Theatre of the Absurd


“This was quite the week”, I said to Camp who was sitting in my seat as arranged a week ago.. “We had the theater of the grotesque in Singapore.”

“Yep, a photo op for a mass murderer who killed his uncle and poisoned his half brother in Malaysia. Just a week ago he was the dictator of the most brutal regime on the planet with over 200’000 prisoners in the gulag.?”

“And then Trump made him into a pop-star. For what? Did anything of substance result from this depressing charade,” I asked.

“Not really, no time plan for denuclearisation, no concrete agreements, just a publicity coup for Kim the pariah and an embarrassment for world politics.”

“All hype and bluster, theater of the absurd,” I said. “He insults Trudeau, the host of the G-7 club in Quebec, and then calls Kim his new best friend.”

“That’s what you get when you let the lunatics run the asylum.”

“On another sad note, Anthony Bourdain stepped off this world last week. He was one of my heroes ever since ‘Kitchen Confidential’, the book that started the whole food and chef fascination. “

“Yes, quite sad really,” Camp said, “he is the one who said: our bodies are not temples but amusement parks, enjoy the ride.”

We quietly toasted Anthony and paused for just a few beats taking in the summery vista out front our perch above the pebble beach of Gibsons Harbour.

“How is business these days,” I asked Camp, owner of Coast Books, one of the few independent bookstores left and an anachronism of sorts.

“The tourists are here already, every ferry is overloaded and the store is always full of browsers,” Camp said, “but hey, I’m not complaining about a fate of my own making. There are still people who buy books.”

“I personally enjoy nothing more then reading a book when I find the time,” I said, “mind you, more often then not I’m staring into my small or big screen instead, consuming the latest news clips. It’s a bit like an addiction. You can never get enough and it’s always the same. You think the sun would still rise and the tides would still go in and out if I would go cold turkey and not watch the news for a month?”

“The world would never be the same,” Camp laughed, “but you might feel left out. I for one will be glued to the screen for the next month, waiting to catch that magic move or brilliant pass to stop time. It’s the world cup in Russia, that’s what I’m talking about, sure to distract, entertain and provide drama, tears and glory.”

“I might stop by and join you for a few games. Maybe I’ll even buy a book from you. How many books do you think are out there?” I asked. “Must be a challenge to keep up with the latest.”

“I can tell you. According to Google, some 130 million books have been published and every year, in the US alone, there are between 600’000 and a million new books. About half of them are self-published and sell less then 250 copies each. I stock about 1’000 titles and some of those haven’t moved in years. It’s a fickle business and I’m constantly second guessing myself. My perennial bestsellers are children’s books, mostly purchased by grandmothers. My personal favourite this season: Ferdinand, now a major motion picture cartoon. You should watch it.”

“A cartoon?” I said, somewhat baffled.

“I watched it with my niece,” Vicky said, having overheard Camp’s recommendation while refreshing our beverage. “It’s a great story and a fun film about a gentle soul inside the wrong body. A flower loving bull who doesn’t want to fight.”

“Wow, sounds like they should screen that at the White House,” I said.

“Right after they show that bizarre Destiny Pictures propaganda video for the hundredth time, the one Trump presented to Kim. ‘Out of the dark can come the light and the light of hope can burn bright. Leni Riefenstahl would be jealous. Guess who the two main protagonists are.”

“Dear Leader and Manchild? Are people really that gullible,” I asked.

“People love nothing more then fantasy, especially when the reality is a disaster. Give me Laurel and Hardy any time,” Camp said, finished his beer and got up. “I’m taking Muriel to the new pizza place,” he announced.

“Pizza, cartoons, soccer? What happened to the Campbell I knew, the recluse and naysayer of yesterday, now suddenly the man of the world,” I wisecracked.

“You need to get out more often. See you next week,” he said with a wink and a smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who we elect and Why


Camp was already into his beer when I got to the pub. I wasn’t late, he was just early. “Slow day at the old book store? I asked.

“You could say that. I just didn’t feel like hanging around any longer, staring out the window and twiddling my thumbs. It’s one of the privileges of running my own small business. I can come and go as I like.”

“It’s almost like retirement,” I said.

“Yes, without the pension and the discounts and plenty of responsibility.” Camp retorted.

“Did you watch the Ontario election last night?’ I asked.

