Thursday 30 August 2012

Movies For Our Generation. From Maggie Smith to Jane Fonda.

Tastes vary, and each generation has its favourites. Right now, with the population aging, GERIATIC MOVIES are in.

Greta Garbo retired from public appearances at the age of 36. Today, 76 is the new 36. Which explains the success of BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, the story of seven retirees with a joint age of about 600 years.  In an ominous development, Maggie Smith (78) ends up running the Marigold’s front desk, and Judi Dench (77) hits it off with a fellow guest. The film is based on a book, aptly titled These Foolish Things. AND IF WE ALL LIVED TOGETHER is the newest entry in the geriatric movie genre. In a defining moment, Geraldine Chaplin (a youngster at 68) asks: Are you crazy? The answer is probably yes. Jane Fonda (a surgically altered 75) has permanently settled into the role of the elder academic, it seems. She tried it out in the Broadway hit 33 VARIATIONS a few years ago. Maybe she thinks old age and academics go together. Those university profs do tend to be a tad stiff-limbed, although that cliché took a hit when Philadelphia Prof Camille Paglia appeared on POLITICALLY INCORRECT, and at the advanced age of 65 mouthed off “like a machine gun” (Independent, 25 August).

Here is another type of movie that calls out to script writers and directors:

The HANDICAP movie.
After THE KING’S SPEECH presented us with the story of a stuttering monarch, why not do another bio pic of Beethoven with a focus on his deafness? The second half of the film could be silent, thus capitalizing on the retro success of THE ARTIST. And did you know that the fingers of violinists tend to warp? It’s a professional hazard. I gleaned that tidbit from an article by Jeremy Eichler in the New Yorker (27 Aug).It’s a great concept for a film: THE CROOKED FINGER – catchy title, don’t you think?

Another promising genre:
The TRAILER movie.
No, I’m not talking about trailer trash. I’m talking about the ads they make you sit through until the main feature comes on. As everyone knows, the funniest jokes and the greatest action scenes appear in those trailers. So why bother with the rest? You could get all your talking points by going to a movie made up of a string of trailers, followed by a string of spoilers.

That would do it, wouldn’t it? You’d save a lot of time and money, and two minutes is long enough to look at geriatric film stars.

Monday 27 August 2012

Promising advice. From Sarah Symonds to Barak Obama.  

Are you looking for a marriage counsellor? Sarah Symonds is the go-to person, according to a recent article headed ADVICE FOR WIVES (Globe & Mail, 16 August). Will she be sharing the secrets of her long and successful marriage with you? Nope. She is “in the early stages of a romance.” Oh. That’s like your toddler being in the early stages of walking. He’s the go-to person to ask about jogging, right? It’s a novel approach, but why not give it a shot. For example, we could get advice on

ACTING from Ryan Lochte. Here is a hot tip cited in the Toronto Star, 26 August: All you have to do is “memorizing lines and trying to, like, say them and still, like, do movement and all that.” Way to go, Ryan. That’s bound to get you an Oscar nomination!

Or we could get advice on my favourite topic:
HOW TO BECOME FAMOUS from Canadian Opera Company director Alexander Neef. He arrived four years ago,“a virtual unknown in this city,” according to the Toronto Star (26 August). A reliable source tells us: “I have seen him in shorts and flip flops. It was a bit of a shock.” In spite of such provoking behaviour, however, Neef “remains a mystery.” If you ask me, it can only be another ten years before people learn to pronounce his name. Next step: Total celebrity.

But you say you aren’t interested in acting or celebrity. You just want advice on
DRIVING SAFELY. Check out the advice in former attorney general Michael Bryant’s new book, 28 SECONDS. That's how long it took him to kill a drunken bicyclist and be charged with dangerous driving.  He was acquitted of the charge, but the book, reviewer John Barber tells us, is “still a story about friends in high places.” So if you don’t move in those circles, maybe you should be looking for advice on

SCHMOOZING WITH THE RICH. Surely Barak Obama can give us a few tips on the acquisition and maintenance of wealthy friends and on mastering that first crucial step of satisfying donors, the grip-and-grin photo op. Apparently not. But maybe that’s the fault of his handlers. The other day the President duly circulated among diners who paid 30,000 Dollars each to be in the same room with him. Trouble is, his handlers allowed him only seven minutes per 8-person table. This was “fund-raising as speed-dating,” Jane Mayer writes in the New Yorker (27 August).

