Monday, 14 May 2012

Haikus, poems that surprise

At its simplest, a haiku is a Japanese verse 3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables on nature or one of the 4 seasons. But haikus are defined many ways, e.g.,
I've written haikus for years now. An early example:

Campground ©1991 Peter A. Letendre
A blush of colour
washes clean upon a lake
dirty with acid.
Ideally, a haiku should create a surprise, a contrast between juxtaposed ideas.

Haikus are not to everyone's taste but I love their simplicity.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Ode to tarts

I should never have brought them home. I'm talking about pecan tarts.

After an initial nibble, I was hooked. Now I can't stop thinking of them. Especially as the wife took one look at them and exclaimed, "Are you nuts?" 

Then, with that piercing glare I've become all too familiar with over 40 years, she infiltrated my brain, as if by osmosis, with the terrible thought that the tarts would have to go.

Go where, you ask? Why into our apartment's trash shute, of course. The graveyard of all snacks that constitute the caloric content of an entire meal but with minimal to zero nutritional value and loaded with no-nos like sodium and sugar. The resting place of my impulsive, edible purchases.

 After the funereal disposal of the 'forbidden fruit,' I awoke in the middle of the night with a craving. A sinful obsession with tarts - pecan tarts - overtook me. Who would notice? Who would care? When recalling the sugar and salt content, "So what!" says I. Then reality dawns. They're gone. The tarts are no more.

Sadly shuffling into the kitchen, I stealthily open the fridge searching for a suitable substitute. After contemplating the choices on offer, I finally opt for a zero fat plain yogurt and toss in a few blueberries.  

Surprisingly, the yogurt and fresh berries taste great. Who knew?

Next I'll be snacking on melba toast, and horror-of-horrors, the dreaded asparagus, brussel sprouts, celery, the whole veggie crew.

I feel like composing an ode to tarts:

Ode to Tarts

©2012 Peter A. Letendre 

Chewy and gooey,
not healthy nor smart,
sugars and pecans
make a lively tart.
Oh, they have to go!

Yummy and gummy
these sly crunchy treats
seduce and entice
with fattening sweets.
Oh, why must they go?

I fell for their spell
when inside the store
they slipped in my bag
like old pals of yore.
Tomorrow they'll go!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Why watch Christmas classics year after year?

Okay. It's that time of year again, time to stare at a televised fire place filled with blazing logs and pretend to experience a Christmas past, to sit in big cushy chairs, grab a turkey leg, put our feet up, and start channel surfing.

What would we do without television over the holidays? Think of all the sentimental movies we watch. Not to mention animated features: A Charlie Brown Christmas, anyone?

Those wanting something more cerebral relish year-end reviews with foreign reporters and fun quizzes for political junkies, like the CBC's 'At Issue' year end quiz.

But we still put on the popcorn and settle in for a family fest viewing the Christmas classics. What amazes me is how folks watch the same Christmas movies year after year. It's even possible that some watch the same movie more than once during the holidays, depending how often it appears on the networks. Over a lifetime we could view classics like "It's a Wonderful Life" or "A Christmas Story" or "A Christmas Carol" 50 times or more. Yet we are never bored. Why?

I think these films are similar to stories read to us as children. Most of us loved hearing the same story night after night, a monotony that drove parents to distraction. As kids, the familiar was and is comforting, e.g.,a classic like Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.

Seems there is some of that at play with re-watching Christmas movies. We all want comforting, a little reminder of Christmases past.

Perhaps Christmas classics fulfill the same need that stories of childhood did - a cocoon of safety where nothing bad happens and the love of parents penetrates our very marrow? I reckon it's "A Wonderful Life" after all, if only via the movies.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Santa, a salesman of contradictions

Is there a Santa Claus? Of course there is and Santa v 1.0 derives from earlier traditions, one of the most noted being St. Nicholas.

Santa is the engine that drives the Christmas market. If we didn't have this jolly old dude in a red suit to help us get into the Christmas buying spirit, we would quickly invent another pseudo-historical character, wrap him in festive mystery, and add a touch of folklore and mythology for authenticity.

Mythology as authentic seems contradictory, but contradictions fit the entire Santa schtick.

We needn't stray from the successful formula. We would still create and market the new, improved Santa (v. 2.0) as a wise old toy maker living up north with a coterie of adorable elfin buddies and a posse of remarkable flying reindeer.

Note the emphasis on teamwork that carefully weaves into the Santa narrative. No accident, this. Big business, which reveres self-made entrepreneurs and rugged individuals above all else, promotes Santa as a total team player managing a workshop of wee elves. Another contradiction?

