Monthly Archives: July 2012

It’s Sunday, so why not matters ecclesiastical?

My next-door neighbors are churchy folk. I have no problem with that as they’re lovely and generous people. Don’t know what church they subscribe to but I am happy if it seems to serve them. And they don’t impose their church stuff on us other than to ask periodically if we have some stuff for a forthcoming rummage sale.

I’ve never been a churchy person. I mean, I’ve been in situations where I’ve found myself inside one. On a few occasions to actually attend a service, like the odd Christmas Eve in which we stopped by hoping to hear some nice music.

But even then I found myself more Homer Simpson than Ned Flanders about it all.

I’m not anti-church. And I have a very special emotional and personal (even spirituat) affection for Norwich Cathedral in England (my rendering of which is on this page, and the light is from my flash, not a holy visitation – as far as I know) and I won’t elaborate on my connectedness there.

And when we lived in England we had a cute little 13th Century village church that I explored thoroughly, though never attended a service at.

Otherwise, meh. I did get confirmed in the Anglican (Episcopal) church because my mother insisted. After that I bailed.

My first wife came from a churchy family. They were members of Canada’s biggest congregation, the rather left-leaning United Church (known in impolite circles as the NDP at Prayer). But evidently UC membership is plummeting radically. For the one I grew up in, the Anglican congregation, I think it’s down to about 9 by now. In a spirit of Christian solidarity there were those who got all bent out of shape about gay priests and allowing broads to become vicars. Odd stance for those you think might subscribe to tolerance for all of God’s creations.

Churches and tolerance for all of God’s creations? Yeah, right. (note of personal bias, forgive me, Lord).

I gather the Holy Roller churches are doing well. That unquestioning old-time religion packs their edifices to the rafters of a Sunday around here. And the Mormons – my heavens (do they believe in Heaven?), about 75 trillions subscribers. Disappointment to some who thought multi-wives was still an option.

Catholics? I think they ‘have’ to go to Mass, don’t they, or they risk hellfire? Sorry, not too up on my RC rules of behavior. But their numbers are likely OK.

Quite seriously, and before you condemn me for irreverence and apostasy I, as an English major, former student of early Christian history and philosophy in university, and a kid that was ‘made’ to go to Sunday school, and had to endure the Lord’s Prayer and Bible readings in regular school back then, I do know my Christian references quite well, thank you. I can name the Apostles and even recite the 23rd Psalm. I know what happened at Gethsemane, and so forth. And I pity the kids of today with heathen families and zero exposure to any hints of religion in school for they have been cut adrift from their heritage. Try reading Shakespeare with no Christian references at your fingertips. Of course, that is in assuming people still read Shakespeare. Prolly not so much. ‘Struth.

Doesn’t make me holy, but does make me a dab-hand at the NYT Crossword of a Sunday.

None of the foregoing was intended to be blasphemous, and I certainly would never poke fun at anyone’s religion. I’ve often envied the inner peace some find from their ‘connection’. I could just never get there.

It’s really all about birds, bees — and bears, of course

I do like the ‘idea’ of bears.

Living where I do, I have encountered a few in the wild over the years, and have seen more along our roadways on Vancouver Island.

As I said, I like the idea of bears but I must confess to a bit of unease when a bear and I are on the same bit of firmament with no protective bars in between us. I say that even though I’m a bit put off by the idea of wild animals in captivity.

But, bears are great and fascinating animals and I think those that shoot them for some sort of perverse ‘sport’ should also be shot. Sorry, but I don’t get it. I don’t ‘get’ any manner of big game hunting. Call me a softie, I’m not offended.

In fact, I’ve found that as I’ve aged I’ve become much more of a softie when it comes to the creatures with which we share this beleaguered planet. In fact I’ve found this transition has become so significant within me that I stand in peril of becoming a – gasp – environmentalist.

The transition has come about gradually. At an earlier stage in my life I was more callous; I daresay uncaring. I mean, I’ve always loved wildlife – as opposed to ‘the wild life’, speaking of earlier days – but I never gave it a lot of thought. ‘Getting and spending,’ as Wordswoth opined, I was more concerned about me and my well-being than that of the planet.

