Monthly Archives: April 2014

No, this is not about springtime smut, but just about the blessings of warm weather

biknis

Being a casual observer of societal trends, all in the name of personal research, you understand, it has come to my attention that shorts on young females seem to be, well, shorter this year.

Trends comes and trends go and for a few years we’ve lived in a virtual wasteland of ‘baggies’ and Bermuda like garments, even on girls but this year the fashion seems to be back to tightness and anatomical emphasis. And not a moment too soon, for by the next time my blood-pressure might not be up to any sort of overstimulation.

I jest, of course. I barely notice public pulchritude. I am also left with the uneasy feeling that the upward and inward movement of shorts fabric might mean that men will also begin to embrace the trend.

selleckWill we be having a return of dudes wanting to deck out like Tom Selleck on Magnum PI back in the day? God, I hope not, and my suggestion is that if you want to don aloha shirt and bitsy shorts, dudes, then you damn well better look just like Selleck as he did back then. Odds aren’t good.

Anyway, there could be reasons for all of this retro-visitation. And I don’t think any of it has to do with the revamping of Hawaii 5-0, which I believe on any given broadcast evening is watched by upwards of 11 viewers. Too bad that, the scenery is nice, but it doesn’t seem to have captured the pulse of society. Maybe people are missing the old one especially since they have co-opted the cool Ventures theme song with the remake. Yet, the old one boasted (if that’s the word) two of the most wooden actors in TV-dom in Jack Lord and James (“book ‘im, Danno”) MacArthur.

But, none of this has much to do with shorts and I think I’ve said all I need to about the rebirth of shorty-shorts on girls without getting lewd, and also to mention that in some countries the wearing of Bermudas by males who have also donned black socks and business shoes is a capital offense. As it should be.

Now I have an earworm of ‘Who wears short-shorts?’ stuck in my head.

And that made me think of bikinis as in itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow polka dot ones on nubile little muffins.

And that gave me an earworm of that song, which was actually considered a bit risque at the time. But, when I was in my teens virtually everything was questioned if it was deemed impure. Did you know that Annette Funicello, though she appeared in a number of execrable films with ‘bikini’ in the title never wore a true bikini because old Uncle Walt deemed it unacceptable for wanton lads to see her belly button. Chances of seeing anything else they might have wanted to see was beyond question.

But, it’s a lovely day here today and I have taken the panels out of my T-roof for the first time and was also idly musing about bikinis and shorts. I’m wearing shorts today, but not Magnum ones.

Just put in a lunch counter and you’ll have my trade forever

dollah stoe

My mom and I would get the Pacific Stage Lines bus near our Burnaby home and make the trek to ‘downtown’, which meant, Vancouver. It was a very different Vancouver from the huge glass-and-aluminum tower dominated Vancouver of today – much more homey.

That notwithstanding, we would go from shop-to-shop and get whatever stuff she wanted. To the department stores: Woodward’s, Eaton’s, the Bay and I would be dragged along in her tow. While I didn’t mind the big stores, my special passion was for the ‘little stores’ of the day – the five-and-dimes. Those were mini-emporia a kid could handle, and in the days of scanty allowances, they might even have items a boy could manage to purchase – possibly with the aid of a slight parental subsidy which could be forthcoming if I had been ‘good’ during the expedition.

Best treat of all, however, is if she decided to have lunch at Woolworth’s or Kresge’s or one of the half dozen others. Woolies or Kresge’s (K-Mart’s forerunner) were the best in the lunch department.

menuWe’d sit in the swivel chairs at the lunchcounter (I miss lunchcounters) and I would generally have an egg-salad sandwich and a lemon ice-cream soda. Both were heavenly.

Five and dimes were wonderful institutions. They reflected a time when money was tight and people couldn’t be frivolous about spending. Yet, they offered some quality stuff and, as I say, they were such fun to peruse. The business model was a huge success and made FW Woolworth, for example, a gazilionnaire as his stores could be found all over the world. Prior to the Chrysler Building and the Empire State, Woolworth’s was the dominant tower in the NYC skyline.