So: if all you want is advice from the inept, keep on reading Rummel’s blog. You’ll be amazed and grateful for the stuff I don’t know.

Friday 24 August 2012

Please send instructions. A Plea to Google, God, and Todd Akin.

In my last post I asked you to become a FOLLOWER. So you clicked on the picture of the beige ticket that said FOLLOW MY BLOG. Nada. Then you clicked on the word FOLLOWERS in the right margin. Nope. Dead. Then you spotted the square thingy that said JOIN THIS SITE and clicked your way to followership – thank you! But guess what: on some screens the square thingy doesn’t show. So you go to Blogger Help, which sends you to Blogger Product Forum, where you find your problem under the dreaded heading KNOWN ISSUES.

Let me tell you, going to Blogger Forum is a biblical experience. Thousands of voices crying in the wilderness: Lord, how do I turn on/off my widget? And the Lord not answering. I guess the whole blogspot business is beneath God’s dignity. Or else I’m going about this the wrong way and should visit the website of my parish and ask for instructions: How to communicate with God.

Here are a few other KNOWN ISSUES that I desperately need instruction for:

BIRTH CONTROL. Please, Congressman TODD AKIN, help me! You say the female body has ways to avoid pregnancy? How exactly do I “shut that whole thing down”? Is there a button I can click on your site? Is it cheaper than contraceptives? Does it work only in case of “legitimate rape” or as long as I’m not having fun?

STRIP POOL. The Sun (August 24) published photos of Prince Harry playing a game of strip pool, which apparently involves getting naked, being hugged by an equally naked girl, and clutching one’s genitals. Help, I need more instructions. What comes after the hugging and clutching? Who wins? If you are over 40, do you still get naked and expose your sagging body parts to Prince Harry and others? Or only if you are drunk/drugged/deeply depressed/constitutionally crazy?

HOW TO ENTERTAIN CHILDREN. In another tantalizing article (The National Post, 23 August) I read that Daycare workers in Delaware formed a toddler fightclub. “He’s pinching me,” one toddler complained. “No pinching, only punching,” the kind daycare uncle informed him. Okay, so that’s one rule. But what about biting? And do the tots have to eat their veggies before they are allowed to enter the ring? So many questions, so few answers.

Here is some consolation: If your question happens to involve pencil sharpening, there is a book just for you: How to Sharpen Pencils, by David Rees. I kid you not. The New York Times Book Review (29 July) says it will “plunge you into delicious confusion.”

Oh. If confusion is all you want, people,just follow this blog.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Turning on the FOLLOWER button.

This, my friends, is a momentous day for my blog. I’ve turned on the FOLLOWER button. So click it already and help me over the awkward moment of having 0 Followers.

What is this FOLLOWER business? I guess it’s a bit like friending someone on Facebook. You don’t actually want to be friends with them. You are not going to rush to their bedside at the first sneeze and cough or lend them money when they are broke or offer to babysit their dogs, cats, or kids. No, none of that drippy stuff. You just want to look at their wall when you are bored, and if there are pics of them in embarrassing situations, you share them widely. It’s the same with becoming my FOLLOWER. You don’t actually have to follow me around. No, this is a unique opportunity for you to do a good deed and experience that warm, fuzzy feeling of moral superiority without actually doing much beyond pointing and clicking. Seriously, I wish there were more blogs that would allow me to click on their FOLLOW button. Here is my wish list:

THE MEDICAL SCIENCE BLOG. Useful to keep me up to date on the benefits of taking an Aspirin a day, which was good for a long time, then bad, now good again, according to some of the 10,000 pieces of advice on the net – but don’t quote me on this. The last time I checked was eight days ago. The situation may have changed since. You see how important it is to keep up to date? I wonder whether SILK ROAD has a FOLLOWER button. According to Wikipedia, that’s a “certifiable one-stop” online mart for illicit drugs with a revenue of 2 Million Dollars a month. So what’s the newest designer drug? Somebody tell me before they shut down the site!

THE CRITIC’S PAN BLOG. That’s what I need to catch up on the newest phrases to express my disgust with books, movies, and TV shows. “Shock and awe” no longer evokes shock and awe, and you don’t always find such a handy collection of terms as cited in Joel Rubinoff’s article about The Newsroom:
-monstrously conceived and incompetently executed
-manipulative and shrieky
-choking on its own sanctimony
-epochal failure
-will crash and burn with hellish spectacularity, etc. etc.
Choice words, my friends. I can’t wait to use them in my next book review. Or should I just follow the example set by Zoe Whittall who admits (Globe & Mail, 11 August): “I settled in on the couch, read the first page, put it down and e-mailed my editor to ask for a week’s extension.” And that was a positive review!

