Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ending A Good Year Poorly

Don't worry, next year I'll be funny!
Ian, honey, if you're not funny after forty-six years, it ain't gonna happen.
We'll see. Thanks for reading my blog in 2009. There's only 77 posts in 2010 before the blog is done forever!
Ian (and me, his alter ego...aka the voice of enlightenment and reason, with just a dash of sarcasm)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Wisdom Of Cocktail Napkins

Lately I seem to be obsessed with cocktail napkins. They're enough to drive me to drink, though I'm far more interested in the inky wisdom on the napkin than the murky clarity that comes from alcohol.

My fascination bubbled to the surface again, on Friday, December 18, at a friend's place in Halifax. He served drinks on cocktail napkins graced with a traditional Christmas image. Underneath the image was a quote by W.C.Fields, as follows:

"A Merry Christmas to all my friends...except two."

I can't explain why, but I loved that quote. I still do. Perhaps it hit close to home, almost literally. Take a look at my nice/naughty list above. The 'nice' list is not even close to being complete, but the 'naughty' list is absolutely filled up.

Last evening I was at a friend's place in Fredericton and she also had humorous cocktail napkins. Here's what hers looked like...

Why do these cocktail napkins appeal to me so much? I think that I like the idea of the oppressed housewife having a mind of her own, and a wicked one at that! I don't relate to the oppression. I am, after all, a retired house husband/leisurologist who wears no apron (or matching thong).
I have a habit of always cheering for the underdog. She feels the need to break away from her subservience, and she uses baked indifference and acerbic wit to achieve that end. To her, I raise my glass (and admire the cocktail napkin underneath).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Little Pink Houses For You And Me

If you close your eyes when you drive by the 2400 square foot shanties, then you'll never know that poor, undesirable people live in Austin, Texas.

I read something yesterday that was quite troubling. It was a true story of an on-going battle between an Austin (TX) based, non-profit business school and some of its residential neighbours. The business school sits on a generous 21 acre parcel of land in the gently rolling, scrubby hills of Austin's outskirts. Some of the neighbours apparently don't appreciate the business school. There has been "hostility, antagonism, harassment and vandalism" directed toward the business school and its founder.

In September 2008 I took a two day workshop at the business school, which goes by the name of Wizard Academy. The workshop was entitled Accelerated Branding. It probably wasn't the best workshop for me to take, but I was captivated by the business school and the manner in which ideas were shared. I'd happily go back. I marvelled at the dry and bushy foreign to my own verdant lakeside forest. I also noted the size of the mansions in the Wizard Academy neighbourhood. They were huge and unapologetic.

Oddly enough, there was something in what I read that troubled me even more than the on-going disagreement over land use. I'm pretty used to turf skirmishes, because I live next to a Cambridge-Narrows warlord. Nothing surprises me anymore, in that regard. The global citizen in me was perturbed by what I read, because it spoke of a society where core values had gone awry. Here's what my eyes saw, as written by the founder of the business school...

"We built Denny House - a caretaker’s house with an observation balcony - so that the property might be monitored. Neighborhood restrictions – as with all the lots on that side of Crystal Hills Drive – required us to build no less than 2,800 square feet. Although this was much larger and more expensive than we would have preferred, we built an elegant home to help protect the property values of our neighbors."

I was surprised to learn, however, that you can't build a home on Crystal Springs Drive in Austin that is less than 2800 square feet. That's appalling, embarrassing and downright earth unfriendly.

Of course the undercurrent to that building covenant is that only rich, or well to do people, live there. The business school built the caretaker a 2800 square foot home, though it was wholly unnecessary, as pointed out.

No wonder the world is tanking, because this is the way a small minority of powerful people think. Some members of this minority are likely involved in politics, making decisions about zoning and resource allocation.

It's not just America, folks...I'm sure this happens in the great white north as well. I can understand that people want to live in a place of beauty, architectural or otherwise, but when it comes to houses, big isn't always beautiful. And it sure as hell makes no sense for two, three or four people to live in a 5000 square foot house. Or a 4000 square foot house. Or even a 3000 square foot house. The McMansion is an embarrassment to society.

The owners of these monstrosities would just say that I'm envious because I can't afford one. To them I say 'we can't afford them...we, as society'. There's a relatively new house where my wife grew up that reputedly has seven bathrooms. Unless the Brady Bunch all has to pee, or worse, at the same time, then I can't see the point of wasting resources unnecessarily. I can barely clean one bathroom in my house, if I had seven then I wouldn't have time to write this blog (and that would be a travesty).

John Mellencamp wrote a song about life in America where everyone had a little pink house. It's a nice song. It wouldn't be the same had he been writing about starter castles or Hummer homes. I'll bet most little pink houses are under 2800 square feet. I'll bet that most are under 1500 square feet. There should be a little pink house out there for you and me, even in Austin, Texas.

Oh but ain't that America, for you and me
Ain't that America, somethin' to see baby
Ain't that America, home of the free
Little pink houses for you and me.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Father Of The Year Award Goes To....

I'm trying to convince my son to dye his hair black. A lot of rock stars have jet black hair, not that I've ever seen a black jet before. Come to think of it, most jets are white. Damn this language!

My son has no interest in dying his hair black, blond, red or blue. Undeterred by his lack of enthusiasm for my brilliant plan, I decided to create a Photoshop likeness of how I see 'the transformation'. It's today's image.

My plan for him is to dye his hair, wear shades much of the time, a headband, smoke, wear shirts with skeletons on them, get a tattoo or three, wear ripped jeans (how naughty!) and grow a half beard (the best that any Varty could do). I wouldn't be upset if he skipped classes to play his guitar, or if he said 'bye-bye' to his full scholarship at university and took the show on the road, playing arenas in all the big cities: the AC Centre in Toronto, the Staples Centre in L.A, and the Père Camille Léger Arena in Cap-Pelé.

How cool would that be? Sadly, it looks like my son is more interested in pursuing his academic studies than a life as a rock n' roller. Oh well, a father can still dream, right?

This makes me wonder where I went wrong. Was I not a good role model to my son? Did my singing and strutting around the house like Mick Jagger not leave some sort of impression on the boy?

Ian, you were more of a roll model. Cinnamon roll, that is.

Role there's a dicey term. I was in a store called Digital World two weeks ago when I heard a commotion at the entrance. A man, probably in his late twenties said something, rather loudly, that rhymes with 'mucking ditch'. He was addressing his better half (?) who was trying to escape the store, if not more. He remained in the store with what was presumably their three year old son. I watched him in the store. He looked angry. I left the store just before he did, but I made a point to sit in my car and watch for fireworks when he left. He practically dragged the three year old to the waiting minivan.

His bottled blond partner was in the driver's seat, so to speak, but I doubt she ever really was. The bad dad lifted his little son up with the affection that one would show a sack of potatoes, then plunked him into his car seat. I watched carefully as mad dad grumbled with the blond. It was painful to watch such an unhappy family. That little kid will be damaged goods before he ever gets to kindergarten. I can't imagine what he's already seen in his short little life.

I would like to have done something nice for this unfortunate family, but intervention would have met with confrontation. There was nothing that a stranger could do to help. Perhaps I could have bought them some clothing: a snow suit for the three year old, a winter parka for the woman, and some shoes for the dad. Cement shoes. What a jerk and a coward he was. He won't be giving me a run for the money at the Father Of The Year Awards, even if I jokingly encourage my son to follow in Keith Richards' footsteps. Did I mention that sad dad was a jerk and a coward? Ah yes, I did.

You forgot to call him an asshole.

That he was. A lot of people are unhappy but it really pisses me off when the kids are the ones who suffer. No kid deserves a father like that. It's funny (not really) that you need a license to go fishing, but you can become a father overnight, more or less.

I'm not suggesting that we start a Canadian Penis Registry program, though the need for one could be argued. Like the Canadian Firearms Registry program, it would identify dangerous weapons. I'd suggest the father that I witnessed in Fredericton could be the first name on the list. He could be the poster boy for the movement.

