Leave a comment

In these days of the 500-channel universe certain aspects of the past seem remote and alien. (Of course, in the last twenty years the term itself has become obsolete; it’s pretty clear that something akin to Moore’s Law applies to television.)


Once upon a time, the city where I lived had three television channels — one for each of the Big Two Canadian TV networks and one for a French-language CBC station that les maudit anglais didn’t normally watch except for occasional hockey games, usually with the sound off.

Of course, cable TV arrived sometime in the mid 1960s. This brought a comparative glut of channels which in turn gave access to several important cultural phenomena. Early picture quality was often questionable — I remember watching a guy named Bob fight himself in a negative space wedgie while the vertical and horizontal hold went berserk. Apparently there are constant blizzards in negative space wedgies as well.

Where was I? Oh yeah…

A fourth broadcast channel appeared in early 1974. Early on they showed lots of movies; I’ve always assumed this was because they didn’t have enough other programming to fill their schedule. A fifth broadcast station arrived that fall — a French-language UHF station. They showed movies too; the ones they showed Friday evenings under the banner ‘Cinerotique’ generated a lot of… talk. (A lot of anglos tuned in religiously to Cinerotique — for some things, language isn’t a barrier.)


I like movies. Lots of people do. For me, one part of the movie ‘process’ is reading the closing credits.  (When possible — it mostly isn’t on TV these days.) You can learn what that song was that you thought you recognized. You can see who the system administrator was. And you can find out who played ‘mustachioed guard’ or ‘train person #3′ or ‘man in diner.’ Looking at the ‘little’ roles is kind of a game.

(So of course someone made a game about it. The game is all about playing minor roles: ‘Man falling off roof.’ ‘Crying woman.’ Roles that would make any actor stretch.)

Like a lot of other people, I don’t Go To The Movies as much as I used to (there’s no theatre within walking distance any more and two dollar Tuesdays are long gone) but when I do I still watch the credits. A couple of weeks ago Ms. Rose and I went to a movie and, because we’re like that, we stayed til the end of the credits. We weren’t disappointed either: there were four system administrators and there, on the screen, was the credit for ‘Rubik’s cube boy.’ It was a subtle and nuanced performance.

But it was no ‘man falling off roof.’



comments 2

No, not that kind.

Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife might not be ironic, but it is unfortunate. Add your own verse, stanza, or story of badly-timed annoyance to Alanis Morissette’s classic

I sit here in my dramatically irrelevant squid shirt and contemplate Ben’s suggestion to add a verse to an incredibly successful song from the 1990s. Well, I can’t write lyrics. I especially can’t write lyrics that add anything to a song that sold thirty million copies, received multiple awards and made the songwriter a household name. For one thing, I don’t understand music well enough (‘…written in the key of B major.’ What does that even mean?). For another, I can’t write poetry — really I can’t. I can’t rhyme (not even Moon/June/Spoon) and the less said about my sense of rhythm the better. For a third, if I could write a song that would have made me a multi-millionaire, don’t you think I would have done it by now?

It’s made even harder because none of the ‘examples’ in the lyrics is ironic. I believe that Ms. Morissette and her co-author (unlike Baldrick) were quite aware of this. They’re meant to look ironic, but only if you don’t look too closely. The real irony – the meta-irony, if you will — is that a song called ‘Ironic’ has nothing whatsoever to say about irony. They were looking for unfortunate situations that scanned properly, rhymed appropriately and fit into an album that had the themes of anger, bitterness and deep psychological trauma.

I definitely can’t do that.

I can do ‘unfortunate’, though.

I was driving to a funeral. It was my grandfather’s funeral. He was an important figure in my life because, well…

When I was ‘small’ I spent my time hurling bowling balls, getting my stomach pumped and breaking bones (mostly mine, although there was that time I hit someone in the head with a golf club). Sir Rose, for her part, spent some time in a hospital due to a nasty disease that I had nothing whatsoever to do with giving her. (Honest.) Anyway, due to the numerical depletion of my Supervisory Parental Units, my grandfather spent time with us to try to keep the mayhem at an acceptable level. Whether or not he succeeded I can’t say.

I have some clear memories of those days. I remember him putting ketchup on french toast; it was one of his habits that I picked up (much to the horror of every waitress along 3500 kilometres of Trans-Canada highway) and still retain. My father and I both shared a name with him so there were three generations of ‘Rose’ living under the same roof; I remember phone calls asking for ‘Rose’ and the caller never getting precisely the one he wanted. I remember sleeve garters.

He was a big part of my early life.

His funeral was about a four hour drive away so I climbed in the Rosemobile (that one was named GW) and hit the road.

These days, ‘most’ cars have doors over the gas cap; those doors are typically opened via a lever or switch inside the car. In those days, however, the doors were often opened with the ignition key. Those days also represented the transition from full-service to self-service gas stations. The lock, then, didn’t represent much of an inconvenience: you would stop the car, turn off the ignition, remove the key, get out of the car, open the filler door and pump long-dead dinosaurs into your fuel tank. Full-service stations still existed, of course — they were just getting scarcer.

