And while I’m thinking about it, Jessica Chastain. And Lasse Hallstrom for director.

Continuing the casting fantasy of my book A Coward’s Guide to Living, the pivotal role of the red-headed Reverend Rose Beecham should go to Jessica Chastain. As Beecham is described as an unusually good looking minister, Chastain is the natural choice.

Her previous roles as a gambling entrepreneur (Molly’s Game), political operative (Miss Sloane), and author (The Help), position her as perfectly suited for the demands of a minister.

And as her last role as Tammy Faye Baker was that of a minister’s wife, she can take the pulpit for real in this one.

Lasse Hallstrom would be a great director for this. His story telling in The Cider House Rules; The Shipping News; Haachi, A Dog’s Tale; and The Hundred Foot Journey, among others, points to his understanding of the human condition in all its forms.

The folly of red.

In what life does one admit to their own weaknesses in public? This one, I suppose.

I have an addiction to… red. Not in clothing, thankfully, but in things that matter more. My first girlfriend, if you can imagine a third grader capable of conducting such a relationship, was the red-haired Patty who sat next to me in homeroom. It was a foretelling of my future. As third grade “romances” go, it probably lasted all of a month. I realize in retrospect, the hook had been set and I was hopelessly attracted to “red.”

On purchasing my first car, it was a toss-up between a snortingly powerful, red Chevy Impala convertible and a small, red, come-hither MGA, it too a convertible. Either one would have been the perfect accomplice to my adolescent dreams of attracting someone of the opposite sex, preferably a red head, to me. I opted for the MGA.

Low slung, wire wheels, and a white canvas top, it was beautiful and vengeful. It rewarded me with a repair bill if taken anywhere further than the nearest gas station. After one particularly long trip to Boston and back, it stayed true to its mission and blew its engine. At least this relationship lasted longer than the one with Patty.

My next “red” relationship was with a Toyota sedan. Purchasing it under the assumption that since it was a Toyota, it was therefore indestructible. It was until one very wet and snowy day, it decided to, in front of my house, self-immolate due to a wet wiring harness. Was this confirmation that redheads are indeed fiery? It may be an inarguable point. However, it did last longer than Patty and my late-lamented MGA. But, I was missing the signs.

This particular curse is spoken about in the 1980 film, “Used Cars” starring Kurt Russell. Red cars are to be avoided at all costs as described in this piece of dialogue, “Rudy, what the hell is this? Rudy, this is a red car. Holy shit! A red chariot to take my ass straight to hell!” Stay away from red cars at all costs. It summed up what I had already discovered.

And yet, that wasn’t warning enough to prevent me from purchasing a lovely maroon red Saab. There wasn’t really anything wrong with that car except it had a penchant for magnetically attracting other vehicles. The first was when a honking big SUV backed into it (details are classified to protect the guilty); the second, and ultimately fatal to the car, was when an elderly person decided to displace my car on the road in favor of his, consequently totaling it. Maybe I should have known better.

But still, it’s a hard addiction to kick.

Have I owned any red cars since then? Hell, no. But I did marry a red head. And many things attributed to gingers are true. And I wouldn’t trade this model in for anything.

What is a friend?

It’s a word bandied about rather loosely without the true meaning attached to it. We receive “Friend” requests on Facebook, yet a “friend” on that site connotes something more than it actually is. Used that way, the word is becoming meaningless

The Oxford Language definition of friend is this: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations. Do we really have that bond with our social media friends? Ehhh, I don’t think so. Nor can we. We are too far removed because of social media to have a genuine connection.

While it’s true many us have lots of “friends”, how many of those could we rely on should the need arise? Do we need that many friends? And how many of them really share our values, ideologies, positions, even our taste in ice cream? How important is that? You decide.

We are too quick to make new “friends” that we miss the value in the real ones who don’t need or maybe even want to know where we had dinner last night. Or why they weren’t there with us. A true friend respects our needs and asks nothing more than the same from us.

Finally, are we true friends to others? Hopefully, yes. Otherwise, we’re just acquaintances.

Schlock and awe!

Disclaimer: This is an updated post from a previous blog, The Two Bruces (of which I was one, the other being… Bruce. Really.) Courtesy of the Wayback Machine.

