Saturday, July 31, 2010

The 111-year-old Man

Civic officials in Tokyo set out one day last week to bestow honors upon Japan's oldest living man, Sogen Kato, believed to be 111 years old.

And so he would be, if he hadn't gone to the Great Sushi Bar in the Sky in 1978.

He was found in his room in the family home, where, it was said, he liked to be quiet and undisturbed.

Reports that someone could have been an ex-person for thirty-two years without it being noticed has alerted authorities in Canada. They are now checking on various Senators and back-bench MPs who, although still drawing salaries, have not been heard from for some time.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Writers Foodstuff

News that Balzac's Coffee has introduced the Margaret Atwood Blend heralds a welcome trend--foodstuffs bearing the imprimatur of famous authors.

Would that this had come sooner!  We might have had William Faulkner's Mississippi Sippin' Whisky, Mordecai Richler's Montreal Smoked Meat, Brendan Behan's Reserve Guinness.

We eagerly await the entry of local authors to this marketing initiative.  We look forward especially to Deborah Hodge's Animal Crackers and Linda Bailey's Stanley Dog Biscuits.  

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Harlem Air Shaft

As the northern hemisphere turns closer to the sun, windows and patio doors are wide open, and we begin to feel we are sharing each other's lives in unexpected ways.  Which reminds the Pointless Digressions crew of Duke Ellington's "Harlem Air Shaft."

Duke said, "So much goes on in a Harlem air shaft.  You hear fights, smell dinner, hear people making love.  You hear intimate gossip floating down.  You hear the radio.  An air shaft is one great loudspeaker, you hear people praying, fighting and snoring."

And of course Duke would want you to know "We love you madly."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Losing Our Census

Across Canada, an enormous number of statisticians, researchers, academics, economists, charities and businesses, and, not least, several provincial governments, including those of Ontario and Quebec, have criticized the decision of the Harper government to eliminate the mandatory long-form census (or mandatory census long form, which seems syntactically more correct).  Also lined up to oppose the Harper move from British Columbia are the Vancouver Board of Trade, the Vancouver School Board, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, and some specific and not insignificant municipalities, including Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Chilliwack, Nanaimo and the Fraser Valley Regional District.

Despite this, BC Premier Gordon Campbell has, according to the Globe and Mail, "deferred to Ottawa, saying it's the federal government's responsibility."  Mr. Campbell said he was confident that Industry Minister Tony (Bad Tie) Clement would "act appropriately."  

Translation:  "I'm ready for my seat in the Senate, Mr. Harper." 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mad Men Redux

The fourth season of the award-winning television drama "Mad Men" begins tonight, and here at the Old Ad Guys Retirement Home, we are very excited.  We have dressed in our Ivy League suits, put on our button-down Brooks Brothers shirts, knotted our silk Sulka neckties, and fastened our gold-plated Swank cuff links and tie bars.  Next we will dust off our Don Draper snap-brim fedoras.  

For the occasion, Nurse Ratchit has promised to mix our bedtime Ovaltine in a silver Martini shaker, and we are practicing classic ad agency jargon; e.g., "Let's run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes" and "Let's throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks."

We are also recalling past triumphs and glories, and singing such beloved jingles as "Poor Miriam, poor Miriam--neglected using Irium" and "Stop that cough, stop that cold, in the nick of time.  Don't delay, it doesn't pay, get Mason's 49."

Ah, here comes Nurse Ratchit, to turn on the television set.  But what's that she's saying?  "Mad Men" has been deemed too stimulating for elderly ad men, likely to cause potentially harmful excitement? 

Instead, Nurse Ratchit tells us--as she gets us out of our sharp 1960s duds and back into our jammies and bathrobes--we may enjoy either "100 Huntley Street" or "Snail Cultivation in the Loire Valley."

Oh, well--that's how the cookie crumbles.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Privacy Protection

The federal government (read:  Stephen Harper) has moved swiftly to end unwarranted invasions of citizens' privacy.  The new Privacy Protection Program--Privy-Pro--will cancel the current mandatory census form, which includes such questions as "Are you currently dating anyone?" and "What is your favorite hallucinatory drug?"

Some critics complain that the census is essential to the national economy and many other aspects of Canadian life, but Ralph Dimsdale of the Tax Relief Foundation applauds the government's move.  "We are all for restricting government probing into our private lives," said Dimsdale. 

