Sunday, December 28, 2014

New Year's Eve with the President

We are anticipating New Year's Eve with Barack Obama, and wondering what will be poured into the glasses with the White House seal. As the President has just returned from Hawaii, perhaps it will be Frosty Coconut Mojitos. If you would like to join in the mixing, you will need coconut rum (who knew?), coconut milk, coconut water, lime juice, simple syrup zipped up with mint leaves, and a handful of ice. Toss it all in the blender, and you're ready to party.

But considering the recent rapprochement with Cuba, the President might favor daiquiris, and one cannot get better than the Hemingway Daiquiri. The drink Hem used to call for at La Floridita in Havana (now dubbed the Papa Doble) is simply double rum, lime juice, and a dash of maraschino over crushed ice. It is said that Hemingway could put away twelve of these at a sitting, but that is probably one of those legends that keep on growing.

And resolutions? Obama has what might be called a resolution, and it's a good one. Looking ahead to his final two years in the Oval Office, and channeling his inner Marshawn Lynch, he said, "We are entering the fourth quarter, and really important things happen in the fourth quarter."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Yuletide Reading & Viewing

The second most famous Christmas story has to be "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, which can be found in a handsome Modern Library edition along with two less familiar Christmas stories, "The Chimes" and "The Haunted Man," and an introduction by John Irving.

Donald Westlake's "A Likely Story"is nothing like Dickens's tale, but it is about a writer who tries to solve various problems, romantic and financial, by coming up with a commercially successful Christmas book, which roughly parallels Dickens's situation at the writing of "A Christmas Carol."

Several actors--George C. Scott, Albert Finney, Lionel Barrymore, et al.--have taken on the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, but the most memorable performance has to be Alastair Sim's, filmed in 1951, and essential Christmas viewing every year since. Bill Murray has a nice spinoff in "Scrooged," also well worth watching, if only for the sight of Miles Davis as a street busker.

The other great (at least to us) Christmas films include Vincente Minnelli's "Meet Me in St. Louis," perhaps Judy Garland's best picture, and a delight, even if the Margaret O'Brien character has always (again, to us) seemed dangerously psychotic. Richard Curtis, writer-director of "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Notting Hill," among other Hugh Grant films, has him again (as a Tony Blair-style British Prime Minister) in "Love, Actually," rewarding Christmas entertainment which might have been better served by another title.

Finally, for those who like to look on the dark side, Jake Hinkson has assembled a list of Christmas season noir, entirely lacking in peace and goodwill. Included are "L.A. Confidential" and the less known 1940s "Christmas Holiday," based on a grim Somerset Maugham story and which has Deanna Durbin, pride of Winnipeg, singing "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year."

Good wishes to all, and apologies to those still pulling for "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Miracle on 34th Street."

Friday, December 19, 2014

Cubana-Be, Cubana-Bop

That's the title of a once-famous Dizzy Gillespie recording featuring the Cuban drummer Chano Pozo. We're listening to it today (while sipping coffee from our Obama "Hope" mug) in recognition of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. High marks to Stephen Harper and his Ottawa team for facilitating the coming together thru low-radar talks, possibly in the 24 Sussex Drive man-cave.  And, of course, to the estimable Pope Francis for pressing Obama and Castro to get together. ("Hey, guys--it's fifty years. Peace and goodwill.")

Florida Republicans Jeb ("My daddy was President and my brother was President, and now, by damn,  it's my turn") Bush and Marco (the road company Ricky Ricardo) Rubio quickly condemned the move, to the surprise of all those who thought they'd say, "Golly, Barack--good job!"

The current lack of wisdom is that Obama has not brought off the miracles he was expected to, and while it is true that he was unable to change the toxic environment in Congress, due to the intransigence of the other team, he has accomplished two things that were beyond the capability of former chief executives: the introduction of affordable health care, and now a return to friendly relations with Cuba. (He also told people to forget Kim Jong-Un and go to the movies, for which Seth Rogen and James Franco will be thanking him.)

There are those who complain of the problems in getting what his critics call Obamacare off the ground, but hey, think it was smooth sailing for T.C. Douglas when he brought his health care plan to Saskatchewan?

Back to "Cubana-Be, Cubana-Bop," which sounds like Stravinsky and his Firebird in Havana, and a last word from Manny Goodman of the Jazzmanian Devils: "Can't wait to see Obama sitting with Raul smoking some honkin' big Havana stogie."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Kim Jong-Un and Seth

North Korea's Magna Films announced today it has begun production of a film about a plot to assassinate Seth Rogen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Singalong with Steve

The Prime Minister has been channeling his inner Billy Joel, and when he performed at a Conservative Party Yuletide party, he received a standing ovation. But then, as John Ivison noted in the National Post, it was no surprise, since he could fire everyone in the room.

Ivison went on to describe PM Harper as "the Pat Boone of hell-raisers," and said he was "sweating spinal fluid."

Could this catch on? will Tom Mulcair start doing hip-hop? Could Justin Trudeau become a rapper? Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the three federal party leaders have sent out their Christmas cards (or, as they would put it, their "holiday greetings"). In each case the card features a photograph of the leader with his family. This suggests a confusion among Messrs. Harper, Trudeau and Mulcair over whose birth and which family we are celebrating.

But now, On to the rooftops! Over the hills!
Balance the budget, pass all those bills!
On Yelich and Clement, Go Ambrose and Wong!
Prance, Finley and Oliver--Ritz, give us a song.
Step lively, MacKay and Fantino.
And certainly not--no stopping for vino!
Faster, Baird and Poilievre! Speed on, Alexander and Raitt!
An election is coming--you know we can't wait!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Prime Minister visits Santa

Scene: A department store in downtown Ottawa.

"Well, little--uh--fellow, what's your name?"


"And have you been a good boy this year?"

"I haven't prorogued Parliament once."

"Well then, what would you like for Christmas, Stevie?"

"Could I have Justin Trudeau's hair?"

"Sorry, Stevie--that model is no longer available."

"How about Tom Mulcair's beard? You know, for a more manly look?"

"That's already been claimed by Leona Aglukkaq."

"That's a very unkind thing to say."

"Listen, you think it's easy sitting here saying 'ho ho ho' all bleeping day? A guy's gotta have a break now and then, get back his inner Don Rickles. And does anyone ever ask me what I want for Christmas? Oh, no--it's all gimme gimme gimme."

"Well, Mr. Claus., what would you like for Christmas?"

"A minority government in 2015."


"With Rick Mercer as Prime Minister. Now get off my lap, kid--here comes Wally Buono."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Chestnuts roasting...

Some of us once enjoyed working at a very civilized radio station that would not play Christmas music until December 15, and then played only music deemed listenable. That would exclude, for example, "Rockin' 'Round the Christmas Tree." Oh, that's one of your favorites? Sorry.

Having reached December 15, it's time to once again provide our completely unnecessary Christmas music list. We won't recycle the story of how Bob Wells and Mel Torme came to write "The Christmas Song," having told it countless times before, but we will note that there is a lovely performance by Jane Monheit on the album "An Appalachian Christmas." This album also includes James Taylor's "Ol' Blue," in which he sings, "When I get to Heaven, first thing I'll do, is call Ol' Blue." And Ol' Blue will come runnin'', because Pope Francis has assured us dogs do go to Heaven.

There are other fine, slightly off-beat Christmas albums, among them "On Yoolis Nights," a collection of medieval carols by Anonymous 4; "Russian Christmas" by the St. Petersburg Chamber Choir; and "Winterludes," an eclectic compilation assembled some years ago by Starbucks, and right up there with their Christmas blend coffee.

But moving beyond the major works (Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" and others) we should look at jazz takes on Yuletide music. Our favorites: "England's Carol" (actually "God Bless Ye Merry, Gentlemen") by the Modern Jazz Quartet; "Sleighride," a wild ride indeed by Art Pepper, Richie Cole and Roger Kellaway; "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Dexter Gordon (gently swinging, though not as poignant as Garland's); and a very Brahmsian "Away in a Manger" by George Shearing and Don Thompson.

The Bill Evans Trio does a charming, candy cane "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and, oh yeah--there's Louis's "Zat You, Santy Claus?" Eartha Kitt's "Santa Baby" doesn't qualify as jazz, but Ms. Kitt purringly does.

Okay, Vince Guaraldi's "Charlie Brown Christmas" music remains essential, and, though not in any sense Christmassy, there is "Baby, It's Cold Outside" by Ray Charles and Betty Carter (written originally by Frank Loesser as a party song for himself and his wife). And finally, folks--yes, there is a finally--how long is it since you've heard Les Brown's great early 1950s recording of Irving Berlin's "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm"? Just as we thought, way too long. Pour yourself a mug of something warming, and enjoy.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Grog Blog

In a moment of sly subversive humor, CBC Radio announced the "sobering news" that consumption of alcoholic beverages aboard Royal Canadian Navy vessels would no longer be tolerated.  This means no more twice-daily tots of grog, a tradition reaching back to 1756, when the ration was put in place in the Royal Navy.

The initial half-pint (one restorative drink at noon, another at the end of the day) was a mixture of weak beer, lemon or lime juice, rum, and water. It was introduced to seamen under the Union Jack by Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon, and it is from this illustrious mariner that the drink took its name. Vernon, always attired in a grogram cloth coat, was dubbed Old Grog; thus, the drink became grog.

That liquor should be banned on RCN ships doesn't seem to us the sort of command that would be issued by the Old Salts of the service. We suspect the directive came from the seriously sober inhabitants of 24 Sussex Drive, where the only kick in the Yuletide punch comes from an extra spoonful of Sweet 'n' Low.

So our sympathy to Popeye and his pals. Meanwhile, we landlubbers will rase our glasses, and say, "Here's to you, Old Grog!"

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Breaking Relationships

Paul Simon told us there are more than fifteen ways to leave your lover. Now we need Paul, or Dr. Phil, or somebody, to tell us how to leave a website. Or, how to get a website to leave us. You cannot take an online service to dinner and after a glass or two of wine say, "It's not you--it's me."

Internet providers of information we do not want have a tag in small print saying, "To unsubscribe, click here." But when these people get our clicks, they say to themselves, "Oh, I'm sure he doesn't mean it--he's just having a bad day." And they keep sending their material--day after day after day.

They are relentless. A simple request to learn more about a group can result in being dragged into that group, made a member, vulnerable to e-mail from every other digitally brain-washed member. It's like being drawn into a cult of cyber-worshippers. It is easier to resign from the Mafia than from these persistent online-pals.

Please, Paul--send advice. Tell us how to access the anti-social media. But don't add us to your daily e-mail list.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mail thinks this is junk

A team of researchers in the University of British Columbia psychology department believes frequent checking of one's e-mail increases stress. There is a link, a Vancouver Sun story suggests, between e-mail and anxiety.

