Saturday, December 31, 2016

So What Are You Doing?

New Year's Eve, and for only the second time in seventy-five years, Dal Richards will not be leading his band somewhere.

It's the night when almost every musical aggregation is sure of a gig (although one year Dave Brubeck couldn't get one), but in Vancouver, Dal Richards was always the top ticket, usually at the Panorama Roof.

This is also the night when people start looking for a date, often six months in advance. Thus the song "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

It was written by Frank Loesser ("Guys and Dolls," "The Most Happy Fella," et cetera) in 1947, and since then seems to have been recorded by everybody from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Dave Frishberg called it "the perfect song--not a note, not a word could be better." You could probably fill a four-hour radio program with just different versions of the song. Surprised it hasn't been done.

So "maybe it's much too early in the game; ah, but I thought I'd ask you just the same: what are you doing New Year's?  New Year's Eve?"

Me, I'm staying home with cold remedies and a hot water bottle.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Thank You for the Lovely Envelope

A friend informed us that she had received our Christmas envelope. No card, just an envelope. We wondered if the envelope--which, like the girl in Burton Cummings's song, had come undone--had been put through the Canada Post meat grinder or been intercepted by CSIS. No, someone suggested, perhaps a person with the wrong kind of Yuletide spirit thought the envelope contained cash, and opened it. Found no cash, but liked the card.

Meanwhile, we received two electronic cards that the computer refused to open, possibly on the grounds that they were overly sentimental or contained bad poetry or depicted Santa Claus in an unflattering way.

What have we learned from this? Next year, our Christmas card mailings will carry the kind of sign seen in drugstore windows: "This Envelope Contains No Cash. Or Drugs."

Or maybe we'll just send envelopes.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve Shopping Guide

Clever shoppers who know how to beat the crowds wait until 9:00 p.m., Christmas Eve, to buy gifts. Of course, at that hour, the only place open is the corner Chevron station, but who wouldn't be thrilled to receive a set of cable jumpers?

Manny Goodman of the Jazzmanian Devils, another canny shopper, suggests air fresheners, those attractive decorations for your rear window visor. They're available in a number of compelling scents, including this year the manly Locker Room.

Good shopping, friends--and remember to ask Gus at the pumps for his recipes for Hi-Test Highballs and Grease Pit Punch.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Here We Come A-Caroling

Yeah, I know, we were just here crying "Trick or Treat," but now here we come a-caroling, as wandering choristers have been doing since 1521, when the big number was "The Boar's Head Carol." This is still sung at Christmas at Queen's College, Oxford, although we're not sure they still serve a boar's head at the Yuletide feast.

The carol we regret seldom hearing today is "Deck the Halls with Boston Charlie," beloved by all readers of Walt Kelly's "Pogo," and especially by fans of Albert the Alligator, who had a truly remarkable basso profundo, powered, no doubt, by all the cigars he favoured.

So here we come, and we'll soon be outside your door, and you won't get rid of us until you pay us off in sugarplums. Or maybe a hit from the wassail bowl.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Patron for Pen Pushers

Today--December 13--we celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, patron saint of writers.

Take a starving writer to lunch.

Monday, December 12, 2016

No Tune like a Snow Tune

Cognizant of our responsibility to provide playlists for seasonal change, we offer these suggestions for snowy, wintry listening:

"Snowfall"--theme for the Claude Thornhill orchestra, a unit that included such innovative arrangers as Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan. "Snowfall" is a lovely, Impressionistic piece, which might have come out of the Ravel-Debussy-Bix Beiderbecke period.

"Winter Moon," a little known Hoagy Carmichael song, best on a 1952 Pacific Jazz recording arranged by Johnny Mandel, with Hoagy singing, and the impeccable Art Pepper opening with a long alto saxophone solo as chill and clear and pure as an icicle.

"Sleigh Ride"--Art Pepper again, this time with Richie Cole. A romp over the snow, with pianist Roger Kellaway cracking the whip, and bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Billy Higgins powering the sled.

"Midnight Sleighride"--a version of "Troika" from Prokofiev's "Lieutenant Kiji Suite," reworked by the Sauter-Finegan band. Eddie Sauter and Bill Finegan, two of the top orchestrators of the big band years--Sauter primarily for Benny Goodman, Finegan for Tommy Dorsey--led one of the most eclectic and adventurous bands of the 1950s, a precursor of today's Pink Martini.

Happily, all of these tracks can be tracked on the Internet. The most entertaining, visually, is Sauter-Finegan's "Midnight Sleighride," with Finegan playing the part of the horses.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Dressing for the Game

Cam Newton, quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, recently was punished by the team coach for failing to meet the dress code for airline travel. Newton was wearing a handsome (and probably expensive) blazer, dress slacks, dress shoes, and a turtleneck sweater. No necktie. That did it. The coach, who perhaps spends more time reading GQ than Sports Illustrated (as the score that day suggested) benched Newton for the opening play for failing to heed the necktie rule.

Curious ideas about proper dress in sporting circles. NBA and NHL coaches all seem to have personal designers and valets in attendance, while the high mark in CFL attire was Mike Benevides's hoodie.

Sportswriters, happily, are not required to follow any dress code. The only sports scribe known for sartorial elegance was Dick Beddoes, who was known to visit locker rooms wearing a homburg and carrying a walking stick.

Other sportswriters often look as though they had slept in their suits. And many of us did.

--Slap Maxwell.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Resolved to Re-Resolve

A new year rapidly approaches, and it is customary to make resolutions, to guide one's behavior and activities in the next twelve months, to eschew bad habits and cultivate good works.

It is also time to review the resolutions made for this year, and see how we've done.

Hmm--checking the score on resolutions, it's 0-10.

Ah, well--to look on the positive side, this means we don't have to think up new resolutions for 2017--we can just re-run those we made for 2016.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hold 'em, Lu!

Roberto Luongo, longtime Vancouver Canucks goaltender, and two-time Gold Medal winner, now between the pipes, as hockey broadcasters say, for the Florida Panthers, is having his best season since 2004, with a .930 save percentage, and his best season ever, with 2.04 goals against.

But what we really want to know is how Lu's doing at the poker table. And if his pre-game meal of choice is still lobster linguini.

P.S.: Apologies to those who really do or did love "Peter and the Wolf."

Monday, December 5, 2016

Cue the Bad Christmas Music

In a government wine shop the other day, we were jarred to hear "Silent Night" coming thru the speakers. If they're going to play Christmas music in a liquor store, it should be "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" or "Here We Come A-Wassailing."

At CHQM, at one time (when, as Terry Garner used to say, "the Q stood for quality") no Christmas music was allowed on the air until December 15. And in many parish churches, there are no Christmas carols until Midnight Mass, Christmas Day. (There are many lovely Advent carols--we are not musically bereft.)

In contrast, retailers have been running tinny Christmas and winter music (how many times must we endure "Silver Bells"?) since the day after Hallowe'en.

Something that seems always to turn up at this time of year is "Peter and the Wolf," said to be a treat for children. We have never met a child who admitted to being charmed by "Peter and the Wolf." Saint-Saens, who knocked off "Carnival of the Animals" as a party lark, wanted it never to be played again. If only Prokofiev had had the foresight to suppress "Peter and the Wolf."

There is some seasonal music we look forward to--"Sleigh Ride," by Art Pepper and Richie Cole; "England's Carol," by the Modern Jazz Quartet; "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," by Dexter Gordon; and "Zat You, Santy Claus?" by Louis Armstrong.

Meanwhile, enjoy Handel's "Messiah," as performed by Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Did we get a card from them last year?

While looking over your Christmas card list, and calculating your contribution this year to keeping Canada Post afloat, let us offer this sugarplum of information:

When the custom of mailing cards was introduced in the late 19th century, Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, Ruler of the Empire, sent out 2,500. Two thousand five hundred! (And her image was on every stamp.)

Did you get yours?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Significant Anniversaary

In 1928, Canon Charles E. Raven of Liverpool wrote Women in Holy Orders, declaring "The admission of women to Holy Orders on an equality with men is inherent in the teachings of Jesus and necessitated by a true understanding of the nature of the is a matter of theological principle, even more than of justice and expediency."

It took almost half a century for it to happen, but on St. Andrew's Day, November 30, 1976, women were ordained as priests in the Anglican Church of Canada. This year, there are fortieth anniversary celebrations across the country, with women priests in nearly as many parishes as men, and more than a few women bishops.

The Canadian church has not yet had a woman Primate, but one--Victoria Matthews, then Bishop of Edmonton--has been nominated, and in the United States, Katherine Jefferts Schori served for years with strength and boldness and dignity as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

As Herbert O'Driscoll predicted, what was considered a daring and radical move--largely orchestrated by Archbishop David Somerville, as chair of the Committee on Ministry--has "settled into a quiet and stable methodology."

Reverend Ladies--congratulations.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Gentleman's Guide to Carrying a Walking Stick

If you are one of those whose back occasionally goes on strike, you may have occasion to employ a walking stick. If so, here are a few points to observe:

1. Swing the stick rakishly from time to time, striking a pose reminiscent of Ronald Colman in "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo."

2. Should someone inquire regarding the cause of your limp, tell them it is a souvenir of the 90-yard run you made to win the Grey Cup for your team in 1967. Or: that you were assailed by villains when you rescued the beautiful Selma Hayek from a dungeon fortress. You dispatched the mob with the sword concealed in your walking stick.

3. If someone should have the temerity to call your stick a cane, strike him with it.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Triumph of the Underdog

Remember the Al Cohn-Dave Frishberg song "The Underdog"? Okay, not many do. Spoon has one, too, with that title.

It was underdog's day at BMO Stadium in Toronto as the Ottawa Redblacks astonished the country and demoralized the Calgary Stampeders, who had just swept the CFL awards, with QB Bo Levi Mitchell, named Most Outstanding Player, already elevating himself into the all-time all-star hall of fame.

Bo and other Stampeders were notably absent from post-game interviews, but Calgary coach Dave Dickenson did present himself for one dignified if sorrowful on-camera conversation.

Meanwhile, Chris Jones and Wally Buono are probably meeting for drinks at the Schadenfreude Bar.

Congratulations to all who had money on the underdog. Most of the country was betting on the highly favored Stampeders, but, as Manny Goodman of the Jazzmanian Devils reminded us, "In the age of Trump, nothing is sure."

--Slap Maxwell.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Black Friday Blues

Black Friday hasn't yet had a song named for it, but having just returned from a 48-hour vigil outside Crazy Frank's Electronic Supermart, we want to say it deserves to be right up there with "Stormy Monday" and "Gloomy Sunday."

