Sunday, 30 January 2011


It's difficult to pick out individual lines from the superbly scripted new David E. Kelley series, 'Harry's Law'. The Harry in question is Harriet Korn, played by Kathy Bates. One line I particularly liked this week, was when, after being berated by a woman who seemed particularly obnoxious, she says,
'Do you have a name, or do people just use adjectives?'

We're a few episodes behind with Series 8 of Shameless, but the one we watched on Saturday afternoon was totally up to standard. The opening sequence parodied a stylised TV ad where someone moves in sensual slow motion to Nina Simone's 'Feeling Good'.
Later, classic Mimi Maguire. In response to the husband of a friend, both of the couple black, claiming that no-one understands what it is to be black, she looks him straight in the eye and points to herself,
'Woman,' she says, '-black! Scouser - black! fat - black! working class - black!'
Excellent. And so right.

The second episode of the U.S. Being Human was just as brilliant as the first, only....I'm embarrassed to say that it's not a U.S. series, it's Canadian. Half U.S. actors, half Canadian. Fully brilliant.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Turdicus Sockus

One of the bits of French literature that is almost universally loved by everyone who studies it, is Rabelais. I hesitate to describe him as 'a bit of French literature' rather than a writer, but he is a legend, even to the extent of having lent his name to an English word.
'Rabelaisian' means

adjective : displaying earthy humour; bawdy:
the conversation was often highly Rabelaisian " (OED)

Rabelais was a Renaissance French writer who soundly satirised the institutions of the time, ergo comedic. When I studied Rabelais I learnt the adjective 'scatological', which was defined for us in French as comedy of the 'bas-ventre' - the lower belly. Toilet humour.

Basically, I'm trying to make it sound alright to have an obsession with poo, which I have done for the last three days, Whisky's poo.

"Around Wednesday lunchtime, officer, a little after midday, I came upon the small canine with a white, Nike trainer sock in its mouth. I grabbed at the aforementioned article of foot clothing, but the dog backed away, whereupon I approached it with a stern face and making deep, reprimanding noises. The dog started to chew the sock rapidly and the overhanging parts quickly disappeared inside its cakehole. Upon prising it open, I could see no trace of the sock."

Ok, So, unless Whisky has some mouthpart equivalent of a magician's sleight of hand, he ate a trainer sock.
It has not yet re-appeared. I have monitored every poo, all of which have seemed entirely normal, but no trace of the sock. I have ascertained that under normal circumstances, food passes through a dog's system in twelve hours, I must therefore assume that much of what has come out one end, has gone in the other since Wednesday.

I also assume that therefore it's still in there somehow, somewhere, hopefully not tangled up in his intestines, necessitating expensive surgery following extreme doggy discomfort, but like I said, stuff IS passing through.

If the turdicus sockus ever appears, it will be greeted with the same amount of respect and honour as a poo bearing the face of some saint or religious leader, although I promise not to photograph it and post it on the blog. And if it happens whilst we're down here in the States, it'll be going in the fire pit.
Quod erat NON demonstrandum.

And yes, I am blogging for the first time ever from the Static, by virtue of the magical capabilities of my very own electrical engineering wizard. As Catweazle used to say, 'electrickery'.
I'm about as gobsmacked with this as I would be if he'd conjured up a giant bunny using only words and glittery powders. And way more than I was when the sock disappeared into Whisky's gullet, and I was pretty damned gobsmacked then.


Thursday, 27 January 2011

Vampire, Werewolf, Ghost and Witch

The U.S. version of the British drama 'Being Human' is, in my opinion, better than the original. It takes the ideas behind the series and pushes them further. Now that I've seen the U.S. one, the original seems a bit 'Friendsy'. They haven't stuck to the British scripts nor even the supporting characters, but the main characters seem more tortured, creepier, darker and thus sexier. I know, that last statement could use some exploring, but not right now.

