Posts from the ‘Stuff I like’ Category

Sibling Joviality…I do miss it…

 Southall, UK…1969…Jammin’

Siblings…you hear all sorts of stories about them.  Bad blood, disputed inheritances, jealousies…

It’s too bad.  They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family – obviously said by someone older who has had a bad experience.  I don’t think anyone who is 12 or younger has ever said that! Why is it that all the problems arise only when you are older?

Really, of all the people in the world, who are you the most similar to?  Brothers and sisters have all the ingredients to be more alike – nature-wise and nurture-wise: same parents, same house, same schools, same toys, same food, same clothes (unless you were lucky like me, and were the oldest).  When and why do we go astray?  Simply age, I guess.

And even if you are fortunate enough to enjoy a close relationship with your siblings, do you ever really enjoy the same closeness, same joie de vivre, and energy as when you were kids?  I know that I enjoy my time with my brother – and would with my sister too (if we weren’t 7 time zones apart) – but when we were kids, oh boy were we inseparable!  And the memories we share – like all siblings, I guess – remind me of the craziness that kids can generate.

I mean, who among us hasn’t damaged a sibling? And I don’t mean figuratively – who has “felt like pummeling them” – I mean literally “almost did them in”.  In Grade Six, pushing my 10 year-old brother to school, on – not in – an abandoned grocery shopping cart, we hit one of those ubiquitous sidewalk bumps  (young Canadian street-hockey players know it well, the kind of bump that rudely jams the butt of your hockey stick into your diaphragm as you are running home dreamily,  leaving you out-of-wind, spasming and gasping uncontrollably on the ground!).  Bumpity-bump bump, and then there was nothing but a whirling Matrix-like slow motion somersault of me over the cart, the cart over my brother, and my brother becoming the human shock absorber.  Thankfully, as the back of his head made full thudding contact with the rough concrete sidewalk, he cushioned my fall!  There was no doubt he was concussed, maybe he even had a fractured skull.  But as he looked at me with dilated pupils, not quite hearing what I was saying, we both knew that there would be hell to pay if Mom and Dad found out.  So after a bit of pleading from me, he toughed it out, suffering through the full school day with the wound congealing under his hair. He definitely put up the good fight. The folks did eventually find out – perhaps the fact that my brother could not remember his name was a clue – but what fraternal loyalty!  Now, before anyone gets on my case (and it was 36 years ago), keep in mind that he was no saint either. Ask my sister about her two front teeth jettisoned forcibly by my brother.  In his best Six-Million-Dollar-Man impersonation, he flying-kicked her “loot bag” novelty bugle during one of her peace-making charges to end a brother v brother UFC match.  Never has the cry, “Ta-da-ta-dahhhh…here comes the cav-a-wee”  been transformed into the piercing shrieks of de-fanged six year-old girl so quickly!!

If you kids do not settle down, I am coming up there! GO… TO… SLEEP!  I was a kid – so you woudl think I would get it as a parent, and let it slide!  I remember the ludicrous sessions with my brother – we did share a bedroom for almost 8 years.  Not being sleepy, everything we said or did – and I mean everything – was “side-splittingly” funny.  We would almost pee ourselves laughing as we did impressions, made strange bodily noises, recited Bill Cosby’s comedy routines, sang goofy songs and told jokes until all hours of the night (okay, in hindsight, maybe it was only until 10pm)…there is nothing like the innocent, uncontrollable hushed giggling of kids as they work themselves into a ridiculous unable-to-breathe frenzy – unless you are a baby-sitter or a parent.  The Giggle Sessions still continue on the rare occasion, but now they seem to be beer or wine-induced! And they seem to be a lot more painful in the morning than I remember.

The Sibling Fights…ahh, epics.  Now with three of us, there were always alliances and allegiances and double-crosses: boys against girl, youngest against oldest, all against the middle (mathematically, I think that is  3!/(2!1!)  – Grade 13 Relations and Functions for those Ontarians that are old enough to remember, or care!  Just think of it as my attempt to do a Conjunction Function). Early childhood fights were all so simple…what show to watch on TV, whose toy it really was (and if – at the time of the transgression– the owner was really playing with it), who really broke the lamp, who cheated playing a Barrel Full o’ Monkeys, who was supposed to take out the garbage (that cost my brother his beloved replica Led Zeppelin Concert t-shirt), or who Mom or Dad loved more (c’mon… seriously… parents can’t love ALL their kids equally ALL the time – can they? ) The fights were epic…pushing and pulling, pinning and holding, kicking and punching, biting and pinching…all good cage match/roller derby stuff. But in the end,  it never mattered who started it, or why – as the eldest always gets the blame. “You should know better!”, “You are supposed to look after you little brother/sister!”, “Grow up!”, “What kind of example are you setting!”…the usual the refrains heard all over the World, and ironically at our house usually punctuated by a good parental smack or two to reinforce that violence was never the solution to conflict.  Aaahhhh…good times.