Something to consider: the designation "Black Friday" has, until recently, been associated with economic collapse and financial disaster--in, to pick a couple of bad years, 1866 and 1869. And 1929 was no fun, either.

Who was the marketing genius who dubbed a sales extravaganza (read: "Get rid of this stuff") Black Friday? Was it the same guy who wanted to promote Titanic Cruise Ships and Kamikaze Airlines?

Just asking. Enjoy those bargains.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Amnesty for Turkeys!

President Obama, in one of his last official acts, has granted a pardon to the White House turkey. The turkey lives to gobble another day.

But across the U.S., as Thanksgiving dawns, millions of birds are saying, "How about amnesty for all turkeys?"

Meanwhile, trained counsellors are standing by to mediate political discussions at families' Thanksgiving dinners.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Awake and Sing!

November 22--feast day of Saint Cecilia, patron of music.

Deep thanks for all she has inspired, J.S. Bach to Lyle Lovett, Louis Armstrong to Maurice Ravel, Billie Holiday to Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Henry Purcell to Hank Williams.

Cecilia, born in Rome two millennia ago, and born blind, is believed to have been the inventor of the organ, and created music so beautiful, an angel fell in love with her.

On this day, the Worshipful Company of Musicians processes to St. Paul's Cathedral in London for divine services.

Last words to Dryden:

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

One More Unnecessary Election Analysis

Political commentators, hoping to hold on to their jobs a few more weeks, continue their analyses of the recent US presidential election.They try to determine the voting impact of various groups--millennials, Latinos, suburban matrons, white high school dropouts, professional tightrope walkers, et al.

But the answer is that the outcome on November 8 was due to the actions of just three groups: the cool, the uncool, and the terminally alienated.

Meanwhile, the president-elect continues a tradition of communicating with the people. As FDR had his Fireside Chats, DJT has his 3:00 a.m. tweets.

And how about the cast of "Hamilton" confronting Mike Pence? Trump was very annoyed. But wait for what happens when Mitt Romney takes him to "The Book of Mormon."

Trying to break ourselves of politics addiction. Trying..trying..

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Dealing with Time Change Lag

Sure, we all know about jet lag, but how about the more common, even widespread, time change lag?

Following the shift in time from Daylight to Standard, we stumble around as though we'd been breakfasting on a pitcher of Tequila Sunrise. When we try to speak, the words come out like a spoonful of alphabet soup. And driving? Forget it. Please, forget it!

The only place in Canada immune from this affliction is Saskatchewan, where there is never a deviation from Rational Bovine Time. Saskatchewan, where cows set the clocks.

We wish we could prescribe a cure for time change lag. Ironically, the only remedy is time itself. But take heart--your symptoms will diminish. In about six months. Just when the calendar calls for another time change.

Friday, November 11, 2016

One More Time

We were about to declare this a Politics Free Zone, but thinking of Trump, Christie snd Giuliani making their way to the White House, we were reminded of the film "Going in Style," with George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg as senior citizens embarking on a last run career as bank robbers.

They don't make it, but they do have style, which is more than one can say for the seniors Messrs. Trump, Christie and Giuliani. Will that aging trio succeed? Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Grow that 'Stache! (Not you, Madam)

The calendar may read November, but all red-blooded, hairy-lipped men know that it is Movember--the month in which all males are expected to grow moustaches as a statement on behalf of men's health issues. Like baldness. And failure to get dates.

There are a number of handsome styles from which to choose: the handle-bar, the pencil-line, the walrus, the Zapata, the Fu Manchu, the Doc Holliday, the Salvador Dali, and the John Bolton. And for those who are challenged in this regard, there is the Groucho Marx--just apply with charcoal makeup.

The group which has always risen to the Movember call with enthusiasm is the Canadian Football League. Players, coaches, even those guys in the press box and broadcast booth begin to display hirsute upper lips. The one who has the edge is Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly, for whom it is Movember year-round.

And this is the month when the CFL finals begin, leading to the Grey (not Moustache) Cup on November 27. May the best 'stache win!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Country's in the Very Best of Hands

That's one of the songs Johnny Mereer and Gene DePaul wrote for the musical, "Li'l Abner," and it's full of the irony and sardonic humor Al Capp so often expressed.

But the musical we want to remember today is "Of Thee I Sing," written by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, with songs by George and Ira Gershwin. The first production ran for 441 performances, beginning in 1931, and it was the first musical to win a Pulitzer Prize.

In the story, John P. Wintergreen runs for president on the Love ticket, and while the score includes the song "We'll Impeach Him," the most memorable is "Love Is Sweeping the Country." Sample refrain:

                      "Love is sweeping the country;
                       Waves are hugging the shore;
                                  All the sexes
                                  From Maine to Texas
                       Have never known such love before."

A cheering sentiment for today.

And we leave you with a consoling thought for those distressed by the end of all the fun of the US Presidential Election campaign: only two more years, and there'll be another!

One for the road

It's quarter to three, no one in the place except you and me;
So set 'em up, Joe; got a little story you oughta know...

A good night to all putting away their Champagne and reaching for the bourbon.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Hey Don, Hill--What're You Doing Tuesday?

The US election campaign is, mercifully, almost at an end. It is like coming out of six months of the flu. And it is warned there may be after effects.  Post-election trauma, here we come.

Meanwhile, the real question is what to consume while sitting thru the long hours of vote counting on Tuesday. The more stylish of Hillary's supporters will be having wine spritzers and hors d'oeuvres. The Trump camp is going for Jack Daniel's and raw meat.

The nominee himself may be having Red Bull or Diet Pepsi, as he does not allow himself alcohol--which may be the worst recommendation for abstemiousness we can think of. In fact, our local branch of the WCTU says that if the Big Orange wins, "we are all going to get roaring drunk, and stay that way for the next four years."

And prepare for the possibility of a mass migration of Americans to Canada.

British Columbia  promises not to replace the Peace Arch with a wall.

P.S.: It is noteworthy that Big Don had no comments on Beyonce's appearance when she performed at a Clinton rally. It is rumored, however, that Kellyanne Conway had to duct tape his lips.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Hallowe'en--the Morning After

Don, it's over. You can take off the wig and the fat suit, and wash off the Day-Glo orange.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Invitation to the Monster Mash-querade

Greetings! I, Professor Frank N. Stein, cordially invite you to a Hallowe'en celebration!

All our friends will be there, including my esteemed Transylvanian colleague, Dr. Acula, who has offered to mix his famous Bloody Marys, Bloody Caesars and blood orange cocktails--heavy on the blood.

The Wolfman will forage for food, the Beast with Five Fingers will perform piano favourites ("Ghost of a Chance," "Haunted Heart," "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal, You"), and Snow White"s wicked Queen is bringing poisoned apples for bobbing.

Of course, the Phantom of the Opera, the Invisible Man and the Incredible Shrinking Woman all will be present, but the Mummy has sent his regrets--says he is all wrapped up.

And at this very moment, the Three Weird Sisters from "Macbeth" are preparing their famous broth--eye of newt, swamp snake, bat's fur, worm's stinger, dragon's scales, lizard's leg, goat's bile--

Wait, we're out of goat's bile? Run next door and borrow a cup from the Harpies!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Please, let it be over!

The US election campaign, of course, which has become something like circling Dante's seven regions of hell.

What new surprise? First the "Hollywood Access" bus video, now the Weiner e-mails--who is writing this series?

David Brooks, who has been able to hold on to his sanity, says the two parties have achieved a "parity of sleaze," and on election day, he will write in, as president, one of the Chicago Cubs hitters. Good choice.

And FBI Director James Comey? Depending on who is elected president, he will either be appointed Attorney General or find himself checking license plates on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Friday, October 28, 2016

US Election Detritus

We are almost done with a US election campaign so nasty it would make even Frank Underwood cringe. But there are a few leftovers; to wit:

Have you noticed that Donald Trump always enters his rallies clapping, and that he continues to pound his palms vigorously for a very long time? It's like those contestants on "Wheel of Fortune," who appear drugged into non-stop clapping even when they've lost.

Chelsea Clinton, introducing a TV bio of her mother, described Hillary as "the most famous woman in the world." This may have come as a surprise to Queen Elizabeth, Angela Merkel and Beyonce.

Finally--Trump supporters are holding clinics to prepare poll watchers to guard against voter fraud on election day. This means heavy leaning on women, African-Americans, Latinos, white guys in skinny suits, and pretty well anyone not wearing a "Make America Great Again" baseball cap.

But, hey--only four years until 2020!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Trump TV

There is continuing speculation that, post-election, Donald J. Trump, whether President Trump or merely Citizen Trump (and where is Orson Welles when we need him?) may create his own television channel.

Our resident seer and TV critic has imagined the program lineup for DJTV, and here are some of the highlights:

"Locker Room Talk"-- Raunchy remarks and bawdy badinage, sponsored by Tic-Tacs.

"The Donald Trump Diet Plan & Personal Manliness" -- Become gorgeous enough to be Miss Universe, tough enough to take on Joe Biden.

"Hair Styling with Mr. Donald" --You thought Warren Beatty was hot in "Shampoo"? Just wait!

"Grope for the Top" -- Contestants battle to see who is attractive enough for the boss to grope.

"Where Are They Now?" -- Follow Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani down memory lane.

"Getting Even" -- Successful Suits & Libel Litigation, or: "Taking On the Scum."

Sign up now, for Truly Towering Television entertainment!  It is going to be so great!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Mercer's Autumn

Johnny Mercer may have written some of the most optimistic song lyrics ("Accentuate the Positive," "Too Marvellous for Words"), but he also--with Harold Arlen--wrote the two best-known crying-in-my-beer saloon songs ("Blues in the Night," "One for My Baby").

And Mercer wrote the most elegiac end-of-summer songs: "Early Autumn," "Autumn Leaves," and, at the very end, "When October Goes."

The lyrics for "When October Goes," perhaps the last Mercer wrote, were found by his widow. She gave them to Barry Manilow, who set them to an appropriately melancholy melody. The song may have been recorded more than once, but the only recording we know is on Rosemary Clooney's album of Mercer songs. Worth a search. "When October Goes"--song of the month.

To hear Mercer, who was also a fun singer, in a cheerier mood, Google his name. Even in October, you can accentuate the positive.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sing Along with Don

The Committee to elect Donald J. Trump has announced a new campaign song:  "Putin On the Ritz."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Today's Play List

"Here's That Rainy Day."

"Stormy Weather."

"The Day That the Rain Came Down."

"Pennies from Heaven."

"Singin' in the Rain."

"I'm Just a Fella with an Umbrella."

