Monday, December 31, 2018

New Year's Revolutions and Revelations

The cartoon character Monty, trying to determine what resolutions his will power can handle, says "I guess we're gonna be giving up poppy seed bagels." William Shatner, light years removed from Captain Kirk, says his plan is to go on breathing.

As for us, we're dusting off last year's resolutions. They're almost brand new--never been used.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Uh..are you really drinking that?

Fashions change in bar drinks, as in everything else, and probably the days of elaborate cocktails served in something that looks like Carmen Miranda's hat are over. Now, however, bartenders are scrambling to invent ever more astonishing drinks by combining ingredients that have never been in the same glass before.

Here, as reported in the Vancouver Sun, is what is mixed in one variation on a classic: rye whisky, Grand Marnier, sweet vermouth, Pernod, and two varieties of bitters. Obviously, Canadians have reached a level of drinking sophistication worlds beyond No. 1 Hard Rye and 7-Up, or Calgary Red-Eye: tomato juice and beer.

So this New Year's Eve, you may be daring enough to experiment. Our choice? We'll stick to Veuve Clicquot, thanks.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

And in this corner, wearing purple trunks...

As it is Boxing Day, and many retailers are declaring it Boxing Week or even Boxing Month, it is appropriate to pay tributes to gladiators of the square ring. To wit:

Joe Louis, Billy Conn, Sugar Ray Robinson, Georges Carpentier, Stanley Ketchell, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ezzard Charles, Rocky Marciano, Jake LaMotta, Rocky Graziano, Jack Johnson, Jess Willard, Marcel Cerdan, Jim Corbett, John L. Sullivan, George Chuvalo, Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, Mike Tyson, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Sugar Ray Leonard, Max Schmeling, Willie Pep, Archie Moore, Jersey Joe Walcott, Max Baer, Evander Holyfield, Roberto Duran, Leon Spinks, and all the cauliflower-eared fraternity.

Plus Gillette's blow-by-blow commentator Don Dunphy, Madison Square Gardens ring announcer Harry Balogh, and the Look Sharp, Be Sharp March.

Gentlemen, let's have a clean fight. Come out swinging, and no punching in the clinches. There's the bell, for Round One!

Friday, December 21, 2018

O Tannenbaum!

Or, "O, Fir Tree," which is how tannenbaum translates to English.

We have been thinking about the Christmas tree and its place in our culture since we were told of a large dog who was unnerved by the presence of a towering tree in his home. Clearly, the gift for this sensitive canine would be True Leaf Hemp Sticks.

The Christmas tree has traveled a long way since it became part of the Yule celebration in Livonia (now Estonia and Latvia) and Germany in the 16th century. Most famous in its history is the push given by Victoria and Albert, but, in fact, the Christmas tree had been known British royalty even earlier, introduced by Queen Charlotte, wife of George III.

Some years ago, we spied a Christmas tree in an avant-garde design studio composed entirely of white coat hangers. We envy the person who got to carry that home. More recently, we talked to a plumber who told us he had erected in his front yard a tree constructed from pipes. And our resident design associate once proposed a tree cut from dark green construction paper and pinned to the wall. Would minimize post-Christmas clean-up.

All interesting ways to reduce, or at least alter, pre-Christmas stress. Bowser, pass the hemp sticks.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Have Yourself a Tuneful Little Christmas

At one time, when CHQM was a very different radio station, no Christmas music could be played before December 15. As one of the handful of extant QM alumni, we take this even further, and play no Christmas music until a week before the day. And, of course, there is a shelf of Christmas music one should never play at all.

But now, the time has come, and so, in response to an overwhelming absence of requests, here again is the Pointless Digressions Christmas playlist:

"England's Carol," by the Modern Jazz Quartet. This is actually "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," but "England's Carol" is what John Lewis and Milt Jackson called it, and we would never question their choice.

"Sleigh Ride," the Leroy Anderson snowy romp played by a quintet led by Art Pepper and Richie Cole, with Roger Kellaway trying to control the sled. Takes you thru some scary, but delightful, curves and over some crazy bumps.

"'Zat You, Santy Claus?" Louis Armstrong. Who better to meet on the hearth on Christmas Eve?

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." The most poignant of Christmas ballads, written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane for Vincente Minnelli's "Meet Me in St. Louis." First sung--incomparably--by Judy Garland, but we're going for the more upbeat approach by Dexter Gordon, while Rosemary Clooney's version finds all the irony in the song.

"Winterludes"--a compilation by the Starbucks people, when they were still doing that. Among the tracks: the little-known Austrian carol "Still, Still, Still," by the Plymouth Music Series Ensemble Singers.

"Simphonies des noels," a collection of Baroque Christmas concerti by Les Violons du Roy. The most familiar composers are Corelli and Charpentier, but there are others from the early 18th century worth discovering.

"Russian Christmas" by the St. Petersburg Chamber Choir, with mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina. A lovely evocation of the moving Orthodox Christmas service.

"Away in a Manger," by George Shearing and Don Thompson. A Brahmsian performance from the 1983 Shearing-Torme album "Top Drawer."

"An Appalachian Christmas"--another anthology, this one under violinist Mark O'Connor's direction. Includes Jane Monheit's charming reading of Mel Torme and Bob Wells's "Christmas Song" and guitarist Sharon Isbin's "Appalachia Waltz."

And, of course, you could make music of your own. That could be best of all.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Do-Not-Play List

There are a lot of winter and Yuletide songs we would be happy to have banned from the airwaves, but "Baby, It's Cold Outside" wasn't one of them. Even so, it has now been exiled to the do-not-play list of numerous radio outlets, joining "Love for Sale," "Rocks in My Bed," "Harvard Blues" and Cab Calloway's version of "The Old Rugged Cross."

"Baby, It's Cold Outside" was written by Frank Loesser, whose magnum opi include "Guys and Dolls," "The Most Happy Fella" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," along with a string of standards that would stretch from Tin Pan Alley to Timbuktu.

Loesser had never intended the song to be a commercial release--he wrote it in 1944 as something he and his wife, Lynn Garland, could perform at holiday parties. They got invited to a lot of parties, and four years later, Loesser was persuaded to let the song be used in a film. It won the Academy Award as best movie song of 1948.

Since then, there have been any number of recordings. Among those we'd like to hear, or hear again, was one waxed, as deejays used to say, by Pearl Bailey and Hot Lips Page. There are also versions by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan, Ray Charles and Betty Carter, Bette Midler and James Caan, and--perhaps oddest of all--Homer and Jethro with June Carter.

The composer's wife was not happy when the couple's party number was shared with the world. Perhaps she is smiling now, with "Baby, It's Cold Outside" returned to the family.

Put a record on, while I pour...

Thursday, December 6, 2018

St. Nicolas, for children, brewers and repentant thieves

December 6: the feast day of St. Nicolas, whose name, over the 1700 years since he lived, has morphed into Santa Claus.

In paintings, he does have a beard, but there are no reindeer in view. What is known is that he was a Greek bishop in the city of Myra in what is now Turkey. And he is said to have saved three young sisters from a miserable life on the street by valuable gifts, delivered secretly, at night, as Santa Claus is now believed to bring gifts.

It might be expected that Nicolas would be the patron saint of children, but he is revered also as the patron of a number of others, including sailors, merchants, archers, pawnbrokers, brewers and repentant thieves.

We're hoping ink-stained scribes may squeeze in there, as well.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Christmas Scratch List

A number of radio stations have declared they will no longer play "Baby, It's Cold Outside." And, of course, their caution is easy to understand--much safer to stick with "Frosty the Snowman"...unless that falls into the dark realm of demon possession.

Next to be scratched from the playlists, we're guessing: "Santa Baby" and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."

Friday, November 30, 2018

C'mon with the rain, I've a smile on my face!

Playlist for the rainy season:

"A Fella with an Umbrella"--Irving Berlin:

"I'm just a fella,
A fella with an umbrella,
Looking for a girl
Who saved her love for a rainy day."

"Till the Clouds Roll By"--P.G. Wodehouse, Jerome Kern:

"Oh, the rain
Comes a-pitter-patter,
And I'd like to be safe in bed.
I must fly for shelter
Till the clouds roll by."

"Isn't It a Lovely Day"--Irving Berlin:

"Isn't it a lovely day
To be caught in the rain?
You were going on your way,
Now you've got to remain.
Just as you were going,
Leaving me all at sea,
The clouds broke,
They broke and oh!
What a break for me."

There you are.  And now, with Gene Kelly, let's go singin' and dancin' in the rain.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Climate Short-Change

Fox News announces a sequel to "Bill Nye, The Science Guy."

Stay tuned for "Donald Trump, The Science Chump."

Monday, November 26, 2018

Movember Moustache Check

As we near the end of Movember, the month when all right-thinking men have chosen to adorn their upper lips, we're here to ask: how long is your moustache? You probably haven't had time to challenge the record set in 1962 by Masuriya Din, whose moustache grew to a wing span of eight feet, six inches.

There have been any number of handsome moustaches, from Bat Masterson's to Errol Flynn's, but there also have been some that called for public shaving. Among the most repulsive was Friedrich Nietzsche's, which may have been the model for John Bolton's. A rare photo of a clean-shaven Nietzsche surfaced the other day, and in it he appears significantly more presentable, if no less wacky.

For a big finish to Movember, the traditional moustache month, go to YouTube, and dig the Woody Herman Herd's recording of "Your Father's Moustache."

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

On to the Grey Cup (and a cup of Earl Grey)

This Sunday will see the 106th playing of the Grey Cup game, in Edmonton. The Calgary Stampeders are favoured, as they were the past two years, but fans are wondering if they will find yet another way to lose.

Stampeders coach Dave Dickenson has complained of a lack of love for his team, and that is most acutely felt in Edmonton, which is always hostile territory for the Calgarians. Coach DD may also be worrying about the officiating, as he was heard to complain that decisions were going Winnipeg's way in the western final because Blue Bombers coach Mike O'Shea is a "&;*#@+! Canadian." O'Shea responded that he is, indeed, "a proud &;*#@+! Canadian."

The prized trophy known as the Grey Cup was presented in 1909 by Earl Grey, then Governor General of Canada. This is not the same Earl Grey for whom the bergamot-flavored tea is named--that was his grandfather, Prime Minister of England in the 1830s. Still, it would be appropriate to enjoy a cup of Earl Grey while watching the Grey Cup. You can always add a hit of bourbon.

We will not venture to predict a winner for Sunday's game. We have been wrong every year since the first Grey Cup, in 1909, when we picked the Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club to win. They were trounced 26-6 by the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.

