Thursday, December 31, 2015

Uh-huh--feeling like that, are you?

January 1 is, as many unfortunates know, the great, annual Hangover Holiday.

Out of necessity, we have made a study of hangover cures, from "the old restorative" mixed by Jeeves for Bertie Wooster to Kingsley Amis's remedy, not for publication in a family blog.

Keith Floyd, the wittiest chief ever to appear on the Food Network, and described as "veteran of many an heroic binge," wrote an entire book on hangovers. He offers several remedies, with such names as the Silly Sod, the Gormless Idiot and the Upperclass Twit. These are probably funnier when you don't have a hangover, and the ingredients for the Upperclass Idiot, including clam juice, may make you even queasier.

The most appealing is the Sydney Sunrise: juice of a lime, spoonful of runny honey, yolk of one egg, orange juice, and crushed ice, all whirred in a blender, if you can handle the noise, and then a grating of nutmeg on top.

For the seriously afflicted, Floyd also has menus for a Five-Day Detoxification Program.

And if nothing works, remember the wise words of Jack Wasserman: "It's better to have a morning after than to never have a night before."

Monday, December 28, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

Here we are on the cusp of 2016, and once again, many will be making New Year's resolutions.

Here are ours:

1. No more Stephen Harper jokes. (But watch out, Rona Ambrose--only national political leader named for a home construction outlet).

2. Despite the lineup of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, no more referring to my mother's birthplace as the Demented States of America.

3. Forgiveness of football teams and coaches for last season's fumbles. We will wear, in rotation, jerseys of the BC Lions, Saskatchewan Roughriders and Seattle Seahawks.

4. A fixed warm smile for all. Thanks to Botox.

Best before date for New Year's resolutions: January 3.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

And in this corner...

It being Boxing Day, we leap into the ring at Madison Square Garden, and bring you greetings from Stanley Ketchel, Jake LaMotta, Tony Zale, Sugar Ray Robinson, Archie Moore, Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Billy Conn, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Jersey Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, Gentleman Jim Corbett, Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, George Chuvalo, Jimmy McLarnin, Max Baer, Georges Carpentier, Max Schmeling, Primo Carnera, Rocky Graziano, Emile Griffith, Rocky Marciano, Ken Norton, Ingemar Johannson, Willie Pep, Jack Sharkey, John L. Sullivan, Jess Willard, Budd Schulberg, George Plimpton, Rocky Balboa, Joe Palooka, A.J. Liebling, the Marquis of Queensberry and Don King to all aficionados of what Liebling called "the sweet science."

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Silent Night

A radio station is a quiet place from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day. Quiet and deserted, thought Jack, except for the ghosts of announcers past. And not a bad thing, after the fury and chaos and last-minute panic of salesmen and copywriters and production people who staggered off around 4:00 p.m. December 24, haggard, weary, nerves shredded, trying to work themselves back into being acceptable company, or maybe just heading for a drink.

Not much to do on these shifts--run taped shows and voice tracks, keep the music going, wait for the Queen's message. In the afternoon, Jack ran tapes of two Christmas parties--one with the orphaned kids at the Orange Benevolent Home, one with the station staff, with the more embarrassing stuff spliced out.

Finally that night, as the day wound down, Jack found himself back in the familiar deejay mode, playing music that otherwise would not get played, like the Kenton band's robust, dignified collection of carols. And as midnight drew closer, he turned on his mike and said, "Time to say merry Christmas to those who've been having a tough day. Doctors and nurses in emergency wards, paramedics and ambulance drivers, cabbies and bus drivers on the late-night haul, cops on the beat, people hoping to make a dime on the street, store clerks with tired feet, guys who got laid off last week, people whose relationships fell apart just after he bought the ring, travellers hanging for hours in airline terminals and bus depots, those in the jug, on both sides of the bars, and all those in other bars, including the bouncers, and especially anyone who's sitting alone in a room talking to a poinsettia." Then he ran in "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

"Better brighten things up after that," he thought, and put on Dave McKenna's "Lulu's Back in Town." Switching on his control room mike, he sang along: "Gotta get my old tuxedo pressed, Gotta get the mustard off the vest, Tonight I gotta look my best--Lulu's back in town."

The control room phone started to ring. He thought, "Okay, it's some drunk wanting a request, or some lonely lady inviting me over for a drink, or a guy wanting a sports score. Or maybe the program director, who never sleeps."

It was the program director. "Jack," he said, "do you think that's an appropriate song to play tonight?"

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The PC Holiday Playlist

Scene: the office of PC Records. Slogan: "We're Politically Correct, So Who Can Object?" Present are the company's A&R man and marketing director.

"That's just about it for the holiday music, Al. We've re-recorded 'The Holiday Song' and 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday'."

"How about that Charlie Brown number, Frank? Have we done that?"

"I'm working on it, Al. New title: 'Holiday Time is Here'."

"Can we get the same kid singers?"

"We could, but they're all seventy years old now."

"And then there's the big one."

"That's right, Al. It's now 'I'm Dreaming of a White Holiday'."


"Yes, Al?"

"Can we drop the 'white'?"

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Hits by Accident

Frank Loesser didn't intend "Baby, It's Cold Outside" to be a pop hit. He wrote it as a party song for himself and his wife. Now it's a winter standard, in versions from the seriously lame to witty and sexy, which, of course, is what it's meant to be. Check out the Ray Charles-Betty Carter recording.

"The Christmas Song," by Mel Torme (music) and Bob Wells (lyrics)  came about because of a very hot day. Torme came by Wells's house to pick him up for a game of tennis. While Wells was changing into his whites, Torme noticed a few lines scribbled on a notepad: "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...Jack Frost nipping at your nose." When Wells came down, Torme said, "Bob, I think maybe we've got a song here." They didn't get to play tennis that afternoon.

And then there's White Christmas." Famous chorus, but what is seldom heard is the verse:

"The sun is shining, the grass is green,
The orange and palm trees sway.
There's never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it's December twenty-fourth,
And I am longing to be up north."

Maybe the best part of the song.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Grab Bag of Thoughts

Stuff from the Mental Remnants Table:

Readers of "Sports Illustrated" will have noted the choice of Serena Williams as Sports Person of the Year. Tennis fans are happy, but the horse racing crowd is not, as they were pulling for (maybe betting on) Pharoah, the Triple Crown winner. In the SI cover photo, Ms. Williams appears to be channeling Marlene Dietrich, but what her pose really recalls is the picture of Diahann Carroll on the album "Running Wild." It's clear, whatever her inspiration, that Ms. Williams no longer has--as one writer once commented--the figure of an SUV.

In other sports news, new faces behind the bench for at least three CFL teams in 2016. Well, the faces aren't new, but the moves are: Chris Jones to Saskatchewan Roughriders, Jason Maas to the Edmonton Eskimos, and Wally Buono, back in the saddle again, to quote Gene Autry, for the BC Lions. And they're still waiting for the other cleat to drop in Montreal and Winnipeg.

A charming card arrived today wishing not only a merry Christmas, but also "an amazing 2016, filled with love, connection and laughter." Best wish so far.

Finally--resolutions to reduce the amount one drinks last only as long as the return from a pre-Christmas shopping mall.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Christmas Playlist

In response to a total absence of requests, we bring you again the Pointless Digressions recommended Christmas Playlist.

1. Art Pepper and Richie Cole: "Sleighride," the Leroy Anderson winter standard--a wild, runaway ride led by the two saxophonists, with Roger Kellaway trying to keep the sled upright. Takes us thru some scary curves and over some crazy bumps.

2. Louis Armstrong: "'Zat You, Santy Claus?" Who better than Satchmo Claus to keep us merry and bright?

3. George Shearing and Don Thompson: "Away In a Manger." From one of the live performance albums recorded with Mel Torme. Torme is silent on the children's carol, while Shearing on piano and Thompson on bass give the simple melody Brahmsian depth.

4. The Modern Jazz Quartet: "England's Carol." Really "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," but "England's Carol" is what John Lewis and Milt Jackson call it.

5. Dexter Gordon: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." The most poignant of Christmas ballads, composed by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. First sung--incomparably--by Judy Garland, in Vincente Minnelli's "Meet Me in St. Louis." Long Tall Dexter gives it a more upbeat treatment.

6. "An Appalachian Christmas." A compilation album, including James Taylor's "Ol' Blue" and what, by Jane Monheit, might be the most attractive performance of "The Christmas Song."

7. "Winterset." One of the excellent collections assembled by Starbucks, when the coffee people were doing that. Includes the lovely Austrian carol "Still, Still, Still," and music by, among others, Christopher Parkening, John Rutter, and the Empire Brass.

8. Les Violons du Roy: "Symphonies des Noels." Baroque concerti for Christmas, by Corelli, Torelli, Charpentier, et al. Serene accompaniment for late evening when all the shopping is done and the cards all mailed and you sit back with brandy and happy thoughts.

And for our Orthodox friends, celebrating on January 7 (perhaps celebrating again):

9. The St. Petersburg Chamber Choir: "Russian Christmas."

Not all easy to find, but worth looking for. And listening to.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Preparing for Christmas

At one time, CHQM Vancouver, then a very civilized radio station, would not permit the playing of Christmas music before December 15. Even this would have been too early for such Advent purists as Fr. Bill Youngman, who would not allow carols in his church until midnight December 24. Still, it demonstrated greater restraint than shopping malls that begin playing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" by Alvin and the Chipmunks the day after Hallowe'en.

A few suggestions for a tranquil pre-Christmas month: 1. Do not buy any hastily (and crassly) recorded seasonal CDs; e.g., "Celebrate with the Cast of Two and a Half Men," "A Mike Tyson Mistletoe," "Christmas with Steve, Laureen and the Cats." (We would, however, rush to get a Lyle Lovett Christmas album, were he to record one. )

2. Skip all television Yuletide specials, including, we're sorry to say, the new Bill Murray show. Instead, watch again the classic Alastair Sim film of "A Christmas Carol" (un-colorized), "Love, Actually," "Meet Me in St. Louis," and Bill Murray's wonderful update on Dickens, "Scrooged," which is roughly 1,000 times better than the TV special, even if George Clooney does turn up in a tux to mix the martinis.

Mix your own martini. Tuxedo optional.

P.S.: And be sure to skip all those year-end reviews of the news. Who wants to go thru all that again?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Give a Little Whistle

"You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? Just put your lips together and blow." -- Lauren Bacall in "To Have and Have Not" on the Dummy's Guide to Whistling.

We began thinking about whistling after finding people giving us bemused stares for whistling in elevators and on public transit. Apparently, this is not done. One can carry on loud conversations on portable phones, including declarations of love and details of medical conditions, but whistling is not de rigueur.

