Monthly Archives: October 2011

Do you think maybe it’s time to give Hallowe’en back?

I think grown-ups need to get the hell out of Halloween festivities, that’s what I think. If there is one festive day of the year that is designed just with children in mind, it is All-Hallows-Eve with all of its ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night.

Christmas doesn’t count as a kids’ fest because it’s largely for everyone and especially for merchants of stuff nobody needs or wants but will go into debt over, regardless.

So, leave ‘em Halloween for heaven’s sake, and butt out.

Yet, I look at the papers over the past few days and espy the interference of those parental and educational bodies that can and must stick their unwelcome oars in. It hasn’t been sufficient for them to completely wimpify playgrounds or to demand that educational authorities provide ever-expanding drop-off/pickup areas near schools so that the delicate little sugar-frosting darlings can be driven to and from school even if they live a block distant.

No, this year it seems, even more than most, Halloween is being assailed and methodically sterilized. It was a trend that began with UNICEF. A few years ago kids were charged by their uber-liberal parents to bring around wee baskets so they could score donations for this particular arm of an increasingly dubious and hypocritical organization. Well, for shame, UNICEF folks. And I assure you that no kid got a brass farthing for us. Candy, yes — donations, no. We make our own charitable donations (and we do), thenkyou.

But, in today’s newspaper there was the item concerning a couple of schools in the Canadian city of Calgary advising their wee charges to not opt for ‘scary’ costumes, but instead to choose ‘caring’ costumes. WTF is a caring costume?

Lessee, this is Calgary. That caring city that is home of the ‘Stampede.’ Perhaps a caring costume could be dressing the kid like one of the vets that euthanizes yet another of the horses horribly injured in that disgusting chuckwagon race each year. And we dare to criticize the Spaniards and Mexicans for bullfights while we persist with this. Yeah, that vet costume would be a caring one.

What else that would appeal to a kid costume-wise? A teacher? A nurse? A social worker? Those are pretty caring callings. Yet, they aren’t too stimulating. I suppose a firefighter might qualify. Yet, what about a soldier? I can hear the PC forces groaning at that one. I kinda thought hooker might work as well, since such ladies provide care of a sort. But, probably not what they had in mind.

In the same paper I read how dentists and doctors are warning about the perils of candy overdoses. You know, tooth rot and diabetes in the greedy little porkers.

Then I read another little featurette that pondered the agonizing question of how old must the kid be before he/she is to be able to go trick-or-treating on their own. “Is my 10-year-old old enough?” For gawd’s sake, I would have been so mortified at age 10 to have Mom tagging along with me. We left the place with the caveat to “Watch out for hidden razor blades in the candy apples – ha-ha-ha!” and that was it. We were on our own to score. And we’d travel in a gang of urchins, and we never-ever ran into a deviant prepared to prey on us – or a hidden razorblade, for that matter.

Time to give Halloween back, in my esteem.

 

 

 

 

‘I get slandered — I get libeled — I see words I never read in the Bible’

I have a dream. A fantasy, if you will. No, not that sort of fantasy. Oh, I have those galore, but this one is based on the workaday world.

My dream was, in the years toiled as a journalist and feature writer, that there would be no libel laws. I, the ink-stained wretch in question, could write whatever I wanted about anybody whose name popped up in the news, or with whom I had an axe to grind – and believe me, I had a lot of well-honed hatchets around my desk. And, let’s face it, journos, despite any protestations to the contrary are, as much as anything, malicious gossips that revel in the low and unseemly and they want to tell everybody about it. Mea culpa.

But, laws of libel are dicey and lawsuits are just no fun at all. So, I can write that Martha Stewart and Conrad Black are ex-jailbirds and there is no libel, because they are. It’s factual and a matter of public record. I can write that the former premier of this province drove drunk, because he did and was busted for DUI. But, I can’t write that he and Martha Stewart are involved in a love-nest for, even if it were true (which it’s not, I don’t think) because it’s not a matter of public record. Even if somebody in the know let me in on the fact it’s true, I still couldn’t write it.

We used to joke about how you might get around the laws by writing things like: “There is no truth to the rumor that former presidents Bush and Clinton used to smoke weed together in the White House cellar.” I mean, you’ve denied it’s true, but you’ve put the thought in somebody’s minds – and in the case of a lot of readers it doesn’t take much to set their thoughts a-whirlin’.

People are justified in wondering how the supermarket tabloids get away with the bullshit stories they run that are obviously egregiously untrue. The answer is simple – teams of lawyers.