"Till the Clouds Roll By."

"Splish Splash."

"Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella."

"Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head."

"The Wind and the Rain in Your Hair."

"Stormy Monday (Seems Like Tuesday's Just as Bad)."

"Famous Blue Raincoat."

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Nobel Laurels for Mr. Tambourine Man

Bob Dylan has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. It was thought the fix was in for ABBA, but Sara Darius, speaking for the Swedish Academy, said the prize went to Dylan because "he's such a dynamite songwriter." (Little Swedish humor there.)

Some expressed surprise that, for the first time, the award in literature had gone to a songwriter; but it was pointed out that many previous laureates also had written songs. Who can forget T.S. Eliot's "Let's have a Tiddley at the Milk Bar," Thomas Mann's "Beer Barrel Polka," or Saul Bellow's "Louie, Louie"? It has been whispered that Alice Munro was an uncredited co-lyricist on Hank Snow's "Music Makin' Mama from Memphis."

Most, however, expressed delight at Dylan's recognition. Praise was given by Dylan fans from Barack Obama to Stephen King. Salman Rushdie said, "I intend to spend the day playing 'Mr. Tambourine Man'."

Philip Roth, however, will spend the day playing his own recording of "I've Got a Right to Sing the Blues." Back-up vocals by Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates.

Next year? We're pulling for Leonard Cohen.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Doing the Turkey Trot

With Thanksgiving here, and soon to come for our American cousins, it's time to practice our footwork for the traditional holiday dance--the Turkey Trot.

The Turkey Trot was introduced by John Jarrott and Louise Gruenning, dancers who also gave us the Grizzly Bear. Danced to ragtime, it was enormously popular in the first ten years of the twentieth century, even though it was considered "immoral," and some dancers were charged with "disorderly conduct." Then the foxtrot came along, and the Turkey Trotters were toast. Or roast.

Until now.

Are you ready? Here's how it goes: arms around each other's waist (they called it "hugging") with feet far spread, hop sideways four times on one leg, and then four times on the other. Do a few scissor steps, and fast trot down the floor.

This weekend, fifty of the world's most glamorous gobblers and goblettes will present the classic Turkey Trot on "Dancing With the Stars"!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Bill Gilmour's Pronunciation Guide

Bill Gilmour came into the announcers' lounge, something between a walk-in closet and a telephone booth, and grabbed our attention. "Guys," he said, "I have found that the word 'garage' should be pronounced to rhyme with 'barrage'!'

We were amazed, because for years, we had been saying "gradge," as in, "Get the car outta the gradge."

Professionals that we were, we learned then to say "temperature" instead of "tempachurr," "interesting" rather than "innaresting," "engine" instead of "ingin," and "Wednesday" instead of "Wedunsday." We are still wrestling with "February," but then, who isn't?

And for those words or names that are really tough, like Aug San Suu Kyi and Jovan Olafioye, Bill had the solution: "Just flash your hand across your mouth," he said. "Listeners will say, 'Hear that, Irma? I think something went wrong with the radio'."

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Nobel Prize for Bagels

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics to a trio of physicists working at different U.S. universities, although all three are British.

The award-winning research, by David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz, was in the field of topology, which deals with the effects of various forms of stress on matter.

To illustrate their work to journalists, most of whom are still trying to understand how gravity works, Thors Hans Hansson, a member of the Nobel committee, produced a cinnamon bun, a bagel and a pretzel. He demonstrated that no matter what he did to these baked goods, the number of holes in them would remain the same.

Unless, of course, he ate them. Journalists applauded, and asked if he could repeat the demonstration, using a pizza, a po' boy and a cheeseburger.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Calling Uncle Sigmund

Recommended reading for our age, following the Brexit vote in Britain, Colombian voters' rejection of an end to a fifty-year war, and the lemming-like rush to Donald Trump: "Beyond the Pleasure Principle," by Sigmund Freud, described as "the pioneer study of the death instinct in man.'

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Peanuts, Ice Cream, Bagels & Lox

Consulting the "Writer's Almanac" and "A Book of Days for the Literary Year," we find that October 2 is the birthday of Wallace Stevens, writer of memorable if impenetrable poetry ("The Emperor of Ice Cream"), and who, like composer Charles Ives, never gave up his day job at an insurance company.

It is also the birthday of Graham Greene, whose many novels and essays and plays deserve re-reading. Greene was frequently nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but there was one (unnamed) member of the Swedish Academy who had taken a vow never to allow Greene the honor. Greene did achieve a dubious sort of fame when, as a film critic, he was sued by the nine-year-old Shirley Temple.

And it was October 2, 1950, that the comic strip "Peanuts" first appeared. What springs to mind is a Downtown East Side performance of the musical "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," with the young Brent Carver of Cranbrook in the title role, a few years before he went to Broadway and won two Tony Awards.

Finally, we are at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. We want to join the celebrations, but we're reminded of a day when we were lunching with Bill Phillips at the now sadly vanished Rubin's Delicatessen. Gerry Altman appeared behind us, and said, "It doesn't matter how much bagels and lox you eat--it won't make you Jewish."

Happy New Year anyway.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rare Hand-Held Device

We have become accustomed to seeing almost everyone under the age of twenty walking the streets heads down, intent on whatever the small black objects in their hands may be telling them. More disconcerting is to pass persons apparently carrying on conversations with themselves, until one realizes they have tiny telephones somewhere on their persons. (This is still preferable to people carrying on loud, intense, personal conversations--"I've had enough! It's over between us!"--on cell phones while in supermarket lineups.)

At one time, if you passed a person talking aloud to no one visible, you would have assumed that person was (as Hillary Clinton said of Donald Trump) living in his own reality. Of course, it is entirely possible that one of these solo conversationalists may be both technologically equipped and mentally dysfunctional.

The other day, however--and consider this breaking news--we saw a young woman, not more than seventeen, walking the street, head down, reading a book.

A book! With pages! Paper pages! What will come next, in hand-held devices?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Morning After

Are you wearing your "I Survived the Clinton-Trump Debate" button? If you sat through the ninety minutes, you've earned it. Different polls deliver different opinions on which debater won, but David Brooks of PBS and the News York Times probably evaluated it best, when he said neither speaker had made him feel confident about the future of America.

We had hoped it might turn out like the duel between Abdul Abulbul Amir and Ivan Skavinsky Skavar, who, as related by Frank Crumit in his 1930s song, vanquished each other.

Skip the debates. Check out Crumit's song, accessible on-line, and as much fun as ever.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Debate Night Menu

It has been predicted that the audience for the first Trump-Clinton debate will top 100 million. And yet, while there always have been suggestions for munching (or keeping your strength up) during the Super Bowl and Grey Cup games, no one has come up with a menu for debate night viewing.

Determined to correct that, we have consulted "White House Cookbook," a collection of presidential menus and first lady recipes reaching back to 1894, and including, among much else, a buffet for 1,000 people, the menu for General Grant's birthday dinner, Hillary Clinton's recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and a cure for hiccoughs.

"White House Cookbook" does not offer many choices for pre-debate beverages, but there is an 1894 punch, which calls for a half-pint of rum, a half-pint of brandy, a quarter-pound of sugar, juice of one large lemon, a half-teaspoon of nutmeg, and a pint of boiling water. Perhaps they'll serve this to the debaters in the green room, which would help make it an interesting encounter.

Our recommendation for a hearty and sustaining meal (the debate may run from 90 to 120 minutes) is fried venison steak, again from the 1894 "White House Cookbook." Once you have trapped the deer, throw the steaks in a pan until a rich brown, and prepare a sauce with currant jelly and wine. Extra glass for the cook.

Saratoga chips would make a tasty snack. In 1894, they made them by dropping the potato slices into boiling lard.

Now, for dessert, what better than Election Cake? The 1894 recipe directs us to make a batter of milk, sugar and yeast, and let it stand overnight. In the morning, add more sugar (brown recommended), a lot of butter (two cups), nutmeg, cinnamon, raisins, and a gill--whatever that is--of brandy. Let's make it two gills. How much of this debate can you take?

And for the morning after:  slippery-elm bark tea.

Enjoy the debate.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Debate Night Viewing

Donald Trump has predicted that his Monday night debate with Hillary Clinton will be the most watched event in television history--"bigger than the Super Bowl, bigger than the World Series." We were hoping that the part of Mr. Trump would be taken by Seth Rogen, and that Lena Dunham would play Hillary Clinton. Sadly, this is not to be. If only they had let Seth Macfarlane produce the show.

However, for those unwilling to be caught in the debate net, here are some alternate viewing choices for 6:00 p.m., Monday, Pacific Standard Time: on Channel 14, "Family Feud", on Channel 30, "Mama's Family"; on Channel 8, "Kaanch Ki Guria"; on Channel 70, "Moose Meat"; on Channel 68, "Fashion Police"; on Channel 52, "Cupcake Wars"; on Channel 50, "NASCAR Truck Racing"; on Channel 120, "100-year-old Drivers".

So you can see there is a rich choice of intellectual stimulation available, apart from the predictably messy Trump vs. Clinton match. Our only regret is that it is not the night for "All-Star Bowling."

Of course, you could follow the advice of Groucho Marx and watch nothing at all. Groucho said, "I find TV  very educational. Whenever someone turns it on, I go in another room and read a book."

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Early Autumn

It seems it was only last week that we were writing about songs for this season, and suddenly, here we are again. Where does time go, when you're not having fun? (Only kidding. There's no end of fun at PD Krak-a-Joke Korner.)

September is almost gone, but we still have "September Song" ("the days dwindle down to a precious few") and "September in the Rain" (listen, and be surprised again, by the George Shearing quintet's late 1940s recording).

Next, we'll have "Autumn Serenade" (one of the songs on the invaluable Johnny Hartman-John Coltrane "Ballads" album), "'Tis Autumn" by the waggish Henry Nemo, and "Early Autumn," Ralph Burns's coda to his "Summer Sequence," the breakout hit for Stan Getz, later given memorable lyrics ("there's a dance pavilion in the rain") by Johnny Mercer. And then there is "Autumn Leaves," which, when sung by Yves Montand, could keep a Paris audience applauding until they turned off the lights.

Finally, there are the songs, poignant and rueful, saying farewell to summer: "The Things We Did Last Summer" ("the leaves began to fade, like promises we made") and Victor Herbert's "Indian Summer" ("you're the ghost of a romance in June, going astray").

Songs for the seasons. We've gone thru "Spring is Here" and "A Summer Place," and soon we'll be at "When October Goes."

