Monthly Archives: October 2014

Don’t mess with Pele no matter how tempting she might seem. She’ll be your worst ever date


An den da hale go ‘poof’.”

That’s right. Yesterday the grumbling goddess Pele claimed her first domicile victim on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kilauea has been cranky for a number of months this time around and the lava flow has slowly – ever so slowly – been encroaching on a few residences in the remote area of Puna.

The Kilauea eruptions have been going on for a couple of decades now, so nothing new about this. And, of course, the entire island sits atop a number of huge volcanoes like Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Hulalai. In fact all of the Hawaiian islands are just volcanoes thrust into very deep Pacific waters.

DSCN2472We found it a bit amusing before our trip there in August/September when people asked us if we were worried about the volcano. In a word, “no”. For one thing the lava flow is nothing new, as stated, and also because Puna is a goodly hike from where we were staying at Kailua. Picture a road trip from the Comox Valley to Victoria, or Vancouver to Seattle and that will give you an idea of the distance away the broiling lava was from us.

DSCN2478I think the trepidation some have about rampaging Kilauea is that the think of volcanoes like Mt. St. Helen’s that blow their tops with devastating consequences. Well, Hawaiian volcanoes can also evoke devastating consequences and destroy homes and decimate the environment – you can see the black basalt scars from earlier eruptions all over the island – but they don’t blow up like our ‘ring-of-fire’ ones. Consequently, you can pay a social call with impunity.

DSCN2485We didn’t bother going down this time as we had been there two years ago, and I’d visited a couple of decades earlier. If you are on the island, however, it’s well worth the trip because you will be exposed to sights (and sulphurous smells) you might not have experienced before.

The whole Hawaiian volcano thing is fraught with legend – legend that revolves around the aforementioned Goddess Pele. Now, Pele is not to be taken lightly. If you mess with her she will cast a curse on you that stands to destroy you and all your kin if she’s really pissed. The susceptible profess to having seen Pele. She can be a bit of a succubus as she presents herself in beautiful, not to mention sexually insatiable and available form. Well, gentlemen, no matter how inviting she might seem, don’t succumb to your lust. If you trip the horizontal tango with her she will turn into an ugly, wrathful, vengeful crone who will destroy you.

Of course, Pele leaves relics of herself everywhere, and those relics are the chunks of lava that abound no matter where you go. Word of advice, don’t be tempted to take any home as souvenirs. They are cursed by Pele and if they leave the island all sorts of awful stuff will follow them because they have been stolen.

Tales abound about people who have ignored the threat, and the US Postal Service has actually received Hawaii-destined packages from Mainlanders. The packages have contained chunks of lava. Chunks of lava stolen by people who subsequently experienced no end of misfortune.

Photos taken at Kilauea site three years ago:

(Steam from caldera)

(Entrance to a lava tube)

(Sulphur laden trail)

If you’re spreading it around be careful who you’re doing it with, it seems


I must make a confession. Until all the poop hit the fan I did not know who Jian Ghomeshi actually was. He is/was evidently the host of a CBC Radio program called Q. Hadn’t heard of that, either.

My further confession is that since the demise of homey old Gzowski (like a comfy old cardigan he was) from the ‘public’ airwaves, and combined with a number of other rather ghastly and unwanted changes to the ‘Mother’ corporation’s offerings, CBC is no longer the default station on my car radio – and the car is the only place in which I actually listen to the radio.

Anyway, the only time I had ever actually heard him mentioned was when he got into a pissing match of sorts with Billy Bob Thornton. Don’t remember what that was about. Wasn’t listening, y’see.

ghomeshiOf late, however, there has been a great deal of Ghomeshi thrust in our faces and people are offering multiple opinions about his conflict with the CBC, which sacked him, and now he is suing them for $50 million for wrongful dismissal, or something. Or maybe he was taking some “personal time”, which is the polite euphemism for his ass is grass.

It all comes down to sex, it seems. Well, what worthy in life doesn’t, one might ask?

According to an article in that august journal The Toronto Star, Mr. Ghomeshi indulged in some rather kinky sex practices (thank God the Star wasn’t following me around through all the years of my life) with assorted nameless women. While I won’t divulge any kinky practices I might, or might not have indulged in, Mr. Ghomeshi’s, it is alleged, involved sort of 50 Shades of Grey shenanigans, or BDSM for those into labels. Well, I have never fancied the giving or receiving of pain with my pleasure, so such things don’t get my hormones racing, but chacun a son gout, I say.

What happened, according to the Star is that certain nameless women came forth to that utterly reliable journal and alleged that Mr. Ghomeshi did that stuff with them against their wills. In other words, he imposed his alleged kink on them, which they saw as sexual assault. I am not saying that it was or wasn’t assault as I wasn’t there, and neither was anybody else other than the principals involved.