Like the original, our re-worked Santa fable would be an irresistible force for the child in all of us. He'd be role model for how to raise offspring (or not!) Ah, the contradictions.....

As in Santa Claus is Coming to Town, he'd continue to terrorize tiny tots with his lists and spying and threats to be good or else. Who can resist such a sweetie?

He's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out who's naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He sees you when you're sleeping.
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake! 

Santa v. 2.0 could carry intimidation further with
  • 'Naughty lists' on Facebook 
  • Un-friending of parents who buy fewer gifts or buy ones not 'made in America' (or EU, etc.) or buy only inexpensive ones 
  • Tweets about who's been seen being naughty 
  • Flickr and Picasa photos taken on cell phones of kids caught in the act
Oh, yes, we clearly need Santa Claus to keep children in line and to fuel more and more consumption. Global warming be damned! With world economies on the brink, Santa is more crucial than ever.

Eartha Kitt got it right with her risque ditty, Santa, Baby. Keep the luxury goods flowing! And the iffy ones whose ads magically tend to appear more often or only at Christmas such as
Like all goods sold at Christmas, Santa must adapt to changing needs. But no matter what the new Santa, whether mensch or schmuck, please keep the contradictions.

Fantasy always outsells reality. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Who's been knotty & nice?

It is the time of year where men usually get spiffed up and attend Christmas functions and seek spousal assistance in picking out a shirt and tie. Some fellows also need help in tying the tie.

Don't blame them. Men's fashions are tricky. To wear certain ties one needs to match them to a particular collar: a collar with a wide spread would not suit those wearing small tie knots.

Men with moderate to thin necks should wear wide collars with
Men with large to wide necks should use medium spaced collars with
Any colour on the tie can match any colour in your suit or sports coat or shirt.

James Bond thought that the Windsor knot was the mark of a cad.

For fun, over the years James Bond wore different ties. See if you can tell the types of knots worn by the following Bond actors (photos from The Suits of James Bond):
It's pretty tough, isn't it?

Of course, Bond occasionally wore a bow tie:


There's even an encyclopedia of tie knots by physicist Thomas Fink, a man with eclectic interests.

Here's how to tie the common ones
With the right tie and right knot, can we all look like Agent 007, at least at Christmas? And should we be knotty or nice? <8-)

Monday, 12 December 2011

Bathroom maestros

Why is it men think they are Caruso as soon as they hit the showers? Sometimes it gets out of hand.

Picture a jovial type who always sings off key. Naturally he inflicts his vocal maladroitness on anymore within hearing distance. Most often his wife.

What makes it worse is that these bathroom maestros tend to vocalize at the top of their lungs, sounding like screams from Psycho slashing through the thunderous rush of tap water. Let's leave our hero in the shower for a moment (oh, please--lets!) and step into his living room.

Note his loving but long suffering wife. When you ask her about his musical skills, she replies bluntly:
I once liked having him sing. Initially I thought it was sweet. Then he started singing every morning and every night, but only when he took a shower. He won't sing at parties like a normal person. He has to be in the tub. He likes the echo effect or something.  
Only once did he sing outside the house and that was because he was caught in a rainstorm. He got soaked to the skin and I guess that triggered an automatic response.
I don't know what is worse: his obsession with cleanliness or high notes! His behavior is driving me insane! To say nothing of running up the water bills as he prolongs his solitary concerts.
As I think about this I wonder if men, more than women, prefer to sing in showers. If they do, is it because most men want to be vocal artists and wish they could handle arias like Pavarotti or lounge songs like Frank Sinatra or croon as smoothly as Michael Buble?

There are many female singers out there to emulate.  Clearly women must sing at home, but where do budding sopranos sing?  Surely women love to warble country and western tunes or raunchy rock songs or operatic arias?

Do these ladies prefer the shower to work on their styles or do they prefer to use the bath instead. Everyone knows the bath is far more luxurious but does it lend itself to warbling?

Fact is, showers appeal to the showboat in men, who are drawn to them like a ham to a microphone.  Women, like every thing else in life, are far more practical. 

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Blue Monday?

Given its association with pay day, seasonal parties, and the lead-in to weekends, most folks think Friday is the happiest day of the week, hence in the western world we say, TGIF. We even promote and enjoy Casual Friday.

But if you live in the Middle East, it could be TAIW or TAIT

But not every day is peachy, especially in the era of 24/7 work weeks. 

What is your choice for worst day of the week? Might it be Hangover Monday?  Or Gala Thursday, a day when nothing goes right? According to medievalists, Gala is derived from gallows. You get the idea. 

For us in the west, get by Thursday and the rest of the week is a piece of cake. As for me, I agree with Fats Domino: