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.