Dimsdale would like to see the Privacy Protection Program expanded, to include elimination of the income tax form.  "Why should the government know how much money we have?  Let's make reporting our income voluntary.  Demanding to know how much we make is a gross invasion of privacy." 

Otis Philbrick had another suggestion.  "Have you noticed," he said, "that some restaurants are now letting customers pay what they think their meal is worth?  We could do this with government, as well.  Let people pay as much in taxes as they think the government deserves."

A spokesman for the Prime Minister's office said these suggestions would be carefully considered once the government concludes its negotiations with the Flat Earth Society.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dreamsville (Apologies to Mancini)

"Colin?  Colin!  I have to talk to you!"

"Gord?  Gord, what time is it?  Good gosh, it's three a.m.!"

"Colin, something very frightening has happened."

"Not another cabinet crisis?"

"Much scarier. was a dream.  Colin, do you believe the future is foretold in dreams?"

"Well, Gord, according to Freud--"

"Let me tell you, Colin.  It was awful.  I dreamed I was walking into my office in the Legislature, and when I got there..."

"Yes, Gord?"

"There was this huge sign hanging over my desk."

"What did it say?"

"It said HST."

"But Gord, isn't that what we want?"

"Colin, this HST didn't stand for Harmonized Sales Tax."

"What did it stand for, Gord?"

"I shudder to tell you.  It stood for..."

"Yes, Gord?"

"It stood for (choke) Here Sits Taylor."


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ain't It Awful?

It isn't nearly hot enough for this song, but it remains the Pointless Digressions summer favorite, topping "Summertime," "Estate," "Heat Wave" and "Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy days of Summer."

The song is "Ain't It Awful, the Heat?", lyrics by Langston Hughes, music by Kurt Weill, written for the 1947 production of Elmer Rice's "Street Scene."  

Some of us were lucky enough to hear it sung by Anne Mortifee and Ruth Nichol in "Kurt Weill: Berlin to  Broadway," a Richard Ouzounian production staged at the Vancouver Playhouse, circa 1975.  Among the other Ouzounian regulars in the cast was Brent Carver, who sang "Moritat"  and executed a neat jitterbug step with Ms. Nichol to "Moon-faced and Starry-eyed." Leon Bibb was there to sing "Lost in the Stars." 

The 1970s were a great decade for theatre in Vancouver.  And for dance.  Ain't it awful they're gone?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sulphuring Succotash!

Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, traveling the country in checked shirt, blue jeans and red baseball cap (with an opening at the back allowing a crop of hair to puff out, a la Woody Woodpecker) startled a Calgary audience by saying of Prime Minister Stephen Harper "Canadians can smell the whiff of sulphur coming off this guy."

A spokesman for the PM said "What our Liberal friend is referring to is simply Prime Minister Harper's new cologne:  Prince of Darkness."  The cologne, he explained, was a gift from Peter Mackay--"something left over that he got from Belinda." 

The Prime Minister was asked if the cologne might, in fact, have had a supernatural effect upon him.  "Certainly not," he said.  Then he sat down at the piano and played his new medley: "Witchcraft," "That Old Black Magic," "Love Potion #9" and "Devil-may-care."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Play More--Lose More!

British Columbia's ministry of irresponsible Gaming is expected to announce today that the government will launch seventy-five new casino games on the internet.  75--Ways to Lose!--75!

"Online gaming is a technological advance in extracting money," said government spokesperson Eldridge Sleaze.  "British Columbia will never take a back seat  to anyone in hi-tech gouging." 

As part of this initiative, the government has increased the limit players may wager.  "It's a modest increase," said Sleaze, "from $120 a week to $9,999 a week, based on the salaries paid to presidents of Crown corporations."

Sleaze continued "In future, the government plans to raise the possible stakes even higher, so that gamers may bet their homes, their RRSPs, their pension funds, and their bodily organs."

Eager gamers are encouraged to visit the government website:

And now, today's odds from the government's Corleone Department: 

Odds that the concerns of churches and addiction support groups will bear fruit:  50 to 1.

Odds that Bill Vanderzalm's threatened recall of MLAs will succeed:  5 to 2.

Odds that the currently outraged NDP will, if elected, revoke online gaming:  100 to 1.  When was the last time you heard of any government giving up a revenue-gaining source?

