A sense of fairness

August 16, 2013

Sins of the fleshThere’s a new movie coming out called The Butler. It deals with racism in America. Racism in Toronto was different. When I was a kid growing up there were no black students. I never met a black person. There were no black families in the city where I lived or in the suburbs where we moved when I was 6. The only blacks I saw were on the news and in Buffalo when my parents crossed the American border.

Its painful to recall the kind of ideas that were roaming around the heads of 9 and 10 year olds. Were Negroes the missing link between humans and apes? Were Negroes innately slower? Should they be allowed the same rights as the rest of us? Our inhumanity at that time is difficult to explain. But we were obviously picking up these ideas from the adult world. And there was something else. Something even stronger than these prejudices. A sense of fairness. No matter how you argued any issue, we all knew that ‘negroes’ weren’t being treated fairly.

Rage

Braggging

March 4, 2013

Of course I’m going to brag. About my eldest daughter. She has quite a lot on her resume.  My daughter won a Canadian Screen Award for her work on “Todd and the Book of Pure Evil.” (She’s the tall one)

AAAKatie

 

 

Most animals are not very sophisticated. They want the basics in life. Food. Shelter. A 24″ plasma TV. But we imagine that there is more there. I once spotted a Coyote on the block. At first I thought he was just a gaunt shaggy dog. But then he looked at me. It wasn’t the look of a pet. It was the look of an equal.

Fred is a cat. Fred in these stories, one of which I am inserting. A brief taste. If we ever get off this planet we will meet creatures who will not be pets. They will challenge us. In some cases they might wish to make pets of us.

A short excerpt from the second novel in a quartet called The End Starts Just Before The Beginning.

AdventuresEpisode2LARGE

……………………………………..

“Ann and I went to look at air-conditioners this afternoon,” Fred said.

“Air-conditioners? But, we already have an air-conditioner. Besides, the hot weather is over.”

“That’s what the sales clerk at Canadian Tire told her. Ann didn’t believe him. Nice looking fellow too. For a moment, I thought Ann was flirting with him but then she went into a rage when he said it was almost October. You know how Ann can go into a rage, Dave.”

I nodded.

“Ann thinks it’s April. Don’t you find that strange?”

An airplane passed low overhead, dragging a sign behind it that read – Mild, isn’t it? I could see into the lit interior. The passengers were all seated. The No Smoking sign was on. I butted out my cigarette and fastened my seat belt. I turned on the radio. It was the news. Estonia had just declared its independence from the Soviet Union and had been spotted off the coast of Newfoundland. I turned the station. The baseball scores were in. The Blue Jays had lost another cliffhanger. I flipped through the stations until I found some music that fitted my mood. Country music. Someone had just been cheated by their woman and was crying into their Budweiser. Another station. A talk show. A woman had just had an argument with her husband. He wouldn’t take out the garbage or rake the leaves. He wanted nothing to do with the kids, just came home from work and sat in front of the television with a bottle of beer watching the ball game. “I swear,” she said, “if I come hack to this world again, it won’t be as a woman. I’ll come back as a case of beer. At least I’ll get some attention.”

“Did you ever see someone die?” Fred asked. “You ever know anyone who actually killed someone? And I’m not referring to my pet fly.”

A flock of seagulls flew low across the highway in front of me. I flicked on my headlights and slowed down. The car behind me that had been hugging my tail honked its horn. I looked into the rear view mirror. The car pulled into the next lane and alongside of us. The driver threw a few obscene gestures my way before he flew off into the distance. We turned east along the 401. Fred repeated his question.

“My father killed someone during the war.” This wasn’t actually true. I had no idea whether my father had killed anyone. I assumed that, as a soldier, he must have. We are all the children of killers.

“To tell you the truth, Fred, I haven’t seen anyone die.” I have always been petrified by death. When Ann’s father died I couldn’t go near the coffin. Everyone milled about in the funeral home and spoke softly for fear that if they spoke too loudly the dead might rise. Ann often went to the graveyard to lay flowers on her father’s grave but I always found some excuse for not accompanying her.

A Chevrolet pulled up beside us. Before it could advance, a motorcycle sped up the white line between us and down the highway. The Chevrolet retreated and pulled off to the side of the road.

“Death is like the North Star, Dave. It’s one of life’s few constants. Without it we would be lost. How about when your folks kicked the bucket?”

