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Wednesday, July 31, 2002
Avoid my party! I wonder if the founders of the invitation web site are aware that their name, in French, means "Avoid"? Well, you'd use "evite!" in the imperative when talking with your friends, siblings and/or children. "Evitez" for elders and strangers. Fearless, I know, hates the "E-thing" convention the same way I hate certain speech affectations (though I try to ignore those that my friends have, however much they bug me). Mad Melvin used to anglicise his conversation at one time, always referring to gasoline as "petrol," the car's trunk as "the boot" and dollars as "quids." I always wanted to snarl, "Dad, you were born in Lethbridge, not London," but I never did. The one bad client I have has a wandering Etonian accent that she brings to bear whenever she's disagreed with; as soon as she switches from saying "very" to "veddy", I picture her bleached bones scattered on the plains, her skull revolving slowly on a pikestaff.
While researching the Glenbow Museum archives yesterday, specifically the photos, I found my paternal grandmother's class picture taken in in the hamlet of Spring Coulee, Alberta, in 1924. There she is, Marguerite Munro, a tiny Scots girl with masses of bobbed hair shadowing her face. And making up the front row of the class were small boys sitting cross-legged on the floor, all barefoot. The picture was taken in June so the weather would have been warm, but class pictures were a special occasion, a time to wear your best, and I suspect that the boys would have been made to wear their boots if they'd had them. I spent the next few minutes in time-travelling reverie. Then I found a picture of my current neighbourhood that was taken in 1920. We haven't cleaned it up much since then.
The summer reading list is well underway, and typically I keep adding books to it. I've finished "Stet" and "The Young Hornblower Omnibus" and "Banvard's Folly" and am well underway in "London: A Biography" as well as a recent interruption, Richard Ellman's biography of Oscar Wilde, which is marvellous. And my next remark is especially for the Mango: get your hands on both "Esquire's Big Book of Fiction," which is full of surprise and reward, and do not deny yourself the sheer selfish pleasure of "The History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters" by Julian Barnes. And I exhort all my creative reading-type pals to experience the Collected Stories of Andre Dubus. Even if you're not a fan of realist prose, these stories leave their mark.
"A Milliner's Nightmare," by Jane, Grade IV. Nikki informs me that I must, while on the Pony Express trip, wear a black cowboy hat in addition to red button-down shirt, yellow bandanna, denims and boots. We should be able to be seen from space in that get-up. But damn, me in a cowboy hat! Hater of All Things Stampede, she who considers it the single dumbest head-covering in recent history. Somewhere daemons are laughing and pointing, I just know it.
Monday, July 29, 2002
Major, major congrats to the bride and goon.
It's a go, I think -- this fall's Pony Express trip in Nevada. Just got off the phone with Nikki -- she's set up mail exchange between schools in Victoria, BC and schools in Nevada along the original Pony Express route, hired the trailer, truck and motorhome, arranged for horses and tack, set up book signings and other publicity, and all before lunch. Whereas I brushed and flossed my teeth, dressed myself, and did not ride my bike through too many puddles on the way to work. That's why I'm the truck driver and trailer hauler on this adventure. Should perhaps try to get in a practice session with a horse trailer and truck before setting off. Have a feeling that this whole excursion may be filed in the "What Was I Thinking?" drawer, already filled to overflowing.
After the Folk Fest there's the overwhelming feeling of more incredible musical epiphanies in the warm sunshine and breeze. No more hiding under borrowed tarps during an electrical storm. Then again, no more bogus post-9/11 philosophizing that equates everything the United States has ever done, ever, with the Al Qaeda agenda. I guess I should have seen it coming, that just about every performer would have something to say about the post-9/11 world. It seems to be the folk singer way. From the predictable "People, we gotta love each other. It's that simple." Hey! Somebody should get Osama's cell number and pass this along. He should hear this! Or the vacuous "We can bomb the world to pieces, but we can't bomb it into peace." [Oh, no? I'd bet more than a few WWII veterans could plausibly argue that the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima ended the war, thus bringing peace of a sort. Not that I'm pro-bomb. Just anti-stupid song lyrics, really.] But Robyn Hitchcock didn't indulge in such moralizing and/or infantile invective, just carried on being his own lunatic word-loving guitarist self, which elevated him further, if possible, in my estimation.