This may be the basis for the famous Burt Bacharach-Hal David song "E-Mail Keeps Falling On My Head" (later slightly altered for a film).

But there are those who enjoy checking their e-mail every time they hear that friendly Ding! Even junk mail is welcomed, as noted in another pop hit, "Can't Get Enough of That Spam, Ma'am."

And as for the now notorious attempts by techno-con artists to extract money and personal information ("This is a message from Revenue Canada. To access your funds, please enter your bank account and credit card numbers and all your passwords.") who doesn't get a kick out of those? The musical response, by Ernie and the Byte Kings: "I Just Hate ta Give Up My Data." (Alternative pronunciation version: "Whatsa Matta? You Want My Data?" And the follow-up: "Get Away from My Data--You're Persona Non Grata!")

Reading the UBC researchers' report, we have resolved not to check our e-mail more than once or twice every forty-five seconds. Unless, of course, we are assured it is safe, and accompanied by our personal psychologist, Dr. Jack Daniel.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Exit the Baroness James

The Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL, better known as P.D. James, has indeed departed this world, having reached the mid-nineties mark, as did P.G. Wodehouse, and like Plum Wodehouse, writing to the end.

She had a gift for titles--"Cover Her Face" ( her first novel, in 1962), "An Unsuitable Job for a Woman" (1972, introducing her female sleuth, Cordelia Gray), and, among many others, "Shroud for a Nightingale" (1971, drawing on her long experience within the British hospital system).

"Shroud," to this reader, remains the most intense and memorable of her novels, and one of the two P.D. James books that seem essential. The other is "Talking About Detective Fiction," a collection of essays produced in support of the Bodleian Library, in which she discusses mystery writing from Dickens and Collins to Hammett and Chandler, but shows her greatest affection for other writers of her gender--Marjorie Allingham, Ngaio Marsh.

Her most familiar creation is the poet-police officer Adam Dalgliesh, later seen in several television adaptations. We still prefer the novels, in which Dalgliesh looks the way we imagine him to look.

Ever moving forward, very late in her career P.D. James wrote "Death Comes to Pemberley," a mystery which is also a follow-up to "Pride and Prejudice." Would Jane Austen have been amused? No one can say--but certainly Miss Austen and the Baroness will have a lot to talk about at their Heavenly tea time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Turkeys Head North

"This is Ralph Dooley, reporting for PD News on the arrival in Canada of hundreds of American turkeys the day before Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States. With me I have Orville Turkey, one of the leaders of this mass migration. Orville?"

"Thanks, Ralph. We prefer to think of it as a move for freedom, rather than a migration. We have come to Canada to escape the oppressive and unjust ways of our former country. If we'd wanted to migrate, like to a warmer place, we would have gone to Mexico."

"But you chose Canada."

"We did, Ralph. And that's because Canada has always been a welcoming place for Americans dissatisfied with U.S. policies. Think of the many Vietnam War protesters who moved here. And there's one more factor of Canadian life especially attractive to us."

"And that is?"

"We knew we would feel at home here, because we had been told that many of your political leaders are turkeys."

"Thank you, Orville Turkey. This is Ralph Dooley for PD News."

"You wouldn't have any corn kernels on you, would you, Ralph?"

Saturday, November 22, 2014

St. Cecilia and the Jazz Organ

November 22 is the feast day of St. Cecilia, patron of music, often depicted seated at an organ--the instrument she is believed to have invented almost 2,000 years ago, and played so beautifully an angel fell in love with her. As Dryden wrote:

"At length divine Cecilia came,
Inventress of the vocal frame."

While there are and have been any number of concert and church organists, we are thinking of jazz organists--Jimmy Smith, Brother Jack McDuff, Wild Bill Davidson, Richard "Groove" Holmes. Hands up, all who remember Richard "Groove" Holmes.

But our favorite, still, is Thomas "Fats" Waller, memorably captured at the keyboard of an HMV Compton pipe organ in London in 1939. Fats learned to play the organ at the church where his father was the pastor--Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church.

Later, he taught another young musician, a kid from Red Bank, New Jersey, to play St. Cecilia's creation. And, on a very few recordings, we can hear the kid from Red Bank--Count Basie--at the organ. We think St. Cecilia is loving it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Playoff Pep Talk

Final instructions to a CFL team by its coach: "Go on out there, guys, and save my job!"

                                                                                                       --Slap Maxwell, PD Sports.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Getting Out at the G-20

A bootleg tape from the G-20 Summit in Brisbane reveals this exchange:

Harper: "Get out of Ukraine."

Putin: "Get out of my hair."

Harper: "What hair?"

Putin: "Get out of the Tar Sands."

Harper: "What Tar Sands?"

Putin: "Get out of that Maple Leafs jersey."

Harper: "Get out of--no, get into something. Put on a shirt, for gosh sakes. Madame Xi isn't impressed."

Putin: "Get out of my way so I can pour this gallon of Stolichnaya into the punch."

Harper: "Get out of town, before it's too late, my love. Cole Porter."

Putin: "Did you ever have the feeling that you wanted to go, but still had the feeling that you wanted to stay? Jimmy Durante."

Obama: "Get out the hooks."


Izvestia, November 16: The friendly exchange between Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and President Vladimir Putin of Russia has been misunderstood. Mr. Harper did not say "Get out of Ukraine" to Mr. Putin. The Russian leader was at that time performing a medley of Duke Ellington tunes on the balalaika, and Mr, Harper, eager to hear "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing," said, in a most comradely manner, "Vlad, enough with the theme--get out of A-Train." We trust this clarification has put an end to the discussion.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Face to Face, Nose to Nose

Prime Minister Stephen Harper brought new meaning to the phrase "face-to-face diplomacy" on his trip this week to the Antipodes. Arriving in Auckland, Mr. Harper exchanged the traditional nose rubbing greeting with a Maori leader.

The Maori nose greeter later complained that he thought Mr. Harper had "an unfair advantage" in their meeting. Mr. Harper, meanwhile, realizing the photograph had been reprinted internationally, mused, "Gee, I hope this doesn't upset Laureen. Or John Baird."

Conservative supporters in Canada, however, are enthusiastic, hoping Mr. Harper will enter the Great Proboscis Challenge, the Bob Hope Invitational, and go on to win the Durante Cup.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Remedial Civics

In the recent US midterm elections, only 37 percent of eligible voters chose to exercise their franchise. Lot of flabby franchises down there.

And the Canadian record, at least in municipal elections, is worse. It has been estimated that the November 15 elections for mayors, councillors, trustees, et al. will bring a mere 30 percent of voters to the polls.

It's hard to think of any other situation involving a choice among ten people that would have seven shrugging their shoulders and saying, "Who cares?" Imagine there are ten people at lunchtime wondering whether to order pizza or Chinese takeout. Would seven say, "Whatever," and consume anything the other three ordered?

Or think of ten people trying to decide what to do for the evening's entertainment, the new Angelina Jolie movie or bowling. Or ten people sitting around a television set, asking should they watch Nova or Two-and-a-Half Men. Are seven going to express a lack of interest?

Some commentators have suggested voting should be mandatory, as it is in Australia. Or maybe 70 percent of the electorate needs a course in remedial civics.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

You Must Movember This...

The calendar may say November, but all men able to grow facial hair (and those nervously unable) know that it is Movember--the month when all males beyond the age of twelve are expected to sprout moustaches to support research in aid of men's health issues. And no, guys, that does not include balding.

CFL players may find moustaches more in keeping with their brawny machismo than the pink spats they wore last month to support progress in the defeat of women's cancers, but only a handful of players, led by Eskimo quarterback Mike Reilly, are ahead of the game (that is, the moustache game) with a bushy upper lip already in place.

The question for many men is: what style of 'stache is right for me? Choices range from the pencil line, lounge lizard look perfected by Zachary Scott in "Mildred Pierce" to the wildly untended, shrub-run-amok look of Wilford Brimley and former US UN Ambassador John Bolton.

And for those who have been spending mornings anxiously peering at their upper lips hoping for hirsute action, there is a solution: pick up a jar of stage makeup and paint one on, a la Groucho Marx.

You must Movember this--a 'stache is still a 'stache.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Raymond, Carver

When Raymond saw the pumpkin at the farmer's market, he had to have it.

"I'll take this one," he said.

"Pretty unusual pumpkin, ain't it?" said the farmer. "Should be easy to carve; looks like the grin is already there."

It wasn't an easy pumpkin to carve. Raymond found strong resistance to his knife. But when he was finished, he had, he thought, a work of Jack O'Lantern art. "I am," he told himself, "the Michelangelo of pumpkin carvers."

The pumpkin was the centrepiece of Raymond's Hallowe'en party. One guest said, "Man, that pumpkin has real personality." Later, one of the women said, "Ray, am I imagining it, or is the pumpkin's grin changing? It started out happy, but now the mouth is turning down. It's starting to look angry."

"Probably melting from the candle," said Raymond. "Let me get you another drink."

The next morning, a little hungover, Raymond was cleaning up, emptying glasses and ashtrays, getting ready to drop the pumpkin in the trash, when he heard a voice: "Wait a minute--you don't want to do that."

Raymond looked around. Was one of his guests still there, stretched out on a couch? Or under a couch? "Hey," he said, "who's that?"

"It's me, Raymond." The voice, he realized was as close as the pumpkin he was holding. He looked down and saw the Jack O'Lantern's twisted grin. "That's right," it said. "It's me, Raymond. Why don't you set me back on the table, and we can talk."

Raymond thought, "I have really got to cut back on those late night vodka stingers. I almost believed the pumpkin was talking to me." But he did set the pumpkin on the table and turned to make coffee.

"Hey, don't turn your back on me," the voice said. "We've got things to discuss, Raymond. Huh--Raymond. Raymond, carver. Pretty funny."

Raymond felt himself shivering, put the coffee back and poured himself some brandy.

"I guess you've carved a lot of pumpkins, haven't you, Raymond? How do you think it would feel if someone sliced off the top of your head, scooped out your skull, and cut funny designs on your face? Would you feel good about that?"

Raymond, clutching another glass of brandy, slid down on a chair and thought, "Okay, I've heard of people hallucinating. Stay calm. I'll just finish this drink, throw the pumpkin in the garbage, and go back to bed."

"What was that you said, Raymond? Didn't know you were talking out loud, did you? And throw me in the garbage? Oh, I don't think so."

Raymond was suddenly aware of tendrils growing from the pumpkin's sides, almost like arms. Arms that were now reaching for yesterday's carving knife.

"Drink some more brandy, Raymond," said the voice, "and just relax."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Hallowe'en Scarometer

It's time again to crank up the Hallowe'en Scarometer, to let you know which book, which film, which piece of music are most likely to send you screaming from the room and in need of months of therapy.