Yes, I felt bad about the tainted ducks and fishes after an oil spill, but I lost little sleep over it. The planet was, so I thought, infinitely renewable. This old ball of mud could take our insults and still thrive. Pave paradise and put up a parking lot, I like having big box stores to shop at.

Well, in truth, I do. But have now become more reasoned and more sensitive and I know the change in me is all about endgame. I think enough is enough.

Recently there has been a big issue in my part of Canada about the feds wanting to push a big pipeline from oil-spewing Alberta through my beautiful province so that they then can run tankers along a perilous but stunning coastline so that we can earn big bucks from thirsty China.

I’m going to be selfish here and say to hell with you and the idea. I don’t want this to happen. It will do nothing to improve the quality of my life, and stands in serious jeopardy of imperiling it. For what? So that some other people can get very rich? Why do I care?

I don’t know how many years I have left in this place and in some respects I am glad to be longer in the tooth so I won’t have to see how it all plays out.

But until the time I go I will approach life with some readjusted priorities and make room for the bears – and the deer – and the cougars – and the salmon in the rivers – and all the rest of the flora and fauna that make up this place and so many other places on the globe.

And I don’t mind that bears can make me a tiny bit wary. That’s their job.

Are you geared up for the intergalactic war? I didn’t think so

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

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

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

Me’n Carl Sagan were of accord in this matter. At least I think we were. If we’re not, what’s he gonna do, sue me? He’s dead.

For a long time I was one of the decriers about extraterrestrials, and that was despite the fact I had actually seen a UFO. I thought the Roswell fanatics were utter flakes. Come to think of it, I still do. Further, I don’t believe for a second that anybody has had a close encounter of the third, let alone first and second kind. And those who claim to have had sex with aliens I believe are people who don’t get to have sex with anybody human, and probably never will if they carry on with that sort of nonsense.

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

ASTRON is researching the potential role of the LOFAR telescope in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). This initiative has been taken by Professor Michael Garrett, General Director of ASTRON and professor of radio techniques in astronomy at Leiden University in the Netherlands. There are about 100 thousand million stars in the galaxy and most of these are expected to harbour planetary systems; some of these planets might actually be suitable for life. Many scientists believe that life is probably wide-spread across the galaxy, although technically advanced civilisations might be relatively rare or at least widely separated from each other.

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

Or not.

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

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

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


Forget about Charlize, Angelina and Scarlett, and just give me Flo

It took me a while to figure out why I had fallen in love with Flo. And then it came to me. It’s because she looks just like all the girls I fell in love with in high school.

You know, the vibrant splash of incarnadine lipstick, the big blue eyes like saucers the flipped bob, the overweening perkiness and sense of fun, all of which in combo make me possibly even fantasize the thought of seeing her naked. It’s OK, really, I know that is about as likely as it would have been for me to have dated all my HS crushees.

You know Flo, of course. Flo is the Progressive Insurance girl who no doubt appeals greatly to geezers like me – mainly for the fact we’re the ones who might be interested in insurance ads and their products, and also because we have unresolved high school yearnings even after all these years. Yes, I’d buy insurance from her.

It might come as a surprise to some that Flo is actually a real person and not a teeny-bopper, either. She’s in fact in her early 40s and has considerable notability as a comic and improv performer as well as being a legitimate actress with an ongoing part in the brilliant series, Mad Men. Oh, it’s a minor part in which she – the actress Stephanie Courtney – plays a frumpy receptionist named Madge. I would not have had high school fantasies about Madge, I do confess.

I think it must be odd to be a corporate spokesperson in which the persona comes to overlap the real person you happen to be. I suspect Stephanie shucks her Flo gear when she goes out on the street because otherwise she’d have to contend with all the randy old guys who wanted to meet her.

You know, guys like me who are in love with her.

Maybe our monopolistic state-run insurance corporation could hire Flo as a spokesperson. I might feel more benevolent about renewing if that were the case.