I saw so many acts that I can't remember every one, but here's a few whom I loved: The Sadies, Norouet, La Bottine Souriante, Dervish, Peter Case, Nick Lowe, Jesse Cook, Harry Manx, Lynn Miles, Mary Gauthier and, naturally, the deadly funny, cussing yet soulful troubadour, Dan Bern. And the ever-wonderful Co-Dependents, who are fast becoming a legend.
I have to hand it to the organizers of this year's Festival -- it sets the standard against which all future fests will be judged. Absolutely excellent all around. Note: this phrase does not encompass the inevitable horror that is porta-potties, but I feel it's unfair to blame the festival organizers for the propensity of some folk to perform a clog dance while going. Friends and I had an energetic chat about how women should design porta-potties for women -- ah, but that's beside the point. I'll thrill you with those musings later. Yay Calgary Folk Fest 2002.
Thursday, July 25, 2002
I, Knucklehead: Lovely time at the Folk Fest. Not so lovely is coming back to my car and finding that I have once again left my lights on. Of course, as a good Classics student, I see elements of divine comedy in it all: I have parked across from a notorious party house. There is a crowd of people in the front yard who can't wait to see the idiot who left her lights on return to her car. "Dude, your lights are on!" "Man, I think you left your lights on." "Just said that, dude!" "Oh yeah." Then I spend a good half hour on the phone trying to find a towing service that's available. Apparently it's Get Towed and Boosted Week here in Calgary. One service tells me they can give me a about 4 hours. Desperate, I call Directory Assistance to get the latest towing company listing. They give me a number, all right...for an Edmonton towing company. That'll also take four hours, because they've got to drive all the goddamned way to Calgary first. I did manage to contact one company who said they could send someone by in a half hour or so. Here's hoping and hoping and hoping.
Folk Fest notes: Chantal Kreviazuk has a lovely voice and can hammer at a keyboard quite capably, but lord, that had to be the ditziest between-song banter I've ever heard. Shut up and sing.
Oh, and obligatory goofy fan moment for me: making my way through a crowd, I clumsily jar the arm of the man in front of me. It's Robyn Hitchcock. I grin sheepishly, die a little inside, apologize and move on.
Three scenarios to illustrate the sliding scale of lethal danger: (1) Steve Irwin annoying taipan snakes in Queensland, (2)UN peacekeeping forces in Rwanda, and (3) offering me advice and/or help when I haven't asked for it. Actually I'm a bit ashamed of myself for losing my patience at the lawn bowling club last night. One of the seniors decided it was his duty to improve my game and without asking, and disregarding all the warning signs (hair on end, stiffened back, narrowed eyes, clenched and bared teeth), called out such encouragements as "you're not standing right!" "A little too far forward on the mat, dear." "You were two feet wide on that one -- you threw it too far inside." And thus I snapped at the harmless, albeit annoying old gent: "Didn't ask!"
Because I'm feeling some remorse over lack of control over my irritability, I'm tempted to say that such helpfulness bugs the holy hell out of me since it's too similar to what I grew up with, namely, non-stop parental or familial commentary. "You played two wrong notes in that last song." (I know. I KNOW.) "My, that's a big mouthful." (Shut up.) "You're turning the pages too fast. You can't be absorbing any of that." "You're standing funny." (SHUT UP, PLEASE, I BEG OF YOU.) And on and on and on. How I dreaded family reunions because of those Commentators. Well, so what: I had watchful parents and interfering relatives, big deal. Hardly a childhood trauma. The true origin of my problem is that I know I'm utter crap at all sports, and unsolicited help merely reinforces what I already know: I have no hand-eye coordination, live in hope of fluke shots, and am so bad that complete strangers feel compelled to coach me.
