Friday, September 28, 2018

Democracy, truth, apple pie and other pretence

Dissimulation is at the very least chicanery. For even the most practiced magician it is a stunt which threatens not only strategic publicity but more acutely one's inner sense of peace and personal authenticity.  Just as pride ("hubris") has quickened the downfall of many in the past so too is retribution a casualty of mendacity. It is therefore not surprising that we offenders (since I include us all in this sometimes unfortunate characteristic) seek to cover or purify our initial mis-step. What gets in the way of this Heaven-bent amelioration is that we as often employ the same sham proclivities that got us into the mess in the first place. In the end the masquerade can only be overcome by the frozen truth, a legitimate but potentially uncomfortable resort. It is important to assert that even if successful in marketing the deceit, it will continue to plague its originator for years to follow.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Obscure Recollections

"Grey and obscure on the horizon rose a low island."

By an odd sequence of events today I was reminded of my acquaintance with several people more than forty years ago. We were at that time mostly young people not long out of graduate school. But three of our number were what was then considered "old" - anywhere from 55 - 65 years of age. They were either currently or recently retired from professional avocations as well. To be truthful however what aligned us was an animated social life - and perhaps more than a passing interest in distilled liquor and fortified wines. There was admittedly an element of lasciviousness which embroidered the congregation but it was generally considered sous entendu.

Sunday, September 23, 2018


Neither of us had much ambition today.  A lingering cold and hearing problem, respectively, continue to consume us. We nonetheless felt obliged to motor about the countryside even if only briefly.  Our initial target was the hamlet of Spencerville.  This altered to Prescott along the St. Lawrence Seaway where we're more familiar with Katarina's Café.  But on our way to the car wash in Stittsville we exhausted what little enthusiasm lingered and decided instead to pick up some chicken and baby potatoes for dinner - the traditional "meat and potatoes" salve. It wasn't long after having formulated that relieving plan that I determined as well to go to Grace in the Kitchen to examine their sweets (all deliciously sinful).

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Autumnal Equinox

Autumn is right around the corner for everyone in the Northern Hemisphere, while those in the Southern Hemisphere are gearing up for warmer spring weather. The autumnal equinox arrives on September 22, 2018 at 9:54 pm EDT (0154 GMT September 23). At that time both hemispheres will experience an equal amount of sunlight (and night - 12 hours each) when the sun is directly in line with the equator, evidence that the earth spins on a titled axis. When days begin to grow shorter, deciduous (green leafy) trees start signalling to their leaves to stop producing chlorophyll, the green pigment responsible for the leaves' colour and photosynthesis.  Because the colour change is more dependent on light than temperature, it takes place at basically the same time year after year.  It may however be altered somewhat by temperature and drought.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Is Trump an iconoclast?

The word iconoclast is one whose original sense has altered.

"Iconoclasm is the social belief in the importance of the destruction of icons and other images or monuments, most frequently for religious or political reasons. People who engage in or support iconoclasm are called iconoclasts, a term that has come to be applied figuratively to any individual who challenges cherished beliefs or venerated institutions on the grounds that they are erroneous or pernicious."

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Why can't the English learn to speak?

Henry Higgins: Look at her, a prisoner of the gutter,
Condemned by every syllable she utters.
By right she should be taken out and hung,
For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue.

My Fair Lady - Why Can't The English?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Of necessity...

Twenty-four hours earlier we judiciously resolved to leave the apartment by no later than 3:00 pm. That would give us enough time to have the car washed then arrive at our destination by 4:30 pm when we had been invited for a late afternoon Sunday dinner.  We poozled the liquor cabinet for two bottles of wine - both upmarket naturally - one white for him who drank nothing but; one red for posterity.  Dessert however was our instructed subscription. The wine was a calculated concession.  It was no secret our hosts had long ago abandoned teetotaling. As for dessert we deliberated various models - starting ambitiously with fresh fruit then nippily corrupting to Nanaimo bars, maple butter tarts or ice cream.  In the end we settled upon donuts - the reputedly "healthy" rendition from a local merchant. The wine would be the coup - though in my opinion arriving with a brown paper bag is a modern absurdity of social beneficence. One might as well proclaim insufficiency of the host's cellarette!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The undeniable detail

At one o'clock this morning the grandfather clock clanged its St. Michael chimes. I lay awake for the next hour, swimming in the horrible details of whale harpooning and slaughter houses.  Not an inspiring reflection, one which regrettably translated into other hostile reminders such as memento mori and the steady evaporation of youth. Perhaps the most poisonous admission was that an disagreeable result awaits us all.  It matters not whether your casket is gilded or covered in gray cloth.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Summer Sprint

The day was ideal from the start - clear blue sky, warm sunshine, dry air and that magic feeling - nowhere to go, nothing to do! We began with a five kilometre bike ride along Country Street and back through Town on Perth Street. I hadn't gone bicycling yesterday. I was just too tired for some reason (this shamefully in spite of having lately languished in bed upwards of ten hours each night). So today I attacked the recuperative exercise with gusto! It made for an uplifting opener.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Living in the moment

As wasteful and illogical as it ultimately proves to be, I regularly fail to abide by the well-known admonishment to live in the moment. Instead I ritualistically dwell upon the past or the future, the periphery of life. There is always the air of a compelling reason to do so - a recapitulation of where I've been or where I'm headed, laden with misguided pragmatism and false intellect. Sometimes the preoccupation arises from favourable and stimulating terms; at other times the obsession is less charitable (such as reliving a disagreement or worrying about what might transpire).  Unquestionably the fixation is seldom worth the effort (except perhaps when the reflection gives rise to a more in-depth comprehension of the matter under consideration).  The dalliance certainly will not change the past or predict the future. More notably the absorption diminishes whatever is at hand - a circumstance which is palpable and may well be superlative.