In my years in the business I ‘learned’ lots of things that I happen to know are either true or at least based on the truth. I once interviewed the operator of an escort agency (sigh, the sacrifices I had to make to earn a crust) who filled me in with much detail about the genital exchanges between ‘girls’ and assorted notables in the community. It was just delicious gossip and would have blown the roof off this sometimes stodgy and often hypocritical community. But. I couldn’t. First, the newspaper and I would be sued and also, I do have to live in this sometimes stodgy and hypocritical community.

So, local politicians and other notables can relax. Their peccadilloes, as disgusting as they might have been, are safe with me. And hey, I wouldn’t want somebody going through my laundry hamper, either.

Canada is reputed to have the toughest libel laws in the western world. I don’t know. I know they are much laxer in the UK and a Brit tabloid would report with glee and in detail the story of a former BC cabinet minister who liked to engage call girls to perform a certain deviant practice. I won’t describe it in detail, just suffice to say those girl’s moms weren’t strict enough in their potty training – “Time and place, girl, time and place!” Anyway, I had on good authority that the story was true, but our laws wouldn’t let me report. The Brits would have gotten away with it. I mean, look at the Royal shenanegans the Brits report luridly on. You’d never see that in this silly country that steadfastly contines to kiss the collective ass of the House of Windsor.

So, yeah, the business would have been much more fun if libel laws hadn’t been in place. And, just maybe, people would be a little more circumspect about their personal behavior. It would be a duller world, albeit a cleaner one.

 

 

‘O tempora. O mores’. Where did we all go wrong? Andy’ll tell you

I josh about being curmudgeonly. Anyone who knows me and loves me (and lots do, make no mistake about that) also knows I am a man of sweet and gentle disposition who grants all the rest of humanity to right to their own opinions, attitudes, practices and behaviors while never making a judgment call.

I will grant that there are elements of life and society that evoke tiny twinges within me but I say that if you’re dealing with assholes all around you, what with the inmates running the asylum and all, what’re you gonna do? Just live and let live.

Anyway, I’m all pumped today about a potential job opening for a position that has recently become available due to the retirement of the former occupier of the spot. That’s right, Andy Rooney has retired. And in that regard I feel it behooves me to contact the 60-Minutes folk at CBS and bid for old Andy’s slot.

What are my creds? Well, a long stint in journalism. Albeit not as long as Andy’s Methuselah-like time in the gig, but I’ve got a few ideas. Furthermore, I have been known to have opinions about stuff. I’m younger than he is, but considering he packed it in at 92, that gives me some decades in which to hone my craft. I will keep working on the voice and tone. Actually, I don’t do a bad impersonation already. Seems all that I’m lacking, thus far, is the eyebrows. But, other than the late actor Oscar Homulka, nobody had eyebrows like old Andy.

OK, here goes:

You know what I don’t get?

I don’t get why any little girl would want to have a doll that looks like a street-junkie prostitute. I mean, it was bad enough when ‘Barbie’ came along, what with her breasts and all, and probably costumes that included bustiers and garter-belts.

Now there was a time when all a little girl’s dolly did was wet her pants, not take them down for any randy Ken or visiting sailor that walked into the room at the Cocky-Locky Inn. I understand about these things. I was in the army. (well, Andy was, I’m just talking in his voice).

But I understand that the people at Mattel have brought out a Barbie that has tattoos. Well, in my day the only people with tattoos were sailors like Popeye. Sailors and Queequeg in Moby Dick, who was also a kinda sailor.

Nice girls didn’t have tattoos. Does that mean that Barbie’s no longer a nice girl? Do you want your little child to be playing with nasty girls with tramp-stamps? What’s next, Barbies with piercings?

Excuse me, Mattel people, but I think I want to get off this trolley. And another thing, you hardly ever see real authentic trolleycars any more. Only those fake ones in resort towns that are on rubber tires and don’t have the basic component of a trolley car – a trolley, for Heaven’s sake!

God gave you hair, so damn well use it!

While I’m not feeling particularly curmudgeonly today, I still felt it behooved me to hold forth in highly-opinionated manner on a particular topic. If my criticism of a certain fashion mode applies to you, and you are a person I think well of otherwise, then please disregard it and move on to something else to divert your time.

In my esteem there are only four reasons for a man to be hairless:

  1. He actually is hairless, as in bald. Genetics. What are you gonna do? My dad was in baldness denial all his life, and I believe personally that he invented the comb-over long before Trump’s day.
  2. He has been undergoing chemotherapy. That’s a tough one and I will certainly only extend huge sympathy.
  3. He suffers from alopecia (complete hair loss). Another of those things that happens to some.
  4. He is Yul Brynner or Telly Savalas. Were you in The King and I or on Kojak? If not, cut it out, damn it.

Otherwise, God gave you hair. Live with it. This particular mini-rant is concerned with the vogue of the past few years for males – especially of a certain youthful to middle-aged grouping, but not exclusively confined to that demographic – to sheer off their God-given follicles. Sorry, but I detest the look and immediately form a judgment about a shaven headed dude approaching me in a dark side-street or alleyway.