Ghost stories are the oldest form of scaremongers, and there have been classic appearances of spectral figures--Banquo's ghost who appears to haunt Macbeth's banquet hall (not to mention the three Weird Sisters, brewing their diabolical broth) and the trio of spooks who drop in on Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve. But while the characters are terrified, are we? Maybe not. Ghost stories of the kind told around Boy Scout campfires can be found in the classic tales of Montague Rhodes James, who spent most of his career at Cambridge, and whose stories often have a scholarly setting. Another academic who liked to spin ghost stories was Robertson Davies. While Master of Massey College, he presided at the annual Christmas party, during which he would read a yarn of the supernatural. (M.R. James's stories may be difficult to find, but Davies's were collected and published by Penguin Books under the title "High Spirits.")

However--our choice for best ghost story remains "The Green Man," a novel by Kingsley Amis, published first in 1971. The Irish Times found it "shimmering with panic." It is also very funny, good on food and wine, and including, as the Sunday Times wrote, "superb sexual comedy."

Scariest music for many may be the theme from "Jaws," but we still give top marks to Miklos Rozsa's score for "Spellbound," the 1945 Alfred Hitchcock film that also had dream sequences by Salvador Dali. What provides the chill in Rozsa's theme music is the use of the theremin, an electronic instrument that produces the aural equivalent of ectoplasm. Deliciously chilling.

And finally, the film. Many viewers would vote for "The Exorcist," which caused them to sleep--if they could--with the lights on. And ghosts have materialized in many movies, including the romantic ("The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," "Portrait of Jenny") and the comic (Bob Hope's "The Ghost Breakers," Bill Murray's "Ghostbusters.") But for our money, paltry sum that it is, the best of the films is "The Uninvited," which is not only suitably scary, but is also a clever and subtle mystery, a paranormal riddle, left for brave Ray Milland, ascending the haunted stairs, candelabra in hand, to solve. ("The Uninvited" also gave us Victor Young's lovely "Stella by Starlight"--bonus points for that.)

Enjoy a scary Hallowe'en. A most cordial "boo!" to all.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Minimalist Costumes

Fred and Myrna McGoogaley, longtime friends of this program, hope the weather is balmy and mild on Hallowe'en.

"It's because of the costumes we've chosen," said Fred.

"Yes," said Myrna, "Rain would ruin mine."

Which is what, Myrna?

"I'm wearing body paint."

And Fred?

"I'm wearing tattoos."

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Morals & Quarrels

As Municipal Election fever hots up (sheer irony, as voter turnout is predicted at roughly thirty percent, many voters preferring to stay home and watch re-runs of "Cheers") one candidate's platform is worth some attention. A woman offering herself for the mayor's job in Burnaby is running primarily on a campaign to stamp out public demonstrations of affection. These acts, which she considers offensive and harmful, leading, she contends to violence, include holding hands and the traditional matrimonial kiss after the minister says, "I now pronounce you man and wife." Clergy, under new civic rules, would be required to follow this with, "You may not kiss the bride. You may not shake hands. You may not give each other a high five." Couples would then set off on separate honeymoons.

In other news of moral concern, several parents have protested that some costumes intended for girls as young as five appear to have been modeled after the racier numbers of Madonna and Lady Gaga. What ever happened to Snow White and Little Bo-Peep? No news of costumes for boys, but if the trend continues you may find at your door a troop of six-year-olds dressed as The Chippendales, shouting "Strip or Treat!"

We plan to dress as Ironman, and will, as usual, be going door to door with glass in hand.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Jazz & Football

Saddened today to read of the departure from this planet, at age 72, from cardiac arrest, of Tim Hauser, founder of Manhattan Transfer.

The story or legend is that Hauser was driving a cab in New York and picked up a singer--probably Janis Siegel--going to an audition. They fell into conversation, found they shared similar musical objectives, and then, connecting with Alan Paul and either red-haired Laurel Masse or Cheryl Bentyne, formed one of the truly terrific jazz vocal quartets.

(And further on jazz singers--Jon Hendricks, of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, continues to perform at age 97.)

Two companies have begun issuing CDs of jazz that should not be lost. One is JazzPlus, which has delivered, among other things, a memorable club session with Johnny Hodges, Roy Eldridge and Coleman Hawkins. The other is Original Jazz Classics, and among its releases is "Waltz for Debby" by the Bill Evans Trio in performance at NYC's Village Vanguard. It is the last disc on which can he heard bassist Scott LaFaro.  Evans--"the Chopin of jazz," in Louis Lortie's words--redefined the jazz piano trio, not restricting bass and drums to accompaniment, but giving them equal expression. This CD contains probably the best ever performance of "Waltz for Debby," as well as two other songs Evans played over and over through his career: "My Foolish Heart" and "I Loves You, Porgy." There is also a blistering "Milestones," recalling Evans's time with Miles Davis.

And turning to Slap Maxwell for football news: Jon Cornish once again bursts thru for 160 yards, well on his way to repeating as the CFL's top running back, despite missing several games at the start of the season after a nasty hit. We saw Cornish first as a teenage player at New Westminster's St. Thomas More School (not our favorite saint nor our favorite school, but that's something else). There probably aren't enough games left in Cornish's career for him to top Normie Kwong's all-time rushing record, but who knows?

Meanwhile, it would seem inevitable that Cornish's team, the Calgary Stampeders, will take the west and then the Grey Cup, but that's been said before. This is the CFL, where the name of the game is often surprise.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Butt Out, Carmen

An Australian opera company has banned a production of "Carmen" because, it says, the opera promotes smoking. As those of you who have seen this opera a dozen times know, it begins outside a cigarette factory where Carmen and friends are provocatively puffing.

We weren't aware that Bizet's opera promoted smoking. Cigarettes are not usually offered to the audience. The musicians in the pit aren't lighting up. There are no camels in the story.

How can this Aussie opera company come to terms with Carmen? Could the factory be producing e-cigarettes? Probably not.

Happily, Oliver Fieldhagen, an opera buff of long-standing, has come up with a solution: the cigarette mill will become a bubble gum factory. When the curtain rises, Carmen and her friends will blow gigantic pink bubbles. Bravo!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Great Gobbler Getaway

The turkeys at the farm were getting nervous, watching the clock wind down to Thanksgiving Day.

"Until now," said one of the younger turkeys, "I thought a roast was one of those things where people got up and told jokes and honored somebody."

"And I thought," said another, "that 'get stuffed' was just a rude remark."

One of the elder turkeys sighed and said, "That's not the worst. Do you know where we'll be after Thanksgiving?"

"We'll be toast."

"No," said the senior turkey, "we'll be soup."

He went on: "Do you know that Benjamin Franklin proposed that the United States' national emblem should be the turkey, instead of the eagle? If Ben had had his way, we'd be on gold coins, and people would be eating roast eagle."

"If only," said one of the younger turks, "Steve McGobble were here."

"No chance," said the senior. "After he engineered last year's great escape, he moved to the big time. I hear he's in Hollywood, working for Pixar. Today, for us, he's just a legend."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that," came a voice from the back of the barn. The turkeys whirled around and saw a tom turkey in sunglasses and motorcycle helmet. "It's him--it's Steve McGobble," someone cried.

"Steve," said the senior turkey, "what are you doing here? It's dangerous."

"That's exactly why I'm here," said McGobble. "I'm going to get you out of danger."

"But how?" asked a young turk.

"Ever hear the story of the Wooden Horse?" said McGobble. "How Ulysses wheeled a wooden horse into the Trojan compound? The Trojans thought it was a gift, but inside that hollow horse was a troop of fierce Greek soldiers."

"You've got a wooden horse, Steve?"

"Something better. I've got a flock of rubber turkeys."

"Rubber turkeys?"

"That's right. I got the idea from those rubber ducks kids have in bathtubs. These turkeys look like the real thing. And, with wireless control, I can make them move around and gobble. On Thanksgiving morning, I'll set them loose in the yard. The rest of us will hide here in the barn. Then, while the two-legged tyrants are anaesthetizing themselves with various potent potables, I'll hot wire the farmer's truck and we'll make our getaway."

"Gee," gushed a pretty turkey, "you sure talk good, Steve. "

"I've been taking diction lessons," he said, "from the same guy who coached Donald Duck."

Everything went according to plan, and as the farmer's family and friends were sitting down to dinner, Steve McGobble and company were speeding down the freeway.

Back at the farm, one of the guests said,  "Candied yams are delicious. Biscuits and cole slaw are wonderful. Gravy is creamy and rich. But I gotta say, this turkey is like rubber."

The farmer said, "Shut up and have more turnip wine."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

And the winner is...

Jean Patrick (Patrizzio) Modiano, the 2014 Nobel laureate in literature. A name probably unknown to many North American readers, although there are English-language translations of at least five of his novels, and bookstores and libraries (and their patrons) will be hurrying to find them. The Nobel committee cited Modiano's capturing of memory, and he has been called "the Marcel Proust of our time," which isn't bad.

This isn't Modiano's first award--he has received the Prix Goncourt and other European literary prizes. The Modiano work many North Americans may be familiar with is the film "Lacombe, Lucien," for which he wrote the screenplay with the director, Louis Malle.

And in other prize news, this footnote: The Bay's search for the Great Canadian Beard has ended, and while we can't yet reveal the name of the winner, we can tell you that honorable mention went to Mrs. Eulalie Givinsky of Elbow, Saskatchewan. Well done, Eulalie--you came within a whisker of winning!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Put Down That Razor!

We have become accustomed to the Movember Moustache-Growing Movement, but this year The Bay has moved first on the facial hair front.

Despite tearful pleas and vigorous lobbying from Gillette and Schick, the Bay has announced a "Search for Canada's Best Beard." Men are challenged to cultivate a beard--anything from a goatee or Van Dyke to a full Castro--take a photograph of themselves, and send it to The Bay. Prize: $1,000 credit at the store. Contest, unfortunately (or fortunately, say thousands of women), closes October 9, which doesn't allow time for much more than a scruffy look, unless you apply Vigoro.

We believe, however, the winner is already assured. Canada's Best Beard? Undoubtedly Tom Mulcair's. Even Paul Calandra said so, tearfully.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Autumn Serenades

"Autumn Serenade" is the name of a song by Peter DeRose, better known for "Deep Purple," but probably neither title would be recognized by anyone under fifty. Make that sixty. But there is a fine recording of "Autumn Serenade" by John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, on their classic ballads album.