A very bad taste in my mouth

The other day I happened upon an old book that had been sequestered out in the garage shelves for a number of years. The garage shelves are reserved for those volumes that are to be scuttled, sent to fundraising books sales, quaintly outdated, or just generally deemed unworthy to sit in an exalted place on either the living room, or even the home office shelves.

But, I made a perusal of this particular tome and found it slightly more valuable than I had initially deemed it to be. It is called The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste, by Jane and Michael Stern. As it was published in 1990, some of it is dated, but it’s still fun. Taste, as we know, is partially a matter of individual preference, but is also reflective of the zeitgeist of its day. Something deemed fashionable and trendy once-upon-a-time, like, say, bellbottom trousers, becomes in short order uncool, unhip, and hopelessly tasteless. Transport yourself out in bellbottoms this afternoon and be assured you will be scrutinized in a wary even frightened manner by passers-by. 

Of course, taste is always a matter of individual preference, and we have no right as such to judge. The Sterns, in their book, offer observations and critiques that are non-judgmental – OK, slightly judgmental – yeah, and even hugely judgmental, depending on the subject discussed. But, that’s OK, the judgment calls are fun. Indeed, the whole book is fun. And, I must confess there are some items in the alphabetical array that I find less offensive than others. For example, one of the subjects chosen is one-time busty and silly Spanish performer, Charo, who was once a favorite of that paragon of taste, Merv Griffin. She’d flash her boobies and utter “coochie-coochie” and the Merv fans would eat it up.

Well, as a sideline, Charo used to own an eponymous restaurant on the north side of Kauai. It was a classy joint and the food was good, and we stopped there for lunch. Legend had it that sometimes Charo herself would be in attendance. She never was when I was there. I must confess to having been disappointed.

Anyway, as follows are some of the items discussed in the encyclopedia. I offer a few comments of my own.

  • Accordion music: Never a particular favorite of mine but, hey, it made Lawrence Welk a star, so who am I to quibble? And I do like zydeco, and you can’t have that Cajun genre sans squeezebox. And a favorite and cherished friend plays it and it doesn’t diminish her in my esteem. The old adage goes that a gentleman is a man who can play the accordion but doesn’t.
  • Ant farms: I always wanted one of these when I was a kid. I was always refused. “There are plenty of ants outside,” the old man would say. Basically he was right.
  • Ashtrays: Well, ever since smoking became virtually satanic, and lighting up is now as frowned upon as peeing in the shrubbery at a royal garden party, ashtrays have lost their cachet. But, the authors point out that while butt receptacles per se aren’t in bad taste, but some of the examples cited, like a tray depicting a ceramic female bum posed in the direction of the smoker leave a little to be desired.
  • Boudoir Photography: Evidently some women still do this, you know, pose décolleté, in sensual lingerie, or even provocatively starkers in order to spice up a relationship with a spouse or boyfriend. Sorry, as much as I love beautiful women and their sensual bits, these are always cheesy. Really, always.
  • Elvisiana: Like Michael Jackson, he’s dead. Accept it and move on.
  • Happy Faces: Like the use of ‘LOL’, enough already.
  • Hawaiian shirts: Of course, if you hang out on the islands, you know they’re actually called ‘aloha’ shirts. And, if they worked for Magnum – you know. Then I realized I wasn’t Tom Selleck. But I still like my vintage aloha shirts. I like vibrant colors. Also I own a highly cherished Tori Richard, which is the Rolls-Royce of aloha shirts.
  • Huge Pepper Mills: “Would you like ground pepper with your meal?” “Would you like me to suggest what you can do with that huge phallic-shaped thing you’re packing around?”
  • Hummel Figures: Those little Hitler-jugend kids always made my skin crawl despite the fact my much-loved later mother-in-law adored them.
  • Jayne Mansfield: Supposedly the vulgarly bountiful Miss Mansfield – the queen for childishly obsessive or prematurely weaned tit-men everywhere – had a stratospheric IQ, but could never break past her mammalian creds, nor didn’t really seem to try. Difficult to believe she was the mother of infinitely classy Mariska Hargatay of Law&Order SVU.
  • Mimes: Not only bad taste but absolutely hateful. Woody Allen once decked a mime in Scenes from a Mall. That made me value Woody even more.
  • Las Vegas: I don’t gamble, haven’t had a drink in years, and detest Celine Dion, so not much reason to go now that the Rat Pack has departed the earth. Vegas epitomizes all that is bad taste, though at least it’s honest about it.
  • Miniature Golf:  Never much of a duffer was I, and share Mark Twain’s opinion that golf is a waste of a perfectly good walk. But miniature golf, with the little windmills and all almost puts an element of fun into a boring and pretentious game. Of course, one probably, as a miniature golfer, doesn’t get as many babes as Tiger.
  • Nudism: Like ‘swinging’, just never anywhere near as sexy as you might like to think it would be.
  • Tattoos: I’ve gone on record here stating that I detest them. I make no apologies. Unless you’re an old seafarin’ man or a Maori, you have no excuse. But, that’s just my opinion so don’t be getting all huffy about it. Same for piercings other than in the lobes.
  • Vanity license plates: Too much money, too little intelligence, and far too much pretension. Who cares about your cute little code words? Less tasteful than ‘baby on board’ signs, and that speaks volumes.
  • Wax Museums: I’ve been to the original – Mme. Tussaud’s in London — and it was no better and no less hokey than ones closer to home. Chamber of Horrors was kind of fun, but no more frightening and ghastly than any Adam Sandler movie.
  • Black Velvet Paintings: They have no redeeming virtues artistically and esthetically and warrant no further comment from me. They belong with rejected shag carpets and bellbottoms.

