Have you put a few things down on a list
of what you would like to do before you pass away?
Fly a plane?
Scuba dive the Great Coral Reef?
Dance with the Stars on TV?
Dine at the world’s finest restaurant, Noma, in Copenhagen?
Travel to Moscow? Singapore? Bali?
Dine at the White House?
Drink champagne with Angela Merkel? Star in a movie?
What’s on your list?
Write me your top three Bucket List items.
At the end of March, I will post a summary of the top ten Bucket List items from our fellow members at PROBUS Pickering.
Write your TOP THREE bucket list items in a list form below: (All replies will remain anonymous)
A hilarious, crazy, disjointed literary work! Terry Fallis, you don’t need to feel threatened but at the outset of this book, I would have written that you were in deep trouble. Not so.
Jonasson starts off strong. His prime character is a gem of charisma, affability, personability and attraction. You cannot help but like Allan Karlson, the 100 year old man. He calls a spade a spade, tells it like it is and has no use for politics and windbags. However, he likes a good drink, more often than anyone would approve of for a centenarian. Vodka is his drink of choice, but in a pinch he will have whatever is at hand, colourfully decorated with a tiny, paper parasol, or tinted some mirky colour to give it more attractability.
Our 100 year old man, to avoid his centenarian birthday celebration at the seniors’ home in which he resides, climbs out the ground floor window, initiating a never ending list of unusual events and experiences. These never ending events range from the sublime and mundane to the hilarious and improbable, but each one makes for an increasingly unbelievable situation. Our hero interacts with a slew of past world leaders, Stalin, Truman, Mao Tse Tung, Nixon, DeGaulle, Franco, and more. Each meeting involves dining and the inescapable imbibing of some alcoholic spirit. Tequila with Truman, vodka with Stalin and Beria, banana coloured liquer with the Thai heavy weights, the story goes on and on with hilarious anecdotes presented as possibly real life situations.
The GOOD, the BAD, the UGLY
The book starts off with as a humorous narrative of a centenarian escaping from his seniors’ residence on his 100th birthday to avoid the tediousness of interacting with municipal officials, old folks home big wigs, and all of that ilk. Karlson simply wants a day of calm, relaxation to enjoy his own reminiscing. It doesn’t happen and his hilarious adventures begin with his escape. Entertaining reading.
Eventually the story after hitting some entertaining detours, becomes repetitive and predictable. This is disappointing not just because the repetition and predictability become boring but because the reader now feels like the author’s literary control has been dissipated and dissolved. The reader is almost the director of what will take place in their capability of predicting what will occur next. So sad.
Finally, the story reaches its nadir by repeating the same pattern ad nauseam: have a totally unexpected meeting a world leader, have dinner and drinks, settle a political issue simply, all too easily and end the meeting on a note of empathetic positives; repeat, then repeat again until the reader wants to throttle the writer for nauseating boredom.
Jonasson continuously redeems himself from total reader rejection by entertaining descriptions of near plausible events. Just when a reader readies themselves to toss the book aside, Jonasson introduces a new event, a new situation which titillates the reader’s curiousity, sparks their interest and the reader goes on. At times the events descriptions are too long, unduly repetitive, and unnecessarily overly descriptive.
Be all the above as it may, the book is a real story of fluff written with wit and creativity, enough that no reader can say the book is no good. It is simply different and at more times than not, creatively funny.
I am happy to have read it.
The Book Thief
The holocaust and the plight of the Jews is nearing cliché status because of its ubiquitous use. The atrocities of WWII are no less diminished by being written about, filmed, and stage produced, ad nauseam. In fact, we may be inadvertently rekindling the flames of racism and bigotry through publicity, almost like promotion.
Though I may sound as if I am tired of reading about it, that is not quite true. Yes, the stories are a never ending source of amazement and surprise; the crimes committed are beyond believability; the depravities absolutely incomprehensible. But the cruelty of man for man is a never ending saga of incredibility: Stalin’s massacring of more than 20 million Russians, Japanese war atrocities against the Chinese, Cambodia’s Pol Pot’s incredible slaughter, the murder of Tutus and Hutus in Rwanda, the mass murders in Kosovo. Will they ever stop? No, these kind of atrocities will happen again and again and again because “they or he walks among us,” psychotic misfits who can never be spotted before they commit their mayhem, or the devil incarnate, if you believe in such an evil force.