It's a toss-up whether there are more songs about spring or about autumn, but it's September, so we're going for autumn. 'Tis Autumn" is a song by the famed hipster and practical joker Henry Nemo. More famous--most famous, probably--are "September Song" and "Autumn Leaves." No one has ever touched the first version of "September Song" (Kurt Weill-Maxwell Anderson) sung by Walter Huston. And the gold standard for "Autumn Leaves" is the performance by Yves Montand (sung as "Les feuilles mortes" in the original French).

The English lyrics to "Autumn Leaves" were written by Johnny Mercer, who wrote as well "Early Autumn" ("...there's a dance pavilion in the rain") for the coda to "Summer Sequence," that evocative jazz tone poem composed by Ralph Burns for the Woody Herman band. Mercer's last, elegiac lyrics were "When October Goes," set to music, after Mercer departed, by Barry Manilow.

"September in the Rain" introduced the sound of the George Shearing Quintet in the mid-1940s, and almost everyone has done Vernon Duke's "Autumn in New York" ("Lovers who bless the dark/on benches in Central Park").

Then there are the songs that bid a rueful farewell to a summer romance--"The Things We Did Last Summer" ("How could a love that seemed so right go wrong?") and still the leader in that category, Victor Herbert's "Indian Summer" ("You're the ghost of a romance in June, going astray..."). Sarah Vaughan sang it with Basie, Sinatra sang it with Ellington.

Enjoy your own autumn serenades.

Monday, September 22, 2014

3-Day Madness

The sadists behind the annual 3-Day Novel Contest report that 454 writers pushed themselves thru the 2014 72-hour literary marathon. Manuscripts come from everywhere English is written, and from some places where it's not. We understand one entry was carved on stone tablets in Sumerian characters.

Results of the contest will not be announced until January, as readers work their way thru the mountain of manuscripts. But our friend Arto the art director has an idea for a retaliatory contest, in which readers are required to read all 454 novels in three days.

How about it, 3-Dayers? The challenge is out.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scots, Wha' Hae!

Now that the votes have been tallied in Scotland, we can be assured that:

* We will still get marmalade, haggis and single malt whisky;

* We will be able to watch Sean Connery films and "the Scottish play";

* We can re-hang our autographed portrait of Jack Webster;

* We will have to endure more bagpipe music.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Call Vince!

When labor struggles make you wince,
Call Vince!

Don't say words that cause your mouth a soapy rinse--
Call Vince!

Who's the guy
Who makes it fly,
The Mediator Prince?

It's Vince!

He's Ready when you are.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mano a Mano Negotiation

Positively the last word (we hope) on the duel to death of the BC Teachers Federation and the British Columbia government:

Both sides have agreed to a final round of negotiations. However, the former and failed negotiators will be replaced in this encounter by Solomon Elimimian of the BC Lions (for the government) and John Chick of the Saskatchewan Roughriders (for the teachers).

Seats available thru Ticket Master.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Test for the BC Government

In Maple Ridge today, Premier Christy Clark told listeners that binding arbitration in the BCTF/Government war of attrition would mean five cents more per litre on gasoline and an extra $200 on personal taxes. Not mentioned, but implied, was that Jim Iker would come around to residents' homes and take away whatever was in the sugar bowl and piggy banks.

Not disputing these statements, for we know that the Premier and her government are all honorable persons, the Centre for Meaningful Education has prepared a short test for Ms. Clark, Mr. Fassbender, and their followers.

One: Can you spell disingenuous? Can you define it? We know, five syllables, that's tough. Try the next one.

Fabrication: Can you handle, that is, can you give an example of this in practice? No? All right, on to the final question.

Spin: Only one syllable, and yes, we see all hands up. Excellent, BC government, you've passed again.

Oh, one more question for those who accept the government's position:

Gullible: Can you define gullible? No? We thought not.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Saint Steve of the Arctic

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today that he had found one of the ships from the lost Franklin Expedition. Okay, the PM didn't actually go underwater himself, but he was the de facto leader of the exploratory venture in the Far North.

Conservatives see this as a major advantage as the country heads toward a federal election. One Tory MP said, "What have Trudeau and Mulcair found recently?"

Now there is a move in the PMO's office to have Harper elevated to sainthood. A spokesman told reporters, "We know that Anthony is the patron saint of lost objects, and there are several patron saints of sailors, including Cuthbert and Brendan, but there is no patron saint of lost ships. We believe Prime Minister Harper is ideally suited for this title."

So far there has been no response from the Vatican.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Switch

"Life of Crime," a film with Jennifer Aniston and Tim Robbins, soon to open at a theatre nowhere near you, is based on an Elmore Leonard novel called "The Switch." The switch here is the title, and while "The Switch" might not be an audience magnet, it is truer to the story than "Life of Crime." Not that that would matter to the guys who market movies.

"The Switch" is the story of a woman who is supposed to be the victim in a plot conceived by a lot of dopey guys, and who outsmarts them as easily as she sprays on Givenchy. When Elmore's principal characters are female, they are invariably smarter, and often tougher, in a stylish way, than the male characters.

While waiting for the movie to get past X-Men and Gladiators and comic book super heroes, you might want to drop by your friendly neighborhood book store, if your neighborhood still has a book store, and pick up a copy of "The Switch." You can think Jennifer Aniston while reading it.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Nutz 'n' Boltz

BC Education Minister Peter Fassbender said today he was relieved to learn that binding arbitration is not an S&M practice.

In other political news, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has turned upside down Theodore Roosevelt's advice to "Speak softly and carry a big stick." In Harper's case, it is "Speak loudly and carry a weeny stick."

The Toronto International Film Festival declared Friday "Bill Murray Day." The star of "Ghostbusters" and other films was delighted, until he learned he would have to live the day over the next day. And the day after that. And the day after the day after that. "Please," he pleaded, "somebody call Andie Macdowell." But the organizers said, "Let's not have a tiff at TIFF."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

End-of-Summer Clearout

Hang up your seersucker,
Shelve your whites.
Get ready for
Some chilly nights

(One of the forgotten Wordsworth poems)

"Now! Just in time for autumn yard clean-up, a remarkable, noise-free, pollution-free instrument for gathering leaves! Get ready for--The Rake! Yes, now you can deal with fallen leaves without endangering yourself by (a) inhaling toxic exhaust fumes and (b) infuriating your neighbors with ear-splitting noise! Phone now, to the number on your screen--only $29.95, for The Rake! But wait--there's more! Phone right now, and we'll include a free bag of leaves! That's right--the Revolutionary Garden Rake and a bag of hand-picked, multi-colored, only slightly mouldy leaves for only $29.95! Call now! Not available in stores."

Premier Christy Clark's office said today that she has not responded to a demand from Burnaby Central that she send back her high school diploma.

Report from the 3-Day Novel front: Several grammatical casualties, including split infinitives, dangling participles and fractured syntax.

Finally, we wish to apologize to Stephen Harper and John Baird for posting those intimate photos on-line.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ready--or not

Apparently not.

But all is not lost in the BCTF-Liberal government dispute. Education Minister Peter Fassbender has promised to visit your home and provide tuition for your children (up to the short division level) for two hours a week, if the BCTF's Jim Iker will agree to get a haircut.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Vince ("Always") Ready Show

Vince Ready, widely regarded as the Rainmaker in labor disputes, has now placed himself in the middle of the BCTF-Liberal government impasse. Watching Mr. Ready on television, we noted a strong resemblance to Lou Grant, and thought, "There's a movie in his story!" Someone call Ed Asner.

The premiers of Saskatchewan and British Columbia have reached an agreement on inter-provincial free trade of wines and spirits. This means residents of Saskatchewan will be able to drink Burrowing Owl and Township 7, and British Columbians will get #1 Hard Rye. The deal was reached during Happy Hour at a Charlottetown bar.

Our Hollywood insider reports that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have married, surprising those of us who thought they had been married for years. It is not known if George Clooney was on hand to give the groom away.

And back to Vince Ready: Looking ahead to the inevitable 2015 debate among Canada's Conservative, Liberal, NDP and Green Party leaders, we believe the proceedings would be more focused and more civil if Mr. Ready were to act as mediator. Failing that, the networks will have to bring in Whitey Dropko to referee a tag team match.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Ice Bucket Cometh

Lindsay Lohan has issued an ice bucket challenge to Prince Harry. Royal watchers and entertainment reporters are wondering if this might lead to a pairing of the two. "I do hope so," the Queen is reported to have said. "Harry needs to settle down a bit, and Miss Lohan may be the responsible one to do it."

Agata Andrzejczak, an analyst with London's International Wine and Spirit Research, has declared "Vodka is really passe." She believes vodka is being replaced by cider. Don't tell Putin. Don't tell Bond.

Back to the ice bucket challenge. Prime Minister Harper, traveling through the far north addressing crowds of seals and penguins, considered issuing a challenge to Justin Trudeau. He decided against it when told that the ice has to be in chips; he could not drop an iceberg on the Liberal leader's head.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dog Days--arf! arf!

We are in the midst of what are called the dog days, although by tradition they fall usually in July.

Many of us imagined the term "dog days" to have originated with Shakespeare, as almost every expression did, but in fact it goes back to our old pals, the ancient Romans.

Caesar and his buddies believed that Sirius, brightest star in the constellation of Alpha Canus Majoris, rising with the sun, pushed up the summer heat. Alpha Canus Majoris is, of course, the Big Dog, and Sirius was--and is--the dog-star. So, the Romans called this time of year caniculares dies--dog days.

Dog days--arf! arf!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Quick CFL Quiz

Although it's early in the CFL season, Slap Maxwell, who has fallen out of more press boxes than any other sports reporter in history, has come up with some conclusions. Here are Slap's questions, which he would call rhetorical if he knew what that meant:

Is Mike Reilly the best quarterback currently playing in the CFL?

Are the Edmonton Eskimos the comeback team of the year?

Is Chris Jones the early first choice for Coach of the Year?

Is Jon Cornish the best non-running running back in the country?

Now that Shea Emry has gone to the Argos, is Chip Cox the entire Montreal Alouettes defence?

Has Mike Benevides stopped changing his socks? (A few seasons ago, Benevides, then the Lions defensive coordinator, credited the team's winning streak to his continuing to wear the same socks, game after game. Asked by a sports reporter if he washed the socks between games, Benevides said, "Next question." Now that the Lions are winning again, Mike may have brought the sock strategy back into play.)

Slap says the answer to the first five questions is yes. He doesn't know about Mike Benevides's socks.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Few Hot Tunes

Okay, we've already talked about Irving Berlin's "Heat Wave;" here are a few more songs suitable for a sizzling summer (stop me, as Jurgen Gothe once said, from alliterating again).

First, Cole Porter's "Too Darn Hot," delivered by Bianca in "Kiss Me, Kate." "I'd like to coo with my baby tonight/And pitch the woo with my baby tonight/But it's too darn hot."

