Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Watch that Acronym!

The White House, and those who follow it, have taken to referring to the President of the United States by the acronym POTUS.  "Potus" sounds like one of those medicines advertised on television, always including warnings that their use may result in debilitating or life-threatening consequences. There should be warnings like that on political advertising.

Now we have seen POTUS arrive on the scene in Houston, accompanied by Melania, his favourite prop. And she--unfortunate woman--is wearing a cap inscribed FLOTUS. Presumably this stands for "First Lady of the United States." But, infelicitously, it is also just one vowel away from a word meaning an embarrassing gastric disorder.

Melania, get rid of the cap. And memo to the White House PR and Special Effects Dept.: Instead of "First Lady," consider "First Babe." Or even "Captive Babe."

Friday, August 25, 2017

I'll Have What She's Mixing

Kaitlyn Stewart of the Royal Dinette in Vancouver has been named "2017 World Class Bartender of the Year" at a competition in Mexico City. We're not sure what the award includes--perhaps a solid gold swizzle stick.

What was in Ms. Stewart's winning mix has not been reported, but one judge spoke rapturously of her Lucha Libre, a Mezcal-based drink named for a form of masked wrestling.

We looked at the Royal Dinette drink menu, hoping to find Lucha Libre, but without success. The restaurant does, however, offer a number of inviting beverages. We feel especially drawn to one called Summertime Sadness, with which we can identify, and another named Dazed and Confused. We're with that. Frequently.

Set 'em up, Kaitlyn, and keep them coming.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Yma Dream

The New York comedy writer Thomas Meehan has departed this world, at age 88--an age at which, as Bill Phillips has noted, we are all in the second last reel.

Meehan is being remembered as author of the books for a number of Broadway musicals, beginning with "Annie," and going on to include "The Producers," "Elf," "Hairspray" and a half-dozen others, among them even a musical version of "Rocky"--"Yo, Adrienne!"

But what some of us remember most, to continue to honor and celebrate Thomas Meehan, is a short New Yorker piece titled "Yma Dream."

In the dream, the writer is host of a cocktail party for Yma Sumac, who suggests that all the guests, in a spirit of casual camaraderie, be introduced by their first names alone. First to arrive: Ava Gardner, so the host properly says, "Yma, Ava." guests following include Abba Eban, Oona O'Neill, Ida Lupino, Eva Gabor, and several others, so that the host finds himself saying, "Yma, Ava, Abba, Oona, Ida, Eva." By the end of the piece, Meehan had managed to stack about twenty similar names together like dominoes.

This sort of thing, however, was not paying the rent. When Meehan completed the script for "Annie," and the show was about to open, he said, "I knew that next week at this time, either we would have a hit, or my car would be repossessed."

Most freelance writers know that feeling. Unlike Meehan, most of us get our cars repossessed.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Risk Large

Is Alexandra Gill the best food writer now at work? She is until the adventurous eater sometimes known as Manny Goodman of the Jazzmanian Devils publishes "The Peripatetic Palate."

Ms. Gill, Vancouver restaurant critic for The Globe and Mail, is a writer in the quick-witted, prickly and entirely original manner of M.F.K. Fisher, Jim Quinn and Denny Boyd. Consider her opening to a review of a restaurant she visits only for its patio: "The food is awful. Seriously, it's shockingly terrible. The last time I went, I had fried Humboldt squid that tasted as though it had been dredged through a salt lick. And yet, I keep going back."

Her review of Mott 32, the high-end eatery in the city's new Trump International Hotel and Tower, included an argument with the manager over a lobster that "tasted like it had started crawling down the highway from Maine sometime early last summer."

She did, on a subsequent visit, have lobster that passed the test, but complained about the condition of the Unisex bathrooms: "I just paid $300, without wine, for dinner, and now I have to mop up the bathroom floor?"

Many, probably most, restaurant reviewers make a fetish of being unrecognizable. Not Alexandra Gill. Google her name, and there she is, smiling out at you and at restaurateurs everywhere. When they see her coming through the door and taking a table, they probably experience a frisson of both excitement and fear.

Recently, Ms. Gill wrote in a sensuous burst of Fayuca, a new Mexican restaurant where the delicacies included roasted heads of sablefish and the bar mixes an "aphrodisiacal damiana leaf-infused margarita." She concluded, "As with love, it's better to risk large and lose everything than to be boring and settle for ordinary."

There are lots of good reasons to pick up The Globe and Mail, but it would be worth getting just on the chance of finding a column by Alexandra Gill. Memo to the New York Times: Check her out.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Keener's Manual

The other evening, TCM--Turner Classic Movies--screened John Frankenheimer's early 1950s film of "The Manchurian Candidate." And while the guest hosts, Alec Baldwin and William Friedkin, praised the writer of the screenplay, George Axelrod, the name of Richard Condon was not spoken. Which was a serious omission, as it was Condon who wrote the novel "The Manchurian Candidate" on which the film is based.

Richard Condon was a longtime Hollywood publicist who began writing novels, and he wrote a dozen or more. Others turned into films include "Prizzi's Honor" and "Winter Kills."

He was a writer of elegance. Consider the opening lines of "An Infinity of Mirrors":

"He sent her a music box which played an aria from 'Trovatore' while simultaneously emitting Chanel's wonderful new scent. He sang the words to her with his odd, endearing voice:

       'And can I ever forget thee
        Thou shalt see that more enduring
        Love than mine, ne'er had existence
        Triumph over fate securing
        Death shall yield to its resistance.'