Still, the word "whistle" turns up in many ways--trains go through whistle stops, whistle blowers reveal bad behaviour, we go whistling in the dark, and we whistle up a snack.

Remember "The Whistler" on radio, when people listened to radio in the evening? The movie "Whistle Down the Wind"? The popular Vancouver policeman Whistling Bernie Smith? There have even been albums of jazz whistling (try whistling Charlie Parker's "Koko.")

And how about Jiminy Cricket's instructions to Pinocchio when he needed the aid of his conscience?

"When you get in trouble, and you don't know right from wrong,
Give a little whistle! (tweet tweet) Give a little whistle! (tweet tweet)"

Stephen Sondheim assured us "Anyone Can Whistle." So off we go, whistling tunes no one else remembers--"Red Sails in the Sunset,""An Apple for the Teacher," "I Get the Neck of the Chicken." We just put our lips together and blow.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

So long, Number 9 -- Welcome back, Wally

A big week for football news, even after the Grey Cup game. Those of us who have watched Jon Cornish ("Jonny," as he was then known) since his years at St. Thomas More view his retirement with mixed emotions. Sad not to see more of his play (characterized, correctly, as "brilliant" by Cam Cole) but glad he's getting out with (remembering J.D. Salinger's "For Esme, With Love and Squalor") "his faculties intact."

And here in Lions country, we are delighted to have back leading the pack Wally Buono, surely the wisest old cat in the jungle.

And that's it for now, sports fans.  Slap Maxwell, in the press box with his old typewriter and a fortified Thermos.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Money Matters

The Boston Red Sox have given ex-Toronto Blue Jays pitcher David Price a seven-year contract for $217 million. This works out to $85,000 a day, including the four days out of five he doesn't play.

As Dorothy Parker said, "Rich or poor, it's nice to have money."

Meanwhile, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is giving $45 billion to charitable works.

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Mike on Mike

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly, generally agreed to be the toughest guy in the CFL (not because he gives a lot of hits, but because he takes a lot, gets up and runs again--66 yards Sunday, plus two TD passes) showed himself in a post-game interview with Matt Dunnigan to be as sharp and unruffled with a microphone in his face as he is with three mammoth tacklers grabbing for him.

While checking his rib cage to see if everything was still attached, Reilly was asked if it hurt. Thanx to Cam Cole (Vancouver Sun, National Post) for capturing his response: "I'll find out in a couple of days. I probably won't really feel it until then. Right now, the emotional high...and I'll probably have a few drinks tonight, and tomorrow and the next day."

Me too, Mike.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Kickin' the Logo

The Canadian Football League (CFL) has unveiled, as they always say, its new logo and slogan. The logo appears to be one of Tom Brady's deflated footballs, with three stripes, to be interpreted as three downs, and the tip of a maple leaf, signifying our home and native artificial stadium grass.

The slogan is "What We're Made Of," possibly from the same team that gave us "We're Lovin' It."

Having been in the position of selling logos and slogans to clients, we can hear a honey-tongued Don Draper giving the pitch to CFL Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge. "Jeff, what you say is, 'It's now, not nostalgia.' This will get those 18-to-24-year olds fighting for season tickets like they were going to see Justin Bieber!"

There has not been a lot of cheering for the new logo and slogan from CFL fans, but consider the runners-up.


1. Moose Throwing a Forward Pass

2. Beaver Chewing a Goal Post

3. Moose Dancing with Cheerleaders


1. We're Making a Play for You

2. You Don't Have to Understand the Game to Party

3. Get in a Huddle With Us

Kind of dopey?  Hey, it's what we're made of.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The State Wishes You to Fix Your Haircut!

The latest pronouncement from the rulers of North Korea is that all men should adopt the hairstyle created by Glorious Leader Kim Jong-un. Admitted, it is a very striking look. In fact, certain television reporters in Canada seem to have admired it. One can see them at their anchor positions, the sides of their heads shaved, leaving a mass of hair on the pate. The effect is to look like a stalk of leafed celery.

It's rumored that imitating the leader's coiffure was a secret part of the Conservative platform in the recent federal election. Had the Conservatives won, we would all be wearing "The Harper."

And voters in the U.S. must be wondering what will happen if Donald Trump becomes president.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

More Turkey Talk

Ted Turkey: "Great plan, Tim. 'Let's skip over to the States before Thanksgiving,' you said. So we get out of Canada, and where are we now? In Mario Batali's kitchen, on the day of the US Thanksgiving."

Tim Turkey: "Let's not go crazy, Ted. This guy is Italian, probably serves lasagna at Thanksgiving."

Ted Turkey: "Yeah, well anyone comes near me with a roasting pan, and he'll end up in the stuffing."

Tim Turkey: "I think we're okay, Ted. They're into their fifth cask of Chianti."

Ted Turkey: "Good. Let's get out of here and move somewhere safe before Christmas."

Tim Turkey: "Any ideas?"

Ted Turkey: "Yeah. Let''s try Turkeyaktuk."

Tim Turkey: "I think that's Tuktoyaktuk, Ted."

Ted Turkey: "Close enough."

Monday, November 23, 2015

Trumbo in Vancouver

Dalton Trumbo will soon be seen on screen in the flesh, moustache and eyeglasses of Bryan Cranston, who looks remarkably like him. The real Trumbo was in Vancouver forty-five years ago for the opening of his fierce anti-war film, "Johnny Got His Gun."

Talking with an interviewer in his suite at the Bayshore Inn, Trumbo had his trademark cigarette holder, but the parrot given him by Kirk Douglas wasn't perched on his shoulder.

The conversation didn't touch on Trumbo's years on the notorious "black list" or his role as one of the "Hollywood Ten"--scriptwriters who were accused of contempt of Congress and jailed for refusing to reveal information at hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee. (An account of those intemperate times is detailed in "Naming Names" by Victor Navasky.)

What was talked about was the number of films Trumbo had written--at least thirty-six, some under pseudonyms when film studios didn't want to be known for hiring him. Films made by Douglas and Stanley Kubrick ("Spartacus") and Otto Preminger ("Exodus") changed that, but it was a very long time before Trumbo was known to have written "Roman Holiday" (posthumous Academy Award in 1993). He also won an Oscar for "The Brave One," writing as "Robert Rich," actually the name of a studio messenger.

Between 1936 and 1973, Trumbo wrote at least thirty-six screenplays, including "Kitty Foyle" and "Papillon", four novels (one a National Book Award winner), and more, including scores of letters subsequently published under the title "Additional Dialogue." "Johnny Got His Gun" was not a great box office success, but it did win the Cannes Grand Prix.

An interviewer suggested that the story of Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers might be a subject for a film, and he agreed. But he didn't get to write it. Dalton Trumbo died in 1976, aged seventy.

Those who saw Trumbo in Vancouver in 1971 look forward to seeing "Trumbo" on screen in 2015.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Moustache Awards

In the midst of Movember, Moustache Month, it is time to present the awards for best and worst moustaches.

First, the Best:

#3: Eddie Shack

#2: Robert Taylor

#1: Ho Chi Minh

And now, the Worst:

#3: Kaiser Wilhelm

#2: John Bolton

#1: Terry Lake

If Premier Clark achieves nothing else in this term, she can at least--despite Movember--get her Minister of Health to shave.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Aw, Your Father's Moustache!

Etymology for this phrase signifying derision unknown, but Woody Herman, introducing his big band jazz number titled "Your Father's Moustache," called it "an old Brooklyn folk song." (You can hear and see the Herman Herd performing it on YouTube.)

Moustaches come to mind (and upper lips) because this month has been dubbed "Movember," and men are urged to grow moustaches in support of male health.

This is particularly evident in the Canadian Football League. Last month, CFL players wore a lot of pink, in support of women's health. This month, it's facial hair. Failing to grow a 'stache brings a ten-yard penalty. Attempting to remove another player's 'stache costs you fifteen.

Many of the players are already handsomely hirsute, and if there's an award for best 'stache, it should probably go to Eskimos QB Mike Reilly. But for those attempting a moustache for the first time, here are some styles to consider:

* The Teddy Roosevelt (Bully! Admirable for invading Mexico--Trump should grow one)

* The Errol Flynn (to encourage your inner Don Juan)

* The Salvador Dali (entirely surreal)

* The Hercule Poirot (activate those littler grey cells)

* The Charlie Chaplin (cane and derby optional)

* The Fu Manchu (allowing you to use the old line "Many man smoke, but Fu Manchu)

Now go put away your razor and shaving cream until December.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Saxophone Celebration

Thanx to Google, we have been informed that November 6, the birthday of one of PD's most notable pals, is also the birthday--the 201st--of Adolphe Sax.

Sax was the Belgian maker of musical instruments whose name is forever connected to his best-known creation: the banjo.

Kidding. It was circa 1840 when M. Sax invented the saxophone family--soprano, alto, C-melody, sopranino, tenor and baritone. His natal day and his creation will be celebrated by a great chorus of saxophonists, some still with us, some, as Zoot Sims would say, on the road.

Besides Zoot, the all-saxophone band will include Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Cannonball Adderley, Ben Webster, Clarence Clemons, Johnny Hodges, Richie Cole, Phil Dwyer, P.J. Perry, Manny Goodman, Ernie Watts, Al Cohn, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, Paul Gonsalves, Ornette Coleman, Phil Woods, Bud Shank, Fraser MacPherson, Stan Getz, Art Pepper, Jimmy Giuffre, Benny Golson, Sonny Rollins, George Coleman, John Coltrane, Georgie Auld, Hank Mobley, Jane Bunnett, Wardell Gray, Bob Cooper, Jimmy Dorsey, Chu Barry, Serge Chaloff, Gerry Mulligan, Paul Desmond, Charlie Ventura, Bob Moyer, Branford Marsalis, Charlie Barnet, Lee Konitz, Buddy Tate, Campbell Ryga, Joe Henderson, Frankie Trumbauer, Stanley Turrentine, Allen Eager, Illinois Jacquet, Scott Hamilton, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and Bill Clinton.

Let the hooting and wailing begin.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Calgarians Watch the Ceremony in Ottawa

"Steve, come watch! It's starting!"

"I'm busy, Laureen."

"Isn't it exciting? Don't they all look nice? He really does have good hair. And those jeans--why don't you ever wear skinny jeans, Steve?"

"I can't hear you, Laureen. I've got the Dave Clark Five turned up."

"And they've got all those people there! Don't you wish we'd done that, Steve?"


"Steve? Did you say what I think you said? That's not like you, Steve."

"I said, Oh, Fudge."

