Saturday, October 30, 2010

There is none so blind. . .

I think it started in Grade 3, which is to say, 3 - 4 (I had, in the parlance of the day, "skipped" and was doing two grades in one year). But in spite of my supposed smartness, I was always daydreaming in class, not paying much attention to what was going on.

Miss Wray, the spinster schoolteacher at McKeough School in Chatham, Ontario, kept reprimanding me. "Margaret! Pay attention to the board."

Board. There was a. . . board?

At home, I watched Batman and The Monkees by making a little pinhole with my fingers. One day my mother asked me why I watched in such an odd manner.

"Because I'm trying to see."

After that, my nickname was Four Eyes, and it only got worse from there. Over the years, my lenses got increasingly thicker, and due to astigmatism, the edges were like Coke bottle bottoms. I didn't quite have that swimmy-eyed, distant look of the terminally nearsighted, but almost.

Glasses were made of real glass then, and there were no side pieces, so the bridge of my nose was chronically ulcerated and red, and the glasses fell off when I bent over. The frames were hideous. When I got new ones, kids would snatch them off my face, try them on and yell, "Gawd, are you ever blind!"

About a million years later, now that we have ultra-thin plastic progressive lenses that do everything but tap-dance, you'd think that attitude would have faded, but I've found it lingering in the strangest places. Such as the optometrist's office.
I am what we delicately call "high-index", and I have been all my life. So imagine my reaction when the clerk in Pearle Vision (yes, it was Pearle Vision - don't go there!) looked at my prescription, looked at me, and said, "Wh-o-o-o-o-o-a-a-a-h-h-h."

You know, if I went in for a hearing aid, I don't think they'd say to me, "Jesus, what are you, deaf?" Or maybe they would, who knows.

This is a tangential story, but I have to include it here because it infuriated me so much. It takes me forever to choose a new pair of frames, because I never take them off. They're part of my face. I don't take off my nose, do I? (Do you?). And naturally, even with medical coverage, discounts, etc., I can expect to pay $400.00 per pair, so I don't want to pick something I can't live with.
Last time I needed new glasses, I must've tried on seven hundred pairs in every optical outlet in the mall, until - voila - I went into Dr. Boyco's Image Optometry (actual name: remember it!) and found a pair I really liked, in a delicate blue. (I can't wear the heavy dark plastic Woody Allen things that everyone seems to like now, because they make me look like an elderly nerdette.)

I told them I hadn't had my eye test yet. "Oh, that's OK," the young woman clerk said. "We'll put them aside for you."

Mere days later, I came in to order my glasses.

"Why don't you look around for frames?"

"Oh, no, I already picked a pair. You put them aside for me."

It was the same clerk. She looked blank.


"Remember, I came in the other day and. . ."

"No, I don't think you. . . "

"Could you look around for them? They're blue, metallic, sort of rectangular-ish. . ."

She glanced around behind the counter. "Nope, they're not here."

"But you put them aside for me. You - "

"Sorry. They're not here anywhere."

"Could you, like, ask the other clerks, or - "

"I already looked for them. They're not here."

"So what happened to them?"

She shrugged.

"I guess somebody put them back out on the shelves."

I scoured the shelves. I wanted those frames more with every passing minute. I looked at every single pair, then I did it all again.

"They're not here."


"Could you maybe help me look?"

"But you said they're not here."

"So what happened to them?"

"Oh. Uhhhhhhh. . . I guess somebody already bought them."

So somebody sauntered into Dr. Boyco's Image Optometry, plucked a pair of frames off the shelves (which just happened to be the one pair out of 700 that I wanted), paid for them, and left. None of that getting-the-right-size nonsense. I guess one size fits all, eh? (- and who needs lenses anyway?)

I should have turned on my heel and left, but by that time I was so humiliated and beaten-down that I ordered my (distant) second choice, and I wear them to this day. But I feel bad about it. THEY should be feeling bad, but instead they're simply oblivious and feel nothing. I feel bad because they didn't bother to help me (because they didn't care), and made me feel ashamed of myself for still dealing with them. It was the antithesis of what we so longingly refer to as "customer service", which is supposed to be the very essence of good business.

It's two years later, but there's one thing I know: somewhere, right now, right this minute, in Dr. Boyco's Image Optometry in Coquitlam Centre in beautiful British Columbia, a pair of blue metallic frames is waiting. Waiting for some clueless idiot to open a drawer or lift up a phone book to find them.