In many ways, the penis is far more damaging than any gun. It's giving us deadbeat dads as well as overpopulation. Overpopulation may lead to more deaths than an army of guns could deliver. One of my all-time favorite sculptures sits outside of the United Nations building in New York City. You can see it by clicking here.

Perhaps we should have a similar statue in Canada, outside the Canadian Penis Registry building when it's built, which it surely will be. ACOA has already approved the funding. Of course the statue won't be of a gun. It will be of a knotty dad.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Wat Te Ell Appened Ere?

Whendy likes to read the Globe & Mail so whe often whander along to Jemseg to buy it. Of course they sell more than just newspapers in Jemseg, they also have whreaths available. I whonder whhat else whe might find if whe whent shopping there. Perhaps a whelcome mat on the floor.

Oh, it must be nice to be perfect, Ian?

I'd be the first to admit that I make a lot of spelling mistakes, but I make a valiant effort to avoid them. I like to proof reed my righting once oar sum thyme twice. I use as a reference when I can't spell a word. I also use the spell checker on Blogger. You might be amazed at how often I make spelling mistakes, even with the help of the latest technology.

I wouldn't be amazed, because I know you're a wheenie.

I'm sympathetic toward anyone of another language who tries to learn Hinglish. What a botched and butchered batch of bumbled, dastardly bastardly letters we've brought together to call our own.

There, there Ian. Or is it they're, they're Ian? Or their, their Ian?

English is a mess. Why does wreath start with a double you? That's just plain knuts. No wonder the French want to keep their language! Can you blame them? French is full of sexiness. A house, la maison, is feminine. A big house, le château, is masculine. Okay, French is messed up too, but it's undeniably sexy.

While we're on the topic of French and English, how come French people can't say the letter 'h' in English when they need, yet can say it when they don't...i.e. I played ockey on the hice.

Ian, are you trying to anger the French?

No, I love all languages. They're part of our global culture and I embrace them all with open harms. When the guy from Dell computers, headquartered in New Delhi, calls me Mr.Warty, I don't recoil or try to correct him because his first language doesn't pronounce the vee sound. When the guy from Capital One Mastercard asks to speak to Mr.Warty, I say "Mr.Warty speaking", then try to give him the slip as quickly as possible.

I actually like being called Mr.Warty. Besides, what else could he call me?

I have a list of thirty seven put-downs he could use...want to hear them?

You'd better shut up, or you'll suffer my whreath, wrath. Or, as the British say, roth. Ah, the English language....isn't it grond? In keeping with today's theme of botching the language, I present you this, a scene from my favourite Christmas movie.

Happy hoe ho!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Q & A...With Some T & A, And The F-Bomb

"Mama...someone said the f-word."

These words, uttered at a family party on Christmas eve, came out of the mouth of my five year old nephew. They were spoken during a Nielsen family Christmas carol sing-along. I doubt very much that anyone in Wendy's family dropped the f-bomb. The only person there who would even think about doing that is me, and I assure you, it wasn't me. Most of my swearing is done under my breath, sometimes cleverly hidden under a smirk, but rarely on Christmas eve. The vast majority of my swearing is reserved for Christmas morning, when the 'presents' are opened.

There's no doubt that my nephew misheard whatever song was being sung at the time. I've been racking my brain to think what song we/they were all singing. The best that I can come up with is '__ck the halls with boughs of holly, f_ la la la la'.

Kids say the darndest things. I half expect that Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby were somewhere in the room, likely behind the drapes, naked, filming us. Kids make Christmas fun. Art and Bill creep me out.

I have two nieces who I saw on Christmas Day. They don't swear unless their dad teaches them modified lyrics to otherwise wholesome songs. They, particularly the younger one, are obsessed with potty humour and body parts. The younger one made some gingerbread men for Christmas. Actually, the one that was proudly shared with the gathered family wasn't a gingerbread man at all. Clearly it was a gingerbread woman because the careful placement of two pink jelly tots left nothing to the imagination. If Pamela Anderson was a cookie...

My younger niece also put on a impressive dancing display, with a backbeat provided by Lady Gaga and her latest single Bad Romance. The dancing was quite 'mature' for an eight year old, stylized after Dame Gaga's video, but hilarious nonetheless. Normally I'd provide a link to the Gaga gal's video, but we here at do have certain standards to uphold, so no link will be provided. I want one place on earth to be a Gaga free zone, so it's going to be my blog. I'll never mention her again.

My eighty-two year old mother was given a tiara for Christmas. You can see her image above. She was also given a sash with the words 'The Queen' emblazoned across the front. My mom does a mean impersonation of Queen Elizabeth, so we wanted to give her 'the look' to go along with the sound. She plays the Queen well, occasionally lashing out at Charles and Camilla for their lack of collective fondness displayed toward the corgis.

I wonder what Christmas is like at Buckingham Palace? Do you think Charles sleeps over at his parents' house like I do at mine? Do you think that Camilla cooks pancakes for everyone on Christmas morning? Or do you think that Charles bakes muffins for the other royals in his Easy-Bake oven. I'll just bet he's got one. Damn him! I'll bet the entire royal family just goes gaga when Charles enters the parlour with a basket full of steaming Easy-Bake muffins.

Now that's my idea of a perfect Christmas morning, I swear.

Friday, December 25, 2009

It's 9:44 a.m., Christmas morning, and I'm just now hearing the pitter-patter of little feet. Actually Julian's feet are size twelve and he (clearly) isn't too ramped up about Christmas gift opening....not like the days when he was six and unable to sleep beyond 5 a.m. (of course I was up at 4 a.m., shaking gifts and wondering if (finally!) someone got me an Easy-Bake oven).

There are no boxes under this year's Christmas tree that are big enough to be an Easy-Bake oven, but I'm not depressed. There's always next year!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Christmas Card: Creation Or Evolution?

Every year I create a Christmas card to send to friends and family. It feels like a more personal way to say Merry Christmas, when I can't say it in person.

You mean because you're too cheap to pay for a long distance phone call.

Not true. If you were in Antarctica, I would call you.

Call me what?

I'd call you on the telephone. In fact, I'm going to suggest that you go there right now so I can prove that I'm not scared to make long distance telephone calls. I'd offer to help pack your bags, but they're already packed. You seem to carry a lot of baggage around with you and I'm not sure there's room for any more.

Ha ha. Point made. Ian: one, Alter Ego: zero. You win.

I really enjoy creating the cards. That's why I do it...for the joy of creating. You might say that I'm a creationist.

I like creating cards so much that I decided to create a 'Christmas in July' card, but it never got sent. The NRA threatened to sue me, because they, too, were thinking of marketing a similar card. The law suit was settled in the Oromocto courthouse in early September, too late to use the card this year. I won the case, but I took a bullet in the leg for my troubles. I'm not sure, but I thought I saw Charlton Heston's widow on the six floor of the Oromocto School Book Depository building.

I started creating the cards in 2002, but sadly my first two cards have gone missing from my archives. In 2002 we dressed up like the Osbournes. Me with a leopard skin shirt and Wendy having her ass plumped up by a pillow. There were other props, including Julian. Our 2003 card had us masquerading as body builders (not much Photoshop magic needed for me!).

I was able to find our cards from 2004 to 2008. You'll see them below and you can click on them if you wish to see them in a larger format. It's fun to see how the cards have evolved over the years. And they have. You might say that I'm an evolutionist.

Merry Christmas. Happy Holy Days. Happy Hanukkah. Rockin' Ramadan. Joyeux Noel. Seasons Greetings, or if you play Scrabble against me, Season's Beatings.

Whatever your religion, colour, beliefs, persuasion, etc...blah, blah, blah...enjoy your time with family and friends.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pussy Problems

We're all familiar with the term 'lap dog', aren't we? We've all seen fluffy lap dogs driving Mercedes Benzi (one Mercedes Benz, two Mercedes Benzi, to clarify) or big black Cadillac Escalades. Sure, it's dangerous when a nine pound Lhasa Apso has greater access to the steering wheel than the dog's owner (who just happens to have hair that matches Fluffy's). Rich people can get away with stuff like this, so get over it.