"Ha ha! Remember when his father said he said 'Fuddle-duddle'?"

"Laureen, why aren't you watching something uplifting, like "The Young and the Restless' or 'Wheel of Fortune'?"

"Come see, Steve--the swearing in is beginning. Look, even the cats are watching."

"Don't bother me, Laureen. I'm going into my Man Cave. For the next four years."

The Original Cheesecake

Ruth Reichl's recently published "My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life" contains directions for the classic New York cheesecake, a recipe that undoubtedly has saved many lives.

The only place in Vancouver that--to our knowledge--served the true New York cheesecake was Rubin's Delicatessen on lower Granville Street. There are innumerable elaborate versions, but Mama Rubin's was the real thing: only cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and a drop of vanilla, with a slim sour cream glaze. Unlike Ms. Reichl, she did not make her crust with chocolate wafers--the crust played a very low-key supporting role.

Cheesecake was slow to arrive in Vancouver. Many of us were introduced to it by Montreal and Winnipeg expatriates, and the first cheesecake we tasted may have been White Spot's, which was and is delicious, but an entirely different dessert.

In the years since, there have been many cheesecake improvisations in restaurants and home kitchens, but for purists, Rubin's New York cheesecake remains the ultimate.

It was the "Guys and Dolls" of cheesecake.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Cabinet Checking

It has been observed that there are two kinds of guests: the ones who look at your bookcases, to see what trash you're reading, and those who look in your medicine cabinet, to see what drugs you're taking. And in both cases, to see what they might want to swipe.

Today, we are peering into a cabinet. Not your medicine cabinet, which is none of our business, but the federal cabinet, which is everybody's business.

Wednesday, a new mob of ministers will be sworn in. Later, they will be sworn at, but that's their problem. Today, who those ministers may be remains a guarded secret, but peering into the future, we are hopeful that PM Trudeau's cabinet will include:

Rick Mercer--Alanis Morisette--and Solomon Elimimian.

Chagrined at not being included: Justin Bieber.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Daylight Saving Time--Gone for the Winter

Yes, Daylight Saving Time has ended for 2015. One happy citizen says, "I'm holding all that daylight time I've saved until February, and then I'm going to holiday in the sun!"

One less happy resident said, "One hour more too sleep? Naw--one hour more to toss and turn."

And finally, from an S. Harper: "Next year, instead of setting the clock back one hour, could we maybe set it back ten years?"

Saturday, October 31, 2015


"Our guest today is Marvin Ghoulburger, president of Ghosts-R-Us. Marvin, tell us about your company."

"Well, P.D., it's very simple, really. It's like an escort service, except we don't supply companions, we supply ghosts."

"Hallowe'en must be a busy time for you."

"You know it, P.D. Hauntings, seances--hard to keep up with the demand."

"What are some of your more popular ghosts?"

"Vlad the Impaler. Rasputin. Richard III--or Dick Three, as the gang calls him. Anne Boleyn is a real favourite--comes with her head tucked underneath her arm. And one who's always up for the night is Bela Lugosi--says he loves to get back in costume."

"Wow, that's quite a lineup of the Walking Dead!"

"I would blush, except vampires don't blush."

"'re a vampire?"

"Let me remove that speck from your neck. No--ha ha--just a light humorous remark. Well, this has been great, but gotta run--always a lot of last-minute shoppers to supply, and most of our ghosts are spoken for."

"So what can you offer instead?"

"We have a few witches, some trained bats, packages of ectoplasm, and a new item this year--the Psychopathic Pumpkin."

"The Psychopathic Pumpkin?"

"You've heard of Jack-o-Lanterns?"

"Of course."

"Well ours is Jack-o-Ripper."

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Trick or Treat

All Hallow's Eve is upon us, and tricksters are hurrying to find costumes. Checking with shops that specialize in the three Gs (Ghouls, Gorgons and Ghosts) we have learned that there has been a drop in calls for the Stephen Harper hairpiece, but demand for the Donald Trump wig is high.

One Canadian family is hoping to score a first. Marvin Ecklesworth, his wife and three children, are going as Harper, Mulcair, Trudeau, May and Duceppe. And, he promises, "We're going to have a debate on every doorstep." Mrs. Ecklesworth agrees, and says, "In both official languages!"

Our neighbours, Fred and Ernie, are planning to go as Jay Z and Beyonce. "Ernie," we said, "you do not possess a striking resemblance to Beyonce." "Shut up," he said, "and zip up my gown."

There are no takers, we've found, for the Bashar al-Assad mask, because, it has been pointed out, al-Assad looks like the eraser end of a pencil.

So, Hallowe'en night, there will be knocking on doors at houses all over the country. Except at 24 Sussex Drive. "We're staying away from there," said one young man. "Place is full of ghosts and bad karma."

"And cats," said another.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Moods of Autumn

With the arrival of autumn, many of us who were privileged to be at CHQM in the 1960s and '70s ("toiling in the vineyards of radio," as we used to say) will remember that changing seasons required a change of moods.

"Moods" was the name given to short, semi-poetic program introductions. Example:

"The leaves of summer begin their metamorphosis from green to gold, from scarlet to brown. It's the palette of autumn, on CHQM's Candlelight and Wine."

It was program director Terry Garner who would remind us--forcefully--when it was time for a change of moods; Jurgen Gothe was among the word-spinners who wrote them; and they were recorded, usually, in the deep, dark, Cognac-rich voice of Jack Wilson.

Here's another:

"The hiss of tires on a rain-streaked street.." Jack breaking in: "Rain-streaked street? How the &#$@!* am I supposed to say that?"

But of course, he could and did, and it was "..the sound of fall, on CHQM's Gaslight."

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mark Murphy, on the road.

Mark Murphy, the always astonishing vocal improviser, has--as jazz musicians say--caught the last bus. He was 83, a significant age in the jazz world, outlasting Charlie Parker by almost fifty yeare and Bix Beiderbecke by nearer sixty.

Murphy exploded on the scene in the late 1950s with his recording of Steve Allen's "This Could Be the Start of Something." He was unlike any other male singer--and there were great ones, from Herb Jeffries to Sinatra to Johnny Hartman; instead, he was closer to Betty Carter, and perhaps Sheila Jordan, with an approach to melody that regarded it as a runway, from which he could soar above the clouds of imagining.

We remember his inventive two-way performance of "Long Ago and Far Away," blending the 1944 Jerome Kern-Ira Gershwin ballad with James Taylor's same-titled 1971 lament. But the Mark Murphy album we play most often is "Bop for Kerouac."

In this 1981 recording, made in San Francisco, where he spent most of his career, Murphy, backed by a solid group of players, including Richie Cole, Bill Mays, Bruce Forman, Bob Magnusson and Jeff Hamilton, sings lyrics to music of Parker, Mingus, Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis. He also croons, and that, for once, is the right word, David Raksin's theme from "The Bad and the Beautiful," and the anxious sensuality of "You Better Go Now" ("because I like you much too much--you have a way with you").

Most impressive are Murphy's readings from Kerouac's "The Subterraneans" and "On the Road." Mark Murphy is now on the road himself. Maybe he'll meet Kerouac along the way.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Coaches Island

There are now so many unemployed football coaches on the loose, with perhaps more to follow, we think the Canadian Football League has to take steps to relocate them.

Obviously, TSN--The Sports Network--can't fit many more on their panel. They already have Paul LaPolice ("Lappo"), formerly with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and Matt Dunigan ("Matty"), best remembered as a player, but also briefly a coach (Calgary Stampeders, 2004), and recently have added Mike Benevides ("Benny"), ex-BC Lions coach.

Our solution: The CFL should purchase a small island in the Gulf of Georgia and sequester ex-coaches there. It might also accommodate ex-hockey coaches, although the NHL has so large a number, they might require an island of their own (Keenan's Paradise).

We can see it now--Coaches Island--where the inhabitants sit around in the evening watching old game films (but only films of the games they won).

Friday, October 23, 2015

Going to the Library

Striding forth in the autumn sunshine the other day, we were asked by a genial gentleman, "Where are you off to this morning?"

We answered. "To the library."

"What?" he said, "do people still go to the library?"

When I told this to a Pointless pal, she said, "At least he didn't ask 'What's a library?'"

We are happy to report that there are still many library habitués, and not only for free computer time. There are, indeed, people still borrowing books.

As we have often said, the card we would least like to lose is our library card.

We would also like to say that we have paid enough in fines to stock an entire row of library shelves. And happy so to do.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New Cabinet Appointments

Many of us had thought we might see a federal cabinet with Rob and Doug in key positions, but instead, a new team has been appointed, and we are pleased to announce that we have been made Minister of Political Incorrectness.

This position includes maintenance of Unfortunate Faux Pas, Embarrassing Public Utterances, Social Media Improprieties, and Damaging Gaffes. Already approved by the Ministry are the following:

"Stephen Harper--just not ready to be in opposition."

"Justin Trudeau greeted supporters this morning at a Montreal subway station. Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair greeted lineups at an Employment Canada office."

"U-Haul vans ordered for 24 Sussex Drive and Stornaway."

"Wait a minute--didn't people read our editorial?" -- Paul Godfrey.

"Laureen, take off that niqab! That's not funny!"

We are pleased also to control the Department of Schadenfreude, devoted to laughing meanly at our opponents' misfortune.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Here's to the Losers

Teams of grief counsellors are in place, ready to comfort would-be Members of Parliament who fail to receive enough votes in the 2015 federal election. "I wore out three pairs of sneakers going door-to-door," we can hear knocked-out nominees sob. "My knuckles are calloused from pounding on doors, my lips are swollen from kissing babies."

It is anticipated also that some defeated nominees will demand a recount. "I'm not conceding until the ballots are counted again! I only lost by 6,000 votes!"

Who knows what the result will be? Our advice: Save those lawn signs.

And as consolation for those suffering post-election tristesse: Each losing candidate will be given a DVD of Stephen Harper performing "Let It Be."

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Steve's Party Time

It's party time with Rob and Doug,
B.Y.O.D.--bring your own drug.
We thought we'd take another crack
To get our campaign back on track.
Forget Trudeau and Mulcair,
Both of them so very square.
Vote for us at the election,
The slightly older One Direction!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Knock! Knock!

Many Conservative candidates, asked why they have not attended all-candidates debates, say, "I'm too busy being out there knocking on doors." Which may be true. Or may be the party line handed down from Conservative HQ. Or both.

But, to be fair, which we seldom are, other parties' candidates also knock on doors. It was reported today that one Calgary candidate--a Liberal--has been disturbing dwellers since sometime in 2014. So far, he has hammered the door or pressed the bell at about 150,000 homes.

