Thursday, January 25, 2007

This Guy Walks Into a Bar....

I'm a funny guy.

Really, I am. Lots of people have told me how funny I am. For instance, take my wife.


Listening to the early morning radio, the DJs called for someone to phone in. It was your chance to tell a joke or do a stand-up bit or some such thing. A guy called about a girl who kept sneezing and moaning. She's on this medication that makes her orgasm every time she sneezes. Her friend asks are you taking anything for it?

(That looming bright light  is the punch line being telegraphed directly to your brain.)

"Pepper," she says.

That's a lousy joke, I thought. And poorly told. I called up off the air and told them a good joke. It had to do with an old couple in a nursing home. It was pretty funny.

Like me.

So here's my stab at stand up comedy writing:


I'm a pretty private guy. I like to keep all my personal habits to mostly to myself. So I'm not particularly partial to public washrooms. Even at work. I noticed the other day our washroom at work was re-done so that there's an automatic door because wheelchair people need to piss too, after all. 

I don't know what they think of urinals....

So I go to open the new door and - it's really heavy. All that automatic hinge contraption that they added to it, I just about broke my back.

I suppose if I had broken my back, at least I could be happy that now there's an automatic door to the bathroom....

I don't know if it's the same for women, but there are rules in the Guy's washroom. Unspoken and unwritten but, rules. No overt peeking is one. That's just uncomfortable. Some guys don't know the rules. My rules anyway. Because I'm more private about my, you know, habits and stuff. I should post the rule in the washroom because some guys get too friendly.

Not like that, friendly, they just want to talk.

I want to tell them about the no talking rule. When a guy's having a whiz, no talking. You can talk before and you can talk after, but you can't talk during. In fact, the line of demarcation, let's call it, is when the dick comes out. Once the dick comes out, no talking. You must wait until the dick's put back. There is one and only one exception to this rule where you can talk to a guy when his dick is out and that's if the guy's forgets to zip and is on his way out with his dick still out.

At this point you're allowed to say, "Hey man, your dick's still out."

"Oh, " (tucking in and zipping up). "Thanks."

Speaking of religion.

I sent my son to Sunday school the other day. I got him to tell his teacher the two things that Jesus was really into.

"What?" he asks me and I tell him.

Big wave surfing and NASCAR.

Monday, January 22, 2007

This Is The End, Beautiful Friend.

To continue the themes of age and the apocolypse:

There's an unofficial radio war going on in my city. For the sake of argument and to protect the innocent, let's call these two radio stations Q and Hal. Q is the established player, the rock and roll station. Seasoned DJs, lots of contests, stars come and play in the studio every now and then. Hal is the upstart, a classic rock station with a young morning duo and another young lady that hosts the afternoon drive, but (perhaps notably, perhaps not) there are no other personalities for the rest of the day. One has a history and depth of experience, the other has programming largely digital but an on-air element (when it's there) of youth that adds a certain intangible,  indefinable crackle to the broadcasts.

I've been flipping between the two ever since I saw the billboard advertising the beginning of Hal. I'm a fan of the classic rock format and recalled my last several trips to the States where the rental car radio was pre-set to the local classic rock station and would stay there for the whole trip. I remember a particular drive in a rented Toyota to a golf course outlying the Houston area. On the radio, Frampton played from the Comes Alive Album, "Do You Feel Like We Do" and I was completely transported by the music 


for that particular play of the record. It was my affinity for the genre that initially got me curious about the new local station, Hal, and give 'er a test drive. I liked it at first and continue to warm to it. In addition to the good music, the three people you hear on the radio are getting more comfortable in their spots and it's coming across in their patter.

I like both stations and often select based on what's playing. You'll have me until there's a song  I'm not fond of.

But here's the thing. And, actually, it's a big thing, no less than a harbinger of the end of our civilization.

You think I'm exaggerating.

Q now differentiates its brand by calling it "Q Rock" which is "classic rock plus the best of today's new rock". They have elaborate promos for this brand and it's a slogan I find very ill-advised. The promos begin with snippets of the best classic rock songs you've ever heard and whet your aural appetite for them. Then they announce "also today's new rock" and follow these great snippets with a snippet from something new and current and they play the track from something new and current, a COMPLETE LET-DOWN, because you were hoping from when you heard it for the classic stuff. The promo might have seemed a good idea to someone, but it turns out to be an idea that's as stupid as a Will Ferrell movie. Dreadful new song after dreadful new song, when I'm listening to Q and that promo comes on, my reflex response is to punch up the button to Hal.