The Book Thief takes place in Nazi Germany in a small village near Munich. Death has never been busier as he harvests his souls everywhere. Liesel picks up a book at her brother’s burial, The Gravediggers’ Handbook, and it becomes the overture to her becoming a book thief, stealing books at Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library and other places. When Liesel’s family hide a Jew for number of years in the basement of the family home, her world opens up and closes down.
It is an unusual story, brilliantly written. The literary brilliance is demonstrated in countless, unexpected ways.
Zusak eschews the use of paragraphs, the writing style which is the norm. His ‘paragraphs’ may be an unsentenced phrase, a ‘bold lettered’ quote, a terse collection of lines, a spray of words. Its total and ongoing inventiveness and creativity sparkle like the gems on a Faberge tiara or a Swarovski piece.
His vocabulary amazes and mesmerizes, the words unexpected, the phrasing oblique. His phrasing at direct right angles to what a reader expects or anticipates.
It may be somewhat re-assuring to read regular people using of native languaged words and “terms of endearment,” not original, but German words for feces, for anus, repeatedly used by the book’s characters when addressing others is almost comforting in its repetition.
Zusak jars the reader by inserting bolded text, describing events, portraying characters, at first glance seemingly out of place but as you read on, serving as conclusion to what preceded or introduction to what follows. Totally jolting.
Death is personified as a narrator and a character in the plot. He writes about himself and his gruesome task of collecting souls of the dead as if inviting the reader’s empathy, understanding or pity; he is only doing his job, as were the Nazi soldiers, the SS commanders, the Gestapo commandants. Pity and empathy are never attained; we all fear death in personal ways, but no reader will empathize with the carrier of the black scythe who chops the leg’s of life from every one of us.
A taste of Zusak…
“There was once a strange, small man. He decided three important details about his life:
He would part his hair from the opposite side to everyone else.
He would make himself a small, strange mustache.
He would one day rule the world.
The young man wandered around for quite some time, thinking, planning, and figuring out exactly how to make the world his. Then one day, out of nowhere, it struck him the perfect plan. He’d seen a mother walking with her child. At one point, she admonished the small boy, until finally, he began to cry. Within a few minutes, she spoke very softly to him, after which he was soothed and even smiled.
The young man rushed to the woman and embrace her. “Words! He grinned.
But there was no reply. He was already gone.”
Out of context, the text about Hitler does not mesmerize as it does over five pages in the book. It is a captivating example of literary mesmerization.
Location for each training session:
VIVA RESIDENCES, central Pickering
GROUP A – Apr. 7 Group OPEN
GROUP B – Apr. 14 Room for ONE
Simmons Mary Lou
GROUP C – DATE to be determined
Individual in Group C will be moved up into Group A or Group B, should such an opportunity arise. Otherwise, we are looking to create an additional workshop sometime in May subject to sufficient registrants (20).
The Shrimp Cocktail Cafe, Oshawa
OK…perhaps any restaurant should be allowed an off night. I don’t think so. Given that dinner for two with a couple glasses of wine can nudge the $200 mark with tip, I do not think that cost permits much deviation from delivering proper bang for the buck!
Recently, my wife chose to dine out on a Thursday night. We hankered for seafood and any restaurant named “Shrimp Cocktail Cafe” would likely be able to land a good dinner catch from the sea. How wrong I was.
Without being niggling in my comments, I can say four things were deserving of the quality or acceptability label: Curtis, the manager; our server in attitude and personability, the wine, an Australian chardonnay, and the complimentary dessert of creme brule, complimentary because of our requested criticism of everything else.
First, the ambiance. A revisit to the stereotypical dining room of the 1950’s and 60’s, dark, black, ominous rather than inviting. However, one can bow their heads toward their entree and disregard the surroundings. I did.
Next, ordering a variety of items tests the mettle of the kitchen staff. Here, they tripped and fell, partly because of professional failure, partly because food cost superceded food quality. This means the following: my wife had the entree and I had a number of appetizers, eschewing an entree for the chance to taste many things.