The problem with the Conservatives' scripted response is that most all-candidates meetings take place in the evening, so how welcoming would you be when someone knocks on your door at 9:00 p.m.? When you're reading your three-year-old "Curious George" or at a critical moment in "The Good Wife"?

Our advice: Don't answer the door. Or turn all the lights off, and hope the candidate trips over a planter (but doesn't sue). Or jigger your doorbell to emit an electrical charge.

The only time you want night visitors is Hallowe'en eve. But watch out. Even though the election will be over by then, some candidates may still be coming down the street carrying bags and saying, "Okay, I didn't get your vote, but have you got any Snickers?"

Friday, October 9, 2015

Turkey Talk

Old Tom, the wise man of the brood, was having his Thanksgiving chat with the youngsters. "You know," he said, "it wasn't always like this--living in waterfront condos, driving imported autos, going to private schools. No, youngsters, hard as it may be to believe, there was a time when turkeys lived in pens and had to scratch on the ground for food."

"Gosh, Papa Tom," said one listener. "How did we escape that?'

"Well," said Old Tom, "it began on the farm of Bruno 'The Brute' McGurk. He had thousands of turkeys enslaved. And he used them to create his products: McGurk's Turkey Burgers, McGurk's Turkey Lasagna, McGurk's Turkey Chowder.

"Then, one day, he thought of a new one--McGurk's Turkey Jerky. And he had what he thought was a brilliant idea: to get turkey tough and chewy enough--"

He stopped, as two of his listeners fell to the floor in a faint.

"Sorry, youngsters. But to return to the story, McGurk's idea was to give the turkeys steroids. He thought the bigger the bird, the bigger the profits. But he didn't count on one thing."

"What was that, Papa Tom?'

"The more steroids he put in their feed, the bigger and stronger and tougher they got. It led to a rebellion, led by our legendary hero, Steve McTurk. One Saturday that fall, Steve led the steroid-powered turkeys in a rampage."

"What happened to Bruno 'The Brute' McGurk?"

"Last anyone saw of him, he was turning slowly on a rotisserie."

"And Steve McTurk?"

"Went on to become a media celebrity. In fact, it's time for his show. Let's tune in, as the announcer says''--

"And now, North America's Number One opinion show, where there's never any gobbledygook. Welcome our host, Steve McTurk, open the lines, and 'Let's Talk Turkey!'"

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Peanut Butter Month

September is Peanut Butter Month, according to a National Post columnist. But for some of us, every month is peanut butter month.

Peanut butter connoisseurs know that peanut butter goes with everything. The banana-peanut butter-honey combination has long been accepted by the world at large, but peanut butter goes equally well with orange slices. With aged cheddar cheese. With pickles. With lettuce and mayonnaise. With bacon. On toast with strawberry jam. And, thanks to the adventurous palate of Rocky Rocksborough-Smith, with smoked oysters (an inspiration that came to Rocky one day when he looked in his cupboard and only a jar of peanut butter and a tin of smoked oysters).

And finally the menu planners at White Spot Restaurants have recognized the power of the gourmet goober: you can now order a Triple O Peanut Butter, Bacon and Jalapeño Burger.

William F. Buckley, Jr. frequently drove many miles to find a little-known brand of peanut butter that was, to him, the ne plus ultra. But the political figure who may have been the greatest devotee was Barry Goldwater, longtime Senator from Arizona and once Republican candidate for President. Senator Goldwater liked peanut butter so much, he spread it on steak. One day his sons dared him to shave with peanut butter, a challenge he couldn't resist. When he got to his desk at the Senate, people probably wanted to lick his cheek.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Moving Day?

"Steve, what are you going to do with all these copies of Hockey News?"

"Just leave them there with my Maple Leafs sweater, Laureen. We're not going anywhere."

"Steve, what about all these 8-track Elton John tapes? Does anyone even play these?"

"They're fine, Laureen."

"Well, we have to start planning, Steve. We can't take all this stuff with us."

"I've told you, Laureen, we're not going anywhere. The Australian guy and my new tax lock are going to keep us here."

"Well, if you say so. But I still worry. Do you think Justin will be upset by all those Margaret Thatcher pictures you've hung in his room?"

"What makes you think it's going to be Justin? I mean, forget it, Laureen--we're not moving."

"Steve, did you see John Boehner's resignation this morning? I thought it was wonderful when he came in to announce it singing 'Zippity-Doo-Dah.' Wasn't that nice?"

"Shut up, Laureen.  And help me with this box."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Le Debate, en Français

The Fabulous Five took the stage in Montreal ce soir to debate election issues en Francais.

The rousing finale came as Messieurs Harper, Mulcair, Trudeau et Duceppe, avec Mlle. May, joined together in a medley of the songs of Edith Piaf.

Clearly the emotional highlight of the evening was M. Harper's rendition of "Je ne regrette rien."

Polls taken following the debate show that Quebec voters favor Gilbert Becaud.

(Apologies to Ms. Irwin, our high school French teacher.)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

99 on Harper's Line

Wayne Gretzky has given thumbs up to Stephen Harper, Canada's hat trick Prime Minister.

Not to be cross-checked, Tom Mulcair has consulted a Montreal medium who has put him in touch with the spirit world, and, a spokesman says, "Tom has the unqualified support of Maurice 'Rocket' Richard."

Meanwhile, the entire Hamilton Tiger-Cats cheerleading team has come out in favor of Justin Trudeau, voting him "The leader we would most like to do the Grouse Grind with."

A final note: hockey guru Don Cherry has offered to give Stephen Harper one of his suits. "I think the guy needs some brightening up," said Grapes."We might have to let the waist out a couple of inches, but I think one of my outfits would look good on Steve. I'm sending Ron MacLean over to 24 Sussex with a nice plaid number right now."

Friday, September 18, 2015

Chekhov on Chekhov

New York Review Books (NYRB) is one of the most interesting publishing houses now at work. NYRB does not publish new works, it publishes worthy titles that may have vanished from bookstore shelves and even from libraries. A current list includes J.G. Farrell's "The Siege of Krishnapur," Mavis Gallant's "Paris Stories," Dwight Macdonald's "Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain," almost everything Kingsley Amis wrote, Kenneth Fearing's "The Big Clock," and such curiosities as "My Dog Tulip" by J.R. Ackerley and stories Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote for his children (signed "by Papa").

A recent title we turned up is "The Prank: The Best of Young Chekhov." this contains stories Anton Chekhov wrote in his early twenties, while in medical school. And while it's fine to discover anything by Chekhov, the surprise here are illustrations to the stories, drawn by Anton's slightly older brother, Nikolay.

A further surprise is how modern these 1882 drawings are--clever, witty pen-and-ink sketches that could have been drawn for the mid-twentieth century Punch or New Yorker.

If Bill Duthie were still here with his flagship Robson Street store, we would see a row of NYRB titles. Perhaps harder now to find, but worth looking for. To see the full list, check

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Debate or Bowling?

The leaders of Canada's three major political parties are preparing for tonight's debate on the economy, an event that promises to have fewer viewers than "The Big Bang Theory" and "Celebrity Bowling." The winner of this debate on money matters is expected to be decided by learning which leader at the end of the evening has the most change in his pocket.

Meanwhile, polling has identified the core supporters for each of the parties. Here are the results:

Conservatives: The Sox with Sandals Set.
NDP: Men with Beards.
Liberals: The Grouse Grind Gang.
Green Party: Kermit the Frog.

One of the puzzling things about political debates is that prior to them, the leaders stand backstage smiling like old friends. Then they go on camera and say wretched things about each other. Afterwards they shake hands and hug.

What then? Do they go out together for drinks? We're guessing they do. Harper orders a Diet Coke, Mulcair gets Molson's Canadian, and Trudeau calls for Red Bull. Elizabeth May, not invited to the debate, stays home and has a Martini. We're with her.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What to Leave Out

The September 14, 2015, issue of The New Yorker has a John McPhee article titled "Omission." Its subject is leaving out material in writing to strengthen, not diminish, the piece.

Not surprisingly, McPhee quotes Hemingway, who famously said, "If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will feel those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water."

McPhee cites other quotations of the less is more dictum from the worlds of visual art and architecture, but doesn't mention music. So here are two lines that suit the subject:

"I always listen to what I can leave out" -- Miles Davis.

"It's taken me all my life to learn what not to play" -- Dizzy Gillespie.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Autumn Playlist

"As the days dwindle down, to a precious few..."

I know you know those lines--written by Maxwell Anderson, set to music by Kurt Weill, and memorably sung by Walter Huston. "September Song." It's that time.

There are other wonderful songs for a season that seems to bring a kind of rueful memory, a soft regret. Probably the first on the playlist would be "Les fueilles mortes," better known as "Autumn Leaves" in its English lyrics by Johnny Mercer. It was Yves Montand's signature song, and when he ended his solo performances with it, the applause went on for what seemed like days.

Johnny Mercer gave English lyrics to another European song, the German "Summer Wind." Sinatra recorded it, but the better version is heard in Mercer's own bourbon and honey delivery. And Mercer also wrote lyrics for "Early Autumn," the coda to Ralph Burns's "Summer Sequence," recorded in the 1940s by the Woody Herman band. It was Stan Getz's solo on "Early Autumn" that made him not just one of the Four Brothers, but a star. And then there are such wonderful, unforgettable Mercer images as "a dance pavilion in the rain."

Perhaps the classic lament for a lost summer love is "The Things We Did Last Summer." Julie Styne wrote the music, and Sammy Cahn set down the words, which include "The leaves began to fade, like promises we made."

Fill out the list with "Autumn Serenade," "September in the Rain" and eccentric Henry Nemo's "'Tis Autumn."

The truly sad song doesn't come until later. That's "When October Goes," the last lyrics Mercer wrote. His widow took them to Barry Manilow, and the composer set them to a farewell melody. The only recording of it that we know is on the album "Rosemary Clooney Sings the Songs of Johnny Mercer."

When October comes, pour a glass of brandy and listen.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Shanah Tovah!

A clarion call of the shofar, to salute all celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets, the beginning of the year on the Hebrew calendar.

We think especially of fondly remembered friends enjoying apples and honey, dates and pomegranates somewhere in the Great Beyond--including Art Finley, who used to say, "Some of my best friends are Jewish: my parents. And some of my best friends are Christian: my wife and children."

Shanah tovah!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Harper's Aussie Rescue Mission

It is reported that Canada's Conservative Party, desperate to be pulled from the Slough of Despond, has engaged the services of an Australian campaign-meister. If he'd been around, people say, he could have gotten Mr. Dress-Up elected Prime Minister.

