RIP, Emmanuel-Howard Park Chancel Choir

Our small choir performed its last service on 31 May 2015.  Church attendance and revenues not being what they used to be, Emmanuel-Howard Park United Church in Toronto has divested itself of its Chancel Choir. Here are our final three numbers.

First the Introit, “Cast Thy Burden upon the Lord” by Felix Mendelssohn, from Elijah.

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee. He never will suffer the righteous to fall. He is at thy right hand. Thy mercy, Lord, is great, and far above the heav’ns. Let none be made ashamed that wait upon Thee.”

Our Anthem was “Waters of Babylon“, written by Philip Hayes in 1786.

“By the waters of Babylon, we sat down and wept, and wept, and wept, when we remembered thee, remembered thee, O Sion. As for our harps, we hang’d them up upon the trees that are therein.”

Our final song for ever was the Offertory, Giuseppe Pitoni’s “Cantate Domino“.

“Cantate Domino canticum novum, laus ejus in Ecclesia Sanctorum. Laetetur Israel in eo qui fecit eum et filii Sion exultent in rege suo.” (“Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise in the church of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in Him that made them: let the children of Zion be joyful in their king.”)

I’m going to miss singing with Rosie, Neil, Heidi, Rhonwen, Michelle, Bob, and all those other people who subbed. But at least Suzanne is a neighbour of mine.

Oh, get OVER yourself already!

corey crawford

Fuckin’ right, Chicago!” With those words, for the second year in a row, Corey Crawford caused the media to clutch their collective pearls and go into a faint.

Honestly, I don’t understand why F-bombs are such a burning issue for supposedly intelligent adults. “Bad” words do not exist. There are bad thoughts, there are bad deeds, there are bad intents, but no bad words. Spoken language is nothing more than phonemes strung together in a way that conveys information to a listener. Phoque is French for seal (the animal); the phonemes are identical to those in “fuck”, and in the same order, and yet phoque isn’t a swear word in French. It’s the thought process behind the word that gives these phonemes meaning. Dirtiness is in the brain of the beholder.

In the movie The Sound of Music, the Mother Abbess says, “Maria, our abbey is not to be used as an escape. What is it you can’t face?” But because of her accent, it sounds very much like “What is it, you cunt face?” which, when you think about it, is absurdly funny in context.

I used to work as an administrative assistant to a doctor named Shitij Kapur, whose name kept getting flagged by computers in email correspondence and on message boards. Objectively speaking, that was, you know, remarkably silly. He told me that he’d had to put up with a sniggering attitude not only during his career, but throughout his youth and all the way through medical school.

You may notice that I used the word “sniggering”. Or maybe you didn’t. Congratulations if the word didn’t make you feel queasy because of what follows the “s”. That means you have a refreshingly mature attitude towards language. Remember a number of years ago when that aide to the Mayor of Washington DC got into trouble for using the word “niggardly” to describe his budget constraints? He meant “stingy” and “narrow”, but some staffers unfamiliar with the word got all bent out of shape because they thought he was using a racial slur. He was more or less forced to leave his position, but thankfully he was hired back, so the story had a happy ending at least. What was really offensive was that he should have had to suffer for others’ ignorance, and it made me want to use the word “niggardly” as much as possible, just to poke the prudes where they needed to be poked.

Related to this is the word “Jew”, which to me is “someone who practises Judaism”, but as far back as I can remember, people have been reluctant to say “Jew” due to its antisemitic connotations when used as a verb with a lower-case “j”, so instead they go out of their way to say “Jewish persons”. This avoidance, while well-meaning, has led to an overall impression that the word “Jew” is a slur in itself and in all applications, This has an unintended but dangerous consequence: once you get it into your head that “Jew” is a bad word, eventually you’re going to start thinking that Jews are bad people. Really, if you call Christians Christians, Muslims Muslims, Buddhists Buddhists, and Hindus Hindus, then there’s no reason not to call Jews Jews.

But back to the word “fuck”. Corey Crawford is a goalie, not some withered up old school marm from the 1950s who, as my mom would put it, “wouldn’t say shit if her mouth was full of it,” and he’s addressing a huge crowd of happy Blackhawks fans. If his language offends some people’s sensitive virgin ears, well, one has to consider the context. Sometimes “fuck” is exactly the right word. That’s hockey. That’s language. That’s life.