I don't have a lap dog. I prefer to drive myself wherever I need to go. I do, however, have a lap cat. She's not mine. She, Sam, belongs to an errant friend whose house I'm currently visiting. Sam is rather amorous, and thinks that it's her god given right, likely bestowed by some Egyptian cat god, to sit on my lap while I'm at the computer.

Sometimes Sam sits on my lap. Sometimes Sam sits on my laptop. In any event, it's not easy cranking out a blog with fifteen pounds of fur and fangs between my thoughts and the keyboard.

Take a look at Sam in this picture. She's a lovely cat, but she has that look that says 'you wanna piece of me'? I don't dare move her, she's purring so happily. For a while Sam was sitting on my hands. I didn't think that I'd be able to finish typing this blog, but then I had a bright idea...and it worked for a while, but now my toes are now starting to cramp as they're not used to typing, so I'm going to cut my losses and stop here.

You can't silence me, your alter ego. We all know that my thoughts appear in the blog not through normal channels. My thoughts are never typed, they are just willed to appear. Look ma, no hands! No feet either! I could write a short novel here today, Ian, since your hands are tied. I'm loving this feeling of power.

Hey, what are you doing, Ian? Stop kicking at the cord with your feet! Stop it now!! No! No! Don't pull out the plu

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Fender Bender

It was December 15, 2008 when I bought my first electric guitar...just over a year ago. It was made by Yamaha, who also made made my first motorbike which I acquired at the ripe young age of fourteen. Weird, huh? I mean, Honda doesn't make cellos. Kawasaki doesn't make dinner forks, so why does Yamaha make dirt bikes and guitars?

It quickly became evident, upon acquiring the guitar, that I would never be the rock star in my family. Had I been born into the Partridge Family, instead of the Vartys, I would have been the little one in the dress shaking the tambourine.

What was her name again?

It was Tracy. She was the baby of the family, like me, and also the one with the least amount of talent.

Was she really that untalented?

Honestly, I don't know. She was the youngest, so perhaps she simply didn't have time to develop her musical skills.

Are you suggesting, given enough time, that she may have excelled musically and moved from the lowly tambourine up to the more challenging triangle?

The triangle and tambourine are both stepchildren in the troubled family called the Percussions. With two separate parts, the triangle is a very complicated instrument, so don't make fun of it. I own one.

I've seen you play it and, trust me, it looks very difficult. So, getting back to the six string, how's it going with the guitar?

I struggle with the guitar. I am making progress on the acoustic, but it's slow. When Julian left for university, I gave him the electric Yamaha, so I've witnessed no personal progress as a Bon Jovian disciple. I'm mostly folked up by the acoustic.

Julian bought a brand new Rickenbacker 330/6 about a month ago. Wendy and I helped him with the purchase (Merry Christmas, junior). The beauty of helping him acquire the coveted Ric was that I inherited the electric Yamaha. I've been playing it a bit, but not doing it any justice.

Julian is now home for the holidays. He picked up the Yamaha last night and within twenty minutes cranked out some classic Rolling Stones tunes. The electric Yamaha behaves much like a Fender Stratocaster, the guitar of choice for role models like the palm tree plagued Keith Richards, and many others. It would be a shorter list to name who hasn't played a Fender. Fenders are legendary. If someone was stoned on stage, chances are that a Fender wasn't far away.

The Fender, or the Yamaha for that matter, is a very different instrument from the Rickenbacker. It gives a completely different sound colour. Guitars, like cars, I've discovered, are not all the same. For example, I've carried a washer and a dryer in the back of my Ford Focus wagon...try and do that in a Porsche Carrera! The Porsche, on the other hand, sounds like a tiger when it accelerates. My car sounds like Tracy on the tambourine.

I took a lot of pleasure from listening to Julian play the Yamaha last night. I'm thinking that he should take the Yamaha back to Dal when he leaves on the third. He'll get a lot of satisfaction from it, and this makes me very happy. I am worried, however, that the Yamaha will make him behave like Keith Richards. The Rickenbacker is too expensive to use as a fan club. Or he could be more gentle, like the other Keith Richards, who spoke reassuringly to his fans after falling out of a coconut tree in Fiji.

Isn't rock n' roll great? If you're not convinced that rock n'roll is the greatest, then watch this.

Wicked tambourine playing, eh? Who needs the guitar? Julian, take it. I've got bigger plans.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Edge Of Madness

Sometimes I wish that my photography was a bit, hmmm....what's the word....edgier. I'd like to be a bit more experimental. I was watching a U2 dvd (Live From Boston) at a friend's place a few days ago when I decided that I wanted a concert souvenir. If I had been in Boston when the concert was originally filmed then I might have bought a t-shirt or something Bonoesque (like cool yellow sunglasses), but since I was sitting on a sofa in Dartmouth, I had few options.
My camera! I could always photograph the concert!!
Ian, are you mad? You were watching a dvd on the giant Samsung. You could watch it over and over and over again if you wished. Why, in the name of Rod's name (Stewart) would you photograph the television? After yesterday's blog I thought there was some hope for you, but now I'm not so sure.
Like I said, I wanted to give my photography a bit of an edge.
You mean a bit of The Edge?
That too! I like the results of my little experiment. I hope that you, too, will like them.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

100% P.O.P....If 'P' Stands For Death

Much of my last two days was spent in the company of a man whose life forecast was no longer measured in years. In fact, his life was not measured in months, weeks, or even days. His life, after seventy-five years of living, was now measured in hours. He was dying.

I walked into his hospital room around 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon. A television, mounted high on the wall, was tuned to The Weather Network. The television was there for the dying man, though his eyes and ears were likely not paying much attention to the long range forecast which was being aired. You might think it an odd choice of programming for a man living from minute to minute but, if you knew the facts, which you soon will, you might find yourself smiling.

My focus shifted from the television to the man on the bed who I hadn't seen in a few years. His now thin frame was bent at the knees and covered with a blanket. His chest, draped in a johnny shirt, was lifted slightly upward. His chin protruded awkwardly beyond his chest, in the direction of the sky. His skin clung to his chin, following the isobaric contours of the bone underneath. His mouth, agape, exhaled a rattled, gurgling breath which made me feel very uneasy.

I am one of those rare people who has managed to live into his forties without knowing anything about death. It has escaped me, and I have escaped it. On Friday I looked at the face of death and it troubled me at first, but then I started thinking not of death, but of life. My wife's uncle was surrounded by his wife, his kids and his family. His tribe. The room was not socked in with foggy grief, rather it was beaming with sunshine, warmth and love. The stories that were told of his life were like shafts of light, unfettered by the brooding clouds of death. It all seemed fitting for a man who spent his professional career as a meteorologist.

I belong to a tribe known as 'the windsurfers'. We spend, on a yearly average, three or four days a month enjoying the fleeting bounty of the meteorologists' forecast: wind, sun, rain, warmth, cold...often all in the same day. Of those three of four days, perhaps only one is blessed with an accurate wind forecast. Typically we spend thirty days a month cursing the meteorologists, even in February with its twenty-eight days. Many windsurfers spend their afternoons plotting the deaths of the Environment Canada staff while waiting for the wind to arrive, which it often fails to do. No windsurfer has ever successfully managed to kill a meteorologist...all threats being figurative. It's not easy to kill a meteorologist, and my wife's uncle is living proof.

About twenty-five years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He was not alone at the time, as many other individuals in the Halifax region were plagued with the same forecast. Of those people who had the Parkinson's prognosis, only Wendy's uncle Barrie was still living yesterday. He was the Energizer bunny in terms of Parkinson's patients.