If you read the Sunday papers like I do, then you know the primary reason for that edition is to sell you garbage you don’t need. Get over it, there is no news on a Sunday. They print that sucker days in advance. The only thing remotely news worthy are the sports scores so you can see how much you now owe your bookie. And now the Internet has ’em, so screw Gannett.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s just to sell you stuff. Do you think all this “new” technology is making your life better? OK, altogether now, a big, emphatic NO! Of course not. It’s what keeps whatever is left of our economy moving until we can find another war. The sad part of it all is this stuff is made in China…as if we didn’t have enough issues with trade. Speaking of China… nah, that’s not fair right now, but…

Before long we’ll all be flying the flag of the United States of Walmart. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. I have found a way to deal with this.

I’ve done some research and found that the new technology really isn’t any better than the old. Blu-Ray? Yeah, right – I gotcha Blu-Ray right here! That sucker’s nothing more than a DVD player with a tuning knob. And we fell for it. Not any damn longer! No! It’s just new paint on an old building. The old stuff was good and it worked, mostly.

I am proud to announce the Grand Opening of the new F’ed Up Freddie’s Antique Tech Emporium, or just Freddie’s for those with small. impressionable children. The premise is simple and based upon the notion that “They just don’t build ‘em like they used to.” And they’re right. They don’t. But, did you ever wonder what happened to all those new, unopened, still boxed, never used DVD players after the Blu-Ray player came out? I do. Through shrewd investments and an off-shore account (Staten Island!), I’ve been buying up all this “new” merchandise and now ready to pass on these incredible savings to you. It may not now be the newest technology, but hey, it works and it is new, so to speak.

Think about it. You’re not that old when you don’t want to hear some of those old scratchy 78RPM records you inherited when your great grandfather died. But the phonograph is dead. Not any more! Come on down to my Highway 36754N. warehouse in Newark and see the wide selection of RCA Victrolas. We got ‘em!

Portable radios and TV’s? All makes, all colors and all styles in stock now for immediate delivery! We know there are plenty of women out there just pining for a new 8 track player to play their tapes of “Neil Diamond Gold” again. Wait no more – we got home and car players ready for you.

And it doesn’t stop there. Relive the sixties (not your age) with a transistor radio. How about a stereo with a record changer? Yeah, those were cool, especially when you stacked the records with “Bolero” strategically placed for the big make-out scene you had planned. Good times, good times.

But while we’re all getting older, it doesn’t mean we have to grow up. We can hold on to those symbols of our youth, our innocence, our disposable cash.

Freddie’s stock is complete with Walkman’s, phonographs, laser disc players, Betamax players, VHS players, reel-to-reel tape decks (for snobby afficianadoes), Discmans, slide projectors, AM radios, B+W TV’s, digital audio tape decks, 8mm film projectors, radar ranges, box cameras, CD players, flip phones, and so much more it’ll give you a headache. But our prices won’t! All of this merchandise is new!

And buying from Freddie’s helps the economy. All of this stuff had been written off already, years ago. No tax deductions from retailers, just pure, sweet American profit. Let’s get this country moving again with F’ed Freddy!

Remember F’ed Up Freddie’s slogan, “It ain’t the latest, but it was the greatest!”

This message has not been approved by the Chamber of Commerce nor the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Does that surprise you?

 

When do the needs of the few really outweigh the needs of the many?

The seal hunt – This is one of the most contentious issues around, galvanizing people such as Paul McCartney against it. On the surface, it would appear to be an easy thing to categorize. But there is so much more involved that we don’t usually hear about.
If one is a deer hunter, then a strong case can be made for that activity if it is done responsibly. Culling a herd is necessary for its well-being and survival. Portraying these animals as helpless is good for PR purposes, but letting them starve because of a too large herd size is no less harmful than hunting them. If one is against hunting, then it is just as easy to view it as a senseless slaughter. In this respect, the seal hunt is confronted with many of the same concerns from both sides.
Done for sport, hunting (anything) is absolutely wrong and immoral. For food and sustenance, it’s understandable. Trying to maintain a herd’s health and feed people is an entirely different proposition that certainly has its benefits as well its detractors.. Reconciling these two disparate points of view may be well near impossible. And whatever the disposition of this may be, you know there will still be anger over it. What are your thoughts?

Federal ministers call for change in EU seal products ban

Legal review process ongoing in Geneva, Switzerland

The Canadian government is speaking on behalf of sealers and seal product producers as a World Trade Organization (WTO) appeal body looks at the decision made to uphold the European Union (EU) ban on Canadian seal products.

