from memories of that incident.

* Having to provide a ‘specimen’. Having to produce one in the doctor’s office because you forgot to bring one with you. Having to hand that specimen to a nurse who turns out to be someone you had a huge crush on in high school or college. But, at least the pee specimen is easier to produce than the one that has to be mustered at a fertility clinic.

* Stubbing your toe, biting your tongue or cheek, bumping your head. No dignity here, just excruciating pain.

* Waiting up for someone who should have been home hours earlier.

* Responding to the smile or wave of somebody fantastic looking on the street only to find, to your mortification, their wave was directed at the person behind you.

* Being caught in traffic gridlock and really, really having to pee.

* Nearing the end of a four lane highway stretch only to find you are stuck behind an oil-burning ’57 Rambler or the largest RV ever manufactured, that is being driven by the oldest guy on record who still possesses a driver’s license.

* Being in unrequited love. This is almost as distressing as being the object of somebody else’s unrequited love. Or, maybe even worse or potentially more destructive, being in love with somebody you are not supposed to have those feelings about.

* Flashing red and blue lights in the rear-view mirror, or a cop car going in the opposite direction that makes a U-turn on the highway immediately after you pass by knowing well you were going at least 20-per over the posted speed.

* Arriving in Levis and sweatshirt and realizing everybody else is in formal.

* Motel bathrooms with walls so thin you can hear somebody tearing off toilet paper (or tending to functions) in the abutting bathroom in the next unit. Also, motel bedrooms with equally paper-thin walls that abut other bedrooms.

*And, as we’re being scatological, a lovesick 17-year-old boy on his first date with a huge crushee and is standing on her doorstep hoping for a kiss when he inadvertently breaks wind,

* The sounds of sirens at any time, but especially at 3 a.m. They can only mean something bad has happened to someone.

* Virtually all governments, at any level.

*Lifestyle questionnaires that indicate you should have died five years ago.

What are some of yours? Everybody else is itching to know

It’s a dog’s life here in the ‘hood

Cats are usually solitary creatures and sometimes, in the eyes of those who don’t care for them, sinister and vicious critters.

But, I’m not about to assail cats. I quite like them and have owned a number over the years. They can be good company provided one respects their terms of the engagement.

But, as I said, they are solitary. Cats don’t hang out normally with other cats. They are wary of and often despise the presence of another, especially alien feline within their presence.

Dogs, on the other hand are cavalier gregarious fellows and party loudmouths. While dogs may love their masters and mistresses, what they really revel in is the company of other dogs. I’ve concluded, in fact, that canine interaction is the one that genuinely counts in the world of dogdom. Ride along in the car with you dog and he’ll dispassionately regard the human world out there. But, let his eye catch another dog and his entire dynamic changes.

Max sits at the front window and periodically a plaintive whine will be emitted from him. He has recognized one of the dogs in the park across the street. If he doesn’t know the dog, or doesn’t particularly care about it, no whine. But, if it should be one of his pals he’s disconsolate until he is taken across for a social engagement.

Max is a particularly engaging dog and in that I am pleased because via his social conduit we have gotten to know a lot of other dogs in the area as well as their owners. Pups break the social ice very effectively.

So, what I am about to do is introduce you to some of the dogs of our ken and, by default, their owners:

–         Abby: Abby is a female Rottweiler/Newfoundland cross and Max is rapturously in love with her. He also likes Andy, her master, but mainly it’s all about Abby. And Abby has a sweet disposition to match Max’s. They wrestle and play and Abby (big dog) throws Max down and he loves it. Just like a guy will let the girl he’s sweet on get away with all sorts of things that wouldn’t be permitted of another.

–         Cola: Mid-size black Cola is Max’s ‘bromance’. Both males but they love each other almost disconcertingly. Marianne (pictured with Cola), Cola’s charming owner, was the first to notice that our two ‘boy’ dogs were sort of French kissing. Well, it was a matter of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ I guess. If Max has both Abby and Cola in his life then he has all he wants.

–         Ben: Ben is a little poodle/shih tzu cross who is just a charming little guy, much as his master, Hans, a wily and witty Dane matches Ben in personality. Max disregards Ben. Ben is a little dog, and Max doesn’t really understand little dogs or why they even exist. Ben doesn’t care. He is fastidious about avoiding being stepped on. He’s mainly there for the puppy treats. However, even in that he is eccentric, mainly seeking treats only every ‘other’ day. And, when he wants to leave, he simply walks away.

–         Jake: Big black Jake is an often-taciturn dog that isn’t much on playing. Indeed horseplay seems to confuse him. According to owner, Kelly Jake, at age eight, has always been that way but is actually becoming a little more interactive in recent months. Max likes Jake just fine, but tends to ignore him within minutes of an encounter. Wendy refers to Jake as “the accountant dog” due to his sometimes-serious disposition.