The original five and dime doesn’t seem to exist much any longer. They appear to have been replaced by the ubiquitous dollar stores or their equivalents that can be found in every city, down, suburb and village on the planet, or so it seems. And while they don’t boast lunch counters they are still great emporia for bargain hunters and seekers of esoterica of many kinds and they are founts of the most obscure brands. Have you tried ‘Al’s Toothpaste’? How about ‘Ajax Toilet Paper’? Need some kitchen items for mere pennies that you never bothered purchasing. Well, get them at your dollar store. They are so inexpensive that even if they turn out to be useless crap, you aren’t going to be out much in the way of dollars since you probably found a Handee-Dandee peach pitter for 97-cents (and that was for two in the package.)

As for me, I buy art supplies therein. They go for a fraction of the prices you’d find in fancy-ass art shops. Stretched canvases for a couple of bucks, acrylic paints also hugely cut rate, as are their brushes. Oh sure, some of the brushes leave little remnants of themselves on the canvases, but they’re so cheap that the sacrifice in texture quality is almost worthwhile. I bet if impoverished Van Gogh had a dollar store nearby he might not have cut his ear off. Or, if he still had that impulse he would have found a straight razor at a bargain price and maybe could have done both ears.

Now, if only some entrepreneur would think about setting up a dollar store lunch counter he couldn’t keep me away.

Of chickens and beards and dogs and such as the stuff of life

norman 002

There was a blessedly brief interlude in the mid-1970s when we all grew beards. The men, that is. And I don’t necessarily mean all men, but a lot of us did assume a certain Jerry Garcia persona about ourselves.

 

But, this isn’t about beards, it was just that beards seemed to go with the attitude and the attitude was to embrace that which was rural. You know, not really be a hippie, with communes, and nits in the hair and stuff. But assuming some wannabe trappings. Some friends, acquaintances and colleagues bought themselves little spreads; small rural acreages upon which they’d plant huge vegetable gardens and raise chickens and ducks and sheep and goats, etc. And maybe, in moments of decadence, smoke the odd joint of very low-test weed and marvel within themselves at their inner coolness whilst revelling in Lou Reed’s White Light.

Me, I bought 80-feet of waterfront with manicured lawns and gardens. But, I kept my beard for a while, though balked at bib overalls and ‘chawing’. But what I did do as an indulgence to ‘ruralism’ was get myself a little flock of chickens. Kept them for a number of years until I got weary of sharing them with predatory raccoons. Raccoons, by the way, are anomalies in the animal kingdom. They don’t just kill for food, they kill because, just like the grizzly bear hunters the BC government seems to want to attract, they ‘like’ to murder other defenceless animals. Or so I believe.

Now the only reason I am rambling on here about chickens was because of a thought that came to me a while ago when I was watching the PBS offering on NATURE: Animal Odd Couples. As a certifiable softy I was enchanted by the tales of interspecies pair-bondings with the most delightful to me being the tale of the 16-year-old billygoat who would daily lead his pal, a blind 40-year-old horse to a pasture where there was good eatin’. I get teary at shit like that. And then there was the lab and the cheetah, and the golden and the fawn, and the lovely old great dane and the fawn and the lion and the coyote. They were all good. If I wanted to believe in God animals would help me in that quest.

And what came to mind was that I once had an interspecies experience. No, not of my own, in case some of the more warped among you were going that way.

white henThis means going back to the chickens. I had a little white hen that had run afoul (used advisedly) of the rest of the flock. They didn’t like her and were mercilessly pecking on her to the point of drawing blood. I knew enough about the species to know that the flock had a hit on her and were in the process of pecking her to death. Armed with that knowledge, I liberated her. Took her out of the pen and let her go about her business outside of stir. She seemed very happy with that turn of events.

