Monday, December 31, 2012

Octogenarian Blues

Clear the air waves, stop the presses,
Get set for something that depresses.
Yes, dear friends, here's breaking news:
We've got the Octogenarian Blues.

Yeah, got them Octogenarian Blues--
A feelin' I just can't lose.
Played my gig, paid my dues,
All I've got to show for it
Is the Octogenarian Blues.

Back when I was a mere seventy-nine,
I was feelin' mighty fine.
And seventy-eight
Was also pretty great,
But let me tell you, matey,
It ain't the same at eighty.

Right now, I'm feelin' quite perplexed--
I can't tweet and I can't text--
This aging thing has got me vexed!

"Listen, chum, don't sound so glum.
As once Maurice Chevalier said,
Better to be old than dead,
So suck it up, buttercup."

Friday, December 28, 2012

Getting fit with the Governor General

In his New Year's message, David Johnston, Canada's Governor General, urged Canadians to "embrace healthy living." His Excellency extolled the benefits of regular exercise and physical activity, and we are sure his words resonated throughout the country, and especially within the corridors of power in Ottawa.

That is why we may expect to see Prime Minister Harper and cabinet members John Baird, Jason Kenney, James Moore, et al., slimming down and beefing up, becoming models of fitness for all Canadians.

We can hear the Governor General now, running the drill in the executive gym: "Okay, Stevie, down on the floor and gimme twenty-five!"

The new Conservative strategy: to make Harper look as fit as Justin Trudeau. (Now if they could only get rid of that hair stylist they got from Donald Trump...)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas on the Road

There were two Christmas parties each year at CSYM that Jack Madison remembered, both recorded for broadcast later, one on Christmas Eve, the other on Christmas Day. One was the staff party, at which everyone was required to perform, and at which, one year, Gavin Stone managed to secrete a cache of cocktails around the hotel mezzanine, in planters, behind settees, under curtains.

The other party, significantly less boisterous, was at the Orange Benevolent Home, a boys' orphanage in the countryside around Wellesley. In mid-December, Jack and a crew would drive there with a troupe of musicians and singers from the Beaver Lumber Barndance show, perform for the children, hand out treats and gifts, and conduct interviews.

On one particularly cold afternoon Jack was riding in the station car, which, unfortunately, had a back door that would not close. It was held in place by a rope tied across the seat, from one handle to the other. Gilbert Favely, from the promotion department, was driving. Hughie, the engineer, was beside him. Jack sat in the back with Hughie's equipment, shivering, cursing, and wishing he had gone in the Barndance bus. Hughie had been reluctant to go--probably missing a real party, thought Jack--but Leo, who usually made the trip, had cracked a leg in a beer league hockey game.

They arrived around two, lugged equipment and instruments through the snow, and were met by the supervisor and her staff. The boys were arranged in orderly lines, all wearing white shirts and black ties, and expressions that were a mix of fear and anticipation. It looked, thought Jack, like a scene out of "Oliver Twist."

"Boys," the supervisor called out, "our guests from the radio station are with us. I expect you to be on your best behavior and not embarrass us."

I better loosen this up, thought Jack. "Hey, guys," he said, "we're back! I'm Jack, the guy with the sack!" He shook the bag of toys. "And don't worry about your behavior--we're here to have fun! Right, Andy?"

"Right, Jack," said Andy, leading the Barndance band, and the Sunshine Trio swung into "Frosty the Snowman."

The afternoon went well, although the boys were hesitant in their interviews, conscious of the supervisor behind them. During one of the Barndance numbers, Jack said to Gilbert, "Do me a favor, will you, pal? When I start the next round of interviews get Miss Grinch into a conversation and drag her away from me."

On the trip back to Wellesley, Jack said, "Gilbert? This time I drive. You get the air conditioning in the back."

Gilbert was dropped off at his apartment, and Jack drove Hughie and the equipment to the station. "What do you think, Hughie?" said Jack. "Decent show?"

"Pretty good, Jack. Nice break for the kids. Although when the tape's played, the supervisor may not like some of the interviews."

"Well, tough for her."

"No, tough for them if she gets mad. Maybe you should edit some of that stuff."

Hughie was quiet for a time, and then said, "You know, Jack, they're not all orphans. Some are from messed up families, or poor families with too many kids. But however they get there, it's a lonely life."

Jack pulled up in front of the hotel, and said, "I'll help you carry this stuff upstairs."

"It's alright, Jack. I've got it."

"Hughie, you've been awfully quiet tonight. Anything wrong?"

"No, I'm okay."

"I know you didn't really want this gig. Something upset you there?"

"Memories, maybe."


"Yeah, a lot of memories. I lived in that place until I was fourteen.

"Merry Christmas, Jack."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas: Feasts and Memories

One wintry afternoon at Le Napoleon, Alain Daniel's charming, rustic restaurant on Hamilton Street, someone ordering the dessert known as boule de neige. The waiter--was it Hubert?--standing on the snowy deck calling back "Une vrai boule de neige?"

Bill Bellman, remembering a weekend furlough from the Canadian Army during World War Two--it might have been during the Christmas season--when all he had to feast on was a packet of Planters Peanuts. Years later, at CHQM, directing the assembling of Christmas baskets for the staff, which would include almond-stuffed olives in sherry, Molly O'Rourke's Irish Whisky fruitcake, and all manner of good things, among them, always, a red Bordeaux, a white Burgundy, a sparkling wine and a liqueur.

College students in The Snug at Victoria's Oak Bay Beach Hotel, singing slightly tipsy Chrismas carols.

Chez Victor, a day or two after the holidays had ended, three people at the counter in the tiny restaurant on Davie at Seymour--a deliveryman, a radio writer, and a motherly lady who must have worked in the neighborhood, as she lunched there regularly. Victor bringing out, as a gift, bowls of an elegantly composed fruit salad in Cointreau.

New Year's morning in the almost empty restaurant at Frank Baker's Georgian Towers, being served by the lone waitress, a Scot with a blinding hangover. Remembering Jack Wasserman's line: "It's better to have a morning after than never to have a night before."

To all, wherever they now may be, fond wishes.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Friends of Mickey Mouse

We were talking, the other day, with Jack, the four-year-old arts critic, and he told us he was very impressed by the remastering of several classic cartoons by the elves at the Walt Disney studios--cartoons drawn in the pre-computer age, which was about as labor intensive as an activity could be.

We agreed with Jack that Mickey Mouse is a hero for the ages, accompanied by Minnie, his demure inamorata; Pluto, the faithful pooch; and Goofy, who might have been the model for Kramer on "Seinfeld."

But there are others in Mickey's tales to remember and toast--that lovely couple, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow; brave Captain Doberman; and even Mickey's arch-enemy, Peg-Leg Pete.

Time to go back and spend the holidays with them--and then we'll drop in on Donald and Daisy Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie. And we hope that Scrooge McDuck will have had a change of attitude before Christmas Eve.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Friends of George V. Higgins

The current Brad Pitt film, "Killing Me Softly", a title that makes it sound like a Roberta Flack musical, is based on "Cogan's Trade," a 1974 novel by one-time Boston district attorney George V. Higgins.

Anthony Lane, probably the best writer on film we have at this time, asks, in The New Yorker, "Why aren't more movies stolen from George V. Higgins?" and goes on to praise Higgins's ear for speech as she is spoke in the down and dirty sections of society.

Only one other of Higgins's novels has been filmed. That would be "The Friends of Eddie Coyle," still a good film, still a terrific book.

The opening scene of "Cogan's Trade":  "Amato in a gray suit with a muted red stripe, textured pink shirt with his initials on the left French cuff, a maroon and gold tie, sat at the kidney-shaped, walnut veneer desk and stared.  'I got to give to to you," he said, "you're a great-looking couple of guys. Come in here about four hours late, you look like..."  Well, you get the idea.

Or how about the fast takeoff in the opening of "The Friends of Eddie Coyle": "Jackie Brown, at twenty-six with no expression on his face, said that he could get some guns." Zero to sixty in twelve words, best quick-start since James M. Cain.

Dennis Lehane, author of "Mystic River" and "Gone, Baby, Gone," said Higgins's "Eddie Coyle" was the best novel ever written about Boston. Higgins died in 1999, but he left a lot of work deserving our attention (including, in nonfiction, "The Friends of Richard Nixon," which has a wonderful cover by Edward Sorel, depicting Nixon and his Watergate gang--Mitchell, Haldeman, Erlichman, et al.--holed up and shooting at the cops like 1930s movie gangsters).

Of "Eddie Coyle," Norman Mailer said, "What I can't get over is that so good a novel was written by the fuzz."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

St. Nick in the Pawn Shop

St. Nicholas, the model for Santa Claus (in life, a fourth century Turkish bishop), is the patron saint of not only little boys, sailors, parish clerks, scholars, the city of Aberdeen and the land of Russia, he is also the patron of pawnbrokers.

The three gold balls that hang above the entrance of pawn shops commemorate Nicholas's gift of three bags of gold to the daughters of a poor family, thus saving the young women from a future of hardship and woe. St. Nick, it is said, tossed the bags through their door secretly, making a midnight visit exactly in the manner of S. Claus.  

As for the legends regarding small boys and sailors--tune in next December.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dave takes five

If Dave Brubeck had been killed in the horrendous accident that reworked his face more than sixty years ago, we never would have heard "Strange Meadowlark," "In Your Own Sweet Way," "Blue Rondo a la Turk," or any of a dozen other jazz classics. But, happily, Dave survived that accident, and survived until the day before his ninety-second birthday, when he made a graceful departure this week in Hartford, Connecticut.

Brubeck was one of the most popular musicians of the second half of the twentieth century, and the Brubeck Quartet album "Time Out" was one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time, out or in. In 1954, Brubeck appeared on the cover of Time magazine, the sort of mainstream attention that offended jazz cultists. There were criticisms--his music was too difficult, too cerebral, it didn't swing. But, as Oscar Peterson said, the music lasts, the critics don't.

