Monthly Archives: October 2015

A ‘Corry’ retrospective after fifty-five years

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Since December 9th, 1960 (that’d be 55 years) a lonely and sad sounding jazz riff has marked yet another episode of long-lived Coronation Street, a soap opera of sorts set in the grotty streets of ‘Weatherfield’ (read Manchester).

The Granada Television people didn’t give it much hope for longevity. How wrong they could be. Not only did ‘Corry’ entrance its English audience but, much to the surprise of the people behind it, it went international.

Not only has CS been around for more than half a century, but actor William Roache has played Ken Barlow since that very first episode. Barlow, the retiring former schoolmaster who later became a journalist also managed to score more nookie than Sinatra over the years. Coronation_street_cast_photo_1960

I am a former teacher who became a journo and my mother always said I reminded her of Barlow. I will, for the sake of discretion, refrain from discussing the nookie part.

When I was in high school I’d come home from classes and there would be my mother sitting and watching the behaviors and misbehaviors of Len Fairclough, Ray Langton, Elsie Tanner and others, all overseen by the highly judgmental eye of Ena Sharples, and insufferable snob, pub-owner Annie Walker. There were so many such characters and through the years the casts changed. Some died. Some moved on. And the complexions changed from a once all-white Anglo-Saxon community to one that reflected the ethniciities of a contemporary working-class neighborhood a la 2115.1981

Of course all CS is is a proletarian soap opera with all the elements of any soaper, including lots of illicit sex, some heavy boozing, people facing marital strife and economic duress. On occasion there was violence as well. Also, years before it became voguish, CS boasted a transexual. It worked and hopefully enlightened a few people.

I watched CS off and on over the years from its black-and-white days (I preferred the B&W because it made the street seem grittier and it reminded me of some of the wonderful British ‘kitchen sink’ films of the era like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. When I lived in England in the early 1980s I didn’t miss the two evenings a week it was on because I knew it would be a topic of conversation with my landlady the next day. During that year she was thrilled because the writers had the wedding of Ken Barlow and Deirdre Langton coincide with that of Charles and Diana in the summer of 1981.davy

CS was never a star headliner but an amazing number of later accomplished performers got their start there, including Davy Jones of the Monkees (see photo).

Periodically I will still glance at it, often after years of non-viewing in between, yet I am amazed at how quickly I catch up.

I remember him,” I will say to Wendy in reference to an early middle-aged man, “he was the teenager who lived with the Duckworths, or was it the Ogdens?”

Just like family, in a way.

‘Oyy — you should be so ashamed of yourself’

shame

Is there such a thing as shame any more? Some people, it seems, can do the most reprehensible, felonious, and/or disgusting things, yet the word ‘shameful’ never seems to be ascribed to what they have done.

By shameful behaviors I don’t necessarily mean violations of public mores per se, though that might be included. What I mean more is violations of what should be personal integrity. One assumes that most of us have standards of behavior to which we subscribe, and it is shaming those we should be getting burrs in our underwear.

Back when I was still counselling a few years ago I once asked a colleague why he thought it was that some addicts and/or alcoholics got clean and sober and stayed that way, regardless of their education, intelligence and other factors, and others never did nor never would.

He said he had no clear-cut answer to the question, and had often pondered it himself. The only thing he had concluded is that those who do recover are those who felt that in their substance abuse, they had violated a personal sense of integrity. They felt they were ‘better’ than their behaviors indicated they were.embarrassed

In other words, they had shame. And it can be argued that their shame saved their lives.

There was a time in which shame was very much part of both our morality, and sometimes even legalities. If a person acted shamefully, he or she was ordered to not only be contrite, but to be publicly contrite. Consequently, we had pillories and stocks for misfeasors and blasphemers; the dunking stool for gossips and scolds, and other bits of gear designed to humiliate those who’d transgressed. In literature, the most famous case of public humiliation would be the scarlet A forced on Miss Hester Prynne for her alleged adultery with, as it turns out, the dude she did the illicit nasty with, but who also condemned her.

The ultimate in shaming was, needless to say, public shunning, with the extreme example being excommunication, as practiced by the Roman Catholics, and still in vogue with some religious sects to this day.

In no way am I advocating such public humiliation – though it is tempting, come on, admit it – but I do believe we have lost the demand that we show contrition for our dirty deeds, and consequently it seems sufficient in our liberal society to let people off with a simple “I’m sorry.”

But, that isn’t really contrition; apology is dead easy.

Being stuck in the stocks and lambasted with rotten tomatoes and dog poop, on the other hand, might make a body think about his or her bad behavior.

