Monday, 22 March 2021


Spring 2021

It’s that dicey time of year

Ice chippers and shears

Snow shovels and rakes

Oh, for goodness sakes

Saint Patrick’s is forgotten

Guinness and the misbegotten

Disgusting sights unseen

Amateurs and vomit green 

Steve Miller or Marvin Gaye

Rhyming all the way

Honey, the natural fact is

Springtime is for taxes

Time to ghost Netflix

Get outside, pick up sticks

Scrape away the mange

Help the lawn change

Replant my Maoi head

In the front garden bed

Re-stain rear stoop stairs

Worn planks black as bears

Hoping soon to book a jab

Some immunity would be fab

A simple spring unmasked

Isn’t all that much to ask

A raucous night with friends

Just to hear their stories again

Like elation at a rock ‘n’ roll show

Look at that guy, go, cat, go

I know the light must fade

Cold cuts of winter’s blade

Everything happens so fast

I hope this spring will last                  

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of really bad verse since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did will be published before summer’s gone. Sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, use that thingy on the right. 

Tuesday, 16 March 2021


ACME Corp. Sues Wile E. Coyote, Warner Bros

Times are tough in Alberta, but they needn’t be so fucking embarrassing.

I’m no MENSA candidate, but when I watch a short or feature length cartoon, I figure out pretty quickly that what’s on screen isn’t real. The tell is usually talking animals who routinely defy the laws of physics. Other folks are equally as clever as me: no Creationist has ever tried to convince me that The Flintstones is an accurate depiction of life on Earth as it was 5000 years ago; Raquel Welch in 10,000 B.C. doesn’t even rate (Ringo was only the second-best caveman bone beater).

Every week I speak with my older sister who lives in Montreal. Yesterday evening, she asked me, “What the fuck is going on in Alberta!? The province used to be such a beacon (in Canada).” Where to start? Why not with last Friday’s latest, and possibly ultimate, cringe? The province’s United Conservative Party (UCP) government will struggle to top itself on this one (but I live in hopeful despair).

Since its electoral victory in 2019, the UCP has exhibited a disturbing propensity to smudge the line between government business and party business. I suspect its political model is the modern Republican Party (GOP) of the United States. Down south, for instance, gerrymandered districts with absurdly strict voting protocols are not intended to preserve the democratic integrity of the republic so much as entrench the Grand Old Party.

Most Canadians are aware that Alberta is broke, busted. Alberta Health Services employees will be laid off during a global pandemic. Education cuts suggest a cohort of morons in the near future. When the UCP was on the stump, its big tent, clown truck platform merely consisted of magic bullets for Alberta’s out-dated, mostly single resource economy: two long-disputed and long-delayed pipelines, one north-south and one east-west, would change everything. Blam! Back to black, good times rolling like upended barrels of bitumen. Once in power the party immediately created the publicly funded Canadian Energy Centre (CEC) to promote its big lie. Contemptuous Albertans refer to the agency as the “war room.” 

Mercifully, most Canadians have never heard of the CEC. Then again, most Canadians don’t identify as foreign-funded shadowy forces, leftist greens bent on destroying Alberta’s economy. The CEC ain’t no think tank. The CEC Friday denounced a Netflix cartoon movie about a family of sasquatches whose idyllic domain is threatened by the incursion of Big Oil into a fantasy land very distant from the tar sands and a prairie prickled with orphan wells. But the plot’s premise fucking rankled a certain petty party. Children are so impressionable and at risk of brainwashing! The new Stepford brood in their Baby Gap brownshirts must be raised to worship the old ways, oil and gas. Economic diversification and forward thinking are strictly verboten.

In other news, the ACME Anvil Company, a subsidiary of ACME Corporation, has filed separate suits against the coyote and the roadrunner because their shorts cast its product in a poor light.

The UPC is the ruling party that seeks to rewrite Alberta’s elementary and secondary curricula in its own ideological image. This is the party that is allowing coal mining leases in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. This is the party that has contemplated privatizing or closing scores of provincial parks. This is the party that has padlocked a Government of Alberta library because, well, who the fuck needs access to academic journals, papers, studies and like resources if they’re crafting public policy and enacting laws? Open doors at that facility cost Albertans $1.2-million per year.

The CEC did not exist prior to the UCP’s ascension to power in 2019. The UPC “war room” is not subject to independent oversight. Its annual taxpayer-funded budget is $30-million.      

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of Now What? since 2013. Special thanks to my friend Tim. My novella Of Course You Did is coming in 2021. Sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, use that thingy on the right.