Then there's "Steam Heat"--sisss--from "Pyjama Game," and Duke Ellington's great "Harlem Air-Shaft," which he described as a picture of apartment life in the summer: "You hear fights, you smell dinner, you hear people making love."

But our favorite, perhaps, is "Ain't It Awful, the Heat?"--lyrics by Langston Hughes, set to music by Kurt Weill, and sung by two weary women sitting on tenement steps in Elmer Rice's "Street Scene."

And finally, for a splendidly surreal scene, there is this number, written by Edgar Leslie and Walter Donaldson, but best known, probably, from the Tom Waits recording:

"When it gets too hot for comfort
And you can't get ice cream cones
T'ain't no sin to take off your skin
And dance around in your bones."

Monday, August 4, 2014

Warm Weather Records

As British Columbia continues its unusual stretch of hot summer weather, many records are being set. Expect to see these in the next Guinness Book of Records:

Fletchley Armbruster, British Properties--record for number of showers in one day: 32. "As soon as I step out of the shower and towel off," says Mr. Armbruster, "I turn on the cold water and hop right back in. I do this continuously from 6:00 a.m. to 10 p.m., when I retire to my bed, wrinkled and happy."

Armand Giroux of Maillardville--record for time spent in bathtub filled with ice cubes: 14 hours. "When they start to melt," he says, "I ring a little bell, and ma cherie dumps some more trays in. When I begin to turn blue, she pulls me out."

Vern Delilly, Vancouver--record for number of popsicles consumed in a 12-hour period: 56. "My favorite," said Mr Delilly, speaking with some difficulty over a frozen tongue, "is watermelon. But I am working on a recipe for gin and tonic popsicles. I think they could be a big hit. I have a slogan ready: Keep on Lickin' and Keep on Tickin'."

Finally, Marvin Scranley of Port Moody is trying to beat Howard Hughes's record for number of times watching "Ice Station Zebra"--the elusive industrialist's favorite film while hiding out at the Bayshore Inn. "It's a challenge," admits Mr. Scranley, "but I'm ready for it. Bring on the ice."

Friday, August 1, 2014

Chance of a Ghost

Canada Post has issued a set of stamps honoring the country's fabled spectral presences. We could now call the corporation Canada Ghost.

Among the spirits saluted: the Ghost Train of St. Louis, Saskatchewan; the Phantom Ship of the Northumberland Strait; and the Ghost Bride of the Banff Springs Hotel. Still waiting to be seen, although often heard, is the Ghost Piper of Sauble Beach.

Ghosts like to hang out in hotels. Kingsley Amis's "The Green Man" opens with the appearance of a ghost in the manager's quarters: "I came out of our apartment on the upper storey to find somebody standing, back turned to me, near the stairhead. I took this person for a woman in an evening dress rather heavy for a humid August evening. Without a sound the figure turned to face me. I vaguely saw a pale, thin-lipped face, heavy auburn ringlets and some kind of large bluish pendant at the throat. I sensed a surprise and alarm that seemed disproportionate."

There are ghosts haunting Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, the Sylvia Hotel on English Bay, and--most famous locally--Hotel Vancouver, where a woman in a 1930s red gown has been spotted flitting thru elevator doors from the first floor to the fourteenth. The fourteenth seems to be her favorite. The hotel is so fond of her the bar has created a cocktail in her honor: The Lady in Red.

It has gotten to the point where no self-respecting hotel can get by without a haunting or two. Next time you call for a hotel reservation, ask first about the resident ghost.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Word from Duke

Duke Ellington had reassuring words for all of us who have unfinished projects.

According to Terry Teachout, author of a new biography of Ellington, Duke told Louis Armstrong, "As long as something is unfinished, there's always that little feeling of insecurity. And a feeling of insecurity is absolutely necessary unless you're so rich that it doesn't matter."

So leave that half-written novel or symphony on your desk and go play in the lawn sprinkler.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Going for Coffee with Philip Marlowe

In Raymond Chandler's 1949 novel "The Little Sister," private eye Philip Marlowe puts down a quarter for a pack of Camels and gets seven cents change.

Later he finds a nickel in a pay telephone slot and uses it to get a cup of coffee.

Of course, he was making only forty dollars a day--on days when he had a job.

Even so, we're ready to go for coffee with Marlowe--if he still knows that place where it's five cents a cup.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hey, Taxi! (oops)

Vancouver's taxi cabs have announced a fee for passengers throwing up in their cars. It is $75. Plus, presumably, what the metre reads to that up-chuck time. And fella, from wherever we are, find your own way home.

For rates on other bodily functions in cabs, please consult your local taxi company.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Roles for Barbie and Ken

Barbie, favorite doll of prepubescent girls for decades, has fallen into a slump. Mattel Inc., Barbie's folks, say that sales have been going south for eight of the last ten quarters. What was needed, some said, was a new image for Barbie. Toy tracker Lutz Muller said, "What girls are waiting for is another icon." And so, Mattel has responded with--wait for it--Entrepreneur Barbie.

Entrepreneur Barbie, on her way to a new high-powered career, comes in business dress, carrying briefcase, smart-phone and tablet. Erica Diamond, founder of, and one of the "chief inspiration officers" for Entrepreneur Barbie, says, "Girls can dream by setting up Barbie to own her own food company or salon." But why stop there? Why not President of MicroSoft? Why not Prime Minister Barbie?

Meanwhile, where is Barbie's longtime companion, Ken, in all this? Could Ken be a rival entrepreneur? Could he be a gofer in Barbie's company? No, someone has to look after the household. So watch for the new Ken, wearing a frilly apron, holding a mop and a dish pan.

Yes! Meet Homemaker Ken!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Quick Picks on Flicks

Carl Schaefer, son of Jack Schaefer, author of "Shane," revealed in a recent letter to the Times Literary Supplement that his father's first choice for the movie role was Montgomery Clift. Alan Ladd's performance was memorable, but with Clift we might have had a very different film.

The Writer's Almanac noted that today would have been the 108th birthday of Clifford Odets, probably New York's hottest playwright in the 1930s and possibly the inspiration for the Coen brothers' "Barton Fink." Among the Odets plays later made into films: "The Big Knife" and "The Country Girl." "The Big Knife," the dark side of Hollywood, was recently re-staged on Broadway with Bobby Cannavale in the role Jack Palance played on screen. Odets also wrote a number of original screenplays, including "The Sweet Smell of Success."

The new Woody Allen film is "Magic in the Moonlight," with Colin Firth as an illusionist and Emma Stone as a psychic and seance leader who may or may not be a fraud. Knowing Allen to be a longtime admirer of Ingmar Bergman, this corner has a hunch that the seed for this may have been Bergman's brilliant puzzle of logic and faith, "The Magician."

Just a guess. See you at the movies.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pen-Pushers & Politics

Kirk LaPointe, long associated with the Vancouver Sun, the National Post, the CBC, and the UBC journalism school, has announced his candidacy for the office of mayor of Vancouver. He has not solicited our advice, but we do have some thoughts on journalists going into politics.

Political parties like to have high-profile media people as candidates, but it doesn't always work out (cf. Mike Duffy). Once media types are elected, they are often sent to the back benches and ignored. That was one reason Jack Webster, who was frequently approached by parties, refused to run for election. "I have more power where I am," he said, and he was right.

Of course, there are no back benches in municipal politics, and if you become mayor, you're not going to be ignored. Still, it is sobering to think of journalists in other times and places who have thrown their hats, or their green eye-shades, into the ring. Among them: Warren Harding, former publisher of the Marion Daily Star, who still holds the record for worst President of the United States (against some serious competition) and Mussolini, editor of Lotta di classe, for whom it was finito Benito.

On the plus side, however, there was Churchill, who covered the Cuban War for The Graphic and the Boer War for the Morning Post, and went on to have what one might consider a successful political career.

Still, our feeling is, if you're a journalist, why give that up and have to go to work?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We're Having a Heat Wave...

...a tropical heat wave. Well, not really, but one is tempted to whistle that old Irving Berlin song. Carmen Miranda fruit salad headdress optional.

Some of remember when heat caused the computers in the Vancouver Courier production room to go kaflooey, resulting in copy that looked like a page out of "Finnegan's Wake." Air conditioning was quickly installed. But only in the production area. The rest of us kept pounding our manual typewriters in tank tops and Speedos.

In the early years of CHQM, the air conditioning system in the control room/studio block was a fan blowing across a chunk of ice in a wash tub. The newsroom did not enjoy such luxury, leading one announcer to end a 9:00 p.m. newscast saying, "the temperature outside: 78 degrees. In the QM newsroom: 98."

We all admired our colleague's candor, but he was soon out. Not out in the cold--out in the heat.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

World Cup Final

On winning the 2014 World Cup, Germany said it plans to bring back Bert Kaempfert.

Could have been worse.  Argentina said if it won, it was going to reclaim the Falkland Islands.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Papa says--

"Fortunately I have never learned to take the good advice I give myself nor the counsel of my fears."

--Ernest Hemingway, "The Dangerous Summer," 1953.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Putin vs. Netflix

Russia has denied the producers of "House of Cards" permission to film inside the UN Security Council chambers. All other member nations said "Okay with us" but Russia said "Nyet," which is the most used term in what passes for Russian diplomacy.

It is reported that Vladimir Putin said he would give permission if (a) he could get a cameo role opposite Kevin Spacey; or (b) he would be played by Tom Cruise; or (c) he could meet Rachel McAdams.

Kevin Spacey just flashed his Frank Underwood initial cufflinks.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Glorious Fourth!

It is, indeed--the Fourth of July, a stirring day for those of us with some of our roots in Bad Axe, Michigan, and a day to think of Louis Armstrong and George M. Cohan, both of whom claimed to have been born on this date.

The right way to begin the day is by sipping coffee from a Barack Obama commemorative mug while listening to Jimi Hendrix's electrified version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Pour a splash of bourbon in the coffee, if you're so inclined. Then join us for a rousing rendition of this George M. Cohan classic:

I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
Yankee Doodle, do or die!
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam,
Born on the Fourth of July.

I've a Yankee Doodle sweetheart,
She's my Yankee Doodle joy.
Yankee Doodle came to London,
Riding on a pony--
I am that Yankee Doodle boy!

Cue the fireworks!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tony and Eleanor and the Order of Canada

It was a great pleasure to find on this year's list of persons admitted to the Order of Canada (or elevated to a higher rank) many from the arts community; among them David Cronenberg, Gerald Finley, Victor Davies, Alex Pauk, Jim Munro, and Rick Mercer (who next should be elected Prime Minister).

