Monthly Archives: December 2009

Blue Boxing 2009

Since we seem to have survived the Christmas Season, we’re now on the downside of 2009 and it is time to put that first decade of the New Millennium in the Blue Box for recycling.  Like most, we’re not entirely sure what should go into the blue box, the black box or the composter, except that we know we want this stuff kicked to the curb asap:

Blue Box:  Any celebrity who has been photographed without underwear, by cellphone camera, paparazzi, or civilian on the street, while getting into a vehicle, out of a vehicle, or bending over to pet a small animal.  If your sole talent is being photographed because you’re famous, then you get to climb into the blue box.  And buy some underwear.

Black Box:  Financial folks who accepted TARP bailout money to pad their nests and then miraculously managed to pay back all that taxpayer funded cash. They showed that their “emergency” was nothing more than a cash grab from a departing president who wanted to give his buddies one last payday.  Unfortunately, the new guy put some hooks into TARP that limited executive compensation, which meant that they could only buy one Gulfstream, instead of four.  The rest of the financial crisis was made up by PR fartcatchers and we swallowed it.

Green Box:  The various media outlets for bringing us the Balloon Boy, Michael Jackson’s death, imaginary pundits, so-called experts and the daily parade of the lame, the halt and the scarily insane who now pass for news.  Included are the online media who bleat hourly about LiLo’s handbag or Paris’ douchebag as if it was the sole piece of important news on the entire planet that day.

Blue Box:  Any expert who beeps and moos about ‘social media’.  Twitter is for the under-medicated with ADHD who obsessively over-share but are functionally illiterate.  Linkdin was developed for failed real estate agents to reassure themselves they exist.  Facebook makes it easy to stalk your old high school crushes, or to circumvent restraining orders.  The rest, including blogging and this blog, is proof that a million monkeys with a million typewriters cannot reproduce the works of Shakespeare.

Black Box:  The RCMP for Tasering Robert Dziekanski to death and tap dancing so furiously around the facts that had we had the foresight to wire them into the electrical grid, we could have powered Vancouver Airport for a year.  Included in that Black Box is the management of eHealth Ontario who spent untold millions of tax dollars not coming up with a way to computerize health records, but somehow managing to expense nannies, green fees, rent, booze and gifts to their buddies. 

Green Box:  Bought and Paid For Politicians.  They know who they are and so do we.  If they take money from, or run their own PAC then suddenly have opinions about numerous issues, they’re on a financial intravenous from lobbyists.  There should be term limits on everything from dog catcher to Prime Minister.  You get eight years, then get the hell out and get a real job. 

Blue Box:  Granite countertops.  Enough already.  The granite countertop will be the Dusty Rose of the 10’s.  Even the homeless living in a packing crate have granite countertops, at exorbitant prices per square foot, especially for the really ugly granite that matches nothing in the known universe, except more granite from the same slab.  The same holds true for ‘staging your home’.  If I want to stage my home, I’ll get it a gig as understudy for West Side Story.  It could do a creditable job as Maria in the Saturday matinee performances.

Black Box:  Nut-Egg-Latex-free zones.  Some days the evil Dave wants to get out the catapult to toss a couple of hundredweight of peanuts, almonds, scrambled eggs, chocolate, shrimp, lobster and rubber gloves over the fence of the school, just to see which kid starts to twitch and throb.  Being allergic to bee stings or cobra venom, I understand, but what’s next?  Allergic to long division and basic grammar?  Quick, let’s ban denominators and gerunds as my precious little sprog will suffer self-esteem issues and never recover to live a helpless life encased in plastic in the seniors home, where I can watch over them until I die.  In some countries E.Coli is considered a condiment.

Green Box:  Sportsmanlike conduct.  There is no such thing anymore, so let’s just give up the pretence and get on with it.  We want blood-spattered gladiators crowing victorious over the vanquished foe at the Grade 4 Public School Badminton Tournament.  As for the Olympics, well, I’m all for nude luge as that takes real demonstrable courage, but I’d like to see a biathlon where the course is fenced in, stocked with undernourished wolves and the targets can shoot back.  The Gold Medal goes to the competitor who gets out alive.

Blue Box:  Reality programming.  Why haven’t the media monkeys come up with a 20 hour series on getting the leaves raked or coin collecting; “Competitors, this special super-immunity challenge sees you piling live Soviet-era land mines in a basket on a running cement mixer.  The winner gets this 1974 mint-condition quarter and immunity from being voted off the barge.”  Cut to dramatic shot of Julie the hairdresser from Minnetonka mopping her brow with a Dr. Pepper, the Official Softdrink of Coin Collector Death Barge.

If you have nominations for the Blue Box 2009, pass them along.

The Shepherd

Over a few dozen years our house has developed a holiday tradition that we would like to share, but it takes a bit of backstory for the non-Canadians.  CBC Radio has a program called “As It Happens”, which is a newsmagazine type of program.  If you’re not familiar with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, you can listen live online at  The CBC is somewhat like the BBC, or NPR, but with more skill and less political agenda. 