Only trouble was, chickens are social animals so she gravitated towards the next available animal – my lovely dog, Murphy. Now you might thing a dog would tear a wayward chicken to feathers and fleshy shreds, but this wasn’t so. Murphy knew that the chicken belonged to us so he was (as master of the domain) honor-bound to protect it. Border collies are like that.

So, the little white hen hung around with Murphy; followed him around the yard; roosted on the woodpile in the carport if he was lying down on the doorstep; and merrily shared the food in his bowl if it looked tastier than chickenfeed. Murphy never balked. He patiently let the bird do what she had to do and eventually it came to seem like the natural order of things to him.

In time the little hen died of natural causes not by being brutalized by its erstwhile peers, and Murphy too went to the big kennel in the sky.

And eventually I shaved my beard off and no longer have the waterfront home. Life goes on. Stuff changes. Miss the house, the dog and maybe even the chickens, but not the beard.

Maybe selfies are self-indulgent but I believe they have a purpose

mug

Somewhere in the files of officialdom in this realm there is a headshot of me – face-on and profile. I won’t tell you the circumstances of that episode, but let us just say it was long ago and far away and for that I thank whatever gods may be.

So a recent manifestation of human vanity has been the so-called ‘selfie’. You know, that camera-phone – and I cannot help but wonder if Facebook had not been invented would any of us bother with selfies. What’s the point of presenting your face if others aren’t going to see it?

I’ll confess I have tried a few times to create a selfie, but I have ended up with the appearance of looking through a fishbowl. Not only that but I oddly end up looking at least 20 years older than the image of me that I have in my personal mythology. Twenty years younger, rivetingly handsome, and with a certain mysterious something about my appearance that cannot help but entrance members of the opposite sex.

Oh yeah, I am also a bit on the vain side, so I understand the motivation to produce selfies. Not saying that everybody who does so is suffering from vanity, but there is nothing wrong with vanity per se, Well, I like to call it pride-in-appearance, or ‘still workin’.

DSCN0416I did try to take a couple of selfies for this screed but I honestly disliked them so I opted to run one of Max, who is much more handsome and lovable looking. It’s not really a selfie as such; I helped. You know, he has that old lack of opposable thumbs impediment so he cannot operate a camera worth a damn.

But, all things considered, I do like the fact that it’s a trend that has become popular – especially on Facebook. I do like to see my ‘friends’ including some that I have never met but would like to.

I would like to meet them because I believe one can tell a great deal about another from his or her face. Does it sit agreeably? Then that becomes a first step in interacting with an individual. I’m not talking about sexual attraction as such, but human attraction. We judge one another by appearances. It has ever been thus. The only element missing in the selfie is the personality, but that then has to be judged by words, likes, dislikes and you will probably find you have ‘friended’ people based not only on their appearance but on attitudes that sit well with you.

Oh, and sense of humor. That is a vital element
.

Interesting in that this blog was initially intended to be a bit of smart-ass cynicism, but it turned out quite the other way as I pondered all aspects of the selfie.

Neither ‘rogue nor peasant slave was he’ so happy birthday to you, Will

cardoonThere is an old joke that states: Shakespeare did not write his plays; they were written by another playwright of the same name.

The point here being, in my estimation, is who gives a rat’s about the facts of the matter. All that counts is that they exist and life would be much poorer if they did not exist; if they had never been written.

To state that I am an admirer of the works of Shakespeare would be to state the case mildly. I treasure all that he produced even if he didn’t produce his all. Somebody did.

The point of this exercise is to note that the ‘Bard of Avon’ would be 450 years old today. For virtually half a millennium his ‘truths’ have been paramount in our culture. Paramount enough that sometimes there is discussion as to whether a notable quote is from Shakespeare or the Bible.

