Fifty shades of boredom

July 15, 2012

Photo: John Wesley Ireland

I’m not very good at sex. Wait . . . let me rephrase that: I’m not very good at writing about sex.

I have completed two novels and great chunks of two others. In those pages you’ll find well-rounded characters and witty dialogue and rousing adventure. You will not find much in the way of graphic intimacy. A few meaningful glances followed by clothes slipping to the floor followed by . . . fade to black.

As a writer, I believe sex, like toilet breaks, should happen off the page, which probably explains why I’ve sold several million fewer copies than EL James.

Unless you’ve had your head buried in a honey cave lately, you’ll know Ms James is the author of the Fifty Shades trilogy. And if you think a better title would be Filthy Shades, congratulations, you just read my mind.

I’m no prude – far from it. My copy of Rosemary’s Baby used to fall open of its own accord at the sex scene. But that was two paragraphs, as opposed to every second paragraph in the Fifty Shades collection.

Is there a plot lurking amidst all the pounding? Not that I’ve heard. One reader told me she was nearly finished the third book before any kind of story arc revealed itself. And the characters? Cardboard cutouts have more personality. The writing itself? Splendid, she noted, but only if you consider it high literature to have your lead character gasp “Holy cow” or “Oh my” at regular intervals.

The reader in question is, of course, Viking Woman. Her gender is the target audience for these books, which are a sordid example of a new genre dubbed ‘mummy porn’. (Note there is no such thing as ‘daddy porn’. Why would men strain their eyes reading about shenanigans when the internet is filled with such pretty pictures?)

EL James has not re-invented the wheel by any stretch of the imagination. She has simply wrapped it in leather, slapped it into submission and left readers panting for more. All while dropping more F-bombs than you’d hear at a wharfie convention.

Like The Da Vinci Code and the Millennium trilogy, the Fifty Shades books have ridden a tidal wave of media hysteria all the way to the top of the bestseller lists. People are reading them not so much because they want to (one lady said the books bored her silly; another said she only read the sex scenes, and then only sparingly) but because everyone else seems to be doing it. It’s the lemming effect and if I knew how it worked, I’d buy a jar and spread it all over my books. And then myself.

In the meantime, all I can do is try to take advantage of the phenomenon as best I can. If the Good Wife is reading about all that huffing and puffing, then surely she must be open to suggestion.

What I lack in the way of Christian Grey’s money and allure I more than make up for in movie trivia. Think about it – is there anything more erotic than the food-sex scene from Nine 1/2 Weeks? Not only did it practically melt cinema screens at the time, but it is incredibly easy to replicate.

And so one night recently, after emptying the fridge of its most mouth-watering contents, I appeared in the bedroom doorway wearing little more than a look of anticipation.

Only to find Viking Woman’s copy of Fifty Shades Freed lying splayed on the floor where it had fallen, and Viking Woman herself sound asleep with the lights on. Leaving me standing there holding my sausage roll.

There was nothing for it then but to return to the kitchen and, since the food was already out, indulge in a quick snack. My wife may be reading mummy porn, but the only thing I’m gettin’ is fat. Oh my, indeed.

A version of this column was originally printed in the July 11, 2012 Napier (NZ) Courier.

As thick as a Brick

July 3, 2012

In my family’s archives, there is a short video clip that an enterprising junior member has also posted to their Facebook page. There is no sound but the images clearly show my then-teenage daughter using a cellphone while she leans against my Buick Regal.

The video dates from the mid-’90s. I know this for a fact because the cellphone is bigger than my daughter’s head. In fact, it’s almost bigger than the Buick.

Those phones were called Bricks and you need no imagination whatsoever to understand why. They were massive and they were bulky and you could lose an eye to the fixed antenna and they came in any colour you desired just as long as that colour was grey.

But there were advantages to this i-sore, including the fact you could never misplace them because they were the size of a small dog and when was the last time your dog fell between the couch cushions. Plus you never had to worry about pocket-calling Uruguay because, let’s face it, no way was that monster going to fit in your pocket. They were also simplicity itself when it came to use. On, dial, off. No texting, no internet, no camera. Mainly because those gremlins had yet to be invented.

I miss my Brick and never more so than right now when, if I’ve interpreted the Telecom propaganda correctly, my wee Nokia is about to become obsolete. Something about format change or network change or something or other I have no hope of understanding because I’m not 12 years old.

