Monthly Archives: February 2013

Diamonds Are Forever – And so is Shirley Bassey!

The 007 James Bond Spy Case (1965)

The 007 James Bond Attache’ Case (1965)

Last night I went time travelling. I entered my time machine and set the coordinates for 2:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon in March, 1972. The location was the Haida Theatre on Yates Street in Victoria, B.C. It was a cold day. The weather was cloudy and the sun was trying its best to shine through the bands of grey clouds hanging over Juan De Fuca Strait. The Haida was showing a James Bond double bill – Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever. I was a gawky, wide eyed 11 year old back then. My parents needed a break from my brother and I for the afternoon, so they packed us up in the car and dropped us off at the Haida. I had never seen a James Bond movie in my life. I was vaguely aware that he was some sort of super spy who had all kinds of awesome gadgets and super cool vehicles that he used against really bad guys like the Russians! In fact, when I was five years old, I remember seeing the James Bond  spy attache’ case on TV and thinking how incredibly cool and wonderful it was. Sadly, I never, ever saw one of them for sale at a toystore. I really wanted one!

It’s fair to say that my parents didn’t give me any advance information on what James Bond movies were all about. Either they knew and thought it would be ‘healthy’ for my imagination, or they had no idea. I remember feeling confused, thrilled, and mystified at the opening introduction of Diamonds Are Forever.

I remember hearing this mysterious woman’s voice singing “Diamonds are forever, forever, forever“.  Listening to her in the darkness of the theatre was hypnotic. I was entranced by her singing. Of course, I had no idea who Shirley Bassey was at the time. The blend of her voice with the orchestra mesmerized me.

The scantily clad ladies who Mr. Bond either fought or slept with confused my then 11 year old sensibilities. One of my all time favourite Bond scenes is when he meets two very beautiful women named Bambi and Thumper. I knew something was going to happen. I wanted to shout ‘GET OUT OF THERE, JAMES!’ After all, my parents taught me that hitting girls was wrong, even if they hit back?

I squirmed over the gushy suggestive scenes and desperately wished for them to end so we could see more of the bad guys! Evil masterminds, SPECTRE, cold blooded assassins, nuclear missiles, space death rays, underwater submersibles, amazing gadgets, saving the world! Exotic, heady stuff for a youngster living in the sleepy little city of Victoria.

James Bond movies became part of my growing up.  I couldn’t wait for the next film to see what sort of new adventures James Bond had to face in serving Queen and country. Every few years, I suffered the periodic angst of dealing with the changing of the Bonds! Sean Connery was my boyhood Bond. He epitomized what Bond was all about in action, thought, and word. The way he said “Bond, James Bond” just nailed it for me. I loved his wry sense of humour. When Roger Moore appeared on the scene in the 1970’s, I was disappointed. He seemed smug and not very rugged like Connery. When Timothy Dalton appeared in the 1980’s, I was glad to see the end of Moore. Then Dalton was replaced by Pearce Brosnan, who reminded me of Moore again. I lost track of James Bond in the 1990’s as I was off on my own adventures in Japan and the Pacific Rim, looking for an island to set up my own secret hi-tech lair where I could launch my plans for world domination by subliminally controlling the minds of young people with video games (insert evil laugh here).

My faith in James Bond returned when Daniel Craig starred in Casino Royale. The man is the embodiment of Bond in the 21st century. He reminds me of Connery, but gawd, he’s much tougher. But it works, it feels right. Judy Denche has been amazing in her role as the head of British Intelligence. Which brings me to Skyfall. Wow. Just wow. It definitely deserves a place in the pantheon of Jame Bond movies. What surprised me was the choice of Adele to sing the movie’s theme. Her album 21 was a monster hit; I personally like Rolling in the Deep. But choosing her to sing a Bond movie theme? I really wasn’t sure. Well, when I heard her sing it in the theatre, I was sold. It’s an interesting blend of her own sound with the classic James Bond musical style. She won a Golden Globe, a BRIT, and last night at the 85th Academy Awards, she added an Oscar to her collection.