And so, because people are strange, especially me, I reflect on this. The implications are heavy, dude.

(And by the way, for every bit of evidence I'm about  present, you, whoever you are, you the viewing audience will be able to come up with counter-arguments - what about Sam Roberts? What about Borat? What about Spielberg? What about The Sopranos? What about The Simpsons? The proving of the general rule, I say.) 

It's one of two things. It might be I'm just getting to be old and out of touch. After Elvis Presley came along and gave birth to popular rock and roll, the senior generation just didn't get it. Ditto the Beatles. Led Zeppelin were Satanists (just listen to Stairway to Heaven backwards). As it was with the generation before mine, maybe now I'm the fuddy-duddy. Maybe I just don't get today's new music. 

But maybe not. "I may not know about art", says the Pope to Michelangelo in the Monty Python skit, "but I know what I like." I hear rock groups now that - frankly - sound like they've gone to the Britney Spears school of song writing. Pick a minor key, add a simplistic melody on a couple of notes, produce with technology. Remove musicianship. Denny Doherty died last Friday. All the radio stations were playing Mamas and the Papas. I said to my wife, "That's how you write a song in a minor key." A principal focus on the vocal talent and craft, beautiful melodies and even more beautiful harmonies, soaring movement into the major chord and wistful retreat back to the minor key. 


The song was California Dreaming.

(Could Mama Cass ever be a star today? Her voice is the best of Sheryl Crowe and Janis Joplin ... but she was fat and not very pretty. So I think, sadly, where people make music to be sold by video that the answer is no.)

I wonder if it's more than just the music. I wonder if all of western art is on the decline. Art, culture ... civilization. 

Athletes on steroids. 

I think of the giants of modern comedy. Will Ferrell is the king, making funny movies by playing stupid and loud and boorish. I think of classic comedy. Peter Sellers played stupid too; Inspector Clouseau was a stupid as they come. But there's that intangible earnestness, honour and nobility about Clouseau (not Sellers ... which reminds me that  to watch Will Ferrell is to see Will Ferrell playing a character (loudly) and to watch Peter Sellers was to watch Inspector Clouseau).

I think about modern horror, movies of blood and dismemberment. But I remember, once upon a time, feeling frightened watching movies like "The Exorcist", "The Omen", "The Shining" and "Poltergeist", movies of atmosphere where the object of the exercise was to build to a feeling of terror. Today it's mostly about the gross-out (refer to Stephen King's Danse Macabre for his description of the three levels of fright).

Have you read any good books lately? I remain puzzled how heavy-handed and unskilled authors such as Dan Brown hit the bestseller list when skilled writers (my favourite is Evan Hunter) toil in relative anonymity. (I asked Evan Hunter why he still wrote, producing two novels a year well into his seventies. He answered because he was a writer. His novels often included a darkly witty reference to some lawyer-turned-author. His point was that any joe could be an author, but to be a writer was to learn and to practice your craft.) 

I saw the news yesterday, (oh boy). About an artist guy who recorded faces of Canadian writers on DVD video and displayed them as moving portraits in boxy wooden frames. My wife turned to me and asked, "Do you think that's art?" and I thought of this recurring theme.

Mostly I can't watch the shows on TV, including especially the news, and especially not the network channels. Is the general quality of programming on the wane? Are there too many channels? There are a few shows of quality on The Movie Network and one on Space that I still find entertaining and hold my interest. But certainly there's no modern equivalent of I Love Lucy or Gunsmoke or even Seinfeld on TV today. It's mostly a parade of generally unfunny comedy shows for the lowest common denominator and copycat series having to do with investigations that stem from dead people.

It's all been dumbed down. Art has become base, lacking the hallmarks of craftmanship. I don't know why this is. You would think that people are generally driven to do work that they are proud of, right? But something's changed. It might be because of money. It might be proliferation. It might just be because I'm getting old.

