Monthly Archives: December 2014

It was the best of times but, alas, it was also the worst of times

mo steve

In other years and for many years I used to pen for the local newspapers (The Green Sheet and later The Echo) my annual list of dubious achievers and achievements. My access to the media is now defunct, for various reasons, none of them my own but just mainly marketplace considerations.

I don’t need to feel too bad about it as Esquire Magazine, my original inspiration that regard (unwisely, in my esteem) dropped theirs a few years ago.

However, there are still people out there who either do well or fuck up, much to the disappointment of not a few, so I decided to compile a list of the good, bad or indifferent personages within our purview.

Hero of the year: Some might be moved to say Pope Francis, but I’m not too big on popes or the concept. For the same reason I will eschew royals of any stripe. So, my choice in that regard is the brilliantly courageous Malala Yousafzai, deserved winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Who more deserving? cheney

Scariest Prick of the year: Who else? Vladimir Putin, the man longing for those golden years of Stalinism.

Biggest nob of the year: Our own PM, Stephen Harper who succeeding in creating a Canada that I no longer recognize as the country in which I was born and have loved until fairly recently.

Biggest showboater sans substance of the year: He may yet come into his own but so far Justin Trudeau has failed to either enchant or inspire me with anything representing political maturity. If you are a good Liberal, don’t hate me, I’m just calling ’em as I sees ’em.

Biggest disappointment(s) of the year: Bill Cosby and Rolf Harris. Two men who made careers out of the funnier sides of life, who proved to be not terribly funny in their behavior. In the case of Cos, it’s yet to be proved whereas Rolf is spending his declining years in the nick.

Biggest dipshit of the year: Jian Ghomeshi. I don’t think I need to elaborate further.esquare

Biggest wearer out of his welcome: The one and only Justin Bieber.

Biggest blower of a once brilliant and inspiring opportunity: Unfortunately, President Barack Obama. Come on, you could have done better despite the reactionary assholes who conspired against you. But you failed to smite them, though that’s what presidents are expected to do.

Biggest public figure loss: Robin Williams. ‘Nuff sed.

Biggest psychopathic dipshit: Dick Cheney

Biggest public figure who is absolutely meaningless to me: Somebody called Jennifer Lawrence, an actress I gather who was pissed because somebody posted nekkid photos of her on the Internet. Don’t want pictures of you in your all-togethers going public? Don’t pose for starkers photos.

Biggest overhyped musician: Bono and U2. Sorry, I’ve just never gone there. My opinion only, of course.

Biggest musician to stage a comeback after a gazillion years away: Kate Bush.

Biggest musician long overdue for a comeback; Adele, of course.

The foregoing were just my opinions. Feel free to add some of your own or to rail at my choices.

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You don’t have much choice in the matter so you may as well pucker up and give 2015 a big, wet smooch

farworks

The following is an updated and considerably revised New Year’s blog from one I wrote back in 2008. In it I share some of the tiny bits of wisdom I have gleaned over the years.
While 2014 has had its up-and-down moments; my particular annus horribilis was 1996. Shall not elaborate on the whys and wherefores, but believe me it was a shitkicker.

Lost loves are meant to stay that way. So stop wasting time pining or fantasizing. You don’t want her/him back. Those people are gone for a reason. They reached their ‘due date’.

If there were a single word essence to my philosophy it would be ‘forgiveness.’

In one of her drunken rambles my mother once said in reference to two of her sons (both of whom were present): “You were always the smart one (me) and Colin (my bro) was the good looking one. Thus damning us both. Forgiveness still comes hard for this one. Maybe someday.

I love my brother, Colin, dearly. And he me. We both cherish that and need it.

Ants are intriguing
. They ‘speak’ to one another. There are more of them than there are of us. They are likely more important.

Because I was ‘too talkative’
in my third grade class the teacher banished me to sit on the ‘girls’ side of the room I was in heaven. I suspect that was where some of my troubles all began.

Maybe I was a class clown, but never thought of myself as such. But I was funny. I know that now.

A kid in junior high once asked me how I knew a particular fact. I said I had read it. “Is that all you do is read?” he asked disdainfully. He became a plumber. He probably made more money than I ever did.

The stupidest waste of a year of my life came when I, after I got my degree, decided to take secondary teacher training. The course of study was all inane. You either are a teacher or not, and no half-baked pedant can teach you to be one.

I was a good teacher and a popular one. I hated it. I did not hate my students; I was very fond of them and still have contact with a number of them and love them madly as good friends. But I hated the system and the ‘ethic’ of the average high school which remains all about who gets to sit at the ‘cool table’. So, in retrospect those eight years were not happy ones.