THE HEALTHY EATING BLOG. Eggs are good for you, says Eggs are bad for you, says I need a FOLLOW button to sort this out every morning before breakfast. And if that’s not confusing enough for you, read the Metro News: A focus group was fed regular chips and chips dyed red. Apparently the red chips made them pause and eat less. According to the researcher in charge: “They say, am I really that hungry?” But that article appeared on 23 May. So maybe it’s already stale-dated, and science has moved on to green chips. You get my drift? We need more FOLLOW buttons!

Sunday 19 August 2012

THE ARTISANAL EXPERIENCE. Brought to you from the mines of South Africa.

You thought artisanal stuff is what you buy at the farmers’ market? Well, you are totally out of it, my friend. Let me explain. There is ARTISANAL MINING in South Africa where women and children scrape rocks and sift through mine tailings in search of trace amounts of copper or gold. Check out

This opens up a world of possibilities. Not for the child miners -- they are screwed -- but for writers, who can now apply ARTISANAL in entirely new contexts. Here are a few suggestions:

ARTISANAL FAMILY: Includes a pampered hand-raised child with a distinctive whine, delicately flavoured with salt of tears and a hint of snot. Optional: a spouse seasoned to your taste with judicious prenuptial clauses, carefully balanced to eliminate any aftertaste of regret. Make sure to look into grandparents individually kneaded and shaped into babysitters and delightful cheque writers.

ARTISANAL COMMUNICATION: the creative process of forming full-flavoured words, emerging individually from a pre-warmed and pre-wetted mouth and skilfully oriented and cast in your direction, wherever you are. Perfectly audible without distortion or echo. No monthly fees. Reception guaranteed, even in the remotest corners of the Arctic Circle.

ARTISANAL MOVEMENT: the locomotion of legs by means of specially formed feet and knee joints. Functions on flat and inclined surfaces, will transport you over smooth and rough terrain. Caution: persons must me at least one year old. Consumption of alcohol and drugs may affect performance. Similar artisanal movements available also for arms, hands, and fingers. Handy for applications such as dish washing, bed making, and cleaning the toilet. NEW: A promising development adapting artisanal house-cleaning to male limbs. Still at the experimental stage, but expected to be fully functional within a generation or two.

ARTISANAL ACCOUNTING: the creative filing of income tax returns, for the discriminating One Percenter, guaranteed organic, mixed with the purest bull shit; also creative filing of expense accounts, hand-weeded of items such as champagne, limousines, and escort services.

ARTISANAL PRISONS: individual cells, vastly superior to the old “hot box”, a finely crafted and individualized solitary confinement experience matching your particular mental state and capitalizing on your personal phobias and sensitivities; now adapted for outdoor use with hand-crafted electronic ankle bracelets.

ARTISANAL EGOS for celebs, developed at our Ordinary Life Facility. Guaranteed to reduce bloating in the brain and generally repress bad boy/girl behaviour.  Warning: involves cruel confrontation with reality, painful reduction of disposable income, crushing experience of going unrecognized in public and being deserted by suckers-up and paparazzi.  Watch our skilled artisans taking on hardened cases like Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, and Lindsay Lohan and turning them into hard working, modest, considerate persons. – No, sorry, forget it. My fantasy is running away with me!

Thursday 16 August 2012

Going Retro. Forget the Kardashians and bring back the old lies.

Two days ago, the Globe & Mail ran an article under the heading: THE MODS ARE BACK. WHO WERE THE MODS? Right. Let’s call this new trend: BRING BACK WHAT YOU NEVER KNEW OR CARED ABOUT. The possibilities are infinite. Here are a few examples.

CELEBRITY SITES. I’m tired of the Kardashian sisters showing off cleavage and bling or reading of Jennifer’s newest pregnancy that isn’t. Let’s bring back regular boring people. How about pics of gnarly toes in Costco sandals? Or cutting-edge stories of life as a coupon-clipper? Or a poll of street people, rating Mouthwash vs. Niagara plonk? 

FACEBOOK PICS. Enough with the cute babies and puppy dogs. What about a close-up of you inhaling your old dog’s breath? Or if you are into babies, what about documenting 4 AM screaming? Get with the retro spirit and show us gramps putting in his dentures or holding up the line at the checkout, as he gropes for exact change.