We were especially pleased to find the names of two outstanding nonagenarians: Antony Holland and Eleanor Collins. Tony Holland, an actor of wide range and a director of great originality, is best known for his founding of Studio 58 at Langara Community College, one of Canada's leading theatre schools. What many may not know is that during WWII, as part of Montgomery's army during the North African campaign, he staged plays for troops all across the desert, including a performance of "Night Must Fall" at the Cairo Opera House. After the war, he was vice-principal of Olivier's Bristol Old Vic, but then, happily for us, and for him, too, we hope, he came to Canada. Tony Holland, still on stage, is now 94.

Eleanor Collins was the jazz diva of choice for Vancouver musicians in the days of Ray Norris, Fraser MacPherson, Chris Gage, Dave Robbins, Doug Parker, et al. She had her own CBC television program, and she was a frequent guest on many others, including the long-running "Some of Those Days," with, among others, Bill Bellman and Lance Harrison. But we remember her best for a scene off-camera. She had brought her four young children to a recording studio to sing a jingle for Malkin's Fresh-Pack Strawberry Jam. She coached the pre-teen quartet, and then, when they began to sing, she joined in, as a backup vocalist. Ad-man Tom Huntley ad-libbed "Oh, what a jam to be in!" Eleanor Collins, new member of the Order of Canada, is 99.  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Moving Day

First consequence of the Supreme Court decision giving aboriginal groups authority over their traditional lands:

Doorbell rings at 24 Sussex Drive, Ottawa. Moments later, an aide approaches Stephen Harper.

"Uh--Prime Minister?"

"Yes? Don't you know not to bother me when I'm reviewing attack ads?"

"It's just that there's someone at the door."

"Well, what does he want?  Does he want to make a donation to our 2015 election fund?"

"I'm afraid not. He says we have to vacate these premises. They are on the site of an ancient buffalo hunting ground."


"He asks if you've read the recent Supreme Court decision."

"I suppose it's on the desk here somewhere, under the Hockey News."

Enter a gentleman wearing an eagle headdress. "Time to go, Steve. We're reclaiming this land. There's a van waiting outside for you."

"But--where will I live?"

"It's summer. The parks are open. Take a tent. Oh, and by the way--Beverley McLachlin sends her regards."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Eli Wallach

Eli Wallach, one of the great American character actors, has exited stage left at age ninety-eight, after a career of seventy years and a marriage (to Anne Jackson) of sixty-six years, both remarkable achievements.

A long time ago, Wallach was standing with director Josh Logan at a memorial tribute in a Broadway theatre to a deceased actor. Wallach was amazed at the number of people who attended. "When I go," he said, "there'll never be a crowd like this."  Logan said, "Yes, there will, Eli. We'll paper the house."

One of the many stories about Eli Wallach is that he was the first choice of the producer and director of "From Here to Eternity" to play Maggio. He stepped away from the part when a chance came to appear in a new Tennessee Williams play. The role went to Frank Sinatra, and the rest, as they say, is cinematic history.

After that, whenever Sinatra saw Wallach, he would grin and say, "Hello, you crazy actor." Which, we presume, is what St. Peter will say, when Wallach makes his celestial entrance, stage right.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer School for the Coach

The Vancouver Canucks' newly-minted head coach, Willie Desjardins, has sheepishly confessed that despite his Gallic name, he does not speak French. He says, "I don't have an ear for languages."

Fortunately, there is time to learn before the season begins, and team management has arranged for Desjardins to attend summer school with previous Canucks coaches Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella.

"A.V. will teach him to speak French," said Trevor Linden. "Torts will teach him to swear."

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Political Correctness (or not)

Federal Cabinet Minister Jason Kenney this week announced changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. These changes were not welcomed by the Restaurant Association of Canada, in particular the low-cost fast-food outlets. Good luck, Jason, getting extra fries with your next Big Mac.

In Washington, the NFL team long known as the Redskins is now known as the Washington No-Name. Speaker John Boehner has suggested it be called the Washington Lobbyists or the Washington Gridlockers. This is still under discussion. Meanwhile, a similar move is underway to strip the Edmonton Eskimos of that name, and environmentalists also have a problem with the Edmonton Oilers.

The dispute between the British Columbia government and the BC Teachers Federation continues. It is reported that BCTF President Jim Iker sent a note to Premier Clark, saying, "Still mad about that Grade 10 detention, Christy?"

Friday, June 20, 2014

Let me make this perfectly clear...

Note to followers of politics: the Kevin McCarthy just elected House Majority Leader in the United States is not the same Kevin McCarthy who starred in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

We were hoping...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Looney Tooney for Popperoony

Here it is Father's Day (or maybe Fathers' Day--one is never sure where the apostrophe should go). But yes, this is the day on which we salute male parents, and some of us have been bemoaning the sad state of greeting card verse. So, we have assigned the task of composing suitable Father's Day greetings to our Doggerel Department. Let's see what they scan for the old man.

All us kids are really happy
That we can call you dear old Pappy.


We're glad you took the time and bother
To take the job of being Father.

Seriously, guy, we wouldn't swap
You for any other Pop.

I do not wish to be supercilious
Or write verse sure to make you bilious;
Instead I wish to be punctilious
And say, hail to you, Paterfamilias.

And finally--

Really neat that you're our Pa
But remember--you couldn'ta done it without Ma.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Tony & Steve Show

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in what is probably the greatest display of leadership affection seen in Ottawa since Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney harmonized on "When Irish Eyes are Smiling."

Prime Minister Abbott brought gifts: a boomerang and a six-pack of Foster's. Prime Minister Harper reciprocated with a Maple Leafs jersey and a Stompin' Tom Connors CD.

Later Mr. Abbott addressed the House of Commons, asking the MLAs, "What kind of suit would a kangaroo wear to a formal dinner?" Answer: "A jumpsuit."

The only negative moment in the Abbott-Harper meeting came when the Australian leader apologized for his country's strict immigration policy. "I'm sorry, Steve," he said. "We can't take Mike Duffy."

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Postapocalyptic Jack London

Postapocalyptic novels and films--"The Hunger Games," "Divergence"--are currently popular, particularly with teenage readers. But there is nothing new about the genre--the first postapocalyptic novel we have is "The Epic of Gilgamesh," which is roughly 4,500 years old.

We were surprised, however, to find a postapocalyptic tale by Jack London, better known for "White Fang," "The Sea Wolf" and "The Call of the Wild." London's little known "The Scarlet Plague," published in 1912, is set in the ravaged world of 2072. One of its characters finds a coin dated 2012, and says, "That was the year Morgan the Fifth was appointed President of the United States by the Board of Magnates. It must have been one of the last coins minted, for the Scarlet Death came in 2013. Lord! Lord!--think of it! Sixty years ago and I am the only person alive today that lived in those times."

So we can relax. It's 2014, and we're still here. We've escaped the Scarlet Death. And Morgan the Fifth.

Meanwhile, surely somewhere a movie producer is itching to turn London's postapocalyptic tale into a blockbuster film. If "itching" isn't an inappropriate word.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Speaking of Teachers' Salaries...

As the BC Teachers Federation and the government of British Columbia continue to shoot spitballs at each other, one of our aged contributors came up with this memory:

"In the early 1940s, Dan Cameron, vice-principal of Moose Jaw's Ross School, saw that the school janitor was about to retire. He immediately applied for the janitor's job. It seemed that the janitorial position carried a higher salary than the v-p's.

"Cameron did not get the janitor's job.

"But he did move on to the CBC, as Talks and Education Producer, and later became director of the network's Alberta operations, and finally the Prairie division.

"The last time I saw him was on an airplane traveling somewhere. He was nattily attired. I believe he had reached the point where he was earning more than either the vice-principal or the janitor."

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


On the calendar of church saints, this is the day on which John XXIII--Angelo Roncalli--is remembered. Among the wisdom he left us is this:

"Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do."

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sexy Carmen, Fat Jose

Writing in The New Yorker on Hillary Rodham Clinton's relations with news media, Ken Auletta references Gloria Steinem, who says, "journalists affix adjectives to female candidates--shrill, pushy, aggressive, ambitious, divisive, bossy--that they don't apply to males."

The same complaint could be aimed at critics and some others in the operatic world. We thought criticism of a female singer's shape and size had ended with the Jane Eaglen incident (Eaglen has gone on to continued triumphs, while the person who thought her too large for a role--how can anyone be too large for Wagner?--has vanished from sight); but no, this season five critics took aim, in a manner reminiscent of early teenage bullying, at the Irish mezzo Tara Erraught, in her UK debut at Glyndebourne.

Male singers seldom if ever are criticized for their appearance (although Pauline Kael, reviewing a filmed version of "Carmen," with Placido Domingo as Don Jose, called him "the world's oldest corporal").

The singer playing the seductively dangerous lead in "Carmen" doesn't have to be beautiful, she may even be what the French would call "jolie laide." She has only to be (at least for Don Jose) irresistibly attractive. Don Jose, however, should appear to be young, naive, handsome and slim. We remember a production of the Bizet opera in which the singer playing Carmen met all the criteria, but the Humpty-Dumpty tenor playing Don Jose was perhaps four inches shorter and twenty years older than she. No wonder the Gypsy jumped to Escamillo.

No critic, however, mentioned this. Until now.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Herb Jeffries, adieu

News today that Herb Jeffries, once the featured singer with Duke Ellington's orchestra, has departed this world. One headline said he was "known for his luscious baritone," and his baritone was luscious, indeed. His best-known song was "Flamingo," and if you hit YouTube you can see a performance of it by Jeffries with Duke, including solos by Lawrence Brown and Johnny Hodges.

The headline also described Jeffries as an "African-American cowboy." It's true that he made movies for what was known as the "sepia market," movies with such titles as "Bronze Buckaroo" and "Harlem Rides the Range." But Jeffries's birth name was Umberto Valentino, his lineage was Irish, Ethiopian and Sicilian, and he looked Sicilian enough to hang out with the Corleones.

Herb Jeffries was one hundred years old.

"Flamingo--flying over the sea..."

Monday, May 26, 2014

Miles & Teresa

May 26 is the birthday of both Teresa Stratas (Toronto, 1936) and Miles Davis (Alton, Illinois, 1926).
Pity they never recorded together. He would have been great on her Kurt Weill album.

The Old DeeJay.

Friday, May 23, 2014

News--if not breaking, at least seriously cracked

Disturbing news for football fans--no, not the possibility of a CFL-Players Association dispute that threatens the 2014 season--much more serious, especially for those who remember and revere Regina's Taylor Field. As a further step toward the gentrification of football, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are going along with a plan for construction of a $278 million Mosaic Stadium, which includes--get this--a roof, designed "to quell the winds." Come on, wind has always been part of football in Regina. Football is (or was) a game meant to be played outdoors, in wind, rain, snow, heat wave, typhoon.

And a final note: try sneaking into Mosaic Stadium over a fence.