Of course, ultimately, shame is what we feel within, and if society has loosened so much that nobody feels shame about making a public spectacle, with or without underpants, we’re going to be hard-pressed to humiliate folks.

Maybe we don’t need humiliation so much as a return to a little decorum in our antics.scarlet

As a final note, however, I will suggest there is great virtue to shame, as in the case of the addicts I mentioned earlier. Bust a person for DUI and they just might change their ways; especially if the case is publicized.

Case in point. At my original newspaper we had a custom of publishing the names of literally ‘all’ people who appeared in court on DUI charges. As far as the publisher was concerned, it was a public service and it just might make our roads safer. Nobody, but nobody got off the hook. If the Queen drove through town with snootful and got nailed, her name would have appeared in our august pages.

This went along swimmingly until the day our publisher found himself charged with the infraction. The editor of the day (this was before my time there), perhaps feeling that discretion was the better part of valor, and continuing in his job was the better part of household income, offered to overlook the publisher’s misfortune.

The publisher wouldn’t hear a word of it, despite his shame and mortification.

“We have a rule about that,” he said. “And whatever applies to everybody else, applies to me, too.”

He also, speaking of the virtue of shame, quit drinking at that point and never took it up again.

Little moments in time can have more poignancy than we might realize

choochoo

It was in a pub in Keighley, Yorkshire, we were having a libation while we were waiting for the departure time for the vintage steam train that was to take us to Haworth, the Bronte family village. It was the summer of 1980.

It was late morning and the lunch crowd hadn’t yet arrived. A couple of other tables were occupied, but one in particular caught my attention. It was occupied by an early middle-age couple of around the same vintage as my then wife and me. He was relatively nondescript, but she wasn’t. She caught my eye. She caught my I so much that I am still able to write this so many years later.

Some enchanted evening. You may see a stranger. You may see a stranger across a crowded room …

It wasn’t a crowded room is that the similarity was that as she caught my eye it was obvious that I had caught hers. She looked at me unwaveringly. She seemed to be, as the cliche goes, ‘making eyes’ at me. Maybe it was my imagination. And yet, every time I looked in her direction, there she was and looking back.

She wasn’t stunningly beautiful, but she was definitely attractive and had happy/sad eyes, as though not all in her life was right. woman eyes

I found myself, in my fantasy revery thinking I wanted her. I wanted her so much that I simply knew that if we were to physically encounter each other we would make love; rapturous love with little to-do or preamble. Her look told me that. So as not to be obvious I didn’t stare at her unwaveringly – I mean, I was with somebody. Yet, whenever I glanced over there were those eyes, taking me in. There seemed to be little conversation between her and her table partner and I thought, what is wrong with him? He gets to go home and have her. I want to go home and have her, and have her have me.

It was across a crowded room but it was one of those life incidents with meaning. It reminds me of a belief held by a friend that suggested to him that if one was to see an erstwhile stranger three time in succession that stranger would come to have meaning in one’s life. I tend to believe that, though I have no proof.

And I have never seen the Keighley pub woman since, but she is always there.

Sorry me lads but in future the girls will be keeping their pants on

playboy

Hugh, Baby, what is wrong? Cialis no longer invigorating your ancient member?

Word is that Playboy Mag is going to cease running those glossy nude pics that were designed to welcome 14 year old boys into craven sexism and voyeurism.

I haven’t looked at a Playboy for years. Not because I have an aversion to decoratively unclad good looking females showing their nethers, it’s just that once you’d had close encounters with the real thing a photographic facsimile of girly parts loses a lot of its allure. In other words I grew up and put away childish things.playboy34

But, I shall be honest, I used to buy the mag fairly faithfully and, despite the fact it has become a gag line, I really used to get it for the articles, interviews, music reviews and especially the cartoons. All that stuff was good. The naughty pictures? Well, they were just pictures. I do tend to crave reality.

And the pictures changed over the years. The early ones were just breasts and bums. Cute; sometimes quite adorable. But then, in the 1970s with competition from sleazier mags like Penthouse and eventually the vile and vulgar Hustler Hef, not to be outdone, began to run pussy shots of his own. A lot of people actually dropped the mag when he began doing what some saw as pandering to adolescent boys. It was assuredly no longer a journal you could leave on the coffee table when the vicar came to call.hef

And those pictures became more blatant or, what my brother waggishly referred to as ‘intrauterine’ shots.

The change to a milder Playboy Lite began when Hef’s daughter Christy took over the operation. A rather enlightened woman and a good businessperson she knew what sold, but she also knew what she saw as sexist and misogynistic. Whether she was behind the recently announced change in direction or not, do not know.