                                                          --Slap Maxwell.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Donald Trump, meet Miss Manners

US President Donald Trump has called for "more decorum" at White House press briefings.

This is comparable to Tom Wilson or Brad Marchand calling for more sportsmanlike conduct on the ice.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Sayonara, Sikora's

Glum news for collectors of hard-to-find CDs and LPs: Sikora's Classical Records will end its long and valued run in Vancouver February 28.

No longer will you know there is a place where you can find that obscure Baroque harpsichord disc or John Coltrane's Lost Album or a rare Tommy Banks-Big Miller set. (For despite its name, Sikora's has carried much more than classical records.)

Gone--into the library of collectors, one hopes--will be the widest array of records in the city, perhaps anywhere west of Toronto. As February ends, so will Sikora's, joining the long, lamented list of departed music stores: Sam the Record Man, A&B Sound, Virgin, Black Swan.

There are a handful--maybe half a handful--of small shops selling vintage vinyl, some London Drugs stores have reliable record departments, and there is a shop called Sunrise on the second floor of Metropolis that keeps an interesting selection, but this is an endangered species.

What can we say, except oh, woe! And make sure we get into Sikora's before the curtain comes down and the door is locked February 28.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Wisdom of Wally

"Football is a tough game.
You're going to take hits.
You're going to get hurt."

"You are what your record says you are."

"If you live in the past, it will swallow you up."

             --Wally Buono, retiring with 282 career wins.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Breaking News

US President Donald Trump is reported to be considering replacing Jeff Sessions as Attorney General with Tony Clement.

"I know he's Canadian," Trump said, "but we can get around that. He sounds like my kind of guy."

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Covering the Next Election

Limp from watching hours of coverage of the US midterms, channel hopping from PBS to CNN and a maze of other media, we began to think: wouldn't this be so much more entertaining if Bob and Ray were the TV anchors?

Sadly, Bob and Ray have exited to the Great Comedy Club in the Sky, but we could have Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Or Andy Borowitz and Sarah Silverman. And when the Big Orange gives his next miserable State of the Union address, wouldn't it be fine to have the old Monty Python troupe in the front row?

Finally, given a choice, we think perhaps the best election anchors would be Laurel and Hardy. Stan and Ollie would bring the right mix of absurdity and frustration, wailing and resignation.

And, at the end, Hardy could say to the voters: "Another fine mess you've gotten us into!"

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Happy Birthday, Harold Ross

Today--November 6--was the birthday, in 1892, of Harold Ross, founder and original editor of The New Yorker.

Ross wrote "Magazines are about 85% luck. All an editor can do is have a net handy to grab any talent that comes along, and maybe cast a little bread on the waters."

The New Yorker was published first in 1925, and is one of the few magazines, if not the only magazine, printed that year to have survived.

And not merely survived, but to have flourished, and become the highest standard of magazine excellence.

If there is an Algonquin roundtable in the Great Beyond, Ross will have a seat at it. And fine company, as the martinis are poured.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

It is Guy Fawkes Day, and tonight there will be bonfires across England to incinerate the memory of the luckless Mr. Fawkes, best known of the plotters who planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament, hoping to get King James I in the blast.

None of that happened, thanks to possibly the most incompetent political skullduggery until the Watergate break-in.

Now even Guy Fawkes seems on the edge of being forgotten, despite this once famous doggerel:

"Remember, remember!
The Fifth of November
The Gunpowder treason and plot.
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot."

Stay clear of bonfires tonight.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Time Change

Orville Fleishacker of Dead Battery, Alberta, smiled with satisfaction as millions of others ran about their homes turning their clocks back. Fleishacker did not have to do this. Having not recognized Daylight Saving Time ("Who needs to save daylight?" he said. "I've got all the daylight I need.") he had not set his clocks forward in spring. "I knew the world would come back to its senses," he said. "My clocks were ready."

Meanwhile, Vern Heffelfinger of Lost Chance, Manitoba, said he was hoping he could set his clocks back more than an hour. "Frankly," he said, "I'd like to turn time back a whole decade."

Friday, November 2, 2018

Rainy Season Wrap-up

US Vice President Mike Pence, speaking in Georgia, noted the arrival in that state of Will Ferrell and Oprah Winfrey, there to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. Unfazed by this star power, Pence told the audience, "I'm kind of a big deal, too." Several members of the audience had to be treated for uncontrolled hysterical laughing.

In other political news, Donald Trump, after ordering 15,000 troops to the southern border to prevent an "invasion," and telling them to use rifles on rock throwers, declared, "I am not anti-immigrant." His nose immediately grew two inches. His stubby fingers, however, remained the same.

Finally, mayors of the Greater Vancouver region and TransLink officials have agreed to extend the "Sorry, Not in Service" line from Surrey to Powell River. A spokesman said, "We see this as a way to reduce transit congestion."

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Adorn That Upper Lip

It is Movember. And that's not a typo. it is Movember, with a capital M, because it's Moustache Month.

Every year at this time, we are encouraged to grow a stylish 'stache, in support of men's health issues...issues like not being able to grow a moustache.

There is, as ever, a wide range of styles from which to select: the Salvador Dali, the Sundance Kid, the Wilford Brimley, the Charlie Chaplin, the Anthony Eden, the Yosemite Sam. The one to avoid is the John Bolton. In fact, we are circulating a petition to force Bolton to shave his moustache.

One season, all CFL players and coaches, even Wally Buono, grew a moustache. The only one who didn't have to was Mike Reilly, because he already had one, and if there were an award for Most Outstanding Moustache, Reilly would get it.

So observe Movember! Set aside that razor and grow a moustache!

(Not you, Madam.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Scary. Scarier. Scariest.

It is the season of Hallowe'en, when all our fears are let loose, including panophobia, which is fear of everything. What to do, except lock the doors, close the windows, and stay inside? But what if what we fear most is inside with us? Scream now.

However, most us find a contained fear, an unexpected fright, delicious. Why else would "Psycho" and "Hallowe'en" draw crowds to theatres? To assist an audience searching for the scariest of scares, we offer this hair-raising assembly.

Literature: Classicists may turn to M.R. James and Edgar Allan Poe, and others may choose H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King, but our choice is Kingsley Amis's "The Green Man," published in 1965, and based on the enduring English legend of a leafy monster. The Guardian wrote "How rarely do we come across the really frightening story now." Bonus: it is also very funny.

Music: Many radio stations will be playing Saint-Saens's "Danse Macabre," while those having fun will dig out 1962's "Monster Mash," but a truly chilling piece of music is the theremin-shrouded dream theme from Hitchcock's "Spellbound," composed by Miklos Rosza. It will rattle your nerves as surely as a creaking door in the middle of the night. It's said Hitchcock didn't like the music, but the Academy did, and awarded Rosza an Oscar.

Film: Among the memorably scary films for this writer are 1931's nightmare-inducing "The Spider" and, from 1943, "The Seventh Victim," which sent some viewers running from the theatre. Most famous fearful presence, along with Boris Karloff's Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula, is the possessed child in "The Exorcist," a film that caused at least one CFL star to stay awake all night with the lights on. But our choice for most entertaining is "The Uninvited" from 1944, a ghost movie with a Freudian undercurrent.

Scary. Scarier. Scariest. Happy Haunting.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Chance of a Ghost

Hallowe'en approaches, with its mixture of fun and dread, and thoughts turn to witches and vampires,  goblins and ghosts.

Although for some, these spectres or illusions or other worldly beings are ever present--no need to wait for October 31.

Ghosts, like the mortals they once were, come in various personalities--some menacing, some playful. We know a gentleman who refuses to move from his very large house because he fears the friendly ghost he shares it with might not move with him.

There are several more or less familiar ghosts in this city, including the woman in the blue evening dress who flits through walls on the fourteenth floor of Hotel Vancouver, presumably trying to find her way back to the party she left some decades ago.

Some ghosts may be hoping to complete some unresolved earthly task. But most, probably simply are lonely, and who wouldn't be, drifting around for eternity in ectoplasm?

Among the memorable ghosts in literature are those who came to visit Ebenezer Scrooge, the unhappy women of "The Uninvited," the leafy monster of Kingsley Amis's "The Green Man," the classic shades in the stories of M.R. James and the Christmas yarns of Robertson Davies, and, perhaps most mysterious, the threatening presences in "The Turn of the Screw."

Of course, those presences, haunting Henry James's young governess, may be entirely in her mind. Indeed, all ghosts may reside in our minds. But does that make them less real?

Happy Hallowe'en.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Good Scam, Bad Scam

The variety and originality of scammers continues to astonish us. Not to mention the persistence.

Recently, we have observed distinct personality types among these felonious entrepreneurs. The other day, we received an e-message threatening to destroy us forever if we did not send US$3,000 by Bitcoin. "You have twenty-four hours, sucker," it said.

But then a message came from someone pretending to be an archbishop, asking very sweetly for a significant donation to continue the charitable cleric's good works.

Best of all, this pious ripoff ended with "God bless you."

Bad scam, good scam.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Doing the Cannabis Can-Can

Across Canada today, tokers are in truly high spirits, chorusing "Don't Bogart That Joint, My Friend."

While munching an Alice B. Toklas brownie, we sought out the etymology of this classic lyric, and found that it is a reference to Humphrey Bogart's style of smoking, in which the cigarette seldom left his lips. So "Don't Bogart that joint, my friend--pass it over to me" is a plea for sharing, rather than greedy self-gratification.

We don't know if Miss Manners has a chapter on etiquette for cannabis users.

And frankly, we don't need it. We're from an older generation of substance abusers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Washington Wash Day

It has been reported that President Trump is considering replacing Nikki Haley as US Ambassador to the United Nations with Kanye West. The pop star said, "I'm ready to go in there and rap!"

On his first day as a Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh was required to go through the inaugural arm-wrestling contest, obligatory for all appointees to the nation's senior court. "Hey," said Judge Kavanaugh, "No problem! Just like hazing at DKE!" Kavanaugh lost the match in .03 seconds to Justice Bader Ginsburg.

And having finally watched the film "Get Out," President Trump mused on the possibility of having his brain transferred to the body of Cam Newton. The upside, of course, is that we'd have Cam Newton's brain in the White House.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Steve McGobble Comes Through Again

"Farmer Grogan?"

"Uh..y..yes. Who are you, little green man?"

"Fear not, Farmer Grogan. I am an emissary from a distant planet, sent here to honor you."

"Honor me?"

"Yes, Farmer Grogan. It is well known throughout the entire universe that you are the world's leading turkey farmer."

"Well, thank you. I do take pride in the size of my flocks."

"As well you should. And it is for that reason that my empire wishes not only to honor you, but to draw on your expertise."

