Saturday, September 30, 2006

Absurdities and Other Non-Essentials

Have you ever noticed that the store clerks at BP gas and convenience stores are called ambassadors? My American Heritage Dictionary, fourth edition, defines ambassador as: "A diplomat of the highest rank, accredited as representative in residence by one government to another." "from the latin: ambactus, servant." There is no second meaning. It is absurd to call a clerk an ambassador. Perhaps they should be called servants which is more accurate and more properly describes the services they provide. Or perhaps these clerks are/were accredited diplomats of the highest rank and are just moonlighting. It can't be easy being a servant to the present administration. It's just absurd.

This morning I got another e-mail chain letter. Don't sent me any. The chain gets broken here. I don't care how wise, pathetic, cute, patriotic, religious, well-meaning, mean-spirited, sappy, (I'm running out of adjectives), you think your letter is: don't send it to me. Send me a personal note with similar sentiments, and I will be sure to respond to you. I send out e-mails all the time. Some are just letters; some are things people have sent me that I will forward if they are funny, cute, entertaining, etc. Chain letters do not get fowarded.

Hunters: Ya'all need to take better aim this deer season. Thin out that herd. I have seen more dead deer on our rural and not so rural roads this year than I ever have in the eleven years we have been here. We have had deer feeding on windfall apples that fell on our driveway. I am not a hunter because I wouldn't eat what I killed. I don't like wild game. I fish. If its big enough and edible, I take it home to eat. I know the hunters around here eat their kill, or give it to others to eat. OK by me. Just shoot straighter.

Athletes: Just 'cause a sports reporter shoves a mike in your face, doesn't mean that you have to speak. Let your performance on the field speak for you. Remember the old saying: "It's best to keep your mouth shut and let people think you are idiot, than to open it and remove all doubt."

Politicians: Read the above paragraph.

Just when I thought some of these people were dead, they show up with new CDs. Jerry Lee Lewis has a new one called Last Man Standing. He records all kinds of stuff with all kinds of artists. From the little I've previewed, Killer is Back! Ray Charles has an album of his songs recorded with Count Basie. Sam Moore recorded a new CD with guests and a smashing blues band. Sigh. Too much music, too little time.

Oxymorons: Tolerant Religious Fundamentalists. White House Candor.
Contemporary History.

Muse! Where the hell are you? I am floundering here in a sea of banalities and cliches. But, I'll motor on until even I cannot stand this journal. Wake up, Muse. I don't need breathtakingly original thoughts. just a few that really, really don't suck, OK?

BRB is Write(missing the Muse, soldiering on)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Overture and Two Dances

We went to the symphony Sunday. It was an entertaining program in spite of two of the pieces being 20th century. In fact, the players made Stravinsky's Firebird Suite sound much better than it sounds in any recording I've ever heard. As a former board operator for Canada's one commercial classical radio station, I've heard a number of versions and they all jangled and jarred. I guess one has to be there. The other dance actually had dancers. It is called Sabar: Concerto for Senegalese Drum and Dance Ensemble and Orchestra. The composer is James DeMars. The opening piece was Beethoven's Egmont Overture. This very familiar work was the finale of the very first concert of this symphony sixty years ago.

The theater is small; one might say it is intimate (especially in the balcony!, but the web site says it will seat 1387; seems like most are crammed in the balcony), but the sound is absolutely pure and warm, reaching all parts with effective acoustics. I just wish that the theater folk would remove 10% of the seats in the balcony (they were empty anyway) and make room for adults. I guess people were smaller when those seats were installed. If you are used to theater seating at your local movie-plex, picture this: once in your seat, you cannot move your legs or butt; you will be elbowed and elbow others. Cramping up is a real possibility.

We bought a Sunday series of concerts, as we did last year. Most of our town's retirement facilities seem to like the Sunday afternoons as well. Pity. I'm not against the elderly; I'm related to several. But, I keep encountering the rudest, the most perfumed and powdered, and cranky every Sunday. We changed our seats this year from the ones we had last season, to avoid sitting in the middle, and to avoid two particularly rude seniors. Last season, we tried to get to our seats before they did, 'cause if they got there first, we had to ask them to get up to let us in. They would pretend not to hear us; when I insisted, they got up with many grumblings and rumblings. They talked to each other all afternoon. I found myself climbing over my seat to the row above to get out during intermission. Ms CPB stayed put. Enough about them. They are still there this season, and we have aisle seats far away.

I need to say more about the music. The Concerto with the drummers was marvelous. Four drummers set up rhythms with one bare hand and one stick hand on six different drums. The orchestration provided a wonderful background, and set up many themes for the concerto. The orchestra was perfect throughout. I found myself wondering how the percussion section felt about those Senegalese percussionists. Could our local drummers do the same? Dancers came on stage from time to time to accompany the music. The whole ensemble was vastly entertaining: I forgot about cramped seating and cranky seniors the whole time. Marvelous.