"His voice was very deep and he faulted top notes. But when he sang the aria, he sang it as though he had commissioned this opera from Verdi to give her one small fragment from it and when she tired of that, its days would be ended forever."

If you can find a copy of "The Manchurian Candidate," you'll find it even darker than the film. And there are less known Condon novels worth searching for, among them "Some Angry Angel," "Mile High" and "The Whisper of the Axe."

Epigraphs for his novels often were taken from "The Keener's Manual." We had always thought this must be an ancient text for hired Irish mourners. But it turns out that "The Keener's Manual" was an imaginary book, invented by Condon, who continued to quote from it and from the amused and labyrinthine corridors of his mind.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Cliche Clearout

Least believable line in TV commercials: "Real people--not actors."

Most overworked line in do-good advertising: "Together we can do it."

Most overworked in self applauding: "_________ (fill in name) lives here."

Groups most often cited (and least defined) by political hacks: the "middle class" and the "elites."

Least sincere wish, as spoken by supermarket checkout clerks with tired feet: "Have a good day."

Worst example of the benefits of being a teetotaler: Donald Trump.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Memo to BC Lions Marketing Dept.

Having ourselves been responsible for some advertising campaigns of dubious value, we hesitate to criticize the strategy of others, but this season's BC Lions promotion program requires some attention.

The focus, in newspaper advertisements, on bus-boards, and in other media has been on the team's presumed two stars: Jonathon Jennings and Solomon Elimimian.

Reasonable choices...until the season got underway. But after a humiliating and widely reported loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, it is unfortunate to see in the same newspaper sports sections an advertisement headed "Who is Jonathon Jennigs?" with the tag line "The next game will tell us." The response of many fans will be, "We think the last game told us."

We don't know if the lions' on-field strategy needs to be rethought; we are sure the off-field marketing does.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Nuclear Threat--Tourism Booster!

President Orange Hair, in a telephone call to Guam Governor Eddie Calvo, said, "You have become extremely famous all over the world. Your tourism, you're going to go up like ten-fold."

Holiday destinations elsewhere, concerned about falling tourism revenue, may want to encourage a nuclear threat as a sure way to draw vacationers. Vance Gummidy, director of tourism for Puma Point, Peru, said, "If the president says it's a good plan, by gosh, we're for it! You can take whatever he says to the bank!"

Governor Calvo thanked POTUS for his steady hand at the helm. The president modestly replied, "They should have had me eight years ago, somebody with my thought processes. And frankly, you could've said that for the last three presidents."

Actually, it's those thought processes we're worried about.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Get Out Those Old Records

Those still lamenting that they missed National Chocolate Chip Cookies Day should regather, and join in celebrating National Vinyl Records Day: August 12.

The obvious song for the day: "Get Out Those Old Records," one of the memorable hits of 1951, as recorded by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.

"Get out those old records,
Those old phonograph records--
The ones we used to play
So long ago."

Vinyl recordings--i.e., LPs, the ones that play at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute--are indeed enjoying a comeback. We're hoping the same will happen for 78s, those 10- and 12-inch discs coated in shellac, which allowed disc jockeys to talk about their "stacks of wax." One 1950s deejay called his program "Spins and Needles," a title, CBC's Katie Malloch said, no one under sixty would understand.

Some of us even remember Edison's cylindrical records. An imaginative radio programmer we knew once discovered an antique gramophone and a collection of cylinders at a garage sale, and launched a show called "Wind Up the Gramophone." It ran once and was cancelled, but was hilarious for the fifteen minutes it lasted.

So in honor of National Vinyl Records Day, we join Guy and Carmen Lombardo, Kenny Gardner and all the Royal Canadians, in urging you to:

"Get out those old records,
Those old phonograph records.
What if they sound scratchy?
The tunes really were catchy--
Especially those that said
I love you so."

They don't write lyrics like that anymore.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Paging Dr. Moriarty

A lawyer friend remarked that the general dumbing down in society has affected the criminal element. As evidence, he cited the case of a would-be bank robber who entered the premises wearing his old football jersey, complete with his name and number. He would later get another number.

We thought of this when we learned that a hapless and probably witless thief had broken into the mailboxes of an apartment complex on the Sunday night of a holiday weekend, when, of course, there was no mail delivery. He may have gotten away with only a stack of pizza flyers and Chinese restaurant takeout menus. (Although, as a friend noted, "those coupons are worth something.")

Finally, there was the case of a small businessman looking for a quick way to cover his payables. He went to his usual credit union, but not to arrange a loan; he went, instead, to hold them up. Unfortunately, he tripped on the way in and fell on his face at the feet of the security guard. A career in crime, begun and ended in thirty seconds.

Clearly, there is no evil genius on the scale of the Joker or Dr. Moriarty at work here.

As it has been declared often, "Crime does not pay." (But the hours are good.)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

And in this corner...

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un are not exactly Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, although if Trump keeps putting away the chocolate cake and double scoops of ice cream and Kim continues to spoon up tubs of budae jjigae, they might make it into a sumo wrestling contest.

What they really seem like now is the two least likable kids in grade six standing at opposite ends of the schoolyard hurling insults and empty threats. At least, we hope they're empty.

The cool kids are ignoring them.  We hope that works. Or that the school principal steps in before someone picks up a rock.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Make it DB Day

The first Monday of August is a holiday in British Columbia, known as BC Day. But it could be dubbed DB Day, because it was Dave Barrett, Premier of the province in the early 1970s, who declared it a holiday.

It's one of the many things we have to thank the tough little East Ender for; so as you celebrate BC Day, consider raising a glass to the guy who gave us all the day off.