I immediately assume he is approaching me to do me harm. The shorn head gives him that bearing because traditionally the only people who had shaved heads were convicts.

Today, in my esteem, the only people who have shaved heads are the aforementioned convicts, drug dealers and pimps. Anybody who doesn’t fall into those categories is a ‘wannabe’. It’s kind of like tattoos. Traditionally the only people sporting tats were sailors, convicts and Maoris. Not oddly at all, guys with shaved heads also often are adorned in tattoos.

So, what is this ‘thug chic’ that prevails? Why would somebody want to type themselves in a fashion sense as an antisocial individual? I mean, adolescents always want to shock with their dress and style. That’s one of the tiresome facets of being an adolescent. But, if you haven’t grown out of teenage ways by, say, age 22 then you are dealing with arrested development and should be getting some therapy.

But, aside from the antisocial menace message a shaved head gives, it is also esthetically unappealing. For the same reason most of us should wear clothing much of the time, we have a head covering of hair to hide lumps, bumps, scars and other bits of disagreeability that a shaven head exposes.

Of course, I am very happy that I have been allowed by genetics or whatever to keep a full head of hair throughout, so I can afford to be smug about this.

 

 

Small wonder people have problems keeping their girth in check

I am a pretty dab-hand at cooking up a mess of vittles, and I do so regularly. Wendy and I pretty much share the kitchen duties here, and it works well.

I’ve often maintained that one (probably the only one) advantage of having an alcoholic mother is that you learn pretty young how to prepare a meal that is tasty and nutritious – especially if you have younger siblings kicking around the childhood home.

Also, being divorced a bunch of times encourages you to turn your hand to preparing good meals, both for one’s own gastronomic pleasure and as a very effective romantic overture. Believe me, it works.

Aside from all that, however, I do not have a food fetish. I eat moderately, both at home and dining out, and I don’t go into orgasmic raptures over my grub. Food is food. It’s sustenance primarily, and while I have had some fine meals, I choose other elements of life to fantasize over.

That’s why this almost fetishistic obsession about chefs and their psycho-social meanderings amazes me. I mean, we have an entire channel devoted to cookery and dining. No wonder people are obese and coming down with type-2 diabetes in legions. I mean, it’s not entirely new to have programs devoted to the culinary arts. PBS used to trot out a few favorite chefs, including beloved (I believe) Julia and dat ole Cajun guy. My favorite was sodden alcoholic Floyd, who was usually pissed but also urbanely witty. And, who can forget Graham Kerr?

But, that was it. Not a whole channel, every day of the week. But it’s more than that. It’s the chefs that get me. These obnoxious, abusive egomaniacal pricks that viewers seem to masochistically obsess about and worship like some sort of superheroes rather than just cooks who get off on abusing their underlings.

If you ever watched that wonderful old Brit series, Chef, with Lenny Henry, you got a bit of the dynamic of the kitchen at a posh hotel. Problem is, the program, a comedy, wasn’t a stretch. His vicious berating of his underlings and his obsessive food snobbery didn’t stretch the truth.

Wendy once worked in the restaurant industry – including at some pretty high-end joints – and it was her observation that some of the chefs she dealt with in those days were egomaniacal borderline psychos and relentless and cruel bullies. So the charms of a lot of chefs escaped her utterly. She loved the program Chef because she said it was so true to her experience. She added that certainly not ‘all’ were of that abusive ilk but enough were that certain cooking gigs were borderline intolerable. She never, by the way, watches TV chef shows. They bring back negative memories.

None of the above, by the way, applies to that lovable old Chef Boyardee.

A brief moment long ago and far away, but it’s still a poignant one for me and maybe others

A special note should be made at this point that Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, William Golding, WH Auden, Dylan Thomas, John Lennon, Vladimir Lenin, Marquis de Sade and Porky Pig were absolutely no help on this book and they will not be hired again next year.

n      Preface to the Tippy Tappy Aerie Faerie Bologna Book

Way back it was in 1972 or thereabouts that a British Columbia cabinet minister by the name of Dan Campbell in the ‘enlightened’ government of WAC Bennett as then ruled this kingdom, showed his disdain for all matters deemed educationally frivolous and wasteful by referring to such artsy-fartsy stuff as creative writing as “A bunch of tippy-tappy, airy-fairy baloney.”

And his quote became the motivating force for a little project that lives on – at least in the minds of some of the students that were involved – as our special commentary about those who ruled in those less enlightened times.