Fred Henderson loads his truck with seal pelts in Noddy Bay on Newfoundland’s northern peninsula in 2004. — Telegram file photo

While a team of lawyers made arguments in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, at the start of three days of scheduled hearings, two federal ministers again made public calls for a change in the EU’s position.Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea — attending Seafood Expo North America in Boston — told reporters her department hopes the ban will be overturned.“As a government, we’ve always supported the Canadian sealing industry because it supports our small coastal communities,” she said in a teleconference call, making note of government’s efforts through training to ensure the seal hunt is humane.“We have an abundance of product which I believe provides an opportunity for this industry,” she said.In Geneva, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq emphasized the federal government’s position that the EU is treating Canadian seal products unfairly.“The EU allows seal products from Greenland to be marketed in the European Union with(out) any regard in which they are hunted. So in other words, the European Union seal regime does nothing to actually keep seal products out of the EU market or away from the EU public,” she said in a telephone interview.“I think it was very clear in the last decision that the WTO did find, the panel did find, that the European Union ban on import of Canadian seal products did violate the EU international trade obligations. Having said that, they went and used the moral cards issue to not change that (ban).”She said using a moral reasoning for decisions on conservation matters is dangerous.“To go down this path really outside of science puts to risk the whole global food supply,” she said, suggesting it establishes the potential for similar actions against other products.Aglukkaq spoke to The Telegram while side by side with Dion Dakins — chair of the Canadian Seal and Sealing Network and CEO of Carino Processing, in Switzerland to campaign for Canadian seal products and the work of sealers.His trip was covered under $60,000 in funding from the provincial government for the Canadian Seals and Sealing Network, announced in February.“The reality is the first ruling was not catastrophic for Canada. In fact it proved that the Inuit exemption as offered was discriminatory in its application. It also revealed the marine mammal exemption under the EU ban was not applied fairly,” he said.“The disappointing thing is the authority of groups like the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Humane Society International has yet to be challenged here in Europe adequately,” he said. “This is part of my role here, to actually and explicitly go after the false messaging they’ve been spreading about our industry.”Sheryl Fink with the IFAW was in Geneva to submit an amicus curiae — “friend of the court” — written briefing on the seal hunt and seal products, something the court may or may not choose to refer to in its final decision.“I think what’s happening here is, in a way, quite historic, regardless of what the outcome will be. This is the first time this public morality issue has really been challenged at the WTO, so we’re very interested in seeing how it all plays out,” she said.“I don’t want to pre-judge the panel’s decision, but realistically … we need to remember that Europe wasn’t a big market for seal products from Canada prior to the ban. It’s probably not going to be a large market for seal products no matter what happens here at the WTO.”She said the IFAW sent representatives to monitor the international court proceedings since the organization’s anti-seal hunt campaign is considered both a founding campaign for the group and a fundamental issue in the world of animal rights activism.She rejected the idea the decision to uphold the EU ban on moral grounds would lead to a rush of similar campaigns against other products.The WTO appeal body’s decision is expected at some point between April and June.

Cowboys from Newfoundland.

I really hope this comes to Discovery Channel in the US.

‘Cold Water Cowboys’ puts the spotlight on Newfoundland

By  

Cold Water Cowboys
(Cold Water Cowboys/Facebook)

It says something about Newfoundland’s legendary hospitality that when fishing boat captain Richard Gillett is talking to a reporter from the mainland – as those on the Rock refer to the rest of Canada – he does his best to tone down his accent a bit.

“I’m talking to you right now, and I’m trying to do the best that I can,” says Gillett with a laugh, on the phone from his home on Newfoundland’s northeastern shore.

“I can tell you, if you were here now with me and my dad, and we were into a conversation, you’d be looking at the two of us sayin’, ‘What kind of language is this?’”

Viewers might be asking the same thing when they tune into Cold Water Cowboys, a new reality series that follows the captains and crews of several Newfoundland-based fishing boats. Think Deadliest Catch, but with smaller vessels, more bleeped-out swearing and accents so delightfully thick that sometimes subtitles are needed.

“One of the producers told me, ‘Speak English, speak English!’” recalls Gillett, who captains the Midnight Shadow, based in the scenic coastal town of Twillingate. “But when we get out and everybody gets excited and a bit of fish is on the go… it’s understandable they got subtitles on us. Because some people do have a little bit of trouble understanding.”

Premiering Tuesday on Discovery Canada, Cold Water Cowboys follows six boats as they ply the waters of the North Atlantic in search of crab, mackerel, herring and more. After the 1992 cod moratorium that devastated Newfoundland’s fishing economy, the fishermen who have stuck it out must voyage much farther from home than their fathers and grandfathers did.

It’s hard and dangerous work, as seen in the show’s first episode when a stabilizer snaps off one of the boats and threatens to puncture its hull.