Oysters on the half shell: presentation acceptable; quality absolutely unacceptable. Oysters should be meaty, intact, and have a little bite to them. They should not be mushy, finger tip sized extrusions of mushy seafood. These were terrible. I did not return the dish as I thought one should not start off a dinner with a rejection. Like a first date, you overlook an initial faux pas. How wrong I was.
My next appetizer, bacon wrapped scallops: presentation, acceptable, quality totally unacceptable. The line cooks poor training was clearly demonstrated here. In ensuring that the bacon was fully cooked, the scallops were done like the front tires of my car on a sweltering hot summer’s day. The mustard honey sauce accompanying the scallops, OK.
Next up, mussels in garlic wine sauce: presentation, acceptable, quality passable. Even a cook in training can prepare this dish to acceptable standards. The mussels opening automatically when done almost shout their readiness to you. The sauce, well there is a thin line when dealing with garlic and wine sauces. You need to produce flavour without overwhelming. The chef/line cooks at this restaurant need more pactice and should do more tasting of their own food preparations.
My wife’s entree of rainbow trout: presentation, failed, quality, passable. There is absolutely no excuse for presenting something burned as part of the plate decoration. Can you believe this, a thin slice of lemon, the decorative topping, burnt black. So burned it was misidentified as being fried tomato. No excuse for letting that leave the kitchen. Professional ineptness on the part of the chef responsible for the food preparation.
The manager, Curtis, requested feedback a number of times. I suppose he felt he was doing some service by the complimentary dessert. Again, at risk of looking a gift horse in the mouth, but food costs trump food quality at this restaurant. Strawberries in whipped cream, but the whipped cream was aerosol whipped not hand whipped. How sad, all for the cost of a few cents.
The bill with tip exceeded $170…the bang for the buck never reached the half way mark of that cost.
Some brief background: my father was a professional chef, award winner numerous times, provincially and nationally in the 1950’s and 60’s. I have worked in the restaurant business for more than 20 years throughout my lifetime. I cook at home and do a better job of it than this restaurant. As my partner says, there is no excuse for what they served. They have the opportunity of doing the same dish numerous times. I cook certain things very infrequently but I could do a better job of preparing what we had for dinner there. In fact, I do and it is the chief reason why we restrict our dining out for the most part to when we are travelling.
Wanda, the proprietor/manager of The Shrimp Cocktail Cafe, replied to my review:
Hi Richard, I read your reveiw.(sic) I am not sure what happened with your meals last evening but I assure you I will investigate. I have been in the business for more than 30 years with almost 25 of them at Shrimp Cocktail. I started as a waitress and now own the restaurant. I take my business very seriously and Guest experience is priority one for me. I am very hands on and check quality of product when it comes through my door. I spare no expense on the food I bring in. My head Chef is papered and I don’t get negative reviews on the product he sends out. As I said I’m not sure what happened with your meals last night but I would like for you to give us, me a chance to make this right. My concern is not how many people will see your review but that you had to write a review like that at all. I hope to hear from you. Thank you Wanda
It is gratifying to see a restaurant following up on a critical comment. As I have said earlier, a restaurant having an “off dish” is possible: apprentice cooks train, restaurants can be overwhelmingly busy. My view is to always give a restaurant a chance to redeem itself and make amends and not to dismiss the establishment totally based on one visit. (This was my second, my first was a lunch but I don’t remember it.) I am a bit uncomfortable in following this policy completely in this instance because I specifically chose multiple appetizers to gauge the mettle of the establishment. It failed, not once but multiple times. I am not urging anyone to pass on dining at this restaurant. I am simply writing about my experience and adding “Caveat emptor.” In my books, this dish is done !
When my family and realized that our Golden Labrador, Gypsy, was going to have puppies, we were excited. After all, these would be the first puppies born on our property in well over ten years. But at the same time, a voice in my head said, “Brace yourself.”
As cute as puppies were, they were a lot of work, and the circumstances were far from ideal. To begin with, Gypsy was around ten years old when a certain white German Shepherd came to visit and she never had been known as the “sharpest tool in the shed.” My parents knew from experience that Labradors had large litters at puppies. And given Gypsy’s age and the risk of the birthing process. We had no doubt we would be doing more than our fair share of raising the little darlings until they were old enough to place in good homes. We needed help, but where is a nanny when you need one? Enter the doggy-nanny!