A friend recommended a book to me, 'The Hangman's Daughter' by Oliver Pötzsch. Bizarrely, I was only able to find it at The Book Depository, so having imported it from England, it turns out that it's a U.S. American translation. I mention this merely for the bizarreness of it. No doubt I could have schlepped down the I5 and found it at Borders.
But anyhoo. It is a very engaging and edifying read. It's interesting when modern authors write about subject matter that we would view quite differently today. The Hangman himself is one of the central characters, and he not only dispatches people, but it is his job also to torture them. To some extent he judges too. When he is convinced that the townspeople have condemned someone unjustly, he makes sure they have been sufficiently medicated so that they suffer as little as possible. If he is executing a monster, he can also adjust the suffering upwards.
And the mystery takes place at a time of alleged witchcraft.
It is one of those reads that you want to both devour at one sitting, and yet eke out for as long as possible.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Miracle and Wonder

These are the days of miracle and wonder.
Laurence's dad went out and bought the Paul Simon album 'Graceland' that that track was on, after Laurence's birth. And it must have seemed like that when you've witnessed your first child being born.
But the downside of miracle and wonder is freakish pain and suffering. From my end, of course I was glad it was over and that I had my second child, but labour, in many ways, is misnamed. Not that you don't have to work, but basically, it's about suffering. I suppose that,
'My partner's going into suffering now,' smacks of ordeal and you don't want women to catch on.

On Monday, I went in to visit my friend, whose own suffering had now gone on for over a week, and wasn't going to end in a birth, only to find her eyes open, focussing and completely awake and aware. But for the tube still going into her lungs, she would have been able to talk.
So what's the downside of this miracle? Well, of course, she was still attached to all the machines, and her heart is in worse shape than when she went in, so the downside might be that she's conscious and can go through the whole ordeal all over again.
I came back on Monday afternoon, full of the joys of miracle and wonder, but by Monday evening, I was weepy again, fearful once more of that sense of loss.

Oh the bitter fruit of the tree of cynicism.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Silent in Seattle...or not

Chinese Whispers used to be a game where a message gets whispered down a line until it reaches the end, mangled into something amusing.
I imagine the game still exists, but called something else.

I'm sure it must have been so-named because, for the Chinese, it is rude to whisper, so in order to be polite, you have to shout. Apparently, even if you're standing facing a long line of houses, ranting about how glad you are that you, a Mainland Chinese person, didn't buy one of these houses because they're full of Chinese people, as long as you shout it, it's not rude.
If you stop before another row of houses and bang on about how this is low-income housing, but you saw a Mercedes outside of one the other day, so long as it's at full volume, again - not rude at all.
Thus, since you're not being rude, you might as well share your opinion about the Chinese people who come over, buy two houses, have a million dollars in their bank account and still get money from the government on account of their having no income.

So what could possibly stop this swathe of verbal destruction? Imagine a crescendo of incoherence directed at a government who should both ban smoking, yet stop telling people where they can and can't do it? Who should both legalise and ban pot smoking?

The answer is - another dog-walker, one from Hong Kong. The stand-off, whilst the three dogs sniff around each other, unaware of the political static up above, culminates in a last stab at Chinese mountain people who give their children ridiculous names.
Then exit stage left, leaving me in a loop of misunderstanding.

'Have you been in Seattle?'
'No, we don't go to....n'mind....we only go at the weekend,'
'So, you were in Seattle,'
'No, and....only at the weekend,'
'You long time in Seattle?'
'Er, ok.'

Half an hour ago, before the insults began, there was a shouted phone convo in English. The shouting makes it difficult to keep a polite enough distance not to hear. A bottle of Tequila had been re-gifted, a win-win. The original gift had clearly been one of the high quality, expensive bottles that was well-received by the re-giftee and not understood to be such by the re-gifter.

Life in the loud lane.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


Picture courtesy of Di, from way back.

I'm finding it insanely difficult to concentrate or focus. Whisky has the same problem, so we have just returned from a walk. The sky is lighter, later.

Sarah Palin's popularity is waning. I guess that's good.