Nope, it’s Mark Twain.” Yeah, well that happens, too, but you get my drift.

shakespeerShakespeare was born in Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire, as most people know. Years ago I visited the place. A nice town it is today, but the queue for Anne Hathaway’s cottage was massive, so we refrained from joining it. Ann was, of course, the missus of William and she was in no way related to the actress of the same name. She was supposedly a bit older than he and when he died in 1515 he left her his second best bed. No word as to whom he left his ‘best’ bed.

When we were in Stratford we went to visit All Saints Church in which he is interred. I was pissed off at the time because they charged admission to see his crypt. I later voiced my exception to the gouging to the vicar father of a friend, but he defended the demand saying it cost a great deal to maintain such historic shrines. OK, I accepted his reasoning in the matter.

Shakespeare ultimately departed Stafford and headed to London where the action was and therein he wrote his massive array of plays, poems, songs and so forth in prodigious numbers and also hung out with the leading political lights of the day like Christopher Marlowe and Francis Bacon and Ben Jonson and they had a good time – or I am assuming they did.

The thing that has always confounded students and scholars about Shakespeare is how on earth did he turn out so much stuff, and most of it so good and so true.

Of particular fascination to me are his political plays, the assorted Henrys and Richards and the like and always bearing in mind the plays do not represent necessarily the realities of the person in question. His Richard III is a hunchbacked little homicidal turd given to murdering little princes. His Richard II is expedited with a red-hot poker up his bum. But, those guys were Yorkists and it wasn’t politically expedient to favor the House of York with a Tudor on the throne with her Lancastrian connections. So, Will sucked up to Elizabeth and after she died he sucked up to James I with Macbeth, and did a Richard III job on the poor old Thane of Cawdor.

Hey, he knew how to play the political cards well in a harsh society, so he was always in favor in the Court.

At the end of it all, I love the works of Shakespeare and find him as relevant today as he ever was as so many truths are vouchsafed in his writings.

And I must confess that a big regret in my life is never having seen Shakespeare performed on a stage. Have seen many film versions but not acted as one should see it. When we lived in England we were going to get tickets to see the Peter O’Toole version of ‘The Scottish Play’. Would have loved to see O’Toole but evidently the production was one of the worst in performance history. Oh well.

Happy Birthday, Will.

 

So call me sick but I find a certain charm in depravity

donTwo of my favorite US generated TV shows are The Good Wife and Mad Men. That statement does not mean for a second they are my favorite bits of TV fare. In truth I find such UK offerings as Doc Martin, Lewis, Call the Midwife and New Tricks to be superior at all levels.

Call me a TV snob but frankly I think the Brits do it better. Oh, and I shall be honest enough that, with a few very, very rare exceptions, Canadians do it worse. So shoot me for that opinion if you will.

joanAnyway, of the two American offerings, which I think are exceptionally well done, I must also acknowledge the fact that my dear wife doesn’t really like them. Not that she thinks they’re badly done but just that they are so depressing and the characters are utter shits almost to a one in both.

And they are and I won’t argue the point about how sleazy everybody is. On Mad Men it seems that the only individual who is genuine and shows character is bountifully buxom bodacious (howsabout that alliteration?) Joan. Most of the rest aren’t worth the powder to blow them to hell. But that’s what I find enteraining about them. I almmost revel in their respective potential denouements. I want them to go out. They ain’t lovable. And eventually the boozing, the screwing around, the smoking and the double dealing will destroy them like a huge Greek tragedy. I like that. Wendy hates it. Not that she’s seeking all sweetness and light, she just doesn’t want to watch people who will drag her down.

aliciaWith The Good Wife I am having a secret fantasy love-affair with Juliana Margulies (Alicia), but confess to being fascinated by Archie Panjabi’s duplicitous, double-dealing, bisexual Kalinda who you would definitely want to have your back, otherwise she’d stick a shiv in it. These are not nice people. And Alicia’s philandering husband, sleazy politician Peter, is something of a latter-day Don Draper who would do anyone who would give him the chance but then cry character assassination if found out. But, Alicia screws around, too. As I said, interesting, but not particularly nice folk. More Greek tragedy.