The Brubeck Quartet had its first great success on college campuses. Its sound was defined by the alto saxophone of Paul Desmond, who said he wanted his music to have the character of a dry martini. The clever, pencil-thin Desmond, composer of "Take Five," the quartet's most recognized piece, had planned to write a memoir titled "How Many Are There of You in the Quartet?" In that quartet, the bassist was Eugene Wright, and the drummer, the most praised by critics, was the near blind Joe Morello.

One of Dave Brubeck's most performed pieces is known as "The Duke," but its full title is "From Darius to the Duke," reflecting Brubeck's stylistic progress from the classical mentoring of Darius Milhaud at Mills College to the jazz world of Duke Ellington--a progress Milhaud encouraged.

Dave Brubeck's music--his own recordings, and his compositions played by others--will go on.  As Oscar said, the music lasts.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Yuletide Reading

Your correspondent has decided that thru this month of December he will read only stories related, in some way, to Christmas.

This is not a great challenge, as an enormous amount has been penned on Christmas, from St. Luke on down. There are, to begin, Dickens's Christmas tales, not only "A Christmas Carol" but also "The Chimes" and "The Haunted Man," all three collected in a Modern Library edition, and "The Cricket on the Hearth," which some of us remember, if not well, from grade nine English class.

"Christmas at The New Yorker" is, to steal a phrase, a great plum pudding of a book, with stories, poems, cartoons and other work by all the usual New Yorker suspects--Cheever, Updike, Thurber, O'Hara, E.B. White, Peter DeVries, Nabokov, Garrison Keillor, Ogden Nash, Calvin Trillin, et al.

There is even a surprisingly large number of mysteries set in the Christmas season. Our choice this year: "Upon Some Midnight Clear," another Chief Mario Balzic yarn by the great K.C. Constantine.

So on to the book shelves. (We'll get around to shopping, decorating, and mailing cards sometime in 2013.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Getting the Last Word

Harbour Publishing has brought out a book called "Deadlines," an appropriate title, as it is a collection of obituaries written by Tom Hawthorn. Hawthorn, whose work is seen most often these days in The Globe and Mail, says, "In these pages you'll meet some fascinating people. They have two things in common--they all have a connection to British Columbia and they're all dead."

And there are some fascinating people in the book, from Bill Clancey, the flamboyant flack who was W.A.C. Bennett's personal PR man, to Alberta Slim, who was not from Alberta and got his nickname because he was given some shirts with "Alberta Slim" embroidered on the back. Jeani Read is here, and John Juliani, plus Foncie Pulice, the Granville Street photographer, Harvey Lowe, the yo-yo king. and Jimmy "Baby Face" McLarnin, twice world welterweight boxing champion. What a cast!

An earlier collection of obituaries is "Come to Judgment," by Alden Whitman, who wrote for The New York Times. Whitman liked to interview his subjects while they were still alive, which is, of course, the recommended method for interviews. Among those given the last word by Whitman: Pablo Picasso, Albert Schweitzer, Charlie Chaplin, Chiang Kai-Shek, Maurice Chevalier and J. Robert Oppenheimer.

After a time, people began to realize why Whitman wanted an interview, and his presence at the door made him seem like an advance man for the Grim Reaper. Graham Greene said, "So you're the young man who's come to write my obituary, are you?" And Anthony Eden succinctly summed it up with "This is all for after I'm dead, isn't it?"

Obituaries: often lively reading.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sexiest Man Alive

"The Onion," a Chicago-based publication, has revealed its choice as the "Sexiest Man Alive for the Year 2012." The winner: Korean supreme leader Kim Jung-Un. "This Pyongyang heartthrob," "The Onion" declares, "is every woman's dream come true."

The announcement was reported, straight-faced, by Chinese news media.

"The Onion" was founded in 1988 by two students at the University of Wisconsin. Current stories include "Filthy Mitt Romney Delivers Campaign Speech to Audience of Confused Voters in Ohio Safeway," "Man Sneaks Own Balloon into Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," and "Jessica Simpson Reveals Slimmer Figure After Chopping off Limbs."

Previous selections as the "Sexiest Man Alive" have included Bashar al-Assad, Bernie Madoff, and Charles and David Koch (co-winners).

In Canada, Conservative Party enthusiasts demand to know why Stephen Harper has yet to be named.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Final Whistle for 2012

One of Johnny Mercer's last lyrics was "When October Goes," a lament for the passing of a season and much else. Some of us feel similarly bereft when November goes, taking with it the last of the year's CFL games. Of course, we don't feel nearly as miserable as Messrs. Glenn, Lulay, Calvillo, et al.

There is still the NFL season to play out until the Super Bowl, which is consolation, just as locked-out NHL fans take solace in junior hockey.

And so, we bid farewell to the centennial year of the Grey Cup, with a tip of the watermelon to victors Ray, Kackert, Jones and Milanovich. Gentlemen, enjoy your time in the sun.

P.S.: Chad Kackert of the Argonauts, who racked up 195 yards for Toronto's win, was rightly named the game's outstanding player. Quarterback Ricky Ray, meanwhile, should have won something for best Movember moustache.  And wasn't it good to hear Doug Flutie as a surprise third quarter guest commentator on TSN's Grey Cup coverage? Seen later on the sidelines, tossing a ball around with Dave Dickenson and two other pals, Dapper Doug looked as though he could suit up right then and get in the game.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Political News from All Over

In Egypt, hundreds of thousands protested President Muhammad Morsi's move to give himself sweeping, unlimited powers which no one can contest. In Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, "Why do people have a problem with that?"

Justin Trudeau apologized for an interview in which he said, in effect, the trouble with the country is that Albertans are running it. "I didn't mean to besmirch the good folk of Alberta," said Trudeau,"however, when it comes to those people from Saskatchewan..."

The remnants of the Romney-Ryan campaign issued a statement saying, "The only reason Barrack Obama won a second term is that more people voted for him. If it were not for that, we would have won."

In Bangkok, crowds gathered demanding the removal of Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand's Prime Minister, as a means of effecting leadership change. In Ottawa, Thomas Mulcair, Canada's NDP leader, said, "Why do people have a problem with that?"

Friday, November 23, 2012

Shove over, Grover

Remarkable quote of the week, from Grover Norquist, the Washington DC lobbyist best known for pushing his "I Will Never Vote to Raise Taxes" pledge:

In a New York Times interview, Grover, who is all for minimal government, was asked if there are jobs he thinks the US government should do.  He listed perhaps three, among them "maintaining a military strong enough to keep  Canadians on their side of the border."

Any more remarks like this from Grover and we may have to send John Baird down to shout at him.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Homage to Saint Cecilia

Each November 22, the Worshipful Company of Musicians in London processes to St. Paul's Cathedral to honor their patron, Saint Cecilia.

Cecilia, patron of music and of the blind (for she was blind) was born in Rome and martyred in Sicily, probably in the year 176. It is said that she sang as she died.

Cecilia is supposed to have invented the organ, and legend tells us an angel fell in love with her musical talents. In paintings and statues, she is often shown holding a lyre.

Various poets and composers have written odes and anthems to St. Cecilia.  Dryden wrote:

"At length divine Cecilia came,
Inventress of the vocal frame."

And W.H. Auden, responding to a request from Benjamin Britten, wrote three long stanzas, beginning with:

"In a garden shady this holy lady
With reverent cadence and subtle psalm,
Like a black swan as death came on
Poured forth her song in perfect calm."

A reverent bow to St. Cecilia, and to musicians everywhere.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Win Some, Lose Some

When the Eastern and Western CFL finals ended Sunday, two teams not accustomed to losing found they are not going to Toronto for the Grey Cup, unless they buy tickets and sit in the stands.

Losing is not easy. In the film "Moneyball", Brad Pitt, playing Oakland As general manager Billy Beane, says, "I hate losing more than I like winning."

Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, claimed his team never lost a game: "We just ran out of time."

On November 25, when the one-hundredth Grey Cup game is played at Rogers Stadium, which team will go home euphoric and which dejected?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Moustaches--The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It cannot have escaped your notice that this is moustache month--or, as it has been christened, Movember. The idea is that all men who are able to sprout hair on their upper lips should do so, as a way of raising awareness of prostate cancer and other male maladies. What the moustache has to do with the prostate gland has not been established.

We thought it time to rate some notable moustaches--the good, the bad and the ugly.  The good would certainly include the pencil-thin style favored by Errol Flynn and David Niven, the rugged Western brush of Robert Redford's Sundance Kid, Groucho Marx's paint-on number, and--the prize winner--Salvador Dali's upturned spikes. Dali could be the patron saint of Britain's Handlebar Club, an association with only one criterion for membership: a 'stache that can be gripped with both hands (presumably to steer the nose).

The bad would be led by A. Hitler's miserable little appendage and J. Stalin's unkempt whisker, undoubtedly redolent of yak jerky.

And the ugly award goes to former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (during the W. regime) John Bolton, whose upper lip looks like an untended vacant lot.

We admired the fine Movember growth of a frend the other day, and he said, "Most people tell me I look like a 1960s porn star."

"Nothing wrong with that," we told him.

"No," he said. "But I'm not getting any work."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Exit Roth

In 2007, Philip Roth published a novel titled "Exit Ghost." Now, it seems, it's exit Roth. The writer of thirty-one books--novels, short story collections, autobiography, criticism--has said (in French, in an interview with a Paris magazine) "That's it, folks."

Astonishment among fellow writers. Writers don't stop writing--P.G. Wodehouse kept going to age ninety-four, and would have kept on, if the Grim Reaper hadn't turned up at his door.

But writers don't stop writing? Roth disagrees, citing E.M. Forster ("A Passage to India," etc.) who called it a day at forty. And Shakespeare retired from the game a decade or so before his final exit.

Even so, those of us who have been followers of the Roth oeuvre from "Goodbye, Columbus" to "Nemesis" hope this is just a temporary lurch off the road, and that he, like Sinatra, a fellow Jersey boy, will grow bored and return.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

3-Day News

Followers of this erratic blog scene will know that Pointless Digressions has a fondness for the annual (now in its thirty-fifth year) 3-Day Novel Contest.