Except on the ‘local’ high-speed controlled-access highway that ran almost directly from my door to the funeral. On that road there are moderately frequent ‘official service centres.’ These long had a reputation for being quick and convenient if somewhat dingy and overpriced. And along with ‘overpriced’ came ‘attendants.’ The locking filler door still didn’t present a problem: turn off the ignition, hand the key to the attendant and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

After waiting for longer than seemed absolutely necessary, I looked out the window. He hadn’t started yet — he was staring at my ignition key with a look of absolute horror on his face.

Scratch that. He was looking at half of my ignition key. The other half was in the filler door lock.

Ironic? Nope. Unfortunate? Yup. Annoying and inconvenient? Definitely. Something worth condensing and setting to music? That, as they say, is left as an exercise for the reader.




comments 2

Age. Aging. Life. Death. Mortality. Incontinence. Body betrayal. (Or. Or. Or even.)

It’s something that people think about. Sing about. Write about. Good writers write about it. Bad writers write about it. Why? Because if for no other reason, it’s something that affects us all, something that we all have in common. Heck, last weekend a Story Wrangler who likes gelato slung around another Master’s thesis suggestion — talk about aging, he said. So I tore myself away from a sea of mud and thought about it a little.

He asked if age is just a number.

Well, it’s not.

Heck  that was easy – maybe a little too easy. Maybe some explanation or discusion or evidence might be in order.

The most obvious proof is hockey.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve played hockey since early grad school because, early on, an upperclassman told me that “All grad students that aren’t jerks play hockey” and whatever image I might have wanted to project, ‘jerk’ wasn’t really high on the list. In fact, if I remember correctly, it wasn’t on the list at all. (He wasn’t being entirely fair, of course — while it was true that virtually every grad student did play hockey Tuesday and/or Thursday mornings at an arena that’s not there any more, not all that didn’t were ones that embraced the physicist stereotype (read ‘engineer’ as ‘physicist’ — compared to physicists, engineers are positively convivial) to an unnecessary degree. Some were very nice (for physicists) but were just from places that didn’t have a cultural connection to large quantities of ice and huge, foul-smelling bags full of equipment for surviving a post-apocalyptic wasteland.)

It was a pretty good group. One characteristic of  groups composed mostly of students, though, is that the students — as a group — are always more or less the same age whereas some of us (me, the naval architect, the dean) got older every year. The dean (not that one) was the first to go — he decided to hang up his skates as he approached his sixteenth birthday. The naval architect hung in until his eightieth year then circumstances… encouraged his retirement. That left me. And the kids.

In my final year of grad school I played hockey about eight times a week with no obvious ill effects. As the years went by, though… These days two games a week is quite enough. Believe me when I tell you that age is not just a number.

More evidence that age is not just a number can be found in foreheads.

A few years ago, Ms. Rose and I were visiting a theme park in New York state. The last thing we did that day was ride a coaster called the ‘Mind Eraser.’ The lineup had no singing but did have dancing — a very nice man and his son spent much of the wait providing much-needed entertainment. Between dances we talked about roller coasters, critiqued the clothing of other people in the line and….

compared foreheads. (Mine was bigger, but we agreed that neither of us had a ‘forehead’ as such; both of us were at least a five. These days it’s probably closer to ten.) We also talked about optimal headgear for theme park lineups.

Because old guys wear hats.

We wear them when we’re outdoors. We wear them when we’re indoors. Sometimes we wear them to curl. (The pants are more interesting; I’d wear any of them but my favourites are the ones from Monday. Unfortunately, they cost three times as much as sweat pants.) Part of it is vanity and denial — we think that if people can’t see the receding hairline then there is no receding hairline. This time of the year, part of it is practical — if there’s a hat then there probably won’t be painful cranial sunburn.

That’s the excuse I use, anyway. And that’s probably the excuse the guy in the E-class used.

On Canada Day Ms. Rose and I were driving toward a dock, following an expensive convertible driven by an old guy. You could tell he was an old guy because was wearing a hat. (Also because he was driving an eighty thousand dollar car.) I speculated (Ms. Rose is above such things) about his hairline, made envious comments about his bank balance and laughed at his turn signal. Because his turn signal was blinking for about ten miles.

That’s something else old guys do.

I laughed at it but I didn’t feel superior because I do it too from time to time. (Well, maybe more than ‘from time to time’ but never for as long as ten miles.) I would claim that it’s not entirely my fault.

In my first car, turn signals were noisy. Turning a corner was an invitation to a flashback to that movie where Our Boys climbed Hill 102 under heavy machine-gun fire. With that sort of sonic reminder, there was a vanishingly small chance of forgetting to turn it off.  My second and third cars had signals that were not quite as loud but still sounded a bit like automatic weapons — just slightly quieter ones. (Perhaps some fine German engineering would be an appropriate comparison.)