And then there was my parents’ favourite strategy to keep me out of trouble when I was a teen – forcing me to take my little brother with me…I assume he was just as thrilled…but boy did he get an education!  I suppose it was the guilt of almost fracturing his skull that motivated me not to ditch him.

But when you grow up, you naturally drift apart.  Different towns, different careers, marriages, kids…the bonds flex and elongate – but, if you are lucky, and  nurture them, they will stay elastic.  Sometimes close, sometimes far…but alwas there.  And sometimes when they are stretched and thin,  I think back to the fun crazy times I shared with my little brother and sister – with a happy smile. And though the relationships have changed  – no more a question of oldest or youngest, biggest or strongest, smartest or funniest, girls versus boys…you realise it is more about knowing you share the same roots and same DNA.   And no matter what,sooner or later, you will get together and giggle uncontrollably again. When next my Sis’ and Bro’ meet to jaw about the old days, I’ll bring the beer (I am the oldest, after all…)

Think of your siblings and give’em a hug, eh? Not everyone is so lucky.

Later,

ASF

What happened to the cape?…

What happened to the cape? I mean when I was younger they were so cool – where did they all go?

As for me, I have worn a cape – seriously, mind you – twice in my life…once when I was three years old –  a safety-pinned old blue towel and I was Batman – and the other was in my early twenties, as part of the ceremonial dress at Military College.

While one was definitely cuter than the other, I have to admit that the Scarlet jacket and the dark blue/black cape (worn with the one side thrown casually over the right shoulder, with the red-silk lining showing) were pretty dashing. It sort of captures everything good about a cape. Unfortunately, not the best look to meet the ladies at The Sting, or The Forge, in Victoria BC!

So…where did they go?  Once upon a time they were everywhere…on TV, in comics, on pop-stars, on daredevils.  Wherever anyone looked, there seemed to some cape-wearing star.

There were the glitzy, flashy ones….like Elvis’s.  Sadly it was not the cool 1960s black-leather Elvis, but the later Elvis…the puffier, sweatier one. Older, flabbier but, somehow, still a panty-magnet! Wise men say… it must have been the cape.

And then at the other end of the over the top cape-scene was Liberace.  Polished, svelte…playing it safe and appealing to both sexes…panties and boxers flying everywhere…

And who could forget Evel – before the jumps he would get that cape flowing as he did wheelies and practice runs up the ramps – teasing everyone that this might the flight over the gap.  The cape on my toy SST Knievel never flowed as well as his real-life one.  Funny, I never saw the cape at Snake River Canyon…

And after that there were the ones that graced the pages of Marvel and DC.  Capes that created the mystery, the power, the persona.  The superheroes and the villains…goodness and malevolence…colour and form….a world where capes were just part of the wardrobe.  So many styles and so many heroes…so easily replicated by a toddler sporting a pinned towel.

And then there were the monsters…the monochromatic, black and white ones, that scared the bejeezus out of us on late nights or 35mm film…back when the frights were all implied – not the graphic nastiness of today that leaves nothing to the imagination.  It was a time when Karloff and Lugosi and Chaney ruled…and all you needed to fight off the baddies were Abbott and Costello . And who could forget the badass  cape from Star Wars…”No. I am your father…” just wouldn’t have had the same impact without the menace of a helmeted, asthmatic capester.

But to quote PonyBoy and Soda Pop…that was then, this is now.  Who really wears a cape today…fashionistas like Lady Gaga (meat or hair, take your choice (Bleccchhhh), or Little Red Riding Hood (on the internet at least)…

Now that I think about it, I suppose capes are no longer cool. (Hey, I figured that out all by myself – I did not even need a teenager to tell me that.) Such a shame…I was hoping they would make a come-back.  Guess I’ll throw out the torn towel and utility belt now…

Later,

ASF

A Calvinist and Hobbesian view on life…

Sorry all…I have been absent as of late. But in my defence I will say that I have not been on the computer much, as I have been away from home.  But now I am done with airports and border agents and Euros – for a spell anyway – and I am enjoying a bit of a Dorothy moment…there’s no place like home!

