Re: Monitor

I was a high school hall monitor. I actually enjoyed being that nerd with a cardigan. I didn’t feel like an officer of the law, merely an advisor. I had answers to questions that other students didn’t even know they were asking. I felt important. I was part of a smoothly functioning institution called Education. Through several twists and turns after grade thirteen I chose to go to Teacher’s College where I was taught how to monitor elementary students.

Someone is always calling me at dinner, concerned that there has been some suspicious activity on my credit card. An ad in the paper says that I can sign up for some company to monitor those people and stop the calls before they even arrive. Seems there are watchdogs everywhere these days. People who say they work for my government are often suggesting I’ve underpaid my taxes. I’m not to worry about the inevitable fine because they’re on top of it and they can remedy everything for a small fee. I suppose I should feel a sense of peace with so many looking out for me. Not!

Law breakers sometimes wear ankle monitors. They can’t be comfortable. How does one put on their socks? Is the alarm component silently monitoring your whereabouts to some tech team in Dubai? Perhaps an ear piercing beep is all that happens if you stray from your perimeter. Surely they don’t explode, taking your foot off, like I’ve seen suggested in dystopian world movies. Speaking of security; Am I the only one bothered by the announcements in airports reminding you to keep your luggage in view? You’d think there would be enough cameras on walls and ceilings to help you out, while you are put through another snooze inducing flight delay.

Currently the medical profession is monitoring my heart. It had been skipping beats but now it’s calmed by medication. I’ve been checked with a Holter Monitor which gave me the appearance of being bionic. Nothing fancy though, call me the 60 Dollar Man. I also walked around with a blood pressure monitor for a couple of days during this nervous time. The cuff around my bicep squeezed every half hour, reminding me of the way my dad used to hold my arm when I needed reassurance.

My most unsatisfying duty as a teacher was as a lunch time monitor. I felt like Mr. Bumble, patrolling rows and rows of unfortunate children. One Principal I worked with instructed me to keep them quiet and encourage fast eating, else they take too long to get into the schoolyard. At every meal there was someone upset over their food, who they were sitting beside or the way someone was looking at them. A kid once smashed his sandwich with his fist while laughing hysterically. I took the remains of the meal away. The boy’s mother came to the school the next day asking why her son had come home hungry. CAS was consulted. A disciplinary note was put on my permanent professional record. I wonder if anyone still monitors that file.

Re: Eight

I think the number 8 is great. It has awesome rhyming potential. I love its shape. There are no loose ends with eight, nothing sticks out. Just like the number 0 there is a beautiful continuity to its design; where you start is where you finish. I have a two digit number that I have called my lucky number since I was a kid but now that I am in my 80th decade I think I’m due for an update so I pick 8. It’s never too late to change your fate.

Apparently I’m not alone in liking this numeral. It is called the luckiest of numbers by the Chinese. This Canadian feels in good company since 1.4 billion souls can’t be wrong eh? I was born on the eighth so I don’t know why I didn’t choose it as my lucky number sooner, but I shall have no regrets. More significantly, when 8 is tipped over it assumes a horizontal position. The symbol for infinity, which in death I believe I am bound for: To the endlessness of time and space with infinite possibilities go I.

When I am lying on my back in my bed I find comfort in assuming a figure eight posture. I place my hands above my head and link my fingers. My knees come up, spreading my hips and I place the soles of my feet together. It’s the closest kind of yoga pose I can manage and it feels great to open my chest and pelvis at the same time. When I taught Brain Gym to my elementary school students one of the exercises was using chalk to make giant flowing infinity symbols on the chalkboard, smoothly arcing and connecting then arcing again, opening up cross cranial connectivity, joining left brain to right.