So I listen to the classic rock station more than the "Q rock" station because the best new rock tends to be more of a minus than a plus.

And, extrapolating, I wonder if we are witnessing the beginning of the end of our own civilization.

"I wonder if the Emperor Honorius watching the Visigoths coming
over the Seventh Hill truly realized that the Roman Empire was about to fall."

- Captain Jean-Luc Picard, from "The Best of Both Worlds".

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sign of the Apocolypse

Where I work has always been a Coke zone. Coke has been the exclusive supplier since before 1985. Once upon a time, many years ago, Coke made a small fuss about some sponsorship thing at our curling club once because we served Pepsi there.

Only within the past few months has a Pepsi machine shown up, a boon to we Pespi drinkers, we connoisseurs of Dr. Pepper, we guzzlers of Gatorade. It caused consternation almost immediately ... because it would empty so quickly and be restocked so slowly.

Today, to my shock and amazement, I spied rows and rows of Pepsi stored inside the Coke machine.

And for a wonder, the universe did not implode.

My next mental mutter will concern the local radio wars.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Run, Forrest, RUN!

A year later and I continue to run.

Thirteen months ago I began an exercise regime spawned by the unpleasant roundness of my face and form. A week after I started I engaged a trainer who got me off the elliptical machine and on to the treadmill. Fifteen minutes was an effort, often coming after a half an hour doing weights. In time, fifteen minutes became twenty. I ran outside for the first time in years, down to the church and home, a round trip jog of about six kilometres. For the first three tries at it, I had to stop, rest and walk. Indoors, the runs grew to 25 minutes, then half an hour. Outside, I ran the distance to the church non-stop and started to add distance. Go to the bank. Go to the gas station. Go to the conservatory. I decided I would run in the Bluenose Marathon. Not the Marathon, just the 10K. I'd last run a 10K twelve years ago. I was much lighter. By now, the distance I was running outside was close to 10K but not quite. I was fairly sure I could run it, but it was an unproven expectation. My running inside on the treadmill indicated it would probably take me about an hour to finish the race. 

Then I hurt my leg.

For a week I took it easy. On Friday I ran on the treadmill again for the first time just to see how things felt. They felt okay.

On Saturday when I signed up officially, a day before the gun was to go off, I wrote conservatively on the registration form that my expected time was one hour, ten minutes. My goal was just to run it. Lollygag. Enjoy myself. Finish.

Standing in the crowd at the the start line, something changed about 10 minutes before we got the gun. Some competitive fire ignited and I decided I was going to by-god RUN it. I had a good run (for a re-beginner) and I used some of the tips from my trainer, adding little sprints on the downhill parts of the course, letting my long legs stride out. At the end of the run, I made it a long sprint, picking out people in front of me, passing them, picking out someone else.

A funny thing started to happen about four or five blocks from the finish line. My nose began to run. It was a new and strange reaction of my body to the stress I was putting on it, manifest as a runny nose. I could feel it and I wiped it away. But it kept running. Like


syrup from an open spigot. The strangest thing!

I finished in about 54 minutes which while no great shakes to the seasoned runner, was pretty good for me. Much faster than I had expected, maybe faster even than that younger man who 12 years ago used to be me.

Like Bill Cosby says in one of his bits, I told you that story to tell you this one.

I still run.

My distances grow longer. I'm up to 16 km and I want to do the half-marathon this year. 

My nose still gets very snuffly as I exert myself on the road and I do a yucky thing to clear it. I put a finger aside of my nose ... and blow. Repeat for other nostril. It's pretty gross. I try to execute this evolution when there is a lull in traffic because I'm very self aware, I know this is a pretty gross practice. It is easily offset by the wonderful feeling of able to breathe.

Breathing beats good manners every single time.

I also run alone.

No iPod, no partner, just the voices in my head, a running (ha-ha) commentary about the journey, reflections, rehearsals, self-encouragement and witness.

I'm over forty now. It's the year men realize they are going to die. I can write a whole other piece about this, and maybe I will. But for now, my mind zooms up a hundred feet above me as I run, and I see me on a route that I've marked as I blow my nose; in some way that paradoxically is simultaneously both absolutely insignificant and completely significant, parts of me, my DNA, a portion of my essence falls to combine forever with the earth as I pass on and keep running.