The James Bond franchise is now 50 years old (and you thought Star Wars had long legs!) The Oscars did a montage tribute to 007 that seemed very choppy to me. I suspect it was a rushed assignment. I would like to have seen it smoothed out. with some actual classic Bond quotes. They included a surprise in the montage – none other than Dame Shirley Bassey herself, singing the theme she made famous, Goldfinger. What floors me is how powerful her voice is for a woman who is 76 years old! She was poised, professional, and utterly polished. She was dressed in gold from head to toe, gold spotlights, and the orchestra brass introduced her with a full throated roar. It was an awesome performance. You can view it here at the Idolator website.

Here’s her singing the full version of Goldfinger at the 2011 Classic BRIT Awards show:

Now if you’ll excuse me, Q is waiting with my electrically powered three wheel jet engined motorcycle containing an advanced GPS system linked to my nuclear powered mini-submersible to transport me to my geothermal powered undersea fortress off the coast of Hawaii.

Hey, an 11 year old can dream, can’t I?  🙂

The Grumpy Ferret (Shaken, not stirred)

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I’m Famous Today – Sort of

local-biz-love-letter-contest600px

It’s often said that writers are an insecure bunch who desperately crave the approval of others. There’s absolutely no truth to that statement! I mean, yes, I’d like you to visit my blog regularly, practically every day! I don’t need people’s approval; I just want them to love my posts! If they feel like leaving glowing comments about my incredible gift with language; how terribly clever and witty I am; I’m the new blogging sensation upon which every other blogger should be judged. Who am I to argue? 🙂

Tyeelogo

Today I’m famous – sort of. About two weeks ago, the Tyee website launched a Love Letters to Local Biz contest to promote neighbourhood small businesses in British Columbia. They have some pretty nice prizes,  such as a weekend at a nice lodge in Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island. I’d just returned home from my favourite coffee shop called Stock Up. I went online and saw this contest asking for people to write love letters about their favourite local businesses. My inspiration flash bulb went off. I decided to write a love poem because pretty much all the entries I saw were just letters. I wrote the poem and submitted it.

This morning I visited The Tyee website and saw there was an update about the contest. To my great surprise, I found my love poem published for everyone to see! There’s a great thrill that comes when you see something you wrote on a whim getting published.

Here’s my poem:

ODE TO STOCK UP

When the day is grey and dreary,

And I’m feeling kind of weary,

There’s a place with scones and coffee just for me!

They’ve got breakfast, soup, and supper

That’ll give your soul an ‘upper’,

And the smiles that they give out are all free!

Feel life’s passing you by?

The cure’s their Shepherd’s Pie!

It’s sure to make your stomach laugh and sing.

I’ve heard foodies from New York fly in just for the pulled Pork,

The folks from Yonkers just go bonkers for that thing!

Stock Up even serves you beer.

That’s enough to make me cheer!

Their famous Christmas Turkey dinner is to die for!

You can keep your fancy shmancy,

Who needs @#?!! Gordon Ramsey?

We have Stock Up. Who could ask for anything more?

If I win a prize, I’ll be sure to let you know 🙂

Shall I compare thee to a salad? Thou art more savoury!

The Grumpy Ferret

Hey! Ambassador Chang Zunsai! SHUT UP!

Hello, Chinese Ambassador Chang Zunsai. How are you today? Feeling well, I hope?

Hey, do you remember a little CBC television interview you did with Evan Solomon on November 17, 2012? It seems there were questions about China being involved in foreign corporate espionage and he wanted to know what you thought about that.

Chinese Ambassador to Canada Chang Zunsai
(Photo by Paul Chasson CP)

Well, you didn’t like that question, did you? How dare anyone accuse China of doing anything so nefarious as spying on other people’s computers? We all know the Chinese government would never, ever, ever, stoop to anything like that!

You were adamant about how China plays by the rules. You said “”I can assure you that our companies working in other countries are strictly doing business according to the local laws.

