Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Read a Book, Share a Story

March 1 is World Book Day. In Burnaby, public libraries encourage people to "come in and read a book, share a story."

We are grateful to Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Productions and American Public Media for a most appropriate quotation. It is from Dublin-born writer Colum McCann, whose "Let the Great World Spin" won the National Book Award for fiction in 2009. McCann said:

"I believe in the democracy of storytelling. I love the fact that our stories can cross all sorts of borders and boundaries. I grew up in a house, in a city, in a country shaped by books. I don't know of a greater privilege than being allowed to tell a story or to listen to a story."    

Monday, February 27, 2012

...about those phone calls

Prime Minister Harper, informed that bogus telephone calls were made to voters in as many as thirty-four ridings prior to the last federal election, said "I am shocked! Shocked that anyone supporting the Conservative Party would be involved in deceit or trickery!"

Meanwhile, RCMP have been asked to investigate who placed an order for 128 Hawaiian pizzas to be delivered at 3:00 a.m. to 24 Sussex Drive. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Gimme that Oscar!

It's the night before the Academy Awards, and I haven't decided what to wear. Maybe i'll just hang out with Woody Allen instead.

The big question, of course, apart from who's wearing what, is who would win. This starts us thinking of performers who should have won but didn't, and there is a long and noble list.

Start with Peter O'Toole, who should have gone home with gold for "Lawrence of Arabia." And Paul Newman, who deserved an Oscar for "The Verdict" in 1982. (He got one the next year for a much smaller film, "The Color of Money." It was one of those "sorry about last year, guy" awards.)

Which, it is said, was the reason James Stewart was voted best actor for "The Philadelphia Story," despite playing what was really a supporting role in that 1940 classic. The real star, Cary Grant, wasn't even nominated. Among the performances Stewart beat was Henry Fonda's in "The Grapes of Wrath." Stewart was the choice, it was said, because he hadn't won the previous year for "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Hey, we all know Stewart was a terrific actor, but "Philadelphia Story" was not "Vertigo."  

Then there was Richard Jaeckel, who played supporting roles in a gazillion movies over fifty years, and was nominated in 1971 for his wonderful performance as Oregon logger Joe Ben Stamper in "Sometimes a Great Notion." Should have won. Didn't.

Finally, perhaps leading the list of should-have-wons, is Peter Sellers for his three-character tour de force in "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb." Sellers played an RAF officer, the US President, and the crazed Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove, all with impeccable accents. It was a dazzling performance in Kubrick's 1964 black comedy, and while there were other worthy nominees that year--as almost always there are--Sellers's work hit a standard nobody knew was there.

So wherever Peter Sellers is tomorrow night, we presume he will be sipping Pimm's Cup and sympathizing with the also-rans.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cracked, but not yet Breaking, News

Okay, has anyone else noticed that Rooney Mara, star of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," looks like a reincarnation of silent film star Louise Brooks ("Lulu," "Pandora's Box"). Huh?

BC Finance Minister Kevin Falcon delivered the provincial budget today. In the spirit of restraint, he skipped the tradition of buying a new pair of shoes. Several observers thought, however, he might have sprung for a new haircut.

Chinese and Russian governments, standing firmly behind the vicious if nerdy looking Syrian leader, said, "So he's killing his own people. What's the big deal?"

Finally, Rooney Mara's performance in "The Social Network" was so pleasurable, we are pulling for her to win the big one on Sunday, even though she is facing the formidable Meryl Streep and Viola Davis. Academy voters, please note.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Re: Lent

Carnaval is underway in Rio de Janeiro. Unable to make it this year, we have elected to stay home, don our costumes, drink pina coladas, rent "Black Orpheus", and play "The Girl from Ipanema" at high volume.

The Brazilian celebration is, of course, the prelude to Lent, forty days of fasting, preferably in sackcloth and ashes. The word "Lent" derives from an Olde English word meaning, simply, "spring." The custom of fasting at this season was instituted in the fourth century.

But before Lent begins (this Wednesday, February 22) there is Shrove Tuesday. This was once the big day for cockfights in England, but that has given way to the more benign tradition of making and eating pancakes. In some parts of England, there still are pancake races and pancake scrimmages. 

We leave you with this verse, appropriate for the season:

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
 If the licker don't get you,
 The wimmen must."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Murphy's Law

If Cal Murphy had been the author of Murphy's Law ("Anything that can go wrong will go wrong") the law would have been "Play hard and you'll win."

Murphy, who died in Regina last week just shy of his eightieth birthday, played hard and often won: he had nine Grey Cup rings. 