"My what?"

"Expertise. Stuff you know. In the development and management of turkey farms. I have been directed to invite you to come and address the leading scientific minds of our astral community."

"Well, golly gee whillikers--I'd admire to do that. Could we wait 'til after Thanksgiving? Big day coming, you know. Gotta get these turks to market."

"Worry not, Farmer Grogan. My team will look after that for you, and my superiors are eager to hear your wisdom. Please step into this interplanetary conveyance."

"I surely am honored. I should tell Mrs. Grogan."

"We'll look after that, too, Farmer. Just step in here."

"Well, then, here we go!"

Clank! Hatch slams shut. Clank!

"Steve, how'd you pull that off?"

"A breeze. Got the E.T. suit from a Hallowe'en rental."

"And the space ship?"

"It's an army surplus tank. Grogan will be stuck in there for days."

"Won't he roast in there?"

"He'll find out how it feels."

"And how about us, Steve?"

"Hop in my truck, fellow turks. We're off to dig the band at Birdland."

Friday, October 5, 2018

Burke's Tender Turks

As Thanksgiving approaches, and thoughts turn to the festive table, we remember Burke's Tender Turks.

This was an enterprise of Stanley Burke, journalist, publisher, satirist, and campaigner during the Nigerian war of the 1960s for the people of Biafra.

Some will remember him as CBC's National News anchor in the pre-Knowlton Nash, pre-Peter Mansbridge days. Others may remember his cross-Canada tour urging relief for the Biafrans. Many may still have copies of the political satires he constructed, with illustrations by Roy Peterson--"Frog Fables and Beaver Tales" among them. And still others will remember him as publisher of the Nanaimo Times, and perhaps still picture him in his houseboat days.

But what springs to mind at this time of year is his brief period as proprietor of a Fraser Valley turkey farm, marketing Burke's Tender Turks. He must have realized that his future was in journalism, not farming. Or--and this is what we like to think--he may have felt tender-hearted towards his flock of gobblers, and set both them and himself free.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Reading Reviews in the Oval Office

"Well, I guess I really killed them last night, right? See that audience? They went crazy. I could've gone on forever. Which, incidentally, is my intention, to go on forever. I think I've got this mortality thing licked. But more about me. What'd you think, Sarah Huckleberry?"

"It was deeply moving, Mr. Big Guy, almost Biblical. I believe there are some obscure and disputed scriptural passages that support your position of demeaning women."

"Good, get those lines out to Franklin. Gotta keep him and his people happy. Okay, who's next? Conway?"

"I thought your performance was brilliant, Mr. President. Had you gone into theatre, you would have taken all the awards."

"You're right, I would've put all those Actors Studio people to shame. I would've been much bigger than Robert DeSneero or Al Puccini. How about you, General Kelly? By the way, are you still a general, or are you a mister? Doesn't matter--what did you think of my performance?

"Well, Mr. President, I'm not one of those effete artistic people, I'm trained to maim and destroy, but I must say, when you went into that piece beginning 'Mom, what am I gonna do?' a lump rose in my throat."

"Thank you, General or Mister Kelly, whatever the hell you are."

"Of course, it might have been the burrito I had at lunch."

"Mr. President, it's almost KFC and Twitter time."

"Right, can't let my people down. Somebody get me a Diet Coke."

"Right away, sir!"

"In fact--what the hell--make it a double."

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Welcoming October

Nathaniel Hawthorne, American Notebooks: "There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October."

Tell that to the people out at 6:00 a.m. walking their dogs in the rain.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Odd Couple

In Wheeling, West Virginia, Saturday night, Donald Trump revealed his new romance.

Opening his heart about Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, the US President said, "I was being really tough, and so was he. And we would go back and forth. And then we fell in love, okay? He wrote me beautiful letters. We fell in love."

Those close to the president expressed joy and relief. One senior advisor said, "His heart was broken when Trudeau and Macron didn't respond. But now, he's found his true match. Don and Kim--it's the most thrillingly romantic moment since Richard Nixon hugged Sammy Davis, Jr."

A spokesman for Melania reports the First Lady's reaction: "I am so happy for both of them."

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Odds & Ends

Apologies for the long delay between postings. The site was closed for cerebral reconstruction, and more work was required than anticipated. As one expert said,"By Freud, you're fried!" But we are now back in what may be business, with a handful of observations.

First, PD sports analyst Slap Maxwell wants to know if it's more often defence than offence that's winning CFL games this season.

Our cultural affairs correspondent notes a new term has been coined for disc jockey: turntablist.

And finally, our all-female, mad as hell, not going to take it any more editorial board has suggested reading for wives of Republican senators: "Lysistrata."

Friday, September 7, 2018

Hercule Poirot and The Case of the Unsigned Op-Ed

As White House officials scrambled to unveil the identity of the person who penned the notorious New York Times op-ed, and the President muttered he could now trust only his children (Oh? Have you read "King Lear"?) someone suggested there might not have been a single writer of the piece. It might, they said, have been a group of perpetrators, as in "Murder on the Orient Express."

Puzzled by this, President Trump was told that "Murder on the Orient Express" was a case solved by Hercule Poirot.

"Okay, then," barked Trump. "Get me Poirot!"

"Sir," the aide said, "Hercule Poirot is fictitious."

"I don't care what nationality he is," Trump bellowed. "Get him anyway!"

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Note to Nike

The move of sportswear giant Nike to continue featuring Colin Kaepernick in its marketing (great line, by the way--"Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.") has so angered followers of the guy Spike Lee has dubbed Agent Orange that they have taken to various ways of destroying their Nike products. People are cutting the Nike swoosh out of their socks, burning their Nike runners.

This is, of course, dumb, but there is an opportunity here for both the offended Nike wearers and the Nike p.r. department: suggest that those fervent Trumpsters who want to abandon their Nike gear not destroy it, but turn it over to less fortunate folk who cannot afford that expensive stuff.

Take all those shoes and trail jackets and running tights, those hoodies and backpacks, those tanks and crews and tees to a charity that will distribute them to people in need.

Whaddya think?  We think a win all 'round. We think Kaepernick would agree.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

So Longo, Mr. Bongo

Perhaps little noticed in the rush of recent obituaries were the few written for Jack Costanzo.

Jack Costanzo was dubbed "Mr. Bongo," and while he didn't play on Charlie Parker's "Bongo-Beep," he did play with Stan Kenton and jammed, on bongos and congas, with Marlon Brando.

But he is best remembered for his work with the Nat "King" Cole trio, which, after he joined it, became a quartet. Most memorable, for a number of reasons, is their recording of "Lush Life," perhaps the first and certainly the best waxing (as old deejays used to say) of the Billy Strayhorn song ("I used to go to all of the very gay places, those come what may places, where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life to get the feel of life and jazz and cocktails"--cue the bongos).

It was an unusual arrangement--written by Pete Rugulo, another Kenton alumnus--with the Nat Cole group backed by a string orchestra, and the use of bongo drums on what is really a lament. But it all worked. And still does.

Are any of those people still around? Maybe not so you can see them. Fortunately, we can still hear them.

So longo, Mr. Bongo.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Grab a Line

Railing against the continuing abasement of the language, writers who don't know the difference between "lay" and "lie," editors who don't understand comma placement, and people who use "impact" as a verb has left us feeling like King Canute ordering the waves back from the shore.

So it is with pleasure that we offer a mild round of applause for a few lines we've observed in public places recently. There is, for example, this one, plugging public transit: "A bus is just a limo full of people you haven't met yet."

And how about this: "With flavors like these, it must be summer."

CKNW, long the top dog of talk radio, has a billboard barking "Yeah, we're talking to you."

More canny canine conversation: a rival station, and rival billboard, tells us "We've found your dog." A complete non sequitur, to which the only response can be "Huh?" and therefore the prize line of the day.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Retiring from Competition

The Labor Day weekend approaches, which has always meant three things: putting away the white shoes and seersucker suit, switching from gin and tonic to bourbon, and tackling the 3-Day Novel. This year, we're abandoning the third of these.

After a decade of Labor Day weekends spent consuming lethal quantities of coffee and ignoring the classic football games while hunched over a keyboard, we are packing in our nouns and verbs and adjectives.

No more dangling participles, split infinitives, mixed metaphors, groaning gerunds and fractured syntax. 3-Day Novel, we're done. Pass the bourbon. Bring on the football.

(But if they come up with a 5-Day Novel contest, let us know.)

Saturday, August 25, 2018

John McCain, RIP

Was John McCain the last decent, honourable, independent man in the United States? Of course not. But he might have been the last in the US Congress.

The news of his death, while long expected, still hurt. Exit a man of true bravery and inflexible principle, while President Bone Spurs and his weakling supporters continue.

Apart from that, why does his death affect us so? Because, as John Donne wrote, centuries ago, "Any man's death diminishes me..therefore, never send to ask for whom the bell tolls."

To move our mind away, we listened to Barbara Hannigan's great "Crazy Girl Crazy" and watched some more football.

Did that help? Maybe a little.

John McCain. As they say, "Rest in peace. Rise in glory."

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Talking to the Herbs

Prince Charles isn't the only friend of flora who chats with plants. This morning, we spent some time on the deck talking to the herbs.

It has been a stressful summer for our little green pals. Mimi Mint said, "It has been draining. How I longed to be muddled with some Kentucky bourbon in a tall glass full of ice."

"I know how you feel," said Tom Tarragon. "I dream of a creamy béarnaise."

"And how about that smoke?" said Orville Oregano. "I know there is smoked oregano, but this not the way to do it."

Sage nodded wisely.

"I have not been so upset," lamented Basil B. Basil, "since people started pronouncing my name Bayzil, to rhyme with nasal. Could you bring that watering can over here? And maybe add a splash of vodka?"

The only plant that seems to have thrived during the heat wave is the strawberry. "You know what they say," smiled Jerry S. Berry, casually flicking away a beetle. "Strawberry fields forever."

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Slap Maxwell called it wrong

...and so did everyone else, except, perhaps, Roughriders coach Chris Jones and his offensive coordinator, Stephen McAdoo. Nobody thought the Saskatchewan green and white could beat the mighty Calgary Stampeders, who had gone seven games without a loss, the only undefeated team in the CFL. We had predicted a miserable afternoon for the fans in watermelon helmets, but it didn't turn out that way, thanks to Zach Collaros's arm, Nick Marshall's two-way performance, Charleston Hughes's sack-happy rush, and Jones's brilliant defence, which, for the first half, had Calgary completely confused. The Stampeders figured it out at half-time, came back strong, and Bo Levi Mitchell threw four touchdown passes. Still not enough. Final score: Roughriders 40, Stampeders 27.