But, the whole thing has set off a bit of a firestorm of controversy with people rallying for one side or the other. If the allegations are true, then Mr. Ghomeshi has a lot to answer for and he might be wise to withdraw his suit before shit from that fan starts flying everywhere. But, if they are untrue, then he has been defamed and that is one of the age old prices to be paid if you are notable. In other words, if you are a big name be careful who you fuck and make sure your playmate is on exactly the same page as you are.

Now, unfortunately, with things like this, people come out on one side or the other. Even some big names have fallen victim to the fallout. Notably, Elizabeth May, Green Party boss, offered unqualified praises for her “friend”. Well, as she admitted later, she should have checked more closely, because if it’s true that assault did take place then who or what philosophically is she supporting. To grant her some grace, she was big enough to later say “my bad” in her initial comments. Gotta watch what you put up on Facebook, Ms. May.

Eventually the truth (may) out. If Mr. Ghomeshi is as talented an interviewer as this fans attest to, then this will definitely put a crimp in his career plans. I mean, who does he think he is, Bill Clinton? Only pols, it seems, can get away with such nonsense and be forgiven. For a broadcaster, not quite so easy.

Since I don’t really know the whole story, as do none of us, I can only hope the allegations are untrue and that he weathers the storm. At least I now know who he is.

As shown is just one way of dealing with an overgrown (mature) garden


We now have what is known as a ‘mature’ garden. Not quite sure how that happened. It seems like only yesterday we were planting some little bitty shrubs and mini-trees and were distressed because the place still looked so bare after we’d made forays to a few nurseries that it prompted us to go out and buy more, and more and more stuff.

I don’t know why I was so naive about it all. I mean, I have had homes and gardens before so I know how the process works. Process: Plant little stuff, little stuff gets a bit bigger and looks kinda cute and inviting for a few years, little stuff erupts into a monumental goddamn forest of shrubbery that could feed the needs of a small logging operation, or so it seems.

You see, plants (not unlike teenage kids) grow exponentially. That is, you have a bitsy plum tree seedling and it grows up a li’l bit the first season. In your exasperation you can be excused for thinking that you’ll die before it shows any substance. But, fear not, because exponentially means that whatever growth has taken place will keep on multiplying, so the bigger the plant gets the bigger it wants to get – and it will do just that. So now we have two plum trees (that produce bugger all fruit, I might add) that seem a bit like sequoias in their grandeur. Did I mention that they produce bugger all fruit? Yeah, I did. But it feels like I need to mention it again.

gardinAnyway, yesterday afternoon we went out to tackle the garden a tiny bit. (The garden pictured is not ours, by the way, but it might well be.) A dreaded chore. I mean it’s the time of year (a process that begins in August) that one has come to genuinely loathe one’s garden and one wonders what it would be like to live in a highrise apartment.

Neither here nor there, however. Back to the garden. Yesterday’s shufty about the grounds revealed that our worst fears had indeed manifested and what would have demanded the labors of little garden secateurs in the past were now at chainsaw stage.

I want to take that damn yellowstick dogwood out,” Wendy said. “It’s all over the place. Are you good with that? Oh, and the laurel, too. OK?”

I was not only good with it, I was prepared to fire up the saw.

Let’s go on a rampage,” I said. “Now I know how Attila felt. Let’s smite plants left, right and centre”

My problem with smiting is, however, that I develop affection for certain plants and Wendy and I don’t always agree about which ones are adorable. So, we try to compromise. Sometimes that works, and other times I lie awake distressed at how I have heedlessly wronged a plant despite the fact it raised up the side patio with its roots, ruined one chunk of underground sprinkler that had to be replaced at considerable cost, and looms threateningly in the direction of the foundation of the house.

Being a mature garden is a bit like being a mature (some might say ‘old’, but not I) person. Not quite as cute and vital as when young, but still possessed of virtues. One doesn’t go up to an ancient oak that saw the Romans land in Britain, or a Redwood that was around when Jesus was in Jr. High and say, “these trees are old; let’s take the sumbitches down.”


Bless all who would guard us in the name of our cherished freedoms


It would be acceptable to refer to Oct. 22Nd, 2014 as Canada’s ‘Day of Infamy’, for it surely was that with the ruthless and mindless slaughter of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo by a maniac as he guarded our monument to the Unknown Soldier. This event followed closely on the heels of the equally senseless slaughter of Cpl. Patrice Vincent in the Province of Quebec the previous day.

I join my compatriots in feeling aghast and saddened by those events. I will not, however, join in the clarion cry that protests we ‘lost our innocence’ by those events. Nothing of the sort. Canada has been no stranger to acts of hideousness that defy the reason of those of reasoned minds. Sometimes the motivation has been political, at other times it is merely representative of unbalanced minds with politics used as an excuse for the atrociousness.