There are many more items categorized in the book, but since it was published in 1990, some items are so dated, like shag carpets, designer jeans, and water beds that they’re really beyond the pale of 2012.


This is hardly your granddad’s rock-and-roll. Well, maybe it is, but it still works

Periodically (about every 10 minutes) I am reminded that the old tempis fugits without me even being aware how much of it has passed. Damn, I hate when that happens.

But it vividly came to my attention last week when I noticed a newspaper item that reported that the Rolling Stones had mounted their first public performance at London’s Marquee Club back in 1962. Or, stated more cruelly, a half-century ago.

How did that happen?

How could the best rock-and-roll band ever be half a century in its duration in the business? Fifty years prior to 1962 was 1912. Were Edwardian performers still mounting the stage when the Stones began? Hardly. Quite a legacy, lads. 

Ironically, Mr. Jagger, cited in an article of the day (shown) noted that he hoped the public didn’t think they were “a rock-and-roll outfit.” The best rock-and-roll band in the world saw themselves as a rhythm-and-blues lot. Had more panache in the day. Incidentally, a jazz musician friend of mine who played in the London clubs and pubs in the day said he’d never quite forgiven Charlie Watts (whom he knew and who was a rising star in the jazz world back then) for opting for (ptooey) rock-and-roll and abandoning jazz. And all I could think was that Charlie probably makes more money in 10-minutes than you made in your entire jazz career. Who could blame him?

In a way the Stones of today are a bit like the tale of the farmer’s 200 year old spade that was exactly the same as when it was new other than the fact it was on its 18th handle and 6th blade. The Stones have undergone a lot of personnel changes in their five decades.

Oh, the basics are still there as they were in days of yore, as in Mick and ‘Keef’, not to mention Charlie. And they remain brilliant even if geriatric.

 Mick: not the handsomest dude ever but always managed to pull more dollybirds than Sinatra on any three days. Go figure. Doesn’t play an instrument either. Tambourine doesn’t count. It’s all in the vocals and

the strutting posturing and, yes, the charm. Joke used to be that Mick and Don Knotts (Barney Fife) were twins. Who knows? Maybe they were. Nobody ever saw them in the same room together.

Keith (AKA ‘Keef): The musical genius behind the Stones regardless of what Mick might think. Profoundly erudite with a literate wisdom and musical acumen that is belied by his somewhat bedraggled (to say the least; he has a face that has lived four lifetimes, and likely has) appearance. Actually, my ex-wife thought he was sexy. I could understand that. Keith has consumed more substances – drugs, alcohol, tobacco – than Hunter S. Thompson on a tear, but remains upright and just rather brilliant. Along with Mick they made up the Glimmer Twins.