It's a long time since I watched Coronation Street, but I did like this series of photos, even though I knew very few of the actors. William Roache must have one of those portraits in the attic that age for him though. He has always looked the age he looks now. In real life, he's 78, I have no idea how old Ken Barlow is supposed to be.

This morning, I went to visit my friend in hospital. M (Bozo5) was already there. He said the priest had finally called, we have been trying to get one for ten days now. The priest said he'd received the message on Saturday, but had been busy. Good thing St. Peter's been backlogged on admissions then, eh?
In the middle of giving last rites, he forgot our friend's name. Good thing God knows every sparrow that falls then, eh?

Poet Liz Lochhead has been appointed as chief poet of Scotland, a role that carries the title of 'Makar'. Alright then. I know not of her poetry, but now I will make it my task to do so. She certainly has a Scottish enough name, I would expect that at least in Glasgow, they'd pronounce it 'Loghheed'.

My current reading is 'The Beauty of Humanity Movement' by Camilla Gibb ('Sweetness in the Belly'). I'm enjoying it, although it was a little slow to start, but I like the challenge of reading about a country I hadn't given much thought to. It's set in the Vietnam of today-ish. There is one oddity about the book though. From time to time, she uses the wrong word. For example, she says that some animal was 'beating itself selfless', instead of senseless. There are at least a couple more of these malapropisms, which makes me wonder about the editor as much as the writer. Weird.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Long, Dark Insomnia of the Soul

I now know some of the hospital smokers by sight. I know how they get there in their wheelchairs.
I have bought food in unfamiliar supermarkets, and found that people still ask me questions.
'Is this French bread?'
The woman behind the bread counter tries to help, but the man only wants my opinion, although part of my opinion he needs translated into Punjabi by his companion. The woman behind the bread counter tries to assist IN Punjabi, but clearly it's just not the same.

At the hospital, we know the nurses by first name, and they change. Over the week and a bit my friend has gone from respiratory care to cardiac, to advanced cardiac to ICU. She has gone from being able to talk to me through intermittent coughing that I thought would end in her choking to death as she turned purple, to asking for death as her lungs filled up with fluid that her heart couldn't deal with, to being kept alive on a respirator, sedated, because whilst conscious, no-one can deal with the horror of the ventilator that both suffocates and keeps you alive.

On Saturday, while she was still in and out of consciousness, the ICU doctor said he would not admit her to ICU because there was nothing that could be done about her heart, therefore there was no recovery possible. He would only do it if her breathing failed before her family arrived from other parts of Canada.
I guess it did.

My own personal journey with her over the past week has been from being distressed at her distress, but assuming she'd be out again, hell, she even said to me, 'I'll be out next week,' to having to imagine her not being there, not on e-mail, not for us to visit, just in our memories.
Yesterday I read to her until I was sick of the sound of my own voice. I watched the ICU nurses care for her so gently and respectfully, allowing her dignity while she hovers on the edge of the eternal sleep.

And as you do, when you've been close to someone, everything makes you think of them. She is 81, and even while she faltered, her body giving up, still full of life. She'd have said coyly of a nurse, 'oh, he's nice,' though I only partly shared her taste in men. She liked Kevin, but then also Bono.
Every Monday evening, we drove together to Writers' Group, and as soon as we were in that car, we gossiped, shared stories, talked about families, books, travel, everything.

Another friend and I both drew the analogy between dying and giving birth, the midwives that bring babies into this world and the midwives who ease us out.
This is turning into a long labour.

Life is hard. So is death. But now we're into the long, dark insomnia of the soul, until someone makes the decision to turn off the machines, or her heart seizes. God has already spoken, but down here, we're not listening.

Friday, 14 January 2011


I think you could probably visit Vancouver, go home again and at some point wonder to yourself, 'hang on, is Canada a no-smoking country?' Were it not for the fact that Laurence smokes, I so rarely come across it as to be quite taken aback when I do.