–         Zoë and Calla: Zoë is an amalgam of about 35 breeds (it seems). Not a beautiful but very friendly larger dog that is an inveterate scrounge. She can spot a treat a half-mile away and is unrelenting in her pursuit of said treat. Calla, her stablemate is an intensively focused Pitbull/Cattle Dog cross who is quite charming with people but is never to be trusted with other dogs. Originally acquired by owner, veterinarian Chris’s son. Son has gone off to art school, so Chris is stuck with Calla. Max thoroughly ignores Calla and Zoë but loves Chris because Chris is always ‘holding.’

–         Misty: Belongs to a woman we only know as ‘Towel Lady’ because we once watched her walk up to the bus stop with a whole pile of spa-type towels over her arm. We shall have to introduce ourselves properly. Anyway, Misty is a little mite of an indeterminate breed that loves Max like mad.

There are plenty more in our adjoining dog park, but this gives you an idea.

OK, buddy, the jig is up! Come forward and identify yourself

Just who is that guy? His presence in the photo above intrigues me. If I let it do so, it might even haunt me. He seems out-of-joint in the picture; like he has been Photoshopped in.

You can see him, can’t you? If you cannot I am going to be really bothered and fear for my sanity. See, in this photo of the fountain in Trafalgar Square he is on the left side about 3/4 of the way along, leaning on the side of the fountain and looking obliquely in the direction of the camera. Actually, he is looking at something else. What? He has a moustache and is a bit lean-of-face.

It seems like he has just been dropped into the picture. All of the other people are looking towards the fountain but he is looking back in the direction (sort of) of the photographer – namely me.

What’s his story? Is he spying on his wife who is engaged in a tryst with her art-loving milkman? I say that because the National Gallery is within his sights and perhaps he’s spied them on the steps. And English milkmen are notorious for the amount of action they get from lonely housewives.

Or is he a mobster who has been commissioned to carry out a hit and is looking for his intended victim in the crowd. Maybe he is an international terrorist with plans to nail the aforementioned National Galley in a gesture that would sap the morale of the United Kingdom or because he has a special aversion to the artistry of Constable. Are there timed TNT sticks or a ‘plastique’ strapped under his jacket?

Anyway, there is something that happens when you take photos that include unknown people. You know, a bit like that excellent movie Blow Up in which the photog, taking multi-frames, actually sees a murder taking place that is not immediately visible when looking through the viewfinder. I mean, I didn’t see that fellow when I was taking the picture, but now my eye goes directly to him.

A number of years ago I went to a photo shoot at our local air force base to grab pictures of the Queen who was paying a call. I got some terrific shots of relatively up-close stuff. Then, at the end of the day, I realized, because I was so determined to get some good shots, that I hadn’t really looked at the royal lady except through my viewfinder. I almost felt cheated out of an experience.

Somehow that is sort of analogous to the unknown man in my photo. Anyway, if he shows up in any other pictures, I am going to be rather unnerved.

I think it’s up to him to step forward and identify himself.

Technology comes and technology goes but (in a way) I mourn this one

The smoke-haze in the editorial office rendered it difficult to see across the room back in the day, but I bore the negative atmosphere on mind at all. None of us did at a time in which such flagrantly unhealthy behavior was part of the journalistic credo of a traditional era. We smoked with a vengeance because our teetotal publisher wouldn’t tolerate the cliché bottle of scotch in the desk’s bottom drawer. So, if we couldn’t drink ourselves to death – at least on company time – we could accomplish the same thing in the nicotine realm. God help the clean-lung members of the public who had to walk through the room to do business with the advertising department on the far side of the editorial office. But, there was little relief for the faint-of-lung there either since virtually everybody in advertising — with the exception of my ex-wife who hated smoking with a passion — smoked as well.

But, that was the way it was and nobody seemed to see anything odd about it. No, the chain-smoking on Mad Men is no exaggeration.

But, this blog is not about smoking. It’s about typewriters. It was inspired by the fact that I just read that the world’s last typewriter maker, Godrej and Boyce of India has only 500 remaining typewriters and when they are gone, that’s all, folks. They ain’t gonna make no more. For an aging scribe that is sad news.

I began my newspaper work on an ancient Olympic at the office and a cranky Remington at home. This was the way in which it was all still done when I started to turn out my scratchings in the later 1970s.

Each morning I would load up the Olympia with five or six sheets of green newsprint copy paper. The multi-sheets were used to save wear on the roller. I would then write whatever story I was working on, worrying little about typos. If a word was misspelt it would simply be X-ed out and I would continue. If I was really heavily involved in the tale I was spinning then my cigarette would burn down to the butt in the ashtray next to me, and a fresh one would be lit off the end of the last. If I was truly heavily involved in what I was writing I probably didn’t actually smoke all that much.

Anyway, the story would be pounded out and then it would conclude in the traditional manner for newspaper journalism with a centered 30 at the end. Thusly:


And then I would grab my little inkpad stamp so I could put the ‘slug’ stamp on it and then deposit it in the out-tray so that it could first be scrutinized by the editor, and then sent out for proofing and finally for printing.

Pretty archaic process, but it worked for us until the late 1980s when we got our first ‘computers’. They were ‘Compugraphic’ word processors and they were a monumental pain-in-the-ass. Cantankerous and crude as hell they were and many of us longed to get our typewriters back. Eye strain was considerable looking at white type on a black screen, and regularly they would simply lose unredeemably great blocks of writing, indeed sometimes entire stories. They were a techno-millennium away from the snazzy little Acer laptop upon which I am writing this. Or so it seemed. Though the change has all come staggeringly rapidly.