Parkinson's disease is not pretty. It robs its keepers of their motor skills, but not of their ability to love or appreciate those who love them. I was reminded of this as I watched Pat sitting by Barrie's side. This is what made Barrie's pending death more of a celebration than a commiseration.

Barrie's wife Pat met him just after he was diagnosed. It would have been easy for the weak to walk away at that point. It would have been easy for the strong to walk away. Many would have walked, but not Pat. She spent a quarter of a century, much of her life, loving Barrie. As I sat in Barrie's hospital room, this was blissfully evident. She stroked his hand as he lay there. It was the most natural thing in the world, like the coming and going of the tides.

We all told stories that somehow involved Barrie, or his colourful family. We shared many laughs together and the discomfort of watching someone die was replaced by the knowledge that it was all worthwhile. Some people live their lives alone, never knowing love. Some people spend their lives with others, never knowing love. Some people, like uncle Barrie, cursed with Parkinson's, lived a life full of love. It hasn't been easy for Barrie, or Pat, but it was real.

As I left the hospital yesterday, I exhaled my last breath of stuffy hospital air and took in a deep breath of the cold Atlantic air. I felt good about death, all things considered. I felt good about life and I felt like honoring it in a very simple, yet profoundly personal way.

I drove my car to a place called Cow Bay where I watched the relentless ocean pulse back and forth. I watched three brave surfers laughing in the face of the forecast. The meteorologists were calling for minus eight degrees, though it was actually minus nine. It's not easy to deter the passionate and strong. The surfers, like Barrie, were proof of that.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Back Off Ed Hillary!

This sign makes me laugh every time that my luxury, kiwi green station wagon rolls me past it. Just as the last few syllables of 'see you later New Brunswick' are rolling off my tongue, as I cross the border into New Scotland, I'm greeted by this disingenuous shot across Pooh Bear's bow. It's also a slight to Sir Edmund, the bee keeping hill climber.

I went to Agricultural College in Nova Scotia, so I've got a pretty good idea why the sign was erected by the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture. No doubt some bees have been 'sleeping around' and have caught some sort of horrible transmittable disease, such as C1B1 (Swine Fly Flu). No one wants slut bees or diseased drones to 'get busy' with the queen, thus endangering the future of society as we know it. Nevertheless, this sign and it's placement seem comical.

If you look at the tire tracks on the other side of this sign, you can see well worn u-turn grooves in the pavement where bee carrying New Brunswickers have been enlightened, and rushed back with their hives to the safety of Aulac. They then released their bees with strict instructions not to follow them back into Nova Scotia.

The history of importing diseased bees can be traced back to the Acadian expulsion when the New Brunswick Acadians fled to Nova Scotia. One of the Acadian women accidentally brought a diseased bee, from Fort Beausejour to Amherst, in her hat. This one bee decimated the natural population of bees, thus causing a crop failure through lack of pollination (with ensuing famine). It also led to the expression 'she's got a bee in her bonnet', indicative of a troubling situation.

You made that up, right?

Absolutely. Pure, unadulterated bullshit.

I would like to know if, during the many years that the sign has been present, if anyone has ever backtracked with their bees. What do you think?

I doubt the sign is very effective. They might as well paint it over with something more meaningful, like 'Rita's Tea Room...342km'. Just a thought. Or maybe a catchy government slogan...

Bee...not in this place.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Backtracking With Winter Tires

Some mornings I'm blessed with the luxury of time. This morning is not one of those mornings so I'm regurgitating some images from earlier in the month. At least I'm showing some images that didn't make it into the blog before. They're all images of the first snow of the new winter.

If you're frustrated by the small size of the slideshow, then you can see larger images by clicking here. They do look better when they're larger, like many things (i.e. smiles).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Last Night I Was Stoned...I Think

Take a good look at the image above, then start reading (please).
The Blair Witch Project. Friday The 13th. Halloween. Bride of Chucky...all horror films. None of them watched by me. I'm simply not into horror films, and why would I be?

I've been bumped off my flight, while flying with a child, by Air Canada. I've squeezed a freshly baked Tim Horton's apple fritter and watched the artery clogging oil pour out of it. I once owned and drove an Oldsmobile. I've voted Mulroney*.

I know a thing or two about horror.

Yesterday was a day of rock n' roll for me. I was working at a project in my boathouse. My radio, completely cranked, was tuned to a Saint John classic rock station. Given my druthers, I'd tune it into an alternative rock station but, here in good old New Brunswick, I'm only given the choice of classic rock, teeny pop, or country slop. Classic rock is the lesser of the three evils, so my choice was made. I could listen to CBC, I suppose, but I find that CBC doesn't go well with power tools. Heavy metal needs heavy metal.

Things were going swimmingly until C98 (alternatively called 'Big John' by the DJs, or 'Ready John' by me) played a Def Leppard song. I went into convulsions and dragged my twisted wreck of a body to the radio (ears bleeding). I clawed at the dial until I found a Fredericton spastic rock station (105.3..the Fox). It was just slightly worse than the Saint John station, proven by the fact that a Bob and Doug MacKenzie spoken word song was played not fifteen minutes after I made the switch. I canned the Fox and dialled back to Ready John.

I had three projects on the go during this musical fiasco. My first project involved drilling a hole into a granite boulder. I was making slow progress when, all of a sudden, the boulder broke in half. I don't know much about drilling rocks, so the result didn't surprise me. I was hoping to use small, beach worn granite boulders as door knobs for my nearly completed cabinet which I built. Alas, it was not meant to be.

Project two involved putting a coat of varnish on the cabinet while concurrently trying to do some weight training (project three) in my boathouse (alternatively known as 'the man cave'). The fumes from the varnish were quite strong and at one point I began to hallucinate. While sitting at my weight bench, trying to curl some dumbbells, I happened to glance over at my windsurfer, which was sitting on a wall mounted rack. I began to fixate on the Chinook base plate (see image above) which facilitates the joining of the mast to the board. It looked scarily familiar, but I wasn't sure why at first.

Take a look at the image above, again, right now. Don't read on. Does the image remind you of a fictional character from a movie, or was I simply stoned from the varnish fumes?

It hit me like a rack of lamb when I finally realized that I knew exactly why the base plate looked so familiar. The room fell silent. It looked like that crazy person from the Silence Of The Lambs; a movie which, by the way, I've never watched. What was her name? The girl in the goalie mask. Annabelle Lector?

I think you've got your horror films mixed up, Ian. Perhaps you should watch them, then you would be qualified to write about them intelligently. It was actually Lecter, not Lector. Ell. Eee! See. Tea. Eee! Arrr! And it was Hannibal, not Annabelle. The bad person was a character played by Anthony Hopkins, not Jodie Foster.

And for the record, the goalie mask was from the horror movie Friday The Thirteenth. It also made a brief appearance in the soft horror film National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (one that we have watched together and enjoyed).

Everyone probably thinks that I'm crazy at this point, so let me state my case with a visual aid.

Pretty cool, eh? You must see the similarities, right? It wasn't just the varnish controlling my thoughts, was it?
Oh yes, one other thing...
* I've never, ever, voted for Mulroney. That would be scary.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rumblings Of The PhArts

The Cambridge-Narrows Photographic Arts Club (PhArts), of which I'm a card carrying member, had a meeting last week. At that meeting, our most esteemed President stepped down from his duties after a successful seven year reign.

So why did he step down?

He cited personal reasons. Apparently the role of PhArts Club President was starting to feel like work, and this guy had an aversion to work.

What was the lazy bastard's name?

Oh, as if you don't know!

Of course I know, I was just setting you up for a fall! Shall I tell them who the President was?

Sure, go ahead. Like I can stop you...

It was Ian Varty.

Yes, it's true. I resigned after seven years as President of the PhArts. I found that I was starting to spend too much time overseeing club logistics. My paper shuffling and organizational planning sessions were beginning to take upwards of two hours per month, and that was unacceptable. It was cutting into my leisure time, so I knew that I had to take drastic I retired.

