Warsaw Voice

In the good old days of 1996 before needy ernest blogs, e-mail clogging spam, Lord Google, when flaming and cross-posting was killing off Usenet, when you used to surf the net to find stuff knowing it was all entirely unreliable gossip, I used to copy the weekly quotes from the web version of the English language paper The Warsaw Voice to mail to my buddy Gary, then in Vancouver.

I lived in Poland in 1991 and would, when on the trains to some end of the country, at stations with unpronouncable names, grab any copy of the tissue paper printed rag I could find. The life of an English as a Second Language teacher in a coastal city in Poland was pretty pleasantly self-defined and small. Having little access to TV or local chit-chat (only 8 people in the City seemed to have any grasp of English, others preferring to curse at us behind our backsNeimieck! which means both German and something like “not human” – to which my retort of being Canadian and therefore an ally against the Nazis often brought great wailings of apology and hugs from stinky drunk pensioners), The Warsaw Voice told us that life in Poland was not all cream cakes, tinned boar or elk and Russian champaign: we lived in a still-subsidized Baltic resort fairly oblivious even of the Balkin wars starting a few hundred kilometres to the south.

The newspaper at least let us in on the very grim Polish humour in relation to news of the day, government officials and Germans, which grimness I suppose is natural when your country has been a playground for other’s generals for centuries. Here are some I saved from then:

“He was very, very handsome.”

A Polish woman at the Polish consulate in Paris, in enlisting help to find the French father of her baby.

“The Germans approach these mementos with a sense of humor and sometimes buy them; for them they are funny souvenirs from Poland.”

A shop assistant in an Old Town store selling original Nazi medals from World War II and photographs from Hitler’s occupation of Warsaw

“My sports results depend mostly on what time my buddies drag me out of the bar.”

-S³awomir Drabik, Poland’s speedway champ, about his career

“We have many regular customers. The record holder was someone we discharged at 7 a.m.-he was back at 3 p.m.”

Doctor at a Warsaw drunk tank, commenting on its recent increase in “visitors”

“Germans pay more, because they are more cultured.”

A mobile restroom agent at the beach in Gi¿ycko, explaining why the price is listed as gr.50 in Polish but zl.1 in German

“His lively movements assured me that everything was all right.”

Henryk Wojciechowski, newly appointed Gdañsk province administrator, telling reporters about the accident when, driving in the heart of the city, his driver ran over a boy who got up off the road and ran away.

“It’s not a sacrifice but a sensible act of civic duty.”

Zinaida Bolieva, a 46-year-old resident of Northern Ossetia, who offered to be a donor if Boris Yeltsin needed a heart transplant.

“Today, not having regained consciousness after a long illness, the secretary general resumed his office.”

A Soviet joke from Brezhnev’s times, recalled by General Aleksandr Lebed in an interview for Stern magazine. Lebed said that with Boris Yeltsin’s illness, the Kremlin situation is reminiscent of the Brezhnev joke.

Gwynne on Bush

Gwynne Dyer, who frosted the cake of my teen nuclear fears with his TV series War, has written on the situation faced by the US in Iraq as the money starts to tighten. First, good call having the Barbados Advocate as a client, Gwynne. It is always important to organize your tax deductable business trips well. Second, interesting observation:

…many governments are also privately debating whether they want to help save the Bush administration from the consequences of its own folly. Without a lot of military and financial help that can only come via the UN, Bush may be dragged down to defeat by the Iraq war in the November 2004 election. With the extra troops and money, he might contain the problem enough to survive. However, they ask themselves, do we really want that?

Hat nod for the topic to Ron’s Box of Soap, librarian and, with Gwynne, fellow Newf.

Po-Tree

About twenty years ago right about now, I was entering the third year of my four-year slacker-paced BA in English Lit. I can’t say I have carried the literary banner high since about then, especially as law just about killed my ability to read books – as being an usher in a playhouse just about killed my ability to sit through a play or a movie. But, this being the first summer since 1991 that I have not spent September picking beans, digging up spuds or braiding onions, one poem kicks tricking its way into my mind: Keats’s Ode to Autumn. [Once, when absent mindedly signing up for seminars, one of the others, all-female in romantic poetry, tuned and said – “sorry, I took the last Keats”. I couldn’t recall when I had been aleing with her. I had thought she said “Keith’s”]   So, in honour of three years of English Lit classes, the impending season and our planning for the next garden plot in, maybe, 2005, here you are, copyright-free ’cause he’s a long time dead.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Hmmm… full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn… time for the mint sauce.

Frosh Week Lessons

This week reminds me of a week 22 years ago which I could hardly recall a week later.   Rather than regail you with tales of drinking in 1981 [which I can do if you really want me to…but no one does] let’s consider what the Biggest of Als (a.k.a. Smaller than Some, Bigger than Most) learned and continues to benefit from frosh week:

  • One or two pals of mine, met that week, still perform much the same mating ritual that they did then.  It does not work.
  • The song “Black Velvet Band” will stick in the mind for decades even though it is sung by a poor excuse of an Irish band and heard through a beery haze.
  • The saying “you spend your second term getting rid of the friends you made in your first term” is not necessarily true. Most of my friends now were present during that frosh week or subsequent ones. One was met when I carried him over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes to his bed his frosh week during one of my campus police shifts.
  • The excitement I felt the during first meeting of my undergrad Foundation Year classes has rarely been matched, even during the classes within the subsequent few weeks. First, I thought I was on to a great explosion of opportunity. Soon after, I realized I was listening to someone read the book to me. Attendence at future classes soon moved to my 33% average thought 7 years of non-distance university.

That’s all I can think of for now. So what lessons did you learn in frosh week?