You were so certain of yourself, you said “If you really have the evidence, come [out] with it. If not… shut up

Wow. The Chinese Ambassador tells people to ‘shut up’. Talk about your Don Cherry moment. You must be a Hockey Night in Canada fan 🙂

When the United States warned Canada about letting that telecommunications company Huawei set up shop, they were just being idiots, right? Probably the CIA having a hissy fit or something, wouldn’t you say? After all, as you stated in the interview, you guys do business according to local laws.

Unit 61398 Shanghai, China(Photo by AP)

Unit 61398 Shanghai, China
(Photo by AP)

So, Ambassador, what can you tell us about that cybersecurity report issued yesterday by the American company Mandiant? It seems that those fun loving World of Warcraft gamers in the People’s Liberation Army have been engaged in a little massively multiplayer online hacking from their secret Shanghai clubhouse. Or maybe they were just gold farming. It’s kind of odd, don’t you think? People getting upset about IP addresses, protocols, and server addresses popping up  on their corporate computers that all seemed to come from your secret unit 61398 army clubhouse? In Canada, it seems that your Shanghai fanboys were accessing a Canadian company called Telvent that develops software to control pipeline systems.

What’s that, ambassador? You don’t believe me? I’m shocked that you would think such a thing! So you know what I’ll do? Here’s a video from Mandiant that shows one of your PLA hackers hard at work.

After seeing this video, Ambassador, I think there’s really only one thing I can say to you about your statements concerning Chinese online espionage:

SHUT UP!

Or, as the eminently wise Jon Stewart of The Daily Show would put it:

GO FUCK YOURSELF!

You have a nice day.

The Grumpy Ferret (Level 85 Tauren Shaman)

The Four Plastic Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen by Alwyn T deviantart.com

The Four Horsemen by Alwyn T deviantart.com

Perhaps I think about things too much. When I stare up into the sky, I think about the incredibly thin layer of atmosphere that shields life on Earth from the vacuum of space. Simply put, we wouldn’t exist without it. I think about the fact that the air I breath comes from the photosynthesis of plants and phytoplankton in the oceans. These tiny creatures make it possible for us to be alive.  Did you know that the percentage of salinity in the human body is the same as the ocean? I believe it’s approximately 70%. This is what I don’t understand about human beings. How is it that so many of us are blind to our biological connection with this planet? The Earth is an incredibly complex system; we’re part of it.

Sometimes I wonder if the seven billion human beings that live on this tiny speck that drifts along in the vast cosmos really understand how bloody lucky we are to even be here at all. The odds of any one person being born are a whopping 25 MILLION TO ONE! That’s the number of sperm released during sex. To quote the epic line from the movie Highlander, “there can be only one‘. Everyone dreams about winning the lottery, but you already won the biggest jackpot of them all – existence!

What does all this philosophy have to with The Four Plastic Horsemen of the Apocalypse? I’m getting to that.

This morning I read an article in the Vancouver Sun entitled Plastic waste problem persists. This article points out that 280 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated globally every year. Less than half of it goes into a landfill or even gets recycled. What I find really alarming is how much of this is ending up in the oceans and how it’s affecting sea life. 45% of marine mammals (e.g. dolphins, seals, whales) and 21% of seabirds are either eating this stuff or becoming entangled in it. It’s getting into eel grasses and saltwater marshes. Plastic doesn’t dissolve away into oblivion; it breaks down into smaller and smaller chemical components that are absorbed into cells and tissues.  I already know that my own body probably carries around trace amounts of chemical compounds I’d rather not think about. After all, I lived in places like Los Angeles, Tokyo, Las Vegas, Chicago, Hong Kong. To think that my favourite bit of smoked salmon might contain plastic compounds  is downright disconcerting.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Four Plastic Horsemen of the Apocalypse:

POLYCARBONATE, POLYSTYRENE, POLYURETHANE,

POLYVINYL CHLORIDE

Words can’t describe how gross and disgusting this situation is. But don’t take my word for it, look at this:

If you can’t wrap your head around the idea of baby sea birds eating plastic objects, this will come as a rude shock:

If what you have just viewed doesn’t turn your stomach or make you feel some pang of guilt, then you’re not human. This deplorable, hideous situation is humanity’s fault. This ecological disaster is the result of our belief in a mass consumer society that wants disposable throwaway things. It’s our ignorant, willful ‘out of sight, out of mind‘ mentality on full display. What are you prepared to do about it? I’ll make a suggestion. Stop using plastic bags. I mean it – stop asking for them. For over two years now, I’ve personally stopped using plastic bags almost 98% of the time. I use canvas bags for my shopping or to carry things. I’ll make another suggestion – think about the packaging of the item you buy. I look for things with minimal packaging. Yes, it’s a pain. But it’s a really tiny sacrifice to make for trying to make some sort of difference.