And what follows that? "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

Monday, September 19, 2016

Exit Albee

Edward Albee, the most interesting American playwright of the post-Williams and Miller years, has stepped off stage at eighty-eight--an age some of us no longer consider all that old.

Albee, best known for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" (a title he took from graffiti on a mirror in a New York bar) first grabbed attention with a series of one-act plays, most particularly "Zoo Story." It fascinated audiences and made them uncomfortable, which was true of most of his work. He seemed more an extension of Eugene O'Neill than of Williams and Miller.

In 1979, Albee spent three days in Edmonton, at the University of Alberta, possibly drawn there by Henry Woolf, then a member of the drama department faculty. He gave a series of memorable lectures, some broadcast by CKUA, the university's outstanding campus radio station.

Albee wrote a great number of plays, and it would be good to see some of them again, especially puzzles like "Tiny Alice" and "Seascape," and what night have been his last major work, "Three Tall Women," portraits of his mother at various ages.

Incidental information: In the first (1962) staging of "Virginia Woolf," the character George (Richard Burton in the film) was played by Arthur Hill, who was born in Melfort, Saskatchewan, and began his stage career at the University of British Columbia. Uta Hagen was Martha. "Woolf" won the Tony Award for best play of 1962; Hill and Hagen took Tony Awards for best actor and actress.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Donald Trump 24-Hour Miracle Diet

Lose weight! Gain height! Feel younger!

Donald Trump, appearing on a preview of the Dr. Oz television program, was described as standing 6' 2" and weighing 267 pounds.

Remarkably, within 24 hours, Mr. Trump was measured at 6' 3" with weight of 236 pounds. In addition, the Republican candidate, glowing orange with good health, said he feels "as fit as Tom Brady," the 39-year-old New England Patriots quarterback.

Mr. Trump then boarded his campaign plane--Trump One--with a bucket of KFC.

So if you want to lose weight, gain height, and feel thirty years younger, start today on the Donald Trump 24-hour Miracle Diet! In just one day, you'll be as fit as a Super Bowl winner!

Extra bonus: If you're among the first fifty to sign up for the Donald Trump Diet, you'll be eligible to win one of these wonderful prizes:

* A letter declaring you to be fit enough to be President of the United States, signed by Dr. Harold Bornstein, Mr. Trump's personal physician.

* A complete physical examination by Dr. Oz on live television.

Sign up now! As Donald Trump says, "What have you got to lose?" If the answer is thirty pounds and thirty years, the Donald Trump 24-hour Miracle Diet is for you!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Huge! Really huge!

Donald Trump has revealed portions of his medical report, and while Dr. Oz was not compelled to perform an emergency surgical procedure on live television, there was one troubling item: at 267 pounds, the Republican presidential candidate is considered obese.

Trump responded at once, saying, "Consider some of our greatest presidents. I mean greatest. They were big men, really big. Look at Grover Cleveland. Elected president twice. That's right, folks, twice. In 1885 and 1893. And Grover pushed the scales way past 250. You know what his nickname was, folks? Uncle Jumbo.

"And how about William Howard Taft, or, as he was affectionately called, Big Lub? By the time he completed his very successful term in the White House, he weighed 350 pounds. There's a story that he once got stuck in his bathtub. I don't know if that's true, but many people were saying that. And yet--and yet, folks--William Howard Taft is the only person ever to have been both President of the United States and a Supreme Court justice. Obviously he had enough stuff for two big jobs.

"So I say to you: the presidency is a weighty responsibility. It takes a weighty man to carry it.

"I thank you, you're a beautiful audience. Pass the jelly doughnuts."

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Virtual Transparency

There is a continuing call for "transparency" among politicians, which apparently does not mean you can see right through them.

Politicians have been quick to respond, manufacturing transparency to order. Donald Trump, for example, has revealed his medical records to Dr. Oz. He had wanted to go on "E.R.," but that ward has closed. Next, the Donald plans to appear with Dr. Ruth and Judge Judy. And then to show how truly fit he is, he'll do the tango on "Dancing with the Stars."

In Canada, Tom Mulcair has not yet begun to sing the Groucho Marx classic,"Hello, I Must Be Going," despite urging from some NDP caucus members. And it must be obvious to all that Elizabeth May's current theme song is "It's Not Easy Being Green."

And then there are the Harper-less Conservatives. Kellie Leitch may be on the way. Brush up on your Canadian values.

Friday, September 9, 2016

It's Scam, Ma'am

I just had a call from an obviously very inexperienced scam artist. I said, "You're not very good at this, are you?"

"No, sir. I'm just starting out, trying to perfect my approach."

"I could tell you weren't really Revenue Canada."

"I dreamed of joining them," he said, "but I couldn't pass the exams. I had to turn to crime."

"What a pity," I said. "You sound like a bright young man."

He said, "If I'd only had the funds to continue my studies."

"Maybe I can help." I said. "Get you back on the straight and narrow. Let me send you a small donation for your education."

"Oh, sir, that's so kind." I detected a catch in his voice, overcome by grateful emotion. "I couldn't accept that. But just knowing your support is behind me would mean so much. Perhaps if you were just to give me your credit card numbers, so I'd know you're with me."

"Of course," I said, and gave him the numbers.

"And perhaps your bank account number? And your password?"

I gave him my password.  "Dimbulb?" he said. "That's your password?"

"Thought it was one nobody would guess."

"Very clever, sir.  Thank you so much.  You have a nice day, now. Bye bye."

So there's a lesson for us all.  They're not all bad. I now think of scam as an acronym: Show Charity and More."

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Listen for the School Bell

Are there still hand-held bells in schools? Probably not. Probably only in cathedral choirs.

At one time, a teacher would come out on the school steps and ring a bell to summon children to class. In the primary grades, we would form lines, two by two, holding hands. You would hear children say, "You're mine!" And the teacher would reproach them: "She is not yours. No one owns anyone else." To which, of course, an eight-year-old cynic might mutter, "Oh, yeah?" But there weren't a lot of eight-year-old cynics around.

On the first day of school, which never lasted very long, teachers would give students a list of the textbooks and desk supplies they were expected to bring the next day, and students would rush to the two or three stores where these items were available. There we would crowd the counters, eight and ten feet deep, pushing and shoving like people at a new smart phone introduction or a designer shoe sale.

There were also independent sales persons; i.e., students who had passed into the next grade, and were eager to flog their battered, ink-stained texts. Some would tell you the answers were written in the back, a major selling point.

Years ago, on the first day of school, CKNW would run announcements cautioning drivers to be careful, e.g.; "Hi, I'm Bill Hughes. I'll be watching out for your kids when I'm driving today. Please watch out for mine."

As September begins, we have always thought of children returning to class, their mixed eagerness and anxiousness. But this year, we began to think of the same emotions in teachers.

So watch out for teachers, too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Welcoming Will and Kate

Informed that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will tour British Columbia and Yukon this fall, tourism officials have been hard at work finding suitable accommodations and entertainments.

Philomena Millhauser, a spokesperson for Tourism BC, discussed some of the possibilities:

"The first stop will be a working ranch in the Cariboo region. We're hoping Prince William will take part in the branding and calf neutering, and then our resident chef, Chuckwagon Chet, will show the Duchess how to prepare calf fries. Of course, they'll sleep in the bunkhouse, and join in the nightly round of singing old Hank Snow songs.

"Next, we think the Royal couple will be fascinated by one of our back to the earth adventures. We'll set them down on one of the less populated Gulf Islands with an axe, a pail, and a sleeping bag, and let them forage for food. Won't that be fun?

"And then, for a chance to be up close with the people of the province, and experience the vibrant sense of community among us, we'll equip them with pickets and have them join a line of protesters, either Site C or Kindall Morgan--we're still working out the details.

"Also in the plans: tree-topping with real lumberjacks!"

Welcome, Will and Kate!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Yet More US Politics--sigh.

A small touch of irony: The Clintons were guests at the Trumps' wedding. Which, as David Brooks observed, "says a lot about all four of them."

Bill: "What'd we give them, anyway?"

Hillary: "Some old vase we brought back from the White House. Do you think we can get it back?"

Bill: "Doubt it. They probably sold it on E-Bay."

In other news, McDonald's has denied a rumor that the restaurant chain is planning to include tiny Donald Trump statues in their Kiddies Fun-Pak.

And finally, in response to demands for the medical records of both US Presidential candidates, it has been announced that the parties will release full reports. Hillary Clinton is using Simone Biles's records. And Donald Trump? Ryan Lochte.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Trump: The Bare Facts

It has been reported that life-size statues of a naked Donald Trump have been erected in several U.S. cities. While some have been shocked, others have been delighted. It is said that a swooning Sarah Palin has ordered one for her deck.

Other Trump supporters have said that this is the 21st century equivalent of Michelangelo's "David," as a depiction of virile masculine beauty. Trump himself has said, "Actually, I am much better looking. Much better. A lot better." There is some concern that he may move to demonstrate this in a future television appearance, when he is scheduled to address his Rump Cabinet.

And the new campaign song: "Take Your Clothes Off!"

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Topless Leadership

There has been some commotion recently over published photographs of a shirtless Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

News media have pointed out that this is not a new phenomenon among world leaders. Pictures have been printed showing the unadorned and manly torsos of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, Ronald Reagan, and Trudeau Pere.

So far Angela Merkel has not felt the need for such a pose. But there is a rumour that somewhere there is a photograph of Margaret Thatcher jogging while wearing only a flowered hat and a string of pearls.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Chill the Glasses

In her excellent little book with the no-nonsense title "Gin," Geraldine Coates writes: "Franklin D. Roosevelt had run for president on a platform that included ending Prohibition--and on the night he was elected, it is rumoured, mixed the first legal Martini in the White House for thirteen years." (He used Plymouth Gin, making happy hours happier since 1793.)

It was good to see this moment reprised when Bill Murray, as FDR in "Hyde Park on the Hudson," mixed Martinis for George VI.

The question now is: what drink will be poured when Number 45 takes up residence in the White House? We fear it might be either a kale smoothie or Red Bull.

But we're sure that when a relieved Barack Obama finally escapes, he will be lighting a cigar, tuning in an NBA game, and mixing a tall shaker of Manhattans.

Sunday, July 31, 2016


Summer. Gin and tonic weather. For which--the G&T, not the weather--we have to thank the officers of the 19th century British Raj.

Serving in India, they were prescribed daily draughts of quinine-infused water--tonic water--as a guard against malaria. One of the officers--for whom a national holiday should be declared--discovered that just a teaspoon of gin helps the medicine go down.

Maybe a bit more than a teaspoon. Can't be too careful.

