Brian

For those of you who may not have heard, Brian passed away unexpectedly August 19th.  He was 74.

We all knew Brian as a kind, generous, and spirited person and many will remember him for his unique sense of humour.   Even more may remember him for his nearly perfect hair.

He was an amazing husband, father, grandfather, and true friend to all who knew him.

It’s impossible to sum up a person’s life in a few paragraphs but there are a few things we know for sure.  He loved his family…and they loved him.  He loved golf…and as many friends can attest, was no slouch.  And, he was creative…something he only re-discovered in the winter of his life, first with stone carvings and sketches, but more recently, the written word.

Which puts us in the proper context.

A couple of years ago Brian wrote a blog post titled “Heaven”, where he delves into what he thought or hoped Heaven might look like.  Bizarre, maybe, but somehow it seems appropriate to share.

“I’m not in a hurry to get to Heaven, and I cannot decide if I want to get there gradually or quickly. When the time comes, and it IS coming, and given the choice, maybe quicker is better, as in just having played 18 holes of golf, shooting my age, followed by a two-hour de-brief, then ramming my convertible into a telephone pole. Done.”

Obviously, he had more sense than to waste a perfectly good Lexus by smashing it to bits, even as a last act, but there is comfort to be found in this post if you care to read on, you can find it here.

The family would like to thank everyone for their kindness and support.

Given the current conditions of the pandemic and the wishes of the family, there will not be a service.

The Decathlon

Canadians should be justifiably proud of Damian Warner, who struck gold at the Tokyo Olympics, winning the decathlon with a total of 9,018 points. Should he choose, he can lay claim as “the world’s greatest athlete,” about which I will have a few words a little later in this “blogue” posting. The decathlon is truly a measure of complete athleticism, with events that require speed, agility, strength and endurance — all held over just 48 hours. The decathlon pits athlete against athlete, albeit with a different scoring system. Points are awarded for levels of attainment, rather than for placement. For example, 1000 points would be awarded for a time of 10.395 seconds in the 100 metre sprint, while 10.827 seconds would get you 900 points, and the points scale slides down from there. Thus there are potentially 10,000 points that may be awarded for completing all ten events of the decathlon, which include the 100 metre sprint, 400 metres, 110 metre hurdles, 1500 metre run, long jump, high jump, shot put, pole vault, javelin throw, and discus throw.

No one will achieve the 10,000 point plateau, but 9,000 is attainable, although there are but 4 members of the “9,000” club, with Damian Warner the newest member and the only man to surpass 9,000 points during Olympic competition. The world record holder, with 9,128 points is Kevin Mayer of France, who finished second to Warner in Tokyo. Only Ashton Eaton of the US and Roman Šebrle of the Czech Republic have scored more than 9,000 points in official competitions. And only Ashton Eaton (in London and Rio), Daley Thompson, a Brit (won gold in 1980 and 1984) and  American Bob Mathias, who triumphed in 1948 (London) and 1952 (Helsinki) are the only two time Olympic decathlon champions. Mathias was just 17 in London, and went on to Stanford University, where he played football, later joined the Marine Corps where he served as an officer, made his way into acting, and finally entered politics as a California congressman. Look up “over-achievement” in the dictionary and you will likely find “Mathias.”

Bruce Jenner

Gold medalist at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Bruce set a points record that stood until 2000. Bruce has transformed to Caitlyn Jenner, and just this year she stated her intention to run for Governor of the state of California. Caitlyn appears on the left, Bruce in 1976 on the right.

 

Jim Thorpe

James Francis Thorpe was the first Native American to win gold for the United States at the Olympics. He won two gold medals in fact, for the pentathlon (the classic pentathlon at the time included the long jump, discus, javelin, 200 metre and 1500 metre races), and the decathlon, both in the 1912 Summer Olympics held in Stockholm. In presenting Thorpe with his medals, King Gustav of Sweden stated, “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world.” Jim Thorpe may well have been the greatest athlete ever, as he went on to play Major League Baseball AND in the National Football League; with some professional basketball also thrown in.

But Thorpe was subsequently stripped of his medals, as it was determined that he had played semi-professional baseball prior to competing in the Olympics. His medals were re-instated posthumously.

Also interesting to relate in these times, is that Jim Thorpe was sent as a young boy to the Haskell Institute, an “Indian Boarding School” in Kansas, far removed from his roots in Oklahoma. In Canada we know these boarding schools as the infamous “Indian Residential Schools.”

Gueritos

While in La Quinta, CA in November 2019 (it seems so long ago), we headed over to Indio with our friends, Dan and Sandy, to have dinner at El Mexicali Café. They introduced us to “Chilis Gueritos Rellenos de Camarón,” a specialty of the café; and gueritos have become a favourite appetizer at home ever since. It is difficult to duplicate the El Mexicali version, but this recipe comes fairly close, especially good with a margarita in hand.