“In the blink of an eye, it went from a boring steaming trip to the dangers of a stabilizer breaking off and piercing the boat and the boat going to the bottom and the guys ending up in the drink,” says Gillett.

Gillett, a fifth-generation fisherman, says he and the other captains were initially a bit wary about having camera crews on their boats. “When it first started off, I expressed my views that I didn’t want anything staged,” he says. “I told them I’ve been at this long enough now that you’re going to see stuff break and you’re going to see trouble and you’re going to see dangerous situations.”

But the final product is an accurate look at the captains, crews and their communities, something else Gillett says sets it apart from Deadliest Catch.

“This show is not only about fishing,” he says. “This show shows the communities and the families and the relationships between the fishermen and the communities.”

Because really, Newfoundland is as much a star of the show as the fishermen are, b’y.

“As far as I’m concerned, the beauty of Newfoundland is second to none,” says Gillett. “In the summertime I can sit down on my bridge and watch the whales feed on small capelin. I’ve had times there have been 21 icebergs out in front of my place. Where else in the world can you do that?”

Twitter: @stevetilley

Steve.tilley@sunmedia.ca

A Newfoundland Christmas post-Christmas poem

I Just received this this morning from a friend of mine in Newfoundland. Sometime ago, I wrote about Mummering at Christmas time in Newfoundland. This little poem does a good job in describing it. Hope you enjoy it.

A Newfoundland Christmas by James Rogin

‘Twas a night after Christmas in old Newfoundland.
The fire in the place was blazing just grand.
I sat on the chesterfield holding the phone,
While the wife’s in the kitchen making a scone.
When all of a sudden there was a loud rap,
And someone was banging tap a tap, tap.

I went to the door and who should appear,
But a “Mummer” or two looking for beer.
They wore old pillow cases,
That well covered their faces,
And I knew our houses were part of their quests.
So I welcomed them in, these old special guests.

They spoke in strange voices,
Saying I had to make choices,
As to who was who in that strange odd pair,
And so I played a part in this yule time affair.
I quickly named a name that wasn’t quite right.
So they drak my drink and went off into the night.

I never found who my callers were that year.
But I’m glad they came with all that good cheer.
And I hope this tradition will never come to an end,
For this is good fun to have with a friend.
And I’ll remember this Christmas wherever I go,
For I love Newfoundland, this will always be so.

We interrupt this blog to bring you… Halloween.

Last night being All Hallow’s Eve, I couldn’t help but put something of a Newfoundland spin on it. At Christmas time in Newfoundland, in addition to all the normal festivities including the prerequisite kitchen parties, is the custom of Mummering. I’ve written about this previously, but I’ll recap. Complete strangers, oddly dressed, descend upon unsuspecting resident’s homes and demand food and drink, carouse, and usually stay until tired or their true identities are discovered and then they leave to repeat said mayhem in yet another home. It can get out of hand. Once the government even tried to outlaw it, but the Newfoundlanders were having none of that, thank you b’y.

This year, as we get ready to dole out the ritual baksheesh to the little and not-so-little ones, I got to thinking how cool it might be to dress as a mummer here in the US.

This is Alphonse.

This is a fairly typical mummer “outfit” and is not the kind of costume one gets in a store. No, this requires creativity or color blindness at the very least. These figurines are from a collection created by two Newfoundland women, Pam and Cara. They produce one new limited edition mummer every year and are usually quite funny. Yet, they are accurate and indicative of what one might have knocking on their door come Christmas time.

Nish from Merasheem.

Now, can you imagine someone showing up at your house on Halloween in this? You might be inclined to call the police or at least use some pepper spray. But generally speaking in Newfoundland, it’s usually just harmless fun. However, I would not suggest walking into a convenient store dressed like this. They do have surveillance cameras after all.

And of course in the spirit(s) of the holiday, a toast must be made. Have another one, Fannie?

Fannie from Fogo.

The other possible downside in dressing this way for Halloween is that you might get picked up for vagrancy. After all, I don’t think we’re in Newfoundland anymore, Toto.

Watching the fog roll around and drinking wine.

After the initial concussion of our cottage by the bay, Carla and I are acting like we live there. We could do this – downsize and do it here. We don’t need all: the clothes, furniture, tchotchkes, appliances, whatever that we have. This is life simplified. This is life without pretense, life without malls, life without Walmart. This is good.