Wednesday, July 24, 2002
"All right...he has fooled...the chicken." Bad Man is right, Angry Chicken is well worth watching. I particularly appreciated how the director included a less-than-exact English translation of the French narration, which is so widespread in foreign films seen here. But who am I kidding, it's just fun to watch a guy outrunning a chicken.
Duane also links to the Buddy Lee spots, and I have to say that "The Emu" was extremely funny, but! When you go to the site, a blinking message informs you that the presentation is "preloading." What the hell? You can't load something before you load it! That's as impossible as "preboarding" an airplane. Pardon me while I prerant.
Tuesday, July 23, 2002
The one voice: Some time back I mused about why, in U.S. movie trailers, there seemed to be only one man doing all the voice-over narration. I wondered what his life might be like, how he came to have such a sought-after voice. Now, thanks to the brilliant and enviously pithy Strange Brew, I know who he is -- and more importantly -- how much he makes. Yowee.
Whazzat? About two weeks ago I was dozing on the sofa, cat protesting at every twitch, television tuned to some frothy entertainment hour. Sleepily I overheard a movie promo and wondered why actors of Harrison Ford's and Liam Neeson's experience would be wasting time in a summerweight comedy about adolescent/dog transmutations. It wasn't until I saw the movie listings in the newspaper that I realized the movie was "K-19," not "Canine Teen."
Book freaks may appreciate this more than others: somewhere in the archives there's a entry where I express my frustration about not being able to find the book "godbox" by Tim Earnshaw, reasoning that I live in the Commonwealth, dammit, so should be able to find a book that was published in the U.K. That's not the interesting bit. Here's the thing: having somehow come across my frustrated book-buying entry, Tim Earnshaw wrote me not once, but twice. First to find out if I'd been able to find "godbox," and when I replied that I had at last found it on the new site and ordered it forthwith, he wrote again to urge me to buy the other two books in the trilogy before they became collectors' items, i.e., remaindered -- as if they would be, Earnshaw.
I guess that's what I love about the Internet most of all: the connection. I regularly gush about writing to bloggers whose style and turn of phrase delight me, how pleased I am when they reply. Yet getting a reply from a published author seemed beyond reach, which is why I only ever blogged about it instead of writing directly to Mr. Earnshaw or his publisher.
Now it seems as though we've returned to more gracious times, where correspondence, so effortless over the 'Net, is regaining its former importance. Of course I realize I'm taking a romantic view of things, as usual. I don't have my e-mail listed here yet because I get enough flame-broiling from clients without inviting it from readers. [But for the record, it's, my birthday is June 12, and I hate parsnips and cantaloupe.]
While we're on the subject of the Internet, don't deny yourself the pleasures of Fush! -- a blog by Jason Fush. I am still laughing over his moral dilemma when selling his old car, particularly the question "What would sleazy attorney Jesus do?" And catch this week's entry on what Evil drives. He has the kind of style, like that of so many of my blog muses, that I would commit serious malfeasance to acquire.
Friday, July 19, 2002
Man Without a Face, huh? More like Man Without a Blog.
Nay, "tone-deaf" is too harsh a term to describe Sade's singing, says musical colleague who queried my yelling at the stereo. "She's a quarter-tone flat, that's all. And she has no phrasing to speak of. And her songs are dull. But she's NOT tone-deaf."
I've been wanting to say this for 17 years: Sade is tone-deaf.
Thursday, July 18, 2002
The amazing, self-baptizing Fearless: She and I have not seen much of Theo WonderHound lately, so we stole him from Bryce and Tabitha and took him to the river, where we greatly confused him by standing in the water 10 feet away from shore to throw his football into the current. He'd swim out, retrieve the ball, head for shore, and then stand stubbornly at the water's edge, waiting for us to come back. What are they doing out there? I'm the one who goes in the water, right? What the hell? After about an hour we were all tired of throwing and chasing the ball and decided to return home. Fearless, while carefully fording the deceptively strong current of the river channel, took one bad step, calmly said "Oh, shit," and disappeared beneath the surface. She'd threatened me with severe abuse earlier when I made as though to shove her in. Now I see why -- I forgot she's a real do-it-yourselfer. Meanwhile I'm on the riverbank, crying with laughter as a good friend should.