I've been retired for five days now, and I've got to tell you, I'm loving it. They warned me that I'd feel lost without work, but I seem to be adjusting just fine. One of my first retirement projects was to create a blog for the PhArts club. It will be a venue for the six PhArts members to show the public some of our pictures. As the blog is in its infancy right now, there's only three images to be seen, but it will grow over time.

If you'd like to see what the PhArts are shooting, then feel free to visit our blog at You'll also see a link to the PhArts blog on the sidebar of theleisurologist.blogspot.

Now that I'm officially retired, I hope to spend more time with friends and family. I want to socialize more often. I want to do things that I couldn't do before (because of the unhealthy amount of time that I was putting into the PhArts Club). If you'd like to socialize with me, or spend some time doing something with me, please let me know. I'm as free as an eagle.

The eagle in your image doesn't look particularly free. It's got a snare caught on its toe. I thought that you said that you were "free as an eagle."

Well, I'm not one hundred percent free. No man is.

Why not?

Garbage day.


Every Tuesday morning I have to lug the week's garbage up to the end of my driveway by eight o'clock in the morning. It's hellishly hard work.

Why don't you hire someone to do it for you?

I tried, but failed miserably.

What did Wendy say when she learned that you tried to hire someone to take the garbage out on Tuesday mornings?

She thanked me for offering her the job first, then she put some thumb tacks in a bowl of oatmeal and asked me if I was ready for breakfast.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Eight Ch Too Oh!

A frozen waterfall along Glebe Road, just outside the quaint seaside town of St.Andrews (N.B.), was recently discovered by yours truly. I, along with a friend, stopped for a half hour, happily photographing the motionless water. Standing before it, in small 'a' awe, I was reminded of how important water is in my life. I don't like water...I love it.

I prefer water to run freely as it does in the three seasons not called winter, but frozen water takes on its own charm. In the wilds, ice can take on the quality of molten glass, bending light with delicious consequences. It rivals any sculpture created by the hand of humans. My middle image reminds me of Haida art.

I have been known to partake in the occasional use of domestic ice. My rum and Coke is much happier swimming with a few square bergs. I've curled and skated on domestic ice, but I much prefer skating on wild, free range ice, such as can be found when the mighty Washademoak freezes. My lake is trying to freeze at the moment, going through a number of freeze and thaw exercises. Soon it will be frozen solid.

One of the most pleasant, yet haunting, aspects of living next to the lake is the singing. No, I'm not talking about Wendy and the numerous opera singers who frequent our lakeside studio. I'm talking about the lake singing. During the frigid nights of winter, the lake sings loudly. I'm not sure if it's caused by the changing tides under the ice, or simply the shifting ice, but sing it does. It's hard to describe the sound, though it sounds very much like the song of the whale. I'll try and record it this winter and put a sound bite on the blog.

It's just one of the many joys of my Canadian winter.

Do you love winter, Ian?

Well, let's just say that I wouldn't say no to a one way ticket to St.Barths.

There aren't any waterfalls there, frozen or liquid.

I'd wash my sorrow away with an icy rum n' Coke. Or two.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Getting Schooled At Home

The government issued, rather formal looking, sign which lived on the outside wall of the building, said 'Tough School'. I laughed out loud because, as a former supply teacher at the Cambridge-Narrows School, I knew a tough school when I saw one. Or, at least, I thought that I did.

The irony in this situation, and I'm not sure that it's actually irony (Alanis Morissette and I suffer from this confusion...and we both blame our public school teachers...isn't that ironic?), is that the school may or may have not been tough, but it happened to be in a Scottish town called Tough. It's pronounced 'tewk' or something like that. Spit should fly out of your mouth when you attempt its pronunciation.

Ach, yer bum's oot the windae, Ian.

Thanks for that, now I have to clean my glasses. And the window glass, apparently. The Tough school may or may not be all that tough. Some schools in North America have metal detectors at the that's tough. I always insisted that Julian leave his Ak-47 at home, before heading off for his morning classes.

At the Cambridge-Narrows school, I never worried that a student would bring a piece of scrap metal to school. I was more worried about fire...with just cause. I had three fires in my classroom in two years of part-time supply teaching. And, no, I wasn't teaching chemistry at the time, in case there was any doubt.

Okay, kids, today Mr.Varty is going to teach you how to build a bomb. We need a about you, Johnny? The rest of you kids, stand back, I think this could get messy.

The fires that I had in my classroom were not caused by me. They were caused by dumb little shits who thought that it would be fun to start a blaze in a building full of children. This happened three times! I got into the habit of wearing non-flammable clothes to school.

Ian, were some of the other teachers, and by that I mean the ones of the opposite gender, turned on by your Teflon teaching togs?

I won't be answering that, but if I did, I'd have to say 'yes'. Teaching is a tough (tuff) job, and I have a lot of respect for teachers. I, like most people with their grade twelve diplomas, have seen a lot of teachers over the years. In elementary school (1-6), I would have had one teacher per year. Junior high (7-9) and high school (10-12) probably saw me being taught by five teachers per year. That means that I've been taught by approximately thirty-six university trained experts in their field.

Not all public school teachers are shining lights, some are dead wood, but the vast majority of teachers are wonderful and they bring a lot of their personal experiences to the classroom. It's a healthy environment for learning, but not everyone is enamoured of the public school system. It's not uncommon for wealthy families to send their kids to private schools. Private schools do everything that public schools do, plus they provide cardigans and ties for the boys, and mini-skirts for the girls. They charge $15 000 per year for their fashion advice.

Some people don't like the public school system for other reasons and they decide to home school their children. Some kids, for whatever reasons, don't seem to fair well in the public school system. They may have learning disabilities, or social disorders, or whatever. Often these kids are better off being in a home school environment.

It seems that many kids are home schooled because their parents have rather unconventional religious beliefs and they don't want their kids being exposed to outside influence. Or they don't agree with the curriculum.

Are you talking about the public school system's failure to acknowledge the validity of a Flintstonian world where man and brontosaurus co-existed, Ian?

Yeah, pretty much.

Some people view home schooling as a soft form of child abuse. I see their point, but I'm not sure that the facts support the claim. I don't know much about this. I do know that I'm a highly intelligent, well educated person with a broad platform upon which I've piled many pallets of life lessons. Having said this, there's no way that I could possibly offer my son the breadth of knowledge or expertise that his previous thirty-six teachers offered.

Could I have offered him a learning environment at home that was better suited to learning? Perhaps, as there are many distractions at school, but I see the distractions as the attractions. This is real life. This is the life that most people will have to deal with as adults. The workplace is not much different than school. There will be personalities that will be challenging, and many that will be enlightening. The learning never stops, that's for sure.

My father is a brilliant man...a scholar in my eyes, but I'm awfully glad that he didn't home school me. Had I been home schooled I never would have seen Sandra Clark puke up alphabet soup in grade one. I never would have seen Bobby Cusack get the paddle in grade one. I never would have learned to appreciate the bounty of the Easy-Bake Oven. I never would have had the hots for Jane in grade two. I never would have got the strap myself in grade four, or a black eye in grade six. I never would have marveled at Ms.Spinney's banana boobs, or watched my classmate, Mary Ann Fletcher, put a shoe lace in the grade seven home-ec class casserole which was fed to the teachers. I never would have won the best actor award in grade eight, or had the opportunity to be the class clown in Granny McGer's grade eleven math class. I never would have been kicked out of phys-ed class in grade twelve for my stubborn refusal to square dance properly.

Have I made a good argument for home schooling? Absolutely not. Isn't that ironic?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

An Apple A Day...But From Where?

"You should watch this movie," said Steve to me. As co-owner of Pomodori, Rothesay's Italian style wood-fired pizza restaurant, Steve's advice is taken seriously, especially when it concerns food. The movie of note, Food Inc., was definitely of interest to me.

I arrived home an hour later to find the following message in my e-mail inbox...

This will speak to the already converted, but you may want to rent:

It's right up your alley!