Odds that the Premier and other elected representatives will reduce their self-appointed salaries to ease the province's financial burden:  you're kidding, right? 

And more to come!  Plans underway to introduce a new government game:  Russian Roulette!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mayorzy Doats

Media sources report that Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has been caught on tape uttering the sorts of words generally found only in better adult videos. Informed of this, Mayor Robertson said "I am truly %&*+!% sorry."

A spokesperson for Vancouver's chief executive said "I think we should be grateful that when Mayor Robertson launched his line of fruit drinks he did not call it Happy $%#@&* Planet."

*&#$%+ right.   

Sunday, July 11, 2010

World Cup Celebrations

We had invited a few friends to watch the World Cup on the Pointless Digressions Hi-Def, 3D, wall-size screen.  The first to arrive were Jan Vanderhoof and several members of the Hans Brinker Skating and Drinking Society.  We were ready, and brought out smoked eel, soused herring, rookworst, leerdammer cheese, oliebollen, and lots of Heineken.

The party was growing quite jolly when the buzzer rang (or the bell buzzed) and we opened the door to welcome our second group of guests:  Juan Gonzalez and his Pamplona Pals.  With them was Maria Consuela Rosita del Rio, famous for her mournful rendition of fado. Out came the paella, chorizo, baccalao, guacamole, and gallons of sangria.

As the afternoon wore on, tension between the two groups grew intense, culminating in a gigantic food fight--paella against pannenkoeken, tapas against tulips.  It ended when Juan scored with a well-placed baccalao toss and Maria Consuela Rosita sang the Spanish national anthem.   

Jan and his company announced they would leave, for a feast of their own.  

"What will you serve?" we asked.

His answer was brusque:  "Stewed octopus."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Good News for Bookies

Bookies as in devotees of books and bookstores, not bookies as in "Seven to five on Who's Your Mama? in the eighth at Pimlico."

The good news--the very good news--is that a new, independent bookstore, with Duthie roots, is about to open in Vancouver.  Ria Bleumer, who spent sixteen years with Duthie Books, will open Sitka Books & Art in August.  

The location:  West Fourth, two blocks from the last of the great Duthie family of stores, which closed, to great lamentation, in February.  Interesting and encouraging sidebar:  Sitka will take over a space currently occupied by the Book Warehouse, which, in a gesture of collegiality (and because it has five other stores circling the area) has chosen to move out so that Sitka can move in.

Pointless Digressions joins bookies throughout the city in wishing Ria Bleumer and business partner Karel Carnohan great success.

And why the name Sitka?  Glad you asked.  Wish we knew.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Campari Alert

Campari weather has arrived.  Take appropriate action.

Il Commendatore.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

HST Clarification

A spokesperson for BC Premier Gordon Campbell said today that the government wishes to correct a misunderstanding.  "HST does not stand for Harmonized Sales Tax," said Orville Wiffenpoof.  "It stands for Harry S. Truman.  HST is British Columbia's salute to the memory of the 32nd President of the United States."

Farley Dobigger, speaking for Finance Minister Colin Hansen, added "We have chosen to adopt as our slogan President Truman's most famous dictum:  the buck stops here."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Gimme the Guineas

The Queen's Plate was established 151 years ago, when Queen Victoria put up a purse of fifty guineas.  If you have a guinea tucked away somewhere, it is probably gold, and could bring you a few hundred or a several thousand dollars.

The winner of Sunday's running collected slightly more than fifty guineas--$1 million.  And those who had the foresight to wager on Big Red Mike, although not the favorite, at 6 to 1, picked up a pretty packet.

One distinguished lady in a flowered dress and wide-brimmed hat was seen stuffing into her handbag gazillions of dollars.  It is said that she won so much she was able to buy not only Research in Motion, but also the Phoenix Coyotes, and move them to London.  When Gary Bettman protested, she cried "Off with his head!"

Unfortunately, her loyal companion had wagered the Crown jewels on Who We Gonna Call, which ran out of the money.  Thus he was compelled to ride in the luggage compartment of the Royal jet on the flight to New York.

"Not to worry, Luv," he said.  "Wait until we get to La Grande Pomme.  I've booked us on Dancing with the Stars."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Glorious Fourth

Here we are at the Glorious Fourth of July, and the Pointless Digressions crew raises a glass to our southern cousins, particularly to the ever-bright memory of Louis Armstrong, born this date.  (Well, that's what Louis said, and even if some writers dispute that, we'll go with Satch.)