And more positive news: Roughriders fans seem to have given up wearing watermelon helmets. And watermelon brassieres.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Arf! Arf!

In a time when the level of discourse has descended to abusive tweets and a book with the title "Liars, Leakers and Liberals" can top the best seller lists, it was a pleasure to find this charming message tacked inside a bus shelter:

DOG WALKING 101 (followed by a paw print)

- Cheap rates
- Let us know about allergies, if the dog can have treats, or if the dog needs to be trained
- Small to medium-sized dogs, maximum 50 lbs.
- $2 per walk
- We all love dogs very much!

The weight limit may rule out St. Bernards and Irish wolfhounds, but in a neighborhood where one often sees very large persons walking very small dogs, this could be a valued service.

 Let us know if you want the phone number.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Department of Clarification

"Department of Clarification" was once an intermittent feature of The New Yorker, in which the magazine moved to clear something up, or just make a correction. Which, now, we are about to do, on something appearing in the August 6-13 edition of The New Yorker.

There is a short, front of the book piece about Parker Posey (who sounds like a fun person to know, in an unpredictable way). In it, Posey is quoted saying, of someone, "She was a moldy fig" and then explaining, "Moldy figs were jazz enthusiasts who thought Duke Ellington was a sellout."

Having been around in the late 1940s when the term "moldy fig" was coined, we must tell you this is not what it meant. A moldy fig was someone who rejected the new jazz of that time--the Charlie Parker-Dizzy Gillespie led bebop movement--and wanted to stick with the more accessible swing of the big band days.

There was even a bop recording called "No Figs," and when this was played on a radio show, and one of the guests--an accomplished musician of the old school--dismissed it as junk or noise or something, we suggested that he was himself a moldy fig.

We still regret this. Sorry, Mr. Burrell.

P.S.: "No Figs," composed by the brilliant Lennie Tristano, was recorded by the 1950 Metronome All-Stars. It is a great blessing that we can still hear it, on YouTube.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Foot in the Door

One of the recurrent situations in the comic strip "Blondie" ( Elmo walking in on Dagwood in the bathtub, Dagwood knocking over the mailman running for the bus) when the strip's genius/creator Chic Young was still writing it, was the persistent door-to-door salesman, who would stick his foot in the door and keep it there until Dagwood bought a potato peeler or whatever gadget the guy was pushing.

The door-to-door salesman is just a memory of the past. I believe there are stuffed examples in museums. What we now have instead, and just as annoying, are the telephone sales people. They time their calls to come just when you're taking a souffle out of the oven or when the 6:00 news anchor is about to reveal the day's big story. The calls always carry some unknown area code, and the caller, speaking from someplace that sounds like a garage, begins by addressing you by name, which he will mispronounce, even if your name is Brown.

"Mr. Broom," he'll say, "how are you today?" As if he cares. What always throws the caller off is to ask, "Who is this calling?" The question startles the caller, and he has to consult his script to find an answer. By this time, of course, you will have wished him good luck and hung up, vowing never ever to answer the phone again when Caller ID fails to supply a name.

There are some callers who will leave a message, usually something like "This is Inspector Masterson of Division 346. Return this call at once. Failure to respond will mean the issuance of a warrant and your arrest, possibly for life." All "Inspector Masterson" wants is the security code to your bank accounts and your credit card numbers.

And then there are the e-mail intrusions cum scams, but that's another story. What we need to know is how would Dagwood deal with all this? Chic Young, come back!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Bing Crosby Day. Or maybe Bob.

Here we are again, at BC Day--named, it's believed, for Bing Crosby, although some contend it commemorates Bing's younger brother, Bob, leader of the Dixieland Bob-Cats. That means that tonight the hills will be alive with either Bing's "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" or Bob's "South Rampart Street Parade."

And there are other factions claiming BC Day for their heroes. Among those thought to be saluted on this day: Buddy Clark, Bill Coleman, Buddy Chilvers, Buster Crabbe, Burton Cummings, Bradley Cooper, Billy Connolly, Bruce Cockburn, Brian Cox, Bob Cousy and Brent Carver.

And don't forget Bozo the Clown.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Calling the Plays

No one expected the BC Lions to beat the seemingly invulnerable Calgary Stampeders. Even so, we have to ask: despite the restructuring of the team, the arrival of tough Ed Hervey, the big build-up to the season, and Wally Buono's decision to "take chances," is this going to be a second year in which the Lions fail to make the playoffs? Or perhaps trade places with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in an East Division crossover? Tell us the Lions are not turning into the Alouettes of the west. Please say the sainted Wally can have a better windup season than this.

And will this be another year when Dave Dickenson's Stampeders roll proudly and inexorably to the Grey Cup, and then find a way to lose to an inferior eastern team?

And is there a night when Wally Buono doesn't lie awake wondering how the Lions let Mike Reilly get away to the Eskimos?

Just asking, grid fans.  Slap Maxwell.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Heat Wave Hits

Suggested listening as you endure +30 temperatures:

"In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening"

"Cold, Cold Heart"

"Baby, It's Cold Outside"

"Frosty the Snowman"

"Let it Snow"

For optimum results, enjoy while sitting in a tub full of ice cubes sipping a G&T.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Heat Wave Lit

"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of a carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge."

                           Raymond Chandler, "Red Wind."

Monday, July 16, 2018

Frank Sinatra, where are you?

Okay, "The Manchurian Candidate" was fiction, wasn't it? I mean, that couldn't really happen, could it? A foreign power, an enemy of the US, somehow putting a dupe in the White House and using him to advance its agenda?

What was Richard Condon thinking of? How could that possibly happen? Could a US businessman, in Moscow, years before running for president, have his brain seized by KGB agents and then be manipulated into office? Naw, that's just crazy.

Pure fantasy.

Even so, those of us who watched "The Manchurian Candidate" are crying, "Frank Sinatra, where are you?"

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Trumps in Europe

Trump addresses NATO leaders in Brussels: "I figured the only thing I was gonna get here was those cabbagey things, you know, Brussels sprouts? But hey, these Belgian waffles are  terrific. Bring me another plate. And lemme have more of those beg-nets."

Macron: "Donald, those are beignets, pronounced 'ben-yay'."

Trump: "Yeah? Whadda you know? Guy named after a pastry."

Melanie: "Donny, I heard the Italian leader order linguine puttanesca. Is delicious!"

Trump: "It's not Italian, sweetheart. It's Russian. Putinesca, get it? Named for my new best friend, Vladimir Putin."

Melanie: "That Macron--so handsome!"

Trump: "Huh."

Melanie: "And Justin--so slim, so fit. You know he does the Grouse Grind?"

Trump: "Listen, I could buy the Grouse Grind. Turn it into a golf course."

Trump's state dinner with Theresa May: "President Trump, we have a wine pairing with each course. Champagne cocktails to begin, a superb dry sherry with the turtle soup, a 1927 Bordeaux with the saddle of lamb, and Chateau d'Yquem with the camembert and nuts."

Trump: "I'll have a Diet Pepsi."

Trump meets the Queen: "So, what do they call you, Liz or Betty?

"Hey, why're these guys dragging me away? I was just giving you a little hug."

Monday, July 9, 2018

Public Transit Etiquette

With the increasing popularity of public transit in Vancouver, Pointless Digressions Publications believes it is time for an etiquette guide for those traveling by bus, SkyTrain, or other public conveyance. Here is a sample of the tips contained in our just published "Don't Make a Fuss on the Bus."

Q: If the person sitting next to me is having a difficult personal conversation on his or her phone, should I step in and offer advice?

A: By all means. Assure your fellow passenger that you are an expert on relationships, having watched the Dr. Phil show for years.

Q: If the person by my side is eating something, perhaps peanuts or French fries, is it permissible to reach in and help myself?

A: Absolutely, but to be considerate, always carry with you a salt shaker and offer to sprinkle.

Q: Supposing my seat mate has a terrible racking cough and a round of explosive sneezing. Would it be insensitive to put on my surgical mask?

A: It would show a distinct lack of feeling. Instead, offer your seat mate your clean handkerchief or a cough drop or, if you've just shopped at the LCB, a restorative belt of brandy.

Q: If the person next to me falls asleep, with his/her head on my shoulder, what should I do?

A: Nothing. Stay very still and do not rise until the person awakes, even if you've gone five mies beyond your stop.

Yours for polite traveling--Miss P. Digressions.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Glorious Fourth...sigh

Here we are at what is usually called the Glorious Fourth of July, and while there will be fireworks and choruses of "America the Beautiful," we all know that these are not the most glorious or beautiful of times for Uncle Sam and his brood.

We remain grateful for what the United States has given us--jazz, the Salk vaccine, the ice cream cone--but for those of us with deep roots in Bad Axe, Michigan, we can only hope that someone, sooner rather than later, says, "And now, back to our regular program."

So this year we'll skip "Yankee Doodle Dandy." But we invite you to sing along with this gentle amusement, to the tune of "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

"Be kind to your web-footed friends,
For a duck may be somebody's mother.
They live out there in the swamp,
Where the weather's cold and dawmp.
Now you might think that this is the end.
Well, it is."

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Weak Verse for a Strong Country

Greetings, fellow Canadians, on this our country's day!
Raise a glass to our founding father, the noble Sir John A.,
Who set us on track to be a nation
With a railroad and Confederation.

Alexander Mackenzie was next in line,
And though his five years in office seemed just fine,
It remains a constant mystery
Why his name is lost to history.

And let us give a modest cheer
To those who only served one year
Or less--Abbott, Thompson, Bowell, Tupper--
But though their politics may have been slighted,
All four of these PMs were knighted.

Merci, and a gracious roundelay,
For Sir Wilfred Laurier.
And we remember Robert Borden still,
His face on the hundred-dollar bill.
Then Arthur Meighen, whose Irish oratory could sing,
Followed by the weird Mackenzie King.

R.B. Bennett, Louis St. Laurent--
What did this country really want?
Then to the Tories' great relief,
We elected Dief the Chief,
To be followed by hockey-playing Lester B.,
The only one of all these guys
To receive a Nobel Prize.

Then came Canada's most glamorous glow
With the suave Pierre Trudeau,
His light-hearted but strong-minded lark
Tempered by the very stern Joe Clark,
Whose period on the land's front burner
Gave way to handsome John Napier Turner,
Remembered still by friends and foes
As the man who danced with Princess Margaret Rose.

Up next, lantern-jawed Mulroney
Who proved that he could sing a tuney
And be entirely beguiling
With "When Irish Eyes are Smiling."
Kim Campbell joined the honoured list
As our first Prime Minister feminist.
Alas, her party failed to thrive--
She spent just four months on Sussex Drive.