Good reporters should follow the wisdom of the old guys and girls. Read some H.L. Mencken and Ernie Pyle and Martha Gelhorn and you don’t need much more.

In loving ‘more’ is not necessarily ‘better.’ But sometimes it can be. Odd, that.

Every man should someday meet with a femme fatale. You learn from that – if you survive. And what a ride it’ll be, literally and figuratively.

Drug addicts and alcoholics have found their ‘happy place’, but it is a brief one punctuated by depravity, dishonesty and despair.

I believe in God (sorta) but I don’t need somebody in a white backwards collar to interpret God for me.

A friend went on three spiritual pilgrimages to India in vain attempt to find his true spirituality. Eventually he found it was inside himself all the time and he could have saved the airfare.

Vancouver
likes to sell itself as a ‘world-class city.’ It is nothing of the sort. True world-class cities (and there are others) that I have spent time in include London, San Francisco, Montreal, and Dublin. Dublin may seem like a bit of a backwater, but there is more history and soul (albeit often misguided) on a single block of O’Connell Street than in the whole of Vancouver.

The best Chinese restaurant
I ever visited was in Honolulu’s Chinatown.

We’ve had Max for about 5 years now. He has been, after my cat Griffin the best pet choice I have ever made. Love the dude to bits. You want a pet, dear friends, then please go the ‘rescue’ route.DSCN2138


I rarely cry. I mist, but rarely cry. But I did cry in early 1997. Great racking sobs that lasted hours. I know it was needed.

Love may keep us together, but money seems to be a vital part of the equation, too.

I’ve had many crushes in my life. I always remember them, and sometimes they have lasted down the years. They must never be realized. That destroys the mythology.

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, but I do ‘intentions’, as in this might be attainable or not. But at least I’ve tried. Each year we write out our intentions on a sheet of paper, and as the new year comes in we take them outside and burn them; turn them over to God, or whatever cosmic muffin might be listening. And, I believe He/She/It is.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 44,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 16 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Not such a bum-deal that a simple three-letter word went international

pippa bum

I have noticed with increasing frequency of late that the world ‘bum’ has slipped into the parlance of the United States, not just as a reference to a hobo sort, but also as an alternative (semi) vulgarism for backside.

I like that. It’s a better word than ‘ass’ for the same gluteal territory. Not that there was or is anything wrong with ass, and at certain times under certain circumstances it is almost ideal. But bum is such a cute word. It’s fun and bouncy. Children just past nursery age will use it, and moms will simply smile, because they use it themselves.

Canada got bum by way of default from England, but for some reason the Yanks didn’t pick up on it until recently. I suspect the popularity of certain BBC offerings has a role in this, as well as English movies. But, I am happy for the Americans. With all the other stresses in the world they must endure, I think they’ll be comfortable that bum has entered the lexicon in its backside sense.bum

I find bum to be just an ideal reference to that part of our bodies. It can be slightly (or very) sexual when used in certain contexts, but it can also be innocent and, as I suggested, even children friendly. Little children also think it’s a screamingly funny word. At least they did when I was young and I hope they are not now so jaded and corrupted by the crass crap on television that bum has lost its ability to amuse.

Bums, as we have come to know and love them, have gone by many different references throughout the history of the language. At the clinical end, we have buttocks, gluteus, and the disagreeable sounding rectum. At the polite parlance end we have derriere, or seat, or even backside. We also use fanny when speaking pleasantly – which residents of the United Kingdom find both shocking and hilarious since ‘fanny’ there describes a bit of female anatomy a bit to the front of the bum, and is not considered a polite usage at all. We can knock somebody on her fanny. If a Brit does it’s gonna hurt a lot.

Then we come to the vulgarisms. I mentioned ass, which has its virtues, and the more venerable arse. There is also butt, heiny, tush, slats and it goes on and on, and indicates to students of the language that this is a mighty important part of our structure. I mean, how many alternate words do we have for elbow, for example?

The bum has a prominence in culture that is astonishing, considering its rather rudimentary function, aside from looking cute. After all, we design toilet seats to provide just the right amount of comfort at a time of elimination. Aside from sitting down, it is also ‘us’ at our most basic.

Our involvement with our bums is an extensive one, not all of them pleasant. In the days when it was acceptable parental behavior to give a kid a damn good licking, the bum was that which received the admonitory blows, since to be spanked there was considered less potentially harmful than to be pummelled on any other part of the body. We also use the bum clinically, as the recipient of assorted, and always unpleasant inoculations. On the other hand, it is also the area that can be playfully smacked by lovers who might not yet be at a stage of overtly caressing its contours.