I shook my head, explaining that I had no idea whether my parents were dead or alive. They had just disappeared. Dr. Blackstone claims that I have wiped them out of my memory, that I have made a conscious effort to forget them. But I recall that I returned home from college one long weekend to find that they had sold the house and disappeared. I called the real estate agent who had sold the house and she had no idea where they had gone. She said that they had mentioned moving to Sudbury, a mining town north of Toronto. Sudbury was known for its nickel mines and for having a landscape that resembled the moon. It was said that astronauts had trained in the outskirts of Sudbury rehearsing for their lunar landing. My mother had loved her garden and I couldn’t imagine her and my father moving there.

“You don’t suppose they were picked up by aliens?” Fred suggested. “I read about that in the National Enquirer. Abductions. Taken away in big ships behind the moon and examined, or fondled, or experimented upon, or whatever it is that aliens do to you. I’ve often wondered why there haven’t been any reports about aliens abducting Hondas? Or microwave ovens? Or cases of scotch whiskey? I know that there are hundreds of bicycles that disappear every year. And what about hockey pucks? What happens to all the hockey pucks?”

Another passing transport truck sent shivers through the Beetle. The vibrations almost sent Fred tumbling off the seat and onto the floor. I laughed and was about to respond to Fred’s enquiry when I noticed a Mustang coming up quickly on my left. When the Mustang was almost upon me I noticed that there was an incredibly beautiful blond wearing sunglasses driving the car. I thought I recognized her from the evening of my lecture fiasco. She pulled up beside us. I hardly dared to look. She did not try to pass us but drove along for some distance parallel with the Beetle. Finally I could resist no longer and stole a glance. Except for her shoulder harness and her sunglasses, she was naked. She smiled; I smiled back.

“Dave!” Fred cried.

“Quiet, Fred!” I barked, turning on Fred. I looked back at the blond. She was beautiful like a goddess rising in one’s sleep to taunt you. The blond goddess took off her sunglasses.

I gasped. The Beetle veered to the right.

“Did you see that?” I cried.

Fred nodded his head.

“She didn’t have any eyes.”

Before I could take a second look, she sped on ahead, exiting off at Keele Street. I decided to follow. She had a Michigan license plate. I followed the blind goddess for several blocks but never managed to catch up with her. As suddenly as she had appeared, she vanished. Perhaps she’d gotten bored. Perhaps she never existed. I was sweating. I pulled off the road and into a Tim Horton Doughnut Shop where I spotted the motorcycle that had passed me earlier, parked next to a van. I went into the shop. When I returned to the Beetle with a coffee and milk and half a dozen chocolate doughnuts, I found Fred still visibly upset.

We sat for a while without speaking, listening to Merle Haggard. Fred did not touch his milk or chocolate doughnuts, his favorite.

“Who?” Fred gulped. “Who was she, Dave?”

“I don’t know, Fred.”

Fred was trembling. “I’ll tell you who she was, Dave. She was a bloody omen and not a good one. Jesus, Dave, don’t you think this whole thing is getting out of hand?”

“What thing, Fred?”

“Life. Your life. Christ, I don’t know how you can stand it, Dave. It scares the hell out of me. Things happen to you, weird things, things out of a Cronenberg film. Dave, someone is trying to tell you something.”

I pulled out of the doughnut shop and headed west on Eglinton Avenue.

“Where are we going now?” Fred asked, his mouth full, finally succumbing to the allure of the chocolate doughnuts.

“Home,” I replied. “You wanted to go home, didn’t you, Fred?”

Fred nodded.

“Ann will he worried.” I added.

“I wouldn’t count on that, Dave,” Fred responded.

“What do you mean by that, Fred?”

“What I said earlier about Ann loving you. It was a lie Dave. Your whole life is like that. Upside down. False. Nothing is real. I don’t know how you dare to get up in the morning. I don’t think you love Ann either. I think it’s something the two of you are holding onto, like a lifesaver. As far as I can see, the both of you are nuts.”

I looked at Fred. “You shouldn’t talk with your mouth full, Fred. It’s impolite.”

I stared out at the highway ahead, suddenly feeling drunk. The rearview lights of the cars and the white lights of the street lamps began to dance in front of me. The road began to curl, throwing the Beetle high up on its back as if we were riding a snake. My mouth was dry. I had to get home. That’s what I kept telling myself. I felt like my father must have felt when he found himself lost in the woods during the war, hoping he didn’t stumble into the German lines. I was angry. My hands squeezed the steering wheel. Did I want to kill myself? Was that it? Could Ann see that? Why had she asked me to take out more life insurance? How much was enough? I wiped my brow. We turned off the highway and headed south on Islington Avenue.