And for those who would argue that they don’t want their kids hearing that kind of dirty talk, exactly what do they think their little darlings hear (and say) every single day at recess? If they’re anything like what we were like, I can guarantee that it’s a hell of a lot worse.

Parents, don’t keep your children in a linguistic bubble. Your prudery will do them no good and will not prepare them for the real world. This is not to say you have to talk like a stevedore all the time, but your babies have to learn context. Teach them that words are not to be feared, and that each one is just another arrow in their quiver. And that includes a well-chosen F-bomb.

Music, math, architecture, and Jeanine Tesori

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 10.37.24 AM

Since the accomplishments of female lyricists, poets, novelists, visual artists, and performers of all stripes are well known and beyond question, I have long been puzzled that there is such a dearth of female composers both in musical theatre and in the classical concert hall. Women are perfectly capable of composing, but for some reason, they just don’t, at least not in proportion to their numbers. For every Clara Schumann, there are dozens and dozens of Roberts; for every Mary Rodgers, dozens and dozens of Richards. Is it the nature of music itself? Is it due to temperament or a difference between how male and female brains are wired? Is there any particularly good reason why the composition of music has to be a masculine endeavour?

At first I wondered if it’s because music is such an abstract, almost mathematical art, and girls have often been discouraged from excelling at mathematics and other sciences because “those are boy things” and “you’ll never get a man that way,” and so they’re similarly put off from writing music. Nowadays, of course, the situation at schools is changing, and women do work in maths and sciences at least on a par with their male counterparts. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I admit that while I’ve been writing music since I was eight, I’ve never really enjoyed math.

So maybe math isn’t the connection after all, but if it is, more and more women in the field of mathematics should lead to more and more women writing music. I hope so; a wider variety of voices can only enrich the art form and add to its vibrancy.

What’s a more compellling analogy, then? I’ve noticed that there are also comparatively few female architects. Maybe that’s it. Boys build things, whether because of aptitude or conditioning. Now, there are many ties between architecture and music. Music is basically architecture in sound and architecture is visible, tangible music. Architecture and music are essentially structural arts, sheet music is a kind of blueprint, and both architects and composers require other people to translate their blueprints into forms that are useful and meaningful to consumers—contractors and builders in the case of architecture, conductors and performers in the case of music.

What’s more, it takes a lot of financial resources to put up an office tower or premiere a large musical work. Someone has to pay those contractors, conductors, builders, and performers, and women have traditionally and unfairly received less funding than men. It’s a societal thing. I don’t much like it, but there it is, and it’s even worse when times are tight. If there’s less money for artists, there’s proportionately less money for female artists.

Those women who’ve had success as songwriters usually have had to work with smaller ensembles like pop bands, or acted as entrepreneurs and showcased their songwriting gifts as solo performers. Dolly Parton, Carole King, Cyndi Lauper, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Madonna—all of them are supremely talented artists, but as far as I know, none of them has written, or chosen to write, a symphony, though the first three have all had their work performed on Broadway.

Which brings me to theatre composer Jeanine Tesori. She’s truly exceptional, and I mean that in both senses of the word. At least two of her scores, CAROLINE, OR CHANGE and VIOLET, are among my favourites. She has enjoyed quite a bit of critical acclaim, but she has also confessed that she hasn’t had the easiest time making a living as a theatre composer. So while I’m pleased that her latest venture, FUN HOME, has received the usual plaudits from critics, I’m even happier that the show is playing to capacity audiences on Broadway, and I hope she receives her much deserved and overdue Tony Award this Sunday.

Water, water, every where, nor any drop to drink

millionsofbottles

(Photo by Chris Jordan, EcoToaD)

I have purchased exactly two single-use bottles of water in my 56 years. The first time, I was so disgusted by the dank, plasticky, sodium taste that I couldn’t finish it. The second time, I had scraped my calf pretty badly while riding my bike, and I needed something to wash out the wound before taping it up. When I go to some event, if I ever need a drink of water and have not brought my reusable bottle with me, I invariably try to find a water fountain. Failing that, if there’s a bar of some kind, I ask the person there for a glass of ordinary tap water. And failing that, I’ll use the washroom sink. What I will not do is pay anywhere up to five dollars for a bottle containing two cents’ worth of water. That would be idiotic.

