Saturday, February 25, 2012

Yodeling in North America

Yodeling in North America
Listen, even if it’s only my own opinion, there’s a very good argument for turning off these so-called music stations. At least with peace and quiet, you get what you asked for – peace and quiet. With the “music stations” though, you get such a lot of caterwauling, there’s no telling what it’s all about.
Well it’s not so much about the music as it is about the “singers”. I don’t mean just run-of-the-mill garage band singers. I mean big names in the business like Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin and yes, even Whitney Houston. Now don’t get me wrong. These ladies all have beautiful voices. The trouble is – they don’t sing. When I say caterwauling, I’m not kidding! What they do to classic songs can be compared to filleting fish with a chainsaw. It’s outright butchery of the songs! Oh, it’s not that these people can’t sing. They can do that alright - if they’re forced into it. And they have beautiful voices too. But what they do in the execution of a song, and I use the term advisedly, is to emulate a cat in heat trying to yodel. It’s just gaud-awful!  
The various Bavarian and Swiss Alpine Yodeling Societies dotting the North American landscape really have nothing to do with the kind of yodeling I’m referring to. No, they are traditional yodelers with strict traditions and practices. Their rich tonal falsettos can thrill any heart and echo back to their mountain origins. That in itself is beautiful music. It bears no real resemblance to the angst-filled trills of these prima donnas straining to make an impression on audiences.
It seems these men and women are driven to fa-la-la their way all over the musical scale in order to make the song their own, much I’m sure, to the chagrin of the composer. In the process they become so enamored with the sound of their own voices that the original intention of the song goes down the toilet. What is that about?
I’ve got a notion that these people are so in awe of their own voices they get lost in their own reverie. You want proof? That singer with one name from the U.K. – Adele -for example, who won all those awards giving the finger to the people who cut her speech short because of time constraints. Graceful old cow isn’t she?
But I gave myself a huge surprise when it occurred to me that millions of people love this stuff. There must be something to it or they wouldn’t listen. I guess to them it must be music. It speaks to them. Well, so be it.
Imagine my surprise when I started to think back to the days when I was growing up. The music in our house pretty well consisted of classical and old country folk songs. We got to hear the ‘real’ music at the community club Friday night dances. People like Frankie Lane, Frank Sinatra, Johnnie Rae, Nat King Cole and so on. Each of us had our favorites. I remember mother and my older sister being disgusted at one of Nat King Cole songs; “They Tried to Tell us We’re too Young”. Sent a terrible message, they said.
Well, just at that time Johnny Peabody and his girlfriend decided to get married. They were sixteen. That was at a time when you got married if you wanted to live together, or your girlfriend had gotten pregnant or something. Then Buddy Skinner’s sister Florence married Allan Knight. They were about the same age. Even we who were a year or two younger couldn’t figure that out.
Well, you should have heard the buzz at our house. It will end in disaster! It’s just so bad! Yadayadayada. Well a couple of years later, Florence left Allan and he ended up throwing himself off the Provencher Street bridge into the Red River.
“See! See!” said the women in my house. Well, they had a point – partly. I know if Johnny Peabody would have screwed up his marriage, old man Peabody would have kicked his ass nine times around the block, so as far as I’m concerned, that one worked out.
The point is, I guess I learned something. All these songs and their renderings mean something to somebody. I have to be big enough to admit that. Me – I still like Frankie Lane’s “Ghost Riders in the Sky”. The rest I wouldn’t thank you for.
So you see – even an old dog can learn new tricks. Even up here on the top shelf.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Joey started a firestorm the other day, posting a You Tube video on face book about a father, frustrated by the betrayal of his sixteen-year-old daughter who had posted slanderous and derogatory things about him to her friends on face book. He wasn’t supposed to find this out, but came across it while upgrading her computer for her.
To say that he was angry would be an understatement of gigantic proportions. It was more than that, much more. The pain he felt from that betrayal was visible in his voice and his actions. To quell the rage that was seething inside him, he took the upgraded computer, put it out on his back pasture, brought his 45 magnum colt and put eight mushrooming bullets in it. Of course he video’d the whole business and put it up on face book for all his daughter’s friends to see. What a mess!
Where did all this go so wrong? Well, you can’t second-guess any situation like that without being in the middle of it, but I well know the frustration of fathers at the stupid things their teenage children do. I’ve had five of the little buggers so I can quote you chapter and verse on the subject. First of all, their brains all fall out at puberty. I think that’s what girls in particular menstruate for the first five years or so – maybe ten or fifteen. And boys – well boys are just stupid. They’re lovable, but stupid. No getting around that. It isn’t until they’re getting around to age thirty when they start to develop a new set and discover they are not nearly as smart, or gorgeous, or invincible as they once thought they were. Holy crap! Being an adult and a parent is serious business! Suddenly, our parents have become a whole lot smarter than they were when we were teenagers and knew everything. That’s actually what Winston Churchill said about his parents whose intelligence had improved markedly since he had been away.
It was Leslie Nielson, the actor who said he carried this burden around that his father had unfairly abused him as a child. When he finally had the courage to confront the old man at the age of about sixty, his father told him he had done the best he could with what he had to work with. If Nielson didn’t like it, well, that was his problem. Nielson got the point and said “Oh”. With that the burden was lifted and with that he went on with his life.
Parenting has never been an easy job. You read about complaints and lamentations even in Roman times about unruly children who would not listen to their parents. Those days they were called children. The term ‘teenagers’ hadn’t been coined yet. I guess they didn’t have any of them social worker graduates in those days.
Well I didn’t want to be shooting my mouth off without knowing what I was talking about, so I looked the whole business up on the internet. Holy Toledo, you’ve never seen such a collection of advocates for the rights of children in your life. Finally, I was able to find what the laws of Canada and the U.S. had to say. And they say that a child has the right to life; i.e. food, shelter, clothing. There are supplementary obligations regarding education and medical services. All of these obligations end at age eighteen. That’s it!
One of the things that bothered me in Sue’s rebuttal was her statement that “Love is a fringe benefit”. It is impossible to give birth to or adopt a child without having a deep and abiding love for it. And that love grows in intensity as time passes – all by itself. So it’s not a fringe benefit, but rather an ingrained and inalienable law of parenthood. It comes with the territory.
What is a fringe benefit to both parent and child is the dreaded “R” word – Respect. Well, the thing is, respect is not free. It’s something that has to be earned, which takes a long time to do, and can be dashed in a single moment of stupidity. That’s what children have to learn. Unfortunately, they confuse the right of respect with the right of entitlement. And is it any wonder? There’s a whole load of advocates trying to sell entitlement to the kids, including the cursed Child and Family Services who couldn’t find their backsides with both hands behind their collective backs when it comes to parenting. Then of course, there are the gangs, the pimps, the drug dealers, etc.  They’ll give you entitlement, as long as you’ve got the cash. You’ll have an identity, just like any grown-up. Yeah, right.
I don’t know, the more I think about it, the more I think the dad had the right idea. It was as dramatic as any I’ve ever seen. Maybe he has more faith in his daughter’s reasoning power than we suspect. Could be that the drama in the video was for the benefit of her friends. If not, there’s always the front door.
You’d think the way I carry on, I really care about this kind of thing. But I’m only an observer looking down from the top shelf and I calls ‘em how I sees ‘em. For the rest – I don’t really give a rip!