Spot the comic potential: In the heat wave in Calgary, with the temperature averaging between 32 and 35 degrees Celsius (86 to 90 degrees in old-school Fahrenheit), which is funnier?
  1. Having to write a Christmas and New Year brochure for a mountain resort hotel, complete with images of people frolicking in deep snow.
  2. Cranking one's back, necessitating the use of hot water bottles and heating pads in a condo without air-conditioning, where the temperature at night cools down to a sultry 29 degrees Celsius at best.
I wish I could say I cranked my spine doing something heroic, but in fact I was sitting at my desk, and while turning to punch out a few words on the keyboard, felt this pizzicato "ping!" between my shoulder blades.
Grantdalf Chagrin? No, no. No, Grant, it is you who have shown immense patience throughout this Internet provider/DSL/server escapade, not your hostees. Myself, I'd bow in gratitude, but given the state of my back I wouldn't be able to get back up again without help. But know this: you rock, sir.
Tuesday, July 16, 2002
Saving money on proofreaders, are we? A caption on the local news program this morning describes a missing woman as “Elderly female, 65 years old, 5 foot 4, with facial tick.” Checkmark? Sound effect? Tiny arachnid parasite? Or could they have meant “tic”?
And then last night I was researching (i.e., plagiarising) a swanky brochure for an amazingly expensive housing development in Telluride, CO, and came across a number of grammatical errors in the high-gloss, full-bleed pages. Mostly subject/verb agreement [“A lot of wildlife make their homes”], but occasionally there would be an out-and-out gaffe: “The other worldly Box Canyon sheltering Telluride.” Er, perhaps you meant “otherworldly”? But what do I know: there could be more than one worldly Box Canyon, I suppose. Worldly canyons abound in the Colorado Rockies.
Monday, July 15, 2002
So THAT’S where that expression came from. Ah. Saturday, noon, temperature about 36 degrees Celsius, I am on my deck, tending to the tomato thicket. Martini, as always, is yowling to get up on the ledge of the balcony for better viewing. I hoist her onto the ledge, and she seems happy enough, so I turn back to my gardening. Suddenly there is an unbelievably shrill feline scream that makes nearby tennis players miss easy shots, and brings neighbours out in droves. Martini, retardo, has jumped down from the railing onto the roof, and is desperately trying to stop each paw from scalding on the boiling black shingles. As she runs in a frenzy below the railing I am able to lunge over and grab her, hauling her up. Helpful comments from neighbours ensue about how the shingles are “really too hot for walking on.” No damage done to cat feet, only to my reputation as a responsible pet owner. [Did something similar happen to Tennessee Williams's cat? I wonder.]
But it’s a Heritage Sport, Jane: the local CBC station reports that the rodeo caused the deaths of five horses and one calf in this year’s Stampede. Add the words “that we know about” and you’ll be closer to the truth. Kind of like how no one really knows how many people die at Disneyland each year. During Stampede we’re only told about the animals that died in front of an audience. Not the ones that are euthanized behind the scenes. But hey! It’s part of Western culture, you commie whiners! Chuckwagon races are what made this country great! And if you disallow calf roping and steer wrestling, how are today’s young cowboys going to get cattle to market? Wait, you mean -- you don’t mean to tell me that ranchers don’t wrestle cows to the ground any longer, or flip calves off all fours prior to branding? When did this happen? Oh. About 60 years ago, if not longer. And why is that? Because you lost too many of both cowhands and animals to injury? Oh. Heh heh heh. Yee haw?
Territoriality, proprietorship, whatever. I have to ask myself: did Milton get frustrated when other people used “pandaemonium” without crediting him, or did he take it as an indirect compliment?