The reason we call Figure Skating what we do is because of the Figure 8, which was part of the compulsory program in competitive skating until 1990. I miss the almost scientific precision demonstrated by that practise, skate edges switching while curves were carved on the slippery ice surface. Nowadays you can create heat while learning to do a Figure Eight Workout to strengthen core muscles. Very watchable. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJgBYvGZeN4

Choosing the number eight as my next life stage talisman bodes well. According to Angel Numbers, 8 signifies a sign of things to come, which is awesome because I’ve always been future oriented. It is also a potent source of energy, which I could really use in my declining years. When it comes to Numerology I’m not an eight, but that’s ok since my name adds to number 1 which comes with a very accurate description of my personality type: pioneering, leading, independent, attaining and individualist. This is a terrific offset to my introverted nature, so I can remain humble whilst in a crowd. I took an Enneagram Personality test and it matches perfectly: I’m 5&8 dominant so being born May 8th is a match made in heaven.

I think they’re going to like me up there.

Re: Jim

I heard a knock on my front door. During Covid times contact with anyone is a rarity, so I answered, starving for connection. It was Jim Carrey standing there in living colour. He said, “Hi I’m Jim Carrey. I know it’s short notice but can I quarantine here?” He dropped his backpack in the hallway. “It’s a good thing you answered your door because I was just about to jimmy the lock.” My mouth was probably still open. “Just kidding!”he added.

I said I had a spare room, that he was welcome to stay since I was a big fan. I called him Mr. C. out of respect and a couple of times Captain Jim came out as I was jibber-jabbering wondering out loud why he would come here to the Saanich Peninsula. He told me a friend had said that Harry and Meaghan had spent time near here to get away from the paparazzi. I smiled at the way he contorted his face while saying, ‘paparazzi’.

I told him I had seen his last drawing posted on Twitter, Feb 11, 2021 and wondered if he was all right. I talked about being a fan, a fanboy, a Stan and the differences between the terms. My words were spilling out so fast, I began to wonder if he’d reconsider his request to stay. He pulled a Slim Jim from his jean jacket and asked, “You got anything to eat?” Luckily, I had been on a quick masked raid to my village grocer so I had plenty of food. I showed him the fridge. He grinned, “Alrighty then!”

Our time together went quickly. I told him my wife was away looking after her elder parents so I really appreciated having someone to talk to. We bonded like stereotypical Canadians, played crokinole, ate bacon and drank beer. He said it was good to be home. To celebrate Day Seven we ordered take-out food. Slurping udon noodles, Jimmy pretended to be a comically clichéd Asian woman. This made me cough and get red in the face.

One night we got into our jimmy jammies, watched a couple of old Star Trek episodes and got kind of drunk on craft beer. Jimbo started doing impersonations again. He’s silly that way. Famous characters named Jim appeared out of nowhere: Jimmy Durante, James Belushi, Jimmy Stewart, James T. Kirk, Jiminy Cricket, James Dean, James Coburn, Jimmy Cagney. He did a skit of Jimmy Carter on a roof hammering in shingles. I told him he nailed that one and we both rolled on the floor laughing.

On his last day with me, he told me how he had almost lost his sanity from the constant intrusion on his life. I shared how I had once suffered depression from trying to get things perfect. He said, “Life is hard man.” Before I was ready, Jim was at the front door. I stood feeling awed by the whole experience. He raised his arms in farewell, “In case I don’t see ya”.

And then he was gone.

Re: Best

Those of us who are competitive or ambitious want to be more than better; we want to be Best. The urge to ‘Be Best’ would get the attention of the current First Lady of the United States of America. Ms. Trump is determined that her program, despite the poor grammar, will be valuable for child development. Comedian Randy Rainbow suggests a different conclusion.

I’ve never had the honour of being the best man at a wedding. Somedays I feel better than others. I’ve been told I am a good neighbour. I believe in the presumption that the best is yet to come yet I also realize that Good is often good enough. When I’m not feeling my best it’s usually best for me to meditate or take a nap rather than transfer my mood to someone else. I try to be better everyday but I know I’ll never be perfect ‘cause that would make me Best and who am I to say I’m better than you anyway.

Grammatically speaking I see the value of superlative and comparative adjectives. They aid the writer who’s into description. Philosophically however, I resist thinking in these terms. I don’t like the feeling of dominance that Super brings to Superlative. And without a clear criteria for comparative points of view how can you have a satisfying conversation? For example is it the Best Poutine Ever because of the crispness of the fries, the squeak of the cheese curds or the savouriness of the gravy? Just what are we arguing about here!