So now he has taken over the Conservative campaign. We imagine this heavyweight from Down Under as the Crocodile Dundee of politics. We hear him addressing the humbled Tory team: "You call that an attack ad? This is an attack ad!"

Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau has been photographed trading punches with a sparring partner in a Vancouver gymnasium. This suggests a much more interesting format for the next leaders debate.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Looking for Another Job

The leaders of Canada's political parties, being prudent individuals, have given serious thought to what they might do should they lose the October 19 election. They do not want to swell the country's unemployment figures.

Thanks to information leaked by an Ottawa career counsellor, we are able to reveal the fall-back plans of Ms. May and Messrs. Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau.

Tom Mulcair: Considered a shoo-in to play the lead in "The Monty Woolley Story." Should this fail, Tom's agent says he has a lot of department store Santa gigs lined up.

Stephen Harper: Greeter at the Devil's Coulee Dinosaur Museum, although he was hoping for Walmart.

Justin Trudeau: Host of "Celebrity Boxing," based on his defeat in the ring of Patrick Brazeau. "There's a connection between politics and boxing," said a network spokesman. "A lot of Raging Bull."

And Mr. Trudeau is not the only leader looking to television. Elizabeth May's potential future: replacement for Rosie O'Donnell. "Bring her on," said Donald Trump.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tim and St. Tim

In the midst of last weekend's sturm und drang, we looked over at a bookshelf and the first title to catch our bloodshot eye was Laurie Colwin's "A Big Storm Knocked It Over."

But, as Jack Wasserman often wrote, that's not the item. What we want to tell you about is the sign posted outside the Church of St. Timothy in what was, for a very long time, darkest Burnaby. While almost all the city was without electricity, this church had power. "Divine intervention," we suggested.

At 7:00 that Sunday morning, the Reverend Stephanie Shepard, herself caffeine-deprived in the powerless rectory, arrived at the church, found the lights on, and began to brew a pot. "Then," she said later, "I thought if I'm making coffee for myself, why not make it for everyone?" So she prepared vats of high-octane coffee and tea, and posted a sign on the street inviting passersby to come in for a cup.

The lesson: If you can't count on Tim Horton you can count on St. Tim.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Pancake Economics

Current economic indicators reveal that the price of a barrel of Alberta oil is now lower than the price of a barrel of Quebec maple syrup.

This has led many households to start pouring oil on their pancakes. "It doesn't have the same sugary sweetness of maple syrup," said Wilford Streusel, pancake and economic expert, "but the savings are terrific."

Soon to come: oil in fruit flavours.

"This is the way back, Canada!"--S. Harper.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I Can't Get the Name, but...

Our artist friend Tom Huntley (we are fortunate to have a lot of artist friends) once said, "There are only six basic facial types." We weren't sure whether this was true, or if there were only six Tom could draw.

But watching the passing parade recently, we have begun to think Tom was right--there may be only six basic facial types (and even fewer in small countries). It seems reasonable--how many facial characteristics are there in the universal gene pool?

Besides, we've been told there are only six degrees of separation between individuals on this planet (hard as it may be to believe only six degrees separate Jennifer Lawrence and Kim Jong-Un).

So the next time you run into someone and can't come up with a name, you certainly can say, "I can't place the name, but your face is very familiar. Same one several people have."

Monday, August 17, 2015

Gourmet Fare on the Campaign Trail

We are pleased to report that US politicians vying for their parties' nomination in the 2016 presidential election are holding to the high gourmet standard set by Richard Nixon, whose signature dish at the White House was cottage cheese with ketchup.

Campaigning at the Iowa State fair this past weekend, Jeb Bush knocked back a beer with his deep-fried Snickers, while Hillary Clinton went for pork chop on a stick, and, in a recent video, Ted Cruz cooked bacon on the barrel of a machine gun.

This is in the haute cuisine tradition of Ronald Reagan, who kept a jar of jelly beans on the Oval Office desk; Jimmy Carter, who sang "Salt Peanuts" with Dizzy Gillespie; Barry Goldwater, who once used peanut butter for shaving cream; LBJ, famous for his Pedernales River Chili (Lady Bird's recipe available on-line); and Bill Clinton, who never passed a McDonald's without wanting to declare it a National Heritage Site.

Aides traveling with the candidates are carrying emergency rolls of TUMS.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The PMO on the job

New media lines for Steve from the PMO:

"Wow--did that really happen?"

"They did what?"

"You could have knocked me over with a feather!"

"I'm shocked--shocked!"

"I was actively engaged at the time in (a) saving the oil sands; (b) rooting out Islamic terrorists in the Girl Guides; (c) learning a new Elton John tune."

P.S.:  "And boss, we're not using e-mail anymore. We've got a flock of carrier pigeons."

"Can you be sure they won't talk?"

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

All in the Family

The Harper family should not be confused with the Partridge Family or the Waltons or the Cleavers, but their appearance en tout famille may help to humanize the image of the Conservative leader ("tough on terror..warm on family").

Television footage of the happy folks of 24 Sussex Drive--father, mother, children--waving to the crowds as they boarded their campaign plane reminded us of an actor who used to take his children with him to auditions.

Preparing to leave, he would say to his wife: "Dress the props."

Monday, August 10, 2015

Politics as Show Business

Who says politics isn't show biz? Donald Trump may be the hottest sensation since Peter Finch shouted, "I want you to go to the window and cry out 'I'm mad as hell and i'm not going to take it anymore'!" Finch won an Academy Award for that. What might The Donald win?

Meanwhile, on our home and native turf, we think the team of Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau is ready for a remake of "The Three Amigos." They may not yet have the box office appeal of Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short, but wait 'til you hear them harmonize!

And how about a musical? We think that's a natural for politicans. But no, wait--the show has already been written, by Burt Bacharach and Neil Simon. It's called "Promises, Promises."

(The second line of the title song goes to the voters. It's "Promises, promises, I'm all through with.")

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Giving Up Politics

Giving up politics may be a hard addiction to break, but with a 78-day campaign in Canada and what seems like a 78-month campaign in the United States, it might be a wise move. Until election day, of course, when we expect you to go out and vote several times.

The first debates are about to begin, but the best political news of the day comes from Washington, where thirty goats have been employed to clean up the Historical Congressional Cemetery. The goats will roam the grounds, munching invasive species, including poison ivy. Goats may be the only creatures able to enjoy a tasty meal of poison ivy.

These goats are professionals; they have worked the cemetery grounds before, and are ready to do it again. And visitors are invited. A cemetery spokesperson says visitors "are welcome to grab a glass of wine and take a short walk" to watch the goats at work.

However, if you go, you are advised not to wear anything edible.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Election Rhyme Time (and Slime Time)

As the election writ has been dropped, if not fumbled, the competing parties have gone into action and have released their campaign songs, to whit:

Justin may be frisky,
Mulcair has something up his sleeve.
Both those guys are risky--
Play safe and vote for Steve!

Harper's hair looks as though
A rodent's crawled upon his pate.
Vote for Trudeau's stylish coiffure
And give Old Steve the gate!

Mulcair says Harper's policies
Are intellectually bereft.
Forget the limping Liberals,
Follow Tom and just turn left!

Contributions, poetic and monetary, welcomed by all parties.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Ain't It Awful?

One of the great songs for the dog days of summer is "Ain't It Awful, the Heat?" The song is from the musical drama "Street Scene"--book by Elmer Rice, music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by the wonderful Harlem poet Langston Hughes.

"Ain't It Awful" is delivered as a sung conversation between two women sitting on their east side New York doorsteps at the end of a sizzling summer day. We remember Ann Mortifee and Ruth Nichol delivering it on the Playhouse stage in an Ouzounian production, and the heat was palpable.

The other summer music we think of at this time of year is Duke Ellington's "Harlem Air Shaft." Duke said, "You get the full essence of Harlem in an air shaft. You hear fights, you smell dinner, you hear people making love. You hear intimate gossip floating down. You hear the radio. An air shaft is one great loudspeaker. You hear people praying, fighting and snoring."

And then, the one summer song everyone knows: "Summertime," from "Porgy and Bess." It's meant as a lullaby, but when you hear John Coltrane play it, you realize it's really a blues.

Ain't it awful.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Canine Etiquette

Strolling thru the neighborhood the other day, we encountered a woman walking a very large dog. Or a very large dog walking a woman.

As we edged to one side to let them pass, the woman said. "Just keep going." And then, "Good boy! Good boy!"

We're still unsure whether the woman was talking to the dog or to us.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Where Have All the Lyrics Gone?

The day of the song lyricist--Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Joni Mitchell, Hank Williams, Dorothy Fields, Comden and Green, The Beatles--seems under a cloud. Temporarily, we hope.

Current pop songs, as featured on the deconstructed CBC, often have only one line; e.g., "Tell me what you want from me," "She's makin' me hot" and "Take your clothes off" repeated vigorously over three painful minutes.

We hope there soon will be a revival of the wordsmith's art. Meanwhile, we note that Dal Richards is once again working the summer circuit. We look forward to hearing Canada's favourite nonagenarian bandleader singing "Take your clothes off."

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

No Figs

Pasquale Cusano said to me, "How can you have a fig tree? You're not Italian."

If I had thought quickly, I could have said, "Signor, considering the number of times fig trees are mentioned in the Bible, the fig tree is probably more Israeli than Italian."

But yes, there was a fig tree in the yard, purchased and planted by son Christopher. It joined other fruit-bearing trees and bushes--peach, apple, pear, plum, raspberry and bramble berry. A very elderly Italian gentleman used to come down the lane and gather pears that had fallen. A neighbor made a lovely rose-tinted wine from the plums.

And now in the midst of our near Mediterranean summer, the figs are ripe, and it is time to enjoy them with honey-drizzled ricotta and mint leaves, or grilled, splashed with pomegranate syrup and served with chèvre on the side.

And "No Figs"? That's the title of a classic recording made around 1950 by the Metronome All-Stars. Good jazz, but we have, happily, plenty of figs.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Stupid Political Tricks

Two contenders for the Republican Party's nomination for US President--Senators Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul--have posted videos showing themselves in action. Senator Graham is shown crushing, juicing and toasting his cell phone (after the Donald revealed its number) and Senator Paul may be seen burning and otherwise trashing, with wood chopper and chain saw, the US tax code. David Letterman, where are you when we need you?

Meanwhile, on our home and native turf, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has declared he will appoint no new Senators, allowing the current residents of the Red Chamber to age, wither, and fall comatose in their well-upholstered chairs. This is a great departure from PM Steve's record appointment of fifty-nine senators, when the rallying cry was "Buy my CD and win a seat in the Senate!"