“As you know I don’t have a TV but I saw it on my computer. No surprise there except in the broader sense. It puzzles me how people can elect a guy to run the province and yet he cannot even run his own family business and has no legislative experience.”

“Why do the people keep electing governments that go completely against their interests like poor people supporting a candidate who is owned by the rich.

We keep electing leaders and parties who have no interests in the ordinary people but they get elected on simplistic promises that nobody expects them to keep.”

“Yes, it’s a riddle. Maybe it’s leadership by resentment. Working class whites are frustrated and resentful and perceive social programs geared towards ethnic minorities. So they elect populists who promise to go against the political establishment and change everything.”

“Everybody wants change for the better, mostly for themselves and their own economic position. Everybody wants more money and more rights. The poor as well as the rich,” I said.

“People vote emotionally and the young aren’t interested it seems. Just look at the Brexit analytics. The ones with the least education and the poorest voted for Brexit or look at the Hungarians and Poles. It’s called nationalistic, populist illiberalism but they voted for it, against immigrants and EU policies.”

“The EU is mostly about money.I’ve read that in Poland EU money represents over 60% of infrastructure spending while for Hungary the figure is 55%. Why bite the hand that feeds you?”

“Somebody once said: Democracy is not a paradise, democracy offers the possibility to change what’s bad. With the erosion of democracy that possibility for positive change goes away as well,” Camp said.

We both stared glumly into our stale beers. Luckily Vicky took pity on us and without asking brought around two fresh pints.

“It’s a crazy world out there,” I said, shaking my head. “We have a summit between a mass murderer and a misanthropic man-child touted as the biggest news and now we have Doug Ford in charge of Ontario. It’s driving me to drink,” I said.

“Don’t let me stop you,” Vicky joked, “you’re at the right place.”

“Is there any good news?” I said and then remembered. “Oh yeah, the Senate passed bill C-45 yesterday, the recreational marijuana bill by a vote of 56-30.”

“That’s right and all against were conservative, overpaid non-elected legislators,” Camp said and then added: “Now the House of Commons will have to decide what to do with the over 40 amendments. Then it will have to go back to the Senate for a second vote and it will also require Royal Assent.”

“This will take months I said, “and it will be so complicated and restrictive that it will barely change anything.”

“We should just concentrate on what’s important like the upcoming World Cup in Russia and the sunny weather,” Camp said. “I even got myself a TV from the thrift store in order to watch a few games at work.”

“You’re right of course. It’s no use getting frustrated and depressed by events and situations outside our limited sphere of influence and control. As Clare puts it: It’s the small things in life that count: a blooming flower, a dinner with friends, a decent bottle of wine, a good night sleep and a clear conscience.”

“I second all that but I still can’t believe they voted in Doug Ford as premier of Ontario.”

“It is democracy at it’s worst,” I conceded, drowning my disappointment.

 

 

Nomadic Tempest 2017 by the Caravan Stage Company


An operatic 90 minute show performed behind a gigantic scrim draped off the 100 foot tall sailing ship, the ‘Amara Zee’, with multimedia interface between video, sound and trapeze acrobats. The projected video intercepts featured a wise woman/fairy godmother extoling the evils of fossil fuels responsible for the human extinction to an audience of wide-eyed pre-teens. A philosophical smorgasbord, somewhere between Cahil Gibran and Mad Max, interwoven with Greek and Coast Salish Mythology, repeated over and over in Spanish, Arabic and Mandarin with cryptic English subtitles. Clever use of the ship’s masts and rigging, illuminated and professionally. A permanently oscillating pumpjack kept bobbing up and down at top left of the rig while two gas jockeys brandishing nozzles like guns were dancing at center top, while backlit dancers gyrated to the music at deck level. All of which made for good visuals. But the whole spectacle lacked in story and was basically a naïve, hippyish construct of mankind’s fossil fuel addiction making us all fossil slaves and junkies and thereby destroying life on earth. What the play lacked in plot and linear story, it compensated with mesmerizing acrobatic performers repelling from 100’ long red flags, a phantasmagorical set, talented singers and an overall spectacle for the senses. The frequent and repetitive video projections were a preachy play on guilt and our fossil fuel dependence, eulogizing the demise of mankind, and extolling the rise of a fossil free peace loving future through the awestruck eyes and faces of the young teens. An apocalyptic vision survived only by a lone orca and some monarch butterflies. If anything survives this Armageddon it would be cockroaches and sharks, nowhere near as picturesque. I squirmed a few times but it might have been the cool breeze coming off the water and I had to stifle a yawn or two but it might have been the late hour. A couple of young kids behind us kept asking their parents: ‘”is it over soon Dad?” a sentiment I shared with them.