Earth is a finite place that we share with all these other species. We’re seeing the results of what has happened when we’ve put our own desires and interests ahead of other species. 99% of all the creatures that ever lived on this planet are now extinct.  If we don’t smarten up about how we treat this world, we could be just one more evolutionary footnote – encased in plastic!

The Grumpy Ferret

Canadian Politics – More Excruciating Than Waterboarding!!

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a member of Parliament. I really did. I wanted to go to Parliament Hill, sit in the House of Commons, and make a real difference on behalf of my fellow Canadians. I wanted to improve employment for students, fight for better environmental conditions,  improve health and welfare, establish more funding for research and development, and help give voice to a new vision of Canada for the 21st century. I was bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready to commit to a course of action.

Then I met the real world of federal Canadian politics.

It happened at a restaurant in the Bytown market of Ottawa one cold winter Sunday afternoon in March, 1983. I was at the Progressive Conservative Convention where Joe Clark decided a 66% party approval vote was not enough of a leadership mandate. I was having lunch with some delegates from my riding and some other guys from Prince Edward Island.  I’ll never, ever forget how I engaged one of the PEI guys about politics and the ideal of working for a better Canada. He and his friends brushed that aside. “We’re here for the perks, boy. That’s all that matters”, was exactly what he said. Needless to say, that comment threw a bucket of cold water to my youthful west coast idealism. Not only that, I vividly remember witnessing the maneuvering, gladhanding professional politicians and the smug, snotty parliamentary aides. Delegates like me were nobodies in the great convention circus. The whole thing made me sad. When I returned back to my riding of what was then Esquimalt – Saanich, I dropped out of federal politics several months later.

I realized then and there that Canada’s political apparatus doesn’t give a shit about ordinary people. It’s all about perks and patronage, junkets and sinecures. Now that I’m older and more experienced in life, I see that many Canadian politicians, whether they’re municipal, provincial, or federal, are not the brightest and the best. Many of them are bland, boring, ignorant, petty, and uninspiring.  I think we could have a fascinating discussion about whether Canadians have let themselves fall into a political rut voting for these sorts of people because that’s what we’re comfortable with. Are we really that small minded? Do we really want to be governed by a bunch of ‘grey middle managers’?

Honestly, watching politicians speak in the British Columbia legislature or the House of Commons is so depressing. The majority of them appear to be incapable of providing clear, concise answers to straightforward questions. They equivocate, vacillate, point fingers, and make excuses. We wouldn’t tolerate this sort of behaviour in the workplace, so why does a system funded with our money get to act like this? Their lack of debating and public speaking skills are appalling. Let’s put this situation in a historical perspective. Look at this piece of oratory taken from the speeches of the 19th century American abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, as portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln:

I’m not saying that puppets could outperform Canadian politicians in a political debate. Wait a moment – that’s exactly what I’m saying.

What I would give to see Spitting Image brought back today. Their brilliantly sharp satire is exactly what’s needed to counter the increased buffoonery and madness in the world. We desperately need a laugh.

Some honourable members: Here! Here!

The Grumpy Ferret


Invasion of the Baby Pandas From Outer Space!

Sunday was the annual All American fantasmagorical entertainment spectacle known as The Super Bowl. And everyone knows what that means – ADVERTISING WARS! Who cares about the football teams? Bring on the commercials! I can only imagine what the creative agencies and their clients were feeling in the craw of their stomachs when they put their best talent forward and tried to score a touchdown in the court of public opinion as one of the best remembered ads from the show.  It’s all about grabbing viewer attention. As the old saying goes, ‘you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’.