The first report on this year's Labor Day literary marathon has reached us, and we read that there were 485 entries, primarily from Canada and the USA, but also from Australia, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia (good luck, Mr. Putin), Sweden, Thailand and the United Kingdom. There were no reports this year of people writing in curious places, such as tree houses and railway station rest rooms.

Our entrant in the contest produced a work of 587 pages, each of them covered with "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Typo Alert

We are indebted to Drummond Moir, intrepid typo trapper, and the book "Just My Typo" for some fine examples of words gone awry.

For example, these items from signs in French hotels:

"To call a broad from France, first dial 00."
"Please leave your values at the front desk,"
"French widow in every room."

Mr. Moir saw a newspaper headline reading "Bishops Agree Sex Abuse Rules" and a parking lot notice stating "Illegally parked cars will be fine."

Then there was this airport warning: "Passengers must stay with their luggage at all times or they will be taken away and destroyed." And in an 1864 edition of the Bible: "Rejoice and be exceedingly clad."

All of this reminds us of a time when Pacific Press typesetters took job action, and the irreplaceable Ormond Turner mounted a sign in the newspaper coffee room reading "Typorgaphers On Stirke."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hockey Fans for Obama

US President Obama won the support of hockey fans Wednesday when he spoke out for them on Jay Leno's "Tonight" show.

"C'mon, guys," he said, telling the owners and players, in effect, to get their act together. "You're making a lot of bucks, you should be able to figure this out."

Hockey fans, already in serious withdrawal, are praying that Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr will heed the words of the Commander in Chief. But whatever happens or does not happen on the ice this November, Obama has the hockey vote.

It would be so much simpler if the NHL were a wholly Canadian league. Then Stephen Harper could just have Labor Minister Lisa Raitt put the back-to-work legislation into action.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Football in Fog, Ice and Snow

One of the most charming moments in last weekend's CFL match between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Calgary Stampeders, played in driving snow in McMahon Stadium, came when Bakari Grant, after scoring a touchdown, stretched out in the end zone and made snow angels.

For many, this is the way football is meant to be played--outdoors, in whatever weather is hurled at us. Chilly? Wear a scarf and carry a well-fortified Thermos.

One of the most memorable Grey Cup games, played in Toronto in 1962, was dubbed the Fog Bowl. Five minutes into the fourth quarter, when the officials realized the quarterbacks couldn't even see the guys snapping the ball, they called a 24-hour time out. The game was finished the following day, fog having lifted.

Then there was the Ice Bowl, in Montreal in 1977. The Alouettes' Tony Proudfoot said, "The field was a skating rink." So he came up with the idea that saved his team and the game: they switched their cleats for sneakers and nailed staples in the soles.

What might happen as we move toward the 100th Grey Cup game? Stay tuned, and watch the Weather Channel.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Post-debate Polling Results

Results from polling conducted immediately following the Obama-Romney debate at Hofstra University, Long Island:

79% of viewers who sat through the ninety-minute exchange said they would have preferred to have spent the time having a root canal.

82% of voters now say they would vote for Candy Crowley for President.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Justin Time

Tired of the US presidential election campaign? Yeah. Tired of Stephen Harper's traveling global statesman routine? Yeah. But  here's something: Canada's Liberal Party has seen a sudden upswing in voter support, now passing the NDP as second to Mr. Harper's Conservatives, and, one might say, nipping at their heels.

The reason? Many believe it's the entry of Justin Trudeau into the Liberal leadership race. We recommend that the Liberals immediately get the rights to the song "Just in Time" as a campaign theme. We can hear it now:

"Just in time
And now it's Justin time
Before his time
We were running low.

"But now that stops.
We know he's got the chops.
He looks just like his pops.
He's a Trudeau!"

(Please feel free to sing along)

"Now he's here,
And we know just where we're going.
No more doubt or fear,
Of Stevie's snowing.

"Cause this is Justin's time,
He found us just in time,
And Trudeau mania
Once again is here!"

(Apologies to original "Just in Time" lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green.)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

No Fast Eddie, Mr. President!

Obama fans across the country are pleading, "Don't do a Fast Eddie Felson, Mr. President!" The reference is to the character in "The Hustler," the Walter Tevis novel (and Paul Newman film) who is brilliant with a pool cue, but for some reason lets his guard down and allows himself to be beaten by an inferior player.

This was the awful scenario that sprang to mind after the initial Obama-Romney debate. The President has since said, "I was too polite with Governor Romney."

Do not expect Vice-President Joe Biden to be too polite with Rep. Paul Ryan tonight. Ryan, the B-side on the Republican ticket, will face Veep Joe in debate in Kentucky. One of the few things these men have in common is that they are both Roman Catholic, but a kiss of peace is unlikely.

Meanwhile, Obama backers have high hopes for the next two Obama-Romney debates. They remember that Fast Eddie, after his humiliating loss, and broken thumbs, came back to beat the other guy, and then took Minnesota Fats, as well.

If only the Obama-Romney contest could be settled one-on-one on a basketball court.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Great Thanksgiving Escape

Several hundred turkeys held captive in a Fraser Valley farm made a daring escape only hours before facing their fate as Thanksgiving dinner. The great escape was engineered by Hercules ("Herky") Turkey, who spoke to reporters while relaxing poolside in Palm Springs.

"Did you call that a farm?" said Herky. "We called it a gulag. I said to my buddy Lurky, 'We're gettin' outa here. We're bustin' free. I have a plan'."

Guards at the farm were mystified to find the pens empty on their early morning rounds. "I was sure them pens was full," said one, "on accounta we good hear all that panicked gobbling."

"I recorded the gobbling," said Herky, "and set up a player with a tape loop. Then we built skate boards outa slats from the fence, and took off. Not as classy as Steve McQueen's motorcycle, maybe, but they did the job."

Lurky, just in from a round of golf, joined the conversation. "We were lucky," he said, "that our pal Murky had a DVD of 'The Great Escape.' That showed us how to do it. I personally modeled my performance after James Garner's."

The happy fugitives were about to set out for the evening with some female companions. "And let me tell you," winked Herky, "these are some wild turkeys."

Anything else you would like to say?

"Yes," said Herky, "I just want to wish a very happy Thanksgiving to all the folks feasting on roast tofu." Then, with a roar of gobbles, they were off.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Mitt and Barry Show

Television audiences last evening were treated to the first episode of the US Presidential Election Debates, or, as the show has become known in political circles,"Survivor."

Perhaps "treated" isn't the correct word. "Sedated" might be better. The tone of the debate was set at the beginning by moderator Jim Lehrer, playing his firm but kindly (if occasionally befuddled) schoolmaster role. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was ready to fire, having popped a handful of pep pills in the green room. President Barrack Obama seemed distracted, his mind elsewhere, possibly still trying to explain to Michelle why he had agreed to debate on the evening of their twentieth wedding anniversary.

"Sorry, sweetie," said the President. "I promise we won't spend this day next year like this."

"Don't call me sweetie," said Governor Romney.

Broadcast ratings showed the debate coming in well behind a "Gilligan's Island" re-run, but comfortably ahead of test patterns.

While many viewers expressed disappointment with the generally lacklustre performance, chronic insomniacs say they can't wait for the next debate. "I'm looking forward to another good long snooze," said one.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mad About Politics

Today is the birthday of Harvey Kurtzman, founder of Mad Magazine, which has been, as Mad says, a staple of dens, libraries, living rooms and recycling bins for sixty years.

As the US Presidential election approaches, Mad has brought out a special issue, on which its regular gap-toothed cover boy, Alfred E. Neuman, has taken on a distinctly Obama-like appearance.

Can't find Mad on the stands?  Google it.  It's all there.

Meanwhile, as President Obama and Governor Romney warm up for their first television debate, both echo the immortal words of Alfred E. Neuman:  "What, me worry?"

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Political news from all over

Christy Clark, Premier of British Columbia, met this week with Alison Redford, Premier of Alberta, neither of whom is likely ever to be featured in Vogue. Ms. Clark, icicles hanging from her earlobes, described the meeting as "frosty." Brian Forst, long known as "Frosty" on CKNW, deplored the use of his nickname and threatened to sue.

Mitt Romney, preparing for his initial debate with President Barrack Obama, said he would prefer to debate Clint Eastwood's empty chair. Unfortunately, the chair had a prior engagement.

Prime Minister Stephen ("The Grin") Harper was in New York to accept a Great Statesman of the Universe Award from some unknown organization, a trophy he can place on his mantel along with his autographed picture of Mr. Dressup and his Best Impersonation of Elton John Award.

Harper, however, went out of his way to avoid the United Nations, sending instead John Baird, the Darth Vader of the Conservative party, to deliver a stern lecture to the General Assembly. Many member nations, feeling their knuckles severely rapped, agreed they must quickly pull up their socks to meet the Harper-Baird standard.

Across Canada, following the E-coli outbreak believed to have sprung from Alberta beef, vegetarian and vegan diets showed an impressive increase. Please pass the soya burgers.

Recent polls show that female voters in British Columbia are opposed to Liberal Premier Christy Clark, but male voters are close to even on Ms. Clark and her government. This has led to Liberal strategists sending suggestions to their male supporters; e.g., "On election day, hide your wife's car keys.  Or change the date on the calendar.  Or tell her the polling station has been moved to Tukoyaktuk."

Finally, last chance to get tickets for the mud wrestling match in Nakusp Hot Springs between Premiers Clark and Redford.  TSN will be there.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Everything's fine. Just fine.

In the world of sports, every thing's fine. Just fine. Fine, fine, fine.

Everything is especially fine with Jim Devellano, senior vice-president of the Detroit Red Wings. Despite an NHL ruling demanding that everyone please just shut up, Jim Dee opened up to compare the league to a ranch and the players to cattle. Said Jim: "The owners own the ranch and allow the players to eat there." That cost Jim a cool $250,000 in a league-imposed fine. If the league really is a ranch, someone may be thinking of putting Jim out to pasture.

In football, BC Lions defensive star Khalif Mitchell was fined for making a throat-slashing gesture when lined up against the Edmonton Eskimos. Some believed this was a religious act, a vigorously devout sign of the cross. The CFL judges didn't buy that. Fine two, for Khalif so far this season. The Lions are hoping for a two and out.