The bum has other functions that range from the poetic (as in looking good in a pair of white shorts), to the ridiculous, with its outline exaggerated in a clown suit, to the extreme, as in sticking it out undraped from a car window if you happen to be a bored adolescent on a Saturday night.

There was also the much-vaunted backside of Prince William’s sister-in-law, the beautifully gluteal Pippa Middleton of which a gazillion randy press photogs made a fetish.

I could also mention Miss Kardashian but I choose not to.

No Boxing Day madness in this house any more. Want no more junk

bocksing day

Once, years ago, I did succumb to the Boxing Day buying binge madness. The concept was still in its infancy back then in, I think, the 1970s if memory serves and sometimes it still does these days.

I went to A&B Sound in Vancouver and bought a cassette-tape player for my stereo system of the day. The concept of using up Dec. 26Th to get more stuff was rare then so the crowds weren’t as intimidating as they are now. Not only are the crowds intimidating to me, but so is the greed.

People madly scrambling to buy stuff, goods, items, appliances and every manner of shit you can bread. Priorities change. We always need milk and bread, but no longer need or want stuff. We’d ideally like to be free of stuff.

Going on that Boxing Day excursion in the big city reminded me of why we were there. We were there because in those days Christmas was some sort of a clan gathering. We linked up with relatives, imbibed with relatives, ate piggishly with relatives – some of whom I knew, some of whom I didn’t and really would rather not be spending break time with. My first wife’s family were big on gatherings because they were Prairie folk. I’m a coastal folk, so attitudes are different.

But, mingling with relatives happened and sometimes it was OK like when did my wife’s baby sister’s girlfriend get such admirable tits. Well, one had to amuse oneself as one could, while longing to go downstairs to the rec room, switch on the TV and have a quiet beer by myself. This stuff went on for years and years. And, you know, I am not terribly nostalgic about it. Of course visits to the Mainland had to coincide with Christmas calls on my parents. Not a huge draw there and make sure we get to their house early enough in the day before mother has gotten too drunk and obnoxious. Bon Noel!

The second time around there was still a huge family connectedness by #2 and her folks and her daughter and I must admit hotter cousins and hotter girlfriends of the male cousins and these people were Swedes so they did Christmas on the 24th. WTF? Foreigners, hey, adapt to Canadian ways, eh? And don’t be dumping your lutefisc on the unsuspecting. “People actually eat that shit?” Swedish meatballs and pancakes, well OK, even with lingonberry sauce. I’m not badmouthing these folks, by the way. Nice people and gracious hosts.

My point is that in the day Christmas was all about family and while I am supposed to feel sweetly nostalgic about all that stuff and the people who are no longer with us, and good times and all, I just don’t really go there so much. As life evolves so do we evolve and adjust to contemporary realities. And that’s a good thing.

Christmas for us is quiet now, I daresay even serene, but mainly quiet. We did, as I hinted at, Christmas Lite with only stocking stuff, usable stocking stuff. No more other stuff. No crappola that will ultimately end up in the garage with the other crappola that is either broken or irrelevant, like the juicer we used maybe twice and then found Tropicana makes really good natural juice that tastes as good as our squoze stuff (which seems to demand about 90 dozen oranges to get a decent pitcher) so the juicer was relegated to the ‘what the hell were we thinking?” category.

So, yeah, quiet. It’s nice. Listen to some seasonal music that hasn’t been overdone to puke-factor everywhere else, but instead particular favorites of ours. Christmas specials on TV, the only seasonal offerings we visited were Call the Midwife and Dr. Who – and, of course, the compulsory viewing of the Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol. Other than that it was quiet and pleasant and not opulent and excessive. Just nice.

For the Christmas we understand don’t thank God as much as Charles Dickens

dikcens

One of the most difficult things for me to electronically ‘pen’ is some sort of Christmas message.

What to write that hasn’t been set forth in the past by me, or what has been written, sometimes ad nauseam by others over the years that Christmas has been feted. And by the way, the Christmas we have in western culture has absolutely nothing to do with adoration of the Magi but everything to do with Teutonic pagan tradition with little bits of the God and Baby Jesus stuff thrown in just to add a religious spin. In the Christian calendar, Easter is much more pivotal as it’s about the resurrection.

sanity clauseIt’s worth noting that when Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was published in 1843 virtually none of our widely-loved traditions of the day were observed. It wasn’t even a holiday as such. But the Christmas tree and other bits of stuff brought to England by Prince Albert, Victoria’s hubby, were just beginning to be noticed. It was through that brief novella that Christmas as we understand it soared, as did the message of Peace and Goodwill.