The University of Bucharest has produced what it calls "A Manual for the Advanced Study of Finnegan's Wake." In--and get this--one hundred and one volumes. The 26,000-page magnum opus is published by Contemporary Literature Press. We know you're eager to add this to your home library, and you're wondering what it will cost you. Answer: nothing. The announcement says "You can find us and download our books for free, including the full text of Finnegan's Wake." Internet addresses: and

Finally, in the continuing sad destruction of the language, fewer and fewer people, whether in print or on air, seem to know the correct usage of "lay" and "lie." Broadway producer George Abbott knew. Still playing golf in his nineties, Abbott was on a course with his wife when he tripped and fell, face down, in a sand trap. "George," his anguished missus cried, "don't just lay there!" Abbott raised his head slightly, and said, "Lie there."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rubik Still Wins

This week marks the fortieth anniversary of the creation of Rubik's Cube. Forty years of trying, and we still haven't gotten it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Queen Victoria: Two or Three Things You Should Know

It is Victoria Day, and while there are few of us left who remember that glorious day in 1837 when the 18-year-old Princess took the throne (which she then held for sixty-three years and seven months) there are celebrations (and a day off) throughout Canada and what is left of the British Empire.

In response to many queries, we now provide a few answers:

Q: What was Queen Victoria's family name?
A: D'Este.

Q: Was Queen Victoria musical?
A: Both she and Prince Albert were pianists and singers, and spent many a happy hour with Felix Mendelssohn. In her daily journal, the morning after Albert proposed marriage, Victoria wrote, "He sang to me some of his own compositions, which are beautiful, and he has a very fine voice. I also sang for him."

Q: Were her journals preserved?
A: The edited edition fills 111 volumes--one-third of what she wrote.

Q: Was she also a graphic artist?
A: She made some charming pencil sketches and watercolors.

Q: How tall was Queen Victoria?
A: At the beginning of her reign, four feet and eleven inches; at the end, four feet and seven inches. But she had added some inches horizontally.

Q: When she said "We are not amused," whom was she talking to and why?
A: Alexander Grantham Yorke was the unfortunate jester. Two stories: (a) He had been heard telling a joke considered unsuitable for the ladies of the court; (b--and more likely) He had been caught engaging in some monarchical mimicry.

Enjoy the parades. Watch for a tiny rotund lady wearing a crown.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Critter Sitter

Having successfully fulfilled a week as a Professional Goldfish Sitter, I have been besieged by requests for my services as a critter sitter. So far, I have respectfully declined offers of employment as a companion for the following:

-- Boa constrictors

-- California condors

-- Vampire bats

-- Ant farms

-- Black widow spiders

-- Flea circuses

But I worry about what Galen and Zoe might bring back from the San Diego Zoo. A postcard says they have become very fond of a howler monkey.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Goldfish Chronicles: V

Day five, and we're still alive! Whoo!

The Goldfish

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Goldfish Chronicles IV

"Thanks for leaving the TV on," said Ralph, as he turned a few laps in the bowl.

"Yes, it was very entertaining," said Minerva. "We especially enjoyed David Suzuki."

"I just wish," said Ralph, circling the coral castle, "we could tune out the commercials. Some of them are very upsetting."

"Especially," said Minerva, "that one for filet-o-fish."

"Yes," said Ralph. "We're not loving it."

Monday, May 12, 2014

Goldfish Chronicles III

"We're bored," said Ralph, the daddy goldfish.

"Nothing to do but swim around all day," said Minerva.

"Except," said Ralph, "ha ha--remember that Cole Porter song? 'Goldfish in the privacy of bowls do it'."

"Oh, Ralph!" said Minerva. I thought she might have blushed, but with goldfish it's hard to tell.

"But wait," said Ralph, "that's what we need--music. Put some on."

"What kind of music do you like?" I asked.

"We're very fond of Schubert's Trout Quintet," said Minerva.

"'Splish Splash' is good," said Ralph.

"And 'Three Little Fishies in an Itty-Bitty Stream" is cute."

"But not 'Saturday Night Fish Fry'."

"No, we hate that."

"How about," I said, "'Salmon Chanted Evening'?"

"GEDDOUDA HERE!" they cried.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Goldfish Chronicles II

Galen and Zoe called this morning and said, "Don't forget to wish the mama fish a happy Mother's Day."

"Which one," I said, "is the mama fish?"

Zoe sighed. "Don't you know anything?"

Galen said, "The mama fish is the carassius auratur cyprinidae, more commonly known as the fantail."

"We call her Minerva," said Zoe.

"They have names?" I said.

"Of course they have names," said Galen. "The papa fish is Ralph, and their friends are Fillmore and Amy."

I said, "It sounds like 'I Love Lucy' with fins."

Zoe sighed again. "We should have gotten an app to look after the goldfish."

I said, "There's an app for goldfish?"

Galen said, "Don't mind him, Zo--he's pre-digital."

Zoe said, "I think he's prehistoric."

After they hung up I went to have lunch. I decided against the fish fingers.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Journal of a Goldfish Sitter

My neighbors Galen and Zoe, aged nine and three, have gone to San Diego to visit the zoo. Before leaving, they knocked on my door and asked if I would do something for them: "Would you feed our goldfish while we're away?"

I protested that I am irresponsible, unreliable and in all practical matters incompetent. "We know," said Galen. "But you're the only one left," said Zoe.

This is how I have become a goldfish sitter.

"You give them four pellets in the morning," said Galen. "And eight at night," said Zoe.

"And," she said, "don't stick your hand in the tank."

Why not?

"Because," said Galen, "it would upset the electric eel."

"And the stingray and piranhas," said Zoe.

"Have fun in San Diego," I said, and went to consult with my friend Jack Daniel.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

So long, Torts

So long, Torts--
That's the way it is in sports.
Gotta keep your suitcase packed,
Never know when you'll get sacked.

So long, Torts--
Hope you're not feelin' too outa sorts.
Thought you might stay forever,
But then they went and got Trevor.

So long, Torts--
You gave it a nice try.
Despite reports,
You turned out to be a nice guy.

So pour a drink
And get into some other team's rink.
Just remember one thing:
You already got a Stanley Cup ring.

So long, Torts.


The film "American Hustle" received ten Academy Award nominations, but not one for best score. A mistake, because Danny Elfman's musical collage--from Duke Ellington to Steely Dan, Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan to Donna Summer--is one of the best things about the film.

Elfman could have composed an original score--he has written some of television's best-known theme music--but chose instead to put together a musical backdrop using existing recordings. Perhaps the first to do this successfully was Jerry Fielding, for "L.A. Confidential," setting the period as ably as the art direction and set design.

For a long time film scores were dreary or unimaginative or overbearing or all three. Any number of 1940s weepers used part of "Daphnis et Chloe," and one is sorry Ravel wasn't around to demand royalties or sue. Then there were the ponderous scores Korngold wrote for Errol Flynn swashbucklers. For a time, movies had to have a lead song--think "To Each His Own" and "Till the End of Time."

Duke Ellington scored a couple of movies--"Anatomy of a Murder" and "Assault on a Queen"--but this wasn't his true metier. One of the first truly great scores was the one Leonard Bernstein wrote for "On the Waterfront" and another, which did win an Oscar--two, in fact--was Burt Bacharach's for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Gerry Mulligan pulled together a knockout jazz aggregation for "The Hot Rock," and Johnny Mandel has written all kinds of memorable movie music, for pictures from "The Americanization of Emily" to "MASH." And we can't forget David Raksin, who composed the still hauntingly beautiful themes for "Laura" and "The Bad and the Beautiful."

Off to look for a CD of Danny Elfman's "American Hustle" score. Music, maestro, please!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Silver sends Sterling to the showers

Or maybe not. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver came down so hard on the loose-lipped Los Angeles Clippers owner that Donald Sterling may not be allowed in the showers. Silver did everything but forbid Sterling to watch basketball on TV.

This is not to defend Sterling or his comments, but only to wonder at the change over the past sixty or seventy years in American big league sports. There was a time when Sterling's remarks would not have raised a white eyebrow; that was the period when there were no African-Americans playing major league baseball. Legendary players like Satchel Paige were restricted to what were known as the "negro leagues."

Then along came two brave men who were willing to endure a lot of abuse, not only from owners and fans, but even their own teammates. Yet they did it, opened up the game, and began to change the way Americans saw--and respected--people.

So the next time Pope Francis declares a pair of saints, we're pulling for Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson. Even if their main religion was Baseball.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Birthday of the Bard

William Shakespeare was born this date--April 23--four hundred and fifty years ago. He departed this world on the same date--April 23--fifty-two years later. Shakespeare understood theatre and knew when to make an exit.

Sonnet 30:

"When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past.
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I now pay as if not paid before.
    But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
    All losses are restored and sorrows end."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In Praise of Dandelions

In one of Len Deighton's novels, Dawlish, an MI5 senior, has a garden composed entirely of wild flowers and, let's say it, weeds. Deighton's principal spy, whom we always think of looking like the young Michael Caine, says, "Must be easy to cultivate." Dawlish bristles: "It most certainly is not! Takes a great deal of care!"

Our roving reporter thought of this today when passing boulevards covered in golden dandelions. He thought, how wonderful that these lovely volunteers appear unaided each spring. While everyone praises the cherry blossoms and forsythia and rhododendrons, and rightly so, we should also be grateful for the wild flowers that pop up on their own--crocuses, buttercups, snowdrops, dandelions.

If Wordsworth had come upon an expanse of dandelions instead of daffodils, he might have written a different verse:

"My mind was filled with negative ions/'Til I saw a field of dandelions."

And as if the beauty of the dandelion were not enough, it can also be turned into wine--a tiny thimbleful of which, we are told, can induce a memorable hangover.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Joy of Statistics

According to a recent report released by CareerCast, described as a "career guidance website," the work of a statistician is the third best job to which one might aspire. We can hear small children everywhere saying, "When I grow up I want to be a statistician!"

But not as many as will want to be tenured university professors, the job ranked #2, or the top-of-the-line calling--mathematician!

These evaluations were based on data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (right, statisticians), the Census Bureau, trade association studies, and other bodies monitoring salaries, physical demands, stress levels and other factors which determine the desirability of a job.

So if the roles of mathematicians, university professors (tenured) and statisticians are the best jobs (followed, in this order, by actuaries, audiologists, dental hygienists, software engineers, computer systems analysts, occupational therapists and speech pathologists) what are the worst jobs? Number two on the "take this job and shove it" list is said to be newspaper reporting. Number five is broadcasting. Now we find out, after a lifetime in radio and newspapers, when we could have been, if not tenured university professors, at least actuaries. (Actuary, we don't even know what actuaries do.)

