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.")