Again the orchestra was up to the Stravinsky suite. I haven't mentioned the conductor/music director, have I? He is totally charismatic, and gets the best out of these local musicians. Back to The Firebird Suite, it is so much better in person. Perhaps paying 20 bucks to fight seniors and to sit in cramped quarters makes a difference. I think that the whole sensuous experience of being there is what makes the difference. Also, in the finale, Stravinsky ripped a few notes from Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition: The Great Gate of Kiev. The horns echoed the theme from the Gate. One Russian paying homage to another seemed rather appropriate.

There is not much to say about Beethoven's Egmont. It is such a wonderful overture. Our radio colleagues liked it 'cause, again it was the right length, it was Beethoven, it is moody and dramatic. The symphony orchestra played it superbly. I have heard many different recorded versions. Live is best.

One last word: Support your local symphony. Go to live concerts. Hearing all this great music live has no other equal. Even if you have the absolute best audio equipment at home, you're still at home. Most recordings are done in a studio. Musicians are at their best, most alive in concert. Get out there and enjoy.

BRB is Write (and not a music critic)


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Dear Readers,

Are you out there? My ego demands some feedback; some little indication that you are out there. People who live in this household may ignore this request:

If you have taken the time to read anything at this site, please leave a comment. You can do it anon. You can call me an ass; really boring; correct; a panty wearing, tree hugging liberal of the worst kind. Just respond. My ego is hurting. I can stand criticism, but not being ignored.

I know I said that this is for me and my therapy and vanity. So, OK, I want more; who doesn't? I read other blogs and comment when moved to do so. Perhaps I'm not moving you. OK, I'll try harder.

BRB is Write
Sleeping Muse

I don't know if the Muse is asleep, drunk, on vacation, or what. It ain't here.

It only matters for me, anyway. Judging from the comments, the Muse could be dead, and no one but me would care. This is supposed to be for me anyway, my therapy, my journal, my ego exposed.

I promised Ms CPB that I wouldn't write about the total moral bankruptcy of Islam and it's followers, governments and clergy. So I won't. I might offend one of them, and cause more terrorist acts. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

I just started re-reading The Lyre of Orpheus by Robertson Davies, a (gasp) Canadian novelist. I must admit, all Of PDB's blogs on Canadians prompted me to start the book. If you want to understand his rants and insights, read Davies. This book is one of his last, and one that captures Canadian thought, or more accuratly, the Canadian psyche, or what PDB was talking about in that scene he describes at the park with his friends, better than any other book Davies has written. Anyone rising above mediocrity, on purpose, is suspect. Strivers are criticized. Davies quotes the National Prayer: "O God, grant me mediocrity and comfort; protect me from the radiance of Thy light." Amen

Ok, Muse, wake the hell up. The dam is about to burst and I need direction. Politics seems irrelevant. Democrates are boring, liberals are either Hollywood or crazy, conservatives are starting to make sense.

After months of complaining to the cable company about not getting 30% of the stations I'm paying for, they finally boosted the signal in our area. I get Imus once again, on MSNBC. And perhaps that's why conservatives seem to make sense. They want to wipeout terrorists instead of trying to understand them. My understanding is long gone.

My only admited predudice, in the past, was against redheads. I never met one I liked. However, I have gotten over that. But I have abandoned all tolerance for a certain non-Christian religion. I am now blind to all their arguments, justifications, sufferings, and admirable qualities. All of them are the same, I am ashamed to say. Events have forced this on me, sort of like admiring pigs from afar, and then having to live among them. This tends to change one's perspective.

I said I wouldn't do that, so I'll stop.

BRB is still Left Write Left(and missing a Muse or two)

Friday, September 15, 2006


I read Jonathan Alter weekly. I generally like his columns. But this latest, is the worst, cheapest, shabbiest, piece I have ever read by him. It is beneath his skills. No first year journalism student could get away with it. Not in my school anyway. Go to the links in the right margin and click on Jonathan Alter. Read his so-called opinion piece.

Did I miss the joke in the first paragraph? Writing a "what if" column is as bad as a fiction writer putting the hero in an impossible situation, and then revealing that it was just a dream. It's a cheap trick. It shows no thought, no research, no effort.

Alter, you are much better than that. That's why I'm so hard on you. We liberals have very few columnists we can trust. I trusted you. I don't always agree with you, but I always trusted and respected you. Please give your next column or story a bit more consideration. No more cheap tricks.

BRB is Write (and disappointed)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I now have links. I now know how to put them in. I didn't figure it out.

We had breakfast on Sunday with PDB and Ms PDB. Lots of good Southern food and conversation. After breakfast, they came back to our house and helped me with the links. PDB is a self-taught IT sort and Ms has one certificate in web design. So now there are links and I don't have to put the whole web address in the text. You can click on the reference. Cool! If write read
Mark Steyn, or listen to some oldies from Freddie's Page just click.