Access to clean, drinkable water should be considered a basic human right. Our bodies are mostly water, and horrible things happen to people who become dehydrated or who drink water that is brackish or loaded with bacteria. Often, though, the stuff in bottles is the only source people have available, whether due to their remoteness or poverty or lack of infrastructure. Since one of the functions of government is to protect citizens, this has to change. We need good plumbing if we want a good quality of life.

The trouble is compounded by the fact that the government has given the bottled-water companies access to our aquifers, which they plunder in exchange for a payment of a few pennies per million litres of the wet stuff. (I’m looking at you Nestlé; I’m looking at you, Coca-Cola.) They then sell the water to consumers at a clear profit of billions upon billions of dollars, in bottles that require three times as much water to produce as are in the bottles themselves, plus a lot of oil. The consumers then discard the bottles—again, billions upon billions of them—which get dumped into ditches, landfills, and ironically, the lakes and rivers that are a source of much of our water supply. On average, 2.5 million bottles are thrown away every hour.

Once the bottles have been thrown out, they’re no longer our problem, right? Out of sight, out of mind? Well, no, actions have consequences, even if they’re not necessarily immediate. The garbage doesn’t just disappear, and since we’re talking about plastic here, it also doesn’t decompose within our lifetimes. Every piece of plastic that has ever been produced still exists, whether in solid form or, if it’s been incinerated, in the form of hydrocarbons and particulate in the air. No matter, though. It’s Somebody Else’s Problem. Unfortunately, those “Somebody”s are your kids, and eventually their kids. bottlegraph

(Graph from Container Recycling Institute)

There is an excellent article by Alissa Walker at Gizmodo.com, titled “Stop Drinking Bottled Water”. Not only are there links to other related stories, but Walker also has answers for those who are averse to drinking tap water, and she raises a number of points and makes a number of worthwhile suggestions about how to handle the very serious problems caused by the manufacture and sale of bottled water. If I may, though, I have a solution of my own.

It would be very difficult to ban bottled water locally. Such bans generally have to be done at the provincial or state level, or even nationally, in order to be practical. If an outright ban is not possible, I think we need to levy a one-dollar deposit on each single-use bottle of water, redeemable for 50 cents upon return to any retail outlet that sells them. Merchants would then be reimbursed by the government, while the bottles would be shipped back to the manufacturers (at their expense) for recycling. The other 50 cents of the dollar would help pay for administrative and other costs associated with the program, as well as maintaining, improving, or building potable water infrastructure where needed. This would have four other measurably beneficial effects:

1) It would discourage the purchase, and eventually the manufacture, of bottled water. This would in turn also help us to conserve our water for more worthwhile purposes.

2) Even though merchants would be fully reimbursed by the government, the resulting paperwork and other headaches would discourage them from selling bottled water in the first place.

3) It would quickly eliminate a major source of litter that is ruining our environment. I’d even grandfather previously sold containers into the system and open the landfills to bottle-hunters. Payment would come out of the second 50 cents of the one-dollar deposit.

4) It would give homeless people, children, and the working poor a reasonable and useful supplementary income from collecting the bottles from ditches, campsites, and other places where they’ve been disposed of. A five-cent return was OK for pop and beer bottles back when I was a kid, but nowadays that is a meaningless sum, whereas 50 cents a bottle is nothing to be sneezed at, especially when you’ve scavenged several hundred of them.

So there it is: several problems solved at once with just one law. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

UPDATE: It just struck me today (2015-Jun-02) that we should also charge the same dollar deposit on plastic single-serve pop bottles, and two dollars on the two-litre ones. Not only do these bottles create a phenomenal amount of PET waste, but their sugary contents are a major cause of obesity and diabetes. which tax our health care system.

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers…

spalding gray

It’s 1999. I’m in New York for a ten-day business trip and my wallet is stolen two days into the trip—all my ID, the receipts for the first three days, and about $20. Luckily my hotel and theatre tickets are prepaid and my return ticket and travellers’ cheques are all safely back in my room.

But how do I get back over the border without identification? I go to the 13th precinct, report the robbery, and ask for a letter or document of some kind that I can show Canada Customs. They give me one and I leave, but I’m still bummed out, because I can’t really use my travellers’ cheques without ID, the hotel will only cash one $20 cheque per day, and there’s not much you can do in NY on only $20. So I take a stroll down 2nd Avenue and after a while I sit down on the steps of this Russian restaurant in the East Village. I put my head in my hands and start sobbing.