CARS. Bring back the EDSEL and make your life more exciting. Never a dull moment when you are the owner of a famous lemon. Think of the excitement of not knowing when your power steering will fail. And EDSEL is such sexy name for a car. Rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it? Unlike the German throat-twister VOLKSWAGEN. Speaking of which: Bring back the old Beetle – so cozy! And when you go on holiday, no agonizing about what to bring along, what not to bring along. There is no space for anything. Meanwhile people from the former East Germany will want their TRABANT back. As they used to say: What a car! Fill it up with gas and double its value.

SHOPPING. Forget on-line shopping and the agony of entering all the digits of your postal code and credit card, only to see the page disappear because you hit CTRL by mistake. Bring back the Encyclopedia salesman and the Fuller Brush rep with their entertaining foot-in-the-door antics and astonishing motor mouths. Shut-ins will prefer them to MEALS ON WHEELS. Able-bodied folks will find them handy for afternoon trysts. These guys were so much more flexible than today’s laptop.

TELEVISION. Let’s go back to the good old times of black and white, tiny screen televisions with knobs and only three channels to choose from. Your timetable will suddenly open up. You will want to do your laundry, you will be eager to write that essay, you will jog around the block, just to escape the boring programs. Oh wait, we don’t have to go back to the fifties for boring programs.

MARRIAGE. But we might want to bring back the 50s husband. No more agonizing choices between family and career, ladies. Pampering your man is a full-time job. What were 50s husbands like? According to Jessica Mann and the Daily Mail (15 August), “no man in those days would ever shop, cook, wash up, make beds, lay the table or clear away plates.” That's not retro, you say? You've got one of those husbands at home right now?In that case, forget retro and go for the Science Fiction Trend. But that’s a topic for another day.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Any job’s a good job, Baby?

Child Star Honey Boo Boo

You know the 70s Bachmann Turner Overdrive’s lyrics ANY LOVE IS GOOD LOVE? In this economy, you’d think that applies to jobs as well. But maybe not. Consider these choice occupations:

SWEAT MOPPERS. No, I’m not making this up. Somebody’s got to wipe up the sweat of Olympic athletes. There are custodians keeping the courts dry in the wake of perspiring volleyball, basketball, and handball players (Wall Street Journal, 8 August). Mind you, the job comes with benefits, as Josh Kirk tells us: “The cheerleaders shake their pompoms above our heads and make us feel like royalty.” Okay. I guess there are worse things to clean up than sweat. Puke in a movie theatre, for example, after a showing of KILLER JOE. According to reviewer Adam Nayman, it was like Wayne’s World: “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll hurl.

DOORMAT for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, or anything else he steps on, leans on, or embraces. He weighs in at 300 pounds, you know. Newsflash (Toronto Star, 2 August): Mayor opens new Underpass Park, unexpectedly climbs jungle gym. Equipment survives! Whew. Mind you, onlookers reported an earthquake of 3.2 magnitude.

CHILD STAR. Here’s how Honey Boo Boo’s mother explained images of her daughter swigging Red Bull: “Performing and getting a kid up early and lasting all day without a rest, you have to energize that body. There are far worse things. I could be giving her alcohol.” Or inject her with heroin. Or lock her in the basement. Or chain her to the bed. Yes, as readers of THIRTY SHADES OF GREY, we know all about tough love. Honey Boo Boo herself is philosophical: “A dollar makes me holla.” (Globe & Mail, 9 August).

STUDENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ESSEN.  Marcel Pohl took his degree at Essen in 20 months instead of the usual 5 ½ years. I’d like to report that he partied for 24 hours or jumped into a pool filled with champagne or led a conga line around the block. But probably not. Huff Post tells us that university administrators felt cheated and asked Pohl to ante up some 4000 Dollars to compensate them for fees lost.

GUARD in Guantanamo Bay. According to TMZ, in a new form of torture, prisoners were subjected to Sesame Street tunes for days on end. And the guards didn’t suffer? Oh, they gave the prisoners headphones.

GOOD SAMARITAN. According to a Swedish newspaper( ), a man lined up for an hour at a local police station to turn in a bike he had found. When the owner was located, the Good Samaritan received a finder’s fee of $ 6. I wonder what the minimum wage is in Sweden? But at least the man got something for his time and effort. According to the Winnipeg Press (22 June 2011) a hospital worker was fired for giving an injured man water. Oh wait: the liquid in the little bottle she put to his mouth was coloured. Mouthwash, she said. The victim didn’t complain. Speechless? Joy-gushed?