This message was from another fine foodie friend. The same morsel of advice, arriving within 90 minutes of each other...looks like we've reached the tipping point!

I have yet to rent the movie, mostly because our local general store owner prefers to rent movies that feature violence or soft porn, sometimes together! Alas, it's not easy being me.

I couldn't sleep this morning, so I announced to my wife, at 5:45 a.m., that I was going into Fredericton for a visit to the city's farmers' market. and off I went into the brisk darkness of the morn. It was windy and minus ten, but a crescent moon and a starry sky made me feel alive.

I scoured the market for local goods, as much as possible, but also slutted around the vendors who sold items from afar. My Cotswald cheese, for example, did not get its start in the Maritimes. Once in a while I'll go off the wagon and buy non-local cheese, but not too often.

I bought some apple cider from David Coburn. I've known David for at least half of my life, let's say twenty-three years. David runs the family farm in Keswick Ridge. I'm relatively certain that the Coburn family has been doing this for a long time. David started selling apples and eggs at the market forty years ago, when he was nine.

David Coburn is a farmer. He always has been. Hopefully he always will be, but there is no guarantee. He wants to be a farmer, that's for sure. He currently manages ten acres of apples for cider production, as well as raising thousands of chickens for their eggs. Sounds impressive, until you hear David speak of the good old days.

His family used to have one hundred acres of apples, now it's down to ten. The market, with cheap imports, has dictated that local growers must surrender to economic forces. It's sad that it happens to farmers, because they're going to be our best friends in the future. And we're going to need them to be local.

David shared a startling statistic with me....there used to be five hundred acres of apples under production on Keswick Ridge. That number is now down to seventy acres, and fifty of those acres are for sale.

Imagine a future where there were no local apple growers. Imagine a future where oil shortages made transporting apples across the country unprofitable. Where are you going to find your apples? I bought some apple cider from David because:

a) it's delicious,

b) I want him to be there. Next week. Next year.

Do you know where your apples are coming from? Do you support local farmers? Do you have any clue where any of your food comes from? I do. Steve at Pomodori does. David Coburn does, but what about you?

Here's an image of David his the Boyce Farmers' Market...forty years and counting.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Quick Thought On Legacy Building

Hadrian had a wall built. Napoleon had an empire worth fighting for (as did Alexander T.G., Genghis K., and Earle B.). The Donald has tall buildings and cologne adorned with his surname. Bob is about to get a room at UNB named after him. Everybody was/is happy.

All men. All with great big giant egos.

Me? I'm a tall man with a small ego. I prefer to make footprints in the sand, knowing full well that they'll be washed away with the next tide. Somehow, the thought of leaving no trace is appealing.

When I die, I don't want a tombstone or anything that says I was here. I want my ashes scattered to the four winds high atop Cadillac Mountain (or maybe Dorr Mountain) on Mount Desert Island in Maine. I want to live among the pink granite boulders and the stunted spruce, lichens and blueberries.

I'd also like a little to be saved for Les Iles de la Madeleine, because it's a special place of which I'd like to be a part. I'd love to live with the sand.

I think it sounds a bit morbid. Hey, I just thought of something...when you go, I go. You'd better start looking after yourself. Umm, I mean us.

Don't worry, I'm going to be around for a long time. There are a lot of waves yet to catch. I want to live to see an Environment Canada wind forecast that's correct. Yesterday's forecast was for winds SW 40-70. I went to Saint John and found hurricane force winds blowing in from the west at 15 km/h.

You sound both sarcastic and bitter.

I am. It was incredible how they misread the wind, but not unexpected. Alas, there are no epic windsurfing photographs to share this morning. Only footprints in the sand and snow. They make me think, however, and thinking is good.

Do you want to build a legacy or blow in the wind? Do you want to leave lingering memories or lasting monuments? Do you want to help others, or help yourself. These are things worth pondering.

I hate to do this because it's not in my nature, but I agree with you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Usta Know A Game Called Hockey

I was playing poker last night when one of the card sharks issued the following challenge:

Name five players from any NHL team.

Do you see those images of me above? They were taken in the 1970s. During this decade I could have named all the players on my favourite team. I could have told you their middle names, along with the type of car they drove and their license plate numbers. I could have told you their blood types. I could have named most of the players on the opposing teams too.

Like many kids growing up in Canada, I was hockey crazy. I worshipped at the shrine called Hockey Night In Canada. Church, for me, was broadcast on CBC every Saturday night. We had pizza and pop communion during the intermissions. It was a great time to be a sports fan. It was a great time to be a chubby child (which I was).

So, Ian, could you name five players from one team?

Rather than list off five players from one team, I decided to list all of the NHL players that I knew. Here's how the list looked:

Sidney Crosby. End of list.

What! You call yourself a Canadian?!?!

Amazingly I could name more members of Ralph Gushue's 2006 Olympic Gold medal curling team than I could NHL players.

Ian, it's Brad Gushue, not Ralph.

Right, right.

So, who else can you name from Brad's curling team? I need at least one more name to prove your infinite curling knowledge.

Umm...I think the other guy's name was Ron Howard.

Ian, you are such a dolt. Ron Howard is a child actor turned bald director. The curler was named Russ Howard, not Ron. Know any other gold medal curlers?

Was there one called Saku Koivu?

No, he's a hockey player. Plays for the Anaheim Ducks. I know two NHL hockey players! Oh!! I just thought of one more. Pasta Head.

Pasta Head?

Yeah, I used to play a video game, called NHL 2004, with my son, and the commentator always spoke of a player called Pasta Head. I remember him saying "it was Pasta Head". I think he was Italian and he seemed to play for almost every team. He must have been traded a lot.

They were actually talking about the puck, you moron! It was passed ahead.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2009: Twelve Images

I could have waited until December 31 to exhibit my images of 2009, but as blogmeister/god, I do as I please. So here they are! Remember that you can click on any image to see a larger version.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Profanic Organic

I went up to the counter, plunked down my four items. The cashier said "that'll be twenny-three dollas." Then the silent screaming started.

"What are you doing, you moron," the voice yelled at me. The voice was so high pitched that only I could hear it, not unlike a dog whistle. It was emanating from my pants, so that ruled out my alter ego.

The cashier stood patiently, waiting for her twenty three bucks, blissfully unaware of the battle raging before her very eyes. I reached into my back pocket and grabbed my wallet. It bit me. Not a little nip; it opened it's jaws and clamped down on my hand. I winced. My wallet let out a garbled shriek, "No, it's too much money. Don't do this to me." It's voice was muffled by a mouthful of fingers.

I had to do it. I was standing at the checkout and I didn't want to make a fool of myself, though I already had. I wrestled my wallet open and took out a twenty dollar bill, one loony and one toony. There, it was over. My wallet sighed.

I had just paid twenty three dollars for two tubs of yogurt, a dozen eggs and a pound of butter. All of it was organic and, apparently, it costs a lot of money to make organic eggs, butter and yogurt. You may have noticed that I didn't spell yogurt with an 'h' . Had I done so, the 'h' would have stood for 'holy f___ this _h__ is expensive'!

I bought all of my organic items at the health food store in Fredericton. I didn't look at the price of anything, I simply grabbed what I wanted, then proceeded to pay for it. I discovered, upon returning home, that I paid eight dollars for a pound of butter and five dollars for a dozen eggs (they were small eggs, by the way). The yogurt was five clams a tub.

Now, had I gone to the Stooperstore, I would have paid three-fifty per tub of yogurt, three dollars for a dozen eggs and four buckeroos for a pound of butter (roughly). That's fourteen shekels according to my abacus. You do the math. Okay, I'll do it for you. I paid and extra nine doll hairs just to buy organic items.

You might think that I'm anti-organic, by the tone of this blog posting. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I want to eat organically. Why would I want to ingest bovine growth hormones, chicken antibiotics, pesticides and herbicides? I don't want to eat a steak for supper, only to wake up the next morning with hooves and an udder.