I only bought the phone in the first place in case of an emergency. Except I already know, should I find myself dangling upside down from the seatbelt in an overturned car in a deep ditch, that will be the precise moment the battery will die.

“Just text me,” people tell me. And my first thought is not “good as gold” but, rather, “I have no idea how to do that” and then “I have no idea where my teeny, tiny phone is”.

I don’t want a new phone. I’ve had the Nokia for five years and have yet to figure out how it works, so why would I want a new one with upgraded features. At one time, such gadgets came with manuals which, being a man, I quickly shoved into a drawer and forgot about. Now those manuals are online, making them easier to ignore but adding an extra layer of technology should I actually have a question along the lines of “How do I turn this darn thing on?”.

Face it, this dog is too old for new tricks. I can barely function in this new hi-tech world of ours. I’ve seen youngsters text while riding a bike; a friend reports he once saw someone with a cellphone in each hand, texting on both of them. I used to think being able to chew gum and walk at the same time was an admirable skill. No more.

So how do these kids do it? How do they know to operate all these contrary contraptions? Do they have more time to figure them out because their lives aren’t taken up with such trivial pursuits as, say, working for a living or paying bills or keeping pirates from selling off the country’s assets? Is there something in the beef hormones that make them more tech-savvy? If I eat more burgers will that make me smarter or just fatter?

My guess is they’re born with the knowledge. I imagine little i-babies, tucked up in the womb, clutching a notebook or an i-Pad or a mobile phone. That’s not kicking, that’s an embryo using a Nintendo Wii.

I imagine an expectant mother receiving a text one evening after dinner and turning to her husband, her eyes wide in disbelief.

“It’s from the baby,” she’ll say, holding up her cellphone to show her partner.

“What’s he want now?”

“He says if I don’t stop eating spicy food, he’s going to pop out in middle of the game and teach us both a lesson.”

That scenario would never have happened in the ’90s, of course. Because there isn’t room inside the uterus for both a baby and a Brick.

A version of this blog posting appeared in the July 4, 2012 Napier (New Zealand) Courier.

I’m guessing the first week of school after the Easter break in New Zealand was a quiet one, what with all the puberty-challenged girls having screamed themselves voiceless during the recent holiday break.

In what can only be described as teen idol overload, the nation’s tweeny population had barely packed away its homemade “I (heart) Reese” posters after the exit of Young Master Mastin when the lads from One Direction dropped by to be worshipped at the altar of estrogen. It was like being invaded by the Huns and Gauls in the same week. Where’s a good Hadrian’s Wall when you need it?

I saw them on the news, those hordes with their eyes blazing from adrenalin overload, their gaping mouths all a-silver with the best braces Daddy’s money can buy, their androgynous bodies quivering with what can only be described as mass hysteria.

What, I wondered, would they do if one of their plastic boys had actually stepped past the beefy security and waded into the crowd? What would their buzzy brains have thought to say? “OMG! LOL! Which Barbie shall we play with today? Oh, and can you help me with my homework? Starting with the correct spelling of ‘zealot’.”

Young females practically wetting themselves in the worship of music godlets is nothing new of course. They did it for Elvis. They did it for The Beatles. They will do it for someone else tomorrow.

I was 10 when A Hard Day’s Night came to the venerable Clova Theatre in Cloverdale, a dusty town known more for hosting one of North America’s largest rodeos than its appreciation of the arts. But the Clova was the closest cinema to my hometown and so one night my father bundled the family off to see the shaggy-haired Fab Four in their first flirtation with the silver screen.

The place was a madhouse, so full that the only empty seats available were in the “crying room,” a closed-in area off to the side where, behind layers of thick glass, mothers could deal to their cranky babies without disturbing the general audience. But even in an area designed to swallow the sounds of squalling bubs, we could hear the hysterical screams issuing from inside the theatre proper.

It was sheer pandemonium, absolute chaos, drowning out the film’s soundtrack and leaving my parents _ more accustomed to the soothing tones of crooners like Frank Sinatra and Perry Como and Nat King Cole _ shaking their heads in bewilderment.

While I will admit to singing along (very badly) at concerts, I have never _ ever _ felt the urge to scream like my hair was on fire.

Maybe it’s a man thing but I tend to save my lungs for events with the potential to forge history. Sporting events, for instance. And by sports I mean, of course, hockey.