Sunday, 14 March 2021


Who I’ve Been

Last week marks one imprecise calendar year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared covid-19 a global scourge. My mental department of personal pandemic statistics has since racked up some curious numbers.

My baseline for sedentary activity in the days of yore over the course of 12 months was fairly basic and was easily broken down into monthly segments. Saturdays at the Crooked 9 are what Ann calls “wake up smart” days. Together we complete the Saturday and Sunday New York Times crossword puzzles in the weekend edition of the Edmonton Journal, eight grids. This blog averages four fresh posts per month. I read two, but not quite three, books every month; the value of the fraction is subject to the work: glide or grind?

I still do all that, but things have changed. The most alarming indicator is my 500 iPad Klondike solitaire victories. I estimate I win one of every 10 hands and that each game takes about a minute to play. That adds up to two working weeks’ worth of my time, a little over 80 hours. Dear me, it seemed like just four or five minutes here and there.

Years ago, when every middle class home housed a folding bridge table, my older sister taught me how to amuse myself with Klondike. I’ve never needed a refresh of the game’s simple rules, and that’s something because the other night as I lay in bed, I tried to remember how to do long division. That arithmetic is gone. I don’t play other card games as any requirement beyond descending sequential numbers alternating suit colours is beyond me.

When Canada’s television landscape was transformed by the introduction of dedicated cable channels the competing sports networks were starved for daytime content. Subscribers were subjected to repeated episodes of Poker Stars - a show I’ve always thought begged a Klondike solitaire parody.

Imagine a tiny amphitheatre, a rapt audience in tiers, casino signs in the background. There’s a green poker table, a dealer wearing a vest and a bowtie stands behind it. The Klondike player makes her entrance; she’s wearing wraparound sunglasses and a costume that has become her trademark in high stakes solitaire circles. The gag lies in the hushed and reverent commentary of the announcer: “And the seven columns have been dealt, the last card face up on the baize in the scrutiny of the television spotlights. There’s a move, and she sees it, a black five onto a red six revealing the two of spades. Oh, oh so close to the ace and the start of her first discard pile. She’s stymied now and she’ll have to go to the dealer’s deck and hope for a friendly turn of the third card. Of course, bad luck comes in threes, as the saying goes. The crowd looks on anxiously.”

My other mostly solitary activity involves jigsaw puzzles. I’ve just about completed four of them – Ann usually swoops in with 50 pieces left to place to take them home and then bask in the glory of completion. Our first two puzzles reignited memories of our 2019 trip to England. We had a flat a block off the Tottenham Court Road and Oyster cards. If we weren’t walking, we were riding the Tube. A puzzle of the London Underground route map, an astounding work of graphic design largely unchanged since its conception in the 1930s, took us on a virtual holiday during the initial covid lockdown. And so did our second one, the cover of Abbey Road; we’d spent a morning hanging around Abbey Road Studios and the crosswalk.

The easiest puzzle was a Ravensburger collage of music-related memorabilia. Its pieces were slightly larger than those to which we were accustomed. I was struck by their finishes. The colours on each one arrayed on the dining room table were unaffected by the nature of the light in the room, natural or electric. The bastard to date has been a 20”x20” reproduction of the sleeve of It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll. The painting by Belgian artist Guy Peellaert depicts the Stones on the steps of a Greco-Roman temple surrounded by worshipful vestal virgins. It might be my favourite album cover ever; it was released during those days when I played a record over and over and over and over whilst staring at its packaging. A distant ominous band of black and green sky aside, the colour palette is all in the same spectrum: red, orange and yellow. And every virgin resembles her twin.

Me, I’m waiting so patiently, lying on the floor, I’m just trying to do this jigsaw puzzle before it rains anymore.

Like the side effects of a vaccine, the worst is yet to come but in a good way: Exile on Main St., the greatest rock and roll album ever waxed, four sloppy sides of rock, blues, country and gospel, ersatz Americana. Its cover is fitting, a black and white photograph of a collage of freak show handbills and photographs snapped by American photographer Robert Frank. Five hundred tiny, grey-scale pieces which will all turn black on the dining room table in certain lights.

As much as I love the album, I’m not looking forward to assembling a bastarding bastard puzzle of this louche masterpiece. But it’s too late to stop now. Ann and I, as with most people, have come this far relatively unscathed, consequently, slacking off or letting up at this point in time seems senseless. There’s a light ahead shinning, but in the meantime, another jigsaw. And Ann will drift past the dining room table and pause to click together the snapshot of the suspended and handcuffed escape artist. Afterward, I’ll box up the puzzle. I just may keep that Klondike app on my iPad though; I wouldn’t mind killing some time in an airport departure lounge.  