I want to eat food that is as close to natural as is humanly possible. I love organic food. I want my chickens to run free, peck at the ground, hang out, have a social life, chat. I want my cows to roam in the meadows instead of laying in a pile of their own poo. I want my yogurt to have real culture.


I don't want to pay eight dollars for a pound of frickin' butter! The other day I put a little pat of butter in the frying pan. My wallet, from the other room, yelled out "that's three dollars worth, you know." My wallet was right. Now I'm treating my pound of butter like it was gold. I no longer dip my lobster in butter. I now dip my butter in lobster. The world has gone mad!

Sadly I've decided that I can't justify eight bucks for butter, or five for eggs. It's a shame that organic goods are so expensive because I want to eat them, but I'm not prepared to spend that much. I hope that my health doesn't suffer in the long run.

Speaking of running, I'd better put my hooves in motion and get on with my day. I'll just swing by the barn on my way.

Got milk, Ian?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Speaking Words Of Wisdom, Let It...Snow

I was euphoric yesterday morning! This is abnormal for me, because typically I'm just wildly excited to find myself alive and awake.

What made me euphoric? Snow! Lots of it. Beautiful, white fluffy snow. Without any wind it was clinging to the pine, oak, maple, poplar,

Umm, don't you mean popple, Ian?

Sorry. People in New Brunswick don't know what a poplar tree is...they only know about popple trees. So, yes, popple. I've also got ash, beech and spruce trees on my property, and they all looked magnificent with a generous vanilla snow frosting. I was inspired to take my camera out for a two and a half hour snowfari.

The Lower Cambridge Road, my snowfari route, had not been plowed and, for the most part, there were two little tire channels cut through the snow that my intrepid Ford Focus wagon followed. There was virtually no traffic, so I just stopped my car in the middle of the road and took pictures wherever, whenever, I felt like it. It was empowering. It was as though I was in the middle of one of those Christmas globes that you shake up to create a winter landscape.

The funny thing about my euphoria is that by the time April rolls around, I'll be doing a little dance to get rid of the g.d. snow. I'll do a rain dance or a sun dance, whatever it takes to get rid of the snow and bring home spring.

You don't actually dance, do you Ian?

No. It's more of a mental dance than a shoe slappin', toe tappin' Bunny Briggs kind of dance. I have, however, managed to control the weather through concentrated thought. It's just one of my many talents.

I see. Why don't you just lay down on the sofa here and tell me all about your secret world where you're able to control global atmospheric disturbances. I'll just be taking notes while you talk.

You don't actually believe that you control the weather, do you? Isn't that Cindy Day's job?

No, I don't really control the weather, I simply control how I react to it. Cloudy days are good for certain things, like close-up photography. Rainy days are a good excuse to stay indoors and read a book, or put the rubber boots on and make mini Hoover dams in the run-off.

I suppose if you controlled the weather then it would be windy every day of the week. You'd be in windsurfing heaven. Do you think you'll ever control the wind?

Of course I do!

And how might you control the wind? What's you secret weapon?

Duh! Didn't you read my blog yesterday?

Are you kidding? Your blog is so f__ing inane that I wouldn't waste my time reading it.

Well, if you did then you'd know that the secret to muffling the wind is to lay off the dried apricots. You want a hurricane? Eat a pound of them.

Why are we talking about flatulence? Aren't we supposed to be celebrating the first snow of the year?

You're right. Here's one more image from yesterday morning. This is what sparked my euphoria when I first got colourful world was black & white all of a sudden, and I loved it!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Go To Hellvis!

You might think that I'm back on the religious kick this morning, full of fire and brimstone.

Ian, do you even know what brimstone is?

Not a clue.

Shall I look it up for you in Wikipedia?

Yeah, that'd be great.

Brimstone is the ancient name attributed to sulfur.

This is kind of freaky, but when I eat dried apricots, they give me bad gas that's quite sulphuric. You can set your watch to it, like Old Faithful. You could sell tickets to tourists, it's that reliable.

Have you applied for an ACOA grant, so you can build a viewing platform and an interpretive centre?

No, but I've thought about it. There is a connection between dried apricots and brimstone, in case you're wondering why I brought up apricots when trying to initiate a discussion about hell. I wondered, for years, why dried apricots were so noxious, then one day I read the ingredients. I always assumed that the ingredient list would be very short, like this...ingredients: apricots. It turned out that the apricots had one other (insidious) ingredient: sulphur dioxide.

Sulphur dioxide is produced naturally in volcanoes, and unnaturally in Delaware by companies like Dupont. Sulphur dioxide seems like an odd thing to add to an apricot, but it prevents the dried fruit from becoming rotten, so I guess that it makes sense. I pay a price by ingesting the sulphides, as does everyone within ten metres of me. Sulphur dioxide is also used to make wine, though I don't experience any side effects from generous imbibing, other than an overwhelming desire to table dance in the buff.

If I was marketing apricots, I wouldn't call them Sunkist or Sun-Maid or Casa de Fruta, I'd call them Brimstone Bites or something to that effect. Then I'd sit back and count my money, while sales skyrocketed.

Ian, you don't really think that Brimstone Bites, a healthy snack, would be a best seller, do you?

Go to hell!

Hell? I heard that you were there this true?

Yes, it's true, but I was only there for about four and a half minutes.

Did the radio station play a Def Leppard song?

Yup. I hate that band. I just can't abide their music. It's the demise of rock n' roll as far as I'm concerned. I actually walked up to the radio and changed stations for that one song, which had the title 'Pour Some Sugar On Me'. I'm not providing a link to that song because it's awful. Here's a few lines, though, just so you get a sense for my unbridled loathing...

You got the peaches, I got the cream
Sweet to taste, saccharine

'Cos I'm hot, say what, sticky sweet
From my head, my head, to my feet

Somebody get me a bucket...I'm going to hurl. This is the kind of music that I imagine plays in hell, likely on an 8-track.

This got me thinking, yesterday. I decided to make a list of the three musical groups/artists that would play on an endless loop in hell. Here's my list:

1) Def Leppard
2) Aaron Neville
3) Celine Dion

Def Leppard makes rock seem like chalk (soft and weak). Aaron Neville is this big, muscly guy who looks like he should be driving a bad ass Harley, then he opens his mouth and I'm looking around for Tweety Bird sucking on a brown paper bag full of helium. Celine Dion is a poser. Yes, she's got a voice and a half, but she comes across as a fraud when I see her (it's a visual).

It was incredibly easy for me to pick my top three, though difficult not to include Neil Sedaka. Or jazz. Any jazz. All jazz. Who would be on your top three hellishly awful acts? Drop me an e-mail and let me know, or leave a comment on the blog.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The World's Most Dangerous Sport

It was December the third and I probably should have been building a snowman on my front lawn. This is Canada after all, or it used to be. There was no snow because it was plus twelve degrees. It was also raining and windy. Hmmm, sounds like a good day to windsurf on the Bay of Fundy!

When I mention to people that I windsurf in December, they all give me the same look. It's a reassuring that says 'yes, you are the Village Idiot...and no tears will be shed when you remove yourself from the gene pool'.

Windsurfing in the Bay of Fundy, in December, sounds gnarly, but you know what? (insert drum roll here) isn't. The water is surprisingly warm, and if you're wearing the proper wetsuit, then it's actually very comfortable. When it's twelve degrees outside, it's not all that colder than this past July. So what's the big deal? Where's the danger?

I'll tell you where the danger lurks, it's in the parking lot of the Lancaster Mall in Saint John. I pulled into the Lancaster Mall to grab a coffee before windsurfing in the bay. I was stuck behind a car that was driven by someone suffering from indecision. At every parking lot junction, they pondered their options, much like one might ponder running from a bear or pretending to be dead. Was it 'run from a grizzly' or 'play dead' for a grizzly? I can never remember, that's why I windsurf on the Bay of Fundy. In any event, the driver ahead of me had a hard time deciding what to do.

