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."