Now, I have sitting in my garage a perfectly fine typewriter that has got years of wear left in it. But, like a marriage that has gone dead, it is never to be revisited.

A bit sad, that. Good luck on your next venture, messrs Godrej and Boyce.

Male model continues with a family tradition

As follows is the second  part of a two-part story that is extracted from an article written by me for the Comox Valley magazine, In Focus. This part concerns the life and work of a male  model who is carrying out a family tradition of modeling.

Part II

On the male side of the equation – for males are as much part of the modeling process as females – is Michael Ward. He is comfortable with his last name being used as his reputation as an in-demand model is widespread, not only throughout Vancouver Island, but elsewhere in the province, and indeed nationally.

Michael has been a nude (and sometimes draped) model for countless artists and photographers for 35 years. He is also a follower of a family tradition as his mother and grandmother were both nude models. His grandmother actually modeled for A.Y. Jackson of the Group of Seven, so Michael’s connectedness is profound.

“My mother was a model, I am a model and now my two youngest sons are models,” he says. “Modeling is more a lifestyle choice than a job for me – where everything I do is centered around modeling in some form or another. I like to imagine that I’ll still be modeling when I’m in my 90s. Why not? Wrinkles are cool to draw. Imagine looking at drawings of me in my teens and then to me in my 90s. Now that would be a true life model.”

Oh, and just in case the modeling hits lean times, or he’s in a place where there is low-demand for his skills and discipline, he’s also a land-surveyor.

“Mother was an art teacher,” he says. “I grew up in wall-to-wall drips of oil paints and there were nudes running through the house all the time when I was a kid. It didn’t bother me at all and this was back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. I had my first modeling gig when I was 15. I didn’t find it an odd thing to do because I was so used to it. This isn’t bad, I thought; this is freeing.”

What is the role of the model in relation to the artist, as he sees it?

“An exchange takes place between the model and the artist. The artist sees me for who I really am – there are no secrets here, no hidden agenda. To thine own self be true is particularly true for the art model. If I’m in a lousy mood, these emotions will be picked up by the artist, not unlike a magnet, and their work will reflect these emotions. An experienced art instructor/artist such as Bill Porteous is able to side-step projected emotions and see the inner model, whereas a less experienced artist might be caught off guard. 

As was asked of the female models, Michael was asked how he deals with long poses, surely the most demanding aspect of the model’s calling.

“I go into a near-trance for long poses,” he says. “Modeling takes away all of my stress and it leaves me feeling refreshed with a tremendous feeling like Nirvana coming over me. I am totally in tune with my body. It’s like doing meditation or inner tai-chi. Depending on the music being played or even the silence, I have fought bulls in Spain, danced with queens at royal balls, knelt at the feet of the Pope, climbed Mt. Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary and cried at the funeral of my sister.”

One of the real bonuses in modeling for Michael is that he has been able to acquire a considerable collection of art works in the process of interacting with both notable and talented beginning artists.

“I’ve said to artists, if you want me to model, then give me art,” he says. “There have been times in which I have said no to money, and yes to works of art. And some of the artwork features me, which is gratifying. As it stands, I am represented in drawing books and there is a life sculpture of me in Victoria (where he resides and is in big demand). Virtually every artist in Victoria knows me, and that’s only to my advantage.”

That life sculpture, by the way, is in front of the Victoria police station showing the character depicted by Michael holding up a pillar. The sculptor was Jay Unwin.

For a number of years – and it’s a memory that sticks fondly with Michael – he ran a life drawing ‘event’ in the south Island.

“It ran for five years and it was sort of a ‘draw-a-thon’ in which we gathered 23 models and created what he calls a Cirque de Soliel of modeling in which the models and artists (noted, such as Robert Bateman, and fledgling to the tune of 300) came from all over.”

Unlike the female models profiled earlier, Michael does involve himself in the creative aspects of the field.

 “I do draw and paint – obviously not as well as some of the people who do me, but I get a lot of pleasure from it,” he says. “I do have a BFA, and I’m also a surveyor and this has enabled me to survey by day and model in the evenings right across the country.”

On this part of Vancouver Island Michael has modeled at Painter’s Lodge in Campbell River, and models regularly in the Comox Valley. He also teaches modeling and is often asked to give tips to aspirant models.

“I suggest new models come out and watch me at art schools and pick up some techniques,” he says. “And my main instructions to new models include: Don’t rehearse; convey how you feel; don’t make eye-contact with the artists because it will break their concentration and it also can mean that the model will pick up negative feelings from the artist if that is the way he or she is feeling.”

Meanwhile, Michael says modeling continues to be a passion with him and he cannot imagine not doing it. Money, he says, is not an issue for him, and he gets his greatest joy from meeting struggling artists.

The top photograph of Michael is by Doug Gilbert, the second by Tom Gore, and the third is by myself of a drawing I did of Michael.