 But even then, it’s not simple bellowing, but rather clever witticisms along the lines of “Hit him with your purse, ya wimp!” and “Hey ref, I found your guide dog!”. Loud, yes, but also supremely intelligent, as befits the male of the species.
I have no idea why young girls yelp at young men in mindless, gullible adoration, simply because said lads possess clear complexions, straight teeth and jeans so tight they threaten to cut off the circulation to their boy bits. Because we all know it’s less about pure talent and more about ‘there but for Simon Cowell go I’.

So here I sit, dazed and confused, curious as to why people who neither write their own songs nor play their own instruments manage to whip sweet young misses into whirling dervishes.

 I also can’t help but chuckle at the constant claims of how The Next Cute Thing is en route to becoming “bigger than The Beatles”. Justin Bieber was going to do that. So were the Bay City Rollers. Remember them? Yeah, neither do I.

Reprinted courtesy of the Napier (New Zealand) Courier.

I flipped the bird to a lady this morning. I’m not proud of my actions, starting with the fact that I’m way too old to be indulging in such childish gestures.

In my defence, however, I was having rather a bad morning. It had rained during my it’s-still-bloody-dark-out walk and I had yet to have my fifth coffee of the day. Never a good combination.

Plus I felt this particular lady was acting like a total bitch.

The situation began when I dropped Viking Woman off at work. I had my signal on, so everyone knew what I was up to, the car was well clear of the traffic flow, and it was obvious by the fact I was sitting parallel to the road and not pulled into a parking space that I had no intention of doing anything but pausing.

I first spotted the lady when I glanced in my side mirror to ensure I was well and truly out of the driving lane. I could tell by her expression and the way she was yapping to herself that she wasn’t happy. I assumed she wanted the parking spot I was momentarily blocking.

Instead of pulling in behind me and waiting two seconds until I pulled back into traffic, she instead zipped around the corner. Which is where I encountered her, two seconds later, getting out of her parked car. She recognized my vehicle, of course, and carried on with her yapping, this time directed at me as I drove past.

I’ve never claimed to be a lip reader but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t saying “Have a nice day.”

Which is when I lost a bit of self-control and showed her the middle finger of my left hand. She wouldn’t need to be a lip reader either to understand the two words I mouthed right back at her.

I usually don’t give into road rage. Even if someone cuts me off, I rarely engage the horn. I figure if I have time to honk, I have time to brake.

I’m always nervous that two things will happen after I lean on the horn, wave my arms around and run through my entire vocabulary of curse words.

One: The offender and I will end up side-by-side at the next red light.

Two: The offender will be larger and more aggressive than me.

This concern about my personal safety probably dates back to an incident that incurred while I was working for the provincial Ministry of Highways. I was a flag man on this particular day, using my Stop/Go sign to direct traffic around some kind of roadworks.

No one likes to have their hectic/important schedule interrupted by construction, which probably explains why this one particular fellow zoomed right past my Stop sign.

“Asshole!” I yelled at the back of his car as he sped away.

Cue sudden squeal of brakes. Driver’s side door opening. Big glowering guy stomping in my direction.

I had time for three thoughts:

1)      For a guy who was  in such a big hurry, it’s amazing he now has time to deal to me.

2)      I’m almost positive my workmate will intervene. Any minute now. OK, now.

3)      I’m going to die.

Naturally – because that’s how these things work – Mr. Angry Face was taller than me. I’m not sure if my feet actually left the road surface but I know I was at least up on my tippy-toes when he grabbed the front of my safety vest and yanked me into his personal space.

“What did you call me?”

“Nothing,” I lied, momentarily interrupting my prayers.

He gave me one last shake, let go, stomped back to his car.

I straightened my vest, pretended all the other drivers who had actually managed to stop weren’t staring, and looked around for my partner. Turns out he was standing several feet away, well out of harm’s way.

“Where were you?” I asked.

“Watching,” he said.

I still shudder at the thought of how close I came to swallowing my own teeth. Which is why I make a point of never engaging with other drivers.

Unless I haven’t had my fifth coffee of the day.  And the other driver is a woman. And the lane ahead is clear of traffic, allowing me a quick escape.

When you lead a gypsy life, where gaps between employment are often wider than is economically desirable, the idea of exchanging Christmas gifts becomes secondary to, say, mortgage payments or keeping the lights on.