We go to the general store up the road for all the immediate essentials we need. We get to know the shopkeeper by name. That’s easy – this is Newfoundland after all. How many times have I said that? But it’s true. We chat daily and she shares with us her nephew is in a band (all teenagers) and we ought to buy their new CD. We do. It’s really good! No, it’s very good. The group is called Eventide and they’ve recorded a number of traditional Newfoundland folk songs. We play it a lot. Even the record store in St. John’s carries it. How cool is that?

Eventide CD (freds.nf.net)

Newfoundland doesn’t have some of the hangups the US does. Admittedly, there are some states which are more liberal than others, but I’m not talking politically. I’m talking about what are reasonable expectations. If you want to buy hard liquor along with wine and beer, go to the government store for the best selection. If you just want to buy some beer or some wine, hell, then just go to the general store and get some. What’s the big deal?

It was no big deal. It was late in the afternoon, we had done about as much traveling as we wanted to, so off to the general store and pick up a bottle or two of wine. If you’re a practicing locavore, try the Canadian Jackson Trigg wine, it’s surprisingly good and affordable. So we did. Or if you’re into beer, Quidi Vidi brewery out of St. John ‘s makes some mighty fine brews. Yes, I can attest to imbibing both of those.

Oh, yeah, good stuff. (signalblog.ca)

With our larder thus and properly stocked, we went home. It was just as well. It was getting on to dusk and a fog was rolling in. Time to get out on the porch, crack open a bottle of wine, sit back, listen to the waves, watch the fog make everything look mysterious and romantic at the same time and very much alive.

Yes, life is good.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to… (with apologies to Snow White and her minions, not to mention Steve McQueen).

In the estimation of my wife, I had become obsessed with Newfoundland. Yeah, alright, it’s true. (Could an intervention be far behind?) The two trips up there had been transformative experiences for me. Now that she had seen what I had seen, she wanted to go there. Who was I to argue?

Planning the trip was easy as she wanted to go to the places to where I’d been. Since we did not have as much time as I did originally, I planned a truncated version which I felt would give her good exposure to this land with which I’d fallen in love. Keepin’ my fingers crossed!

Our flight would get us into St. John’s well after midnight, so we would have to take a taxi to the B&B I’d booked. I stayed there on each previous trip as my starting point and didn’t see any reason to change that. Since we would be arriving late, they left me the punch-key code to get in and our room key outside our room. Cool.

As it was so late, the car rental counters were closed until later that morning. We would have to come back then and pick up our car. So, we hailed a taxi and were treated to a rapid, Bullitt-(the movie) like trip downtown. The driver was a typical friendly Newfoundlander and quite fond of using the f-word. “F” this, “F” that, entertaining to a point, but losing its charm halfway there.

Our driver only thought he was Steve McQueen.

We arrive at the B&B around 1:30 AM. I punch in the code, go upstairs, schlepping the luggage up (three flights!) to our room, look for the key, and hear snoring…in our room! Since I didn’t book a semi-private room, this could not be right. I tried calling the owners several times, leaving messages, but to no avail.

But we were downtown and just a block or two away from a large hotel. Down three flights with the luggage and out on to the street. Off we went to see if there was any room at the inn. Down a hill, up a hill with our luggage in tow. (Do you think I’m making a really good impression on my wife at this point? Surly is not one of her more attractive traits.) We enter the hotel and go to the reception desk and ask for a room. No, there was no room at this inn. There was a Harley Davidson convention in town and all the rooms were booked.

However, this being Newfoundland, the uber-friendly concierge started calling all, and I do mean all, the other hotels and B&B’s in town in an effort to get us lodging for the night. At 2:00 in the morning! But to no avail. The bikers weren’t the only convention in town. The other convention could have been Beanie Baby collectors for all I cared. (No, this was not starting out at all as I planned and my wife was quickly resenting this trip.)

The concierge was quite apologetic. He suggested we could leave our bags with him and go further downtown (four blocks) for food and music if we were so inclined. My wife was a bit apprehensive, no, a lot, about walking in a dark city at 2:30 in the morning. We both tried to reassure her this was OK. How could anything could be open at this hour? Hah! This is St. John’s! Off we went.

Within a couple of blocks, music of all types could be heard. People were out and about having a fine time. Before long, so were we. We got food and drink, listened to some music, and wandered safely back to the hotel where we were invited to rest in the lobby (!) until morning. Try that anywhere else and you’ll be arrested for vagrancy! In Newfoundland, you are truly welcome and they’ll go out of their way to prove it.

Later that morning, we’ll go to the airport to get our car, where I’ll make major points!

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