Thursday 9 August 2012

Multitasking. You can’t get around it.

There was a time when a phone was just a phone, and all you could do on it was talk. Not any more. You are expected to multitask, right? So why shouldn’t your gadgets work harder as well? Here is a list of things that will do double duty for you.

Bed & Maid: Tired of straightening out sheets and plumping up pillows? Throw out your old mattress thing and buy an OHEA bed which makes itself in 50 seconds, leaving you free to do more exciting things, like working overtime to pay for your high-tech gadgets.

Tennis racquet & Trainer: Provided you have any leisure time left, check out the Babolat Play & Connect racquet on and improve your backhand via your smart-phone. P&C will give you the statistics on your power, speed, and temperature. Temperature? Oh wait, that’s the next big thing:

Flaming tennis balls & Whatever: I can’t begin to tell you all the tasks that little gizmo can accomplish in one lob. Here are a few:

-illuminating the tennis court. Remember you have to work long hours to afford those gadgets, so the only time you can play tennis is at night.

-unlock your car, according to Wait, you say, I already have a gadget unlocking my car. It’s called a key, if I remember correctly. Okay, let’s reword that: unlock someone else’s car, a nice Audi, say, or a Beamer.

-killing or maiming your tennis partner – that’s only if you are in a losing situation, of course. But there may be better ways of doing it. See next item.

Killer & Eco-warrior: The Swedish arms manufacturer NAMMO is way ahead of the eco curve. Their ammo doesn’t contain lead. Oh sure, their bullets will still kill you or your tennis partner, but in an ecologically superior way.

News & Advertising: Remember when you could tell the difference between news and commercials – one was boring, the other was entertaining. Well, now there is brand journalism, which will infotain you all the time. Check it out on These folks give you news you can use. They tell you which product is best. They mean best for them, as in best-paying. You didn’t know that? Well, let me tell you about Santa Claus. Or, since we are on the subject of saints and religion, let me tell you about

Games & Religion: The popular simulation game CIVILIZATION 5 now offers you a religion mechanic to enhance your empire. You can purchase prophets, missionaries, and inquisitors and send them out to extend your control and trounce the competition. You could kill competing religious units outright by going to war, but as Kurtis Seid explains on, “this might not always be worth it.” You know that, you say. You are aware of what happened in Afghanistan. And the whole business of prophets and inquisitors isn’t new at all. You’ve read about the Spanish Inquisition, the Iranian mullahs, etc. etc. Okay, then I don’t have to explain Santa Claus to you after all.  

Saturday 4 August 2012

ADS AND THE CITY. Sex, Money, and Fortune Tellers.

Ever had one of those slow days when you actually got a seat on the subway and had time to read the whole of METRO, including the ads on the last two pages? I did, and let me tell you, those ads provide amazing insights. They tell you what this city is all about. Here is an overview.

MONEY (25%)
A quarter of the ads in METRO want to get you into debt or out of it. Who are the guys behind those ads? Judging by the pictures, they are sweet young things with hair like Kate Middleton and a smile that speaks of expensive dental work. Okay, there is one middle-aged uncle-type, but he, too, has a 50,000 dollar smile. They are miracle workers, one and all, and very, very generous. They’ll charge you zero interest and ask no questions, least of all about your credit rating. But wait, let me get my magnifying glass. There is a teeny-weeny line at the bottom, invisible to the naked eye. Oh: “Some conditions may apply.”

Wednesday 1 August 2012

The Tweet Olympics

More than ever, athletes have their fingers on their electronic devices. 300,000 tweets were sent during the Bejing Olympics. More than 400 million have been sent so far in London. So what is more obvious than including social networking in the roster of Olympic sports? Here are some Tweet categories and medal contenders.

Gold: ZERO WORDS. Guy Adams, whose Twitter account was suspended after he gave out the email address of Gary Zenkel, chair of NBC Olympics.
Silver. ONE WORD. No contender as yet. I was looking for “DUH”, couldn’t find it. Lots of synonyms, though.
Bronze: FOUR WORDS. Thomas Towel for his “Really? This is it?” comment on China’s opening ceremony.

Gold: “He puts his swimming trunks on one leg at a time.” (Lochte about Phelps being human)
Silver: “Olympics is when America learns about world geography.” (Rob Lanthan)
Bronze: “It was not created to be a tourist attraction.” (Sebastian Coe about the Olympic cauldron)