Finally, born again Liberal Eve Adams failed to win her Toronto riding's nomination to run for Parliament against Joe Oliver in the upcoming October election. "Gee," said Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, "I'm shocked. I thought after her work in 'American Hustle' the nomination would be a walk-in for Eve Adams."

Liberal aide: "That was Amy Adams, Mr. Trudeau."

Trudeau: "Oh. Well, can we get her to run for us?"

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Clear Thinking, in Politics and Radio

The report that serfs in Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs have been instructed to provide Minister Rob Nicholson with three items per week on terrorism reminded us of a time when CKLG issued a similar order.

LG, then the banana republic of Vancouver radio stations, called for "Special Events" to be logged every twenty minutes. The unfortunate directed to produce these "special events" was Ron Morrier. Frequently he was reduced to reading road reports and announcements of community muffin sales.

It was in this period that the "society dance band" music of Lester Lanin and others had a brief flurry of popularity. John Hunt, then station manager (second of five to hold the job over three or four years) told music librarian Terry Clarke to program nothing but society dance band music over six midday hours.

"But John," Terry protested, "do you think the listeners want six hours of society dance band music?"

"To hell with the listeners," said Hunt. "What I want are ratings."

Friday, July 17, 2015

No Ice Cream for Bernie

The proprietors of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream have drawn strong criticism for providing frozen treats to a crowd attending a rally for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. (Senator Sanders is one of the handful of contenders for the Democratic Party's nomination for US President, compared to the cast of thousands hoping for the Republican nod.)

Here's the sort of attack the ice cream makers have been facing, rendered in verse by Republican poet laureate Milton Entwistle:

On this issue, we make no bones--
Don't give Bernie ice cream cones!
If this continues, we'll have cause
To move our trade to Haagen Dazs.

Anyone for a Tequila Trumpsicle?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Don & Ted Show

Despite or because of inflammatory remarks about Mexican immigrants, Donald Trump is neck and neck (or hair-do and hair-do) with Jeb Bush in polls tracking Republicans scrambling for the party's nomination for US president.

Most of the other Republican candidates have distanced themselves from Trump's comments, or even criticized them, but not Ted Cruz. Senator Cruz, the only person born in Canada ever to have a run at the White House (he is now a born again Texan) has supported Mr. Trump. This has led some to imagine a dream team going into the 2016 election--Trump and Cruz!

With this in mind, supporters have already prepared a campaign song. Pointless Digressions is proud to present its first public airing:

Hey America, lose your blues--
Cast your vote for Trump and Cruz!
We can get out of this slump
With the team of Cruz and Trump!
Pull together and move on
With the mighty Ted and Don!

In other interstellar news, NASA has successfully produced up close and personal images of Pluto. Next on the space agency's list: Goofy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Kenny G & Mother Canada

Notes from our Summer Trivia Issue:

Saxophonist Kenny G gives perhaps his most memorable performance in a Snickers TV commercial, playing his horn at a poker table. However, we do not get the scene where Sonny Rollins comes in and says, "I'll raise you three riffs."

Meanwhile, residents of Cape Breton are preparing themselves for the erection of a 24-metre statue in Highlands National Park. The statue, dubbed "Mother Canada," will be accompanied by a gift shop, where, one guesses, visitors will be able to buy John Diefenbaker tee shirts and CDs of Stephen Harper's greatest hits.

Finally, a line from jazz musician Bob Brookmeyer: "Saxophonists get all the girls, trumpet players make all the money, and trombone players develop an interior life."

Brookmeyer plays the trombone.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Post-Game Haiku

Downcast eleven
Fly across the sea so blue
In silver sorrow.

Haiku and Soccer

This is the day for the 2015 Championship Match in FIFA Women's World Soccer, with Japan and the USA meeting on the pitch at BC Place.

The leading booster for the American team will be Vice-President Joe Biden, but the Japanese--current world champions--are not without stellar boosters, for in the stands today will be Kato Yamaguchi, Poet Laureate of Sam's Sake & Sushi Bar, and his companion, the still lovely Miss Cherry Blossom 1996.

"For the occasion," said Kato, "I have composed a haiku which I believe will help bring victory to our noble ladies. I will recite it for you now:

"Sun bright on the pitch
Fleet young figures dart with grace
Suddenly, they strike!"

See you at BC Place. Don't forget the sun screen.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Okay, so it's just the start of the season...

...but even so, can we see a pattern developing? In recent years the Canadian Football League seemed to belong to the West (once Calvillo and Cahoon were out of the picture); but this year, the Eastern teams are coming up with surprises.

First the Montreal Alouettes humbling the Calgary Stampeders, last year's Grey Cup winners. And then consider this weekend's BC Lions-Ottawa Redblacks game. What we saw was new Lions coach Jeff Tedford chewing a lot of gum while Henry Burris and Brad Sinopoli chewed up a lot of turf.

Looking at the lineups this season, one wonders what GMs were thinking when they traded Nick Lewis, Mo Price, Ernest Jackson, Chris Williams, Greg Ellingson, Sinopoli, et al. for younger possibilities. Some dream of the future? Maybe the 2018 season?

Meanwhile, in Calgary, political leaders gathered, as they must, for the Stampede. Somebody has to tell Stephen Harper that good guys do not wear the black hat.

For PD Sports, this is Slap Maxwell.

The Glorious Fourth

Here it is, the Glorious Fourth of July--light the fireworks, wave the flag, give the downbeat to the marching bands!

The Fourth of July, celebrated throughout the fifty states, although with less enthusiasm in Texas.

The Fourth of July, claimed as their birthday by Louis Armstrong and George M. Cohan. Fact checkers may quibble, but as the newspaper editor says in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

Ah, yes, the Glorious Fourth, full of meaning for those of us with Bad Axe roots!

So let us sing:

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!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Politics and Ice Cream

Political scraps of the week:

Donald Trump has cancelled his plans for a vacation in Mazatlan.

Following the resounding "No" vote on the transportation referendum, several Lower Mainland mayors were seen on the TransCanada Highway trying to thumb a ride.

And as ice cream wagons patrolled neighbourhoods, with Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" drawing mobs of children, one perspiring father said, "When does the frozen daiquiri wagon come around?"

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Snow Dreams

It's played usually in December, but "White Christmas" is really a warm weather song.

No, wait, hear me out. Here's the situation: the Crosby character is sitting on the steps of his dressing room in the middle of what passes for winter in Southern California, and trying to cool off. So this is the verse he sings:

The sun is shining, the grass is green
The orange and the palm trees sway.

There's never been such a day
in Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it's December twenty-fourth

And I am longing to be up North.

Okay, now pour yourself a Slushie and come in on the chorus.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Oh! Canada!

Here it is Canada Day, 148 years after the big Charlottetown clambake.  Gosh--148 years--where did the time go?

Many celebrations, of course, and none bigger than the day's events on Parliament Hill. Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his Sir Elton John mode ("We don't agree on everything, of course") is scheduled to perform "With a Little Help from My (Rapidly Disappearing) Friends," backed by the Stevettes: Rona Ambrose, Lisa Raitt and Leona Aglukkaq.

Meanwhile, on another stage, Elizabeth May and the May-Bees will sing "Hit the Road, Steve!"

Face painting will be offered, in all the national party colors. Orange and black are the current favourites, and, noting their leadership in the polls, NDP organizers will present a demonstration of poll dancing.

Challengers are lining up for the John A. Macdonald Chug-a-Lug Contest, and ticket sales are booming for the "Win a Seat in the Senate" lottery.

And for relaxation from all this busting patriotic activity, Alberta energy producers invite celebrants to their hospitality suite. "C'mon in," they say, "and get oiled."

"O Canada," said a First Nations chief, "our home and native land. Emphasis on 'our'."

Friday, June 26, 2015

Bermuda Schwartz

This is the sort of weather that brings out men wearing Bermuda shorts who should never be seen in Bermuda shorts. That reminded us, however, of a fine if little known recording by the Moe Koffman quartet called "Bermuda Schwartz," featuring a blistering guitar solo by Ed Bickert.

This is also the sort of weather that brings forth girls in their summer dresses, which happens to be the title of an excellent story by Irwin Shaw--"Girls in Their Summer Dresses," one of Shaw's many wonderful short stories, including "Search Through the Streets of the City," "Tip on a Dead Jockey" and "The 80-Yard Run."

Look for them on your book shelf, turn on the fans, and pour yourself a frozen daiquiri.  And feel free to wear your Bermuda shorts. Just don't go outdoors.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Technology for Tots

We ran into a nine-year-old of our acquaintance the other day, and asked about his plans for summer. He told us he was going to attend a robotics camp.

"Interesting," we said. "What will you do there?"

"First," he said, "we're going to build a robot that can kick a soccer ball."

"Sounds great," we said.

"That's only the beginning," he told us. "Then we move on to really fun stuff."

"What's that?" we asked.

He said, "We're going to learn to make robocalls."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Grid Guy's Guide

With football season upon us--earlier for the CFL, later for the NFL--gridiron obsessives may want to explore some of the works on the peripheries of the action; e.g., books and films (and maybe songs--how long since you've launched into "Buckle Down, Winsocki"?).

Recent book to arrive is "Why Football Matters," by Mark Edmundson. Edmundson played on the line for a high school team near Boston, but has long since worked in academe. His book is a deeply thought evaluation of what the game can mean in the development (or sometimes misdevelopment) of character, personality, and ethics. It's a book with both praise for and skepticism about football, and necessarily ambiguous; but in the end, Edmundson comes back to love for the game.

"Why Football Matters"--recommended by Slap Maxwell, our locker room literary critic.

The book many people think of first when talking football is "Paper Lion," by George Plimpton. Plimpton, the ultimate sports dilettante, also wrote--or co-wrote, with Bill Curry (Green Bay Packers, Houston Oilers, L.A. Rams, Baltimore Colts)--an excellent but less known book titled "One More July." Hard to find, but rewarding when you do.

But what we're working around to is recommending you search out the 1968 film of "Paper Lion," with the then unknown Alan Alda playing Plimpton, the Sports Illustrated writer who goes in incognito as last string quarterback for the Detroit Lions. Wonderful scene at training camp, when new arrivals are asked to stand and declare their football backgrounds and sing their school song. Plimpton/Alda tells them he has come down from Canada, where he played for the Newfoundland Newfs. He then sings his Harvard school song.

There is a backup of actual Detroit Lions players, including Alex Karras and John Gordy. And Lauren Hutton is okay, too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hot Enough for You? (heh heh)

The annual summer meeting of the Climate Change Deniers Society (aka "What Global Warming?") will be held this weekend in Kamloops, British Columbia, where the temperature is expected to reach 39 degrees Celsius, a condition regarded as moderate in Death Valley.