But, venerable Hefner (whose goils keep getting younger and younger) recently announced that while the magazine will continue publishing, it will be minus the undraped babes.

Well, at one level, who needs them in a magazine? There is that wonderful wide-world of Internet porn where you can see living, moving bits of nubility doing sometimes unspeakable things. A static image ain’t gonna cut it any more.

But, at another level it might indicate that Hef, who must be about 120 by now, has grown as tired of it as his readers did years ago. Circulation figures will attest to that.

As I have often said, just make sure you vote early and often

cardoonToday is voting day in Canada. I haven’t voted yet, but I soon shall be. I have never ‘not’ voted since I was of an age to exercise my franchise. I’m old-fashioned enough that I still regard it as a huge privilege.

I have no idea at this juncture how the damn thing will turn out. It will be either the same old knaves or another group of knaves. All pols are knaves in my esteem. Knavishness is in the nature of the calling. I mean, what sane person of good intentions would ever want to go into politics?

But, I am not griping about our democratic system. To cite Churchill, what we have is “the best of all bad systems”. I believe that.

One element of the recent and seemingly endless election blather of the last many, many, too many weeks, has been the nastiness of it all. Mr. Harper has iterated time and again that the vital issue is the economy. OK. So how then did intolerance of groups some might find unsavory factor into that message?

Harper is likely right in that the big issue is the economy. So, does he offer anything better than the other guys? His track record is pretty sucky. Of course the NDP will spend like drunken sailors, he attests and we’ll go right down the toilet. And how the Liberals will approach such a vital aspect of our well-being is yet to be seen. Will Justin be tending his hair and not paying attention? Mr Helmet Hair seems to think so. Is he truly ‘just not ready’? Hard to say. While he is his father’s son, he’s also his mother’s. That might prove scary.erection

The one element of this long-long-long campaign I have found particularly unsavory has been the injection of racial and ethnic bias in an attempt to win votes in certain sections of the country. Decent-thinking Canadians are a bit aghast at the manipulation of anti-Muslim sentiment by the boss Tories. It’s despicable, in my esteem. Terrorists, yes. Ordinary Allah-fearing Muslims, no. Wearing a niqab whilst being sworn in. Frankly, I don’t give a shit. Anymore than I gave a shit about Sikhs a few years ago wearing turbans in the RCMP.

Racism and ethnic bias is nothing new in Canada. Nor is a politician pandering to it. We are a racist country in full-denial. “No, Americans are racist, not us.” If you think that you might want to ask our First Nations folk. Or, try the Japanese, the Chinese, the folk from India, even the Ukrainians in days of yore before it became trendy for Mr. Harper to love them because they were anti-Russian. Harper, of course, loves the Jews and Israel and hates anybody who doesn’t like Israel. I believe it’s compulsory to love Israel – oh, and Saudi Arabia. Hmm, that gets confusing. Of course, he’s had to work at this latter one. If he thinks those of Hebraic persuasion are universally loved in Canada he might want to read some Mordecai Richler.

Oh and it seems to have been worthwhile for the Tories to have milked the teats of fear. Especially fear of terrorists who lurk around every corner and are likely of Muslim persuasion. That evoked the despicable (in my esteem) and dangerous Bill C-51 in which we were all expected to bring up documentation of suspicious goings on and maybe spy on our neighbors for their barbaric practices. Prolly Muslim practices. Justin got caught by the curlies on this one since he endorsed it. But, he is the scion of an old man who evoked the notorious War Measures Act years ago. So, maybe in the Trudeau vision of Canada liberty is something to be trifled with. Mulcair played this one smarter but it likely lost him the Quebec votes that Jack Layton once had.

As for the other parties in regards to racism, well the Aboriginal thing is really screwed, so what in hell are they really proposing to fix that mess? I haven’t read much in that regard. Oh, and Mr. Mulcair might consider how he really feels about the niqab thing since that is a bit of bigotry that plays well in Quebec, even if it is a yawn in the rest of the country.

O Canada, glorious and free!”

If you haven’t done so yet, then get your ass out and vote. Vote early and often.

 

Dirty @#$%%& demon bird is out to get me, I tell ya!

demon bird

One of my favorite comics in days of yore, George Gobel, had a catch phrase everyone associated with him and that was, “Well, I’ll be a dirty bird.”

It’s an expression I have come to appreciate with a new meaning of late. Here’s why:

Taking a brief break from sorting laundry – one of those stimulating things a body gets to do when semi-retired but whose wife is still working, and that was sure as hell what I got that degree for those many years ago – I chose to sit in a favorite armchair that is positioned before the living-room window.