Discussing the qualities of film is always a lively debate in my family, especially when it comes to the Oscar pick for Best Picture in any given year. Here’s the top pick from 1946: The Best Years of Our Lives. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yc5PugV4mk . It’s not your average overacted late forties melodrama! When I revisit this film I’m stunned by these performances. Others may be stunned in another way by the slower story-telling pace of the film. Before an argument begins it’s probably best to say that choosing best of anything is subjective, at best.

Speaking of controversy, I had this jingle in my head as I shaved yesterday. “Gillette! The best a man can get.” The catchy tune came from this 1989 advertisement which seemed harmless for its time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThDBf14qPsc
Recently the same company got into hot water for attempting to send a message in this post #metoo age about how men could be better behaved.

The 45th President of the United States has been called many things. This sophomaniac continues to convince voters with his braggadocio attitude that he is the best choice for your vote in this election year. He has called himself the “Greatest president God ever created.” New red ball caps may need to be embroidered ‘God Knows Best’. My anxiety levels need lowering so I’m hoping that beastly Trump gets bested in November.

Re: Silly

I like being silly. Silliness is a part of me that rarely sees the light of day because I am such a serious person. When I get silly, people are often unsure whether to believe what I have just said so I will have to reassure them that everything I say isn’t to be treated as gospel.

My silliness is usually verbal. My late wife once called a halt to a family card game because I had started a series of silly sounds with our young sons that went on and on until my boys and I were in tears of laughter. I think silliness may be a guy thing. As a form of humour, silly ranks up there with slapstick. The Three Stooges: Adults acting as kids. What’s not to like? These comics were physically funny and goofy at the same time. As a kid I couldn’t get enough of them. As an adult, I marvel at their comic timing and visual artistry.

Being a self conscious individual and quite reserved in general, it’s no wonder friends and family members have taken umbrage when I let my silly out. There are some seeming contradictions to my silly side. For example, I don’t like Halloween or any kind of charade game. I feel badly when I’m teased and work hard not to tease others. Romantically, my enthusiasm can be construed as silly, but then love can be senseless and beyond rational explanation, so what’s wrong with that? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fK5oJcn99d4

The mood has to be right for me to feel comfortable being foolish. I have to be as malleable as a blob of Silly Putty. At my most absurd I am likely overtired. That’s when my funny bone is most sensitive to suggestion so an outrageous video can be very cathartic. Stand up comedians often rely on silliness to drive their sketch. A good performance will reveal just how crazy we humans are. George Carlin tops my list of artists who can make silliness seem sensible. His intellectual manner shone through even while he made endearingly goofy faces. Robin Williams was a master of showing the beauty of keeping the child within from being smothered by the responsibilities of adulthood. Time after time he would delight me with his silliness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmqmyYRi-lU

Responsibility can be a burden more lightly born when mixed with a dash of jester-ism. That’s likely why rulers once ordered fools to be amongst their court. The troupe Monty Python is clearly an example of using comedy to make the powerful look silly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoIdEjdZIls

Sarcasm is hurtful, yet silliness can’t possibly harm. An act of silliness may disturb someone’s sensibilities yet I say, “Get over yourself!” I herald those who can pull off purposeful irreverence through a silly reference. Sometimes a sound like a snort, well timed, can reveal the snobbery, the stuffiness, that too often comes with polite society. Kudos to those brave enough to bring others, too serious for their own good, to a heightened awareness of the value of nonsense.

Re: Polyglot

Some words are so weird you don’t know what you are hearing. When I first heard this one I thought someone had made it up just to be funny. And silly is my favourite style of humour. In the tradition of the party game Balderdash, let’s do some guessing. Polyglot is: A) a rare breed of goat, B) a bunch of discarded plastic, or C) someone who knows three or more languages. Who knew that C was the right answer? I didn’t when it first came to my attention so I did some research and voila!