For far longer than I've been here or visiting here, public places and places outside public places, have been smoke free, to the extent that as a non-smoker myself, I don't really think about it.

I have been visiting my friend in hospital this week and here's the irony, THAT'S where you come across it. Huddled outside the entrance to the hospital, in wheelchairs and with their drip bags on portable holders, there they are. And these are not the cool people from the smoking room at school, these are the white-faced addicts with thinning hair who place their chairs in front of the pedestrian walkway. I must assume the hospital allow them to congregate there so as to discourage young people from taking it up, and encourage old lags to kick the habit.

Although Canada got same sex marriage the same month and year they got me, it is ten years since the first legal same sex marriage was performed in this country - in Toronto.

I also loved this post on the same blog, Satan is making people criticise Sarah Palin. Yeah, right, you didn't know they were separate beings did ya?

Thursday, 13 January 2011


I wish, wish, wish, that U.S. TV would go back to making series that are 'based on' British ones, rather than simply re-making them, which really does not work.

For example, 'All in the Family' worked well, and was based on ''Til Death do us Part', but was not a re-make of it. Likewise 'Three's Company', based on 'Man About the House'. 'Cybill' was apparently based on 'Absolutely Fabulous', both brilliant TV series in their own right.

But hope springs eternal, and the U.S. remake of 'Shameless' - well, I was more than happy to give it a go, especially as it has William H Macy in it, not to mention the superb Joan Cusack.
So why the feck doesn't it work? It has been going round in my head all morning, why doesn't it work?

Well, for one thing, it's set in Detroit, and this is by no means the equivalent of Manchester. Manchester is just the London of the north. Like London, it has run down areas with high unemployment, but it also is a flourishing city and one that has given rise to popular culture that can rival if not beat London hands down. The bands, the dance culture, the TV industry, the footie. The only thing it lacks are the Houses of Parliament.
Detroit strikes me as more akin to Newcastle-upon-Tyne after the shipbuilding industry collapsed.

Then there's the Chatsworth Estate itself. You have to believe in it in the same way you believe in Sleepy Hollow. The people there are the people you know, except pushed beyond the limits of what you can actually believe real people would do. The Chatsworth Estate is larger than life and the Detroit setting of the U.S. version just seems to be rundown life.

The same goes for the characters. Frank Gallagher is falling down drunk or stoned, 24 hours a day, he lurches, he shuffles, but in spite of that, he'll be sitting at the bar in The Jockey and come out with the deepest philosophy or knowledge of literature that you can imagine, just as a casual remark. And women want to have sex with him. He is the most unsexy pile of humanity, and were he real, couldn't possibly ever manage it, but Frank the character just does.
Unfortunately, William H Macy didn't succeed in convincing me he was even drunk enough. He seemed more threatening than Frank. Frank is just a bloody nuisance with criminal tendencies.

Joan Cusack's character was similarly lacking in one of the dimensions of Sheila Jackson. The original Sheila Jackson is a complete headcase, but sensual and sexy. There's the larger than life dimension. You can't believe that someone as technically crazy as Sheila could also be as sexual and as sexy. Cusack gets the craziness alright, but I'm going to have difficulty believing in the sensuality.

Then there's Ian, the Manchester Ian Gallagher challenges the stereotype of the gay man. He is the least pretty looking of the Gallagher lads, but he shags like a bunny. Shags blokes that is, and it all starts for us, the viewers, with him having it off with his Asian boss, Kash. Yet in spite of the difference in their status, Kash the married-to-a-woman boss, Ian the part-time worker, there is an equality between them.
But the re-make Ian is the pretty one, whilst re-make Kash is physically bigger and stronger. It's just wrong somehow.

And let's not even go there with Karen, or Kev or Flip.