Still with football, Jon Cornish of the Calgary Stampeders, the league's leading rusher, also became the league's leading mooner while playing against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina's Mosaic Stadium. It was a classic example of what is termed in television a wardrobe malfunction, although Cornish called it an "equipment slippage." News media are calling it Moon over Mosaic. Coach John Huffnagel was not amused, and Cornish was brought forward to intone a public apology and fork over some bucks as a fine. Some fans, standing by Cornish, called the penalty a bum rap.

Finally, some Saskatchewan Roughriders fans, known for their imaginative use of watermelons as helmets, have found a new use: watermelon halves as brassieres. Several of the Riders' bosom buddies were spotted on TSN wearing the new watermelon bras. We are relieved to report there was no wardrobe malfunction.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Play it again, Sam

The word "iconic" has become over used, and often ineptly used, but it is a descriptive most fitting for Sam the Record Man.

Sam and Sid Sniderman opened their first record store in 1937. They began in Toronto, and ultimately had 140 stores across Canada. Over more than sixty years in business, they moved from 78 rpm recordings ("platters" in old deejay talk) to LPs (33 1/3 rpm) and 45s and cassette tapes to compact discs.

We remember many hours spent in Sam's three-level store on Vancouver's Seymour Street, pawing through shelves of CDs, trolling in trays of bargain tapes. It was always a treasure hunt, with always some prizes waiting to be found.

Sam's shellac and acetate and vinyl empire began to come apart in 2000, when record stores and book shops and art house cinemas joined men's hat shops and corner candy stores in the dust of history. (No fine writing, please.)

So we bid adieu to Sam Sniderman, who departed this world this week at age 92. A good life, well lived, and our regret is largely for those who will never find themselves happily lost amid the wonders of a shop bearing the name of Sam the Record Man.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Curmudgeonly Monday

It has long been known that Monday is the grumpiest day of the week. In keeping with that, we present a few of the petty issues that have been causing us to edge ever closer to the liquor cabinet.

1. Pas des cravates. A friend of ours once sent out dinner invitations with that notation. He did so, we believe, because one or two of the invited guests did not know how to knot neckties. This was acceptable. But what is boring is seeing powerful politicians and titans of industry turn up without neckties and their shirt collars open, under the impression that this makes them look like regular guys, pals you might go bowling with, despite their $2,000 suits.

2. Now--the new "eh." Broadcast news persons have taken to punctuating their reports with the word "now," no matter how inappropriate the context. "Now" can be employed properly as a noun, adjective, adverb and conjunction. As currently used by many broadcasters, the word is taking the place of the discredited "eh."

3. Lottery commercials in which the glamorous make-believe winners look nothing at all like the people who actually win lotteries. Except for Barry Deley.

Okay, we feel better now.  And tomorrow is Tuesday. As Ira Gershwin once wrote, "Maybe Tuesday will be our good news day."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Like Ike

When General Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower was the Republican nominee for US President, Irving Berlin composed a campaign song. He called it "I Like Ike." Here is a slight paraphrase of the first chorus:

"I like Ike
I'll shout it over a mike
Or a phone
Or from the highest steeple
Ike the choice of the people."

Farley Filby of the current Republican campaign committee says there have been attempts to come up with a similar song for nominees Romney and Ryan. So far, this is all they have:

"I like Mitt
Although he's a bit of a twit.
We want Romney
'Cause he will fix the econ'my.
We know that he won't quit,
So we like Mitt."

"We like Paul
'Cause he's got a whole lot of gall.
We like Ryan,
Even when he's lyin'.
Yes, there is no denyin',
We like Paul."

Finally, the Democrats are poised to counter with this:

"We like Obama.
With Barrack, there is no trauma.
And with Michelle,
The White House has lots of glama.
So don't let the country be sunk,
Vote for Mr. Slam Dunk,
Go with the guy that you know
And vote B.O.!"

Saturday, September 15, 2012

This Just In

Bending, if not quite breaking, news from PD News Central:

The lockout of NHL players by the league owners now appears inevitable. Several players have already signed to play in other hockey-mad countries; e.g., Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Fiji. Disc jockeys are dusting off copies of Jeff Hamilton's "Split Season Blues" (okay, it's about baseball, but the feelings are similar) and there has been a rush of hockey fans to buy Gary Bettman voodoo dolls.

In the Excited States, the Democratic party has chosen its 2012 campaign song. It's Bruce Springsteen's "We Look After Our Own." The Republicans might have chosen the same song, although the people they look after are Donald Trump, the Koch brothers, Grover Norquist, et al.

Finally, England has been rocked yet again by photos of Royals en deshabille. Cyril Thogwort-Smythe, leader of an anti-monarchist group, said, "See--that's what it's always about with the upper class: a naked grab for power."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lights! Action! Charcuterie!

Our Hollywood correspondent, Vance Bindlemyer, reports that Gwyneth Paltrow will play Gabrielle Hamilton, chef-owner of Manhattan's Prune restaurant, in a film adaptation of Ms. Hamilton's memoir, "Blood, Bones and Butter."

This will be the second filming, in the past few years, of the life and career of a famous chef, the first, as you all know, being Meryl Streep's portrayal of Julia Child.

This led us to think that there are movies waiting to be made about many chefs. We can see them on the big screen now--Dolly Parton as Paula Deen, Robert Downey, Jr. as Bobby Flay, Anne Hathaway as Rachael Ray, Will Ferrell as Emeril, Stompin' Tom Connors as Michael Smith, John Cleese as Keith Floyd, Dustin Hoffman as Jamie Oliver, and, as Gordon Ramsay, that wild guy who swears at people, Jack Nicholson, in his best hyper-anger mode.

And to play Anthony Bourdain? Anthony Bourdain.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Don't Improvise, Just Plagiarize!

A new film called "The Words" tells the story of a blocked writer who finds an old manuscript and passes it off as his own. An appropriate, if not exactly riveting, topic, for plagiarism is much in the air at present.

We were reminded of a story Helen Lawrenson tells in her memoir "Stranger At the Party." While traveling in Europe as a young woman, Lawrenson sent amusing letters to her Aunt Grace. When she returned, she discovered that Aunt Grace had published the letters, calling them "Travel Diary of a Sub-Deb," under her own name.

More fun with words: Philip Roth recently addressed an open letter to Wikipedia, saying that when he informed it that there was an error in its account of Roth's novel "The Human Stain," Wikipedia responded that while the author might be the leading authority on his own work, it required "secondary sources."

Then there was Romain Gary, only writer to win the Prix Goncourt twice--once under that name, once under a nom de plume.

And finally, this story from Graham Greene. Finding that some publication was running a contest for the best imitation of Graham Greene's style, Greene entered the contest under an assumed name. When the judging was done, he came in second.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Making Book on the Nobel

English bookmakers will give you odds on anything, and right now they're ranking possible winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature. You will notice that Pointless Digressions is not on the list.  But here are some that are:

Coming in at 16 to 1: Philip Roth, Amoz Oz and Cormac MacCarthy. At 20 to 1: Alice Munro, Thomas Pynchon and Bob Dylan (yes!). Umberto Eco comes in at 25 to 1, followed by Don DeLillo, Joyce Carol Oates and E.L. Doctorow, all more or less unreadable, at 33 to 1. Margaret Atwood is listed at 50 to 1, along with Michel Tournier (our choice) and Maya Angelou. At 56 to 1 we find a lot of names: Ursula LeGuin, Salman Rushdie, Tom Stoppard (not bad), Colm Tolbin, A.S. Byatt, Milan Kundera, William H. Gass, Yevgeni Yevtushenko (whose day, when he was the cool young Russian poet, seems to have passed), Julian Barnes, and John Ashberry (could take it). Michael Ondaatje ("The English Patient") is listed at 100 to 1.

The front runner (runner is an appropriate designation here): Haruki Murakami, one-time Tokyo jazz bar owner and marathon runner, born in Kyoto in 1949. Among his books: "The Thieving Magpie," "Norwegian Wood," "South of the Border" (he is a music buff) and "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running." Odds on Murakami: 7 to 1.

And for all you breathless fans of "Fifty Shades of Grey," this news: E.L. James is listed at 500 to 1.

Place your bets.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Page for Cage

The gazillions of worldwide followers of this blog have been asking: "Where is it?" "What is not happening?"

We have answers.  Choose the one you like:

* The PD team was rehearsing the chair for Clint Eastwood
* The PD team was showing the BC Lions offensive line how to become really offensive
* The Internet rejected our blogs on the grounds of incomprehensibility

Okay, now that we've cleared that up, let us turn to the birthday of John Cage, who, were he still with us, would have turned 100 September 5. Cage, perhaps the most striking of the US  avant-garde post-World War Two composers, was a proponent of the prepared piano, in which all sorts of objects--paper clips, bobby pins, rubber bands--are attached to the piano strings or hampers or dampers. It produces an unusual but not unattractive sound. Patrick Wedd, in Vancouver in the 1970s, experimented with a prepared piano.

Cage wrote some quite lovely works, but what everyone remembers are his more audacious presentations, including several radios all tuned to different stations at the same time, and especially "Four Minutes and 33 Seconds," a work of total silence.

One critic said, "We look forward to longer works in this style by Mr. Cage."

Cage was into "The Sounds of Silence" decades before Paul Simon.

Okay, gotta go--Bill Clinton is calling.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Benefits of Being a Republican Delegate

It has come to our attention that Tampa, Florida, where the Republican National Convention is unraveling this week, is the strip club capital of the United States. There are more than fifty clubs in Tampa boasting a no-dress code.

Are the delegates taking advantage of this unusual perk? Some indeed are. Stormy, an aptly named dancer at one of the clubs, reports that "they tip well."

As far as we know, no official convention events are scheduled to take place in the clubs. Even so, the Pointless Digressions crew will be watching the week with interest--all of us wearing our Obama tee-shirts.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Parker

We remembered the birthdays recently of three persons who gave, and continue to give, the world enormous pleasure: Julia Child, Gene Kelly and Dorothy Parker. All departed now, but we like to think of Mesdames Child and Parker hoofing thru Paradise with Mr. Kelly.