Major Randolph Cholmondeley-Fitzherbert, here's to you!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Let's Hear It for Dave!

As the holiday known as BC Day approaches, let us take a moment to thank the tough and brilliant little guy who brought it into being.

Dave Barrett was elected Premier of British Columbia in 1972, after a campaign driven by the cry "17 years is enough!" That referred to the decade and a half W.A.C. Bennett's Social Credit party had ruled the province.

Barrett and an extraordinary cabinet (it is said a new law was passed every three days) created the Labor Relations Board, the Agricultural Land Reserve, and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia; they ensured full Hansard records of Legislature debates; and--among other things--they abolished corporal punishment in schools.

Then, on top of that, beginning in 1974, they gave us a day off in August!

So on BC Day, may we suggest you raise a glass of VQA wine to Dave Barrett?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Unity...sort of

In a rare display of unanimity, Republican and Democratic campaign strategists have come up with the same slogan for the 2016 US Presidential Election.

The slogan chosen to be the rallying cry of both parties: "Consider the Alternative."

Monday, July 25, 2016

Vote for Vlad

Obviously the era of dirty tricks in politics didn't end with the departure of Tricky Dick. (Hi there, Debbie.)

Among the less credible items last week was the response to the story of Melania's speech tracking Michelle's. Leaders of the Trump team said the claim of plagiarism had been initiated by the Clinton campaign. Like nobody else noticed.

Then this week, Democrats asserted that the e-mails of Debbie Wasserman Schultz attempting to scuttle Bernie's campaign had been hacked and revealed by Russia, in hope that the US will make Donald (no fan of NATO) president. This seemed entirely wacky, but now some people not locked to Hill and Bill say this may be so.

Tonight's viewing: "The Manchurian Candidate."

(Where is Sinatra when we need him?)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hillary, we have Christie's cell phone number

Hillary: Call Christie now!

Although many wish to see Hillary Clinton become the next US president (given the alternative) it is also recognized that she is a terrible campaigner. While those close to Ms. Clinton talk of her humor, her warmth, et cetera, none of these qualities is evident on the campaign trail, where she juts her lower mandible and exhorts in a voice that would make the late Pat Burns sound like Andrea Bocelli.

Christie Clark, on the other hand, or other border, conducted an extraordinary campaign, beating all odds and all polls, to become the premier of British Columbia.

Also Justin Trudeau, dismissed as a lightweight, and the target of a zillion dollar television attack by the Harper horde, triumphed.

So why did these two win? Largely because they appeared likable and attractive, as real people, as someone you might actually like to know. And how many politicians would you want to meet at Starbucks for a coffee?

So Hillary, get a hard hat. Ride a horse. Go to a Pride parade. Shake some hands. Try for a real smile.

Call Christie.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Full Donald

Organized by photographer Spencer Tunick, one hundred women Sunday posed naked outside Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, site of the GOP National Convention. Their demonstration was in protest to what has been considered the misogynistic rhetoric of Donald Trump.

A spokesman for Trump was quick to respond. "If they want a fight, we're ready for it," he said. "Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and ninety-six other totally buff Republican leaders are prepared to parade naked outside the convention centre. And, they will be proudly led by our nominee for president, Donald (what a body!) Trump."

Several hundred police officers, on security detail at the convention, say they plan to call in sick.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

And the Wackiness Keeps Coming!

Outrage everywhere, it seems, over one of the Four Tenors changing a line in "O, Canada!" We were more offended when Mark Murphy changed the lyrics in Steve Allen's "This Could Be the Start of Something" from "declining a Charlotte Russe, accepting a fig" to "declining that rich French food.."

Donald Trump, the big orange of US politics, was equally offended when tiny, tough Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed doubts about his ability to be President. Trump, who has frequently railed against what he calls "political correctness" accused Justice Ginsburg of being politically incorrect.

In Cleveland, speakers are assembling for next week's Republican National Convention. The keynote address will be given by Daffy Duck.

As one of her first moves, Theresa May, Britain's overnight new Prime Minister, has appointed Boris Johnson as foreign minister. And it's not April 1.

Meanwhile, May's husband, Philip, has joined Bill Clinton for a crash course on "Proper Demeanor for the First Dude."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Call Henry Higgins

In "Pygmalion" (and later, "My Fair Lady") Professor Henry Higgins, linguist and speech therapist, says, of the English language, "In America, they haven't spoken it in years."

He should be around now.

Among the injuries and insults suffered by the language is the pronunciation of "route" to rhyme with "snout" and of "basil" to rhyme with "nasal."

There are also those--especially on the mother network--who believe "Canada" is pronounced "Kenuhduh," and others who drop their Ts, giving us, for example "twenieth" and "sennor stage."

Perhaps most annoying--to our large but sensitive ears--is the habit of emphasizing the first syllable in many words, leading to "ree-sources" and  "ree-search," "dee-fence" and "inn-creasing." Perversely, words that do require emphasis on the first syllable have it moved to the second, so instead of "ex-quisite" we get "eck-skwiz-it." Terry Garner felt this began with Wynton Marsalis complaining that jazz musicians at Juilliard got no "ree-spect."

Meanwhile, the phrase "going to" has completely disappeared, and will be replaced in all future dictionaries by "gonna."

In full curmudgeon mode, we could go on to newspaper writers and editors who do not know the difference between "lay" and "lie," or between "comprise" and "compose." But that may be enough crankiness for now. We do not want to lose your ree-gard.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Stone the Bloody Crows!

Which is what Tony Antonias, the Australian-born copy chief of CKNW, used to leap up and shout when frustrated or angry, as he was the day sales manager John Donaldson demanded he immediately come up with a catchy campaign for a department store. However, after venting his Down Under wrath, he turned to his typewriter and, thumb on the space bar, composed the jingle that became famous as "Dollar-Forty-Nine Day--Woodward's!" For which he was paid a handsome $25.

But this is really about crows, an increasing nuisance, if not menace, during nesting time. Having watched Hitchcock's "The Birds" several times, they have learned how to swoop and attack. No one wants his head to be a landing pad for a crow, and some people have taken to swinging umbrellas or canes or tote bags. The other day, we saw crows departing in a hurry when gardeners began employing raucous weed eaters. So if you want to be really safe from aerial bombardment, carry a weed eater.

We know of two persons who adopted injured crows and made them family pets. One neighbor often could be seen on his deck flapping his arms to teach his crow how to fly. Then there was the  elderly lady who was threatened by both provincial and municipal authorities for "keeping a wild animal in an urban environment." We are pleased to report that a kind-hearted lawyer took the case, and both the lady and the crow won.

Crows were certainly the stars of Hitchcock's scary movie, but we preferred the crows in Disney's "Dumbo" singing "When I See an Elephant Fly."

There has been a lot said and written about the presumed intelligence of crows, but we believe the Steller's jay is a much brainier bird. We used to spread peanuts on the deck for the jays, and, if we were tardy in so doing, the jays would knock irritatedly on the window. Steller's jays are also tougher than crows. The crows would hang back in trees watching as the jays pecked open the peanuts, not daring to come closer. When the jays had demolished all the peanuts, off they would fly, saying to the crows, "Go ahead. We left you the shells."

Crows and jays may, like homo sapiens and gorillas, share a common ancestor--possibly the pterodactyl--but if so, the jays got all the best genes. Not only are they smarter and tougher, they're much better looking.

It's said that Hitchcock really wanted Steller's jays for "The Birds," but the jays demanded a script rewrite and a share of the box office. The crows said they'd do it for peanuts.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Where is Gibbon When He's Needed?

U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, second in line for the presidency should the chief executive choke on a bagel, has said he will ask the keepers of the secrets not to pass them to Hillary Clinton when she is formally made the nominee of the Democratic Party. (Once a person is nominated, he/she gets all the inside information, including the buzz code for nuclear attacks. The nominee also gets Secret Service protection, but it's unlikely Trump or Clinton would be in danger--neither candidate is a black teenager driving a car with a defective tail light.)

But back to the thin-lipped Ryan's request: he would deny Clinton access to state secrets, but allow them to be handed to Trump? In any rational society, Trump wouldn't be given a key to the executive washroom.

Here's to Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who has said that a contest between Trump and Clinton has all the appeal of a dumpster fire. Or, remembering someone's comment--maybe Hunter S. Thompson's--during the Nixon-Humphrey campaign, this is a choice?

A continuing sludge of depressing news. The world has endured unlikely leaders before, but one begins to wonder--where is Edward Gibbon, chronicler of "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"?

There is some hope. Trump has now coyly hinted--or as coyly as is possible for him--that if elected he might not serve. Could we extract the same promise from Hillary?

Canada Post-It

Canada Post--giving new meaning to "The cheque is in the mail."

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Is Canada Post Toast?

Canada Post has announced that it may feel compelled to lock out its employees by the weekend.

But the corporation has told Canadians not to worry.

A spokesman said, "We will faithfully save all pizza delivery flyers, Szechuan restaurant menus, real estate brochures, political newsletters, requests from charities, and supermarket broadsheets.

"Once we have settled this unfortunate incident to our satisfaction, all this material will be packed in sacks and trucked to your door."

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Glorious Fourth!

We arrive once more at the Fourth of July, birthday of Louis Armstrong and George M. Cohan. (Which may not be entirely accurate, but, as the newspaper editor in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" says, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.")

Our music choices for today are Jimi Hendrix's explosive version of "The Star Spangled Banner," and the even quirkier "Fourth of July" symphony by Charles Ives.

But having neither at hand, we offer Cohan's great song:

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 went to London,
Riding on a pony--
I am that Yankee Doodle boy!

A special wave of the flag to residents of, and descendants of, Bad Axe, Michigan.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Oh! Canada?

Another Canada Day, and grumbling continues over the lyrics in the national anthem--or, to be precise, over one word in the English lyrics (written by Robert Stanley Weir).

In 1908, Weir wrote "..thou doest in us command." In 1914, this was changed to " all thy sons command." It has been proposed that this be changed to the gender neutral " all of us command," but people who object to any change, except what they get back from the coffee machine, are against this. There could be--sigh--another national referendum. Oh, Canada.

Zoot Finster's excellent suggestion--"in all us cats command"--was not accepted. "In all persons of whatever gender and/or sexual orientation" was thought to lack rhythm.

There has aways been a problem in choosing a truly all-embracing Canadian song. "The Maple Leaf Forever" has been politically incorrect for fifty years, and no one in Quebec would ever sing "Wolfe, the dauntless hero, came.."

The most loved Canadian music was written by Don Messer and Stompin' Tom Connors and Wilf Carter ("When the Iceworms Nest Again").