Every year on their last show before Christmas, or on Christmas Eve, “As It Happens” runs a Christmas story, narrated by the late Alan Maitland.  The story is “The Shepherd” by Fredrick Forsyth, a short story Forsyth wrote for his wife in 1976.  The narrative is the story of an RAF jet fighter pilot flying from Germany back to his home base in the UK on Christmas Eve 1957.  His aircraft has multiple failures enroute and is eventually lead to a fog-shrouded runway at a disused RAF wartime base by a shepherd aircraft (an old DeHavilland Mosquito) piloted by a mysterious figure.

The Shepherd” is not really a Christmas story, in that there is no Pere Noel, Scrooge, Tiny Tim, or magical reindeer, just a solitary jet pilot struggling to get home for Christmas.  The twist at the end of the story is that the Mosquito shepherd aircraft has the registration of JK (Jig King) and guides the now crippled Vampire fighter to the fictional RAF Minton as the Vampire runs out of fuel moments after landing on the fogged-in runway.  The pilot, the narrator of the story, attempts to find out how and who shepherded him down.  The answer is the mysterious Johnny Kavanagh, (not Jig King!) who flew the same missions in the war, shepherding crippled bombers home from the North Sea.  Except Johnny Kavanagh went missing in his Mosquito on Christmas Eve 1943, vanished over the North Sea.

That short arc of the story doesn’t really do it justice, nor does the describing it as being read by Alan Maitland.  Radio storytellling, when done right, to paraphrase Garison Keillor, goes directly from the solid to the gaseous form without going through the liquid state.  Keillor should know:  His Lake Woebegon stories on “A Prairie Home Companion” routinely weave and paint pictures in your head more vivid than any that can be committed to film, tape, DVD or flip book doodles.

I first heard “The Shepherd” in 1979, sitting the control room at a small-market radio station up the Ottawa Valley, filling in the hours as the new guy who worked the crap shifts, like Christmas, New Years and so on.  Ever since, I think I have missed the reading only a time or three.  Every year we tune in “As It Happens”, turn the lights down and listen.  We don’t read a book, answer email, or have the TV on.  We actively listen to the radio the Old Skool way.

Every year the hair stands up on the back of the neck, as the story reaches it conclusion, with the quiet “Happy Christmas” from Joe the Mess Steward.

Every year we take a moment to recover from a brilliantly crafted story, told so well as to sublimate from solid to gas to indelible pictures in your head.

Perhaps that is the real meaning of Christmas traditions.  Shared emotions and experiences that are unique to the people who share them, repeated over time.   

“The Shepherd” is our Christmas tradition.  Merry Christmas.

The Tiger and Math

Now that the ruckus regarding Tiger Woods is settling down, we can wade in with our reasoned overview.  Upfront, we don’t know what actually happened, as we weren’t there.  For that matter, the media wasn’t there either.  The only two people who were there aren’t talking, so we’re into the land of wooly speculation, supposition and juicy guesstimation.

First off, Tiger Woods is worth somewhere near 8 Zillion dollars.  He doesn’t fly economy and doesn’t stay at a Super8 motel.  He has people who do things for him that you and I have to do because we don’t have personal assistants, aides, or ‘people’ who look after the minutiae of getting around and doing things that we all have to accomplish in the course of a day.

Secondly, Tiger Woods is a professional golfer.  He hits a ball with a stick.  It isn’t like he’s causing World Peace to break out, or finding a cure for cancer.  He doesn’t carry the launch codes in his wallet and his involvement in third-world political stability is about the same as yours and mine:  That would be None for those keeping score at home.

Let us assume that the events went down as advertised.  He and the Missus were discussing relationship issues when things went off the rails.  Perhaps there was a disclosure or two that were not received well.  Someone lost their temper and took a golf club to someone else.  One of the participants hopped in the car and tried to drive away with some alacrity, possibly under a barrage of club swings, shattering glass and general emotional mayhem.  It would seem a tree and a fire hydrant were parenthetically involved, then police.

The media involvement happened moments later.  As soon as you mention Tiger Woods is involved, the media descends like nattering gnats gnawing on the purported half-truths, suppositions and fourth-hand speculations from people who weren’t there.  Serving up an order of perspective here, if it was Buddy Jamoke who got de-assed from the house by his missus because he played some away-games, it wouldn’t even rate a page seventeen police blotter note.  

Which comes back to why do we care?  Yes, Tiger is a celebrity and a damn fine golfer, but his direct input on all our lives is about three-ten thousandths of sweet frig-all.  Which also means our input on his lifestyle choices is exactly the same; .0003 over SFA.

The same math applies to his relationship issues being ‘our’ business:  Mathematically insignificant.  So close to zero as to be a rounding error.  Null.  Zip.  Nada.

Let us let Tiger and the wife figure their stuff out.  In private.  Without our input.  We would never presume to tell him how to golf and we should never presume to tell him how to run his private life.