I could go on deconstructing forever, but what it boils down to is this.
The people of the Chatsworth estate are like a bag of pistachios. The moment you eat one pistachio, you can't stop until the whole bag is gone. There is no question of not watching them. They have your soul until the end. And it works because it challenges stereotypes by pushing them.
The Detroit Gallaghers need you to be determined to watch them. Maybe you believe in them, maybe you don't, but you have to watch them for something, for Macy, for Cusack, whatever it is.
For me, the characters in 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' are nearer to the true Gallaghers, the larger-than-life, over-the-top madness than those of this charmless version.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Quote, Unquote

"Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof." - John Kenneth Galbraith

So true, JK, so very true. Born and raised in Ontario, he always was my favourite economist, not that the dismal scientists are jostling for first place in my esteem.

So, weather-wise, last night turned quite exciting. Mid-evening, the sky just dumped snow, and kept going. Luckily, unlike flights around it on the schedule, Kevin's was neither delayed nor cancelled.
I opened the front door to peer out at the snow, and Whisky bounded out, leaping through the brilliant white landscape like a hare.
By morning though, the snow had turned to rain, so it was beginning to melt. I cleared the pavement in front of our house, as mandated, a task which was clearly easier than normal, since it moved fairly easily.

In a supreme example of the blind leading the blind, I am teaching Laurence to cook. We have done chopping onions, frying sausages, preparing, cooking and mashing spuds and other such basic stuff. I decided I would buy a basic cookbook to help with this, and research and recommendations pointed to Jamie Oliver's 'Cook with Jamie'. When it arrived, it wasn't what I was expecting, but is certainly a fabulous looking book, a bit like a family Bible really, complete with braided sewn-in bookmark.
What amuses me though, is that it has been half translated for the American market. So we have 'favorite' and 'flavor', and the oven temperatures are in Fahrenheit, rocket is arugula, but chilli is chilli instead of chili, and there is, presumably, no U.S. spelling for 'claggy' or 'proper blokes' sausage fusilli'.

The best quote from last night's 'The Good Wife'.
Alicia's Mother-in-Law to Alicia's brother,
'When did you first know you were gay?'
'Do you mean before or after I first fellated a guy?'
'Ugh, I hate that word,'
'Oh, I'm sorry. Do you mean before or after I first fellated a man?'

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Oh yes!

Snow Chasing

Magic. TV has started up again. It has been barren over Christmas.
Except....whilst writing this, I have let the ads run, and there is a trailer for a new TV series on Space - 'Being Human', only...not 'Being Human' as we know it, this seems to have completely different actors in it...American ones.

The weather, not so co-operative. Yesterday, I schlepped over to Surrey to visit my friend in hospital. The sky looked positively pregnant with snow and lo, as I came out, snow flakes were falling. Later in the day I went out in Richmond, and the same thing happened. But did it come to anything? Did it heck as like. Or, in layperson's terms, no.

Kevin is in Texas, which sounds cool and groovy, but in fact he had to leave at 5 yesterday morning and returns at midnight tonight. In between those times, he has had to travel between airport, hotel and vendor, and apart from the airport, none of it seems to be in a major city. Also, the airport is called 'George Bush Intercontinental'. Hmmm. I believe a Texan sized steak dinner was involved somewhere, but I'm not sure that makes it all worthwhile.

I have just finished reading a book called 'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett. Absolutely brilliant. A real page turner and thought provoking too.

Human Trafficking Awareness day. Makes horrifying reading.

Friday, 7 January 2011


The Anglican Journal arrived at the Schloss - somewhat annoyingly since we were supposed to be receiving it by e-mail.
Anyroad. On the front cover is Mr. Tony Blair and some bald bloke....called....U.S. journalist and atheist Christopher Hitchens. Somehow, a debate between the two men in Toronto, has slipped below my radar. They were discussing whether religion is a force for good in the world, and it turns out that over twice as many people think it is bad as think it is good, ergo, Tony lost the debate with 32% of the vote and Mr. Hitchens won with 68%. It's an interesting point. I think overall, it's the evil side of religion that people see more. You don't hear about ordinary Buddhists who just go around respecting the world, likewise Wiccans, Druids, Jedi and probably a large percentage of Hindus, what we hear about in the news all the time are the imbecilic fundies of every faith, the paedophiles who abuse their position, and the out and out weirdos.