Dorothy Parker has eleven entries in "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations," and she could have had eleven pages. They do have her critique of an early Katherine Hepburn performance, in which she wrote "Miss Hepburn runs the gamut of emotions from A to B." They do not have her riposte to Claire Booth Luce. The two found themselves together at a doorway. Mrs. Luce suggested Mrs. Parker go first, saying "Age before beauty." Mrs. Parker swept by, saying "Pearls before swine."

They have her review of A.A. Milne's "The House at Pooh Corner." In her New Yorker column, Constant Reader, she wrote "Tonstant Weader fwowed up." There is also her reworking of a classic nursery rhyme:

"Higgledy-piggledy my white hen,
She lays eggs for gentlemen.
She cannot be persuaded by gun or lariat
To come across for the proletariat."

Dorothy Parker chose for her epitaph "Excuse my dust." She would be 119 years old, if she were with us today. And perhaps she is. It has been reported that her ghostly presence has been sensed in her legendary hangout, Manhattan's Algonquin Hotel.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


The instant popularity of the "Strip Billiards" video featuring Prince Harry has given television producers the inspiration for a series of new reality shows.

"I had never heard of strip billiards," said Irving Watcheler, producer of extreme sports competitions, "but I think it's a great idea, and just the beginning of a new round of reality TV. Knowing the sports the Royals like, I'd like to do 'Strip Polo' and maybe 'Strip Fox Hunting.' We thought the reality thing had bottomed out, but this has given us a great new start."

Asked if Prince Harry might appear in any of the planned programs, Watcheler would only say "We'd like to be in negotiation with him, but I believe the Palace has him under cover."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Directors' Cut

Accompanying the 2012 Critics' Top Ten Poll in "Sight & Sound" was the Directors' Top Ten--the ten best films ever screened, according to a poll of directors. Five of the critics' top ten made the directors' list: "Tokyo Story" (which placed first), "Citizen Kane" (third), "Vertigo" (ninth), "8 1/2" and "2001." (That "2001" made either list is a mystery to us. There is a Kubrick film that deserves to be in the top ten, but it is not "2001"; it is "Dr. Strangelove.")

The directors' other choices included two by Coppola,"The Godfather" and "Apocalypse Now," De Sica's "The Bicycle Thief," Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" ("You talkin' to me?") and the little known Russian film "Mirror" by Andrei Tarkovsky.

Good films, all, but where are "On the Waterfront"? "Singin' in the Rain"? " The Treasure of Sierra Madre"?

We think it's time for "Sight & Sound" to commission a Bloggers' Top Ten Poll.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Vhere to go? Vertigo!

Every ten years, "Sight & Sound," a publication of the British Film Institute, canvasses international film critics and asks them to rank the top ten films of all time. For fifty years, the number one film had been Orson Welles's 1941 "Citizen Kane," but this year, the number one spot went to "Vertigo," made by Alfred Hitchcock in 1958.

Interesting choice. The Fifties were great years for Hitchcock. In that decade he made not only "Vertigo," but also "Strangers On a Train," "Dial M for Murder," "Rear Window," "To Catch a Thief," "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "The Wrong Man" and "Psycho."

There are some Hitchcock fans who believe "Rear Window" is a better film than "Vertigo," and Hitchcock's own favorite among his films was "Shadow of a Doubt" from the 1940s.

Top ten films on the "Sight & Sound" list:

1. "Vertigo"
2: "Citizen Kane"
3. "Tokyo Story," directed by Yasujiro Ozu in 1953
4. "The Rules of the Game," Jean Renoir's 1939 classic
5. "Sunrise," sub-titled "A Song of Two Humans," a silent film made by F.W. Murnau in 1927
6. "2001: A Space Odyssey," Stanley Kubrick's 1968 sci-fling
7: "The Searchers," the darkest of the John Ford-John Wayne stories (said to have inspired Martin Scorsese), filmed in 1956
8."Man with a Movie Camera," directed by Dziga Vertov in 1926
9. "The Passion of Joan of Arc," Carl Dreyer's 1928 silent triumph
10. "8 1/2," Federico Fellini's 1963 masterpiece

Our film critic, Bosley Winklesdorf, will have more to say about this. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Red Wind

Various weather forecasters, not including George Carlin's Hippy-Dippy Weatherman, have assured us the heat wave is over. Nevertheless, over the past few days, as the temperature climbed, we have thought of the opening paragraph of Raymond Chandler's "Red Wind," Chandler being the one we turn to when we want to know how to write. Here it comes:

"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends up in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge."

"Red Wind" is in many anthologies, and there is a fine reading, by Elliott Gould, on an audio disc.

Meanwhile, stay cool.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Can't Lick Those Stamps

More stamp news, Philatelists: In 1986, the US Postal Service issued a stamp honoring Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington. The denomination: 22 cents. And the reason: Some decades earlier, Duke had recorded a tune he called "22 Cent Stomp."

Putting it in the album right next to Geroy, renowned for his rather elegant stomp in the end zone.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Geroy Carries the Mail

For philatelists who are also football fans, there could be no better news: Canada Post is issuing a series of stamps saluting the Grey Cup Centennial. The one-hundredth Grey Cup game will be played November 25 in Toronto.

The stamps were designed by Toronto artist Bensimon Byrne, and each of the eight Canadian Football League teams has a stamp of its own. Among the players featured are record-setters Geroy Simon and Lui Pasaglia of the BC Lions, the diminutive but explosive Pinball Clemons, and the enormously likable Tom Wilkinson, an Andy of Mayberry kinda guy, who was Edmonton Eskimos' quarterback in the pre-Warren Moon days.

We are only sorry that there is not a stamp picturing Fred Stamps, the Eskimos' outstanding wide receiver. If there were, we could say we're collecting Stamps stamps.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Missing Memoranda

From: Republican National Committee

To: Campaign Workers

As you know, Presidential nominee Mitt Romney has named his Vice-Presidential running mate: Representative Paul Ryan. Following that announcement, a brainstorming session led to the development of the following campaign slogan, which you are urged to employ at every opportunity:

"Rally 'Round Romney and Ryan, Real Rabid Right-wing Republicans!"

From: Broadcast Chief, CBC

To: Music Programmers

While there is a significant amount of rap music being played on Radio 2, very little is Canadian. You are directed to program more Canadian rap, or, as our hip friends call it,  "C.Rap." Yes, we need more C.Rap music on our network.

From: Office of the British Columbia Premier

To: All Canadian Provincial Premiers

You are cordially invited to the next Premiers Conference, to be held in Victoria. However, in light of recent criticism of high spending in government circles, this year's formal dinner will be held in Beacon Hill Park. BYOB. And a bag lunch.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Always Be Polite to the Officials

Members of Canada's women's soccer team are under scrutiny by FIFA, the international football organization, for criticizing the referee at the Olympic Games' Canada-US match. Clearly these young women had never heard of the Alex Burrows Rule, which states: never say anything that might offend someone who wears a striped shirt and a whistle.

As a penalty, players may have to write "I must never say anything bad about an official" 500 times.

"I must never say anything bad about an official. I must never say anything bad about an official. I must never say anything bad about an official. I must never say anything bad about an official. I must never say anything bad about an official, even when they do something incredibly stupid."


Monday, August 6, 2012

Soccer Rocker

Okay, Christine Sinclair for Premier--of both BC and Alberta!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Gore Vidal has left the room.

Gore Vidal has departed this world, leaving behind a trail of scalps from both written criticism and talk show encounters.

Vidal may have been best known for his novel "Myra Breckenridge," film cameos, historical studies, and talk show feuds, but he deserves to be remembered for his essays, some of the most incisive and elegant of the past century.

He goes now where all good writers go: to matched volumes in the Library of America. (Bad writers go to remainder tables.) Presumably in the hereafter he will once again be able to trade barbs with William R. Buckley, Truman Capote and Norman Mailer (who, it is said, once head-butted him in a TV studio green room).

Please, no head-butting while wearing haloes.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Off-Site Olympic Games

"This is Bart Falafel, Pointless Digressions' man at the Olympic Games in London. But not the usual games. No, leave it to the conventional media to cover weight lifting and discus hurling. We're reporting from the Octopus and Squid Public House in South Chippington, where the Pub Grub Championships are being held.

"Already we have some impressive performances. In the Conspicuous Consumption event, Lyle Flatula of the USA has put away massive amounts of pork scratchings, pickled eggs, steak and kidney pud, bangers and mash, and jellied eel. To keep it going, Lyle has also knocked back barrels of bitter, Guinness, bucks fizz, Pimms, scrumpy and shandy. Well done, Lyle!

"Turning now to the Cockney Slang competition, we find Winston Wallaby of Australia well ahead with his mastery of such terms as weasel and stoat, butcher's hook, treacle and strife, and daffadown dilly. Good on you, Winston! Keep them coming!

"Finally, looking at the Darts competition, we see fine form. There was an unfortunate upset, however, when hometown hero Basil Smithe was disqualified, after his dart pierced the pub owner's posterior. Smithe explained that he had been distracted by the sudden appearance of a comely bar maid, and believes she may have deliberately been placed in his line of vision by rival hurlers.

"Stay tuned for more news of international competition at the Pub Grub Championships. No gold medals here, but those triumphing in first place will receive coveted Octopus and Squid laminated coasters.

"This is Bart Falafel, returning you to the P.D. desk, and heading to the bar."    

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ms. Clark vs. Ms. Redford

The gathering of Canadian provincial premiers in Halifax is shaping up as The Clark and Redford Show. It is no secret that the premiers of Alberta and British Columbia have about the same sisterly fondness for each other as that shared by Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy.

We have imagined the following scene:

Premier Clark and Premier Redford turn up at a formal dinner wearing identical dresses.

Clark: "Good evening, Premier Redneck. I mean Redford."

Redford: "Well, Premier Clark. Still slipping down in the polls? Perhaps you should become a poll dancer. Ha ha. "

Clark: "Getting oiled again tonight, Alison?"

We look forward to the film, starring Jane Fonda and Meryl Streep.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Stein's Lines

The wittiest candidate to enter the US Presidential race is one we may never hear. Her name is Jean Stein, and she is the candidate of the always-distant-third Green Party.