The one person who seemed able to get it all together was Bobby Gimby, in his song for Expo 67, in the country's Centennial year.

All together now: "Ca-na-da!"

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Too Much Information

We have been alerted that Canada Post employees will be in position to strike starting July 4, should they so decide.

This news reminded us of a postal strike several years ago, when we were sharing an office with Terry Garner. Garner said, "Now if only the phones would go out, too."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Long Shot in Las Vegas

The National Hockey League has awarded a franchise to the city of Las Vegas. The announcement was made by NHL Commissioner Gary "Sky" Bettman, who concluded his address by singing "Luck, Be a Lady Tonight."

So far, no name has been attached to the team. But here are a few said to be on the promoters'  short list:

* The Las Vegas Highrollers
* The Las Vegas Blackjacks
* The Las Vegas Snake Eyes
* The Las Vegas Goodfellas

Good shooting--on the ice and at the table--to them all.

Slap Maxwell, for PD Sports.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Christy! The Movie

"Entertainment This Afternoon," the low budget version of "Entertainment Tonight," reports that movie moguls are scrambling to get the film rights to "Christy Clark: Behind the Smile," the tell nothing biography by Judy Tyabji.

Rumors are rife about who might play Premier Clark. The easy choice is Reese Witherspoon, who starred in "Election," but it is said that Ms. Clark herself favors Beyonce. Seth MacFarlane, one of the hopeful producers, has said he would cast Sarah Silverman.

Also in the projected cast: Louis C.K. as Mike de Jong and Steve Carell in a cameo as Gordon Campbell.

MacFarlane said he regrets that Ward Bond is no longer available to play John Horgan, but he believes that Horgan can be believable playing himself.

Watch for "Christy!" coming soon to a Liberal fund-raiser near you.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer with Ralph Burns

As summer made its official entrance (hesitantly, not sure it heard the cue) we thought of Ralph Burns.

Ralph Burns was a pianist, composer and arranger who worked with--among many others--Bob Fosse, Martin Scorsese and Mikhail Baryshnikov. He wrote for stage and film and television, and his work won an Oscar and a Tony.

But for those of us lucky enough to be around at the time, he will be remembered primarily for the fifteen years he spent with Woody Herman's band. Among the famous pieces he wrote and arranged for the Herman Herd was the exquisite "Bijou," which opens with an insinuating piano and rhythm setting of scene (Burns, Chubby Jackson, Dave Tough, maybe Billy Bauer), leads to a wall of saxophones, and then bursts forth with Bill Harris's memorably quirky trombone solo.

Burns wrote big band barn burners for Herman, like "Apple Honey" and "Northwest Passage," all tailored to the required three-minute length for ten-inch 78 rpm records.

But he also wrote longer works, which, if he had been a European composer, would have been called tone poems--now, sadly, almost impossible to find, but still playing in memory. One was titled "Lady McGowan's Dream." More famous, at the time, and the reason Ralph Burns came to mind today, was "Summer Sequence."

We wish you a serene and sunny summer sequence.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Oh Dad, Poor Dad...

We celebrate Father's Day this weekend, and, as one who spent a long time learning on the job, I am keenly aware of Bill Phillips's definition of parenting: "It is like conducting Beethoven's Fifth in front of a full audience at Albert Hall while reading the score for the first time."

A song for the day? There was once a drippingly sentimental ballad called "That Silver-haired Daddy of Mine," and Eddie Fisher sang "O Mein Papa."

But we're going for Woody Herman's "Your Father's Moustache."

Monday, June 13, 2016

And coming next--

Following the enormous success of "Hamilton," on stage, at the Tony awards, and especially at the box office, Canadian theatre impresarios are rushing to produce a hip hop musical based on a towering Canadian political figure.

So this summer, be at the Stratford Festival for the world premiere of (drum roll) -- "Diefenbaker!"

Producers are now in discussion with Drake for the title role.

As one said, "Get him the jowls, he can do the growls."

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Queen's Big Nine-O

There used to be a custom, in schoolyards across the land, that when it was someone's birthday they got what were known as the "Royal Bumps."

Do you suppose royalty practice the Royal Bumps?

I see Philip and Harry warming up now...

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Heat Parade

"Love, to me, is like a summer day..."

That's the opening line of "Summer Song," lyrics by Iola Brubeck, melody by Dave Brubeck, memorably sung by Louis Armstrong.

The second chorus begins "I'll take summer, that's my time of year."

If it's your time of year, there are many songs for you on the Heat Parade, starting with the lullaby "Summertime" and "In the Good Old Summertime," and including "Estate," "Heat Wave" and "Those Hazy, Lazy, Crazy Days of Summer."

But not all songs are in praise of summer. There is, for example, "Ain't It Awful, the Heat?" from the Kurt Weill-Langston Hughes-Elmer Rice musical "Street Scene." And Cole Porter wrote:

"I'd like to sup with my baby tonight,
And share the cup with my baby tonight.
But I'm not up to my baby tonight,
'Cause it's too darn hot!"

And if you're one of those trying to crawl inside the freezer compartment of your refrigerator, there is this 1930s classic:

"Tain't No Sin to Take Off Your Skin.
and Dance Around in Your Bones."

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Oh, Say Can You See...

The current non-issue providing some activity for our Members of Parliament is a member's bill suggesting--yet again--minor changes in Canada's national anthem. The member proposes changing the line "in all our sons command" to "in all of us command," thus including moose and beavers.

The official opposition, the Conservative Party, insists there should be a national referendum on what they consider "these sacred words," which makes one wonder if they understand what "sacred" means. The Conservatives always push for national referendums, no matter how costly, awkward, delaying, and ultimately ineffective they are.

But this is nothing compared to the dilemma in the Frustrated States, where they are dealing with changes to their anthem proposed by the presumptive Republican nominee for president. It begins: "Oh, say can you see, by the Trump Tower light..."

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Leap to be Veep

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida ("Little Marco," as Donald Trump dubbed him) has declared he would "do anything to help" Trump be elected President of the United States.

Translation: "Please, Mr. Trump, let me be your running mate! And those bad things I said about you in the primaries? I was only joking, sir. Really. Ha ha. Can I get you a latte?"

Friday, May 27, 2016

Stars Come Out for Trump

A recent note in The New Yorker reported on a small gathering of film industry folk who identify as Republicans. That is, however, the only way they wish to be identified, as being Republican in Hollywood is a sure way not to get cast in a movie by Stephen Spielberg or Ron Howard or George Clooney.

There is, however, a handful of major players who will continue to get work, even though they bear the Republican brand. Leading this renegade lot are Clint Eastwood, Jon Voight and Kelsey Grammer.

What this means is that Donald Trump can count on the support of Dirty Harry, Midnight Cowboy and Sideshow Bob.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Miles Ahead at Ninety

Either May 25 or May 26 was the birth day of Miles Davis. There is disagreement. But either way, he would be ninety years old this year, give or take a day.

"Hard to imagine Miles at ninety," said Freddie Freeloader, as we were sipping some Bitches Brew and waiting for les Filles de Kilimanjaro to turn up. "Some," Freddie continued, "might say So What, but I treasure the days when Miles was Cookin'."

Meditating In a Silent Way on Miles making those Seven Steps to Heaven and going Solar, I have to admit I felt Kind of Blue.

But still, with all that music, with Trane and Cannonball and the rhythm section and Gil Evans, we're all Miles Ahead.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Napoleon and the Tortoise

Because it was also Victoria Day, it may have escaped notice that May 23 was World Turtle Day. Friends of turtles and tortoises were urged to wear turtleneck sweaters or turtle green. Turtle soup was not on the menu.

While re-reading "The Tortoise and the Hare" and "Yertle the Turtle," we were surprised that there was no mention of Jonathan, the Seychelles giant tortoise who lives on the island of St. Helena. Jonathan is about 185 years old, and shared residency on St. Helena with the exiled Napoleon.

Several attempts over the years have been made to interview Jonathan to get his slant on the deposed Emperor. But, to no avail. No one, it seems, has mastered turtle talk. Either that, or Jonathan is holding out for a larger fee.

Or he wants to meet Megyn Kelly.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Music for Victoria Day

It has to be Mendelssohn.

Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert, were musical cognoscenti; both played keyboards and both sang. Victoria wrote of Albert on the day of their engagement "singing to me some of his own compositions, which are beautiful, and he has a very fine voice. I also sang for him."

The Royal couple's musical idol was Felix Mendelssohn, who became a friend, and a frequent visitor to Buckingham Palace. There are period illustrations of the three of them, sometimes Mendelssohn at the piano, sometimes Albert at the organ.

And sometimes Victoria sang (once the pet parrot had been taken out of the room; the bird liked to join in). Mendelssohn said of the young Queen, "she sang quite faultlessly and with much feeling and expression. I praised her warmly."

Would that there were recordings. But still, on Victoria Day, you can play Mendelssohn. The Queen would approve.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Hair Summit

Donald Trump, the presumed Republican Party nominee for President of the United States, has said that if elected, he will meet with North Korea Chairman Kim Jong-Un. We bring you a preview of this historic encounter.

Trump: Nice hair, Chairman Kim.

Kim: And yours. Very handsome, President Trump. Much nicer than Mrs. Clinton's.

Trump: Thank you. It was a close election. I like to say I won by a hair.

Kim: Ha ha.

Trump: Ha ha.

Kim: Best hair I have seen on an American since we were visited by Dennis Rodman.

Trump: You mean Supreme Court Justice Rodman.

Kim: An excellent appointment. He and Justice Gary Busey will restore dignity to the court.

Trump: I have brought you a gift from my country, President Kim.

Kim: Really? How wonderful! I love gifts! What is it?

Trump: It's a tube of Brylcreem, the Cognac of hair creams. A little dab'll do ya.

Kim: A little dab will do it--like a little dab of enriched plutonium.

Trump: Ha ha.

Kim: Ha ha.

Trump: Well, I guess that wraps it up.

Kim: Wasn't there something else you wanted to talk about?

Trump: Can't remember. You know, hair today, gone tomorrow.

Kim: Ha ha.

Trump: Ha ha.

Friday, May 13, 2016


Triskaidekophobia. The one seven-syllable word almost everyone knows.

And that's because almost everyone has it. Triskaidekophobia--morbid fear of Friday the 13th.

Or 13 in any form. You won't find a Floor 13 in any high-rise.

Okay, how come? Why this irrational fear of a number? The most common explanation is that there were thirteen persons present at the Last Supper, and that led to very bad news.

But we don't know there were only thirteen in the Upper Room that fateful Passover. And the number thirteen has no recurring significance in either the New Testament or the Old. The numbers that seem to have meaning are three and forty, sometimes ten and certainly twelve.