Her name was actually Freebie. She was a German Shepherd that a veterinarian had given us when our beloved Collie had passed away, hence the name. I have to admit that when our parents told us that they were acquiring a German Shepherd, I was more than a little timid. Until then the only German Shepherds I had heard of were military dogs like Rin Tin Tin or K-9s working for the police department. Freebie would make a good guard dog, the general of the yard, but would she act like a pet too?
However, Freebie turned my world around. The same dog who ripped the back pocket off an intruder’s jeans was the one who came to lick my face when I fell down rollerblading in the driveway. She dealt death by whiplash to every snake that slathered into our yard and still made time to play with every pear that fell from the tree. And when it came time for Gypsy to give birth, Freebie was more ready than the human. In fact, she was the one that let us know the puppies had arrived.
When I got up one morning, Mom said, “Melissa, don’t go outside
“Gypsy had her puppies last night and Freebie bought me one of the ones that didn’t make it. Melissa, she was so gentle. She carried the puppy to me in her mouth and laid it at my feet. There isn’t one tooth mark on its body”
Oh my gosh!”
“I know. She then led me to two more of them lying in the yard. Let me check on Gypsy first and make sure there are no more dead puppies outside, end then you can come see them”
Dogs will naturally separate the live puppies from the dead ones, and in large litters, these deaths are quite common. But that a dog who is not the mother would be shaken by these deaths was something we did not expect. And after she had shown Mom where each dead puppy was, Freebie set to work with the seven survivors.
For us humans, puppy duty consisted of building o good pen to protect the mother and her little ones. Freebie may not have helped with that part of the work, but she made sure that pen was an extension of her yard. The puppies were not intruders, they were her nieces and nephews, and she was going to make sure that no snakes, raccoons, opossums, coyotes, or restless neighborhood boys would give them trouble. When they whined, she was at their sides. When they scrambled over the walls of the pen, she picked them up gently by the scruff of their necks and plopped them back Inside. If one made a jail break, she was hot on its trail. And when my dad let them outside the pen to play, she made sure none slipped into the street. Except for the runt, which my sister had to feed with a bottle, there was hardly any work left for us to do.
However, the best pert was mealtime, even with the poor little runt! Freebie had been neglected before the veterinarian had found her, so she really loved food. When Dad went to the food container, the guard dog turned into a little puppy herself and started yipping. Mom and Dad said she was singing far her supper Well, when it was time for her meal, Freebie figured that the puppies needed to learn to sing too. She not only started the chorus, but she went from puppy to puppy to make sure they did their part before she went to her own bowl. I have no doubt the neighbors could have set their watches by Freebie and Gypsy s little band.
It did not take long before the puppies were grown, and all but two found homes, but still every night when Dad came outside, Freebie ran to Gypsy, then to each puppy, and finally to her bowl. Freebie also taught them how to defend their yard and even how to play what I like to call “shake a snake.” But one day, we learned that Freebie had come down with congestive heart failure, and in a few weeks, she quietly passed away. That was the first time in seven years that mealtime was silent, and these puppies never sang for their supper again as long as they lived.
In the Cajun culture in which I was raised, a “nanny’ is not an au pair. It is the name we call our godmothers, because they are deeply involved in our lives. That is precisely what Freebie was to those puppies and to our house. Personally, if I am ever blessed with a German Shepherd of my own, I hope it too keeps away the bad snakes but still finds time to lick away my tears and sing for its supper!
Due to weather and health the Mah Jong Club members have not met in January. The convenor has some surgery but is near back to top form again.
Other members suffered winter flu symptoms but they too are all back up and running, ready to resume play.
Everyone is hoping for a much better February so we can resume our games.
MAH JONG games resume again on MON, Feb. 9th at Chartwell.
See you there!
Ph: 289 660 3330
Brock & Kingston Rd., Pickering
MONDAY, MAY 11, 2015
12 noon – 3:00 pm
At our PROBUS Garden Club get together in November we planted bulbs for enjoying indoors during the cold and snowy winter months.
Aren’t the results marvellous…especially after this early February hit of snow!
Garden Club convenor