Jean Stein--Dr. Stein--is a physician, a cook (organic foods), and former lead singer in a rock band. Contemplating her candidacy, she wonders "how a nice doctor like me got to be in a God-forsaken place like this." She then provides her own answer: "I'm now practicing political medicine because politics is the mother of all illnesses."

It would be entertaining to hear Dr. Stein in debate with Messrs. Obama and Romney, but that is unlikely to happen (even though she did engage in debate with Romney in the 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial race. Her take on that: "It's easy to debate a robot.").

Stein's lines probably won't be heard in this year's debates, because the Commission on Presidential Debates has ruled that a participant must have "a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate."

The rock singer/organic cook/Harvard-schooled doctor thinks the major parties, Democrats and Republicans, like that rule. She says, "If they actually have to debate a living, thinking, informed person, it's very hard for them."

Maybe she should go into broadcasting. We need more of Stein's lines.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mike's Lucky Socks

The BC Lions, last year's Grey Cup winners, began this season well, but have now dropped two games. Some fans suggest Friday's loss to the Eskimos was deserved penance for having blocked out local televising and broadcasting of the game.

We believe it's time for Coach Mike Benevides to pull on his lucky socks again. You may remember that the Lions came out of a losing streak last season and won all their subsequent games when Mike wore the same socks to each game. A reporter called out at a news conference, "Mike, you washed those socks between games, right?" Mike: "Next question."

So Mike, it's time to pull on those socks again. Unless you've had them bronzed.

Or even if you have.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Stoned Again

The Rolling Stones, celebrating their fiftieth anniversary as a performing group, are thought to be considering another world tour. Watch out for riots of medication crazed seniors, charging the stage in their walkers and electric scooters.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Support Your Local Bootlegger

The series of rotating strikes at BC Liquor Distribution Branches would have been good news years ago for bootleggers, but, laments Laverne Bouley, "These darned private stores have put us out of the liquor business. However, we do have a sideline in bootleg recordings. Want a tape of Bob Dylan singing at his nephew's bar mitzvah?"

The LCB dispute reminded us of a brewery strike in Vancouver during a hot 1960s summer. This occasioned the publication in Vancouver magazine of "How I Survived the Beer Strike," written under the nom de six-pack of Manville Rathborne III.

As we remember the story, the desperately parched author, encouraged by his housekeeper, Mrs. McGregor, rode his polo pony onto the Bowen Island ferry, and headed off in search of a cache of Guinness.

If the LCB walkout spreads, it may be time for Rathborne III to saddle up again.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Yankee Doodle!

It's the Glorious Fourth of July, birthday (or so we like to believe) of Louis Armstrong and George M. Cohan. Louis made so many arts tours for the US State Department he was dubbed "Ambassador Satch," and it was George M. who wrote this:

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 London
Riding on a pony--
I am that Yankee Doodle boy!

A fond tip of the hat to President O. and all our American cousins!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Send In the Browns

Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde" almost didn't make it to the publisher. Stevenson's wife hated the story and threw it out with the left over haggis and empty Glenfiddich bottles. Fortunately, the author retrieved the manuscript before it was carted away, and since then, Dr. J. and Mr. H. has become, arguably, Stevenson's best known work ("Treasure Island" a close second) with at least three movies and one musical based on it. Among those who played the dual role: John Barrymore, Fredric March, Spencer Tracy and Jack Palance.

Stevenson gave two accounts of the story's creation. In one, he said it came to him in a dream. But the story we prefer is that the Brownies--not the ones who sell cookies--came during the night and wrote it for him.

We are all for this way of getting a good story without actually having to do the work. Please give the Brownies our address.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Canada Day on the Diamond

It is Canada Day, and the highlight of today's celebrations will be a baseball game on Parliament Hill between the Fathers of Confederation and the Mothers of Invention. Sir John A. Macdonald is on the mound for the Fathers, Frank Zappa is pitching for the Mothers.

Following the game, Prime Minister Harper will barbecue beaver burgers and Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair will mix maple syrup martinis. Y'all come!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Puzzlement

"It's a Puzzlement," sings the King of Siam in "The King and I." Of course, he isn't talking about the presence of olive trees in southern Saskatchewan, far from the Mediterranean, but this has been a puzzlement to us for many years.

Happily, we now have an answer, thanks to the wonderfully named Parks Gardener in the City of Moose Jaw, Daily Lennox. Mr. Lennox writes: "The trees in  Moose Square are Russian Olives. The Latin name is elaeagnus augustifolia. They are a fairly common tree requiring very little care, and they like dry conditions, perfect for Saskatchewan. The fruit is edible, but dry and mealy. They are more of an ornamental tree, with silver leaves, peeling bark, strong smelling flowers, and whitish fruit."

We remember the olives as fuzzy and grey, and not what you would want to find in a martini, but we are most grateful to Mr. Lennox for his thorough and scholarly report.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Blog Block

The Pointless Digressions team is suffering what one neurologist describes as "an extremely rare form of group creative block. Their failure to put words on the screen," said Dr. Hartley Wetherspoon, "is akin to the Vancouver Canucks during the Stanley Cup playoffs failing to put pucks in the net."

This situation did lead one P.D. writer to recall a time when he was addressing a class at the BC Institute of Technology. A student raised his hand and asked, "What can you do about writer's cramp?"

"You mean writer's block," another student said.

"No," the first continued. "I mean writer's cramp. Like my hand goes all stiff when I've been writing a long time. So what do you do?"

As with so many other cosmic queries, the visiting speaker had no answer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Salute to Summer

As the summer solstice is upon us, members of the Pointless Digressons Chorale arrive, wearing sunglasses, shorts and flip-flops, heavily coated with sun block #45, ready to sing, in 16-part harmony, the oldest song in the English canon:

"Summer is icumen in
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweth seed and bloweth mead
And springeth the wde nu
Sing cuccu!"

And now, down to the beach!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Hellman-McCarthy Brouhaha

Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy were both born in June, one day and seven years apart. Hellman, born June 20, 1905, was a Gemini; McCarthy, born June 21, 1912, was a Cancer. Clearly their stars were not aligned.

Appearing on Dick Cavett's television show in 1979, McCarthy said of Hellman, "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'."

Hellman took umbrage, and possibly a few drinks, and sued McCarthy for $2.25 million, which was approximately $2.25 million more than McCarthy had.

The suit dragged on until Hellman departed this world in 1984. McCarthy hung on until 1989. But if you see any astral explosions, any crashing meteors, any violent activity in the heavens, the Lil and Mary Show may still be going on.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pop Verse

Dutiful sons and daughters shopping for Father's Day cards may be disappointed to find that some Hallmark favorites have been discontinued. Among the verses now gone from the shelves are these:

"Gee, Dad, we can't believe our luck.
You weren't always just a total schmuck."

"Father, you were quite the sport
Always sending child support.
May your Father's Day be great--
And by the way, the cheque is late."

"Dad, you taught us how to play the game
And never to accept the blame.
You said 'Stand up, don't be a quitter'
Then ran off with the baby sitter."

A happy Father's Day to Pop Art, Pop Music and Pop Culture.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Will the Honorable Member Please Wake Up

As the marathon voting session in Canada's House of Commons moved from the wee small hours of one day to the wee small hours of the next, several Members practiced the art of sleeping with their eyes open. Others had to be wakened to vote with an electric prod.

It soon became clear that the epic session was not going to be as dramatic as James Stewart's speech in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" or as funny as Bob Hope's filibuster in "Louisiana Purchase."

Not intentionally, anyway. There was a moment when an NDP Member tattled on a government MP: "Mr. Speaker," he said, "the Member from Sarnia has brought a cup of coffee into the house." After this, we could expect to hear such complaints as "Mr. Speaker, the Member from Walloon-Buffalo Hump is making faces at me" and "Mr. Speaker, please tell the Member from Osopeechy to stop snoring."

Favorite song of all Members at this point: Dave Frishberg's "Gotta Get Me Some Zs."

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dueling Politicos

In what has been billed as the biggest battle of the crooners since Frank Sinatra defeated Perry Como, Stephen Harper and Bob Rae have taken to their pianos to out-sing each other.

What makes this contest particularly interesting is that each political heavyweight has composed his own song. Mr. Rae, viewing the omnibus budget bill now up for third reading, will sing "Whatcha Got Up Your Sleeve, Steve?"

Mr. Harper, mindful that a Liberal leadership convention is approaching, will belt out "Better Look for a Job, Bob."

Regarding the Liberal leadership, many in the party are calling for Justin Trudeau. Others are calling for Justin Bieber.

And, on the topic of politicians' popularity, Mr. Harper still leads Messrs. Rae and Mulcair, with a 28 percent approval rating. This is somewhat balanced by a 48 percent disapproval rating. The other 24 percent didn't know who he is.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, Elizabeth May, the one woman Green Party, is preparing to take on the budget bill, which is longer than the Old Testament ("but," insists a Conservative spokesperson, "similarly divinely inspired").

Friday, June 8, 2012

See You in the Comic Strips

Followers of the comics page in daily newspapers long ago recognized that the strips are no longer written for children, who derive most of their entertainment electronically; they are written for the children of an earlier time, who still remember with affection Al Capp's "Lil Abner," Chester Gould's "Dick Tracy," Milton Caniff's "Terry and the Pirates" and "Steve Canyon," E.C. Segar's "Thimble Theatre" with Popeye, Olive Oyl and J. Wellington Wimpy (not to mention Alice, the Goon Girl, with Hair on Her Knees), George McManus's "Bringing Up Father" (Maggie and Jiggs), "Smokey Stover," Fred Harman's "Bronc Peeler" (later "Red Ryder"), Vince Hamlin's "Alley Oop," "The Nutt Brothers, Ches and Wall," H.T. Webster's "Timid Soul" (Casper Milquetoast), Zack Mosely's "Smilin' Jack" with the never completely seen but always irresistible Downwind, Will Eisner's "Doll Man," "Our Boarding House" with Major Hoople, Lee Falk's "The Phantom" (the ghost who walks), and all of the Action Comics superheroes--The Flash, Sub-Mariner, the Green Lantern, the Human Torch. Gone are the days when the comics were so important to children that during a New York newspaper strike Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia took to the air on Sunday mornings to read them on the radio.