So, we lost our ‘innocence’ back in 1970 with the FLQ Crisis, for those old enough to remember. It was a tumultuous time in which my recollection is colored by a remembrance of staying in a Montreal hotel only to be awakened by a powerful explosion in the wee small hours and later to find that the shop down the street had been blown out by a bomb. More serious than damage to real estate, however, was the kidnapping and murder of Quebec cabinet minister Pierre LaPorte, and also the kidnapping of UK trade commissioner James Cross.

Very frightening times. Times in which then prime minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act, a decision that some felt was needed and others thought was wretched excess and grandstanding. I’ll leave that up to you, but it is worthy of noting that Stephen Harper, love him or loathe him, invoked no such thing on the 22nd.

We also lost a goodly lot of innocence in 1989 with the horrifying slaughter of 14 female students and the wounding of 10 others at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique by whack-job Marc Lepine. That was an event that continues to live in infamy.

And to be fair, Canadian soldiers – brave Canadian soldiers like corporals Cirillo and Vincent – lost their lives in the many thousands in two world wars and Korea only to give us the Canada that we not only cherish but that we must continue to fight valiantly to preserve, as did Cirillo, Vincent, and Parliamentary Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers. We should be very proud to share this turf with all three of them and those blessed people who tended to Cpl. Cirillo in his dying throes.

Here’s a toast to all the tough ladies we know and love

matriaarch 2

If it hadn’t been for the tenacity and no-nonsense attitude to life of my maternal grandmother (pictured with my grandfather)  I think her seven kids would have starved to death during the Depression. If matters had been left to my kindly yet less-disciplined grandfather then, as much as I loved his kindness, they indeed would have ended up in the poorhouse.

grannie and granddadI think, possibly, due to my grandmother’s example I have been left with an admiration for strong women with the ultimate in stalwart female mien being found in the matriarch.

Picture Ma Joad in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. She was the glue that held the family unit together in the face of unspeakable hardship and misfortune. As was the case with my grandmother, they wouldn’t have made it if they had relied on the headstrong but not always sensible menfolk.

I love Dr. Grace Foley in the brilliant British drama series Waking the Dead. Brilliantly played by actress Sue Johnston, Dr. Foley, a forensic shrink with ma joadmassive common sense and also kindness keeps the volatile place doing what it should be doing. I decided while watching that series that Dr. Foley would be a wonderful mother to have. She’d have your back but, at the same time, would slap you up the side of the head if you went off in illogical directions.

And I must say that Dr. Foley, and meaning no disrespect here, is the antithesis of my own mother. My mother was not strong. My mother bowed under any pressure that came her way. I am not judging her, for she was who she was and in our household my dad supplied the glue and I am grateful for that despite the fact he was no picnic to live with much of the time.

sueBut, I think it is because of these maternal icons I grew up to find strong women immensely attractive and have never felt threatened by a gutsy broad. No-no-no, it is in the courage and forthrightness that the appeal can be found.

At a broader societal level the paramount role of the matriarch can be found within certain cultural groups. This is especially to be found in groups in which there is a supposed male pre-eminence, but in fact that motivating force in invariably the strong woman. Those who have worked with North American Natives know that the biggest factor in not only survival but also success of a tribe or band can be found with strong female figures. A similar situation can be found in the Black community. The brilliant Richard Pryor didn’t hesitate to attribute much of his success to his strong grandmother. The aforementioned are generalizations, granted but such situations are more common than not.

You can also look to world leaders of note like Churchill or FDR and you will find a very strong woman behind their success; often a strong widowed woman.

And I take my hat off to the strong women I know and love in my life, including my wife.

Feel free to cry yourelf a river but if you do in my earshot I’d rather leave the room


I have been crying,” she replied, simply, “and it has done me good. It helps a woman you know, just as swearing helps a man.”
Horace Annesley Vachell, The Romance of Judge Ketchum

I have never been very good at crying. That may sound fatuous but I honestly think that inability has kept me from shedding copious tears. I cried little in childhood. I didn’t even cry when I got the strap in school. My impulse was to deny sadistic teachers any satisfaction that their brutality had impact on me.

I have felt very saddened by such life events as the deaths of family members and friends. I did not cry when my parents died. I think maybe I wanted to but wasn’t certain how to muster the impulse. That isn’t to say I didn’t appreciate the magnitude of this passage in my life – I just didn’t cry.

I don’t know where my dearth of lachrymosity originates. I know it wasn’t appreciated when I was a child – especially by my father, who was of the school that maintained only females and crybabies shed tears. I don’t recall ever seeing my father in tears and it still unnerves me considerably to see a man cry. “Come on, bucko, pull yourself together!”