Here is what you need (assuming there are four of you):

• 16 small red, orange and yellow peppers (small peppers may not always be available so 8 larger peppers will suffice)
• a pound of small, hand-peeled shrimp
• 8 ounces of soft goat cheese
• finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves (or dry)
• Old Bay Seasoning
• 2 tablespoons minced garlic
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• 1/4 cup soy sauce


Place the peppers on parchment paper on a sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes, in a 350 degree F oven, until slightly soft. Set aside to cool.

In a skillet, lightly sauté the shrimp in olive oil, stirring in the minced garlic, Old Bay, and cilantro. Remove from heat, cool and add the goat cheese and 2 tablespoons or more of mayonnaise, mixing well. Fill your peppers with the shrimp/cheese/mayo mixture and return to the oven for another 20 minutes, until the peppers get quite soft.

Now comes the interesting part. Mayonnaise and soy sauce are not usually associated with Mexican food, but both help to make the gueritos truly outstanding. Place a dollop of mayo over each pepper, followed by a half teaspoon or so of soy sauce. You can attack the peppers with a knife and fork, or bravely try to pick them up with your fingers. Have a napkin close by …

Gene Hackman

After recently watching “Class Action,” a legal/courtroom drama starring Gene Hackman and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, I decided to do a little research into Mr. Hackman. He is one of my favourite actors, and was at his best in “Class Action,” which pitted the two stars as father and daughter on opposing sides of a legal tort.

Gene Hackman is 91 years of age this year, retired from acting, and living in New Mexico. His retirement is well-deserved, as he has a trophy room that includes two Oscars, (Best Actor for “The French Connection” and Best Supporting Actor for “Unforgiven”), a number of Golden Globe awards and two BAFTA awards. His versatility has always been evident, whether as the cop, “Popeye” Doyle in “The French Connection,” the very evil “Little” Billy Daggett in “Unforgiven,” or comedy turns in “Young Frankenstein” (as a blind monk), and “The Birdcage,” (as a senator compelled to dress in drag; and not a pretty sight).

His screen breakout was “Bonnie and Clyde,” and then there were “Superman” and Superman II (as Lex Luthor), “French Connection II,” “Crimson Tide,” “I Never Sang for My Father,” “The Firm,” “Get Shorty,” “Mississippi Burning,” “No Way Out,” “Hoosiers,” “Absolute Power” and “Runaway Jury” (in which he had this great line, “…the thing of it is, I don’t give a shit. What’s more… I never have“). All of the aforementioned movies are worth your time.

Gene Hackman’s last movie was “Welcome to Mooseport.” Truly a dud; but not the fault of Gene Hackman. The critic, Roger Ebert, in his assessment of the movie, gave Hackman his blessing, writing that, “Hackman could charm the chrome off a trailer hitch.” I have heard that line spun a little differently …

It was prior to retirement that he took up writing, co-authoring three novels, followed since by two solo efforts. His latest effort, “Pursuit,” was published in 2013. A police drama; it is quite good.

Gene Hackman, often described as “a character actor who can lead a movie,” with Danny DeVito, below in “Get Shorty.”

Peter Alliss

Of the four golfing “majors,” the Open Championship is my favourite. The Masters is right behind, but I favour the Open, as it features a rotation of golf’s most historic courses, including The Old Course at St. Andrews, Royal Troon, Muirfield, Carnoustie, and this year, Royal St. George’s. These are links courses, almost guaranteeing wind to be a factor; with wind at the players’ backs for nine holes, and in their faces for the other nine. Or it may be coming across for all 18. Then there are fescue and gorse, and woe is the golfer who strays from the fairway. Bunkers? Rarely punitive on this side of the pond, but often costing a stroke in the old country. Rain? Just adds to the fun. As Peter Alliss said, “One of the good things about rain in Scotland is that most of it ends up as scotch.”

And that brings me to Peter Alliss, remarkably never knighted. “Sir” Peter Alliss has a much better sound to it than does “Sir” Nick Faldo. The Open Championship is missing Peter Alliss this year, Peter having passed away in December of 2020 at the age of 89.

Regarded by many as the “Voice of Golf,” Peter was first an accomplished golfing professional. Over a 17 year period he won 20 pro tournaments, including three British PGA championships, and had five top ten finishes in the Open. He played on eight Ryder Cup teams; one with his father Percy.

He smoothly transitioned to the broadcasting booth and for more than 50 years provided commentary for major professional tournaments around the world. He was known for his fairness and frankness, occasional political incorrectness, and undeniable wit. Here are some of his broadcasting gems:

• “It’s like turning up to hear Pavarotti sing and finding out he has laryngitis,” commenting on Tiger Woods shooting an 81 during the third round of the 2002 Open Championship.