Speaking of weirdos, in YVR's winter e-mail, they tell us some of the astonishing things people try to take on a plane in their hand luggage.
Now, Several years in to the era of not taking liquids and gels, and probably ever since air travel began you weren't allowed to take scissors and knives on board, it beats me that people are still holding up the queues whilst those particular items get confiscated, but for the love of Marmite, who, WHO needs a sausage-maker on board an aircraft, and even more bizarre still, the mind boggles as to why anyone would need a cobra pickled in rice wine under ANY circumstances.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011


Part of the whole Christmas ritual is taking down the decs. Every year I tell myself to remember that this went here and that worked there, and this really didn't work and every year I think that I will still remember any of this by December.

Somehow, it seemed easier as kids. Well, of course it was, we just got the excitement and none of the stress. For a kick-off, Christmas decs were largely made out of crêpe paper, fat ribbons of it that encircled the room, bisected and quartered it, attaching at the central fitting. At regular intervals, lametta would be draped where the decoration looped downwards, and over every branch of the tree already heavy with different shades of tinsel.

Every so often, a streamer of coloured paper would detach and hang, awaiting repair, a bit of sellotape here, perhaps a staple there. From time to time, a Chinese lantern would drift free of its sticky tape and fall to the floor. Likewise balloons. They would be rubbed on someone's jumper until they could be stuck by static electricity to the ceiling.
The only thing that had to be plugged in were the Christmas tree lights.

Today I put everything away. One extension cord that had joined three strings of outdoor lights, was covered with a plastic bag to protect it from the rain. But the bag was full of water that had frozen solid, and I had to leave the cable out for the ice to melt.

The place looks bare. Tidy, but bare. The decorations have been stored in their new Ikea boxes, two for $6.49.
A man in Ikea said he thought they were adorable.
Like everything in Ikea really.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Friends and Allies

Frost upon frost the past few days. Tomorrow is supposed to warm up, but not in a good, snowy way.
Outside in the darkness, the pavement sparkles as though sprinkled or sprayed with glitter.

I don't have any particular New Year's Resolutions, just a few hopes. This person, (via The F Word blog) however, does, he has some suggestions for how straight men can make changes that would benefit us all.
Another website whose reason for existing is for men to educate men on gender justice and supporting women, is Men Engage. I've read it, it does what it says on the label. Unfortunately, either the site is not yet complete, or has some broken links.
It's easy for those who don't identify with Feminism to think of it as a purely female ideology. It isn't, and it never has been, but it's why we tend to talk about gender equality and gender justice rather than always saying 'Feminism'.
There is also the White Ribbon campaign, 'men working towards men ending violence against women'.

The Year in Feminist Rage is not a male feminist blog, but is also worth a look - the year in question being last year.
Yesterday, in church, Margaret remembered some graffiti she had seen in Soweto. 'Strike a match to say to the darkness, "I beg to differ".'
Somehow, I lack the energy to rage or beg to differ right now.
I await its return.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Five Visits and a Wedding

We brought the New Year in down in Birch Bay, where it was exceptionally frosty. This didn't deter me from swimming, in fact for the most part it deters everyone else, so, result.

We had a New Year's Eve fire of course, and then I raked out all the ash and so the New Year's Day fire burnt even better.

I have been practising giving the evils.
It had been going quite well, I managed to silence two lads in the cinema with a single look, and make a woman (driving) put down her mobile phone. Sadly, it failed me when I tried to use it to silence a car alarm. Keep practising I suppose.

The highlights for me.
Alex and Seth arriving.
Olympics (surprising)including Sleepy's first visit and KD Laing (she didn't visit, but was memorable).
Buying the Static.
Dawn's visit, then our trip to Alaska.
Sleepy Mansions' second visit.
Mary's visit.
Margaret and Andrea's wedding.