Andy Blair and Relatives

Leaf in LiverpoolYou may have noticed I am not camping in New York or attending Bread Day at the state fair. Colds have struck. So I am rummaging.

The gent to the left is Andy Blair who in June ’29 was enjoying his first summer as a NHL player after finishing his rookie year with the Leafs. My grannie-in-law, then Evelyn Whillans, his 1st cousin, took the photo as a 13 year old spending some of her teen years in Liverpool. I wonder what the building behind him is. Later Blair would provide the Whillans Saturday night tickets including the opening of Maple Leaf Gardens as well as the longest NHL game in history. Her father, a minister, kept getting up to go saying that it was crazy, that he had a sermon to give in a few hours, only to sit back down at the roar for another close play.

Another five cousins, all Drydens of some relation, made the NHL including Murray Murdoch (Rangers left wing: ’26-’37, then coach at Yale for about 30 years) who I spoke with on the phone about a year before he passed away as the then oldest NHL alumnist, a very sharp mind in its late 90’s. Murdoch grew up in Winnipeg and said he was the best player in the City until Blair, two years younger, showed up during the depression. Both played for the University of Manitoba in the early 20’s.

Four years to Mr. Hitler's gamesGrannie-in-law also relates being at the front of Maple Leafs Gardens with another cousin, Syl Apps (the kinda gawky 17 year old in the white pants to your right, my left) and Blair the day Apps signed for the Leafs. Blair, an All-Star for the Leafs in ’34, was telling him to sign anywhere but Toronto as they treated players badly. Apps started his Leafs rookie year in 1936 after representing Canada at the Berlin Olympics. Blair was traded for cash to the Blackhawks on 7 May 1936. I wonder if the windows were open a few floors up.

In the 1936-’37 season, three cousins played on three teams: Leafs, Hawks and Rangers (two All-Stars, three Cup winners, one Calder and Bing and another the first Lester Patrick winner). In the early 70’s three (two being brothers) played again for three teams – the Sabres, Habs and Penguins: Dryden, Dryden, Apps (all All-Stars but not in together in one year…and one also earned some hardware).

Playing Games

Mike is at it again. Posting about things I wished I had thought of. His post about playground games reminds me of stickball.

This was played in one field in Kingston, Nova Scotia in the early-70’s behind Jeff Bond’s and Tony Smith’s houses. We were taught the rules by older kids who drifted out of the game when they were about 12. You were brought in the game when you hit around 9. The game was a variation of baseball with lots of cricket influence. You played with a broom handle and an india rubber ball. The ball was thrown at the batter who could hit it 360 degrees. Like cricket, there was no foul. The ball also had to bounce like cricket before the batter hit it. There were four bases around which you ran like in baseball. No one wore baseball gloves. At any time you could pick off a player by drilling the ball at them if they were not touching a base. If they were hit, they were out. I think there were three outs like baseball.

Anyone else have a local game?  I can think of “Red Rover” and “Redlight, Green Light” in the Queenston Drive Elementary schoolground at Erindale Woodlands of Mississauga in the late 60’s before we moved to NS when I was 7.  Also, king of games, “500 Up”which I played before I was ten until after I was 20.   The elemental “Tag” and “Hide and Seek” with its variant “Kick the Can” were also big in Kingston, N.S. during elementary school.

Mars! Bringer of Prudent Warning

So, did everyone see Mars? We were out to Charleston Lake Provincial Park last evening visiting Wally and Laura who have been there all week and on the drive home there is was…[turn on your copy of Holst’s The Planets…riiiight..now!]…Mars! I suppose in the days before flashing antenna tower lights what went on in the sky was more a impressive thing. One web writer notes of Holst’s tone poem on Mars:

The full horror of mechanised warfare confronts us face to face in this bleakest of all tone poems. Its face is unrepentent, unrelenting and merciless and it offers us no hope of redemption. Thousands of pairs of jackbooted feet parade across the landscape, scurrying to their graves. Tanks pound cities into rubble. Bullets fly and bombs fall. Airplanes swoop low overhead. How surprising it is, then, to learn that Holst completed this piece long before the opening of the First World War, before the invention of the tank, before any plane had ever been fitted out to carry bombs, before the slaughter in the trenches, before the use of poison gas.

For me Mars, his war god, stood out in the sky more closely resembling a big automated safety indicator than it has for 60,000 years. The coolest sky phenomena – among those not able to sweep away trailer parks – was the night in January 2001 when the moon was closer than ever. I read a book on the front lawn of our house in the country by moonlight [cue the theremin]…by the light…of the moon.

I hate Jiffy PopWhile at the park, I had occassion for the first time in at least five years to make Jiffy Pop. This guy has it right. It is not jiffy and rarely pops. In the making you have to stay stooped over a campfire with your face in the heat. You also usually have to maintain a posture which wreaks havoc on the back. Wally and I figured 35 years ago our fathers swore under their breath in the same positions. Most jiffy pop moment? Taking off the cardboard cover and holding up a small part of the cardboard to read, squinting by the campfire light, “do not remove this cardboard tab”. Do they think people make this stuff in full daylight or read instructions before setting out? The children fell upon the jiffified stuff as if a truck from the Mint had driven through a casino parking lot, its loads pouring out from open back doors.

Time to Pay the Rent

We are here, we are here, we are here!!! You’d think the Crown would get this sooner or later.

As my old law prof, Bruce Wildsmith, has pointed out one more time, we recognized the rights of First Nations in 1761, did deals with them (especially in the Maritimes) as we dealt with other nations, we continued the recognition in theory until the time of the Charter, we locked them in section 35 of the Constitution in 1981 and now we have to recognize them as having practical and – hey – even commercial value.

Bring it on. Earning your living from your own assets. Imagine.