Anyway, everybody reading this will be highly familiar with the rituals that are part of Christmastime and if yours is Christian or secular is entirely up to your household. As a largely secular guy, the religious aspects don’t mean much to me, but I cherish a fond hope that some Christmas I shall be at King’s College Cambridge to hear that choir that can bring me to tears with the beauty of their voices and message.

To a degree with me Christmas came to mean less from the point I ceased believing in Santa Claus. That happened shortly after I went to school. Many bad things began after I entered compulsory education in a process that didn’t really teach me much I didn’t know. Not being smug, it’s just that it’s true, for me.

But, I do remember one pivotal Christmas in which belief was still profound. We were living at my grandmother’s at the time while construction on the new family home was being completed. I slept in an upstairs room that I still recall as a comfort zone for me. It was festooned with fascinating pictures that two of my uncles had papered the walls with in their own boyhoods. They were basically colorful magazine ads. I used to ponder them for hours in idle times. That not withstanding, it was within that room that I slept Christmas Eve night. I had been forewarned that at some point Santa would visit my room and when I heard him I mustn’t open my eyes or the spell would be broken and I’d end up with nothing but coal in my stocking.paddke boat

Sometime late in the night I heard a rustling. My stocking, rather than having been hung by the chimney with care, had been placed at the foot of my five-year-old’s bed. I have no idea why that was the process, but it was. Regardless, “He’s here! He’s here!” I almost squealed and hoped I would get the two items I wanted: a wind-up paddle steamer and a flashlight. The paddleboat I understand, not so sure about the flashlight, but that was what I wanted. My heart would not be still with this visitation by a guy in whom I believed profoundly.

When morning came I went through my cache. The two longed-for items were there. He had paid attention when I sat on his knee a few weeks earlier. Wow!

I can no longer capture that feeling of being so blessed, but wouldn’t it be grand if we could.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL

Some day you just may meet that ‘femme fatale’. I hope you survive the encounter

femme fatale

This is a repeat of a blog I wrote a number of years ago that I rather liked. Don’t read anything personal into it. If you do, you may or may not be right in certain instances.

If you are male and haven’t met a ‘devil woman’ yet, you will. If you’ve reached a certain age and seem to have missed her, then you were either too pure, too blind, or too drunk to have noticed her.

A warning: she always spies you first, and sets it all in motion.

How will I know her?

In the first place, you always know. It’s a gut thing. A slight tightening in the midriff. You’ve noticed many women in your life. Some you’ve regarded with ennui, and others with interest. If you’re heterosexual, you’ve likely even been involved with a few females. This one is different. The feeling she will evoke is not just fascination, arousal, passion, or love-at-first sight — but fear!

So she should, for if you submit to her having walked in, be assured that she’s not going to leave quietly. Also, be assured that she will leave on ‘her’ terms always, never on yours. You will never-ever be granted the power of decision when it comes to dealing with her.

There are no set physical criteria for a Devil Woman. She may be beautiful. She may be fairly ordinary in appearance, but there is always the allure of the Lorelei. There are examples of the Devil Woman from throughout history and literature.

Consider:

Eve — Adam didn’t have much choice, since female possiblities were limited to one, but isn’t it interesting that God chose a Devil Woman as His prototype? So, gentlemen, the warning was right there in the Bible.

Delilah — Bible again. Samson’s hair-cutting was, needless to say, metaphorical castration. The concept of ball-busting goes back a long way.

Cleopatra — “Screw the Roman Empire, I am going to get two of the biggest players (Caesar and Mark Antony) in my sway, and to show you my female power, they’re going to chuck all their empire building for me.” And so they did. And so would you have.
Lucrezia Borgia — Always on her terms. If you balked at her wants or charms, she’d poison you.

Madame de Pompadour — Walked into Louis XV’s life, and France was hers, not the Queen’s — nor even Louis’.

Ava Gardner — Frankie may have caused a million bobby-soxers to soak their knickers, but he had a wife and couldn’t keep her. When the beauteous Ava decided to walk, the singing thug from Hoboken couldn’t pound her into submission. They say he never got over her.

Elizabeth Taylor — Hold a seance and ask Richard Burton how much he would have preferred, all said and done, not to have taken that role in the execrable ‘Cleopatra’, so that this wondrously untalented cow might not have entered his life.