So after ensuring the cats were alive, checking my e-mails, updating my Facebook etc, I was just “stumbling on” when I happened upon an article about comics that have had the most impact on their day and age (and seriously do not confuse comics with cartoons…unless you want to experience a “whole can of attitudinal micro-culture whoop-ass” from a plaid-shirt, unshaven twenty-something hipster). The article talked about the ones that were way before my time…Gasoline Alley, Little Orphan Annie…and moved to the contemporary ones like Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois. It event mentioned Family Circus – the “saccarhiney-aspertamey” tasting cartoon that I thought was, Ida Know, kinda boring.

But the timeline stopped before the author hit the Big Ones – the ones that I thought were most cutting, insightful and satirical – Doonesbury, Opus and my all-time “mostest favourite” – Calvin and Hobbes.  Now we all have our favourites, and I am sure you would defend the honour of your choice comic – but since this is my blog, I can say with impunity it is the best – and compared to the talking penguin, or the neo-politicos, the Little Precocious Sh*t Disturber with the Stuffed Tiger wins!

Take up the gauntlet and challenge me on that if you want….

Now, when I started reading this strip in 1987-ish, I immediately fell in love with it (coincidentally, I had no choice but to read it,  My dorm room was tidy AND clean, the laundry was all caught up, and the term-paper was still not due for a whole 16 hours…)  Being an amateur artist, the awesome art work hypnotised me – Bill Watterson broke all the rules as I knew them (or perhaps re-wrote the rules) – using the limited space creatively to captivate the reader’s attention.  But, that was not all. It was his writing that hooked me – hilarious, unconventional and really witty.  Watterson was a smart man, who found a great medium to express his views – particularly his satire – in a fun, yet thought-provoking way.

If you never looked at it like that, then check out these Calvin and Hobbes strips…

Now comes the favourite part of my blogs.  The suspense the reader must feel as they try to figure out where I am going with this.  I have set the hook, and now I am free to move off in any direction (I do love my tangents.). Giddyupppp…..

For instance – I could write about the symbology and very grown up notions swirling around Calvin and Hobbes.  Like how Calvin is named after John Calvin – a man who interpreted predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some and offered salvation for others – and that our lives are nothing but a paradox contrasting inevitable fate versus delusional free will; or, that little stuffed tiger Hobbes is named after Thomas Hobbes, a Primitivist who wrote ,”during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man”. (That is from Leviathan, by the way – no plagiarism here…attribution, attribution, attribution )

But, man, that is a lot of heavy mental lifting on a lazy sunny afternoon while lounging about in a T-shirt and underpants, drinking green tea infused with orange blossom and lotus leaves…

So I will go fluffy – well, sort of.

To me, the best part of Calvin was that he was “Every-man” – or more appropriately, “Every-boy”.  Every guy, old or young – whether a student, banker, artist, athlete, engineer, salesman,  tradesman – saw a bit of themselves in a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.  Once we chucked off the cloak of “responsible-ness” and the husk of our day jobs, we were all Fantasists and Day-deamers and explorers and smart-asses.  We were all Calvin.

And as I say over and over (to myself anyway), Everyone – even comic strip characters – can teach you a lesson – what to imitate and what not to.

Now there are many blogs on the interweb that illustrate how something or another taught the writer “all-they-needed-to know-in-life” – everything from kindergarten, to peanut butter, to yoga, to The Ninja Turtles, or even Will Ferrell. It is a bloated genre; but I will add to the bloat by writing about how  “All I needed to know, I learned from Calvin”.

Calvin taught me to…

Be curious.  What more can we say about Calvin other than to highlight his innate desire to learn more and to challenge the bounds. Interestingly, the Canadian Army is like Calvin,  It guides it members to,“ Pursue self-improvement”  – (it has a supporting principle – “There is no such thing as a stupid question”, which maybe true, but that argument can easily be neutralised with, “there are no stupid questions, just stupid people…”) – and Calvin, well he took the questions to new heights. He pushed the envelope, as we all should. And by virtue of the responses he received, Calvin also taught me that not all sources of authority have the right answer…sometimes you just have to figure it out for yourself.