Another American to burst on the scene with the rockets' red glow was George M. Cohan, who penned these lines:

"I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
 Yankee Doodle, do or die.
 A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam,
 Born on the Fourth of July.

 I've a Yankee Doodle sweetheart,
 She's my Yankee Doodle joy.
 Yankee Doodle came to town
 Riding on a pony--
 I am that Yankee Doodle boy!"

A fine day to all, especially those with roots in Bad Axe, Michigan.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dream On, Sir Steve

Conversation overheard at 24 Sussex Drive:

Prime Minister Harper:  Ah, excuse me, Your Majesty.  I know you're intently studying that form, doubtless something to do with the highest level of foreign policy, but something has occurred to me.

Elizabeth II:  Who do you like in the Queen's Plate, Mr. Harper?

SH:  Uh..I'm afraid that's outside my area of expertise.  But what I wanted to say--

EII:  How about Big Red Mike?  Think there's a chance?

SH:  Um.  The thing is this, Your Majesty--

EII:  Or perhaps Deep Cloud Dancer.

SH:  (speaking very rapidly)  I wonder if Your Majesty has noticed how many Prime Ministers of Canada were knighted.  I mean, look at the list:  Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir Wilfred Laurier, Sir Robert Borden, Sir John S. Thompson, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, Sir Mackenzie Bowell, Sir Charles Tupper, Sir John J.C. Abbott. Many of my predecessors, knighted by--ha ha--your predecessors.

EII:  Who We Gonna Call.

SH:  Well, Your Majesty, I assumed you would know that.

EII:  It's the foal's name:  Who We Gonna Call.  Running in the Queen's Plate, July Fourth.

SH:  Oh.  Well--ha ha--what are the odds on a knighthood?

EII:  Moment of Majesty!  Now there's a name I like! 

Steve sits at piano, plays "I've Got the Horse Right Here."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

BBQ with the PMs

It is traditional to barbecue on Canada Day, and this year, Pointless Digressions thought it might be a nice idea to invite former Prime Ministers to the BBQ.  Not the former PMs still with us, but those who have ascended to the great Parliament in the Sky.  So, we rang up Mackenzie King's favorite medium and were put in touch with our guests.

Abbott, Thompson, Bowell and Tupper were the first to arrive, followed by Laurier and then, weaving slightly, Sir John A. Macdonald.  "Look," whispered Sir Charles Tupper, "it's Big Mac."

"Where's the bar?" demanded the Father of Confederation.

"As it's Canada Day," we said, "we're serving only Canadian rye."

"Good thing I had the foresight to bring my own flask of Laphroaig," said Sir John.

Lester Pearson and John Diefenbaker collided at the entrance and exchanged withering looks.

"Hah!" said Dief, "I see they renamed that hockey award of yours for Ted Lindsay."

"May I remind you," said Mike Pearson, "that I still have the Nobel."

"I understand," said Dief, "they're renaming it for Henrik Sedin."

"Have a drink, Diefenbaker," said Sir John.

"No thank you, sir," said Diefenbaker.  "Lips that touch liquor will never touch mine."

"Thank God for that," muttered Pearson.

The door swung wide and in came Sir Robert Borden, possessor of the best moustache in Canadian political history.  "There he is," said R.B. Bennett, who had  arrived earlier in a Bennett Buggy, "the one whose face is on the $100 bill!"

"I'd like to have my face on a $100 bill," said Sir John.

"I believe you've had your hands on more than that," said Sir Wilfred Laurier.

"They tell me, Wilf," said Sir John, "that they're thinking of replacing your five-dollar bill with a coin."

"What's shaking, Old Shades?" cried a dapper Pierre Trudeau, making his customary dramatic entrance.

"Did you know, Pierre," said Mackenzie King, patting his faithful dog Pat, "that in their book ranking prime ministers Jack Granatstein and Norman Hillmer rated me as "great" and you only as "high average"? What do you say to that, Pierre?"


"Oh, enough of this," said Diefenbaker.  "Let's have some fun!  Let's have a singalong!  I'll begin with 'Dief Will Be the Chief Again'."

"And I'll follow," said Macdonald, builder of the CPR, sliding in at the piano, "with 'Take the John A. Train'."