Jean Chretien, a Pearson team alumnus,
Showed he'd entertain and never numb us.
His fans could only sigh and grieve
When the next PM was Harper, Steve,
Who later must have cried, "Oh, no!"
To be replaced by a Trudeau.

So here we are, aged one-five-one,
A country feeling still it's just begun.
Wave the flag, say "merci, beaucoup,"
For all that we have journeyed through,
And give thanks that life is grand,
In Canada, our native land!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Skip the Shaming!

Reports that Kirstjen Nielsen, Stephen Miller, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and other members of the Trump team have been heckled or refused service at Washington area restaurants has led to the creation of a new home delivery service: Skip the Shaming.

Initial advertising for the service includes this message:

"Hey, hard-working, right-thinking, zero tolerance Trumpsters: tired of being booed while you tuck into your kale and quinoa? Disheartened at being turned away from restaurants as though you're just an immigrant mother escaping a murderous country?

"Then here's your answer, as dependable as Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch making the right decision: Skip the Shaming! Yes, one quick phone call, and we'll be at your door! Real Mexican food, although not delivered by a real Mexican.

"Be confident there won't be a Mickey Finn in your Margarita, or a slug in your enchilada. Call Skip the Shaming--the gourmet delivery service for hardliners who want to be diners!

"Special super-size servings on orders from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

"And for Jeff Sessions, we have the Kiddie-Pak."

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Bloop Bleep, and other classics

Dealing with a leaking gold-encrusted faucet in the penthouse studios of Pointless Digressions, Inc., made us think of that famous ode to a dripping tap: "Bloop Bleep." This classic late twentieth century ballad, not to be confused with the current "Bleep Bloop," opens with these immortal lines:

"Bloop bleep, bloop bleep, bloop bleep
 The faucet keeps a-drippin' and I can't sleep."

The composer: Frank Loesser. "Bloop Bleep" may not be as well known as "If I Were a Bell" and "I've Never Been in Love Before," but still--Frank Loesser!

And this musical memory took us back to another song celebrating sound: "Cement Mixer, Putti Putti." This memorable 1940s art song was the work of the incomparable Slim Gaillard, perhaps best remembered for his "Groove Juice Symphony." "Cement Mixer, Putti Putti" can be found on Slim's album "Ice Cream on Toast."

And from the same rich period: "Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet!" Ella Mae Morse sang this, but we recall with pleasure the Woody Herman version. The song is a plea from a World War Two factory worker, and begins:

"Been jumpin' on the swing shift all night
Turnin' out my quota all right
Now I'm beat right down to the sod
Gotta catch myself some righteous nod."

This deeply moving song was the work of Gene de Paul and Don Raye, a follow-up to their great "Cow Cow Boogie." De Paul and Raye might also be remembered for "Star Eyes" and "I'll Remember April," neither of which, of course, has the emotional impact of "Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet!"

Finally, a song most suitable for a sizzling summer: "Splish Splash." For this, we can thank Bobby Darin and Murray the K. And Murray the K's mother, who came up with the opening line.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Pop Songs for Pop, Ditties for Dad

In response to a total absence of requests, we are pleased to present our Father's Day play list.

First, what not to play: definitely not "O, Mein Papa" by Eddie Fisher. You should also skip "Papa, Won't You Dance with Me?" because (a) Papa doesn't dig polkas, and (b) he's a terrible dancer.

Do not consider "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," because no matter how good Cole Porter's song may be, this is not the kind of filial affection the song celebrates.

So what's left? The best choice of all: "Your Father's Moustache," recorded by Woody Herman's great first Herd, the 1940s band that included Bill Harris, Flip Phillips, Ralph Burns, Sonny Berman, Neal Hefti, Chubby Jackson, Dave Tough, Billy Bauer, the Candolis, et al.

They were billed originally as "The Band That Plays the Blues," but a more accurate tag would have been "The Band That Likes to Laugh." And there is no better salute to Father's Day than when, at the end of a romping, raucous, rowdy Herd stampede, the band cries out, in one voice, "Awwww--Your Father's Moustache!"

Friday, June 15, 2018

You Gotta Love Football!

Opening kickoff for the first game of the 2018 season for the Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers was at 7:35 p.m. Thursday. Final play: 1:17 a.m., Friday.

Lightning strikes interrupted the Eskimos-Blue Bombers game for two hours and fifty-five minutes, making it the second longest game in CFL history. The longest was the 1962 Grey Cup game--the Fog Bowl, which ran over two days, after no one could see the ball. But this is the way the game is supposed to be played--outdoors, in whatever weather, on real grass.

A challenge for the players, but a tip of the fedora also to cheerleaders and fans who hung in until Sean Whyte scored a 44-yard field goal with eight seconds to go. We hope there was something left in the fans' Thermos bottles. Final score: Eskimos 33, Blue Bombers 30. "It was like five games in one," said Eskimos coach Jason Maas.

Mike Reilly, the (one hopes) indestructible Eskimos quarterback, said, "It was crazy, for sure."

That's why you gotta love football.

--Slap Maxwell.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Art of the Meal

President Trump on his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un: "It was a very successful negotiation. I agreed that the U.S. would end its military exercises with South Korea, and in exchange, he gave me his recipe for yakbap."

Monday, June 11, 2018

Quick, Watson--the Needle!

The phonograph needle, that is. We have found a shelter in music from the wretched news of the day.

Let us explain: One of our faithful followers announced in December that her gift to herself would be a Trump-free Christmas; she would not listen to the Big Orange or read his tweets over the holidays.

The escape from Trumpland worked such wonders, restoring a sense of sunny stability in the universe, that she has moved forward into a Trump-free year.

It is difficult to escape Trump or Trump's thugs or Trump news--and he probably doesn't care what it is, subscribing to Oscar Wilde's dictum: "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."

We have reached back to another quotation, this from Groucho Marx, who said, "I find television very educational. Whenever someone turns it on, I go in another room and read a book."

So this now is our escape from the Trump miasma: whenever a Trump story looms, we move to music. We have renewed and deepened our relationship with Bach and Thelonious Monk, Sinatra and Shostakovich, Sonny Rollins and Ravel, Miles Davis and the Carter Family. Mental health abounds!

Let us know what happens in the U.S. midterms. As long as it's good news. Otherwise, it's back to Mark Murphy and Darius Milhaud, Max Roach and Lyle Lovett.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Odd Man Out

Pressed on how they will deal with Donald Trump at the G7 conference in Quebec, Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron said, "We intend to speak in a language he doesn't understand. Like English."

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Under the Volcano

"The mountain chains traverse the republic roughly from north to south, forming between them a number of valleys and plateaus. Overlooking one of these valleys, which is dominated by two volcanoes, lies, six thousand feet above sea level, the town of Quauhnahuac."

Those are the opening lines of Malcolm Lowry's "Under the Volcano," and it was on this day--June 7, 1945--that the fourth draft of the novel was lost when Lowry's shack on the Dollarton flats in North Vancouver burned down. Twelve years later--ten years after "Under the Volcano" finally was published--Lowry died in the Sussex village of Ripe, and is buried there in the graveyard of the church of St. John the Baptist.

Lowry composed an amusing epitaph for himself, but a more serious farewell might be one of his poems:

"The ship is turning homeward now at last.
The bosun tries to read but dreams of home.
The old lamptrimmer sleeps, the engine thrums.
His lamps are set to light us from the past
To a near future unmysterious as this mast
With iron and what iron loves of kingdom come.
Patient iron! But, beyond the mainstruck, dumb
Blankness, or the twitch of reeling stars cast
Adrift in a white ocean of doubt.
Perhaps this tramp rolls toward a futurity
That broods on ocean less than on the gall
In seamen's minds. Is that star wormwood out
Among love's stars? This freighter eternity?
Where are we going? Life save us all."

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Bulletins from the Trade War

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico today discussed retaliatory measures, following US President Trump's draconian tariffs on their country's products.

Trudeau said, "We are pulling Seth Rogen, Martin Short and Celine Dion out of the U.S. Jim Carrey, Ryan Reynolds, Rachel McAdams, and Ryan Gosling may be next. And Christopher Plummer is never going to bail another American picture out of a mess."

Pena Nieto said, "Si. And good luck ever seeing Selma Hayek again."

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Don & Roseanne Show!

Bleary light at the end of the tunnel: ABC's cancellation of "Roseanne" leaves her free to join Trump's cabinet.

Saturday, May 26, 2018


May 26: Birthdate of Miles Davis. In 2018, he would have been 92.

Listen to "Kind of Blue" again.

Check Netflix for Don Cheadle's "Miles Ahead."

Friday, May 25, 2018

Take the T Train

"Okay, listen up: I'm the new voice of SkyTrain, and there are going to be some changes, let me tell you, some very, very big changes, changes like you have never, ever heard before.

"That other guy, whatever his name is, is gone, outa here. You know, I said when you're a star, you can get away with anything. I guess he wasn't as big a star as me. Because, frankly, who is? And when you're a star and the president, you really can get away away with anything.

"Next stop--let's see, they gave me some cards to read from. Next stop is the Brentwood Station. Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Maybe we're not stopping there. They could have had a Trump Tower. Missed their chance. Would have been beautiful, very beautiful. Losers.

"Coming up to Rupert. Named for my very good friend Rupert Murdoch. Don't see any Comey stations, do you? Or Don Lemon stations. Don't get me started.

"Right, next stop is Mar-a-Lago. Huh? Whaddya mean, this train doesn't go to Mar-a-Lago? You been listening to some fake news?  Wait a second--is this train bugged? Is there a Mueller spy in here?

"Everybody off the train! You're all fired!"

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Morgan Freeman says, "Sit up straight!"

It has been announced that Morgan Freeman will soon be issuing commands to SkyTrain passengers. Not that the Academy Award-winning actor will be riding the TransLink system; but we will hear his voice, delivering messages like this:

"Remember what your mom told you: don't put your feet on the furniture."

Each message will conclude with a reminder that you can now use a Visa card to charge your fare--one more way to increase your debt load.

We have a few suggestions for Morgan's messages. These include:

"Put down your phone and spare us all the details of your personal relationships."

"Please do not bring cartons of garlic chicken wings on board."

"If you have to sleep, do not rest your head on some stranger's shoulder."

"Did you remember to shower today?"

This is Morgan Freeman for Visa. Have a nice trip.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Philip Roth

If Philip Roth can die, who is safe?

He made light of mortality. He browsed grave sites, rejecting one because it wasn't near anyone he knew. "Who would I talk to?" he said. There was one he considered, but the gravedigger said it was too short for him--"You'd feel cramped."