Three is still big--three on a match, three times lucky, three strikes and you're out.

But only thirteen has a song written for it. And the song is, of course--"Triskaidekophobia."

Monday, May 9, 2016

Tyson and Cheney for Trump!

Republican heavyweights, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, both former Presidents Bush, Senator John McCain and Mitt Romney, have voiced discontent at the apparently unstoppable run to the nomination of Donald Trump.

But Trump can take comfort in receiving support from former Veep Dick Cheney. If Mr. Weapons of Mass Destruction is for you, how can you be wrong?

Also on the Trump bandwagon: Mike Tyson, John Daly and Dennis Rodman. If Trump makes it into the White House, expect to see them in his cabinet. His liquor cabinet.

Meanwhile, Candidate Trump has announced that not only is he going to have a wall built along the border with Mexico, he is going to have a ceiling built over the entire country--"to keep those extraterrestrials out."

And who's going to pay for it? "The Martians are going to pay for it."

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Dining Out in 1976

The other day, digging thru our collection of cookbooks and writings on food, from Len Deighton's "Action Cookbook" to Barbara-Jo McIntosh's "Tin Fish Gourmet," we came across a 1976 copy of Nathan Divinsky's Dining Guide.

Nathan Divinsky--"Tuzie" to his chess- and bridge-playing buddies--was a professor of mathematics at the University of British Columbia, but among his avocations were dining, and writing about his restaurant experiences. He published at least four editions of "Divinsky's Guide to Dining," and they still make entertaining reading.

What stands out in the 1976 guide is his note on restaurant prices, based on the cost of a three-course meal. "Inexpensive" meant less than five dollars; "moderate" was five to ten dollars; "expensive" was ten dollars or more.

I can hear Professor Divinsky now--"What, you spent twelve dollars on dinner? Are you out of your mind?"

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sumer is Icumen In

Okay, feel that heat? So pull on your Speedo or bikini, slather on the +45 sun screen, mix a Campari and soda, and join in singing the oldest known song in the English tongue:

Sumer is icumen in,
Loude sing cuckou!
Groweth seed and bloweth meed,
And springth the wode now.
Sing cuckou!

Ewe bleteth after lamb,
Loweth after calve cow,
Bulloc sterteth, bucke verteth,
Merye sing cuckou!
Cuckou, cuckou,
Wel singest thou cuckou:
Ne swik thou never now!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

New Yorker values

There are many of us who would subscribe to The New Yorker for its cartoons alone--twelve or fifteen in each week's issue.

The surprise in the April 25 New Yorker: every cartoon is a Donald Trump gag, beginning with one by (the now, sadly, late) William Hamilton. It shows a middle-aged man--one of Hamilton's typical upper class characters--trying to tease his hair into a Trump forelock

The drawing could be seen as a metaphor for what is happening within the Republican Party--the establishment attempting to bring itself around to embrace their (in Trump's words) "presumptive nominee."

Many funny cartoons.

Of course, if Trump did barrel ahead and become President, the laugh would be on us. And U.S.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


The busiest writers in the United States right now are those charged with coming up with responses to political jibes. Candidates for the U.S. presidency, knocked off balance by an opponent's remark, call up their writers, and say, "Quick, gimme a comeback!"

Thus, when former Speaker John Boehner said Ted Cruz is "Lucifer in the flesh," the resident hack in the Cruz camp gave the Texas senator this line: "John is channeling his inner Donald Trump."

And when Trump accused Hillary Clinton of playing "the women's card," Clinton's ghost gave her something like "If fighting for equality in pay and protecting women's right to choose is playing the women's card, then deal me in!"

The follow-up to Boehner's hit on Cruz--"Lucifer in the flesh"--should be "And Lucifer has called to complain." As for Trump and the women's card, the gag possibilities are too obvious, and too lame, to pursue.

But Ms. Clinton, and Messrs. Trump, Cruz, Sanders and Kasich, when you need a fast comeback, you know whom to call: Zingers-R-Us.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ted and Carly, Donald and...?

Ted Cruz has surprised many by announcing a running mate for his US Presidential campaign. This despite the fact that he is unlikely to have a campaign that goes past the primaries. Even so, Senator Ted has selected Carly Fiorina to be his vice president. "I love her work," said Cruz. "Especially 'You're So Vain'."

Donald Trump has not announced who would be his running mate. He seemed confused, saying, "I mean, it's just a term, right? We don't actually have to, like, mate, do we?"

Said to have been at the top of his list was Lena Dunham, but Ms. Dunham has since said that if Mr. Trump were to be elected president, she would move to Canada. "Let her go," said Trump. "I'll fly her in my personal jet. And by the way, that's one more reason to make me president--I'll bring my own plane."

Hillary Clinton has not revealed whom she would pick as her sidekick on the road to Pennsylvania Avenue, but the list is said to include Chris Rock, Woody Harrelson, and the Amazing Spider-Man.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Beauty Queens

Jennifer Aniston has been declared the Most Beautiful Woman in the World. Brad Pitt said, "Now they tell me."

Ms. Aniston's coronation by People magazine will come as a surprise to admirers of Rachel McAdams, Jennifer Lawrence and Beyonce. Michelle Obama. The Duchess of Cambridge.

And how would today's beauty queens compare with legendary beauties of the past? Hedy Lamarr, Grace Kelly, Lena Horne, Marilyn Monroe? And Ava Gardner, who famously declared, "Elizabeth Taylor is not beautiful. Elizabeth Taylor is pretty. I'm beautiful."

The appearance of beauty is subjective, of course, but Keats, who did not write for People magazine, told us:

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

Monday, April 25, 2016

Old Radio Guys Never Die...

...they just get tuned out.

Once or twice a year there is a gathering of radio veterans who still possess a pulse. The event was conceived by Red Robinson, and it's known as RPM. This stands for Radio Performers Membership, but we prefer to think of it as Red's Post Mortem.

The most recent party (a luncheon happening, as many have to get home for an afternoon nap) was a fine, collegial occasion. Much happy camaraderie, even though some of the guests were once fierce rivals, ready to cut each other's microphone cords for better ratings. It was an event that would have been well chronicled by Denny Boyd or Jack Wasserman. Malcolm Parry, the current Vancouver Sun party columnist, would not have attended, as no one there looked rich, and there was a complete absence of cleavage.

There were, however, a lot of white beards. The George "Gabby" Hayes look seems to be trending. Exceptions were the onetime DJ who resembled Digger O'Dell, the friendly undertaker, and the police beat reporter who looked remarkably like Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Our friend the one-armed writer-lawyer, surveying photos of the event, remarked that if the participants were to march into any Vancouver radio station and take over the microphones, audience ratings would double in twenty-four hours. He also said, "That crowd should be entitled to have a whole generation of Vancouverites pick up the bill. There is no way anyone there should be paying for their own drinks."

Not sure about his first point--but agree enthusiastically with the second.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Celebrating Will and George

Today is both the birthday of William Shakespeare and St. George's Day.

Write a sonnet.

Slay a dragon.

Friday, April 22, 2016

David Granger, Esq.

If you haven't done so already, you may want to pick up the current copy of Esquire, the one with Key and Peele on the cover. It's not the most memorable issue of the magazine, but it is the last one to carry David Granger's name as editor.

Granger wasn't as innovative or brilliant an editor as Arnold Gingrich, the magazine's founder, or Harold Hayes, who presided in the 1960s over what was called the "New Journalism." But he did put together a solid magazine that endured and satisfied while scores of others vanished from newsstands, never to be seen again.

There are final notes from Granger still to come--his "exit interviews" with George Clooney and Bill Murray. But no more Letters from the Editor over his name.

The thing is, magazine editors are in roughly the same vulnerable position as hockey coaches. They all need to keep their suitcases packed. As one said, "Publishers woo you for weeks, they have to have you, you're the only one for the job. Six months later, they fire you."

The new editor of Esquire is Jay Fielden, brought over by Hearst from Town and Country. Good luck, Mr. Fielden.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Journaiism Notes

Reports on the CBC Radio network that reporters were "live blogging" from the courtroom where judgments were being delivered in the Mike Duffy case reminded us of Jack Webster making his name in the 1950s Vancouver police probe by taking down testimony in shorthand and then running to a pay phone to call in the story to CJOR listeners.

Would Webster be live blogging today? Probably. And he would still be the best on the beat.

Meanwhile, in the great Press Club in the Sky, Webster and Wasserman continue their examination of the redesigned Vancouver Sun.

Wasserman: Have you seen the new head shots of the columnists?

Webster: Yes. They look like passport photos taken by a bad-tempered photographer.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sing a Song of Springtime

Is April the month with the most songs? Think "April Showers," "April in Paris," "Lost April," "April Love," "April in Portugal" and "I'll Remember April."

June has to be a close second, for what rhymes more easily than June? Except for May, but there are not a lot of May songs, apart from Hoagy Carmichael's lovely "One Morning in May." There are, though, the operetta "Maytime" and Jerome Kern's last and ill-fated musical, "Very Warm for May." Only twenty people turned up for the second night, despite the show having some of Kern's greatest songs, including "All the Things You Are."

Not many songs for the autumn months, except for songs about autumn ("Early Autumn," "Autumn Leaves," "Autumn in New York"). September has two memorable songs--"September Song" and "September in the Rain," and there is a little-known Johnny Mercer-Barry Manilow ballad called "When October Goes." But who ever wrote a song about November?

January sneaks in on the coat tails of June ("June in January"), but there's no February song, unless you count "My Funny Valentine."

April lovers, we leave you with a haunting line from Dorothy Parker's lyrics for "I Wished on the Moon." The singer wishes for "an April day that will not run away."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ted Goes to Hollywood

Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas), now running for his party's nomination for the US Presidency, says that California is where the decision will be made. And he also has revealed that at one time he considered going to California to pursue a career as an actor. A great idea, he thought, except "I don't have the good looks or the talent." Who can argue? TrustTed.

But lack of Brad Pitt looks has not prevented others from becoming actors. In fact, Senator Ted bears a resemblance to another Ted--Ted de Corsia, who made a good living in the 1940s playing thugs in Warner Brothers movies. De Corsia had almost the same serpentine look as Cruz. In Jake Hinkson's words, he appeared to have been born "with a sneer on his lips and a head full of pomade."

To be fair to all, none of the candidates has the looks of many who have played presidents, among them Henry Fonda, Raymond Massey and Daniel Day-Lewis, all Lincoln; Edward Herman and Bill Murray, FDR; Kevin Kline and Michael Douglas, whose lines Cruz keeps using; and Jeff Bridges, the pragmatic chief executive in "The Contender," who had his own bowling alley in the White House basement.

