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.