• “The most skilful players, by far, to have played the game were those who played between 1900 and 1930. You’ve only got to look at the tools they had. The balls weren’t round, the courses weren’t in the best condition, and they were going round championship courses, with bunkers that were never raked and before cylindrical mowers came in, and they were shooting 73 or 74 with hickory-shafted clubs. They were geniuses.”

• “Too many people bugger about and it’s pathetic to watch. I mean, how can you possibly take a minute-and-a-half to line up a putt from 18 inches?”

• “Looks a bit like Jurassic Park in there,” commenting on the rough at the 2003 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s. And it looks just like Jurassic Park this year.

• At the 2001 Open at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s, while dropping in at the ABC broadcast booth, and with David Duval taking the lead after the sixth hole of the final round, all Peter had to say was “Well done.” (Often in sports commentary, less is better.) And then followed up with, “Twenty-seven times he’s played in a major championship, still looking for his first victory. But his bank manager’s happy.”

• “The game lends itself to fantasies about our abilities.”

• Commenting on the kind of money coming to young professional golfers, “I’m not too sure that they all appreciate it. My old grandmother would have said, ‘They’ve never had to save up to buy a bicycle.”

• As Rory McIlroy came into view down the fairway in the 2011 Open Championship, Peter had this to say: “Just keep playing nicely, gently, m’boy … keep finding the fairways, keep finding the greens … You can’t force this game … some people think you can … some players think they can … but you can’t … Golf is all about patience … Good old-fashioned word ‘patience’ … ask kids today about ‘patience’ and they pull out their iPhones, whatever they are, and say it don’t [sic] say anything here about ‘patience’ but I can tell you the population of Madagascar … ” (I wonder if there are golf courses in Madagascar?)

• Of Bernard Langer: “There’s a famous series of small books you can buy, like ‘Famous Jewish Cricketers,’ and that sort of thing. I think Langer will have a small book on ‘Shots I Have Hit in Haste.’ It would only be half a page, and it might be blank. I’ve never seen him do anything without giving it 100% concentration.”

• In 2012, Peter was inducted into golf’s Hall of Fame. I quote from his acceptance speech: “So it’s time to – I could waffle on for another four or five hours. I just want to say this: I think of it often because I did leave school early. I was quite bright, but I remember my last report which was sent home. We had a headmistress that my modest school … She was a Mrs.Violet Weymouth, and she was a short Welsh woman. She always had a cigarette dangling out of her mouth and the smoke used to trickle up here, and you could see where the smoke went. There was sort of a brown line up there. But she was — you didn’t mess about with Mrs. Weymouth, I can tell you that … I remember the last report she sent back to my parents, and it went something like this: Peter does have a brain, but he’s rather loathe to use it. His only interests appear to be the game of golf and Violet Pretty, a girl I liked. She never knew about Iris Baker, but they were the two that introduced me to some of the ways of the world, for which I’ll be eternally grateful. And although we were very young, I wish to God we could do it today. And Mrs. Weymouth, if you’re there,” pointing to the heavens, he flipped her off.

To finish, here are some tidbits of information about Peter:

• At birth, he weighed 14 pounds, 11 ounces — then a European record.

• He was born just outside of Berlin, Germany, where his father was the golf professional at the Wannsee Golf Club.

• He opposed the opening up of Muirfield Golf Club to female members.

• Peter and his partner Dave Thomas designed two of the three courses at the Belfry, (with Thomas designing the third). The Belfry has hosted the Ryder Cup four times. The Alliss-Thomas partnership designed 50 courses in total.

• “Hit it Alice” is an exclamation often used by male golfers when leaving putts short of the hole.  Self-derogatory, but also derogatory to women, don’t you think?  As legend would have it, the correct version is “Hit it Alliss.”  During the 1963 Ryder Cup, Peter left a three foot putt short, causing a member of the gallery to shout, “Nice putt Alliss!”  And it went from there.

• In preparing for his golf game in the movie, “Goldfinger,” Sean Connery sought out Peter for lessons, cementing Sir Sean’s lifelong love for the game. Goldfinger and James Bond in the following, with Oddjob standing by …

Alzheimer’s Dementia and Aducanumab

… For a minute there I almost forgot what I wanted to write about.

To be serious, dementia is a disease that will touch all of us, hopefully not directly, but invariably when family members, friends and neighbours suffer its ravages.

On June 7, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted marketing approval for aducanumab (brand name: Aduhelm™); an approval that has been met with mixed reactions.

The FDA employed its Accelerated Approval pathway, under which an approval may be granted for a drug “for a serious or life-threatening illness that may provide meaningful therapeutic benefit over existing treatments when the drug is shown to have an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict a clinical benefit to patients and there remains some uncertainty about the drug’s clinical benefit.”