Today there are only a handful of strips that consistently bring pleasure. Among them: Jim Meddick's "Monty," Gary Trudeau's "Doonesbury" and Richard Thompson's "Cul de Sac." And now, alas, "Cul de Sac" has been dropped from the Vancouver Sun, to be replaced by the entirely lame "Reply All," an apparently computer generated cartoon that makes the artwork in "Dilbert" look like Raphael.

In times past, the cartoons editor of the paper would solicit readers' opinions: which strips should be retired? Which new strips should be added? Didn't happen this time. Instead, in the dark of night, "Cul de Sac" vanished.

Calls to the Sun requesting information were--as news media often say--not returned.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Here's to you, Queen Elizabeth

As the Queen's Jubilee celebrations roll on, many restaurants and bars have concocted cocktails to celebrate the occasion. One we won't be ordering soon is the Savoy Jubilee Valentine, now being mixed at Bev Oda's London hotel of choice. Ingredients: Limoncello, gin, passion fruit, and banana and strawberry liqueurs. It sounds like Carmen Miranda's hat in a glass.

Her Majesty is said to favor gin and red Dubonnet over ice, with a twist. Although Tanqueray carries the Royal imprimatur, the Queen's gin is Bombay Sapphire; appropriate, as the Bombay Sapphire label for decades bore a portrait of Queen Victoria, the last British monarch to celebrate a diamond jubilee.

No word on what the other Royals will be knocking back, but we were pleased to note that when Prince Charles visited the teetotaling George W. Bush White House, he had the foresight to carry his own flask.

One can never go wrong with Champagne, and an 18-year-old single malt Scotch would not be amiss, while our Prairie correspondent reports that the favorite Jubilee beverage there will be No. 1 Hard Rye, the preferred drink on all high days, and on every other day, as well.

And now, a toast:  Here's to you, Queen Elizabeth! (Which can be sung to the same tune as "Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson.")

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Pleasures of Re-Reading

A viewer writes that she has begun re-reading "Wuthering Heights," and we applaud this.  There are some who are puzzled by the pleasures to be found in re-reading, but it is the same as hearing again a piece of music, and also one often discovers nuances missed on the first reading.

One of the old questions is what would you take to read if lost on a desert island? Some people approach this as a study course and say, for example, they would take the complete works of Shakespeare. But what one really would want on that lonely island is pleasure and escape (mental escape) not study. And so while one might take one or two of Shakespeare's plays--say "Macbeth" and "The Tempest"--one would better carry books that are sure to give pleasure.  Here is our list:

The Complete Stories of Ernest Hemingway
The Complete Stories of John Cheever
The Complete Stories of John O'Hara
"Remembrance of Things Past," Marcel Proust
"Moby Dick," Herman Melville
"Pudd'nhead Wilson," Mark Twain
"The Scarlet Letter," Nathanael Hawthorne
The Book of Common Prayer, particularly the Cranmer collects
Selected books of The Bible, especially "Job" and "Jonah," appropriate for a castaway
Collected Essays, Graham Greene
"Billion Dollar Brain," Len Deighton
"The Man Who Knew Kennedy," Vance Bourjaily
"Lady in the Lake,"Raymond Chandler
"Bachelors Anonymous," P.G. Wodehouse
"Aunts Aren't Gentlemen," P.G. Wodehouse
"Vengeance Valley," Luke Short

That should keep us reading until the rescue ship arrives.  Other viewers' desert island lists welcomed.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Attack of the Ants

Reports of a Lower Mainland invasion by ferocious European fire ants brought to memory the famous short story "Leiningen vs. the Ants." Written by Carl Stephenson, and published in the December 1938 edition of Esquire, it became a staple of junior high school literature courses.

And good for the curriculum designers who chose it, we say. How could you go wrong with a robust yarn of a tough plantation owner in the Amazon jungle battling an army of ants "ten miles long and two miles wide...before you can spit three times, they'll eat a full-grown buffalo to the bones."

The story was adapted for radio, read by William Conrad, and there are various film versions, including 1954's "The Naked Jungle," with Charlton Heston in the leading role (as Leiningen, not the ants).

Most of these items, including the still riveting story, can be Googled to your screen. Better to watch Leiningen's war against an insect army than to uncover a nest of European fire ants in your garden.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Celebrating Victoria Day

We have with us in our studios the renowned partygoer and international roue Rene Vasconcelos, to talk about the best ways to celebrate Victoria Day.  Rene?

Ah, yes--Victoria Day. Lovely girl. I dated her, you know.

Uh--Rene? Victoria Day is a national holiday, honoring Queen Victoria.

Never dated her. But I do remember Victoria Day. Younger sister of Doris. And Dennis.

I think perhaps we've taken a wrong turn here...

She ran off with Lex Barker. Muscle guy who used to play Tarzan.

Back to the coming holiday, Victoria Day.

Victoria. Charming name. Vicky, in intimate moments. Do you remember a song called "Vikki, Turn Your Back On Me"?

No, no I don't think..

Lou Gottlieb used to sing it with The Limelighters. It was a salute to a young woman named Vikki Dougan who wore a gown with a plunging back. I'll sing it for you now: "Vikki, turn your back on me.."

I think we're just about out of time, Rene. Do you have any further recommendations for Victoria Day?

Yes! Come back to me, baby! We can work it out! (I can sing that, too.)

I mean recommendations for celebrating a holiday that, by some coincidence, has the same name as your old girlfriend.

I think it would be appropriate to enjoy some of Rogers' famous Victoria Creams.

Thank you, Rene Vasconcelos.

And a lot of Victoria Gin.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

First Lines and Last Lines

Robert Caro has published "The Passage of Power," the fourth volume in his marathon series on Lyndon B. Johnson. In an excellent article by Chris Jones in the May 2012 edition of "Esquire,"we learn that Caro cannot begin a book until he knows the last line. Caro told Jones "I'm not saying this is the right way to do it, but this is the right way for me to do it."

For Joseph Heller, best known for "Catch 22," the kick-start was always a single opening line. The plot, he believed, would follow. That, apparently, was the right way for him to do it.

So here are two of Heller's openings:

From "Catch 22": "It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him."

From "Good as Gold": "Gold had been asked many times to write about the Jewish experience in America. This was not strictly true."

And three of Caro's closings:

From "The Power Broker": "Why weren't they grateful?"

From "Means of Ascent": "By 1955, with the barons' power broken and the Democrats back in the majority, Lyndon Johnson was the most powerful Majority Leader in history."

And from the new book: "But he had done it long enough."

As Maurice Chevalier said, and Stephane Grappelli liked to quote, "You must begin well and you must end well."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

More politicians (sigh)

Canada's Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews, winner of the Hulk Hogan lookalike contest, announced today that inmates of the country's prisons will be required to pay for room and board. Questioned about this unprecedented move, Minister Toews said, "What would you expect, in a four-star prison?"

In Washington, President Obama declared himself in favor of same sex marriages. Nevertheless, Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan said "we are just good friends."

Kevin Krueger, an MLA who makes up in perspiration what he lacks in sophistication, today attacked NDP leader Adrian Dix. This puts Krueger in contention for the Harry Bloy Award. Premier Christy Clark had no comment on Krueger's remarks when she bounced on camera in the manner of the young woman in "Up in the Air" who wanted to fire people on-line.

Finally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper explained to people that "We are a majority government. We are doing what we want...uh..I mean what Canadians want. Or at least what almost forty percent of Canadians want."

Monday, May 7, 2012

An Ecofriendly Exchange

Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent today responded to charges by environmental groups that the Conservative government is "gutting the country's environment regulations." Minister Kent spoke with reporters outside his workplace. A portion of the question-and-answer exchange follows:

Reporter: "Sir, this coalition of environmental groups--Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the David Suzuki Foundation, et al.--has charged that your government is not working for Canadians. They say you're working for the oil companies. How do you respond to that?"

PK: "With a vigorous denial. Our government is committed to the people of this country, whether they like it or not. We are not in league with the oil companies."

Reporter: "Thank you, Sir, for clearing that up. You are definitely not working for Big Oil."

PK: "That's correct. Now, was that Hi-Test or Regular? And shall I clean your windshield? Check your tires?"

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Osama Letters

The United States Central Intelligence Agency has released more of the documents recovered from Osama bin Laden's Pakistan hideaway. We have been permitted to publish certain extracts.

To Eydie Gorme: "Why you not answer my cries of devotion, sweet songstress? We could make such beautiful music together. Come to me--I will play my oud and you will sing. 'That old black magic got me in its spell...'"

To the Grecian Formula company: "Please send another case of Brave Leader Black. Beard is beginning to look tacky."

To Bombs 'r' Us: "Looking forward to your shipment of (ha ha) fireworks for Pakistani celebrations."

To Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "Got a song for you. Here's the chorus: 'Don't be bad/To Ahmadinejad, Don't be rude/To our pal Mahmoud.' Could be big hit. Believe I can get Eydie Gorme to record it."

To Stephen Spielberg: "Looking for new blockbuster superhero movie? How about 'The Incredible Osama Man'? Great role for Brad Pitt. Eydie Gorme as Number One Wife."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Royal Tour, austerity style

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are scheduled to visit Canada this year. However, due to the Conservative government's new austerity measures, activities for this Royal Tour have necessarily been scaled back. To begin, the Royal couple will travel only as far as Regina. "We just couldn't scrape up the fare to get them across the whole country," said Waldo Wibblethorpe, a spokesman for Prime Minister Harper.

Accommodations will also be more spartan."I'm sure, however," said Wibblethorpe, "that the Heir to the Throne will be most comfortable in our new B&B at 24 Sussex Drive."

In place of the usual lavish state dinner, the Prince and Duchess will be given a coupon to dine at Burger King. "We thought the venue most appropriate," said Wibblethorpe, "and fortunately Jim Flaherty saved his two-for-one coupon."