As an aside it was interesting to note that Mr. Campbell was a former secondary teacher right in this same community, and also that you could get away with a statement that was just a teeny bit homophobic in context back in them there pre Pride Parade days. Anyway, as Mort Sahl would have said, onward and upward.

During the school year leading up to the spring of 1972 I was charged with teaching a brand new creative writing course. A challenge in essence since you cannot really teach somebody creativity. That notwithstanding, I found the experience a good one, with the advantage being I had been blessed with an absolutely smashing bunch of bright kids in the class – many of them of some sterling creative qualities.

Ultimately, what I wanted to do was establish a bit of a legacy pattern by having the class produce a work to represent to others – like the school administration, the school board, and the disdainful weasels in the government something that not only showed the skills of these cool kids, but also our little teeny bit of contempt for the philistines that would rule (if only they could) the mindsets of the young, let alone those who tried to educate an interest them, like me, for example.

The result was a compendium of creativity that we chose to call The Tippy-Tappy Aery Faery Bologna Book! Bazinga to you, Danny Campbell,” as a latter-day smart kid might have put it. The book in itself, which remains quite readable, admittedly puerile and awkward in parts, also contains some good bits of satire and spoof, and some very fine creative stuff regardless.

We actually, when it was finished, sent a copy to Mr. Campbell. Never did get a reply in my recall. Anyway it was an amalgam of a yearbook spoof (completed actually before National Lampoon created its very impressive yearbook spoof) set in 1958. Hence the photo of some of the kids shown. It is also well to bear in mind that this was pre electronics era, and pre desktop publishing of any kind, so the end result is a bit rudimentary and crude, but we used what was at hand in the day.

The rest of the book was just creative stuff: stories, some pretty decent poetry, some artworks and other elements produced by kids who were given free-rein to see what they could come up with. The only obligation involved is that every kid in the class had to produce something to go in the book.

Looking at it now, I can honestly say I still enjoy it. And if I consider my fairly short-duration (about 8-years) teaching career, I can honestly say that class and that project were genuine highlights at many levels.

‘Sic semper tyrannis’, or something like that

Moammar and pals

And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

—  PB Shelley

So, the tyrant Qaddafi (choose your own spelling, there are about 250 different versions) is dead. He died ignobly, as tyrants so often do when they’re caught, and his world no doubt ended with both a bang and a whimper. Sucked to be him the other day.

I don’t know how I feel about this. I’d like to think I would have a sense of jubilation and inner rejoicing. But then I think that he is gone and so what? There are lots of other bad people out there. It was sort of the same when they strung up Saddam Hussein. It all seemed so after-the-fact and the world, Iraqi or otherwise didn’t seem a lot better.

Probably the Italian partisans felt much the same after they’d strung up Mussolini and his mistress in the town square, or the French republicans after Louis XVI was separated from his head. You know, you think it’s going to feel good rather than ho-hum.

Christopher Hitchens (whom I respect greatly at many levels) opined that Qaddafi should have been taken alive and then tried. Maybe so. But, maybe it’s just better to be rid of him and simply move on.

The problem with so many of these cataclysmic events is that a symbolic gesture of toppling or even killing a tyrant is often replaced by another regime that is sometimes even more brutal than that which was replaced.

How many Russians longed for a return of the Tsars once they experienced the appalling excesses of the Stalinist regime? Quite a passel, I expect. Was Hitler’s eventual stepping into the boots of the Kaiser in any way a benevolent and progressive thing? Fidel Castro toppled the vile and corrupt Battista regime in Cuba, but the excesses of Castro (still revered and even beloved by assorted lefties all over the place, though God only knows why) with his massive detention camps hardly seemed an improvement over what went before.

In Egypt Mubarak was toppled amidst much rejoicing and palaver about the ‘Arab Spring’ and the wonderfulness of a people shucking a dictatorial regime to replace it with an era of enlightenment. Personally, as tyrants go, I never had that much of a problem with Mubarak. Anyway, the enlightened era has been market by Muslim attacks against Coptic Christians, and an assault on the Israeli embassy. O Brave New World, indeed.

And elsewhere in the world we pick and choose our totalitarians. We hate the boss of Iran, but somehow find the Saudi government warm and cuddly. North Korea’s loopy tyrant is very very bad (and I he is), yet the latter-day warlords that run China are people we want to make trade deals with. Unfortunately, as a general realist, I understand why. Though I don’t really like it.

And it’s well not to forget that there was a time, when it was convenient for us in terms of trade and security to ‘court’ Qaddafi, not just toadying Tony Blair (despite the horror of Lockerbie) but also the US (see photo). Wacky and brutal as he was he seemed to be a kinda ally. Shall we all take a moment to spell hypocrisy.

Anyway, Qaddafi is dead and I shall not mourn his passing, but I feel disquieted about what might be replacing him.