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."