It is interesting that Wendy finds these programs depressing – which they are, to a degree, but that to me is part of their charm. As I indicated, I am intrigued by the morally unscrupulous (and where could you find collections of the depraved in greater numbers than in a big law firm or an ad agency?) because they make me feel a little bit superior (OK, not a lot superior) in the ways in which I handle kalindamy own life.

It’s also odd that she finds those programs distressing, whereas she doesn’t find Lewis to be so, despite all the murders most horrid amidst the stately spires of Oxford, and hell, if you want to find morally bankrupt, lawyers and ad folks have to take a back seat to certain fictional (and sometimes real) academics.

And, there is virtue in having two TVs sometimes.

The kids are all right. At least ‘my’ kids are

blackboard

It will come as no news to most of you that I have no children – that I know of, and since nobody has hit me up for anybody’s upkeep or education, I think i am safe to assume the belief is true – and no children are planned.

I had a brief and still cherished foray as a stepdad, but I have mentioned that before and won’t be going there again in this space.

But, none of this means that young people haven’t figured prominently in my life. I was, as many might know, a secondary teacher for about seven years, many years ago. And, even though I was pretty good at the gig and liked the pedagogical process, the hidebound system that reeked of favoritism and a good-ole-boys net, did not sit well with me. In fact, it sat so badly and sadly with me that I can still get pissed off if I think about it for too long. So, I won’t be doing that here, either.

What I will consider here in lieu is some of my former students. A person amasses a lot of youthful charges in seven years. Some of those charges are remembered not so fondly; some are, sadly, forgotten; some were just there and went on their respective ways years ago; and some are still, one way or another, part of my life and I deeply value my connections with them.

These are the people whom I regard as peers, with some of them being gratifyingly successful in what they have done with their lives, and I take no credit for their successes. Nobody should ever take much credit for the success of another except, perhaps, they provided a certain guidance when it was needed.

A lot my Facebook friends are former students and we meet in that forum as peers. It’s nice. I like being a small part of their lives and I cherish their successes. They are my grown up kids, after all. And considering how long ago it was when I stood in front of a classroom, they are very grown up indeed.

(To give you an idea of what I’m about here; just checked my email inbox. Of the seven items showing on the screen, two of them are emails or notifications from former students).

And to set the record straight on the realities of life for a high school teacher when I was at it. It was nothing like The Blackboard Jungle (pictured), no switchblades and other nasty items. I was never told to “fuck off”, I never had any intimate physical contact with a female student, albeit a lot of them were amazingly attractive and the odd libidinous fantasy crossed my mind. But in my mind was where it stayed.

to sahI don’t know if I truly inspired a kid like Mr. Braithwaite did in To Sir With Love, a film that, ironically enough, came into being in my first year teaching and of which a dear young girl wrote that sentiment in my yearbook. But, she wrote it in shorthand and I had to get my former steno mother to translate it for me.

So, whether or not I inspired any of them, some of them have inspired me for their attainments.

As is the case with many demographics life wasn’t always kind. Some have passed from the scene prematurely. Others have run afoul of addictions and even the law. Some were mad and some were bad, even bad to the bone as the song goes.

singa 002But others became doctors and lawyers, experts in fields as diverse as economics and psychology. I had an internationally famed movie star among my charges, and a woman I happen to think is one of the best journalists and editors I have ever encountered. Throw a couple of exceedingly accomplished and successful musicians into that mix, and some fine artists and all I can say is the kids were and are all right.

And some, likely the majority just became decent citizens who raised good families and contributed well to the general weal of society.

Today I had conversations, purely by accident, with three former students. The encounters were pleasing adjuncts to my day.

Proud of my kids I am and this thought came about as a result of some chance encounters today.