After a minute some bum comes up to me and says, “Why so glum, chum?” I think, “Oh, god, a panhandler now…” I look up to tell him I don’t have any money for him, and under the three days’ growth and wool hat, it’s Spalding Gray, whose work I just love. So I tell him what happened.

“Come on, you hungry?” he says, and he leads me into the Russian place where we have this awesome supper, and he says, “I want to try out some material I’m working up.” So for the next two hours, over Russian food and lots of vodka, he performs a monologue about depression that I don’t think ever got produced, after which he sends me on my way with a “Cheer up now.”

Fast forward a year, and Gray is on Broadway in The Best Man. After the show, he’s taking collections for Broadway Cares in the lobby, so I go up to him to see if he remembers me. “Sure I do,” he says, “You were in rough shape.” I thank him for his kindness the year before, and he says, “No, no, thank you! You were a good audience.” He signs my souvenir poster and I leave him to the others. “Cheer up!” he yells after me.

And when they fished his body out of the water a few years later after he killed himself, I reckoned that if Spalding Gray thought I seemed depressed, I must have looked really wretched.

Send Off the Clowns

(with apologies to Stephen Sondheim)

They’re filthy rich,
One nasty pair.
They have a shitload of nerve,
Our Twinford Mayor.
Send off the clowns.

T.O. is screwed.
Our ox is gored.
What did we do to deserve
Rob and Doug Ford?
Banish the clowns.
Send off the clowns.

Rob likes his crack.
Rob likes his booze.
Rob has a habit of making the wrong kind of news.
But bear in mind, if you think we’ve been under a curse,
Druggie is bad…
Dougie is worse.

Shut the fuck up,
Move to the rear,
If you’re a pinko, a cyclist,
Asian, or queer.
Our unlucky town’s
Infested with clowns.
It’s best we steer clear.

We only pray
Both of them lose.
We do not want them inhabiting each other’s shoes.
They’ll make their exit for good at the end of next month.
Will that be thad?
No, ‘cauthe they’re cunth!

Vile Tweedledum,
Dumb Tweedledee,
Trying to tag-team Toronto’s
Mayoralty.
Away with those clowns,
Those two evil clowns
(And Michael makes three).

Send Off the Clowns A

“We thank all applicants for their interest in this opportunity; however, only those selected for an interview will be contacted.”

That is a phrase I want banished from Human Resources and shot into outer space along with the person who used it for the first time.

In an earlier, more courteous day, when one applied for a job, one would type a cover letter, attach it to a CV, put it into an envelope, stamp it, and mail it. If one was applying to a radio station, a demo cassette would be included, the envelope would be bigger and thicker, and it was more expensive.

Once received, the application would be read by someone in the Personnel department or, more often, by the head of the actual department that the applicant was aiming for. The employer would call the successful applicant with the happy news, and for everyone else, there would be a PFO letter that was put into an envelope, stamped, and mailed.

This was the routine. It took some time and effort to do this, not to mention postage, but it was done, without fail.

Somewhere around the mid-’90s, rot started to set in, and the abovementioned phrase started to become a popular way to absolve Personnel workers of doing their duty. It then became the norm, and eventually ubiquitous.

And so today, even though almost all applications and indeed all communications are handled electronically and postage free, what is now called the Human Resources department no longer bothers to contact unsuccessful applicants, even though there is practically no effort involved in sending a standard, boilerplate PFO email to everyone at once.

I have been told by HR “professionals” that because they receive thousands of applications (as if companies in the 1980s didn’t!), they cannot possibly afford the five minutes out of their day that it would take to send one of these bulk emails. And so, because courtesy and common decency are long since dead, unsuccessful job-seekers are left hanging, wondering if the job has been filled yet or when it will be or whether their application has gone unread to File 13, waiting for news that will never come, making follow-up telephone calls to HR voicemails that are never responded to. Because you know, they almost never answer the phones in HR.

In the mid-2000s, after a few years of receiving this kind of treatment from HR departments, I decided to find out what exactly was in their heads to make them act so abominably, and so one day, I persistently called one department and finally got someone. I asked her why companies no longer courteously responded to unsuccessful applicants and she said, as mentioned above, that they sometimes receive thousands of applications.