Here’s my fourth place favourite which should act as a timely warning about the dangers of adopting cute little animals:

My third place favourite is a clever take on the eternal theme of temptation by the Prince of Darkness, diabolically portrayed by Willem Dafoe. I also really liked the choice of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by the Rolling Stones as the soundtrack. Check out the fingernails!

For second place, I chose the Best Buy ad featuring comedian Amy Poehler riffing on the kinds of questions sales staff are asked endlessly that drive them nuts. I howled at how she flirted with the sales specialist. She’s not far off the mark when it comes to that sort of thing!

My favourite ad from this year’s Superbowl obviously took a leaf from last year’s famous Volkswagon ‘Star Wars’ commercial that used an original story about a young ‘mini Vader’ trying to use the Force in his home to no avail (darn real life!). In the end, he succeeds because of Dad using a little of ‘The Dark Side’ with his new Volkswagon 🙂

The winner, in my opinion, is Kia’s ‘Where Do Babies Come From’ commercial. It’s a very imaginative take on the age old question that still flummoxes parents when it innocently and unexpectedly comes up in a conversation. Dad’s story about a far flung ‘Planet of the Babies’ where infants travel across the vastness of space to reach their parents is hilarious. The biology of birth is translated into an exciting sci-fi adventure. Like the Volkswagon ad, Kia only comes up at the end. The graphics are gorgeous and all the babies are just too cute for words. I really liked the baby panda!

So much of today’s online and television advertising is puerile, unimaginative, and insults people’s intelligence. For all the commercialism of the Superbowl, at least the North American viewing audience gets the chance once a year to see some real originality. People like a good commercial that respects their intelligence, tells a good story, and appeals to their emotions.

Is that really so hard to accomplish?

The Grumpy Ferret (Are we in the cloud now?)

Farewell Patty Andrews – The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy Salutes You!

Laverne, Maxene, and Patty Andrews

Maxene, Patty, and Laverne Andrews

Have you ever noticed how the music that you heard growing up becomes part of the soundtrack of your life? You remember a particular tune with the sights, sounds, and feelings of an experience that stands out in your mind. My first ‘musical memory’ was when I was three years old. My parents had bought the soundtrack from the romantic comedy ‘Irma La Douce’ and were playing it on the stereo. I distinctly remember hearing the movie theme and dancing around the living room like a little dervish while my parents laughed. Many years later, I discovered a picture my mother had taken of me caught up in that moment!

When I was around 11 or 12 years old, I heard an oldtime song on CBC Radio that sounded something like ‘Goodbye Mr. Shane. Please let me explain‘. Later on I learned the lyrics were actually from the Andrews Sisters first big hit song Bei Mir Bist Du Schon. I didn’t really know who they were until my early 20’s. I was familiar with a few of their hit songs, such as Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree, and Rum and Coca Cola. What struck me about them was their gifted sense of harmony, the lyrics, and how the songs just sucked you in with their liveliness. At that time, I thought it was remarkable how music written ‘before I was born’ could be so catchy that you wanted to listen to it again and again. For my parents and grandparents, the Andrews Sisters were part of the soundtrack of their lives in England during the Second World War. I did some research into the history of Laverne, Maxene, and Patty Andrews; I learned how incredibly popular they were during the 1940’s and 1950’s. They sold over 100 million record albums, performed in many movies, and achieved numerous top ten hits on Billboard.

For a change of pace, here’s Rum and Coca Cola:

One of the benefits from today’s technology is how we can access films, music, radio, and television created decades ago. You can actually see and hear the works of great artists who are no longer with us. It’s sad to note the passing of the gregarious blonde bombshell Patty Andrews, but she and her sisters will still live on as classic symbols of ‘Americana’. In fact, they continue to influence today’s music artists. Take a gander at Christina Aguilera’s 2006 video ‘Candyman’.  I think it’s really clever, especially since Christina is performing all three sisters in the piece.

“Workin’ for the Canajun dollah”

The Grumpy Ferret (It’s a fact, man. It’s a fact!)