As I was exiting the mall parking lot, another car pulled in front of me. This one was driven by a one-eyed seeing eye dog who apparently didn't notice my kiwi green station wagon with windsurfing gear piled high on the roof. What's a guy got to do to get noticed? I swear I'm going to paint my car hot pink with a great big giant lime green Gazoo likeness on the side. I'll do it when Wendy is away in January.

I was almost t-boned by a dark Pontiac Firebird on the way out. Damn you Michael Knight and your talking car. I spent a grand total of two minutes driving in the Lancaster Mall parking lot, yet I felt my life was in jeopardy three times. Windsurfing in the Bay of Fundy would be a welcome relief from the world's most dangerous sport...road rallying on seniors' day at the Lancaster Mall.

Now, don't misunderstand me, I'm not dissing seniors' driving.

Okay, I am.

The Firebird, at least, was not driven by a senior. It was driven by a young dirtball. All Firebirds are driven by young dirtballs. Funny how that works. It's as though it was prearranged, like a secret handshake among members of the Loyal Order Of Water Buffaloes. It's also amazing, almost unthinkable, that the Firebird was once considered a 'hot' car. Now I laugh every time I see one, except when they try to skewer me.

So I left the dangerous Lancaster Mall, which isn't really a mall, and went to the Bay. The Bay was uneventful, all things considered. The only real danger, and it's not really a danger, happened when I tried to take my wetsuit off. It always happens. At one point during the transaction, I was half naked and my legs were still pinned by the clingy wetsuit. I tried to cover my 'parts' with a towel, but it was rather windy. It's a great spectator's sport, like baseball with an extra orb. It would have been a great time to rob me, though you couldn't have stolen my dignity because, at that very moment, I had none.

It actually got worse. Once the wetsuit was off, I tried my best to dry myself off with the moistened towel. It's almost impossible to get 'things' dry in this environment. When I tried to put my underwear on, my skin was still damp from the ocean water. Certain 'things' like to stick to the first piece of cloth that they touch, so if you don't get all your ducks in a row, then it can be quite unpleasant.

These certain body parts behave much like ducklings. You've all heard stories of ducklings being hatched in the presence of a human, then thinking the human was their mother. That's what it's like when you put a salt bathed body into underwear. The 'ducklings' stick to the first thing they see or, in this case, touch. Even if it's a leg hole!

The Lancaster Mall was dangerous. Driving across Saint John's harbour bridge while trying to make 'adjustments' to my salt water wedgie was dangerous. Windsurfing in the Bay of Fundy in December was a piece of cake.

Friday, December 4, 2009

And The Winner Is...

Yesterday I issued a challenge to the readers of my blog: submit a story, win a bottle of Te Ata Po, the award winning New Zealand wine with a New Brunswick finish. As you might imagine, I was inundated with thousands of entries.

Ouch! Your nose just about poked my eye out, Ian. Or should I call you Pinocchio?

Okay, so there wasn't thousands of entries....there was less than a hundred.


Okay, okay, there was between one and ten.

Tisk, tisk!

Okay, so there was only one entry. The winner's name is Jean Gaudet from Sutton, Quebec. Sutton is located in Quebec's Eastern Townships, so close to the Vermont border that you can almost smell Ben & Jerry's underwear (if the wind is blowing from the south). I've never been to Sutton but I understand it to be an rural enclave for Montréalers who need to escape la village du grand O. I'm referring to the Olympic Stadium, and not Oprah, in case there was any doubt.

The winner, Jean Gaudet, is a lot like me. He's artistic, athletic, resourceful and good looking.

Ian, I'll grant you three out of four. Remember, I consider you to be Rex Murphy's twin, separated at birth.

I'll settle for three out of four. Jean is also spectacularly bilingual as well, lucky canard. He's also a windsurfer. He builds and renovates homes, including his summer place in Les Iles de la Madeleine. He paints (portraits, landscapes, still lifes, etc.). He has size thirteen feet and lives next to a pond. That's about all I know about Monsieur Gaudet. You can read his guest blog below which will enlighten you regarding life in the Eastern Townships....

Today in Sutton les Bains, winter is on the back burner again. It looks like all of fall is concentrated in one day. No more leaves in trees (except for the everlasting beech rust leaves), tons of precipitation in liquid form, cats that come in smelling like mud, and clouds zippin’ by like they’re going somewhere. Go figure …

I’ve rarely seen my pond overflow this much in the fall. Spring is another story with all the mountain snow melting. But today is ridiculous. The spillway is so loud, I will dream of Îles-de-la-Madeleine wave surfing all night. I pity the poor little salamanders trying to hold on to their flat stone in that tidal current.


I know this is just a prequel to the first snowstorm of the season. Can’t wait to put my new snowboard on that immaculate white blanket and carve the hell out of the mountain. Proof that winter is at the door, is that there was 43cm of fresh powpow on top of the mountain last Saturday. All liquefied by now I’m sure.

Oh by the way … comin’ back from Montréal last Monday night, I saw a huge meteorite come down in a field somewhere over there, maybe further but who cares? It was a show I’ll remember for a while (‘till Mr. Alzheimer knocks at the door). Turquoise blue tail and all, as big as … let’s say a football at the 100 yard line (is there such a distance in football? I wouldn’t know). It lasted but one or two seconds, just short enough for my wife who was snoozing on the passenger seat to miss it.

Abada abada, that’s all folks

There you go Mr. Varty, Te Ata Po time?

Jean Gaudet from Sutton, Québec.

It sounds to me like Jean Gaudet is almost a leisurologist. He certainly thinks and writes like one. No mention of work! Jean is also a talented photographer and lateral thinker. Yes, those are bath tubs in the attractive image that he submitted. That would explain the image's title, Sutton Les Bains.

If you'd like to view some of Jean's paintings, then click on this link:

Jean, I'll deliver your bottle of Te Ata Po in person when I pass through Sutton this winter. My diminutive size 12 feet, that normally live next to a lake, are looking forward to snowboarding in the mighty Alps of the Eastern Townships.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

You Don't Know What Te Ata Po Means!

Te Ata Po, in Maori, means 'first light'. In Canadian English, or Quebecois Hinglish, 'first light' is what they suggest you do to a barbeque before tossing on a steak.

Mmmm, Te Ata Po and red meat.

Te Ata Po is the name given to an award winning New Zealand wine with a New Brunswick finish. It's a project by Cambridge-Narrows based winemaker Sonia Carpenter, she of Motts Landing Vineyard (M'LV) fame. She's been making a name for herself with her New Brunswick vintages at M'LV, but now the story has spread beyond our borders. In fact, this story takes us half way around the New Zealand.

Typically I like to tell the stories, but this story has already been written up by someone who knows a lot more about wine than I do (no, it isn't Julian, for once). His name is Craig Pinhey and he gives voice to wine in our province, and beyond. He recently wrote about Te Ata Po and also directed his attention to another wine with a New Brunswick connection. If you're interested in learning more about what's being uncorked in New Brunswick, then click here to read Craig's article.

I could stop here and simply promote a wonderful wine with a great story, but there's more to this story. There is a direct connection between Te Ata Po and the publisher of The Leisurologist. I, Mr. Ian Varty, designed the label for this award winning wine. What does this mean?

It means that not only am I an internationally renowned writer (someone in the United States once read my blog and enjoyed it), but I'm now the Chief Executive Officer of a global graphic design business. Beyond that I recently cut a hole in my kitchen wall, on purpose, and I didn't frig things up, so I'm feeling pretty chuffed with myself.

So what's next, Mr. Big Shot?

My short term goal is to write the blog for 365 days in a row. Today's blog will be my 259th in a row, unless you count the one guest blog that my wife wrote. I'd like to have a few more guest blogs written before the 365 days are up.

Would you like to write a guest blog? If you write it, I'll publish it. To sweeten the deal, I'll give a free bottle of Te Ata Po to the first person who submits a publishable guest blog to me.

First write, then 'first light'.