Born in Winnipeg, but raised in Vancouver, Cal Murphy played for the Fighting Irish at Vancouver College, the UBC Thunderbirds and, briefly, the BC Lions. But it was as a coach, not a player, that he will be remembered. He was head or assistant coach for schools from the University of Hawaii to San Jose State and for teams from the Chicago Enforcers to the Frankfurt Galaxy. He coached the Lions for a time, but his greatest run--fourteen years as coach and general manager--was with the Winnipeg Bluebombers. 

Several years ago, Cal Murphy was one of a group of Vancouver College grads who had earned success in diverse fields pictured together in a school poster. The copy line read "You can get anywhere from here." Murphy did. And now, the tough coach ironically dubbed "Kindly Cal"joins Annis Stukus, Bud Grant, Jackie Parker and others from Canada's coaching fratermity at the Great Gridiron in the Sky.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Urge to Propose

This is St. Valentine's Day, when many a man feels the compulsion to kneel and propose wedlock.

Let us hope they fare better than Edward Gibbon, author "The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire." Gibbon, on a terrace with Lady Elizabeth Foster, dropped to his knees and asked her to marry. Lady Elizabeth declined, and said, "I bid you to rise." Unfortunately, the roly-poly Gibbon found he could not. 

It is not recorded how the portly historian eventually was moved. Perhaps by a horse-drawn cart, the 18th century equivalent of a tow truck. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

China/Canada Trade Agreement

Prime Minister Stephen Harper capped his successful China venture by announcing a major trade agreement, signaling, he said, "a new spirit of friendship between our two great nations. As for our former friend in the White House, I just want to say nyah nyah nyah." 

Pressed for details regarding the historic China/Canada trade, he said, "It's a win-win for both sides. They are sending us two giant pandas. We are trading them John Baird and Bev Oda."

A spokesman for the pandas said "We were hoping for Feist and Rex Murphy, but we'll take what we can get."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What the Dickens!

February 7 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. To celebrate, several of his creations gathered at Mr. Pickwick's club for a pint and a pipe.

Everyone had great expectations for the party, and it was indeed grand. Oliver Twist and Little Nell sang a duet, Tiny Tim did a tap dance, Martin Chuzzlewit and Barnaby Rudge played darts, Sidney Carton proposed a toast, and Ebenezer Scrooge said he would stand drinks for all. 

However, when the bill came around, Scrooge found his pocket had been picked. He had, he remembered, been sitting beside the Artful Dodger.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mahmoud vs. Bart

The government of Iran has banned the Simpsons. Homer, Bart and company have been declared unacceptable by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad & Co. for their blatant presentation of the American way of life.

Spiderman and Superman are okay with Mahmoud and the Mullahs (sounds like a 1960s rock group) because they appear to be supernatural forces aiding humanity.

No word so far on Blondie, Garfield or Rex Morgan, M.D.

Wonder Woman, however, is definitely out. It is believed that the sight of the super heroine, minus bhurka, could lead, among young Iranian men, to an uprising.   

Post-Super Bowl Comfort for the Patriots

Coach Belichick and QB Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, undoubtedly sore after their four-point loss to the New York Giants, might take comfort from the words of the legendary Vince Lombardi (for whom the Super Bowl trophy is named).

Coach Lombardi said, "We never lost a game. We just ran out of time."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Hundred-Buck Burger

A Vancouver eatery named Dougiedog has created what the market has long demanded: the $100 burger. 

This culinary breakthrough, the fast food equivalent of landing on Mars, begins with a foot-long bratwurst doused with a Cognac that goes for $400 a shot. We presume the dog gets an eye-drop. Added to the century-note dog are lobster and truffle oil. Maybe foie gras as well--we lost track after the Cognac.

This may herald an upward trend throughout the old-fashioned comfort food chain. Expect soon to see the $75 mac and cheese, the $90 tuna noodle casserole, the $110 poutine, the vintage root beer float at $500 a shot.

Watch for the Pointless Digressions food cart on a corner near you. All major credit cards accepted. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


We have arrived at the month radio announcers dread: February. 

The reason: they find it difficult to pronounce. Such multi-syllabic challenges as Fatareh Motamed-Aria, anthropocentrism, and Skwxwu7mesh roll trippingly off their golden tongues, but February puts them into a cold sweat. The word comes out as Feboobery, Fooberry and Ferooery. 

Why, they lament, is this month so named? Why not a simple name like May or June? Answer: February was the month of purification among the ancient Romans, who, as we all know, badly needed purifying. The month takes its name from the Latin word "februo," meaning "I purify by sacrifice."   

The Wise Old Disc Jockey has these words of comfort for tongue-tied announcers: "If February comes, can March be far behind?"