Then put them back out on the shelves.

Can I get an eye transplant now?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Across the wide Missouri

This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. I was casting around YouTube to try to find an orchestral version of one of my favorite melodies, the haunting folk song Shenandoah. I couldn't find it, of course. Instead there were some awful versions by high school bands, and innumerable overblown abuses by (mostly) opera singers trying to make it sound Dramatic, Rich and Bold.

This just somehow came to me, sung by one Randy Granger, someone I'd never heard of. He has one album out which is mostly Native American flute music. After hearing this, I wish he would play flute less, sing more.

I can't describe his voice, and describing it at all would be desecration, but I must try. It has a warmth and a complexity, a richness of shivering overtones, and that incredible, nearly impossible stone-skipping (I can't think of the technical term, but it's those tiny, rapid steps up and down between tones - somewhere between a trill and a yodel - can you hear it?). But it's the tenderness, the longing and the caressing of the deceptively simple lyric that I love the most.

I may never find that passionate, roiling orchestral version that caught me up like a dangerous current all those years ago. Instead I found this. A human voice displayed naked, so that every nuance is exposed.

Hands off, Jon . . or not. . .

I'm not used to having my most cherished fantasies come true. As always, there's a story behind this-all.

At some point in my Mad Men worship, I decided I wanted a t-shirt with Don Draper on it. A reasonable request, I thought.

I found what was touted as the Official Merchandise Site for all that stuff, an outfit called Gold Label. Don't be fooled, this should be called Chintz Label. I ordered a "fitted" women's t-shirt which was called "moderately loose". In a size Large, because I didn't want to order an X-Large. I always see that as Size Elephant.

After paying $40 and waiting a few weeks, I got my t shirt. The package seemed awfully thin, as if there wasn't anything in there. I took it out. It would have fit a slim 10-year-old. I should have known from the picture, which was so skinny on the bottom it would never accomodate the most modest female

It smelled bad, like a synthetic which had been sweated into, real Star Trek stuff. It brought to mind the petroleum-based crimplene of the '70s. The logo was that smooth, paintlike, shiny layer that cracks in the wash.

To their credit, when I complained about it, the company sent a refund and didn't even ask for the shirt back. I'm glad, because they probably would have sent it back out there.

SOOOOOO. . . (Is anyone interested in this? I thought so), I went to Plan B and looked on eBay. Like Alice's Restaurant, in nearly every case, you can get anything you want.

For $20, a black tee, size Large, brand Gilden. It came promptly, and did not disappoint. It was made of real cotton, topstitched shoulders, and the only fit problem was the length, so I had it altered to bring up the hem 4". I got it from tees-aplenty. Remember that name, folks.

But the most gratifying thing about my gorgeous new shirt is the placement of Don Draper's hands. They are squarely over my breasts, and in pinch position.

I can dream, can't I?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Turkey Song: encore, encore!!

I lost the Turkey Song! I posted it, but I can't seem to find it in my old posts, even though it's listed under Oct. 22.

So here it is again: my granddaughter Caitlin in her YouTube debut. Who needs that little Jackie Whatsername anyway? Brava, encore!!

Quote of the Day/Kitlers

Hermann Goering, one of the worst distortions of humanity ever to live, was once famously quoted as saying, "Every time I see the Fuhrer, my heart drops down into my trousers."

Homoerotic sentiments aside, we just can't lose our fascination with black and white cats who look like Hitler. Or can we?
The jury is still out. What next, I wonder - Persians doing Quaker Oats commercials?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Martin Scorsese, Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese, Martin Scorsese

A little Italian let’s praise today:
The Topo Gigio of pictures, let’s say.

When Taxi Driver comes on TV,
I always drop what I’m doing, you see,
For Travis Bickle is my main man,
Because of DeNiro I’m such a great fan.

When first I saw this story bleak,
I had to through my fingers peek,
For though the end was a gory mess,
I couldn’t stop watching, I must confess.

Then I saw a picture of Marty,
Who supports the Italian Munchkin party.
Like my Uncle Aubrey his eyebrows were dense,
And his movies didn’t always make much sense.

