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?"