Note to self: Lawnchairs made of recycled plastic should not be left in direct sunlight in a heat wave, or at any rate not left in the sun and then sat upon by the generously buttocked. The chairs tend to buckle unexpectedly, like a camel sinking to the ground forelegs-first. Much to the mirth of the other guests at the garden party. Which garden party was otherwise entirely delightful, a birthday celebration for my old pal Karyn, hosted by her squadron of talented sisters. The decorations for the party alone would have made Martha seethe with envy. We were splendid in hats and cool linens, sipping from china cups, nibbling at crustless cucumber sandwiches and scones. Then Farries performs the bum’s-up stunt with the melting lawnchair, which was a chill reminder to assembled guests of the deplorable etiquette standards in modern society.
We gather at the river, “we” being Fearless, Rachel, Darcy and I, we inflate the raft, we stow the cooler, we launch ourselves into the current. The Bow River’s higher, faster and colder than I ever remember it being at this time of the year. But still, it is a tradition of the Summer Raft Ride that we dock at an island, picnic, and swim for an hour or so. I managed to stand in the water up to my hips without succumbing to hypothermia, but then I’m insulated, and even then I could only swim full-body for about five minutes before becoming too cold. You have to realize that I was actually overjoyed to be shivering in the midst of our current heat wave. It was the first time in two weeks I’d been comfortable outdoors. So it was a perfect day, floating in the swift waters, dangling a limb over the side to keep cool, dodging bridge pilings, getting sunburned, watching as the other three would float down the river with one hand holding on to the raft, then try to haul themselves back into the boat against the fiercely strong current. Definitely not easy; I didn’t even try. Then beer and chats at the end of the day, and hurray, a restful night’s sleep at last. I might have to repeat this prescription before the summer’s out.
Friday, July 12, 2002
Actually, it's as simple as this: You can be good friends with a person and yet be unable to work productively with that person. That's it: no drama, no recriminations. Just simple reality.
The Friday Scorecard: So the beloffed G3 did not merely need more RAM, but a new logic board, which begs the question: can I afford a new machine? And prompts the reaction: [deleted for repetitive effing and mofoing]. And thank you, Panasonic 4-head VHS videocassette recorder, for showing solidarity with the Mac through your own demise, choking to death on "Harold and Maude" last night.
Calgary handles heat waves so well. Two stabbings last night, directly across from the Police Services building downtown, resulting in one death; a brawl in front of a cheesy nightclub; and a broken beer bottle gala on the bike pathways not far from City Hall. Oh, and in local news, Martini has heat rash. Patting her is like stroking a fur-covered pickle. And with that delightful image, I'll leave you and return to my regularly scheduled aestivation.
Thursday, July 11, 2002
No one to blame for myself: Well, if you're going to commit a small but stupid error of judgment while driving, the best way to ensure you never repeat that error is to have some steroidal cowboy in a monster truck ride your bumper and holler at you through two sets of lights and a left turn. Yeah yeah yeah, I'm bad, it was careless, now run along and die painfully, Jethro.
Lightbulb gradually brightens: You know how when someone asks you for your advice and assistance, and you take a lot of time and effort to give that advice and assistance, and that someone proceeds to disagree with, and take offense at, everything you say? I just figured it out: that person does not want advice. That person only wants agreement and/or accolades. Do yourself a favour: Offer him/her a dictionary and cut your losses.
Tuesday, July 09, 2002
Forget about the separation of church and state. Give me the separation of church and sport. Watching the Wimbledon Women’s final last Saturday, I was bemused to hear Serena Williams thanking her God Jehovah for her victory. Surely there are better venues for witnessing one’s faith. Oh well, rant away, Farries, rant away, no one’s going to listen. I remember, on one of those rainy weekend afternoons where I was paralyzed in front of bad television, so shiftless that I was actually watching bowling, hearing the victor thank “Christ Jesus” for helping him bowl a perfect game. If you’re a deity, don’t You kind of have bigger things on Your agenda? Comfort the meek, succour the plague-stricken -- oh wait, there’s tennis on? Holy! Er, I mean. . .never mind. I realize this is very tricky ground here. Personally, I’m always embarrassed by profuse religiosity, being more of a “believe but you want but keep it down” type.
Congrats to Rich for the first use of “transwestite” in verse. Cheque’s in the mail, me old.