“Ann took me for rabies shots yesterday,” Fred said, rubbing his arm. “That’s the third time this month.”

 

 

Bogart and that Black Bird

December 27, 2012

The first time I saw Bogart on television was an interview he and his wife Bacall did with Edward R. Murrow. It was floss. But there was something about the actor. I’ve seen most of his movies that are easily available. I’ve watched The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca over a 100 times. And some of his other films like Sahara, The Big Sleep, etc dozens of times. His characters always exemplify something weak, incredible flaws, as well as redeeming strengths. He is a romantic hiding under a cynic.

This excerpt is from my book The Black Bird. Have a look.

…………………………….

excerpts from bogart’s diary #1-37

 

huston decided to hold a costume ball before we began shooting the falcon . we call john the ambassador of dreams eyes in envelopes, umbrella prays for rain (so she won’t feel so useless) . bullet proof ears. he cannot hear death—he only knows it by smell he met each guest at the door. dressed up as fatty arbuckle & holding a jar filled with oysters anyone know i asked. the ambassador winked winked & sprinkled stardust on each of us as we entered while singing WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR MAKES NO DIFFER­ENCE WHO YOU ARE. i was dressed up as the invisible man . no one noticed … sydney stayed close to the bar or was it the reverse . he looked like the election returns . he said he was disguised as mt. everest . several young starlettes were clustered like small villages around his feet. one was wearing skis and reciting the koran . backwards . another wore two tablets and a long beard that began below the waist … mouth open oven a creampuff danced around the room looking for horny dps especially tall first lieutenants from toronto who read ts eliot. jeffery longstreet said he had a cake for her throat. unleavened, bruised, and circumcised… lorre sat at the piano playin’ popular tunes with a german accent. dressed up as hitler’s bitch in heat. his tail kept falling off. the great dictator received his instructions from his dog . the bitch would open her mouth and hitler would bark … the apaches are waiting at the edge of the desert waiting for the storm to pass . dying of tb . & learning how to square dance … cattle lena in a tux. practicing her courses. digging a plot in her pocket. spitting out cigars. & pinching any ass that grazes by… a pageant of people bursting with beginnings . yankee optimism . parmenides was right we never leave the beginnings, unless you put up your wrist and slash for per­mission to leave . there is only this solid mass of oneness . we are like creatures, extinct, & frozen in me NOW … why do i always feel like i’m sitting on the edge of the world spit­ting seeds into the emptiness, flushing the nothingness out of my soul … two colored girls showed up. or was it a costume . everyone gathered around to see them make love in the potato salad. i spent some time in a closet with one of them . she had eyes like a cathedral. i felt like st. francis begging on the front steps for one chance to light a small red candle. i told her she was very tight. she said she felt claustrophobic . being colored is like living in a box. all white women should be blind, peeling off her skin she placed it on a hanger. that i could hardly control … someone handed me a manhattan. i finished a cigarette and flew around the room , solo. i was hoping that it wouldn’t rain. i asked if everyone would mind cease burning their words until i could clear up this mystery. i ran into sydney who was rehearsing as a zeppelin in a bath tub. he asked me to leave . he already had some passengers . easy flo said that she now understood . everything i promised had been part of some plan . to lay her out like an airport and then land… laughing from the chandeliers tequila dorothy in feathers that fell off like snow swung above the drifts of faces. raymond the parrot told her to be careful . someone else screamed — melt … is there any alternative to feeling haunted . a little kid staring out through dusty windows, broken glass on the floors . mice in the rafters . eaves troughs filled with tears. perhaps it is my work . am i nothing more than a series of poses. movement is the illusion they love. i am the offspring of magic and mechanics . cameras have cataracts. they see only what they wish to see … is god some machine projecting home movies in his basement. he is in almost every shot. boring us with the details . all i want to know is, if i slept with you would it make any difference … i feel layered. schizophrenia is an oversimplification . consciousness is not the census taker asking em­barrassing questions about your health & the brand of toothpaste you wear. conscious­ness is a series of skins . i am the latest skin . the snake is crawling back toward paradise