Would it be possible, then, for the job posting itself to state the date by which the position was intended to be filled, so that applicants could know when to stop waiting and go on with their lives? She said that sometimes the company didn’t know when, that sometimes it took longer to fill a position, and that people would just have to be patient.

I mentioned the bulk-email idea, and she told me that it would consume far too much of their bandwidth to send that many emails. So I offered to explain to her how email works, which for some odd reason offended her. I said that one email with 1,000 addressees takes up only slightly more space in the outbox than an email with only one addressee.

She didn’t believe me, so I told her to go into her outbox and find any interoffice communication that she had sent to a few hundred people at once (HR people send these all the time) and compare the size to that of a similar one sent to just one person. Lo and behold, they were almost identical. Point for me.

Nevertheless, she said, the HR department has more and better things to do with its time than respond to everyone who’s looking for a job. I said that IS her job, that when I was a creative director, I was always conscientious about letting people know when their submissions were unsuccessful. That was then, she said.

“Then”… really, how disappointing. Apparently I come from “then”. Apparently courtesy is from “then”. Apparently business ethics are from “then”. Apparently doing your job is from “then”. I said, “If you have trouble finishing your work by five o’clock, well, that’s what after five and weekends are for—have a nice day,” and hung up on her.

I “then” read a very interesting article on the history of molotov cocktails and my mind began wandering…

Dangerous Delusion

Growing up in Regina, Saskatchewan—a city with the second-highest per capita library use in North America, by the way, after Saskatoon—I knew no one who could not spell properly and write grammatically. Everyone in my immediate family was a good speller, including Mom with her grade 8 education, and it was the same within my circle of school friends.

Sure, there might have been some bad writers who were majoring in shop, but they’d been streamed into the lower forms and so I never hung around with them much except in grade 9 and 10 PhysEd class (which was more than enough because they were mostly bullies). I can say for certain that I never read anything they wrote, if they wrote anything at all. So I was pretty well isolated from bad English.

This blessed isolation continued through university. Aside from foreign exchange students, whose lack of English was understandable, people I knew at the U of R tended to write comprehensibly, subtly, and correctly. Mind you, I was in liberal arts, music, and journalism, but even the science and engineering students I met at bridge club could express themselves pretty well in writing. And since Canadian universities don’t offer athletic scholarships, only academic ones—which is as it should be—I assumed that the student body was made up of literate people like my friends and me.

And throughout all this time, the stuff I read—newspapers, magazines, library books, textbooks—had all been edited by real live professional editors, because editing was actually important back then. Even a humour magazine like National Lampoon was devoid of typos in the 1970s and ’80s (though when it was rebooted more recently, I’d sometimes find five per page, which disappointed me no end). Basically, the only people who published were professional writers whose words had been carefully proofread and edited for style.

What the hell happened, then? Why are people such godawful writers now? Well, I’ll tell you what happened: the internet happened. Bookstores are closing, newspapers and magazines are going bankrupt, and there have been library closures (even in Regina) because our computers give us immediate access to almost every bit of information worth having, plus a lot of other chaff. Why even leave the house?

An unfortunate side-effect of this is that information too easily obtained becomes less precious to the consumer, and a lot less “sticky”. When, in the past, you had to put some physical effort into research—putting on your shoes and coat, travelling to the library, hunting down the right books amongst thousands (there was no search engine, just the card catalogue and some excellent librarians), either lugging said books home or, if they were reference books, lugging them over to a big table, reading them to find the facts you wanted (again, no search engine, just eyes and patience) and making notes in longhand—the information tended to remain with you and cement itself into your brain. Now you just google and the info pretty well offers itself up to you on a silver platter. And it’s free, like the library!… well, unless it’s behind a paywall.

But I digress.

Because of the democratization of information, the internet is essentially a big vanity publishing house, and anyone with the right technology and a few bucks to register a domain name can start a blog and be an “author”. We have at our fingertips the ability to write down and distribute our thoughts directly to the entire planet, but sadly we have taken that to mean that we have the aptitude to do so, and this is a dangerous delusion.

This includes people whose English is abysmal, but who can’t or won’t pay for the services of a professional editor, and that means that a good four-fifths of the digital content out there is more or less garbage, littered with broken sentences, horrible syntax, elementary spelling mistakes, and other affronts to the language. What a dump!