This is not to suggest I’m immune to tears. It distresses me and upsets me to hear a child past baby stage crying, and I want to console immediately. And the tears of a woman upset me grievously. Even more so when I know I have been the cause of those tears. It happens, and has happened.

Now, by crying I am not talking about getting misty. I mist up and get teary at certain film scenes and definitely at certain pieces of music. At my grandfather’s funeral I almost lost it when the church choir sang his chosen funereal hymn, Abide With Me and that piece henceforth has hit me emotionally when I hear it.

The demise of a pet comes close to releasing my emotional wellspring and the deaths of two of our cats actually made me tearful, and I’m not even a cat person,. Not a cat person, but certainly a pet animal person. I don’t even want to countenance my emotional response when Max’s time should come, as it invariably will.

The last time I remember genuinely crying – and it embarrassed me, if I am to be honest – was about eight months after my 2nd wife and I separated. I was merrily puttering away in my bachelor apartment, putting stuff in place and playing some music to accompany my labors. Then a particular song came up on the CD and – well – I just lost it. All the sad events and losses of my life hit me like a sledgehammer and I felt an overwhelming despair that evoked sobs that were painful and seemingly ceaseless. Whenever I thought I had it under control it would well up again.

Eventually it passed and I felt weary and a bit shattered.

I told a counsellor I was seeing at the time about the event, and he reassured it was what I needed to do.


You want to see fearful? Look at our political options and forget about zombies


I know my attitudes of the day place me well apart from the contemporary zeitgeist but, like Popeye, I yam what I yam.

What I am saying is that there are certain cultural trends that I cannot bring myself to embrace and indeed I have no interest in attempting to embrace. That’s mainly because I think they are boring and really, for grownup people, pretty puerile and stupid. But that’s just me.

So here are the popular fave-raves that I find to be insufferable pains-in-the-ass and tiresome beyond credulity. Either that or just gratuitously offensive.

Zombies: Let me be (apparently) the first to say that there is no such thing as a zombie. They only exist in the imagination and in certain voodoo mythology. They are no more real than Caspar the Friendly Ghost and most of them are about as scary as Caspar. The only decent zombies in film lore were the ones in Shawn of the Dead which is pee-your-panties funny and should be seen. You see, the filmmakers there poke fun at the genre because it is so silly. And if you think I am overstating this issue, there actually are grown-up, albeit not very smart, adults who believe that zombies exist. Sorry folks, dead is dead.

marvinRobots: By this I am not talking about ‘robotics’ which holds significant promise in so many realms. I mean, I’m not even talking about robotic sex dolls. I could, but that’s a whole other realm again. No, I am talking about the ‘robotic revolution’ in which we have been led to believe that not only will future bots do all of our tasks, but will also be capable of independent cognition like the ones in Blade Runner which you won’t be able to tell from regular flesh, blood, guts and pudendi human beings. Well, frankly, I don’t believe that will ever happen and therefore find exploration of the idea tiresome and unentertaining. In truth, the only robot I have ever had any use for is Marvin, the eternal but chronically depressed robot in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

buffyWerewolves and, God help us, overdone vampires: Like zombies, these are not real entities. So why are our TV networks cluttered with them? Have we all become 12-years-old. And love stories involving real human girls with creepy vampire dudes who, for whatever reason, are considered sexy. The only sexy reference to vampires came with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that was entirely due to Sarah Michelle Gellar and not to anything supernatural. And frankly there have been no sexy vampires since Bela Lugosi with that mellifluous Hungarian accent.

ghostGhosts: I loved the movie Ghost. Play a couple of bars of Unchained Melody and I’m a weepy goner in the only film that ever justified the existence of Demi Moore in the cinematic world. Otherwise, of ghosts, I don’t believe in them so I don’t find them particularly riveting or scary. You want scary ghost tales read Henry James’ Turn of the Screw.

Gratuity: I’m not talking about sex here. There is too much gratuitous sex around – or – depending on your attitude, not enough. No, what I am talking about is gratuitous graphicness. I know that dead people look like corpses, but do I need to embrace them for my viewing pleasure? Ever-popular (even though I haven’t actually watched it in years) CSI series thrive on autopsies wherein the deceased are subject to the indignities of all sorts of pathological indignities in full scrutiny. In the CSI Miami version this is despite the fact we viewers are subjected to (at least the 10 viewers who still watch this one are) the indignity of the ongoing existence of David Caruso. But even my regularly watched and otherwise admirable NCIS is guilty of parading some disemboweled poor stiff who ends up being subject to the rather tasteless wit of the otherwise lovable Ducky who will be munching a sandwich while the hapless and late petty officer lies on the examination table. Sometimes too much is too much.