another cigarette … another drink … who is this woman leaning on my arm dressed up as robespierre . she says leave everything to me . i have sharpened my teeth. the basket is ready for your disbelief … i hardly know how to love . only the innocent can love. the rest of us are just flushing out our hearts … a guy called trotsky served champagne. said the revolution was a mistake. people’s stomachs were bored . there was nothing for them to do … beyond all this negativity i keep looking and smiling . smiling has become a task. my agent says that when i laugh on the screen it looks contrived . he wants to have my grin lifted … people swallow answers like pills . kills the pain for a while . once in a crowd of fans i was almost swallowed whole … all i want is flesh between my teeth. fingernails tracing the veins in my vanity. something fragile and warm . a dress thrown over a chair. legs wrapped around my spine . feel the darkness sleeping beside me … is comfort all we are to each other… a child star dressed up as a fire hydrant showed up with her mother. the mother was bela lugosi . huston said that he was offered the kid spread eagled for the weekend if he could find room for her in the falcon . said the mother had a bunker between her legs. louie said it was a machine gun nest … mary asked if i read the script . one scene was being cut. censorship . would i like to shoot it privately.., dash showed up. a head like a silver porcupine, he was not in costume . all he talks about is the war. hitler is the devil’s fallen angel . acting ,he remarked ,was protracted suicide. burying yourself six feet beneath someone else’s dream … does anyone still believe in the self … i remember the first time i gave up myself. she was a big girl . i was seventeen, said i was a saint as i knelt down beside her. i could not stop praying … someone asked me to dance. my feet ran away…

………………………….

Bogart. Actor. Celebrity. Husband. As Sam Spade. In the movie The Maltese Falcon. Baring of a soul. Stripping down of a life. Reaching beyond the point of death. To Bogart as a boy. Steeped in mythic reality. Originally published in 1982 by The Porcupine’s Quill. Finalist in the 2004 Eppie Awards for Poetry.

1.THE FILMBB150jpeg-1

Monuments and money

December 21, 2012

Charlie_Chaplin

The Beatles brought down the USSR. I heard that. A younger generation of Soviet  youth listened to the Beatles and it changed their perspective on the communist world. (I’m sure it wasn’t that simple.)

But when did Entertainers become world figures? Before the Beatles there was Elvis. But Elvis had no content. He had no view on life. The only figure I can think of is Charlie Chaplin. He was at one time the most recognized figure on the planet Earth. His films were shown in every corner of the world. And he had a viewpoint. (Though not always political.)

Before the twentieth century and its inventions, the mass production of iconic figures was reduced to money and monuments. And those represented on the money/monuments were either religious or military figures.

The minstrel was just another fool.

A dozen commercials

December 2, 2012

I went to see the new James Bond film. Before the film started, we had to sit through more than a dozen commercials. You could not have a dozen commercials on television. With bigger TV screens you can see this same film within weeks with no commercials. This is one reason less people are going to movies. (And give me the real time the film starts, not the time the commercials start.)

The film itself was OK. I wasn’t bored. But I was in the mood for more.

Interrupted Voices

 

 

Marco Polo

November 12, 2012

Next to Johan Vaaler, who invented the paperclip, the most under appreciated figure in Western thought must be Marco Polo. I remember how excited we got in grade 3 when our teacher began to explain Marco Polo’s incredible journey to the exotic East. It was, I think, the beginning of my interest in the afterlife, in science fiction, in alien life forms, in heaven, in reading. It was a tale that emphasized struggle, endurance, and patience. And their subsequent rewards. And it actually happened. To a young boy.


 

As a follow up to my book ‘murder‘, I thought I might write a book about a film. Not just the film, but those involved in the making of the film, and the world that had spawned the film. I went out scouting films like pre-production people  do scouting film sights. It came down to two Bogart films, Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon. Casablanca was my favourite film, so I decided on it. But then I walked into a book shop and there was a sale of books. I fell upon the script of The Maltese Falcon. There were pictures of the different scenes. And well I fell in love with the film. Once again. I was doing a lot of falling in those days. I decided to call the book The Black Bird.

 

 

 

 

This is an excerpt from The Black Bird. Black Bird on Kobo.