Just recently, Roth said, "I go to bed with a smile, having lasted another day. And I wake up with a smile, having gotten through the night."

Some of his last books dealt with death or its approach--"Everyman," "Nemesis," "Exit Ghost."

He was eighty-five. Tony Bennett and Christopher Plummer keep on going.

Inside our copy of "Everyman" is this Emily Dickinson poem:

"The Only News I know
Is Bulletins all Day
From Immortality.

"The Only Shows I see--
Tomorrow and Today--
Perchance Eternity.

"The Only One I meet
Is God--The Only Street--
Existence--This traversed

"If Other News there be--
Or Admirabler Show--
I'll tell it You--"

Exit Ghost.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Cocktails with Cohen

"Summertime, and the drinkin' is easy..." Oops! Sorry! Who let Slap Maxwell in here?

But as he has raised an important issue, let's consider warm weather restoratives. The classic, of course, is gin and tonic, created in the 1850s by British officers serving in India. A daily dose of quinine was prescribed as a protection from malaria for soldiers under the Raj. Quinine, derived from the bark of a South American tree, is not the most appealing beverage, straight up, but it was found that by mixing it with soda water it became more palatable. The addition of gin made it even more so. Winston Churchill credited gin and tonic with saving "more Englishmen's lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire."

Another classic English cocktail is the gimlet, possibly named for a Dr. Gimlette, a British naval surgeon. It requires a lime cordial made first in 1857 in Edinburgh by a ship's chandler named Lachlan Rose. For many of us, the introduction to the drink came in Raymond Chandler's "The Long Goodbye," when Terry Lennox tells Philip Marlowe "A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow."

Then there are the great Italian contributions to the cocktail cart. Certainly Campari and soda alone, in a tall, ice-filled glass, is refreshing, but the most aristocratic is the invention of Count Camillo Negroni. At the Bar Cassoni in Florence, a little less than a century ago, the Count ordered a variation on the popular Americano. A Negroni, mixed to his specifications, combines gin, Campari and sweet Vermouth, and is served over ice with a large wedge of orange. Kingsley Amis, who knew his way around a bar, said, "This is a really fine invention. It has the power, rare with drinks and indeed with anything else, of cheering you up."

But today we feel compelled to raise a glass to Leonard Cohen, who at a recording session in Needles, California, in 1976, mixed tequila and cranberry juice, added a splash of Sprite, and topped it all with a handful of fruit. Later, he refined the recipe to simply tequila and cranberry juice over ice, with a lemon slice. Cohen called his creation Red Needles.

What can we say to all that? Simply, cheers!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ding Dong, the Bells are Going to Chime

It has been called a fairy tale wedding, and the nearer we draw to it, the more fairy tale aspects appear, now including envious siblings and the possibility of a wicked witch wielding a curse.

Not yet known is who will walk Rapunzel down the aisle to meet Prince Charming. The bets are on Louis, pronounced "Lewis," from "Suits."

And still to come--the groom's stag party! We hope to join in the three a.m. chorus, when Harry sings "Get Me to the Church on Time."

Monday, May 14, 2018

Summer Song #2

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

That's the opening line of "Summer Song," written seven hundred years after "Sumer is Icumen In."

This twentieth century summer song was composed by Dave Brubeck, with lyrics by his wife, Iola.

"I'll take summer, that's my time of year"

The great performance of the song was recorded by Louis Armstrong--surely a genius--with the composer at the piano.

There are several other summer songs to sing, from the Gershwins' "Summertime" to the Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer in the City" to the Italian/Brazilian "Estate." But the one that keeps playing in our cerebral concert hall is by the Brubecks and Louis.

It's summer with Satch.

"Now the days are getting long,
I can sing my summer song."

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Summer Song

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

Awe bletep after lomb,
Ihoup after calue cu,
Bulluc stertep, bucke uertep.
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu,
Wel singes pu cuccu.
ne swik pu nauer nu!
Sing cuccu nu, Sing cuccu!

Oldest surviving song in the English language.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Pointless Digressions blog shut down

Constable Dudley Dubledoo, speaking for the RCMP Irresponsible Posting Division, said the blog known as Pointless Digressions will be closed until further notice.

"Our action," he said, "was necessary in light of the recent posting providing instructions for the preparation of what are known as hash brownies. There were two outstanding egregious offences," the Constable continued. "The first was employing the obscure French term 'haschich.' The second was spelling cannabis with only one n. Who does this person think he is, arbitrarily fooling with spelling? He is not Gertrude Stein or the President of the United States."

The operation, said Constable Dubledoo, "was part of a joint effort by police forces to crack down on irresponsible postings. Uh--sorry to say 'crack.' Sorry about 'joint.'

"However," he concluded, "this should be viewed as a serious measure. It is not merely a toking gesture.

"Ha ha--of course I meant 'token gesture'. Ha ha.""

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Brownies with Alice and Gertrude

Our reference to the legendary Alice B. Toklas brownies has brought requests for the recipe. In fact, "The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book" does not call these confections brownies: the recipe is for "Hashchich Fudge," and was given to Ms. Toklas by an English painter and poet named Brion Gysin.

Ms. Toklas writes, "This is the food of Paradise." She recommends serving it accompanied by "large quantities of hot mint tea," and says, "Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter, ecstatic reveries and extensions of one's personality are to be expected."

The ingredients: one teaspoon black peppercorns, one whole nutmeg, four sticks of cinnamon, one teaspoon coriander, a handful each of chopped dates, figs, almonds and peanuts, a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter, and finally, a bunch of canibus sativa.

Ms. Toklas has words of caution: "It should be eaten with care," she writes. "Two pieces are quite sufficient."

Monday, April 30, 2018

Happy Birthday, Alice!

April 30, 1877, was the birthdate of Alice B. (for Babette) Toklas.

Celebrate! Bake some brownies!

Comedians in the Post-Lenny Bruce Era

The shade of Lenny Bruce may be enjoying a sardonic grin, now that stand-up comics can get away with routines on network TV far beyond the schtick that got Bruce booted out of tiny clubs. George Carlin used to riff on "Seven Words You Can't Say on TV." Now there are no words you can't say on TV. In fact, there are writers especially hired to add more of those words.

Most recent--and most entertaining--example: Michelle Wolf's 19-minute monologue at the White House correspondents dinner. True, some of those attending might have had a more comfortable Saturday evening by staying home and watching old "Honeymooners" re-runs. And indeed, while Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders were sent in to bite the bullet, not all White House stalwarts were present. Mike Pence said, "I didn't feel it would be appropriate viewing for Mother and I."

Some of the event's organizers, and some journalists, felt compelled to apologize for Ms. Wolf's performance, mainly for things they didn't hear. Jimmy Kimmel's retort: "Next time, hire a juggler."

Meanwhile, there's a burst of activity at Democratic headquarters, preparing for 2020: "Jimmy Kimmel for President! Michelle Wolf, VP!" Or vice versa.

Think how much better the debates would be.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Happy Birthday, Melania

Donald Trump confessed on "Fox and Friends" that he has been "too busy" to look for a birthday present for the First Lady.

"But I'll make it up to her," he said. "I may make Melania Attorney General."

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Naming the Prince

The arrival of a new Royal has British bookmakers busy taking bets on the infant prince's possible name.

Of course, as the baby was born on April 23, both St. George's Day and William Shakespeare's birthday, he might be named George or William, if those names were not already taken.

Odds-on favorite for the no-name-as-yet prince is Arthur, followed by James, Albert and Philip. Way down the list are Wayne, Tarquin, Boris and Donald.

The names currently most popular for male infants are Liam, Noah, Oliver and Logan. Apparently, none of these is in the running.

Meghan Markle suggested the name of one of the characters on "Suits" might be nice--"Harvey, perhaps, or Lewis." Prince Harry said, "Let's give the kid a name that's tough, like Ving or Rocky. Or a pop star name, like Jay-V or Ice Cube or Prince. Hey, how about that? Prince Prince."

If you're placing a bet on the baby's name, and feel lucky, try Leroy. That would pay off at 500/1.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Shakespeare and St. George

"For Harry, England and St. George!" Henry V cries, to rouse his troops before the battle of Agincourt. And it is our call today, April 23, St. George's day, the day on which we honor the patron saint of England, slayer of dragons, rescuer of maidens.

It is also the presumed birthday of William Shakespeare, who exited this world on the same date, fifty-two years later. Apparently Shakespeare had a flair for drama.

A similar display of mortal showmanship was given by Mark Twain, born in 1835 on a night when Halley's comet flashed thru the sky. Twain predicted he would die the next time the comet appeared, and in 1910, he did. (Next sighting of the comet is due in 2061.)

St. George's Day and Shakespeare's birthday--write a sonnet; take a dragon to lunch (or rescue a maiden).

And a good morning to those still coming in on the Sun Run.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Prize in Every Box

A past week of prizes--the Pulitzers and the Glenn Gould. The Glenn Gould Prize went to the majestic soprano Jessye Norman, whom some of us were fortunate to hear at Vancouver's Orpheum Theatre a generation ago. She sang the Strauss "Four Last Songs," which has become her signature work, but she also sang some cabaret songs, giving a clever Dietrich impression.

Much excitement over the Pulitzer Prize in music going to rapper Kendrick Lamar for his album "Damn." it has been noted that he is the first pop artist to receive the prize. The jazz breakthrough came in 1997, when Wynton Marsalis was awarded the Pulitzer for his oratorio "Blood on the Fields." Then, in 2007, Ornette Coleman was rewarded for "Sound Grammar."

The most notorious incident involving the music award came in 1967, when the administrators of the prizes refused the judges' recommendation that it be given to Duke Ellington. The judges, including critic Winthrop Sergeant, resigned in fury, but Ellington remained cool--at least, in public---saying, "Fate has been kind to me. Fate doesn't want me to become famous too young." Ellington was then sixty-seven. He was awarded a citation, posthumously--the same belated honor given to George Gershwin, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Hank Williams. Bob Dylan was still around to receive his.

Not all winners have accepted the prize. Among those who said, "Thanks, but no thanks" was William Saroyan, awarded the Pulitzer for drama in 1940. He declared that "commerce should not judge the arts."

But knowing writers, we bet there were moments later when he wished he had taken the $1,000 prize. (It's now $15,000.)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Imaginary Reviews of James Comey's Book

"Really caught the essence of this wonderful President, a man we have all come to know and love for his caring ways" -- VP Mike Pence.

"Big Jim is a real stand-up guy. Just wish I was that tall. Or half as tall." -- Jeff Sessions.

"Delightful! So full of entertaining stories! What adventures Donny has had! Laughed and laughed!"  -- Melania.