But it’s not a generational thing. I find that it’s not just young people who have substandard language skills, but people from my generation too. It has gradually dawned on me that I’ve been surrounded by illiterates all my life and didn’t realize it, because these people never had a forum in which to grunt their views.

It’s well documented that there has always been in our population a depressing and tiresome strain of anti-intellectualism—not just non-intellectualism, which is tolerable, but actual, active hatred of intellectuals—that confuses book learning with elitism. Now, the real elites in society are the rich and powerful, not the smart and creative, but the lumpen lunkheads will have none of that talk because it threatens their carefully cultivated world view that they are being oppressed by people who live in ivory towers. They don’t like education. They don’t trust education. They don’t want education.

The annoying thing is, they have been emboldened (and easily exploited and manipulated) over the last few decades by certain political movements, usually, but not always, of a conservative bent, and now they just won’t shut up. Since the internet has given them tongues to speak, they quite shamelessly and, yes, proudly flaunt their ignorance, parade their ignorance, shove their ignorance down everyone’s throats. And while doing so, they use grammar that makes one wonder whether they’re totally uneducated or just mentally challenged.

This state of affairs wouldn’t be so bad if only these unprofessional bloggers who believe they have so much to say would accept the occasional bit of instruction on how to say it, from people who have been writing and editing professionally for decades.

It also wouldn’t be so bad if they would read their posts out loud and fix the spelling and grammar before they hit Publish or comment on a message board.

Mostly, though, it wouldn’t be so bad if they, and everyone else, would realize that what they write is going to last indefinitely in the digisphere, unlike the stuff we used to read when words and images were published exclusively on dead trees. As Queen Eleanor says in The Lion in Winter, “Paper burns, and tears, and turns to pudding in the rain.” Pixels are forever.

So now I’ll address these new “authors”.

OK, you bozos who don’t know “its” from “it’s”, “your” from “you’re”, the various forms of “t(w)(o)o”, etc: I GET IT ALREADY! You don’t like to have your spelling corrected yadda yadda yadda, so you turn your offended and bumptious anger on the language “nazis”. And then the whole pack of illiterates pile onto the critics with messages like: “nobody cars / you no what he mean / she mak a litle mistake, so what? / this isnt scholl, ass hole / ur to pendantic / who mad u king shit of the turdpile?” and other more badly spelled and uncapitalized yadda yadda yaddas.

And yet, even though you and your bootless and unhorsed friends have been informed of the problems and you must know how to fix them by now, you persist in repeating the same stupid errors over and over and over, no matter how many times they’re—sorry, I mean “their”—pointed out. The recidivism rate for bad usage must be roughly 9 in 10.

Do you even hear the criticism? Are the lessons just not sticking for some reason, or… or… OR… and I sure hope this isn’t the case… is your non-improvement intentional? Are you wilfully refusing to do better out of sheer spite? Really? You’re acting out? So this is nothing more than your petulant little “fuck you, imma keep doing it” to anyone who dares to tell you when you’ve made a mistake? Are you really that pleased that you’ve been saddled with elementary school writing skills? How is it that you’re allowed near computers before you’ve mastered common three-letter words?

You know what? Don’t even bother answering. I’m done with you. Go eat your mom’s dick.

I Don’t Get Around (The Hodophobic’s Lament)

(To the tune of “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Geoff Mack)

It’s a big, wide world. Baby, I should do some travelling,
So I make plans, and my brain begins unravelling.
I mean to call Air Canada, say let’s go on a trip,
But a paralyzing fear of travel has me in its grip.
Thank god I’ve got the internet, so I don’t need to roam,
When Ogema, Saskatchewan, has all I need at home.

CHORUS: I don’t get around, man.
I don’t get around, man.
I’m never outward bound, man.
You know where I’ll be found, man.
I stick to my old home ground, man.
I don’t get around.

I’ve been to
Ogema, Ogema, Ogema, Ogema,
Ogema, Ogema, Ogema, Ogema,
Ogema, Ogema, Ogema, Ogema,
Ogema, Ogema, Ogema, Ogema,
Ogema, Ogema, Ogema, Ogema,
Ogema, Ogema, Ogema, Ogema.