In this case the “surrogate endpoint” was the drug’s ability to reduce or remove amyloid plaques in the brain that are thought to be the root cause of Alzheimer’s disease. I will share more about this later.

It is not unusual for the FDA to approve a drug through this mechanism. But the list of “Accelerated Approvals” is dominated by drugs used for the treatment of a multitude of cancers.

To quote from the FDA website, “The late-stage development program for Aduhelm consisted of two phase 3 clinical trials. One study met the primary endpoint, showing reduction in clinical decline. The second trial did not meet the primary endpoint. In all studies in which it was evaluated, however, Aduhelm consistently and very convincingly reduced the level of amyloid plaques in the brain in a dose- and time-dependent fashion. It is expected that the reduction in amyloid plaque will result in a reduction in clinical decline.”

For the FDA, this is a giant leap of faith, for as a rule the agency requires the successful completion of two “pivotal” phase 3 clinical studies to qualify for marketing approval. In reviewing drug approval submissions, the FDA convenes an advisory committee meeting of outside experts (in this case the Peripheral and Central Nervous System Drugs Advisory Committee) to review the data provided by the sponsor(s), which were the pharmaceutical firms Biogen and Eisai). This advisory committee provided little to no support for the application, yet the FDA (as we read above) granted approval. While the FDA generally follows the recommendations of its expert committees, in this case it did not. Three advisory committee members resigned in protest.

The FDA decision was driven by a number of factors. On the one hand, it has been almost two decades since the last marketing approval was granted for a drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Six million Americans suffer from the disease, and that number will rapidly grow as the population ages. This approval marks the first time that a disease modifying drug will enter the market, and to quote the FDA’s director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, “Although the Aduhelm data are complicated with respect to its clinical benefits, FDA has determined that there is substantial evidence that Aduhelm reduces amyloid beta plaques in the brain and that the reduction in these plaques is reasonably likely to predict important benefits to patients.” A reproduction of amyloid beta protein molecule is featured below.

The Amyloid Hypothesis

Scientists have identified hundreds of families globally in which genetic mutations practically guarantee the development of Alzheimer’s. The mutations occur in three genes, each of which is associated with amyloid production. Then there are mice, genetically engineered by scientists to carry these gene mutations, and which develop amyloid plaques. These little guys have trouble finding their way through mazes, together with other symptoms that resemble Alzheimer’s symptoms in humans. And finally there is the presence of amyloid plaques in adults with Down syndrome. Down syndrome patients who live past 65 (of whom there are few) will invariably develop Alzheimer’s.

Opposite of the debate about the importance of amyloid is the belief, held by many in the neuroscience community, that there are other processes at play apart from those involving amyloid. Years ago, when I was working for a company developing a treatment for stroke, one of our consultants, acknowledging the complexities of the brain, commented that each stroke is different, and that, “Once you’ve seen one stroke, you’ve seen one stroke.” The same may well apply to Alzheimer’s and that Aduhelm may not be the silver bullet.

More Debate

The FDA approved Aduhelm for all patients with Alzheimer’s, despite the drug not being studied in patients with moderate to severe disease. And the approval process used by the FDA requires Biogen to conduct post-approval studies to confirm clinical effectiveness. The FDA retains the right to demand withdrawal of the drug from the market, should those studies disappoint.

In the meantime, Aduhelm will be sold with a $56,000 annual price tag — which seems quite a lot for a drug with questionable efficacy. Adding to the cost of treatment is the requirement that patients undergo an MRI twice during the course of a year’s treatment. Plus the drug has to be administered intravenously once a month; bringing access and burden of care issues into the equation.

Despite its constituency, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), seems less than enamoured with the approval; and puts the cost issue into a different perspective. AARP estimates that the annual cost to Medicare with 500,000 of its beneficiaries on the drug will run to $29 billion. Ouch!

In the meantime, I will continue to do my memory exercises — doing the weekly crossword, recording accurate scores on the golf course, and reading as much as possible. If I could only find my glasses.

Corned Beef Chowder

I’ll say yes to corned beef done in so many different ways, whether as corned beef on rye, or in hash, or in a chowder. It happens that this chowder recipe is a true winner. It takes a little time, but very little effort. It can be done over the course of a day, but I do it over two days.

Our local market packages chunks of corned beef with a pickling brine. I have also seen the same packaging at other markets. I bought a piece that was just shy of two pounds, and emptied the contents into my slow cooker, along with 6 cups of water. I then stirred in two heaping tablespoons of “Better Than Bouillon” — the veggie version. (Or you can use 6 cups of packaged veggie bouillon.)

This is about noon on day one, with the cooker set to high. After a good six hours, I removed the corned beef, and put it a covered bowl to refrigerate. I strained the liquid, moving it to a covered bowl and put it in the fridge overnight as well. Cooling the liquid will cause any fat to rise to the surface.