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of anxiety and cracking up since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is coming in 2021. Sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, use that thingy on the right.

Sunday, 7 March 2021


35-millimetre Dreams

One of my three recurring dreams decided to rerun itself last night. I’ve made an effort through the years to remember my dreams, attempting to train my mind to take sloppy notes. From time to time my nocturnal transmissions have suggested solutions to woke dilemmas. More often than not they just take me on a wild ride. Once in a while I scale the REM wall and become aware I’m inside my dream, that I am living a dream.

My favourite recurring dream involves flight. Taking off is always tricky because there are usually high tension wires in my path and I have to learn to duck, dive and swoop in a hurry. Aloft, I remind myself not to look down; I must concentrate on what lies ahead in my field of vision. My second recurring dream revolves around work. It’s a hassle to walk through the North Saskatchewan River’s valley to the Edmonton International Airport to be on time for a five-hour evening shift at the A&P grocery store on Montreal’s rue Ste-Catherine. I don’t know why the principals to the two Alberta ad agencies I worked for keep putting me on the schedule; I told everybody I was done. Fortunately, I’ve been savvy enough to keep a clean red A&P apron hanging in the Crooked 9’s kitchen pantry.

My third dream concerns higher education. I’m a week or two away from graduation, receiving my degree. But there are a couple of hitches, complications. I don’t know where I live and I’m a few credits short. Mom and Dad will be very upset with me even though I’ve paid my own way, and they haven’t seen nor spoken to one another in decades. Buckle up or hang on to your chair’s armrests, I’m going to careen, carom and bounce you through my night sweats, my midnight funhouse.

I have skipped a course for an entire semester. I’m unclear about a few crucial details. I don’t know if I’m the age I am now or if I’m the age I was when I attended university. I must write an essay. My paper is already weeks late because I don’t know the topic. If the subject is literature, the syllabus is vague; if it’s high school hangover French or Religion, oh God, they’ll take some glib finessing. I can make it all up although I’ll have to pull an all-nighter to meet the extended deadline but I don’t know where my desk and Smith-Corona typewriter are.

I’m not homeless but I don’t know my address. In real life I’d signed leases for four different apartments in Montreal. I rented a high-rise unit in Edmonton and a two-bedroom walk-up in Calgary. My dream apartment has a dozen rooms, and somehow my childhood and teenage bedrooms are just down the hall, but mind the slope. These crooked corridors constitute a maze and I’m hopelessly turned around. I can’t find my desk; it’s not in a kitchen. 

My unwritten paper is only worth half my grade. Oh, man, I realize that I have to sit for the course’s formal exam in the morning too. But, but, where? I’ve got four campuses to choose from, and it would help if I knew the room number. Dawson, my CEGEP (junior college in Quebec), had two main campuses when I was a student there. One was on rue Viger, steps away from Old Montreal. The other was in Lower Westmount, on Selby Street, south of the train tracks, and shaded by the strange shadows cast by the boiled spaghetti network of the nearby elevated expressway. Selby was a converted pharmaceutical factory and weirdly proximate to a cigarette factory which still emitted the stench of wet butts in a wet ashtray in warm weather. 

Concordia, Montreal’s university for students not quite bright enough to be accepted at McGill, and therefore my alma mater, remains equally divided to this day. The Loyola campus is located in Montreal’s west end. My Jesuit high school is also situated on its grounds; I know its classrooms, their paint colours, their right-handed desks. Concordia’s downtown campus, Sir George Williams, is a Brutalist cube on de Maisonneuve near the Guy Metro station. Satellite buildings prickle the neighbouring inner-city streets.

I am beyond fucked. But maybe I can fudge my resume? Suggest I’ve graduated with a degree while I make up the missing course at night school. Phantom human resources departments and my parents need never know. But in that nanosecond before my dream head detonates, the spirit of the night shoots right through me: I’ve graduated high school, college and university; my Concordia diploma dates from 1982. I’ve been there; I’ve done all that; I don’t even apply for jobs anymore.

It’s always a relief to emerge from the depths. I don’t have the bends, but my hair and t-shirt are damp. Another narrow escape, whew! Awake now in the dark sometime between the witching hour and the dawn, my bladder issues a urination proclamation. As I’ll soon be vertical, a shuffle into the kitchen to graze on leftovers or make a sandwich seems like a good idea. I’ll enjoy a snack before the second feature.                    