Creative Misappropriation in the Heart of The Rockies: Out to the mountains yesterday to present first concepts to hotel clients. One of the clients is the infamous Name Withheld, she who rewrites my copy because she is a Communications Specialist and Head of P.R., therefore good at all types of writing. [Note to my P.R. friends: you know I’m not talking about you. You know you’re not like this. Shut up.] Anyway, I and Gary had written three headlines for three different pieces, which were presented to the group. Some of the people at the meeting didn’t know I was the copywriter for the agency, and when they looked at the boards, two turned to Name Withheld and said, “Wow, great headlines! Good job, Name Withheld.” She smiled and said, “Yeah, they’re good, aren’t they?” Not: “I like them, but actually they’re not mine,” or even “They came from the agency.” The Karo ad exec, knowing Name Withheld only too well, said, “Yeah, Jane and our creative team had a lot of fun writing those.” Immediately Name Withheld tried to change the subject. She never did acknowledge that she hadn’t written them. I can’t even get angry over such absurd behaviour, only amazed that such people manage to make it to adulthood without other people killing them.
Sunday, July 07, 2002
It's nice to be back. Thanks, Grants. I had hoped to be able to relate that the intervening week of no blogs was filled with many interesting episodes, but then I thought, hey, why start a precedent? Let's just say that we are entering the worst time of the year for Jane, the heat wave season and that horrible festival of western tackarama called The Calgary Stampede. Not to mention I didn't win a single thing at the Staff Appreciation Day lawn-bowling tournament.
I can't believe we didn't win. My team went as Stampede Parade Rejects: I was the WorldCom float, pelting people with candy, balloons and stock certificates. Dave was Bad Clown, with expletive-scrawled balloons, mouldy crepe paper festooneries and condoms and syringes to toss to the kiddies. Carlye was the Road-Raged Shriner, beeping and screaming at everyone. And we didn't win the Costume Contest. This can't be happening.
Who actually won? The Holy Bowlers won the lawn-bowling portion of the game, and the head-banging Fubowl Brothers took the costume prize. They smoked everybody up, no wonder they won. And okay, they were generous with their weed and their stick-on tattoos, but where was the pathos?
I guess I should add here that, despite everyone being less than thrilled with a lawn-bowling tournament for Staff Day, good old Karo spirit came through once again, and everyone put their all into their costume themes. We had Moonies and Monsignors. Japanese geisha [who were not at all adverse to a hoot or two of homegrown; three little heads from school are we, indeed]. Politicians and flower children. And although I bowled worse than my usual abysmal game [I was wearing a cardboard carton, gawdsakes!], I was happy to have my picture taken by a roving Calgary Herald photographer. No pictures have made it into the paper yet, but perhaps I'll make the montage page of Stampede impressions next week. Oh, and I don't think I'll ever forget the sight of Dave's nasty balloons sailing high in the sky, heading for the zoo. In a moment of forgetfulness, he loosened his grip and the wind took them instantly. I wonder what hapless kid is going to happen upon the balloons and ask his parents, "What does 'Bite Me!" mean? What does F-*-C-K spell?" All part of the spirit of Stampede, wouldn't you say? I certainly would.
Tuesday, July 02, 2002
I was so glad, so very glad to move from my apartment last fall to a much quieter neighbourhood. No longer was I awakened once or twice a night by loathsome hogs, crotch rockets and monster trucks making a run at the hill. The airplanes that fly over the condo seem peaceful in comparison. So when I heard the farty rumble of a big Harley in our cul-de-sac, my heart sank. Sure enough, someone's rented his condo to a bike fanatic. And the sound gets trapped in the middle of the condos and reverberates whenever the new neighbour rides into town. He could be a nice enough guy, who knows? I just hate his mufflerless bike. This morning I was awake extremely early and caught sight of him walking his dog. Not a brain-damaged, hulking Rottweiler, as you might expect, but the bitsiest of miniature Dobermans. We're talking an hors d'oeuvre on a string here. So maybe I do not hate my new neighbour so much after all, him obviously having a strong sense of the ironic. Burly biker man and his fearsome microscopic guard dog! Do not mess with them.