Charlie: Taciturn but brilliant. Quite, shy and just plays very mean drums that tend to personify so many Stones numbers.

Ronnie Wood: Erstwhile musical partner of Rod Stewart in Faces and latterly to the Stones. Given to far too much fondness for the grape, and even more fondness for very young females despite a rather ‘unhealthy’ appearance. But, when he’s good he’s very good and that’s why he’s yet to be fired.

Some, like Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman (who was there for a long time) have departed the Stones scene, and it hasn’t really hurt them.

But, it’s worthy to consider two early members there at the outset. They are:

Brian Jones: Pretty boy uber-mod from a posh-ish Cheltenham family, increasingly drug-addled and chronically busted Brian suffered the delusion that he was the lead of the group and honestly believed it wouldn’t have existed without him. Well, it wouldn’t have continued with him as Keef hated his guts and the stones definitely would have failed without Mr. Richards. Ultimately drowned in his swimming pool.

Ian Stewart: Fine musician and was, according to Richards, who had huge respect for him as well as a great love, was also the glue that kept the early and later Stones together. Around a lot longer than people think. Latterly no longer performed and certainly had an image too conventional for what the group became.

And that’s all I have. So, let’s give it up for the Rolling Stones on their Golden Anniversary.

I think I may be bewitched, bothered and be-pottered unto boredom

Let’s see now, Harry Potter, that’s the one with the witches and stuff. Is that right, or is that Lord of the Rings? No, I think that’s the one with Hobbits and elves and all. Do I have that right, or is it the other way around?

In that statement it goes without saying that I am not a keen follower of tales about stuff that never was nor ever will be. I try and I try and I just can’t muster up any interest in children’s stories that seem to be so universally embraced by not just children – which is a good thing, because anything that encourages the little blighters to read is just dandy – but also other self-respecting and intelligent adults.

What’s wrong with me? I have a decent enough sense of fantasy and imagination, so it’s not just that these are fanciful tales. I think it’s mainly that they involve as story devices things that I, oh somewhere about the time I discovered Mickey Spillane at about the age of 13, left behind. I preferred, I found, tough gumshoes, villains and B-girls with curves that just wouldn’t quit.

I later moved on to more grown-up fare.

One of my exes – the one that was the elementary school teacher – once tried to get me to read The Hobbit, so enraptured was she by that Ring stuff.

I tried. I gave it a good 20-minutes before asking her if it was normal for one’s eyes to glaze over at about the 15-minute mark. She harrumphed out of the room – she did that a lot; often for good reason – and told me I had no sense of fantasy and that the kids loved it.

“Maybe that’s because they’re kids,” I opined, “And I’m not.”

“That’s debatable,” she replied, harrumphing again in her lingering walk out of the room.

And that’s all I know about Lord of the Rings except it has somebody named Frodo in it. Don’t know why I know that.

Harry Potter, on the other hand, made trillions of dollars for its author and all that does for me is make me pathologically envious and renews my hope for the lottery because I know by now I’ll never write anything that will earn me that sort of filthy lucre.

And I know it has kids at some school for witchcraft and has given a latter-day job to a guy who was once a primo Shakespearian, Ian McKellen. Wait, that’s Lord of the Rings. OK, forget about it.

But, speaking of Shakespeare, now there was a guy who could whip up witches I could relate to – the hag triumvirate in Macbeth, with all their eyes of newts and wings of bats. Those witches I got because Shakespeare wrote for big people with aspirations to scholasticism, like I was when I was young and filled with ego-snobbery. As opposed to now. Never mind.

I also liked Witch Hazel in the wonderful Little Lulu comics. She wasn’t scary, just funny. And nobody asked you to believe that she was anything other than a character in a consistently underrated (in terms of wit) comic book.

I have nothing more to say on the topic, other than I always liked the old song Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.