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of anxiety and cracking up since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is coming in 2021. Sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, use that thingy on the right.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021


Saturday Night at the Movies?

Saturday’s Globe and Mail included the newspaper’s monthly Report on Business magazine. Inside was one of those olio articles: heavy on graphics and light on my attention span; charts and little boxes of quotes; lots of buzzwords surrounding teams and pivoting. Needless to say, these past 12 infected months have tasked Canada’s corporate leaders.

I did reread the remarks of Cineplex movie theatre chain CEO Ellis Jacob. I’ve retyped them in full: “Everybody is concerned about streaming versus theatrical. The studios want theatrical releases; the directors do; the stars do. And maybe after X number of days, movies go to video-on-demand, where you pay 30 bucks to watch it at home. That doesn’t get me concerned, because it’s not free, and people still want to get out of the house. The challenge is having a movie in theatres and streaming at the same time. We’ve been in the business for 100 years. We took our hits with VCRs and DVDs. But as long as the content is there, our guests will come back.”

Oh, those halcyon days of wine and roses, of black and white televisions with tinfoiled rabbit ears in homes and Cinemascope Technicolor majesty unreeling in theatres for weeks or even months on end! Things have changed. There is a compelling argument to be made that long-form television series have superseded the novel as the world’s most popular storytelling device. Film isn’t even in the conversation.

Cineplex has previously tried to distance itself from Hollywood glamour. Its Rec Rooms, separate from its cinemas, are geared toward gamers, gourmands and guzzlers. There’s not a frame of celluloid in sight in their flashy spaces because Hollywood is tired. Hollywood has no imagination. Hollywood has no imagination II. And Mr. Jacob’s broken business model is predicated on content.

Streams at the Crooked 9 have featured productions from Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Sweden, Spain, England, France and Canada. There’s no going back to Hollywood. The supply chain has been ruptured. My world has opened up, some kind of personal boffo, free box office, blockbuster explosion without the special effects.

Content. I would be very content to see just two films as a guest in a Cineplex venue in 2021. Neither of them are products of a California factory. The first is a remake, or re-cutting of a documentary. The second reaffirms my escapist life as I’ve always known it and could never imagine otherwise.

Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s Let It Be is now out of circulation. There was a time when it was a midnight repertory cinema staple. Like Gimme Shelter (the song on the Stones record sleeve is spelled “Gimmie”) which was filmed around the same time, Let It Be is a compelling and hypnotic downer. And yet, those sessions, booked during the Beatles’ snippy nadir, yielded three of my favourite Beatles songs: “Two of Us,” “I’ve Got a Feeling,” and “Get Back.” New Zealand director Peter Jackson is now editing The Beatles: Get Back, a Let It Be revisit utilizing more than 50 hours of previously unseen footage captured by Lindsay-Hogg. Jackson’s film will probably be released in September. I sense some well meaning revisionism en route, an attempt to alleviate some of the mythic heaviness weighing over the group’s dissolution. I’m reminded somewhat of British director Julien Temple’s twin films about the Sex Pistols: The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle and The Filth and the Fury; the same story told from two points of view.

Well, hello, Mister Bond. Celluloid 007 is the same as the Rolling Stones to me: that is I have no memories of my life without him in it. Ian Fleming’s novels were something of a salve for Great Britain. The kingdom by the sea was reeling from its pyrrhic Second World War victory, the ceding of the Raj and the Suez Crisis. The Cold War was a kettle best left off the cooker. Literary Bond suggested Great Britain was still a force in global affairs. The movies were something else again. Prior to the democratization of air travel, Bond lived every well respected middle class man’s fantasy. Who wouldn’t want to circumnavigate the globe while dressed to kill, pausing only to drink, smoke, gamble, and have sex? And so, Mister Jacob, I would be delighted to be your guest should you be able to screen No Time to Die sometime this year.

I’ve been writing about a retake on a rock documentary originally released in 1970 and film franchise begun in 1962. I am a retiree; I’ve got some time and cash to spare, but I know Mister Jacob isn’t terribly interested in my demographic even though he and I likely spring from the same boomer cohort. These days, I’d be content to watch both those films at home. A year without Cineplex has certainly broken the habits of some people, perhaps many younger than me. I suspect too that the reboot content Mister Jacob is relying on - beyond the Beatles and Bond - is already as tired as his quaint facilities. The Cineplex CEO dreams in Technicolor.      

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of film buffery since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is coming in 2021. Sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, use that thingy on the right.