The process is a little cumbersome, but it works.

BRB is Write (and linked)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Fall Fair Fall Fare

It's only September 8th, I know, but Fall is not far off. When we were living in our small part of Ontario, Canada, the week after Labour Day marked the start of my Fall depression. Now this depression didn't start until the second Fall. The first Fall we didn't know what to expect.

Some trees started to turn around Labour Day. I thought that they might just be sick, or weak, but year after year, the same varieties turned color. Several days later, I was walking over a hill on the farm. When I reached the crest, the wind from the North hit me in the face, and it felt like it carried ice. We had a light frost the next day. Most of the garden survived, but we still had many green tomatoes and cucumbers left. We harvested them all.

And I thought uh oh. But the weather changed again, and we had weeks of pleasant, gentle weather. The trees still turned colors the whole time; Fall in Canada marched on. The weather was pleasant, but there was a foreboding about it. It was as if it was saying, don't trust me, enjoy me now, it only gets worse.

We moved from a travel trailer parked on the farm, to an old, drafty, brick farm house about half a mile away. It had four bedrooms, and bath upstairs, and living room, dining room, kitchen, and entrance hall down. It had electricity, and NO furnace. It had two wood-burning stoves. One was in the kitchen for cooking, (didn't I mention no modern stove?) and one in the entrance hall for heating the rest of the house. The farmer I worked for had me cut down many large willows that were shading one of his fields. I cut it into firewood, and split the larger pieces. I hauled all of it to the field just behind his house and dumped it into a great pile.

Later I found out that this great pile of soft wood was to be my winter fuel. When we moved I shifted a great portion of that soft wood to our wood shed and stacked another 4 to 5 cords around the house. I cut some dead hard wood from the bush on the farm we moved to. That small 2 acre wood had a lot of hard wood, but I was forbidden by the landlord to cut any of it.

We ran out of wood Jan 1. We had had snow on the ground since Nov 1. No one seemed to think we needed to have our quarter-mile drive cleared of snow. When we went to town, we walked to the road and got in the borrowed truck. So I spent my lunch and free time during daylight hours hauling small amounts of wood from the great pile on one farm to our farm house with a small tractor that had a box fitted to it to transport one full-sized pig. What did I know about wood? We started out with wood stacked all over the place. I talked to a few neighbors and none of them had ever heard of burning willow for winter fuel.

Before I start whining let me say we stayed warm, we ate well (mostly chickens we had raised) and waited for Spring; and we waited, and we waited. First day of Spring is March 22. We had snow, and several feet on the ground. By Easter, we had a muddy drive and piles of snow all around; still couldn't drive up to the house in anything but a tractor. May 1st it snowed.


I tried to enjoy Fall as best I could, but after that first Winter and lack of Spring, I got depressed four years in a row. We tried to enjoy Fall in Ontario. Churches had harvest-home days with much food; we went to something called a corn roast. Sweet corn on-the-cob was boiled in a cauldron over an open fire; There was butter, salt and pepper and field ripe tomatoes with white bread. We ate sweet cobs and had great tomato sandwiches.

Local villages and small towns had Fall fairs. Traveling carneys would set up shop; sheds were full of prize produce, and live stock was judged. One village had one of the oldest carousels in Ontario. The kids loved that, and the food vendors provided many treats.


We preserved food. I slaughtered chickens. We raised beef and pork. We ate well. Ms CPB baked bread and preserved veggies. We had no money.

Thanksgiving in Ontario is celebrated on the second Monday of October. I now know why. By U.S. Thanksgiving all of Canada is hunkered down for Winter. Only hockey players, snowmobile riders, and natives enjoyed Winter.

Fall in North Carolina takes a long time to get going. By the time the leaves have turned, Christmas is only weeks away. Back in Canada, after we left the farm, and had some money, and didn't have to provide our winter fuel by labour, Fall seemed to not have that same foreboding. I got depressed anyway. I had months of snowshovelling, cold feet, and dripping nose to look forward to; not to mention slick roads. Each winter we were there, one of the kids' buses slid off the road, and they all had to be rescued by another bus. No one ever got hurt, thankfully. The first four winters I put our vehicle off the road, also.

For many of our last years in Ontario, Ms CPB and I worked for Canada's only commercial classical radio station. We started as board operators; I stayed as one part-time, but Ms CPB soon got a full-time position as the music librarian. Every Fall, the programmers and on-air stars dragged out the Fall music. We played variations of "September Song" (not exactly classical, but it fit the format). Vivaldi got a lot of play, of course. Everyone's favorite was "Fall Fair" by a Canadian, Godfrey Ridout. It was just long enough to be a feature piece, and it was TOTALLY Canadian. That seemed to be the justification for playing it, topical, Canadian, and length. I liked it for the music. We went to many Fall Fairs in an effort to ease my depression. The music fits just as as well as Strauss waltzes fit ballrooms.