To my ears Polyglot still sounds like something you might read in a Dr. Seuss children’s book. That aside, I have an enormous amount of respect for someone who has mastered a poly amount of anything. I may aspire to the notion of being a Jack of All Trades, but that generally signifies I’m a master of none.
A dentist I saw for regular checkups told me all about his life while I was wired, probed, drilled, filled and/or dental dammed. My teeth may be in good shape but I couldn’t help but feel diminished by this one man’s list of supplementary skills acquired over his lifetime; Orchestral Trombonist, Black Belt Karate, World Bridge Federation Member. Not to mention, he was also a Polyglot; fluent in Polish, German and English.

Hanging out with members of my home town symphony orchestra made me very aware of people who exist in a multi-hyphenate world. Many of these highly talented individuals work as doctors, lawyers, accountants or professors during the day and compose or interpret music in their off hours. As a teacher I was familiar with research that suggests there are many examples of areas where a crossover of skills is complementary and not necessarily layered. The music-math crossover is often touted as an example in people who may be considered of genius intellect. Einstein comes quickly to mind, yet so does Steve Martin the comedian/banjo picker/writer/director/actor/producer/magician.
Is Mr. Martin a genius or a polymath? Phewff! Take a bow already.

I enjoy watching artists challenge themselves in different media or venues. You must have talent to skip around artistic disciplines for sure. You also have to make the time to do it. Imagine being able to say you have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. Only fifteen multitalented artists have been able to accomplish that laudable goal. As of the posting of this blog page the following are in the esteemed EGOT Club: Richard Rogers, Helen Hayes, Rita Moreno, John Gielgud, Audrey Hepburn, Marvin Hamlisch, Jonathan Tucker, Mel Brooks, Mike Nichols, Whoopi Goldberg, Scott Rudin, Robert Lopez, Andrew Lloyd Webber, John Legend, Tim Rice.

Someone once flattered me by calling me a Renaissance Man. That compliment as much as I loved the taste of it, made me embarrassed. If I cut out television, reading the newspaper, tweeting about stuff and staring lazily out the window I may discover the time I need to be better. Another Leonardo Da Vinci, I’m not.

Re: Tease

When I was a kid I thought Christmas Eve was such a tease. My mom would mention that times had been financially hard and that we mustn’t expect much under the tree. As an adult, I came to the conclusion that this was her way of reducing expectations so that when Christmas morning arrived we would all be awestruck that Santa had somehow pulled off one of his miracles. I think my mom’s approach to Christmas morning gift giving was the reason I often developed a stomach ache on December 24th.

This example also taught me about the larger pattern in my mom’s behaviour towards others: set them up with what seemed like the truth, orchestrate a reversal, say you were just having fun, accuse them of not being able to take a joke. Sadly, she lost many friends using this strategy of social engagement, including her own daughter.

My mom was a natural born teaser, yet she hated the comedy of Don Rickles; a man who made a career from taking the mickey out of people.

His use of mockery and ridicule at an audience member’s expense disturbed me. While I recognize that many people think teasing is all in good sport, my experience with my mom, taught me that teasing someone, like in any sport, produces winners and losers. Maybe my mom thought that teasing me early would give me character, or thicken my skin. I would say it made me shy with people. A former girlfriend, early in our relationship, said she wouldn’t ‘joke with me’ until she knew me better. A pretty accurate comment, I felt at the time, since teasing can bore into your heart if you don’t ‘get the joke’.

Teasing was not promoted as a form of humour when I became a father. My wife and I agreed that making fun of someone would not be something we modelled to our sons. She was a fibre artist and was very practised at teasing out particles from animal fur. For example, raw sheep wool, even after it has been washed, has much debris embedded in the fibre. Deft fingers are required to remove tiny seeds or vegetable filaments. Bits of straw, dung, dead insects and such can be picked from the fleece using a carder. A hand carder has many rows of fine metal spikes. A carding machine looks like an instrument of torture. When the fibre has been processed in this way, you can roll a clean roving that can be spun into yarn.

Christmas is a time of yarns. Sometimes we have to tease apart the truth from the stories before we can spin the best yarns. I guess in this sense finding the truth requires some teasing. Perhaps that’s what we do when we are poking fun; trying to provoke a reaction that will tell us something more about the person who is the butt of our joke.

Life can be messy, especially when we aren’t sure how to separate the drama from the comedy.