Other jobs deemed undesirable are serving in the military, driving a taxi, collecting garbage, working as a flight attendant, being a chef, fighting fires, and acting as a collections officer. The very worst job of all: lumberjack.

What the compilers of these arbitrary rankings seem to have overlooked, while checking salaries, stress factors, et cetera, are the pleasure and interest one may find in following a particular line of work. Really, how many disc jockeys or sports writers reading this are going to chuck their jobs and become dental hygienists? (Not, as Seinfeld would have said, there's anything wrong with that.)

As for lumberjacks, you have only to remember the Monty Python gang's stirring rendition of "I'm a Lumberjack and I'm Okay." No one is singing "I'm an Actuary and I'm Okay."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Remedy for Football Fans

For fanatical followers of football, the longest season of the year is the time between the Super Bowl and the start of the CFL season.

But there is help at hand. Dr. Slap Maxwell's prescription: Go see "Draft Day," a cinematic Nicorette for addicted grid fans. Best football movie since "Any Given Sunday." Best sports movie since "Moneyball."

See it every day, until the training camps start up and the exhibition games begin.

For serious cases, we recommend viewing twice a day.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Orwellspeak in Canada

Recent moves by Canadian governments, federal and provincial, suggest that the upside down language introduced by George Orwell in the novel "1984" is now among us. Examples: The Parti Quebecois "Charter of Values" and the federal Conservatives' "Fair Election Act."

Turning to Orwell's scary and prophetic work, we find slogans promoted by the Ministry of Truth, Ministry of Peace and Ministry of Love. Among them: "War is Peace," "Freedom is Slavery," and the one that may be closest to the current political situation--"Ignorance is Strength."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Trading Places

Pauline Marois, new General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks.

Mike Gillis, new leader of Parti Quebecois.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Art of Politics

Have you seen George W. Bush's paintings of himself in the bathtub? If only "Playgirl" were still publishing, Dubya might have been a centre-fold.

But now there is a new exhibition of the 43rd US President's work. Titled "The Art of Leadership," it is a collection of portraits of political leaders from Afghanistan to Ottawa, and is on show at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. It's said both MOMA and the Louvre wanted it, but the Bush Center got it first.

The portrait drawing the most attention among Canadian viewers is that of Prime Minister Stephen Harper--an exceedingly flattering portrait, in that it doesn't really resemble Mr. Harper. However, the Prime Minister has praised it, saying, "I believe the artist recognized my inner George Clooney."

In other political news, several gentlemen who turned up at an Oakville Conservative nominating meeting expressed disappointment. One said, "I thought it was Amy Adams we were going to see."

And Dimitri Soudas, finding he suddenly has a lot of spare time, says, "At last I'm going to write my novel. I plan to call it 'All About Eve'."

"Or maybe," he said, "'All About Steve'."

Monday, March 31, 2014

Justin Trudeau says the Oops! word

"Prime Minister! Prime Minister! Justin Trudeau just said..well, you know what. It's material for another of our cheesey attack ads!"

"Yes, I know, but right now we have another #*&%@+ problem to deal with. Where is that #$@%^& Dimitri when we need him?"

"Mr. Prime Minister--I can't believe it. You just said...that word."

"I know. I can't #*&%@+ believe it myself. I have never said that #*&%@+ word in my whole #*&%@+ life."

"Mr. Prime Minister--are things beginning--I hate to say this--beginning to #$@!*% fall apart for our beloved, if somewhat dictatorial, #$%@!*&% government? Oh dear, now I've said it myself. This must be catching. What can we do? The election is only fifteen #$@*&% months away. What do you say?"

"I say oh, #*&%@+."

Friday, March 28, 2014

New Threat from North Korea

Alarming news from North Korea: the official state hair style is now the Kim Jong-Un cut.  North Korean men, when they go to their barbers, will be allowed only this one style--no Mohawks, no crew cuts, no Elvis waves, no Yul Brynner shaved heads, no Richard Sherman dreadlocks. Tonsorial equipment has been reduced to a bowl and a razor.

While this is bad news for North Korean would-be hipsters, who have lost their chance of ever looking cool, there are also international ramifications to be feared. What if other world leaders follow suit, and decree that all citizens of their countries should have coiffures to match that worn by the Big Cheese?

Think about it, Canadian men. Observe Prime Minister Stephen Harper's hair style, and think about it. Now, if it were Justin Trudeau...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


More lookalikes discovered: rising tennis star Milos Raonic, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, and Attila, my neighbor's pit bull.

Monday, March 24, 2014

McCarthy and Hellman, at it again

It is almost thirty-five years since Mary McCarthy appeared on the Dick Cavett show on PBS and said of Lillian Hellman "every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'" Ms. Hellman was not amused, and filed a suit for $2.25 million, which was about $2.25 million more than Ms. McCarthy had. However, before the case reached the court, both women had departed this world, to continue their literary cat fight wherever aging writers go.

But other writers continue to find the story compelling. A dozen years ago, there was a play called "Contentious Minds" based on the affair, and Nora Ephron even wrote a musical version, called "Imaginary Friends." Now there is another play in New York, written by Brian Richard Mori, with the straightforward title "Hellman v. McCarthy."

In this production, Roberta Maxwell plays Hellman, Marcia Rodd is McCarthy, and Dick Cavett is...well, Dick Cavett. Who better?

What many accounts have failed to note is that Hellman may have thrown the first dart, although a much milder one, when, on the same show, she dismissed McCarthy's work as "women's magazine writing." (Not that, as Seinfeld and friends would have said, there's anything wrong with that.)

The real blood feud of the mid-twentieth century in US culture was between Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers. An interviewer suggested to Dalton Trumbo that this would make a powerful play or film, and Trumbo agreed, but so far, it hasn't happened.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Recently, our ever alert staff noted a striking resemblance between Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella and New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff. We have now spotted a third: Lutheran pastor Tim Dutcher-Walls.

Tortorella has a pepper and salt beard, Mankoff has a white beard, and Dutcher-Walls has no beard at all; still, put them together and you would think you had found triplets.

Our artist pal Tom Huntley once said, "There are only six facial types." We were never sure if this was true, or if there were only six Tom could draw. But now, looking at Torts-Mank-Dutch, we think he may have had something. Or there is some crazy gene running around.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Football in Spring

Well, not the game, but certainly the players. First we learned that Richard Sherman would be in Vancouver May 30 to speak at an SFU Clansmen breakfast--Sherman, the Seattle Seahawks cornerback who made the play that led his team to the Super Bowl.

And now the news that Anthony Calvillo will be In Vancouver April 4 for the Orange Helmet Awards dinner at the Westin Bayshore--Calvillo, the longtime Montreal Alouettes quarterback ranked as professional football's all-time leading passer.


Now if only they could get them together--A.C. passing, Sherman knocking balls down.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Talking with TED

As you have probably heard from your buddy Bill Gates, the TED Conference is now taking place in Vancouver. TED is an acronym for Technology Design Entertainment, but it might also stand for Totally Elite Dudes.

And, as Edward Snowden appeared at the conference on screen from somewhere in Russia, TED could mean Tiresome Egoistic Defector.

We would be part of the crowd at the Convention Centre, but, alas, TED also means Terribly Expensive Deal.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sherman's March

Seattle Seahawks fans and football buffs in general should be very excited by the news that Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman will be the keynote speaker at Simon Fraser University's "Gathering of the Clan" fifth annual breakfast fund raiser. The event is scheduled for May 30 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Tickets go on sale April 14 at

For those tuning in late, Sherman is the player who deflected Colin Kaepernick's last minute pass to the end zone, thereby propelling the Seahawks into the Super Bowl. (And don't even ask what they did then to the Denver Broncos.)

Look forward to an entertaining presentation by Sherman for the SFU Clansmen--although he may have to deflect the odd breakfast bagel from '49ers fans in the crowd.

Friday, March 14, 2014

When Irish Eyes Aren't Smiling

A bulletin from the Hop & Vine brings the devastating news that the entire shipment of Guinness, for which pubs and clubs and saloons and liquor stores all over British Columbia's lower mainland are waiting, and their patrons thirsting, is sitting on a terminal dock, prevented from delivery by the port truckers' strike. And this on the very verge of St. Patrick's Day! Saints alive!

This may be the first time in history when loyal Irishmen, on St. Paddy's Day, are reduced to drinking Ovaltine.

Of course, they could think of it as O'Valtine.  Heh heh.


Bad punster dispatched with a shillelagh.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

NHL Menu

While Vancouver Canucks fans are brooding over their Shark Club doubles and dreaming up new recipes for the team--Mince Torts, Gillisburgers--few can be as bereft as Pino Posterero. owner-chef of Cioppino's, who, before every home game, would serve Roberto Luongo the goalie's favorite (and lucky) dish: lobster linguine. "If he didn't have it," said Pino, "I was afraid we wouldn't win."

And now Posterero is in his kitchen with a season's supply of linguine and lobster, wondering what Eddie Lack likes. Probably gravlax and herring and Swedish meatballs.

And where is Luongo? He's in Florida--dining on 'gator linguine.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

New Pipeline Threat

Enbridge warned today that if it doesn't get approval for its Northern Gateway project, "We're going to keep running those Janet Holder commercials."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pent-Up House

Heritage Vancouver Society has announced a tour of the Marine Building penthouse, to take place March 12, 5:30-8:00 p.m., with wine and hors d'oeuvres to be served, and tour led by Donald Luxon; all this yours for a $100 donation.

We thought of various penthouse songs--"Penthouse Serenade" (Nat Cole, Tony Bennett, Stan Getz); "Pent-Up House" (Sonny Rollins) and "Pent Up in a Penthouse" (Fats Waller). But what we really thought of was spending time in the Marine Building penthouse--no wine or hors d'oeuvres, but then, it didn't cost us a hundred bucks.

The Marine Building penthouse, described in the Vancouver Sun as exemplifying "ultra elegant, jazz age" design, was for many years the headquarters of Robert Friedland's Ivanhoe Capital Corporation, and those of us who toiled on Friedland projects spent many an hour there. Wine would have helped, but we made up for it in billing.

Friedland's base is now Singapore, and his net worth has been estimated by Forbes magazine at $1.15 billion--a leap from his status when he first arrived in Vancouver and was given a spare office in Ray Torresan's p.r. digs.

The Friedland fortune was built on mining, especially the extraordinary Diamond Fields project in Labrador, but he has had other interests, and the latest is movie making. Friedland's recently created Ivanhoe Pictures has, it's reported, two films in view: one is "Copper" (that title needs work) set on Mars in the 24th century. But our favorite, and one that seems particularly apt for Friedland, is called--wait for it--"Crazy Rich Asians."

Okay, enjoy your tour of the Marine Building penthouse. Been there. Seen that.