Of course, things have changed. The current Rosemobile has a much quieter and significantly more restrained turn signal. Combine that with  a sound system that’s more or less permanently turned up to eleven, overblown forty year old stadium rock and age-related hearing loss, well — is it any wonder that sometimes I don’t turn it off as promptly as I might?

So, strictly speaking I wasn’t laughing at him. I was laughing because there, but for the grace of a supreme being that I don’t believe in, went I.

See? Age isn’t just a number.

But now I’m worried about what comes next. (The stuff nightmares is made of?) Will it be white belts? Asking strangers to pull my finger? Sitting on the porch yelling at passing kids to get off my lawn? All I know is that if I start pulling my pants up to my chest, I’ll need someone to come to my house and smack me upside the head.


Scoring — PS. Sort of.

Leave a comment

I’ve talked a few times about goals; mostly in the context of hockey, although I’ve exploited the different meanings of the word ‘goal’ to make fun of some stuff. Whatever, but it’s mostly been about hockey. In particular, I’ve mentioned that I have two main goals when playing hockey (and doing a lot of other things): don’t get hurt and don’t barf.


Yesterday I stretched the first one just a little.

I was sitting on the bench (The white team had two people on the bench. Luxury — in summer people go on holiday and things tend to get a little thin on the ground. Er, ice.) when our left winger skated to the bench and said “Left wing.” (That’s a ‘thing’ in pick-up hockey — most of the time, no one has a defined position; there’s a FIFO queue on the bench and the person at the head of the queue takes the position of the person coming off. So what he was doing was telling me (since I was at the head of the queue) that I should get off the bench and play left wing.)

Left wing was on the far side of the ice so I skated that way, trying to figure out where everyone was, where everyone was going and where the play was headed. While I got my bearings I dodged a player in white going this-a-way, a player in black going that-a-way but I didn’t see the player (in white — not that it matters) heading back towards our blue line at fairly high speed.

Unfortunately, he didn’t see me either.

You can kind of imagine what happened next. He went down. I went down. Sticks flew. Loose equipment came, well, loose. (I remember a single glove sitting lonely on the ice a good twenty feet from either of us. I think it was his.) In short, hilarity ensued. (Well, maybe not hilarity exactly but it probably gave several people their minimum daily requirement of schadenfreude.)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I decided to shorten my shift — a sit on the bench looked pretty darned attractive. Moreso than usual, I mean.) On the bench the now-first-in-the-queue guy asked the obligatory question: “Are you OK?” “Yah, a little wobbly but otherwise OK.” “Remember that it’s only pick-up hockey; take it easy.” “Well” I said, “I only have two goals whenever I play: don’t barf and…” “…and don’t get hurt” he added. “Those are pretty good goals.” Just then someone arrived and he had to leave.

Time passed. I was on the bench and he skated to the gate at the end of his shift. “Right wing” he shouted, “and don’t barf.”

Guess I made an impression.



Leave a comment

I was walking down the sidewalk the other day when I had a minor epiphany (very minor — only I could have such a pathetic epiphany) — it occurred to me that, all things considered, this isn’t a bad place to live. You wouldn’t know it from my maunderings, of course: I’ve ranted at length about the misdirected cleverness of the shadowy figures that make incomprehensible decisions about parking, I’ve whined about the brain trust that spends money on technology that isn’t needed and is rarely used properly (here, here, here and here – obsession is rarely healthy and never pretty); I’ve complained about the questionable judgment of elected officials that apparently make planning decisions by listening to the voices in their heads. Despite all that there’s still a lot of good stuff hereabouts; you just have to look for it.

So I was looking for good stuff while I was walking down the sidewalk, wearing the black hat that I don’t believe in, reflecting on the words of several of the world’s notable thinkers. And I found some: I found a tree beside a church. It’s a very nice church as churches go, but the relevent thing was the tree — it’s the only place in the world that I’ve ever seen a bird in an ancient Greek hat. (Who knew that giant woodpeckers were Presbyterian?) That day the tree was unoccupied but it still made me smile. (Add one to the Good Stuff column.) It also marked my destination: it’s directly across the street from an art gallery.

I was going there to pick up a something I had left to be framed. (I found it in the park. Parks with nice ladies brandishing art is something else for the Good Stuff list.) I picked up my picture and went back to the street. The first thing I did was check for noisy birds. Nope — still none. The second thing I did was check out the display window next to the gallery; it had a pair of black leather thigh-high lace-up boots with five inch stiletto heels. They frightened me. They’d frighten anyone.


It occurred to me that that’s another good thing: the ability to watch entertaining birds, acquire beautiful art and shop for terrifying footwear in the same city block, well, that’s the way city planning should work.

print ++$GoodStuff;


The one to the left of the door was framed next to sinister footwear.