Those attending will park their Hummers and vintage Caddies at Fred's Fossil Fuel Inn, and gather for drinks in the Melting Iceberg Lounge.

Highlight of the weekend will be the crowning of Miss Tar Sands 2015.

"Come early," advises chairman Howie Kulphlug. "Expect to get well oiled."

Monday, June 22, 2015

What You Can Play and What You Can't Play

We were taken aback to hear, on the once prudish CBC radio network, a song which had as its principal, if not only, lyric: "I want your body--Why don't you take your clothes off?"

The singer was Ria Mae of Halifax, and we presumed this was a new breakthrough for freedom of expression, but found that Ms. Mae's version was actually a reworking of a song originally released in 2007. 2007--in these fast-moving times, that makes the song a Golden Oldie.

We then thought how greatly radio has changed since we were deejaying our way thru life. There was a time when we couldn't play Count Basie's "Harvard Blues" on the air, because in it Jimmy (Mr. Five-by-Five) Rushing sang the George Frazier lyrics that included these lines:

"I don't keep dogs or women in my room.
I don't keep dogs or women in my room.
But I loved my Vincent baby
Until that day of doom."

If only we could have Mr. Five-by-Five singing "Why don't you take your clothes off?"

On video.  Wide screen.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summer Songs

Summer approaches, and programmers everywhere will be making up playlists of summer songs.  And there are lots of choice offerings, from what is probably the best known--Gershwin's "Summertime" (and the livin' is easy) to the less familiar, but no less lovely "Summer Song" by Dave and Iola Brubeck (hear Louis Armstrong's tender growl on "Love, to me, is like a summer day").

But the ancestor of all these, and the oldest extant song in English, is "Sumer is Icumen In."

"Sumer is icumen in
Lhude sing cuccu!
Growep sed and blowep med
and springp pe wde nu.
Sing cuccu!"

Or, in modern English:

"Summer is a-coming in
Loudly sing cuckoo.
Groweth seed and bloweth mead
and springs the wood anew.
Sing cuckoo!"

And then, not far off, are the two best laments for a summer past: "Summer Wind" by Heinz Meier and Johnny Mercer, and "The Things We Did Last Summer" by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. But it's not now the time for regret and rue, for sumer is icumen in!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Yoga & Seersucker

We learned too late that Thursday was National Seersucker Day. In the US Congress, Democrats and Republicans showed a rare gesture of solidarity, with all senators and representatives turning up in seersucker suits.

Meanwhile, International Yoga Day has run into problems, at least in Vancouver, where the plan to have several thousand yoga enthusiasts murmuring "Om" on the Burrard Street Bridge has fallen through. (The plan, not the bridge.)

Even though yoga is not in our repertoire, we were looking forward to taking part, wearing our seersucker suit from Harold's of Fort Worth, and joining Premier Clark in attempting the lotus position.

(And hoping not to get locked into it, as one unfortunate lady did in a yoga class at Vancouver's Christ Church Cathedral. She had to be carried out, still in position, by a pair of firemen, at the height of the downtown rush hour. I don't believe she ever came back.)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Senator Graham's Rotating First Ladies

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the ever-growing troop hoping to secure the Republican Party nomination for US President, has addressed one key problem: Senator Graham is not married; therefore, who would assume the important ceremonial duties of the First Lady?

Senator Graham's answer: he would have a "rotating First Lady."

And is there a list of possible First Ladies? There is indeed--one for every occasion and every day of the week.

Monday: Lady GaGa
Tuesday: Sarah Silverman
Wednesday: Queen Latifa
Thursday: Tina Fey
Friday: Paula Deen ("We know she has said some unfortunate things," said a spokesman for Senator Graham, "but we do love that southern cookin'.")

And the weekend?  Caitlin Jenner.

We're not sure how we feel about Senator Graham as leader of the free world, but we do like his First Ladies.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Headless Headline

As one who misspent many years composing headlines, often under a fast-ticking clock, we honor today one of the great headline writers of all time, and raise a glass to Vincent Musetto.

Mr. Musetto (probably "Vinnie" to his buddies) wrote this imperishable headline for the New York Post in 1998:


Celebrated as this is within the newspaper world, Vinnie's personal favourite was:


Mr. Musetto has now departed for the Great Newsroom in the Sky. Watch for his next headline on your Ouija board.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Report from the G7

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN: "This is Waldo Lydecker, reporting from the G7 conference in the Bavarian Alps.

"The weekend with Angela and the Guys began with a traditional Bavarian welcome--lots of oompah, lots of beer. US President Barack Obama slipped off his jacket and clinked glasses of lager with friendly folks in liederhosen and dirndles. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was believed to have been seen consuming a boysenberry smoothie.

"Once again, Russian President Vladimir Putin was not invited. The group sent him a stern message, saying "Vlad, you're bad." Putin consoled himself, we're told, by playing his balalaika and pumping iron.

"Good news on climate change: The G7 group has vowed to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the 21st century. This is excellent news for those planning to be born in the next twenty years.

"And, said Mr. Harper, 'There's more good news! At the end of the century, I will still be prime minister!'

"It's reported the PMO has been screening 'Psycho.'

"Waldo Lydecker in Garmisch-Partenkirchen returning you to the studio and going out for schnapps und sauerbraten."

Friday, June 5, 2015

Senate & Soccer

It is being reported as one of the great trades of all time: FIFA and the Senate announced today that disgraced FIFA officials will move to Ottawa to take the seats of several senators under investigation who will in exchange take over the running of world soccer. Shaking hands, Sepp Blatter and Claude Carignan called it "a win-win situation."

Quotes of the Week:

"I'm the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far. Nobody's ever been more successful than me. I have a Gucci store that's worth more than Mitt Romney." -- Donald Trump.

"If you're in this business long enough, you're going to fire a lot of your friends." -- Wally Buono.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

18 and Counting

At last report, there were eighteen declared candidates for the Republican Party's nomination for President of the United States; more seem to be entering the campaign every twenty minutes. The Democrats are still dominated by Mrs. Clinton, but a couple of surprise candidacies have been announced, and, as many have ruefully learned, in politics anything can happen. Debates in the U.S. will begin in August, which means fourteen months of political drama not as good as "House of Cards."

Best comment so far comes from Michael Kinsley in the current issue of Vanity Fair: "Being a moron isn't necessarily a disqualification for becoming president."

Meanwhile, on our home and native turf, it is unsure whether we'll have debates at all. The only people really enjoying the pre-campaign campaign are the parties' advertising agencies. Did we see Don Draper sipping a Martini with Stephen Harper? And then later at a retro disco with Elizabeth May?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Happy Birthday, Miles

If Miles Davis were still with us, he would be eighty-nine years old today. Of course, Miles is still as close as your CD player, on discs reaching from his early days as a sideman with Charlie Parker through the classic sessions with Gil Evans and his big hit--"Kind of Blue"--to his fusion years.

A most interesting man on various levels--his sense of fashion, for example. Like Fred Astaire, who sometimes wore a necktie as a belt, Miles invented his own style. He liked to box, which isn't surprising; what is surprising is that he rode horses on an Arkansas ranch his family owned. (He grew up in East St. Louis, where an early teacher, before he set off for Juilliard and 52nd street, was Clark Terry.)

Miles played Vancouver twice, first at Howie Bateman's Inquisition Coffee House. He drove up from San Francisco, and had Howie meet him at the border to guide him in. It would have been fine to have seen Howie's Morris Minor leading Miles's Maserati.

The second time he played Vancouver was during Expo '86. His band was cooking on the Queen Elizabeth Theatre stage when Wynton Marsalis, carrying his horn, thought he would join in. Miles requested that Wynton please leave the stage, although those may not have been his exact words.

Final favorite Miles Davis story: Riding to Kennedy Centre to receive an award, he found himself sharing the stretch limo with another award recipient and that person's wife, who smiled sweetly and said,"Your mammy must be very proud." Miles's response is unrecorded, but we believe the poor lady said not another word that night.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Shoes & Socks

News that the Cannes Film Festival has barred women from formal functions unless they are wearing high heels ("Birkenstocks, Gwyneth? Flip-flops, Meryl? Get outa here") reminded us of a day at Vancouver Life magazine when the manager insisted all male employees wear black or charcoal grey socks.

Then, to be sure his dictum was obeyed, he sent his secretary to check. It was a surprise to many of us to find this young woman crawling under desks to inspect men's ankles.

I believe one salesman was in danger of firing for wearing Argyles.

Monday, May 11, 2015

And now--heeere's Elizabeth!

Elizabeth May, despite having won the leadership of Canada's Green Party and becoming the country's second Green Member of Parliament, obviously felt that wasn't enough, and at the annual Press Gallery dinner attempted to reinvent herself as Janis Joplin.

No hook being handy to drag her off stage, the organizers sent Lisa Raitt instead.

But many viewers were favorably impressed, among them the booking agent for the River Rock Casino, who said, "We were hoping to get Sarah Silverman, but now we're going for Elizabeth May."

Ms. May later was contrite and repentant and offered explanations--"Must've been the flu, or maybe somebody dropped something in my kale smoothie." Still, she is determined to take her place in television's pre-election leadership debates.

Reporter: "Ms. May, despite this embarrassing incident, you're still planning to participate in the leadership debates?"

Ms. May: "#$*&*+$ right!"

Monday, May 4, 2015

Names for a Princess: The Runnersup.

Now that Britain's new princess has been given her names, those who bet on Charlotte will be counting their winnings and those who went for the favorite--Alice--will be down at the local crying in their pints.

Alice was not the only name that lost out. Many Britons were hoping for Boadicea, to honor the first century warrior queen, said to have done in 70,000 Romans in battle. Other names that didn't make it: Lulu, Petunia, Moonbeam, Jasmine, Yolanda and Tootsie.

But then, as Mr. Shakespeare wrote, "What's in a name?"

Only a bookie can tell you.

Friday, May 1, 2015

McCann moves in, Don Draper moves on

Many thought that all this writer had in common with "Mad Men"'s Don Draper was a retro 1950s wardrobe and a history of bad slogans.

But no--as the series winds to an end, with Draper's advertising agency taken over by McCann Erickson, there is this: we toiled for years at an ad agency that in what passes for real life was bought by McCann.

It was, however, a pain-free transition.

With "Mad Men" gone, we thought Don Draper's suits might find a home in Portland's American Advertising Museum, but, sadly, the museum also is gone.

In its place is a car dealership. Special deal on Edsels.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

3 Preludes, 115 Ways

It seems there are few pieces of music as adaptable to different voicings as George Gershwin's "3 Preludes."