So every Fall I get a little gloomy. I don't have to cut wood anymore. Like Bilbo and Frodo I feel the call to travel, but just don't seem to be able to put my feet on the path. Someday.

BRB is Write (and loves Fall in North Carolina)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Since I have recorded my thoughts on all previous holidays, I cannot leave out Labor Day. Since most of my organized labour experience was in Canada, I give them their spelling.

Many blogs, news columns, pundits and other journalists have repeatedly extolled the virtues of labour, the benefits to all of us of organized labour, the sins of organized labour. We have organized labour to thank for Jimmy Hoffa, Bob White, paid holidays, higher wages, the whole spectrum of worker issues. Oddly enough, workers' compensation was given to us by companies getting tired of losing law suits to workers.

I'm going to talk about workers I have known.

Mom was a worker. For most of her career she took care of the hotshot salesmen in her company. She corrected their spelling. She re-wrote their letters; she maintained their schedules. She made herself indispensable to the whole office. Back in the day, women had that role in the office workplace. Mom took care of the household. We all pitched in, but it was her domain, also.

Dad was a worker. He was a letter carrier post war, and an inside worker post polio. When he was an inside worker, he worked a lot of overtime, and in many years got no overtime pay, but got paid time off in lieu. As an inside worker supervisor he had no union representation, but had many of the benefits the letter carriers had.

Ms CPB is a worker. She has been since high school. She worked two jobs, one full-time and one part-time while pregnant with our first child. She worked in the home for many years rearing and educating our children. When the last went to school, she resumed working outside the home . She is our main support.

I worked for 8 years in an auto-parts plant in Ontario, Canada. To talk about all the workers there, would take many pages. One group I remember well could transform any work station into a better, safer, more efficient station than any industrial engineer. These guys were old factory hands; some came from farms, where the only way to success was to economize all movement; some came from other closed plants.

Engineering and supervision would set up a work station for a new product. They would do a few test runs and decide on a quota for one 8-hour shift. These guys (old factory hands, and I include women in the group) would start out with the first set-up, and by the end of a few shifts, would re-arrange the station so that the quota was met in 6.5 hours. I loved to work with those folk.

I was a union representative in those days. I loved representing those people. Some of them retired while I was there; for some of them, it was the only job they ever had. I would see them downtown, and they always had a smile on their faces.

Throughout the years, the plant had three different owners. Three times we formed plant closure committees. It finally died. I don't know what happened to all those workers. Some I have kept in touch with, some have died, some moved on. On Labour Day, I especially think of them.

When I was a kid, Labour Day was just like Memorial Day, or The Fourth. The only difference was that we had to go back to school after that day. Sometimes we went to the mountains to fish and relax with the rest of the population of Southern California. Other times we went to a neighbor's pool and partied.

More than other holidays, I understood Labour Day best. My parents were workers. My friends' parents were workers, and they all had the day off paid.

I have seen Labour Day parades, presidential speeches, concerts, all extolling the virtues of labour. That lasted one day. The rest of the year, other interests take over and labour is under seige. But this is the American way. Labour is just another commodity like wheat or Texas crude. It takes some very cold decisions to treat people as resourses and not people.

But this is supposed to be about workers. Most of us are workers, i.e. people who earn a wage from an employer. PDB works about as hard as I did while on the farm, but he doesn't qualify as a worker as I define one, along with all the other small business owners who probably put in many more hours than their employees. They don't belong to the club; I exclude them; but Labour Day is also theirs to celebrate. I know he worked on Labour Day, as many other owners did.

Want to know more about workers? Get the book Working by Studs Terkel. It will be in any library. He interviewed hundreds of people from all walks of life. It is remarkable and totally American.

Notice I didn't get into the nobility of the worker, the oppression of the worker or even the death and maiming of workers. All have their own days, not remembered in America.

On Labor Day Labour Day, this is what I thought of.

BRB is Write (and at the moment, not a worker)

Dog Owners

Please, please keep your pets under control. If you're in town keep them on a leash, confined to the yard, in the house. Don't let them roam the neighborhood.

I was rolling down one of our downtown expressways this afternoon. Cars ahead of me were bailing out left and right, pounding brakes, and creating chaos. As I bailed on the right shoulder, I saw someone's dog lying in the right lane. I thought it was dead, and went on past, checking my mirrors to see who was going to hit me from behind. The dog (rather large, short-haired, brown) got up and staggered into the left lane. That is the last I saw it.

Someone lost a pet.

I make no judgement. I am only reporting. Just take care of them.

BRB is Write (and likes dogs)