And there it was. That freakin’ bird! It’s just a little sparrow, but it was positioned on the windowsill as I sat taking my break. When I was sorting the laundry in the master-bedroom it was on that window sill. Prior to that, when I was working in the home office it was on the sill there. Fucking thing is following me from room-to-room and it knows where I am at all times of the day. sparrow

What it’s waiting for is for me to take the car out on an errand and then return and park in the driveway so that he/she can poop on it. If I leave it in the drive I end up with great streaks of bird-poop running down the doors and also festooning the mirrors. Actually, it’s not that fussy vehicle-wise. If Wendy’s car is in the drive she gets the same anointing of sparrow-dung.

I think it is following me from room-to-room now to show how pissed it is with me. Because, having gotten wise to its game, I have taken to putting the car in the garage immediately I come home. Consequently, it is left disappointed in its process for the day.

Odd thing, poop, and the application thereof. Cats, if they are angry, will defecate in inappropriate spots in the house just to show their contempt. A little child will fill his or her pants – even past toilet-training – if a parent imposes in an unappreciated way. Thank God we grow out of gobelthat impulse. Or, I hope we do.

So, I guess my little bird is up to the same thing. It’s a battle of wills of a sort, and if my car is inside it is letting me know how displeased it is to be thwarted in its need to apply a homemade decoration.

If I was really smart, wouldn’t I be rich, too? Should work that way

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“Being too intelligent is a curse,” said Mumsy in one of her periodic slightly embittered forays into temporary sobriety. I think the statement was prompted by her thoughts on my acquisition of a university degree.

“Thanks, Mom, you just really warmed the cockles of this boy’s heart,” I replied. Actually, I don’t think I said any such thing, but her statement at the time has always stuck with me. It has stuck with me because I think aspects of it are true.Ian and Ma

My mother was, despite her myriad emotional, psychological and addictive woes, an extremely intelligent woman. She skipped school twice and graduated at 15. She evidently excelled in creative writing, English and probably lots of other things. In that, I suppose the apple doesn’t fall so very far from the tree. Yet, after school was finished she never, as the old saying goes, ‘amounted to a pinch of coonshit.’ Sad, that, I always thought. But, she made her choices, married an up-and-comer who would always keep her well, and spent the remainder of her 72 years steeped in discontent, frustration and anger, seeking ever increasing doses of her twin Vs – vodka and valium – to keep her going. Yes, very sad, that.

But, that isn’t my point here. My point is merely her statement about intelligence. My mother thought I was intelligent, too, so on the occasion of my graduation she (for whatever reason) thought it apt to bestow the ‘curse’ on me. I guess she saw it as a caveat.

I don’t know how intelligent I am. I have never checked out my IQ, and have no impulse to so do. If it’s higher than I thought (I mean, I have an idea of what it ‘might’ be, at least a ballpark of what it might be) then I am going to feel like a huge failure. If it’s lower, then I’ll feel all inadequate and lacking.chris

At the same time, I think my work and a few accolades I’ve garnered indicate that I must have a reasonable degree of smarts. Which leads me to the question: ‘If I’m so smart, why ain’t I rich?’ Well, that’s mainly because largesse comes from a different sort of intelligence than the kind I seem to have been blessed with. My mother’s least academic sibling, for example, ultimately became the richest. Uncle Bob deserved his wealth considering the awful crone he was married to. Smart about money, but not so smart about life-partner choice. I would have poisoned her tea.

Then there is also the matter of ‘emotional intelligence’. I may have been intellectually somewhat astute, but at an emotional level – certainly for a lot of years at least – I was a bit of a moron, considering a few of the decisions I made. But, those weren’t decisions that were made with the brain, or even the heart, but with quite another part of the anatomy. Enough about that.

Going back to mater’s premise, is intelligence a curse? Is life easier for the simple souls? Arguably, it is. If you are less aware of the panorama of everything you are possibly less stressed. You are also more accepting of that which is around you, in all likelihood because you won’t have explored all possibilities. I don’t mean this in a demeaning sense. I have known people with relatively low expectations, and their lives have revolved around home, hearth and family, and all the verities therein, and their homes are always comforting places to visit.

Comforting but, alas, a bit on the boring side at times. But, that’s just me. And, probably you considering the fascinating calibre of writing I see among the members of my blogroll. I don’t say that all bloggers are real smart folk, but the ones I’m in contact with, either on my roll or elsewhere in the sphere, certainly are.