Like a Johnny Appleseed of snot.

Monday, January 08, 2007


This isn't exclusively going to be a place to rant, I promise.

I caught myself sending notes to radio personalities (well, only
), sort of comments to her blog postings. I realized I should make my own blog.

It's partly because of the meds.

This impulse control issue that I blame on the meds. Even if it's not the meds. And even if the impulses are really all under control. Mostly. (I get this weird urge to hug and kiss people.)

What the hell was I talking about?

So I thought that rather than keep pestering the DJ, I'd start up my own blog.

It all started around Christmas....

(psychedelic sound effect and wavy dissolve)

... when I was on my way into the Sunnyside Mall to do ... something. Maybe to get stuff from Pete's. As usual, there is a line of cars parked illegally in the fire lane. These are people too good for the rest of us, above having to drive around a bit to find a space for themselves and walk (!GASP!) to the door.

I mentioned in my note to the DJ that I have a very easily offended sense of fairness. Petty injustices irk me.

(You figured that out, har Edith?)

What's missing in society today, I tell people, is a fear of reprisal. So people just do whatever the hell you want and then wave their middle finger at you if you honk or yell. We need a Batman. We need some good ol' fashion vigilante justice. People don't NOT do something because it's wrong, they don't do it because they're afraid to get caught.

Well, when no one's afraid, people do whatever the hell they want. It's anarchy I tell you! Anarchy!

So back to the people in the fire lane.

There are three cars: the first one has only a driver, the second only a passenger and the third one is empty but the four ways are flashing which of course makes all sin forgivable. In the one at the front of the line is a very pretty lady. She's got it all (except a proper parking space); looks, a body, money. You can get away with anything if you're pretty (see: "Beautiful Godzilla") or have your four-way flashers on. Well, I resolved, not this time. This time she was going to pay for being illegally parked. I'll be bound if she was going to get away with it, not if there was something I could do to get back at her.

So I stared at her tits.

cleavage Pictures, Images and Photos

Friday, January 05, 2007

Smoke 'Til You're Green


Welcome to the weird part of my brain. I will strive to keep it unrestrained and uninhibited. It's all id, baby. You've been warned. Unless you've read some other post first, something I've written in the future (oooh! suddenly, it's a star trek episode!) Something I hope was deliciously shocking and offensve in which case, well, then you weren't. Sorry.

I have a theory.

I was going to say, “I have an unproven hypothesis” because it sounds way cooler, but anyone who understands the scientific method would pick up immediately on the redundancy. An hypothesis is by definition an unproven idea. As in, I have an idea that by now maybe you’re wondering what’s the point.

I'm already off to a bad start.

So I hypothesize (ahem) that the group responsible for most of all that litter you see by the side of the road is - smokers.

There’s proof if you look. First you’ll see all the cast away cardboard cups from Tim Hortons and McDonalds, keep looking. It will only be a moment more before you see that the other jettisoned items in abundance are cigarette packs. Aha!

Come to find there's even a government site with statisitics that suport my mean hypothesis.

See, what does a smoker do when he’s finished his smoke? Yeah. He pitches the butt. The automobile industry must have spent billions on car ashtrays. None of them gets used. (Actually, that’s not true – because you’ve probably seen a pile of butts in some parking lot where somebody’s dumped their ashtray). Also, how many times have you seen a smoker open a new pack then crumple and toss the cellophane wrapper? This casual disposal is part of the smoker’s culture. And what’s the thing that goes great with a smoke? Coffee!

Coffee and cigarettes. They even made a movie.

It’s the smokers littering the highways. In theory.

(I was going to post a picture of a cancer in a smoker's lung. See, I'm already chickening out. And I promised I wouldn't. The id overruled by art. You've met Art, right? He a large motherfucker.)

I was driving out from work today and on the car ahead of me was a bumper sticker that said “Freakin’ Idiot”. I took it personally for only a moment. Ah yes. Dr. Evil, I thought. Mike Myers. Riiiiiiight. Then I saw the driver’s hand on the wheel, and between his fingers, sticking up like a perky but pitifully small and slender (but smoking!) erection, was his freshly lit cigarette.

So I figured the bumper sticker wasn’t about me after all.