Early on day two I skimmed fat from the strained liquid, then put it back in the slow cooker, adding the following:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 half small cabbage, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried tarragon leaves

After about three hours on high heat, I blended the mixture, adding salt and pepper to taste (little salt needed as the brine gives off great flavour).

And finally, to finish the chowder, I added the corned beef, having chopped it into 1/2 inch pieces, the other half of the small cabbage, again chopped, before opening two cans of cream potato soup (yes, seems to be cheating, but whatever works). Stir it all together, and at low heat, slow cook for another 2 to 3 hours. It should come out creamy in the end, but be prepared to add 2 tablespoons of corn starch (mixed to a paste in water) to get the consistency you want.

Kiwis

Not particularly cute, but lovable all the same; the kiwi is a New Zealand national icon, and is virtually sightless, and definitely flightless. The kiwi is a ratite related to the emu and the ostrich, and to the elephant bird of Madagascar, long extinct. The elephant bird, as its name and the image below indicate, was huge, its weight often exceeding 1000 pounds. By comparison, the kiwi is about the size of a plump roasting chicken.

I was able to catch a “Species” podcast on CBC Radio. Here are some facts about the kiwi as noted in the podcast, together with some gems sourced elsewhere.

  •  The kiwi is so named by New Zealand’s Māoris, who likened “kiwi” to the sound the bird makes.
  • There are five types of kiwi, with the brown kiwi the most common, numbering about 35,000 (out of a total kiwi population of 68,000 or so). Plus there are great spotted kiwis, little spotted kiwis, tokoeka, and rowi kiwis. The rowi is the rarest type of kiwi, with only 450 in existence.
  • Kiwis are an endangered species, and there are kiwi sanctuaries (some 20 or more) and breeding programs throughout New Zealand. Consider that the only mammals native to New Zealand are bats. What came next, compliments of humans, were dogs, cats, stoats (the greatest predatory threat to kiwis) and more. Thus only 5% of kiwi chicks survive to adulthood; with 2% of the kiwi population dying each week. A stoat pictured in the following.

It was during the late nineteenth century that rabbits were introduced into New Zealand, as game to be hunted and a source of food. Rabbits tend to proliferate and before long New Zealand had a rabbit problem. Stoats were then introduced to control the rabbit population, and of course, following the law of unintended consequences, the stoats became a more serious problem, especially their impact on birds, and kiwis in particular.

  • The female kiwi lays large eggs — about 20% of her body size. To put this into some kind of perspective; to match that a woman would have to give birth to a baby of 40 pounds.
  • The kiwi has been called an “honorary” mammal by the New Yorker magazine, and for good reason. Its beak, unlike other birds, has nostrils at the tip, and its feathers resemble hair, while airborne birds have feathers with hollow shafts. Kiwis have a remarkable sense of smell and whiskers — not very bird-like — which enable them to seek food, as they forage at night. Daylight hours are spent in their burrows.
  • Kiwis are monogamous, and that can mean long and loving relationships, as they may live for 50 years. I say loving because they may mate as many as three times daily during the breeding period, and they will go at it for weeks until an egg is produced. I don’t know of any 50 year olds having sex three times a day; but I may ask around.
  • The brown kiwi will leave the burrow after just a month, presumably to make room for the next egg, if not to give the parents some time to  themselves to resume their mating ritual.

It was three years ago, on a golf holiday to New Zealand, that great friend Kim, new friend Maureen and I were able to play at the Wairakei Golf + Sanctuary (above). It is stunning, just a short distance from Lake Taupo. The golf course is the 8th ranked course on New Zealand’s North Island, and is owned by Gary Lane, a prominent Auckland businessman.

Not often one hears of a golf course AND sanctuary. Perhaps there should be more. Mr. Lane decided to have a 5.5 km, 2 metre high fence erected around the course to keep out predators and pests that could find their way in by climbing and burrowing. Game wardens patrol the perimeter to ensure the varmints stay out. The course is a haven for kiwi birds.

One final word or two about the kiwi. The Royal New Zealand Air Force has chosen to include the kiwi as part of its logo: yes, a flightless, almost sightless bird. Ironic?

TE TAUAARANGI O AOTEAROA? Māori for “New Zealand Warriors of the Sky.”

Bad Hair

There will be a time, hopefully coming soon, when you will feel comfortable going to the mall again. And when you do go, after reading this, you may look at people differently.

The inspiration for a “blogue” sometimes comes from what might seem like the least of inspirational sources. In this case the source is Boris Johnson, a former mayor of London and now the prime minister of the United Kingdom.