Your Devil Woman will probably be more commonplace than Ava or Elizabeth, but her venom will be just as potent. Oh, and be assured that when you do decide to abandon all that you formerly held dear, that absolutely none of your friends, acquaintances or family members will be able to understand what the attraction was.

Where will she be, just so I can avoid her?

She might be clerking in your supermarket. She is the one who holds your gaze while she’s ringing up your carrots. She’s not overt. She won’t openly flirt. She’ll just make a kind of chill run through you, and will look at you differently than she does other customers. Her gaze will melt into your soul. No, it’s not just your imagination.

She might work in your office. Offices are hotbeds of fantasies and actualities, no matter how much management and head office likes to discourage such shenanigans — except on the part of senior management, of course. She may flirt with every mailboy, file clerk, and board chairman, but she doesn’t with you. She knows that will catch your interest. Again, you will get the gaze, with only the slight hint of a smile playing at the corners of enticing lips. You won’t even see the gaze directly, but somewhere in your peripheral vision, you know it’s happening. And then, one day, she will come to your desk to ask you something, stand behind you, and touch you lightly on the shoulder. It will be like a high-tension wire has dropped from its pylon onto you. Your shoulder, and possibly the rest of you, will never be the same.

How does the scenario play out? With assorted variations, much like this:

She doesn’t walk, she sashays. No so much a Marilyn Monroe ass-swing, as a sensual glide through the room. A glide, if it’s working right (and it usually is), that will only be picked up by you. And when it is, she catches your eye — ever so fleetingly. When you are not making eye-contact with her, you still know she’s looking at you. There is a burning sensation that comes from those eyes as they radiate across the room. If you look up, she will immediately look away, and begin shuffling some papers on her desk.

Her voice is soft and treacly, and you like the way she says — anything. You don’t listen for the substance of her conversation — there may not be much there — only the sound. She could read the phone book to you, and you would be more enchanted than if you were listening to one of the great orators of history.

Her looks? They may vary from conventional attractiveness, but they do it for you. They hit you somewhere between heart and stomach, and you find yourself thinking about what she looks like when she isn’t around, and hoping you’ll see her, regardless of where you happen to be at any given time. You become obsessed with seeing her, or setting yourself up in situations where you know she might happen by.

At some point you are going to be powerfully tempted to go to another stage of life with her. You will initially balk at the idea. You will look at your innocent and oblivious wife or girlfriend and feel a deep sadness for her. You couldn’t do ‘that’ to her! And then you start to figure out how maybe you could — and not get caught. You wouldn’t do anything dangerous. Nothing that would disrupt anything at home. Maybe you could just invite the Devil Woman to lunch? That’s harmless — that’s innocent. Nice meal at a quiet little out-of-the-way place where none of your friends go — maybe a drink or two on a Friday after work — a few laughs — find out a bit more about her. That would work. Nothing that your significant other would feel threatened about.

Of course, you’ve completely missed the point with this individual. This won’t be an innocent flirtation with a chick from the office. This will be something bigger than you could ever imagine.

So, if you haven’t turned back by this point, you do ask her to lunch. She thinks for a moment, looks long at you, and says, most demurely, “That would be very nice. It would be good to get to know you a little better.”

And you go to lunch. And it’s the most pleasant hour you have spent in the last 15 or 20 years. You admit to yourself, you’re a teeny bit enchanted. But, there’s nothing to worry about. Little crushes are quite normal.

At the end of lunch, you hear yourself saying: “That was nice. We should do it again sometime.”

She, without a second’s hesitation, responds: “I’d like that very much.” Not just that she’d like it, but that she’d like it ‘very much’. That’s significant. You feel an unease based on the realization that things are starting to assume a life of their own. But, you tell yourself, I’ll keep it all under control. It’s not like I’ve slept with her, or anything as stupid as that.

What you don’t realize, since you are dealing with an alien force — a Devil Woman — is that you have no say in the scenario whatsoever. This is all her call. She is the one choreographing it, and her plan is to ensnare you like you’ve never been ensnared. She will, pod-like, take over the very essence of your being, and you will chuck out all that she finds alien or threatening to her. You will do that, and she knows that you will. So, linger for a moment in the last vestiges of your freedom and autonomy, because all you know and love is about to be taken away from you. From this point on — until the final disaster (and it will take place) — you are lost. You are possessed. And ultimately a brutal exorcism will be needed to restore you to normality. You may not even survive. If you do, you will be better for it, but you will also always be different.

When the denouement is reached.

And when it’s all over, will she ever be completely out of your system?

Probably not.