In 2011, however, Viking Woman and I were both blessed with full-time jobs and so decided that a few simple gifts under the artificial tree would not break the bank. I had to keep in mind that she is a Born Again Jenny Craig disciple, while she kept reminding me that my wish list of Toys For Boys would be fulfilled the instant we won the lottery.

Come Christmas morning, however, the presents that were purchased made the desired impression and hardly any at all were mentally tagged for regifting.

But the more I pondered on the items Viking Woman gave me, the more I realised she was sending me coded messages, if only I was astute enough to understand them.

For instance:

The Starbucks coffee? Message: You have a refined and sophisticated palate, even if you are going to slurp back most of this before your eyes are actually open in the morning.

Boutique soap? Message: You are a well-groomed metrosexual with excellent hygiene who needs to stop using my expensive body wash.

Tom Petty CD? Message: You have excellent taste in music and after you’ve inflicted Mr. Petty on me, I’m going to torture you with both of my favourite music genres: country and western.

Lifetime membership to Jenny Craig? Message: You’re a fat bitch.

OK, it’s not like I didn’t see that last one coming. After all, it does take me longer to shave in the morning these days, what with all those extra chins flapping about. And my clothes seem to have shrunk, for reasons I simply cannot explain and so blame the washing machine.

But I have a perfectly good explanation for this sudden growth spurt: It’s not my fault.

In my defence:

I recently spent a week in Las Vegas. Anyone who has been served a meal in the U.S. knows there is enough on that plate to feed an entire African village.

I recently spent two weeks visiting my parents. Mom, knowing I wouldn’t be home for Christmas, trotted out samples of all her baked seasonal goods. Mom, knowing I wasn’t home at Thanksgiving, hauled out the pumpkin pecan pie that had languished in the freezer for two months. One does not, after all, send their first-born back to his wife looking famished.

I know: I put the sick in homesick.

And then I return to the loving arms of Viking Woman just in time for Christmas, which meant an office lunch room filled with chocolate sirens calling me by my first name, like they knew I lacked willpower. It turned out the little bastards were right.

See what I mean: Not. My. Fault.

And so now December is winding down as I belly up to my computer desk and Viking Woman is asking when I will be joining her at the altar of Jenny. Just as soon as the house is emptied of all the junk food we bought for that Christmas Day party you insisted on hosting, I tell her while being careful to smile.

When all the chips and sweets and ice cream and potato salad are safely tucked away (read: stuffed into my pie hole), then I will bare my soul, and my bulging abdomen, to the acolytes at Jenny Craig and begin the long, hard, calorie-less, fat-less, tasteless slog back into my jeans.

It could, however, take me a while to empty the pantry and the fridge. A condemned man would never wolf down his final meal.

While I’m doing all that chewing, I will not be thinking ahead to how svelte I will look once I shed 60 pounds.

What I’ll actually be contemplating is how many days into the programme I will get before I gnaw off my own arm.

I accumulate things.

Maybe it’s the influence of my Sagittarius star sign, but I have a difficult time throwing anything away. Even when they’re tatty and broken and falling apart and little more than scattered parts at the bottom of a drawer, I tend to cast my mind back to the time of purchase. A shinier time, a younger time. A time of innocence, a time of need when this object, this thing, filled that need.

None of which explains the latex glove.

I tuck objects into jacket pockets, only to rediscover them, like my own personal treasure hunt, some months later. Inside pockets work especially well as Aladdin’s caves. For example, I have secreted away several tickets from hockey games I’ve attended over the years.

I also have a matchbook from Joe’s Crab Shack in San Francisco that never fails to produce a smile of remembrance every time I encounter it because, from that restaurant’s second-floor window, Viking Woman and I would watch the Bush Man scare the living bejesus out of unwary tourists.

None of which explains the latex glove.

One glove. Singular. Lingering in a pocket of my winter jacket. Why a latex glove, you ask. And where is its partner?

And why don’t I just throw the darn thing away?

That latter thought certainly crossed my mind when, while making a recent purchase, I fished spare change from my jacket pocket. When I pulled out the coins, the glove came with them, fluttering out to sit in a grey, crumpled heap, four fingers and a thumb pointing straight at me as if I were the biggest perv on the planet.

I glanced up at the sales girl but her eyes were riveted on the discoloured creature crouching on the counter, her face reflecting equal parts horror and revulsion.

I suppose a condom might have been more embarrassing but at least it has a recognizable purpose. One dirty latex glove? Not so much.