CHORUS

I’ve been to
Ogema, Ogema, Ogema, Ogema,
Ogema, Ogema, Ogema, Ogema,
Ogema, Ogema, Ogema, Ogema,
Ogema, Ogema, Ogema, Ogema,
Ogema, Ogema, Ogema, Ogema,
And there was that day when I went to Radville.

CHORUS

(You think that’s bad? At one point, my fear of travel got so serious,
I couldn’t leave the house for two years!)

I’ve been to the
Bathroom, kitchen, living room, bedroom,
Kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom,
Living room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen,
Bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room,
Sun room, rec room, TV room, attic,
And once in the yard for thirteen minutes.

I don’t get around, man.
I don’t get around, man.
I’m never outward bound, man.
You know where I’ll be found, man.
My phobia is renowned, man.

(I know one world you haven’t seen!)

i don’t get around.

Sad candy

I just realized that so far this year, I haven’t seen any of those horrid, utterly tasteless suicide commercials for Cadbury Easter Creme Eggs—you know, the ones where these wretchedly depressed bonbons find new ways to splatter their own guts all over the place.

Good. “Spew the Goo” (or whatever it was called) was a creepy campaign that made suicide out to be a laughing matter. It isn’t, and misery is a cruel and depraved thing to sell product with.

Joyful food suicide may even be worse. When I see breakfast cereals such as Kellogg’s Mini-Wheats, who are fully aware that very soon after their warm milk bath they will suffer the gruesome, painful torture of being torn apart by huge teeth, partially dissolved in hydrochloric acid, and eventually pooped out of someone’s backside and flushed into the sewer, who are OK with this fate, and who even sing happy (though inexpertly scanned and incompetently rhymed) ditties about how delicious they are, it doesn’t really make me want to buy the product.

In Into the Woods, Stephen Sondheim wrote, “There’s no possible way / To describe how you feel / When you’re talking to your meal!” Well, yes, I suppose if you’re a psychopath or an unrepentant capitalist, “thrilled” might be a word you’d use, maybe even “orgasmic”, but I have no desire to talk to my food.

I wouldn’t want it to talk to me either. I wouldn’t want it to tell me it knows it’s condemned. I wouldn’t want it to beg for its life, because I’d feel guilty. And I certainly wouldn’t want it to be blithe about its doom, because that would make me feel even guiltier. At least M&Ms aren’t exactly happy about being eaten.

Oh yes, about M&Ms. In the commercials, they talk with, joke and watch TV with, and attend swanky parties and interact with people who regard them as food. How is it that they haven’t revolted against their inferior status and risen up against their human oppressors? Why have they put up with the genocide of billions of their chocolate brothers and sisters?

If advertising people are going to go to the trouble and expense of creating a reality where candy talks, shouldn’t that reality at least be logically consistent?

Or maybe that’s a tall order, since we ourselves inhabit a reality that isn’t particularly logical much of the time, a reality in which a few lucky, well-placed people have been fated to live in luxury, with more than enough for a thousand lifetimes, while more, many more, exponentially more, struggle to make ends meet, or are even homeless and destitute, or have no access to medical care or food or clean water, and suffer lives that are nasty, brutish, and short. Misery is their reality.

Misery also seems to be the reality of the characters who populate Skittles ads. There’s one currently running about some poor guy named Tim who has a kind of Midas-touch (but with Skittles) in which everything he touches turns to a bunch of candies, including his desk and his telephone. Tim’s office co-workers think it’s awesome, so he asks them if they would think it awesome not to be able to hold their newborn baby boy in their arms, and whether they fed and dressed themselves that morning, because HE didn’t.

I have no idea why he doesn’t just touch some other part of his body and put himself out of his misery. Another miserable person from this miserable campaign is the kid who has a fully formed Skittles tree growing out of his torso. He wants to go to college, but his mother refuses to have this parasitic tree removed because the family needs the money generated via the Skittles.

And then there’s the one in which there’s apparently some highly contagious disease called Skittles pox, which covers the face and body with multicoloured, fruit-flavoured scabs that are not only edible, but yummy!

I think all of these commercials come from a place of great, soul-starving sadness, and I don’t see how they move product. Has the advertising industry finally run out of good ideas? Well, actually, they ran out of good ideas ages ago. Talking food isn’t new at all.

You might notice that none of the products I mentioned are even animals, which is a completely different issue, but Saturday Night Live pointed out the inanity of talking food mascots in this parody commercial from the 1990s.

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=215fc77fe7