"Generally don't read anything unless it's by Tom Clancy, but this book really is the bee's knees. (Do people still say that?)" -- General John F. Kelly.

"Comey not only delivers a great read, he's also a very hot guy. Hubba hubba! (Do people still say that?)" -- Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

"Loved it! Syriaously! Ha ha! Little play on words there. And people say I don't have a sense of humor." -- D. Trump.

"Can't wait for the movie." H. Clinton.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

April, one more time

"Oh, to be in England, now that April's there"

Robert Browning was in Florence, where he lived from 1846 to 1861, when he wrote that.

April has stirred the spirits of many songwriters; thus we have "Lost April," "April Showers," "I Remember April," "April Love," and--perhaps best known of all, thanks to Thad Jones's great arrangement for the Count Basie orchestra--Vernon Duke's "April in Paris."

Who can forget seeing the Basie band in Mel Brooks's "Blazing Saddles" playing "April in Paris" in the middle of a desert?

As the Count liked to say, "one more once."

Browning would agree.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Do Not Be a Gowk

April 1, 2018, is both Easter Sunday and April Fool's Day--the first time this curious juxtaposition has occurred since 1945.

The origin of Easter celebrations is well known, but the background of April Fool's (or All Fools) Day is more confused. It may have sprung from the Roman Cerealia, held at the beginning of April, commemorating the rather nasty trick played on Proserpina and her mother, Ceres, by Pluto.

In India, tricks are played as part of the March 31 Holi Festival. In France, an April fool is un poisson d'avril--literally, a poor fish. And in Scotland, a person successfully gulled this day is a gowk, or cuckoo.

Be on guard. Don't be a gowk. And Happy Easter.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday and Springtime

It is Good Friday, and a lovely, gently sunny spring day--which seems wrong for a day that should be grey and bleak, overcast and leaden. But there are always surprises.

"Good" may seem an inappropriate word for the day, considering what it commemorates; but in this usage, "good" means "holy." Many will be in church today, or taking part in processions, marking the Stations of the Cross. For contemplation alone, there is Bach's Mass in B Minor, and John Donne's "Good Friday, 1613: Riding Westward."

Then there is a Hemingway story--little known, and a curiosity in the Hemingway collection--called "Today is Friday." It imagines a conversation among Roman soldiers in a tavern after the Crucifixion. Faulkner also wrote a story on the theme of the Passion; he called it "A Fable," and it is set in France during World War One. And in Philip Wylie's "Opus 21" a mysterious figure named "Chris" appears on the Enola Gay, and urges the crew not to drop the bomb on Hiroshima.

Finally, this piece of good news for some: those whose birthday falls on Good Friday are said to have the ability to see spirits and the power to combat them.

And in three days--Easter!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Scam Season & Russian Roulette

As the deadline approaches for tax filing, there is the usual rash of cyberscams and telephone calls--fake messages purported to be from Canada Revenue, either promising a refund or threatening legal action.

But recent news regarding the cyber tampering with votes, from the US presidential election to Brexit, makes these other scams seem puny and amateurish.

Electronic communication systems are wonderful in many ways, but it was harder pull off trickery when people communicated by chipping their messages in stone tablets.

Meanwhile, as western nations continue to penalize Russia by expelling diplomats and closing consulates, President Trump has gone a step further, saying he is returning his volumes of Dostoevsky. "Didn't read them all that much anyway," he said.

Some nations are trashing their albums of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Rimsky-Korsakov. "However," said a spokesman for the Canadian Senate, "we are not getting rid of our vodka."

He added, "Except, of course, in the traditional way. Although we draw the line at ordering a Moscow Mule."

Monday, March 26, 2018

Just wondering...

There seems to be a great physical similarity between White House news flacks Raj Shah and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Is it possible that RJ is really Sarah in a suit? Or that Sarah is Raj in drag? There is similar grace in their movements.

But we won't stick around to find out. We're now getting all our news from the National Enquirer and other highly regarded news journals at the supermarket checkout counter.

And back at Mar-a-Lago, the Number One song is "Stormy Weather."

"Don't know why, there's no sun up in the sky--stormy weather."

Friday, March 23, 2018

Jumping Ahead on the Junos

Wilton Flaneur, our Arts & Culture Correspondent, is predicting the big winners at this weekend's Juno Awards show. Here are Wilton's picks:

Female pop group: The Distressed Jeans

C&W song: "I Want Trump Stuck/In My Dump Truck"

Classical recording: A toss-up between "Get Off My Bach" by the Knackwurst Glockenspiel Ensemble and "His Bach is Worse Than His Bite" by the Fliegelhausen Staatsoperette.

Electronic Music: Cambridge Analytica

Album  of the Year: "Stormy Daniels Sings"

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Dept. of Clarification

Following the previous posting, we should note that while Bob Haymes wrote the lyrics for "They Say It's Spring," the lovely melody was written by Marty Clarke.

In a switch, Haymes wrote the music for "That's All" (recorded in France as "C'est Tout") but the lyrics were by Alan Brandt.

"You for Me,"another song recorded by Blossom Dearie, was all Haymes, words and music.

Bob Haymes, who, like  Ms. Dearie, spent a lot of time in France, also wrote French lyrics for her for "I Won't Dance," and other songs. Her Francophone version of "It Might As Well Be Spring" is charming.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Spring Playlist

"They say it's spring, that has me daft as a daisy..."

Our favorite spring song, composed by Bob Haymes--yes, brother of Dick--who also wrote "That's All." Great recordings by Blossom Dearie and Nat Cole and Bobby Short.

Other songs for this season's playlist:

"Spring is Here"
"It Might as Well Be Spring"
"Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year"
"Joy Spring" (remember Clifford Brown)
And for senior C&W fans: "When It's Springtime in the Rockies"

"They say it's spring..."

Friday, March 16, 2018

Ten Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day

1. Pour a generous draught of Irish whiskey--Midleton Very Rare, if (a) you can find it, and (b) you've just won the lottery. (Someone has suggested a drop of pickle juice in a glass of Johnny Jameson's for a true Irish drink, but not at this bar.)

2. Serve up colcannon and boxty and Guinness stew. And, if you're lucky, you might find Molly O'Rourke's Irish Whiskey Fruit Cake.

3. Try to read "Finnegan's Wake."

4. Okay, then--just sing "Finnegan's Wake."

5. Watch "The Quiet Man" for the twenty-fifth time.

6. Listen to a Mary Coughlan CD. Seriously.

7. Try to find a clip of Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney singing "When Irish Eyes are Smiling."

8. Hang out with Jiggs at Dinty Moore's saloon. Watch out for Maggie.

9. Get in a fight.

10. Dance a jig.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Adieu, Hubert

Hubert de Givenchy--the six foot, six inch Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy--has departed for the great fashion runway in the sky, joining such other legends of haute couture as Chanel, Schiaparelli, Dior, and the one he followed and most admired, Balenciaga.

Givenchy will be remembered always as the creator of designs of simple elegance, designs that became instant classics, for some of the world's most beautiful women. His signature work: the black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Fragrances were also created by the House of Givenchy, and this morning, in his memory, we released from an atomizer a wisp of Ysatis, for there should always be a trace of Givenchy in the air.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Moonlight Saving Time

So we've lost another hour of sleep. Early morning DJs dragged themselves from bed cursing even more than usual.

The concept of Daylight Saving Time was introduced by someone named Gordon Hudson in 1895, but the first nationwide application came in 1916, imposed by the German Empire. That wasn't the only bad idea Germany had in those years.

But there is an upside: carefully tuck away all those daylight hours you're saving, and next winter, when it's cold and blustery, you can withdraw them and bask in summery warmth! There is an elderly miser in Nebraska who has been hoarding daylight hours since 1943, and when he releases them, it will be like a year in Miami.

Our preference, however, is for Moonlight Saving Time, as proposed by Irving Kahal, words, and Harry Richman, music. The move to Moonlight Saving Time has been pushed by converts from Maurice Chevalier and Jay Wilbur's Hottentots in 1931 to Leonard Feather's Swingin' Swedes in 1952 and Hamilton's Diana Panton in 2007.

Everyone, all together now:

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

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Sherman and the Odds

News comes that Richard Sherman, perhaps the greatest cornerback pro football has seen, a player who helped the Seattle Seahawks take the 2014 Super Bowl, has been released by the team.

This brought to mind some of Sherman's many memorable words (he is as good behind a microphone as he is blocking a pass). He said, "It gives me something that nothing else does--that rush, a sense of belonging. It's where I'm at home. The game is my muse. It's my release, my stage, my family. It's the place I feel like I'm made for."

After the announcement of Sherman's release, Las Vegas bookmakers dropped the odds of the Seahawks taking the 2019 Super Bowl to 30-1.

--Slap Maxwell.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Ode to March

Like an army defeated,
The snow hath retreated;
The Ploughboy is whooping--anon--anon!
There's joy in the mountains,
There's life in the fountains,
The rain is over and gone!

         Guest Blogger William Wordsworth.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Beefcake on the Ice

George Karrys, the Toronto publisher of "The Curling News," has produced a 2018 "Men of Curling" calendar. It features photos of international skips and sweepers who skipped much of their woolies to sweep to brawny glory in an Oslo restaurant. This may be the male ice rink version of the "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit issue.

John Landsteiner, of the US curling team, said, "A lot of older ladies up in Alberta or Saskatchewan are going to buy those things up." He may be right: most of the 10,000 print run has been purchased.

On the other hand, we know a few older ladies in Alberta and Saskatchewan who might want to go after Landsteiner with brooms of their own.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Lilac me, Gianni

"In this, our spring fashion issue," writes Vanessa Craft, editor-in-chief of Elle, "we asked our cover star to showcase the color lilac. This spring hue is fresh, playful and provocative..."

So what we want to know is: where is that lilac-colored Versace suit we looked at longingly many springs ago?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day at the White House

The oval office is covered in hearts, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders is leaning languorously by the Valentine box, garbed in the seductive Gypsy costume of Carmen, a rose between her teeth, which she removes to murmurously sing "Besame Mucho."

Now the Valentine cards are being distributed. Here's the first one:

"Who's in the parlor, kissy-koochin
With glamor puss Steve Mnuchin?"

And how about this?

"Believe me, Paul, you've got me sighin'
For your devotion, Speaker Ryan."

And now, for the President:

"Dear President Trump, don't mean to be nosey,
But do you have a thing for Nancy Pelosi?"

Ha-ha! And one more:

"POTUS, will you dunk a cruller
With your bromance pal, Robert Mueller?"

And let's look at this one, inside a heavily perfumed envelope:

"Chocolate is sweet, durian is smelly.
Let's send a bunch to General Kelly."