Gershwin wrote six preludes for a tour with a Peruvian contralto in 1926, and then published three as separate but linked piano compositions. He recorded them himself, but the better known recording was made by his longtime pal Oscar Levant, who told him, "George, nobody plays your music better than you. Except me."

These were the first recordings of the prelude we heard, on blue label Columbia 78s in the CHAB library, but since then there have been many more, almost all with different twists.

Jascha Heifetz was the first to rework the preludes, transcribing them for violin and piano. Some sixty years later, Yo-Yo Ma, following the Heifetz transcriptions, rewrote them for cello and piano; in his recording, Jeffrey Kahane is the pianist.

The Eroica Trio (Adela Pena, Sara Sant'Ambrogio, and Erika Nickrenz) recorded the preludes in an arrangement for violin, piano and cello by the Brazilian composer Raimundo Penaforte, and there is a particularly brilliant performance by Jens Lindemann with pianist Alison Gagnon. Lindemann, an alumnus of the Canadian Brass, plays a variety of trumpets and mutes in his version of the preludes, cleverly inserting wisps of "Rhapsody in Blue" and "I Got Rhythm."

Many fine and individual performances of Gershwin's "3 Preludes." Can the ukelele and tuba version be far behind? We're off to Sikora's to see.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Will and George

April 23: birthday of William Shakespeare and feast day of St. George.

Write a sonnet. Slay a dragon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fashion Footwear for Finance Ministers

Finance Minister Joe Oliver delivered his government's budget Tuesday, and later he and Prime Minister Stephen Harper posed with two thumbs up, looking like the road company Siskel and Ebert.

Following tradition, Joe wore new shoes--in this case, runners labeled "New Balance." A clever touch, so someone else must have thought of it.

The first federal finance minister to pull on new shoes before announcing a budget is believed to have been Donald Fleming in 1960, although some say it was Sir John Rose in 1868. If so, those high-top button numbers should be bronzed.

Finance ministers now look for humorous and appropriate twists in their choice of footwear, which is a challenge, because lighthearted humor is not usually part of the portfolio. Graham Steele, who delivered Nova Scotia's budget in 2009, complained, "It's hard to be original--every gimmick has been done."

Well, Mr. Steele, and all other finance ministers tuned in, we have some ideas. Consider the stir you would cause if you came in wearing a pair of Jimmy Choo stilettos. Or skated in on roller blades. And if you wanted to appear in tune with the environment, you could wear Birkenstocks.

Finally, if the government has had to make some changes, what better than flip-flops?

You're welcome. Send cheque.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Prepping to be President

One of the reasons there is greater tension around the US presidential election in 2016 than the federal election in Canada in a few months is that no one knows yet whose names will be on the ticket. No suspense in Canada--we all know it's going to be the Three Amigos.

So far in the US, only Hillary Rodham Clinton has announced her candidacy for the Democrats, while the rush for the Republican nomination looks like a gathering of the cast from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Unless there's a surprise candidate coming, it looks as though the election is going to feature Hillary and the Seven Smurfs.

The benefit or catch--take your choice--with Hillary is that they'll also get Bill.

What we'd like to see, to give the race a kick, is a campaign for president by Sarah Silverman, with not just one but two running mates--the Two Seths, Rogen and Macfarlane. Imagine the debates! It could be the most fun since Abby Hoffman and Grace Slick tried to slip LSD into Richard Nixon's punch bowl.

Meanwhile, in Canada, we'll settle for the Harper, Mulcair, Trudeau and May cage match.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Pappy and the Rockers

There is, in the Saturday, April 18 edition of the Vancouver Sun, a reproduction of a painting by Bruce Stewart (Page F2). The painting is a not entirely realistic depiction of a half-dozen rock DJs at the peak of their popularity, which was in the mid-1960s.

Among those shown are Red Robinson, generally considered the older brother if not father of the local scene, Brian "Frosty" Forst and Fred Latremouille, both brilliant in their off-beat and slightly dangerous way, and Al Jordan, dubbed "Pappy" by the younger DJs, and for a time the in-demand commercial voice in Vancouver. When they were together, they were at CFUN, but then most moved elsewhere, the way restless radio guys do, and CKLG (LG/73) replaced CFUN as the #1 rock outlet.

It was during the CFUN period that Vancouver Life magazine published a story on the emerging youth market (as advertising and media people identified it). We ran a photo of the team roughhousing together, but for the main illustration we shot them in conservative business suits seated around a boardroom table. Daryl B. (remember him?) was part of the group and probably Jolly John Tanner. The later CKLG crew would add Peter Starr, who had a much admired English accent, the very young Stevie Grossman, and the remarkable J.B. Shayne, aka Captain Midnight.

All of this is now material for social archaeologists. But it was fun to be there when it was happening.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Happy Hour in Panama City

Cocktail of the weekend in Panama City:  Cuba Libre.

Obama: Hi, Steve. Raul and I are having a drink. Like to join us?

Harper: Uh..sure, Barry. What is that you're mixing?

Obama: It's called Cuba Libre. Appropriate, don't you think?

Harper: What's in it?

Obama: Rum, Coca-Cola, squeeze of lime, over ice cubes. Can I pour you one?

Harper: Okay. But Diet Coke. And hold the rum.

Castro: (Begins to sing "Rum and Coca-Cola") Barry, you think maybe you could get the Andrews Sisters to visit Havana? Or even just Patti?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Political Grab Bag

But isn't all politics a grab bag? Sorry, the cynic we usually keep locked in the attic got loose.

A few notes on the week's events and other observations:

1. Pas de Cravates.

Cornelius Burke once sent a dinner invitation with that instruction. We guessed it was because he had observed that some of his senior managers didn't know how to knot a necktie. But now we see that many political figures, beginning with Mr. S. Harper, often appear open-collared and tie-less. Presumably they believe this makes then appear trustworthy, down-to-earth, regular guys. Even though they're wearing $2,500 suits.

2. The 5% Solution

Finance Minister Joe Oliver is about to introduce legislation that will make it mandatory for future federal governments to maintain a balanced budget. If they fail to do so, he said, cabinet members would have their salaries reduced by five percent. This could mean we would be seeing a lot of senior ministers working the night shift at Tim Horton's.

3. Call Me Mister

Inevitably in radio and television interviews, political figures address the interviewer by his or her first name, as though they were longtime pals. The interviewer respectfully addresses the interviewee as "Mr. Prime Minister" or "Madam Premier," but the interviewee always comes back with, "Well, Gus" or "That's a good question that I'm going to dodge, Melinda." Come on, a little respect for the interviewer. Unless he/she can start calling you by your first name. Or embarrassing nickname.

4. Stick with Journalism

It has long been obvious that journalists do not do well in politics. Consider the cases of Warren G. Harding and Benito Mussolini. And at this very moment, not only the helium-inflated Mike Duffy, but also Pamela Wallin. The life-size bronze statue in her hometown of Wadena, Saskatchewan may be permanently on hold. And even if journalists do not fare badly, once their brief star power is spent at the polls, they are likely to languish in the back benches, gathering dust. Jack Webster was asked to be a candidate for every party under the sun, and wisely refused them all. "I can have more power," he correctly said, "where I am." The only journalist who really had success in politics was Winston Churchill. But there aren't any other Churchills around, no matter how many believe themselves to be.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Jurgen Gothe, One More Time

In 1998, in the inaugural issue of NUVO magazine, I published a set of four poems by Jurgen Gothe. It was the second time around for the poems--I had published them in 1966 in Vancouver Life. When the issue came out, Don Cromie, who was the money behind the magazine, said, "I just don't know what to make of these." Here they come again--for the third time around.

Memos to Myself...and Some Other People I Haven't Seen Lately

                   Jurgen Gothe


My Blue Heaven:
here is a place so full of smoke
that I can't even see myself,
even in mirrors.
and they serve the most fan-
       tastic drinks and there's an
electric guitar and a Hammond
       organ and on Mondays...
well, on Mondays,
a whole Gypsy carnival moves
After we have all had
our predicted fortunes read,
and plans mapped out for us
      for one more week,
we all go into the back rooms,
where the Gypsy girls are
The one I got was named
and wasn't really Gypsy,
but a secretary from Kensing-
       ton (near Montreal) looking
       for work.
and since my phone was being
       taken out tomorrow,
I gave her my number and told
       her to call.


Miss Claudia C.
comes by every
Thursday to clean
the windows and let
the dog out.
Rent is payable in
advance, thank you.
Good bye.

I hung up my coat
and wine skin and
my first thought was
damn, I know so little
Italian, she'll talk
about me with the cook.


(After Fred Katz and Trio.
The album: Eastern Exposure)

One White Whale:
I had it left over
from the party,
because nobody was hungry
     any more,
and I kept it in the ice-box
for a week or so,
and watched it,
hoping to find out something
drastically true and reasonable
      from it...
but I learned
(too late)
they didn't keep in vermouth.
Such a shame!
I had to pour it all away,
and the whale stopped up the
and there was an awful mess
in the kitchen.


Cooking in the court
of King Henry
wasn't that bad a job,
and certainly
the fringe benefits
were all as good
(or better)
as the paper
had advertised;
I learned to dislike
background music

Vancouver and Winnipeg, 1964/6

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Beware of Terrorist B.O.!

Recently released Homeland Security documents list a number of signs among airline passengers that may betray a terrorist threat. These signs include excessive yawning, manic laughter, and offensive body odor.

Noting an opportunity for profit in this, the conglomerate Cleanliness-R-Us has begun developing a new line of body products. Here is the script for a television commercial ready to launch one of these products:

Scene: Crowded airline terminal. Security personnel observing long lineups of travelers.

Guard 1: See anything suspicious, Bob?

Guard 2: No, Frank. But there's something in the air. I can sense it.

Guard 1: Me too, Bob. I think it's coming from that guy over there. Either he needs a change of underwear, or--

Guard 2: Or he's a terrorist! Right, Frank! Let's take him in!

As the guards drag the man out of the lineup, announcer appears on screen holding a bottle of Anti-Terror Shower Gel.

Announcer: Don't let this happen to you! To avoid Terrorist B.O., scrub thoroughly with new Anti-Terror Shower Gel! Available in four CSIS-approved scents!

Man: Hey, what're you doing? I'm clean!

Guard 1: We'll see about that. This calls for a strip search.

Guard 2: As soon as we get into our Haz-Mat outfits.

Announcer: Avoid this embarrassment and inconvenience when you travel. Don't risk T.B.O. Before you fly, spend a cleansing time with Anti-Terror Shower Gel!

Tag: And for extra protection, ask for Free-to-Fly Anti-Perspirant.