Be adventurous.  “The more you think about things, the weirder they seem. Take milk for example. Why do we drink COW milk? Who was the guy who first looked at a cow and said, “I think I’ll drink whatever comes out of these things when I squeeze ‘em!”.  IOnce upon a time you just used blind faith and tasted birthday cake and ice cream – no idea if it was good or bad – and you probably discovered you liked it, a lot!  Everyday we face new challenges and opportunities – one of them could be the next cake and ice cream! (It’s an analogy – only cake and ice cream is cake and ice cream…and anyway, I don’t like either – I like gin…)

Be yourself – but learn how you fit into the big picture..  I am sure you will agree that Calvin was never afraid of expressing himself, or doing his own thing.  Now mind you, at times he seemed to break the rules ridiculously (in ways that I, as a parent, could never condone! Mimic, but not condone…); but conceptually, he espoused a great life philosophy. He was an individual, but he also showed us that community is important – though only 6, he was sure astute in realising that some rules are necessary…ask an ant (or read a Lehman Brothers’ lessons learned report…)

(By the way, my Dad taught me this one, too. His quote, “Son, do whatever you want to do when you grow up; but just do something that adds to society – don’t detract from it…”)

Push your limits.  It is easy to accept things as they are, but complacency can lead to stagnation.  As someone once said, “Only the mediocre are always at their best.” Shoot for the stars, they might be in reach!

The English language is amazing, and if you can’t find a word, make one up…a six year old using Scrabble-50-point-bonus-bingo words is amazing – even if it is fiction. As a twenty-something,Calvin and Hobbes taught me that a dictionary is one of life’s essential possessions.  Though expletives are great words with their own time and place, there are so many alternatives to “f*ck or sh*t – Calvin taught me to explore the other ~249, 998 words in the English language (excluding inflections and double meanings). And I am not even counting words like transmogrifier.

By the way, if you find a copy of the book in the image, it can fetch between $8,000 -$10,000!

Girls are G.R.O.S.S (Get Rid Of Slimy girlS) …well not really. But even six-year-old Calvin noticed that women are from Venus…and that we men just can’t help ourselves. We want to be with them, even if we don’t understand them. Ultimately, If a guy is lucky, he will find his own Suzie Derkins!

Wow, the list continues forever – how science rules, how we should take care of our planet, how pretentious talk really makes you sound stupid, how nothing is cooler than a dinosaur…and so on and so on. But I don’t have the energy to go on – and anyway I like to work in the Principle of Fives (like 59,  599, and 5879…they’re all prime number and have fives in them – two of my favorite things.)  Besides I could not think of another good example. And the sun is setting and my tea-cup is empty – so it is too cold to stay in underpants only…

Sadly,like all good things, the Calvin and Hobbes had to come to an end after a good 10-year run (and 3160 comics, which is not prime number and has no 5s) – and like the last episodes of many wonderful things – M*A*S*H or Blackadder or Cheers for instance  – it left the rest of the story untold – left to the follower to complete.

And so with a fresh fall of snow – a blank sheet of paper – and with a whole world to explore, joined by a happy tiger on a careening sled, we knew that Calvin would keep being Calvin…so cool!

Later,

ASF

Post-script.  Some deluded souls have tried to carry Bill Watterson’s torch further…Google “Calvin all grown-up” to find recent examples…but I warn you – what has been seen cannot be unseen. Some things should just be left untouched

Hello world!

Hello People who read blogs,

Though I am very happy you found this site among the galaxies of existing blogs, I am certain (sadly) that some most of you will never come back.  Why? Simple: this is a young site, authored by a novice, with a basic purpose; I am a simple fellow (see my profile for insight!) who has found a forum to voice my Middle-ages Everyman’s opinion on the topic de jour – whatever tickles my fancy or pisses me off.  I guess it would help if you view my blog in the same way you were amused by the hilarious awkwardness of Seinfeld’s first season – all we are saying is give the blog a chance.  It may grow on you.

At this embryonic stage, the blog is a chance for me to grow as a writer and for You, the savvy and intrepid  internaut, to critique and mold me.  As I get better (hopefully), there might be a Darwinian chance that you will help my blog crawl out of the webplasm and survive.  One thing is for sure, though –  this is not a blog that changes the world, or creates a critical mass of motivated, bright people that will eventually overthrow a tyrant, cure for a disease, or solve world hunger. I doubt it will even teach you how to make a better cupcake or jello shooter – as similarly worthy those pursuits are.

So buckle up boys.  As  I am writing from my base of knowledge, it will likely appeal to balding, ageing men with opinions – a nice wide audience. For the rest of the population, I hope this blog will evoke more than apathy:  if it amuses or annoys, consider that either collateral success or collateral damage.  If it strikes a chord, then I guess you deep down you are “a simple fellow” like me.   Later…

ASF