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.