I am led to believe that this is Boris as a child, and in this photo, not a happy little fellow, perhaps with the haircut to blame. It may be that Boris, given this unhappy start in life, decided to forgo the use of comb and hairbrush, with the result seen in the following: just one example of his disdain for coiffure.

But let’s move to seamier stuff.

It seems that Boris is a bit of a chick magnet. In 1987 he married his first wife, Allegra Mostyn-Owen. They divorced, but not before Boris had impregnated Marina Wheeler. He and Marina married in 1993 and eventually had four children together. BoJo, as he is known in the British tabloids, was not done. According to The Sun newspaper, while married to Marina, he strayed into the arms of writer Petronella Wyatt, and then “overlapped” that dalliance with Anna Fazackerley, a journalist. And in 2009, he is alleged to have fathered a “lovechild” with arts consultant Helen Macintyre, and yes, while still married to Ms. Wheeler. Also according to The Sun, source of all truths among British newspapers, a friend said that Ms. Wheeler puts up with Boris’s philandering because, “She sees it as a childish side of his personality which one day he’ll grow out of.” Marina and Boris separated in 2018 and divorced in November of 2020; in the nick of time apparently, as Carrie Symonds in April of 2020 gave birth to little Wilfred Johnson.

In the meantime, BoJo did find the time, somehow, to manage the UK through Brexit and to fumble his way through the early days of the pandemic. He even ended up in hospital with Covid-19. No telling where he caught it.

Don King

Don King will turn 90 during 2021 and has long been famous, and infamous, as a boxing promoter. He put together some of the biggest boxing matches in history, including the “Thrilla in Manila,” (Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali) and the “Rumble in the Jungle,” (with George Forman fighting Ali). Ali won both fights.

King promoted many of the most prominent names in boxing, including Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, as well as Ali, Foreman and Frazier. As a side note, it was King who promoted the rematch between Tyson and Holyfield in which the former bit off part of the latter’s ear, with the former being disqualified.

As if boxing weren’t seamy enough, Don King was sued for fraud, by pretty much every boxer who signed on with him, as he apparently neglected to pass along proceeds from the matches he promoted.  He subsequently settled out-of-court, often for millions. To put a cherry on top of this, he also killed two people; one a thief he shot in the back (justifiable homicide); the other a man he stomped to death (for which he was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and went to prison for 4 years). Then there is the crime of the hair: voluntary poor taste.

David Beckham

In his day, quite a footballer (soccer player to us North Americans), and famous on several other levels. He married one the Spice Girls (Cayenne? Whatever.), as the Spice Girls shot to fame as a forgettable 1990s pop group. But David truly was talented on the pitch, having played for Manchester United, Paris Saint Germain, Real Madrid and other premier level football clubs.

“Becks” is sought after as a model, and has lucrative contracts with fragrance companies and fashion designers, and his ball striking ability was immortalized in the movie, “Bend It Like Beckham.”

David is a pretty good looking guy, but for some reason he can’t stop messing with his hair. Apparently he suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and perhaps this is one manifestation.

Valentina Petrenko

I was looking for a balance; a politician who might serve as a female counterpart to Boris Johnson. And here she is. And yes, that is her everyday hair. Ms. Petrenko is a Russian politician, serving as a senator from the Russian Federation of Khakassia, which is located in the southwestern part of Siberia. Ms. Petrenko has been a senator for some 20 years, speaks several languages, Russian, Polish and English among them, and has earned her PhD in biology. Perhaps a little off the top, wouldn’t you agree?

Bill Gates

It’s not that Bill Gates has bad hair, it’s that he has never spent more than 7 bucks on a haircut, and it remains boring. Despite being one of the wealthiest persons on earth — when last I looked he had amassed a fortune of about $140 billion — it is also galling that the man lives in a 66,000 square foot mansion (slightly larger than a football field), and may need to maintain a 2,000 square foot closet just to accommodate his V-neck sweaters.

So maybe it’s not the hair, but the resistance to change. At least branch out into cardigans! Recently it was announced that Bill and his wife Melinda have decided to divorce; an event that will shave his net worth to about $70 billion. Rumours abound as to the reason for the split, but could this long haired blond have come between them?

That’s Bill and Melinda above, in a happier moment; Bill in a nice V-neck.

I could go on at length on the subject of “Bad Hair.” Truly interesting, as it seems that men (i.e., famous men) are apt to have bad hair more often out of benign neglect rather than any real motive (“Becks” being a exception). As for women, what I might perceive to be a case of bad hair, is more likely to be considered, “fashionable” hair, and you would have someone like Miley Cyrus sporting a new “do” every week.

So I will conclude with three gents and little comment. Here is the actor Mickey Rourke, with age and other things taking their toll: Mickey on the left, then; and on the right, now.

Johnny Depp

Not to spend much time here, but Johnny appears to be in the “Becks” category that requires change. In Johnny’s case change may not necessarily be a good thing.

