Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Here's That Rainy Day

"We were sitting in a room at the Berglund...rain beat very hard against the windows."

Those are opening lines from Raymond Chandler's 1934 short story "Killer in the Rain." We've been thinking a lot about rain this week--who hasn't?--and remembering rain in songs and stories and films. There is Somerset Maugham's famous short story called simply "Rain," and the clever 1954 play "The Rainmaker," and the 1939 film "The Rains Came," with a turbaned Tyrone Power swept up in torrents meteorological and emotional.

Among the great rain songs is "Right as the Rain," by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg. (The expression "right as the rain" dates from 1894, coined by farmers happy that drought had ended. In the dust bowl years of the 1930s, they sang "It ain't gonna rain no more, no more/It ain't gonna rain no more/How in the heck can I wash my neck/When it ain't gonna rain no more?")

"Soon It's Gonna Rain" is from "The Fantasticks," by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. Irving Berlin wrote "Isn't It a lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain?" and "I'm Just a Fella with an Umbrella." "Here's That Rainy Day," perhaps the best of the rain songs, was written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke for a forgotten show called "Carnival in Flanders." But who can forget Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain"?

And if all this rain is getting to be too much for you, here's the antidote: re-read "The Sun Also Rises." By Mark Madryga.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Yes, We Have No Bananas

Bemoaning, each day, the parlous state of popular music, we began thinking of songs with lyrics that actually made sense. There was a time when pop musicians, e.g., the Beatles, the Stones, could write lyrics--"I Don't Get No Satisfaction," "Eleanor Rigby"--but the current group, among them an increasing number of Canadians who should never have been allowed out of the garage, are recording songs that have a single line, repeated over and over and over and over. And the line is usually some tattered old adage--"You always hurt the one you love." "A stitch in time saves nine." "Beggars can't be choosers."

Made us think, happily, of the satirical song Guy Marks wrote for the Guy Lombardo band. We know, one doesn't usually associate Guy Lombardo with satire. But this worked. The Lombardo band used always to include a medley of pop tunes. The Marks medley had "Your Red Scarf Matches Your Eyes," "Close Cover Before Striking," "Papa Had the Shipfitter Blues" and "Loving You Has Made Me Bananas."

Okay, we no longer have Cole Porter, or Johnny Mercer, or Ira Gershwin, or Yip Harburg, or Frank Loesser or Alan Jay Lerner, but is it too much to ask that the people who presume to perform and record songs show some degree of acquaintance with the language?


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Please--enough politics, already!

According to post-election tallies, only 52.25 per cent of British Columbia's eligible voters exerted themselves to mark an X on a ballot Tuesday. This indicates that 47.75 per cent of British Columbians don't care what kind of government they have. They now have two years to wait before they can not bother to vote in a federal election.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, the current hit song is Senator Mike Duffy's "Brother, Can you Spare 90,000 Bucks?"

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Here's to the Losers

The week's big losers:

The Toronto Maple Leafs--in the final eleven minutes.

The BC NDP--in the final twelve hours.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Election: Correction or Dejection?

As mercifully we enter the last day of campaigning in the British Columbia election, NDP leader Adrian Dix is set to pull what may be the ultimate all-nighter: a swing through the province that will see him holding rallies at 2:00, 4:00, 5:00 and 7:00 a.m. Those attending will be given double-strength coffee and aides will be on hand with electric cattle prods.

Meanwhile, it is not too late to consider some of the lesser-known alternative political parties, which may be fielding candidates in your riding and therefore are worthy of your consideration. Among these:

* The Party Hearty Party
* The Rent Party
* The Party of the Second Part Party
* The Innocent Party Party
* The It's My Party I'll Cry if I Want to Party

Many crowds are swinging to Mr. Dix's All-Night Party Party. In other camps, however, they're working on "The Party's Over."

Thursday, May 9, 2013

You Know What?

"You know what" are the three words most often spoken by BC Premier (for now) Christy Clark. You may have thought they were "Curse Adrian Dix," but no, Ms. Clark appears to preface her answers to all questions with "You know what?" We sent our archivist in search of the origin of this catch phrase, and learned that it goes back as far as the late 17th century. You know what? That was a heck of a century.

Okay, sports fans:  How come, in a baseball game, the coaches, players and manager can all get in the umpire's face demanding to know how he could have made such a bonehead call, while in a hockey game, if the coach merely raises an eyebrow after a referee's call he gets hit with a bench penalty? Just asking. Gary Bettman, get back to us.

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting (there still are some) are concerned that the Conservative government has inserted a section in its budget, already the size of "War and Peace," that would give the federal government unprecedented control over the people's network. Many believe they are doing this for political reasons, but we have it on good authority that Stephen Harper just wants to make sure they play his Elton John covers.

Finally, this from the campaign trail: Christy Clark stormed out of an Interior hotel today when she discovered she had been given Room 801.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How You Play the Game

It was Grantland Rice, a legendary phrase maker among sportswriters, who wrote "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game."

A great line, and undoubtedly true, but perhaps small comfort today to the Vancouver Canucks. While many are dissecting the team--players, coach, management--looking for faults, and some predictably are calling for dismissals, this corner simply feels sorry for them, as they put away their pads, get out their golf clubs, and wonder where they'll be next season.

We feel sorry for the gritty Kesler, back from a seemingly endless string of injuries, and playing with huge heart; for the gentlemanly Sedins and the elegant Burr; for Luongo, who conducted himself with dignity through a most difficult time; for Bieksa, who may sometimes say a bit too much, but is always entertaining; and certainly for the amiable Alain Vigneault, who, despite his record, may be wondering where he put that suitcase. In sports, as almost everywhere else, but especially sports, the operative line is "What've you done for me lately?"

So to quote Seth Macfarlane, here's to the losers--perhaps the greatest hockey team to never win the Stanley Cup.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Do Re Mi

May 6 has been designated "Music Monday" in Canada as a tribute to music educators and music education--something in good health in certain areas, including Vancouver, thanks to the Toveys, but failing where the arts are usually the first item to be chopped from government funding. A highlight of the day was Commander Chris Hadfield leading a singalong from space. Somewhere Mitch Miller was smiling.

Some of us remember when basic music education was part of school curricula, for even very young students. In Grade Two, we were drawing staffs and penciling notes. Half-notes and quarter-notes danced in our heads.

Thinking of this recalled a story Louie Bellson told Whitney Balliett, retold in Balliett's book "Barney, Bradley, and Max." Here it is, our contribution to "Music Monday," as recounted by Bellson, for a time the drummer in Duke Ellington's band:

"Duke wrote all the time. Once, on a plane trip, he turned around and asked me if I had any manuscript paper, and I said, 'Sorry, it's packed." He took off his coat and drew five lines on one sleeve and wrote out the notes he had in his head. Tizol scored the melody when we got to the gig, and we played it that night."