But to the soul they spoke without fail,
For Raging Bull's a morality tale.
And fluids red from DeNiro’s face
Went gushing and flying all over the place.

When we saw Jake LaMotta bash his head,
It filled us all with horror and dread.
But for our director, comedy was king,
For sociopaths were Marty’s favorite thing.

I can’t tell you all the movies he did,
For I’d be here all day, I do not kid.
But some of them were a big surprise,
Like Age of Innocence, pure sex in disguise.

And Alice by Bursteyn, my what a trick,
For feminist views he laid on quite thick.
And when he did that movie of Jesus,
He went far out of his way to please us.

Then there was Goodfellas, my what a pic,
And I can’t say it was my favorite flick.
Every time I try to watch this thing,
It doesn’t exactly make me sing.

No, there’s pictures where human flesh does rip,
And he and DeNiro seem joined at the hip.
It’s an odd sort of duo, a big guy and small,
With both of them Cosa Nostra and all.

Real genius is rare, so let's praise this guy,
And hope that his pic on Sinatra will fly.
His turkeys are few, though with Liza Minnelli
He went on a coke binge and turned into jelly.

Martin Scorsese, Martin Scorsese,
Your pictures are great and drive film students crazy.
So some day I hope, in my brief mortal span
I can call you just Marty: cuz you is de man!


My life would not be the same without the Stooges. Every afternoon after the rigours of school, I'd flop down with my bag of Oreo cookies and go glassy-eyed. Next to the "bee-bye-bicky-bo" episode (which I'll post sometime, it's a classic), Curly's dancing was the best. If you can call lying down on the floor and spinning around in circles dancing. And what about "Moe! Larry! Cheese!" I thought I had hallucinated that, until I dredged it up on YouTube.


Margaret, are you grieving?

To a young child

Margaret, are you grieving

Over Goldengrove unleaving?

Leaves, like the things of man, you

With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

Ah! as the heart grows older

It will come to such sights colder

By & by, nor spare a sigh

Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;

And yet you will weep & know why.

Now no matter, child, the name:

Sorrow's springs are the same.

Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed

What heart heard of, ghost guessed:

It is the blight man was born for,

It is Margaret you mourn for.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why writers commit suicide

I always try to avoid opening these things. But sooner or later, I have to. I have to get the bad news, and it isn't going to be any better if I wait.

If I get my SASE back (and many agents/publishers still demand that you mail your manuscript or query WITH A SASE: "You do want your manuscript back, don't you?"- an actual quote), it's never good news. Good news comes fast, by phone. Maybe email. Never by mail.

In thirty or so years of writing for print, I've only had two of these. They aren't form rejection letters, which are bad enough to receive after you've put together a thoughtful proposal which boils down hundreds of pages and years of work (and hope - the demon hope!) into a few pages.

It goes like this. When you open the envelope, you see - not a form rejection - but - your own letter, sent back to you in your SASE! What is going on here? And then -

In this case, a rubber stamp. Yes. In the corner of my letter. That was how I received the rejection for my novel, which I still believe is the best thing I've ever written.

The other time, I was (fruitlessly) trying to syndicate a column, which I later found out has to be done by God, not a mortal being. I received my query letter back. The guy had scrawled in pen, right across the body of my letter, "Thanks, but no thanks."

It later occurred to me that at least he had taken pen in hand and written something personal. But the truth is, he probably didn't have a rubber stamp.

If ANY other person in ANY other field of endeavour were treated this way, they'd sue, or quit, or jump off a bridge. Most writers choose Option #3, or just quietly go away, which is what the powers that be all seem to want.

OK then, I've just destroyed my chances of ever appearing in print again, because I am supposed to just quietly swallow all this anguish and embarrassment and failure and learn a lesson in abject humility. But it's OK, because nobody reads this shit anyway! Nor do they cast eyes on a novel that took me years to write, mining the depths of my soul. Which now appears to be worth exactly nothing.

Seeking asylum? Have I got a nut house for you!

