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.