And none of those running has the charisma of Robert Redford in "The Candidate," although Bernie Sanders bears some resemblance to Melvyn Douglas, who played Redford's senator father. Hillary Clinton sometimes brings an unnerving memory of Angela Lansbury in "The Manchurian Candidate," but we're sure the similarity ends there. Aren't we?

Ronald Reagan proved years ago that the worlds of Hollywood and politics can come together. Why not? Chris Rock for President!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Here Comes the Sun

Scene: The great Press Club in the Sky. A group of onetime Vancouver Sun staffers has gathered to review the "new" Vancouver Sun.

Webster: Flipping unreadable! The Glasgow Daily Sketch was a better paper in 1939!

Wasserman: New graphics.

Webster: But same bad writing.

Boyd: Except for the sports page.

Beddoes: The sportswriters always were the class of the paper.

Weir: I beg your pardon!

Beddoes: Sorry, Harold. The Op-Ed guys were okay, too.

Webster: Until Mather and Philpott went into politics, a treacherous swamp into which no self-respecting journalist should venture.

Boyd: Maybe it's a gag, like the ones Hughie Watson used to pull on Erwin. Remember the nonexistent Howe Sound Basketball League?

Beddoes: Hughie Watson--a man of infinite jest.

Wasserman: Look, they're not running the names in the gossip column in bold face! How can you drop names without bold face?

Weir: Obviously a desperation move by these PostMedia people. The benefit of filling the paper with Toronto columnists is that we no longer have to purchase the National Post to be offended.

Boyd: I wonder if the new people will try any of the wacko ideas Cromie had, like sending Marie Moreau to interview Castro.

Beddoes: And Stukus to meet Chiang Kai-shek. How was that, Stuke?

Stukus: It was okay, but I really wanted to get to know Madame Chiang.

Boyd: Who wouldn't?

Webster: What's that mournful thing you're humming, Jacko?

Wasserman: "St. Louis Blues." You know--"I hate to see that evenin' sun go down."

Weir: Most appropriate.

Stukus: At least we're still getting morning delivery.

Webster: Right. Someone should tip that angel.

Wasserman: And ask him to start bringing the New York Times.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cracking Down on the Chess Gang

It has been reported that Park Royal Shopping Mall has declared chess playing in its food court verboten. A group of players has been gathering there for years--at least one of them for half a century--to challenge one another in this cerebrally demanding game. But no more, say the Park Royal people. Set up those boards again, and we'll call the cops. We need that space so more people can consume chicken wings and pizza slices.

On hearing this, we were reminded of an incident in Edmonton in 1979. Here is the story, as written by Jenny Jackson in the Edmonton Journal:

"Allan Ogonoski, owner of the Noorr Hour restaurant at 11015 Jasper Ave., is wiser but $75 poorer after he pleaded guilty on behalf of his restaurant to running a common gaming house.

"It all started when Mr. Ogonoski, a chess enthusiast, thought it would be nice to have a place to play chess, backgammon or cards over a sandwich at noon.

"His small, six-table restaurant had been open six weeks when vice police swooped in on astonished customers.

"It's illegal to rent out a game of chance. So Mr. and Mrs. Ogonoski were breaking the law renting out backgammon boards.

"S.Sgt. Frank Ashworth of the city police morality squad said it's the first time the charge has been laid for backgammon in Edmonton, although similar charges have been laid in eastern Canada.

"Mrs. Ogonoski said the police raid was a complete surprise. 'It's the kind of thing you see on TV. You don't expect it to happen to yourself and when it does, boy...'"

Edmonton has been made safe. Park Royal chess players, take note.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Bang Bang

Gun manufacturers in the United States have developed a weapon that looks like a camera, and is therefore easily concealed, because, they say, "a firearm is essential in this modern world." Uh-huh. An internet item describes one model as being "both discreet and accurate, making it a good choice for assassinations."

A higher consumer rating, however, is given a gun camouflaged as a briefcase "since it contains a 9mm PPK which is a heavier calibre and longer range weapon that could be fired multiple times."

One more advance for civilization.

Watch for guns disguised as iPods, baby bottles and Tootsie Rolls.

Friday, April 1, 2016

April 1 Breaking News

Today's headlines:

* President Barack Obama, noting Donald Trump's popularity, said, "This guy is obviously so good, I am retiring now and giving him the key to the Oval Office."

* Preparing for North Korea's Workers Congress, the first in 36 years, Kim Jong-Un, seeing the need for a dramatic and historic change, has had Justin Trudeau's hairstylist kidnapped.

* Vancouver Canucks Coach Willie Desjardins announced a hot new prospect: "We've signed Steve Harper," said Desjardins. "He'll be our enforcer." Among his new teammates, the former prime minister is known as "Slash."

* Reacting to a television commercial showing a nude photograph of his wife, Donald Trump posted a nude photograph of Ted Cruz. "And I gotta tell you," said Trump, "it ain't pretty."

* Responding to NDP leader John Horgan's reference to LNG as "Look, no gas," BC Premier Christy Clark chuckled merrily, and said, "I love John's sense of humor."

* Hillary Clinton has announced she is retiring from politics and entering a nunnery. "And," she said, "Bill may join me."

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Cruz at the Movies

It was widely noted that Senator Ted Cruz recently borrowed a line from the Michael Douglas film "The American President," in his ongoing battle with Donald Trump. But we were surprised to find that Senator Cruz has also used lines from "Jerry Maguire," "The Usual Suspects," "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," and even "The Princess Bride."

We look forward to Senator Ted picking up some lines from "Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies"--we can hear him now, saying "I'll get you yet, you wascally wabbit!"

Other US presidential candidates may follow his lead; e.g., Senator Bernie Sanders after Hillary Clinton complains of defeats in Alaska, Washington and Hawaii: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

Marco Rubio to Jeb Bush, apologizing for attacks on his former mentor: "Nothing personal, Jeb. It was just business."

And finally, Megyn Kelly to Messrs. Trump, Cruz and Kasich after none has won enough delegates for the nomination: "The problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that."

Or maybe not. Here's looking at you, kid.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Adieu, Ernestine

A day to play Ernestine Anderson records, as we deal with the news that the kittenish Seattle-based singer has--as jazz musicians say--caught the last bus.

Ernestine Anderson was one of several young Seattle performers--Quincy Jones and Ray Charles were others--who went on to do wonderful things. Over six or seven decades she worked with Johnny Otis, Lionel Hampton, the Nat Pierce-Frankie Capp Juggernaut, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, George Shearing, Stix Hooper, and many others. She appeared at Sam Yehia's Plazazz on the North Shore, on a dual bill with Betty Carter. It was a performance one could not miss, but, some, to their everlasting regret, did.

She had an earthy sound--Diana Krall picked up some of that in her early recordings--and great jazz feeling--how many singers would try a vocal rendition of Dizzy Gillespie's "Night in Tunisia"? And she had a subtle, slightly mocking sense of humor.

Her career had ups and downs--whose doesn't?--and for a time was in eclipse, but then Ray Brown propelled her back on stage and into the studio. She made dozens of recordings, and two of the best are "Now and Then" and "Blues, Dues & Love News," recorded for Qwest, the label of Quincy Jones, her pal from high school band days.

There was a jazz club in Seattle named for her--Ernestine's. Perhaps some fans will put a plaque on a Pike Place Market wall. And her name is still up on South Jackson street, at Ernestine Anderson Place, a residence for low-income seniors and homeless folk.

Adieu, Ernestine.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Who's That Lady in Your Wallet?

The Bank of Canada has begun plans to feature the faces of notable Canadian women on currency. There are some rules. One is that the women chosen must have been out of circulation for at least twenty-five years, gone from the scene like the copper penny and the one- and two-dollar bills.

This is unfortunate, as it prevents the portraits on our folding money of some worthy women who are still, happily, with us. So we have prepared our own list of recommendations, ignoring that 25-year requirement.

$100 bill: k.d. lang

$50 bill: Madame Benoit

$20 bill: Just Mary, the Story Lady

$10 bill: Christine Sinclair and Haylie Wickenheiser (a double bill bill)

$5 bill: Lili St. Cyr. Or Mackenzie King in drag

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Wearin' of the Green

It is indeed the Glorious 17th of Ireland, and we are celebrating with several of the great sons of the Emerald Isle--John O'Hara, Peter O'Toole, Eugene O'Neil, Frank O'Connor and Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wilde.

We  have just sung several rousing choruses of "Wasn't It a Lovely Time That We Had at Finnegan's Wake." Next we'll raise the roof with "Phil the Fluter's Ball" and "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?"

The menu, of course, includes cock-a-leekie and colcannon, corned beef and cabbage, stovies and soda bread, Dinty Moore's Irish stew, and a great deal of Guinness with which to toast St. Patrick.

Now it's true that although we're all very jolly, not all of us are true lads of what the good Reverend Arthur Nash calls "The Holy Land." But happily, my mates have brought along some Old Bushmills, so I may have a drop of Irish in me.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Does Anyone Have the Time?

Yes, friends, dreaded Daylight Saving Time has returned, which is why everyone is looking bleary-eyed, and even the cop on the beat is snoring.

The province of Saskatchewan is one of the few places free from this nuisance; that's because time in rural areas is dictated by cows, who do not hold with changes in their schedule. "Cows," observed Mr. Berkeley Bigler of Horizon, "have a mind of their own."

The unanswered question is, what is done with all the time saved? Do Ottawa bureaucrats use it for their vacations? Or do they invest it, and give it back to us later as a statutory holiday?

We continue to believe there should be a Moonlight Saving Time, as set out in these lyrics:

"There oughta be a Moonlight Saving Time
So I could love that girl of mine
Until the birdies wake and chime 'Good Morning!'"

A good day to all, and especially those whose favorite radio program is the Dominion Observatory Official Time Signal.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Go, AlphaGo!

In what may be the most closely watched board match since Spassky and Fischer in Reykjavik, AlphaGo, a computer designed by Google's Deep Mind lab, is taking on the world champion of the ancient Chinese game of Go. The five-game match is being fought in Seoul. The score so far: Computer 1, Human 0.

The news of this triumph of artificial intelligence has created great excitement in other areas. Among them:

The National Football League. The Denver Broncos have signed AlphaGo to replace the retired Peyton Manning at quarterback.

The Republican Party. The GOP has found in AlphaGo the only candidate likely to defeat Donald Trump.

Pointless Digressions: This blog is now written by AlphaGo.