I trust you as far as I can throw a grand piano!

Trust is one of those horribly ethereal and impossibly arcane notions which insinuates our most important relationships - friendship, love and professional associations. Yet in spite of its inscrutability we always know when we do or don't trust someone. Trust has an unquestionable alliance with instinct. And it is one of the few instincts we actually listen to. Seldom do we need to be convinced of our knee-jerk assessment - this though we’re as likely to be at a loss to explain why. Therein lies the very reason we should heed our instincts: trust can be manipulated by profound deceit often surpassing the capacity of the most intellectual among us. People do not historically operate in the context of calculated deception, it's unfamiliar territory. Untrustworthiness borders on an insanity beyond the bounds of a healthy mind.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Seawall against a rising tide of demands for inclusion

Politics since Trump has epitomized the tightening of the noose of the majority - most often portrayed as white, male and Christian. The image - frequently violent and hateful - has overtaken both America and Europe. The battle is largely confined to a division between whites and colours, haves and have-nots, east and west. The mosaic of the porcelain dinner plate has become complicated. On almost every level - gender, race, religion and sexual preference - the erstwhile traditions are being disrupted and it is only a matter of time before the majority becomes the minority. The speediest shift is among the millennials but it is predicted that all other distinctions will follow. The strength in numbers is changing.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

It's official - we've arrived!

Shortly after I returned home late this afternoon I was asked if I had checked the mail which I advised I had not.  So in a moment of gusto I collected the damaged frying pan (which earlier this morning we had replaced with a new one from the local hardware store) and said I would dispose of it in the garbage bin downstairs then check the mail.  Somewhere along my little journey to the blue box and the post box I was overtaken by the mildly disturbing thought that I had the wrong day in mind. I glanced at my iPhone. Today is Saturday.  There is no mail delivery on Saturday. Nor was there any mail in the post box.  It's official - we've arrived - though obviously we're not certain exactly where!

Strange bedfellows

Although the frequency of personal assault or gushing approbation is more common during the run-up to an election cycle, the specific habit is nonetheless illustrative of general principles and important social mores. By what doctrines are we to be guided in our assessment of others?  Are those rules of conduct any different in the immediacy of public debate?  Or are the themes the same for private relationships?  We are for example regularly inclined to condemn politicians for being strictly motivated by their apparent self-interest.  Does the same convention predict our personal associations?  Do the qualifications even apply?  Or are there different rules for different people at different times?

"Alas the storm is come again!  My best way is to creep under his gaberdine; there is no other shelter hereabout: misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows."

The Tempest, Act 2 Scene 2, William Shakespeare (1610)

Friday, September 7, 2018

Hilary was right!

On September 9, 2016 at a campaign fundraising event in the US presidential election Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton famously described half the Republican Trump supporters as the "basket of deplorables". Reportedly her only regret was having said "half the Trump supporters".  Clinton had previously attacked Trump by suggesting he was "taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party".  It was a prophetic accusation. Regrettably for Clinton however the day after her speech, some political analysts compared the statement to Mitt Romney's 47% gaff in 2012.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Impressionist Treasures at the National Gallery of Canada

Even when we owned an apartment in the By Ward Market within steps of the Musée des beaux-arts du Canada on Sussex Drive and regularly walked our French bulldog Monroe on the magnificent precipice surrounding the Gallery overlooking the Ottawa River, the Rideau Canal and the majestic Parliament buildings, we seldom ventured into the Gallery unless there was a specific display of interest.  Today we were moved to attend the collection of impressionist paintings once housed in the manor of a notable Dutch family and subsequently bequeathed to posterity.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Keep it simple!

Probably it has forever been so - best to keep it simple.  If nothing else it avoids the evaporation of one's audience.  Today's little adventure was for my personal benefit. I was the audience. And what I kept simple was the focus of my outing.  There is the perpetual temptation to complicate things, to change or renew whatever has been done before, as though it were the way to some relieving novelty.  Certainly pioneering is important. But at a some point in one's life (or perhaps just at a point in one's day) all we require is a simple pleasure without elaboration or singularity.  This objective I happily achieved by driving along Highway #416 from Ottawa to Spencerville, a hamlet about 25 kms north of the St. Lawrence River.  It isn't as though I have never been there before. But it is only recently that I have enlarged my perception of the small town.  And today I landed upon something entirely unanticipated - a furniture store.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

...and it can only get worse

Apart from the practical necessity of having a will and a power of attorney, prearranging my funeral and writing my obituary, I am seldom preoccupied with death.  Nor have I ever been moved by the deeply religious paranoia of Ecclesiastes in the King James version of the Bible, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth when the evil days come not nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say I have no pleasure in them...".  By contrast I am more vehemently prompted by the comment of my friend Pierre who observed years ago after the death of his parents (from whom he thought to add that he had inherited a vast amount of money - what I suspect was well in excess of several million dollars if not indeed far more), "You don't want to grow old poor".

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Say what you mean!

Over forty years ago (while attending Dalhousie Law School in Halifax, NS) I regularly dined with a close friend and her family (parents and in-laws). We always anticipated the promulgation from Uncle Stanley: "Very tasty indeed". Nobody pretended to believe him.  But it sounded pleasant.  It was in addition an excusable comment.  The mantra guaranteed the unspoken but collective notion that poor Uncle Stanley had lost it (he was just plain weird).