 

Stay at home Guy


Campbell or Camp to all who know him, is one of five councillors at city hall. He is also the owner of ‘Coast Books’, “one of the few surviving independent books stores in the world”, as Camp puts it, right here on the Gibsons harbour front.

“How was your holiday,” Camp asked me yesterday as soon as I sat down at our usual table on the glassed in and heated patio, overlooking the calm waters of the harbour with Keats Island about a nautical mile off shore. No view of the mountains on this grey day.

“We loved the summery weather and the beach.”

“Well, you didn’t miss anything. Here it just rained. Then it poured and the rest of the time it was just gray, wet and cold. Like if you can’t see the mountains, it’s raining and if you can see them, it’s going to rain soon.”

“I checked the weather daily and I have to tell you I felt sorry for you all, not sorry like if you had an accident, more like sorry if you missed your train. And how is council business or should I ask ?”

“They’re still dithering with the marina expansion and the development around the harbour front. Anywhere else in the world they would just build it and then bitch about not enough consultation and public input; here they bitch right from the start, about too much or the wrong kind of consultation and the public input always comes from people who are personally impacted, like loosing views, increased traffic, taxes, noise etc. It’s never about the good of the town, the local economy and the common disinterest, although that is undoubtedly what everybody proclaims it to be.”

“I’m glad you had a good time too,” I said, taking a swallow of my beer.

“Here it is Camp,” I said, “Clare, my alter ego and partner in all things, and I examined our busy, stressed out lives and concluded that it would be beneficial for our health and welfare if one of us would just quit the rat race, and take care of the home front. In other words: Shopping, cleaning, yard work, laundry, paperwork and cooking.”

“I can see where this is leading, which is a call for another pint I believe,” Camp said, holding  up two fingers for the waitress to see.

“We decided that I should be the Stay-at-Home-Guy. Since Clare has the passionate career  and my job in the film industry is more like being a carney: setting up rides (sets) and then tearing them down. They call us Mexicans in sweaters. Pushers, movers, pullers, lifters and runners. Paid, hired and fired by the hour. It’s much easier for me to quit. We should be alright,  that is if we buy our wine for under twenty bucks and eat at home.

         “Makes sense to me,” Camp said, “all you have to do is not answer the phone when it looks like work, it’s not like you have to quit a career and officially hand in your retirement request.”

“That’s exactly what Clare said.”

Up to now my idea of staying at home had meant sleeping in, goofing off, watching late night flicks and day time soccer games, the occasional lunch at the pub which would sometimes extend into a game of pool and beyond. I also had to get over the stigma of the out-of-work syndrome. No, I was not unemployed; I was now retired. As a film technician I’m used to have weeks or months between jobs but this was different. It meant that I would turn down jobs and do I need to spell it out: no income ! In exchange I would get to be the boss or is it the slave of my own time.

“We all know that a happy wife is a happy life,” Camp stated, staring morosely into his empty glass. He’s been recently divorced and doesn’t like to talk about relationships. “So what do you say if somebody asks you what you do with all your free time?”

“I’ve already thought about this,” I said, I have my standard answers for inquiries into my work status. First of all I’m always busy. ‘The days are just packed’, will be my standard answer and ‘work is overrated.’ To the serious questioner I’ll explain our life style choice with the simple facts.”

“How dare you have fun while the rest of us grind out a living.” Campbell said. “Congratulations.”

Here is my stay-at-home-motto: Plan nothing long term, deal with immediate concerns, make sure the bathrooms are clean, don’t mix the whites with the colors in the wash, make priority lists and try not to fall off the couch during the afternoon nap.

A large part of my routine is shopping and cooking. It turns out that I enjoy both. “I get to meet all the house wives at the store and I’ve received lots of helpful tips from old pros at the game. Not just about groceries or food but also some interesting stock and investment tips.”

“Here is my tip,” Camp said, pointing an accusing finger at me. “Don’t ever – and I mean never – act on a stock tip you receive in the lineup at the grocery store!”

That was yesterday, Thirsty Thursday, which makes today Friday. Since my existential status has changed I now have to watch which day of the week it is. I love being retired.