And finally, Phil Spector

Phil Spector recently passed away … in prison; where he had been since 2009, having been convicted of the murder in his home of actress Lana Clarkson. He had been serving a 19 year sentence when he died of complications due to Covid-19.

Phil Spector was a prominent music producer and songwriter, having produced singles and albums for the Beatles, the Righteous Brothers, Leonard Cohen and many others; and writing or co-writing such hits as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” and “Spanish Harlem.”

He was also famous for his bad hair. The photo on the upper left taken in prison, and on the lower right, at his murder trial.

10 More …

It is late April and we remain Covid-19 restricted. Travel discouraged if not outright prohibited (for example, with few exceptions, travel off Vancouver Island is verboten), social interaction limited, social distancing encouraged, and masks mandatory (indoors). We may have asked ourselves: “What are we missing most?” Family visits, of course. Travel? Absolutely. A houseful of neighbours? You bet. But we have persevered.

As I have written before, we have plenty of planned distractions. At first I thought about providing 20 more movie favourites. But then it occurred to me that a different approach was warranted; to provide a list of actors/actresses; many of whom might not have appeared in Oscar-worthy flicks, but in flicks nonetheless that are worth viewing. And “10 More” might lead to many more than 20 movie suggestions.  I will lead off with Steve McQueen.

It was more than 20 years ago that I was flying east from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, with a planned stop at Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) airport. I boarded the plane, taking a window seat in first class, when the actress Ali MacGraw planted herself in the aisle seat next to me. Ms. MacGraw barely acknowledged me, not impolitely, and almost immediately immersed herself in a sort of Zen State, which I assumed to be what actors did. As our plane approached DFW, Ms. MacGraw came to life and we proceeded to talk. It was very pleasant. I complimented her on her acting abilities, and without hesitation, I asked her about Steve McQueen, to whom she was married for 5 years. She said he was a “dude.” Hard to dispute, considering his Hollywood moniker was “The King of Cool.” “The Thomas Crown Affair” was directed by the Canadian Norman Jewison, and released in 1968. The movie has a timeless quality (and much better than the 1999 re-make starring Pierce Brosnan). By now, most of you will know the story line about a wealthy man robbing a bank, somewhat ingeniously. And you will know that he robbed the bank (followed by a second robbery), because he was bored. Aren’t we all?

As for Ms. MacGraw, she departed my plane at DFW in order to catch a flight to Central America. As she left her seat, she passed along her copy of “People” magazine, which she graciously autographed. I passed along the magazine to my golf buddy, Walter, who professed to be a big fan of Ms. MacGraw.

This is a lot more lengthy than I intended, mainly because of Ms. MacGraw and my one brush with celebrity, but take the time to watch Steve McQueen in “Bullitt,” “The Great Escape,” “The Cincinnati Kid,” and “The Sand Pebbles.”

Walter Matthau

Probably the least likely to be cast as a leading man, but he often was. Walter Matthau had a face seemingly made of plasticine, with the emphasis on “plastic.” The image above is a little extreme, but makes my point.

Walter was at his best in comedies. To name several: “House Calls” with Glenda Jackson; “Hopscotch,” again with Glenda Jackson; “The Odd Couple” and “The Fortune Cookie,” both with Jack Lemmon. All worth viewing one more time. And there are so many more, including “A New Leaf,” with Elaine May, and on the more dramatic side, “Charley Varrick” and “Charade.”
Walter is one of a handful to win an Oscar (for “The Fortune Cookie”), a Tony award (for the play “A Shot in the Dark”), a BAFTA award (for “Charlie Varrick), and a Golden Globe (for “The Sunshine Boys.”)

Frances McDormand

Frances McDormand is not given to ego. Not a Hollywood beauty, but not one to really care. She invariably will show up at acting awards ceremonies with hair done by blow-dryer, make-up, if any, done without the benefit of a mirror, and gowns by JC Penney. Frances is one of a few to receive awards for the “Triple Crown of Acting,” (awards for an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy). That’s Frances, above, in a scene from  the movie, “Fargo.” (subsequently winning the Oscar for best actress).

Perhaps even better than “best,” watch her in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri,” (won the Oscar), “Burn After Reading,” (a personal favourite), and “Nomadland,” (for which she just won another Oscar). Frances has done much more of course, and she is married to Joel Coen of the Coen Brothers, of “Fargo,” “Raising Arizona,” and “Burn After Reading,” fame, probably with a guarantee that she will not lack for additional acting opportunities.