Hey, this guy was in one of my favorite movies. I like it better than It's a Wonderful Life. He blows up a septic tank, remember? Type casting? Maybe.
Click on the link above, and see my daughter Shannon Paterson report on this bizarre tale. It's a conspiracy theory, kind of like Joaquin Phoenix's mental hospital stunt or the poisoned Kraft Dinner that wiped out East Malilbu.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tastes like chicken


World's largest rodent considered a delicacy by Venezuelans

MANTECAL, Venezuela (AP) When Venezuelans' appetite for capybara clashed with the church's ban on eating meat during Lent, a local priest asked the Vatican to give the world's biggest rodent the status of fish. People rejoiced when the Vatican agreed, declaring that capybara isn't meat. More than two centuries later, they still consider the 130-pound capybara a delicacy and pay big bucks to put it on their dinner tables.

"It's the most scrumptious dish that exists," says Freddy Colina, 17, who lives on the southern Great Plains of Venezuela, where a Lent without capybara is like Thanksgiving without turkey in the United States.
Venezuelans think the rest of the world doesn't know what it's missing. Some even want to export capybara, which they call a red-meat lover's dream-come-true: Tender and tasty yet low in fat. They envision people in New York and London eating capybara steaks and capybara hotdogs.

"This is a great solution" for meat-eaters worried about their cholesterol levels, says biologist Saul Gutierrez, who helps raise the animals on Venezuela's most prolific capybara ranch, El Cedral.

Capybara, which looks something like a pig with reddish-brown fur, tastes like pork, too, although with a hint of fishiness. Usually it's heavily salted and served as a shredded meat alongside rice, plantains or spaghetti.
Among its fans is President Hugo Chavez, whose mother says the former paratrooper couldn't get enough of it when he was growing up.

Many Venezuelans are grateful the Roman Catholic Church gave the animal the status of fish allowing its consumption during Lent. But more than a few think the classification is laughable.

"It doesn't even look like a fish. A capybara has hair and four legs," says biologist Emilio Herrera, although he acknowledges the creature does swim.
Capybara meat costs up to $4.50 a pound, a hefty price for Venezuelan workers, many of whom make the minimum wage of $200 a month.

The animal is found from Panama to Argentina and is eaten in several countries. But no one craves it like Venezuelans, mainly those in the southern and central parts of the nation where the animal thrives in grasslands and swamps.  They contend that eating capybara, which is a cousin of the guinea pig, shouldn't make people squeamish.

Capybaras are surprisingly clean despite an unsavory habit or two.Wallowing in mud much of the day helps kill off ticks and fleas, and then the capybaras wash off in clean pond water. Yellow-headed caracara birds spend hours each day picking the bugs off the capybaras' fur and skin, too.

True, capybaras eat their own feces, but so do other animals such as wild rabbits, says Rexford Lord, a capybara expert at Pennsylvania's Indiana University.

Unlike rats, capybaras are picky about what they eat, mainly grass. They have just 1.5 percent fat content in their meat, compared with up to 20 percent for cows. 
Capybaras used to be one of the most common animals in the Great Plains. But many were killed by the Spanish conquistadors, who introduced cows which compete with capybaras for land.

Then a government conservation program that started in the 1960s backfired when corrupt wildlife officials took bribes and allowed overhunting, says Gutierrez, the biologist at the El Cedral ranch. Today barely 100,000 capybaras are left in Venezuela, though the animal is not considered endangered.

Private ranches such as El Cedral in Apure state are trying to boost the population by keeping poachers off their lands. They're succeeding and are even thinking about exporting the animal, though few concrete steps have been taken. They say capybaras are much more profitable to raise than cattle since they produce more offspring, use less grazing pasture and don't need expensive medicines like cows, which are not native to Latin America and often get sick.

Gutierrez acknowledges there will be huge image problem in trying to sell foreigners on the world's largest rodent as a meat source, but is confident it can be done.

"It's only a matter of marketing," he says.


Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book
    It took me years to write, will you take a look

CTV "First Look" at Olympic Village condos

These last 2 posts represent a couple of generations: my daughter Shannon Paterson, illustrious reporter for CTV News in Vancouver; and Caitlin Paterson, her daughter, my illustrious granddaughter, performing The Turkey Song from La Traviata.

The Turkey Song

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

This is my LIFE

All right, this whole story is stupid, isn't even a story. So I'm sitting here in a ratty nightgown at 12:43 because a "little job" I thought would take five minutes took four and a half hours, give or take two or three.

I don't know why this crap makes me want to commit suicide. Maybe it's the futility, the utter loss of control, the totally pointless sweat and effort that yields exactly nothing.