excerpts from bogart’s diary #1-37

huston decided to hold a costume ball before we began shooting the falcon . we call john the ambassador of dreams eyes in envelopes, umbrella prays for rain (so she won’t feel so useless) . bullet proof ears. he cannot hear death—he only knows it by smell he met each guest at the door. dressed up as fatty arbuckle & holding a jar filled with oysters anyone know i asked. the ambassador winked winked & sprinkled stardust on each of us as we entered while singing WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR MAKES NO DIFFER­ENCE WHO YOU ARE. i was dressed up as the invisible man . no one noticed … sydney stayed close to the bar or was it the reverse . he looked like the election returns . he said he was disguised as mt. everest . several young starlettes were clustered like small villages around his feet. one was wearing skis and reciting the koran . backwards . another wore two tablets and a long beard that began below the waist … mouth open oven a creampuff danced around the room looking for horny dps especially tall first lieutenants from toronto who read ts eliot. jeffery longstreet said he had a cake for her throat. unleavened, bruised, and circumcised… lorre sat at the piano playin’ popular tunes with a german accent. dressed up as hitler’s bitch in heat. his tail kept falling off. the great dictator received his instructions from his dog . the bitch would open her mouth and hitler would bark … the apaches are waiting at the edge of the desert waiting for the storm to pass . dying of tb . & learning how to square dance … cattle lena in a tux. practicing her courses. digging a plot in her pocket. spitting out cigars. & pinching any ass that grazes by… a pageant of people bursting with beginnings . yankee optimism . parmenides was right we never leave the beginnings, unless you put up your wrist and slash for per­mission to leave . there is only this solid mass of oneness . we are like creatures, extinct, & frozen in me NOW … why do i always feel like i’m sitting on the edge of the world spit­ting seeds into the emptiness, flushing the nothingness out of my soul … two colored girls showed up. or was it a costume . everyone gathered around to see them make love in the potato salad. i spent some time in a closet with one of them . she had eyes like a cathedral. i felt like st. francis begging on the front steps for one chance to light a small red candle. i told her she was very tight. she said she felt claustrophobic . being colored is like living in a box. all white women should be blind, peeling off her skin she placed it on a hanger. that i could hardly control … someone handed me a manhattan. i finished a cigarette and flew around the room , solo. i was hoping that it wouldn’t rain. i asked if everyone would mind cease burning their words until i could clear up this mystery. i ran into sydney who was rehearsing as a zeppelin in a bath tub. he asked me to leave . he already had some passengers . easy flo said that she now understood . everything i promised had been part of some plan . to lay her out like an airport and then land… laughing from the chandeliers tequila dorothy in feathers that fell off like snow swung above the drifts of faces. raymond the parrot told her to be careful . someone else screamed — melt … is there any alternative to feeling haunted . a little kid staring out through dusty windows, broken glass on the floors . mice in the rafters . eaves troughs filled with tears. perhaps it is my work . am i nothing more than a series of poses. movement is the illusion they love. i am the offspring of magic and mechanics . cameras have cataracts. they see only what they wish to see … is god some machine projecting home movies in his basement. he is in almost every shot. boring us with the details . all i want to know is, if i slept with you would it make any difference … i feel layered. schizophrenia is an oversimplification . consciousness is not the census taker asking em­barrassing questions about your health & the brand of toothpaste you wear. conscious­ness is a series of skins . i am the latest skin . the snake is crawling back toward paradise

another cigarette … another drink … who is this woman leaning on my arm dressed up as robespierre . she says leave everything to me . i have sharpened my teeth. the basket is ready for your disbelief … i hardly know how to love . only the innocent can love. the rest of us are just flushing out our hearts … a guy called trotsky served champagne. said the revolution was a mistake. people’s stomachs were bored . there was nothing for them to do … beyond all this negativity i keep looking and smiling . smiling has become a task. my agent says that when i laugh on the screen it looks contrived . he wants to have my grin lifted … people swallow answers like pills . kills the pain for a while . once in a crowd of fans i was almost swallowed whole … all i want is flesh between my teeth. fingernails tracing the veins in my vanity. something fragile and warm . a dress thrown over a chair. legs wrapped around my spine . feel the darkness sleeping beside me … is comfort all we are to each other… a child star dressed up as a fire hydrant showed up with her mother. the mother was bela lugosi . huston said that he was offered the kid spread eagled for the weekend if he could find room for her in the falcon . said the mother had a bunker between her legs. louie said it was a machine gun nest … mary asked if i read the script . one scene was being cut. censorship . would i like to shoot it privately.., dash showed up. a head like a silver porcupine, he was not in costume . all he talks about is the war. hitler is the devil’s fallen angel . acting ,he remarked ,was protracted suicide. burying yourself six feet beneath someone else’s dream … does anyone still believe in the self … i remember the first time i gave up myself. she was a big girl . i was seventeen, said i was a saint as i knelt down beside her. i could not stop praying … someone asked me to dance. my feet ran away…

 

Ain’t no romantic comedy

September 1, 2012

Time to blow my own horn. This movie is being released this weekend. My daughter worked on the sound editing. She is awesome.

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