Ceremonies in Ottawa will not include the traditional 21-gun salute. "But," said Wibblethorpe, "we will have a display of Frisbee tossing."

The Royal Couple will travel from Ottawa to Regina by bus, leaving the nation's capital at 2:30 a.m. "We had hoped we would be able to get the seniors discount on the fare," said Wibblethorpe, "but it turns out the Prince is only sixty-two."

Told that Prince Charles was, in his words, "a trifle miffed" at the arrangements, saying he was accustomed to something "a little more up-scale," Wibblethorpe retorted "What? Who does he think he is? Bev Oda?"

Monday, April 30, 2012

International Jazz Day

UNESCO has declared April 30 International Jazz Day. Buy a thirsty saxophonist a drink.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Shakespeare and St, George

April 23 is the date on which Shakespeare was born, in the year 1564. It is also the date on which he departed this world, in 1616. Shakespeare knew about dramatic entrances and exits. ("Exit Ghost" is one of the stage directions in "Hamlet"--appropriate, as in performances at The Globe, Shakespeare himself played the ghost of Hamlet's father.)

April 23 is also St. George's Day, commemorating the dragon slayer who is the patron saint of England. Thus, in "Henry V," Shakespeare has the young king, on the eve of the battle of Agincourt, tell his archers, "Follow your spirit, and upon this charge cry "God for Harry! England and Saint George!"

Thursday, April 19, 2012

For sale: Heritage Prison, prime waterfront location

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews (rhymes with knaves) announced today that the federal government will close the maximum security prison in Kingston, Ontario and a prison of somewhat lower security (minimum of serial axe-murderers) in Quebec. 

The question in many minds was "What are you going to do with all the evildoers resident in those palatial pokeys?"  

"Ha ha," said Minister Toevs, responding to one journalist's question, "No, we are not going to appoint them to the Senate.

"We have a better idea," he said. "Actually it was Steve's idea. We;'re going to take all those miscreants..."


"...and stick them in Stornoway."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

This is Your Captain Speaking

The report that a pilot for the People's Airline had fallen into a deep sleep on a Trans-Atlantic flight and then wakened to mistake the planet Venus for another aircraft has led to some serious thinking at the Air Transport Safety Board. 

Myron Bigglesworth, speaking for the Board, said "It has been recommended that we put cuckoo clocks in every cockpit. An earlier suggestion that we install grandfather clocks was found impractical. Further, we are recommending that each crew carry tanks of quadruple strength espresso, to be administered to pilots hourly."

The news reached Captain Dwayne "Ace" Ripperton as he was piloting a 747 over the Pole. He wanted to share the news with passengers, and began "This is your Captain speaking, assuring you that we are fully alert, and in full control of th...zzz zzz zzz." 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cracked, but not yet Breaking, News

** Cartagena, Colombia:  Eleven US Secret Service agents and five servicemen were sent home today for what has been termed "unprofessional conduct." Prime Minister Stephen Harper has issued a statement saying, "I wasn't with those guys. Believe me, I wasn't."

** Pyongyang, North Korea: Government officials shrugged off what has been called a "$1 billion humiliation" following the failure of their much touted rocket launch. A spokesman for Kim Jong Un said, "Remember, we still have the exploding spring roll."  

** Los Angeles, CA: Vancouver Canucks arriving for a pivotal game three against the Los Angeles Kings said they were confident their team would triumph. It was noted, however, that a number of the players were carrying their golf clubs.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Perils of Easter Eggs

Dr. Farnsley Bigglesworth, our Guide to Responsible Behavior, regrets his inability to be with us today. He took it upon himself yesterday to study the impact of liqueur-filled chocolate eggs.

In his research, Dr. Bigglesworth consumed 34 eggs filled with Grand Marnier, 64 eggs filled with Bailey's Irish Cream, 84 eggs filled with Cointreau, 120 eggs filled with green Chartreuse, and 184 eggs filled with Courvoisier, after which his notes became difficult to decipher.   

Watch for Dr. Bigglesworth's next report: "Fun and Games at the Detox Centre." 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Why Your Easter Eggs May Arrive Late. Or not at all.

Harvey Q. Lapin, Easter Bunny, reports:

"I was about to board the plane with my sack of eggs when the problems began. First the airline demanded another thirty-five dollars for my carry-on, saying, 'That's pretty big for the overhead, fella. Not to mention the ears.' 

"Then a security agent confiscated my bottle of organic carrot juice and demanded I step into the full body-scanner. They were most impertinent, making rude remarks about cotton-tails.

"Finally boarded, I found myself seated between an elderly woman with an allergy to rabbit fur and a large man who insisted on telling me his favorite recipes for rabbit stew and jugged hare.

"But the worst moment came when, in mid-flight, I unwrapped a chocolate egg I had saved for myself. Someone screamed, 'It's a bomb! He's going to blow us to smithereens!' I said, 'Calm yourself, madam, this is pure Belgian chocolate,' and bit into the fondant centre. Then a man cried, 'I think that's cocaine! He's smuggling drugs in Easter eggs!'

"Attendants and passengers seized me, the plane made an emergency landing, and I am now incarcerated in what would be less than a third-rate hutch. A bomb squad is defusing my sack of eggs.

"So if on Easter morning you have to settle for Cheesies or pork rinds instead of chocolate eggs, don't blame me. 

"And if anyone can assist with my bail, it would be greatly appreciated, They're asking for a lot of lettuce."  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Corner Saloon Comes to the Corner

Delighted by the success of food carts on Vancouver streets, city councillors have expanded the program to include wheeled cocktail lounges, wine bars and beer gardens. Here are a few recommended by our Fine Dining and Fast Loans correspondent, Hartley O. Gratin:

* The Martini Express, at Howe and Dunsmuir

* Rum for Your Money, at Seymour and Davie

* Cognac Corner, Georgia and Denman

* Gin and Ginseng, Abbott and Keefer

* Vant Vodka? Helmcken and Richards

If, as councillors expect, these curbside saloons prove successful, watch for more street corner services. Among them: Orthodontia on the Go, Full Body Asphalt Massage, and Honk for Psychoanalysis.   

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Nickel for Your Thoughts

The announcement that the Canadian Mint will cease producing pennies and the government will begin recalling all the copper-colored coins has ramifications far beyond the piggy bank. Bernard Bigelow, our financial and falafel correspondent, has these items:

* The song "Pennies from Heaven," if performed at all, will be retitled "Debit Cards from Your Bank."

* The saying "A penny for your thoughts" will be replaced by "A nickel for your thoughts." Plus GST and HST where required.

* Police (no longer to be called coppers) will search closets coast to coast and confiscate all penny loafers.

* Women named Penelope who have been accustomed to the nickname Penny will have their names automatically changed. These women will be given a choice of new name, either Elmira or Boadicea.

* Anyone caught throwing pennies in a wishing well will be made to dive in and retrieve them.

And that's the news for the soon-to-be-extinct penny. Now the nickel is feeling nervous.  


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Budget night at the Flahertys

It was a big day in the Flaherty household. Jim was due to deliver the federal budget, the first from a Harper government with a majority in Parliament. This meant that Jim could do pretty much whatever he liked. Or whatever Steve liked.  

But first there was the new shoes ritual. It is traditional for finance ministers to wear new shoes while presenting a budget. Jim received several suggestions, most of which he ignored, including one from Rona Ambrose that he choose a stylish pair of slingback stilettos.

Thomas "The Beard" Mulcair, new leader of the national NDP,  said, "If I take after him, he'd best get running shoes." A public service employees union representative said, "I'm afraid he'll be wearing hobnailed boots."  And Bob Rae, interim leader of the Liberals, said, "Considering the cuts that are coming, I expect penny loafers."

That evening, Flaherty, after calling out, "Hi, honey--I'm home" asked what was on the dinner menu. "Kraft Dinner with peas," said Mrs. M. "Better cancel the peas," said Jim. "We have to tighten our belts."

"Considering the considerable girth of most of your colleagues," said Mrs. M." I would drop that expression. And one more thing--"  

"Yes, m'love?"

"Before you come in here, take off those shoes."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Another hit for The Nose

An international parfumier--Silvana "The Nose" Casoli--has created a scent for another well-known client. Previously, The Nose designed personal perfumes and colognes for Madonna, Sting, and King Carlos of Spain. This time, his client is Pope Benedict XVI. We are not making this up.

The scent is described as a "fresh, citrusy cologne, containing lime tree blossoms, verbena and spring grass, capturing the Pontiff's love of the flora and fauna of Bavaria, with a spiritual feeling of peace and tranquillity." 

We look forward to further creations from The Nose for world figures. What do you have for Stephen Harper, Silvano?   

Monday, March 19, 2012

Back on the Attack

The federal Conservative party has returned, or reverted, or regressed, to what it does best: attack advertising. The target this time, unsurprisingly, is Bob Rae, who continues to grow in popularity as he vigorously takes on the Harperites in Parliament.

This time, however, the Liberals have a counterattack ready: Drop the ad, they say, or we'll release a photo of Stephen Harper in a Speedo.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Dad and Lad Show

News item: Actor George Clooney and father Nick Clooney, veteran television journalist, were arrested after leading a protest in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, DC. 

We take you now to a cell in the DC precinct house.

George: Well, here we are, Dad--spring break.

Nick: A chance for some quality father and son time.

George: Gotta tell you, Pop, these are not the kind of bars I usually hang around.

Nick: And not the way I planned to spend St. Patrick's Day.

George: Let's call the guard and see if we can get some green beer. Think they have room service here?

Nick: You know, Son, this gives me an idea for a great new realty TV show: "Celebrities in the Jug." Whaddya think?

George: Good idea, Pop.

Nick: I hope we get our belts and shoelaces back.

George: And our ties. That Ermengildo Zegna set me back 225 bucks. 

Later that evening, we see Desk Sergeant Oscar McCloskey and Mildred Hepplewaite at a Washington dine and dance spot.

Mildred: Gee, Oscar, that's a beautiful necktie!

Oscar: Thanks, Mil. I got it from George Clooney.

Mildred: George Clooney! I didn't know you knew him!

Oscar: We've become very close.