I was digging out flannel sheets for the winter, and noticed what a pile of garbage my linen closet is. It's a war in there. I can never find what I want because of all the irrelevant sheets, some of which seem to go back to 1966. There are holes in things, rips in sheets I really liked. Others are magnificent, obviously never used (but those are the ones I can never find, or else they're just too nice to use). There are also old tablecloths, maybe used once at someone's wedding, old partial bath mats (the kind that fit around the toilet - asinine!), decaying shower curtains, a flannel fitted sheet for a playpen (the kid is now seven), and etc. etc. Crap, crap, crap, with the stuff I do want completely buried.

At first I started trying to, you know, straighten up. Just - put this over here, and that over there, and - . As I progressed, or didn't progress, the job got steadily bigger and bigger. There were whole shelves of towels involved (some of which went back to 1963), and a shelf of pillows of various vintage. And cartoon sheets for the kiddies' sleepovers, Dora the Explorer and Thomas the Tank Engine. Or partial sets. You can't put a Dora top with a Thomas bottom (in fact, it sounds alarming). Quivering with fury, I grabbed and pulled out every item on every shelf, dumped it onto the floor and vowed to go through everything item by item. It would only take a few minutes.

Then why do I smell so bad? I smell so bad because the whole thing took so BLOODY LONG, and didn't yield the results I wanted at all.

My sheet inventory was as follows.

One Dora sheet, not fitted.
One Thomas pillow case, with some kind of stain on it, can't think what, could be blood.
One set of twin sheets for the spare bed (which my husband regularly sleeps in when I snore). Hideous color, made in Bangladesh.
One spare set of sheets for our queen bed, very old, with those corners that pop off.
SEVEN SETS OF DOUBLE SHEETS. Double sheets. I couldn't even think about how long ago we had a double bed. Then I realized we bought a pullout years ago, what, seven or eight? It has been slept in maybe twice, three times. So yes, oh, surely, truly, goddam YEAH, YEAH, like we really needed seven sets of double bed sheets!!

OK, it was four, but still. It just defies logic. I never bought those sheets. I never. They must've been spawned by all those other sheets writhing around in there in the dark. It got worse. I kept finding those stupid toilet lid covers and finally put one on my head like a beret. I wanted to flush the sheets down the toilet. I couldn't find my favorite pillow cases - well, I found one, but it was a set, see, given to me by my best friend, nice big queen-size pillow cases, the kind you can never find anywhere, sunny yellow, with pictures of violins hand-embroidered on them.

What the crap happened to the other pillowcase? I want it back I want it back Iwantitback.

Mostly, I want my morning back, and I'll never get it. My life is ebbing away. I can't afford this shit any more. Nobody sleeps in a double bed, it's just not done. Everybody's too fat now. I won't tolerate indelible menstrual stains on my best sheets because I'm eight years past menopause. It's disgusting. From now on, I will sleep suspended in the air 4" above the sheets. Or on the ground outside.

POSTSCRIPT. I did find the yellow pillowcase. It was in the wash. But there are still things missing. I broke down and bought a queen set at Zellers for 20 bucks, and now that I've washed them I realize they're the nicest set I own. I want to go back and buy more, more, more, but the thing is, now that I've cobbled together a reasonable variety that sort of match, I don't really need any more. But some day I will need sheets, and say to myself, why do I have to pay $85 for sheets that I could have had for $20?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Baby Laugh-a-lot!

OK, I got carried away today. I dredged these ads up for my 7-year-old granddaughter, she of the gappy teeth and amazing mind. She loves this kind of nostalgia and makes video ads of her own, with Chatty Cathy saying all sorts of subversive things. This one is the limit, I think. Nowadays parents can find the battery chamber and disable toys like this, but this one. . . it's a whole new definition of crazy.

As for the others, I was aghast at Barbie and her pooping dog, and even more taken aback by Willie Wee-Wee or whatever it is, a little boy's peeing penis on full display. I remember there was a Baby Joey when Gloria had a baby on All in the Family, and there was a huge dispute about it because he was anatomically correct. I think they pulled it off (excuse me) the shelves and/or neutered him. So how did this little devil get by the censors?

The Meow Mix one. . . what can I say. It sends my grandkids into peals of laughter every time.

2006 Barbie And Her Dog Tanner HQ Commercial

Another Toy Fail

Monday, October 11, 2010