And that's it for our inside look at the White House Valentine's party. As we leave, Ms. Huckabee Sanders is about to warble the famous aria from "Carmen" known to Jimmy Durante as "Have a Banana."

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Pence: "We're just good friends."

Slap Maxwell here, with breaking news from the Winter Olympics in Pyongyang, South Korea:

Surprise winners in the mixed bobsled race today were US Vice President Mike Pence and Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

Despite the closeness of the pair in the sled, Mr. Pence insisted, "We're just good friends."

There was no word on whether the VP would accompany Ms. Kim to the Olympics Valentine's Day Ball.

"I'll have to clear it with Don," he said. "And of course, Mother [i.e., Mrs. Pence] would come as chaperone."

Monday, February 12, 2018

Official White House Valentine

Roses are red, violets are blue,
POTUS sends his love to you.
I hope we can resume relations.
Those were merely allegations.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Arf! Arf!

As days pass on the Chinese lunar calendar, we come close to entering the Year of the Dog, a triumphant occasion for dachshunds, dobermans, boxers, beagles, bulldogs, Afghans, salukis, greyhounds, great Danes, Irish wolfhounds, Scottish terriers, King Charles spaniels, collies, chihuahuas, pomeranians, poodles, lhasa apsos, mutts and pooches of every size and breed, and, of course and especially, the chow chows and shih tzus. All will be gathering for a gala doghouse celebration.

In China, where the dog is revered, the most popular name for a canine companion is not Spot, Rex, Rover, Prince, Bowser, Lassie or Buddy. It is Wang Cai. Wang Cai translates as "prosperous wealth."

We could all use a dog like that. "Wang Cai! Here, boy!"

Monday, February 5, 2018

Calendar Conundrum

For the first time in seventy-four years, Ash Wednesday, one of the moveable feasts on the church calendar, falls in 2018 on February 14--Valentine's Day.

The last time this happened was in 1944. In 118 years, it has occurred only three times.

This presents a conflict for those who view Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the season of repentance and self denial, with appropriate solemnity, but are also romantically inclined, and associate St. Valentine's Day with flowers and bon-bons, Cupid's arrows and flirtatious cards signed "Guess Who."

Dealing with this situation calls for the combined wisdom of an archbishop and a lovelorn colonist.

Please send advice to "Confused, Pointless Digressions."

Friday, February 2, 2018

St. Brigid & Bill Murray

It is Groundhog Day, and people everywhere will be wondering if Bill Murray woke up and saw his shadow.

It is also--or so we thought--St. Brigid's Day. Wrong. The feast day for St. Brigid, one of the patron saints of Ireland, was yesterday. Brigid is, among other roles, the patron of dairymaids, cattle and babies, and among her miracles was turning water into beer. Pour a Guinness in her honor.

Meanwhile, the wretched news continues to seep out of Washington. Regarding the current battle between the White House and the FBI, the Trump team is fortunate that J. Edgar is no longer running the bureau. Hoover, who kept presidents and attorneys general terrified for decades, would have had dossiers on all those guys. "Representative Nunes? We have some photographs here..."

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Dreaded Second Month

Dreaded by radio announcers, that is. February. The almost unpronounceable word.

We have talked about this before. But, it is a problem that won't go away, until someone changes the name of the second month on the Julian calendar. Golden-voiced broadcasters, over whose tongues names like Quagadougou and Matershala Ali flow effortlessly are stumped by February. Try as they may, it comes out Febooarey or Feboobery or Febrewery (Freudian slip).

There has been a handful of announcers able to negotiate the tricky four syllables of February, including Bill Phillips, who was able to speak it with seamless ease in seven languages, including Urdu and Swahili.

But for those still gargling and choking over February, this word: take heart. Only 28 days to go. Hey, it could be worse; it could be leap year.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Happy Birthday, Tom, Norm & Jim

We feel mildly guilty at borrowing items from Thames and Hudson's excellent "Book of Days for the Literary Year," but we couldn't pass up its list of notable events for January 31, including the first performance of Chekhov's "Three Sisters" in 1904 and the publication in 1948 of J.D. Salinger's "A Perfect day for Banana Fish."

This was also the birthday, in 1915, of Thomas Merton, author of "The Seven Storey Mountain," and in 1923 of Norman Mailer, who, fifty years later, threw a party for himself at Four Seasons in New York and invited 5,000 people. Five hundred showed up.

And January 31, 1905, was the birthdate of John O'Hara, the remarkably prolific writer of an endless stream of some of the century's best stories and novellas.

Why Jim? Because it seems to us that Jim Malloy, the reporter turned screenwriter in O'Hara's great "Hope of Heaven" is probably a mirror image of the author.

But what do we know?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

State of the Onion

Good evening, fellow onion lovers, and welcome to the Green House.

It is an honor for me to deliver my first State of the Onion address.

There have been historic advances in horticulture over this first year of my term as Head Gardener, and I am pleased to report bumper crops of not only white and red onions, but also chives and shallots. And we have not ignored the minorities in our patch: witness the great growth of scallions.

We have also taken steps to preserve the sacred integrity of our turf. We have cracked down on unauthorized leeks, we are investing heavily to build up our supply of Raid, and we are about to build a giant fence along the border of our plot.

Finally, I must express my gratitude for the continued support of my beautiful wife, Vidalia.

Thank you, thank you. Please, seventeen standing ovations is enough.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Standing in Line--Forever

There are a number of persons behind whom it is unlucky to stand at a checkout counter. These include the lottery ticket fanatic who wants to argue about Quick-Piks with the clerk, the guy at the post office who has seventeen packages to mail, all different weights, to addresses from Azerbaijan to Kuala Lumpur, and the woman at the supermarket who insists she has the exact change, somewhere in her purse--"Just give me a minute"--and laboriously covers the counter with nickels and dimes.

Trickiest is the guy who comes up holding a single item, an eggplant or a bottle of chili sauce, and you say, "Only one thing? Please, go ahead." "Thanks," he smiles. Then when he's at the checkout, he asks for a pack of cigarettes that sends the clerk to the back room where the tobacco is hidden. When she returns, holding a package, he says, "No, not that one--the blue pack." Back she goes. When she appears again, he says, "I wanted kingsize." And so on, while the lineup behind him stretches from the frozen foods to the deli.

From now on, we're telephoning our orders. Or sending our designated shopper.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Pipe in the Haggis!

Here we are at Rabbie Burns Night, and it's time to get out our tartans, strap dirks to our calves, and prepare for the grand and rowdy celebration.

Some of us will recall Tommy Douglas reciting "A Man's a Man for A' That," and some will remember, with pleasure or alarm or both, Rufus Harley's recordings of bagpipe jazz, but most will be looking forward to heaps of haggis and goblets of athol brose.

Almost everyone is aware of the ingredients of haggis--a mix of sheep's innards and oats stuffed into the beast's stomach--but athol brose may still be a Scots mystery to some. It is a heady combination of whisky, oats, honey and cream. Quick, fill my cup!

Note: vegan and gluten-free versions of haggis may be available, along with non-alcoholic athol brose.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Trump's Disease

Faithful followers--please, I'm sure there are some--will have noticed an absence of posts over the past few weeks. This was caused by the proprietor falling prey to what our old pal Saddam would have called the mother of all colds.

But, as the brain clears, we have begun to think the malady was not the work of a vicious virus or belligerent bacteria or a malignant mistletoe embrace, but was brought on by an overload of US political news; in particular, too much Trump.

Our esteemed Editor #1 announced in December that for her, it was going to be a Trump-free Christmas. And, indeed, she sailed thru, safe from rib-cracking coughs and wall-shaking sneezes. This writer, however, was overcome by what medical journals now designate as Trumpitis, the initial onslaught compounded by over exposure to the pestilence of Pence, Ryan, McConnell, Kelly, Miller, Mulvaney, Sanders and Conway.

So we are now in our bubble, protected from the contagion of Trump tweets. Call us in 2020. Or, one hopes, even sooner.

Saturday, January 6, 2018


We have arrived at the feast of Epiphany, an observance older than Christmas, celebrated since the third century, to commemorate the visit of the Magi--the Wise Men, the Three Kings--to Bethlehem, where they saw the infant Jesus, and in him, perceived God.

The word "epiphany" is derived from the Greek word for "manifestation," and that word is included in most definitions: "a sudden manifestation of deity..a hidden message," "a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new way," and, in James Joyce's words, for he wrote often of epiphanies, "a sudden spiritual manifestation."

One of the most famous works associated with Epiphany is Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," written for a performance in the court of James I on January 6--which is both Epiphany and the twelfth night after Christmas. Often quoted is T.S. Eliot's "Journey of the Magi," beginning "A cold coming we had of it, Just the worst time of year.." ("The worst time of year"--a phrase from a 1620 sermon by Lancelot Andrewes.)

"Journey of the Magi" is also the title of a wonderful book--part adventure, often comic--by Paul William Roberts, an English, Toronto-based journalist who set out to travel the route of the Wise Men ("the men from the East") from Tehran to Bethelehem.

These are all writings we're drawn to in January, and another is "The Four Wise Men" by Michel Tournier, a work of stunning originality. One critic wrote, "There is a real touch of magic in this novel."

Finally, we remember a poem similar to Eliot's on the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem, but much more lighthearted. In it, the Wise Men stay with the Holy Family until Jesus is a toddler, and he and his little friends have fun riding the camels. Somehow, we have lost this poem, and can't remember the writer's name. If you do, please let us know. Reward: a bag of frankincense. Sorry, we're out of gold.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Damage Control at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," which sold out its first printing faster than a new Harry Potter, has the Trump damage control team working overtime. Let's listen in:

Spin Doctor: "In this book, you're quoted as saying the President has all the mental capability of a watermelon."

White House insider: "I didn't say that."

Spin Doctor: "Good. Did Wolff have his tape recorder running when you didn't say that/"

Insider: "Uh...I'm not sure."

Spin Doctor #2: "Look, they're claiming he doesn't read. Well, what if we show them his lifetime subscriptions to Penthouse and Hustler?"

Spin Doctor #3: "Hey, McDonald's is on the phone. They want to know if they can film a commercial of him in bed eating a bag of Big Mac cheeseburgers."

Spin Doctor #4: "Thank heavens. We deserve a break today."

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Most Challenging New Year's Resolution

Keeping my New Year's resolutions. (Can I at least make it to the end of the first week?)

Monday, January 1, 2018

Comforting Words for New Year's Eve Revelers

"Thoughts while recovering from a hangover: It's better to have a few mornings after than never to have a night before."      

--Jack Wasserman.