Billy Wilder

Okay; not an actor, but surely one of the greatest movie directors. What I find fascinating about Mr. Wilder is how he adapted to American culture, and subsequently, how he adapted American film culture. He was equally comfortable directing dramas or comedies. Consider these classics: “Some Like It Hot,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Witness for the Prosecution,” “Double Indemnity,” and “The Apartment.” Of the aforementioned, he also wrote (or co-wrote) the screenplays. All of these and so much more from Wilder, born in what is now Poland, and who came to America at the age of 27. His mother and other members of his family, were murdered during the Holocaust.

That’s Billy, pictured below, with Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn on the set of “Sabrina.” And while worth viewing, not among my favourite Wilder films. It is difficult to accept Bogey as Audrey’s love interest.

Audrey Hepburn

But at least that brings me to Audrey Hepburn. Apart from “Sabrina,” there are “Roman Holiday,” (for which Audrey won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA award), “Charade,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s, “How to Steal a Million,” “Wait Until Dark.” and “My Fair Lady.” Ms. Hepburn was the epitome of elegance and class, and if you are so inclined, catch the documentary, “Audrey” now available on Netflix. Ms. Hepburn, to her credit, leveraged her movie fame to become an ambassador for UNICEF.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

In a quote attributed to the producer/director Joel Schumacher, “The bad news is that Philip won’t be a $25-million star. The good news is that he’ll work for the rest of his life.” He could have worked forever, but sadly, that life ended after just 46 years, of an apparent drug overdose.

Not a leading man, as Mr. Schumacher made plain, but Philip chose wisely, invariably featured in good flicks and he always acquitted himself well, often with hilarity and sometimes with seriousness. Check out “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Cold Mountain,” “Along Came Polly,” and “Boogie Nights.” Philip above, pictured with his Oscar for best actor in “Capote.”

Robert Downey Jr.

I am not a big fan of the whole “Super Hero” genre. Simply put, if it is not believable, I don’t believe it. But there are a few exceptions, among them “Iron Man.” I loved and still love this movie. Gwyneth Paltrow was a bonus, as was Jeff Bridges. But I thought casting Downey as Iron Man was brilliant, as he seems to belong to that laid back “I don’t give a sh*t” school of acting. That being written, also view “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang,” (if you hadn’t read it here, you wouldn’t know about it, and it is good), “Restoration,” and “Sherlock Holmes,” (yes, another Sherlock Holmes movie, and quite entertaining).

Matt Damon

Early success can be difficult for some; but not for Matt Damon. He and Ben Affleck shared an Oscar in 1998 (Matt was then 28) for the screenplay for “Good Will Hunting,” Both went on to much more, with Matt featured in the “Bourne” series, especially “The Bourne Identity,” “The Bourne Supremacy,” and “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Occasionally he plays against type, as they say, as in “The Departed” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Then there are “Saving Private Ryan” and “Ocean’s 11,” in which Matt takes on a comedic role. Matt above, as Private Ryan.

Christian Bale

He is a chameleon. Pictured in the following are Bale (on the left) as Dick Cheney in “Vice,” and Dick Cheney as Dick Cheney (on the right).

Some of you will remember Christian starring as a young English boy (he was 13 at the time) confined to a Japanese internment camp in China in the World War II drama, “Empire of the Sun.” He is known to do whatever it takes to assume his character’s identity, as he did in “Vice,” but also losing more than 60 pounds to play the title role in “The Machinist,” then gaining 100 pounds soon after to play Batman in “Batman Begins.” He reprised his Batman role in “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Night Rises,” with the second in the Batman series my pick of the three.

Christian won his best supporting actor Oscar for “The Fighter,” but I more enjoyed “3:10 to Yuma,” (an American Western starring Bale, a Wales-born Brit, and Russell Crowe, born a Kiwi), “American Hustle,” and “The Big Short,” with Bale at his quirky best in the latter two.

Christian below, and emaciated, as “The Machinist.”  Not on my list of recommendations.


To show him in a better image perspective, this is the real Christian.

His stepmother, by the way, is Gloria Steinem.

 

Ingrid Bergman

Her movies include “Casablanca,” of course; also “Gaslight,” “Anastasia,” and “Notorious.” She won best actress Oscars for “Gaslight” and “Anastasia and a best supporting actress Oscar for “Murder on the Orient Express,” (the 1974 version with Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot). Remarkably, Ms. Bergman was not even nominated for her role as Ilsa Lund in “Casablanca,” in which she is pictured above. Apparently she preferred to be photographed with the left side of her face dominant. Obviously stunning from any angle.

Ms. Bergman passed away from breast cancer at only 67, and in her last acting role, for which she won an Emmy (awarded posthumously), she portrayed Golda Meir, in the television miniseries, “A Woman Called Golda.”

A final note. The term “gaslighting,” of which we often hear today, did not originate with the Bergman/Boyer film “Gaslight,” but rather with the play “Gas Light.” The play morphed into a 1940 British movie, “Gaslight,” with Ms. Bergman’s Oscar-winning role coming four years later in a remake.