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Good Morning!

Welcome to the view from the top shelf! This will be a self-serving page where my views of the moment will be posted (not that my views will necessarily be the same next week). It's also a page where others may dump their opinions within the realm of good taste. You are all invited. I have long wanted a place to react to little thoughts that cross my mind daily but until now had no place to put them. Well, here it is.

The first thought I had has probably already been posted somewhere, but it's worth repeating. Bureaucracy is such an insideous appendage of particularly our governments and corporations that it plays like an out-of-tune fiddle on our psyches. It's what Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz calls "Red Tape". Unfortunately for Mayor Katz, it's now lost in the Red Tape Department. But for what it's worth, here it is:

Gawd! Even the word is spelled funny – confusing. Probably made up by some high falutin Frenchman trying to justify government screw-ups. It seems in fact, to be a profession. There are people called bureaucrats who practice it, and they mostly belong to governments. I think it’s a catch 22 phrase. You don’t know if they are called bureaucrats because they screw up so often, or they screw up so often because they’re bureaucrats.
That got me to thinking about a phone call I got the other day from a fellow I hadn’t seen nor heard of since the mid 1950’s. He read in the paper that I had died, so he phoned to see if it was true. Well, I hadn’t been invited to the funeral so I was pretty sure I hadn’t died, I said, so we went on reminiscing about old times.
Well, there you have it: bureaucracy. Somebody screwed something up – either the newspaper or the grim reaper, or – somebody else had my name. No matter – didn’t affect me one way or the other.
In my imagination I could visualize the poor grim reaper, pulling spirits out of bodies here and there according to his list, stuffing them in his bag and schlepping them off to St. Peter’s warehouse for sorting. What a thankless job that must be.
“Hey Reap that’s a heavy load. Just put ‘em over there. I’ll get to them in a minute.” Says St. Peter, grabbing a fistful of papers.
“Okay now, let’s see who we got here. Andrushko – here, Arnason – hell, Bowers – hell, Bowman – here, Carter – here, Carstairs – hell, Dalgleish – hell – Nice you got them all in order. Makes this paperwork a lot easier. Endersby – hell, Eggertson – here, Epp – he – hey Grim, where’d you get this soul?”
“Rosthern Saskatchewan.”
“Aw shit! What’d you go there for?”
“That’s where all the Mennonites are. And I easily found this jerk.”
“The list says Rothesay, not Rosthern. Can’t you read?”
“Well, there ain’t no Epps on Rothesay, unless you mean the ones on the Edison corner. You’ve got to be more specific about your addresses. I’m no mind reader you know.”
“Listen dummy, if you can’t read something, at least check with me before you go draggin’ your sorry ass all over the country. You’ll have to take this one back.”
“Take it back? Are you nuts? They guy is already laid out in his coffin and the funeral is scheduled for tomorrow. I can’t get there until late tomorrow afternoon. By then he’ll be buried already. What should I do – have him rise out from the grave?” The newspapers would have a field day.”
“No we can’t have that. That’s the last thing we need – is to have Victor Epp rising from the dead. He’s not exactly a candidate for that sort of thing. Shit! What to do, what to do! You know this is going to cause trouble all the way to the top.”
“Not my problem,” said the Reaper. “I just kill ‘em and haul ‘em – according to the list. If the list is wrong, that’s your bureaucratic headache. You deal with it.”
“Headache is right. What am I gonna tell Satan? That was his catch.”
“Give me the correct address and I’ll go get the right one.”
“It’s not that easy. There’s all kinds of paperwork. It’s a bureaucratic nightmare. The guy you stiffed belongs here with us, while the other one belongs with Satan. You have no idea what the repercussions of this sort of an error can have.” St. Peter buried his head in his hands.
“I’m going to have a drink” said Grim Reaper. “Call me when you’ve got a new list.” He took off.
“Hold up!” St. Peter said. “I’m coming with you.
So there you have it – bureaucracy. It’s everywhere.