I may as well have spilled out a balaclava, black tape, handcuffs, pliers and a coil of rope. You could have sliced the menace in the air with, well, a box cutter.

Blushing crimson, I quickly paid for my purchase and dashed from the store.

The glove? It should have been left behind. It should have been pitched into the nearest rubbish bin. It should have been out of my life forever so I could never again look like a serial killer sizing up his next victim.

Instead, it’s back in my jacket pocket where, I suspect, it will sit for sometime to come. Yes, it is an object with evil potential but, dammit, it’s my object.

I was appalled to read recently where women judge men not by their chiseled good looks, nor by their iron-clad abdomens. Neither are they swayed to swooning by a keen sense of humour nor straight teeth nor the bulge in the pants that indicates a wallet fat with banknotes.

Nope. Women, apparently, judge men by their shoes.

Which would explain why no one is lining up to seduce me. Well that and the fact I’m married. And old.

Shoes, I readily admit, have never ranked very high on my personal priority list. They’re good for keeping my socks dry and my feet clean and, um, well, that’s about it, right?

I currently own a pair of year-old running shoes that I bought in Las Vegas, a pair of hiking boots that I save for winter and then never actually summon the energy to bend down and dig out from the back of the closet, and a pair of black dress shoes that are reserved for weddings/funerals/job interviews and so still look new.

I will confess to trying to keep up with foot fashion, during a time I like to call my Young and Foolish Phase.

I once owned a pair of “motorcycle’” boots whose unfortunate demise came during a tour of Europe when the sudden loosening of one heel nearly deposited me in a Venetian canal.

Later in the ’70s, prompted by an attraction to a towering young miss, I invested in a pair of boots with elevated soles that saw me at risk of snapping ankles and neck every time I teetered around in them.

My shoe shortage is in direct contrast to Viking Woman who, the last time I bothered to look, possessed the exact same number of feet as I do, and yet has this strange urge to amass a huge collection of footware. And by huge, I mean at least 20 pairs, if you can wrap your brain around that extreme excess.

It must be an estrogen thing. How else to describe this tragic inability women have to just say no to their feet.

And, of course, it’s never just the shoes. I’ve spent countless hours wedged into a plastic chair, fondly reminiscing about my bachelor days, while Viking Woman ogled the latest fashion offering in stitched leather. Only to be told, at the end of this lengthy exercise, that now she needs matching accessories, starting with a purse.

All of which makes raises the question as to what it was that attracted her to me in the first place. Maybe I looked like a patient man, one who would endure her foot foibles without a whimper of protest.

Or maybe she took one look at how I clad my lower extremities and knew straight away she’d never have to worry about losing me to another woman. As improbable as it sounds, she was absolutely right.

I read this week where scientists have identified a ‘happiness gene’ that “makes people more likely to feel satisfied with their lives.”

And how does one acquire such a jolly gene, you might be asking. We’re born with it.

Just as, also according to the eggheads in the white smocks, some of us are born with a gene that predisposes us to obesity.

Add in the well-known fact that one inherits male pattern baldness and it becomes painfully obvious that something I first declared some four decades ago has now been proven true: It’s all my parents’ fault.

I’m fat, bald and miserable? Thanks, Mom and Dad. I DIDN’T ASK TO BE BORN, YOU KNOW!!

Now that Viking Woman and I have adult children of our own, I tend to look at my own parents in a different light. They are no longer the enemy they once were, what with their intense dislike of all that once defined me: the loud music, the long hair, the buckskin jacket. In fact, my parents long ago ceased to the ultimate force in my life and, instead, settled into a role that makes them more friend than foe.

Living away from my folks for the past 10 years has also given me a new perspective on how much we actually do inherit from our parents, sometimes without realizing it.

I helped set the breakfast table during one recent visit and smiled at the fact Dad likes to have three different cereals on the table, plus some bulk granola. And then, just this morning, I found myself mixing Honey Nut Cheerios and Sultana Brad Buds in the same bowl.

Mom sings to herself as she does the housework. So do I.

Mom also chats to inanimate objects. Not because she expects an answer, of course, but perhaps verbalizing something (“I must remember to read through this pile of newspapers tonight.”) works as a reminder.

I do the same. To the point where Viking Woman no longer responds when she hears my voice. She’s the anti-Pavlov’s dog in that she ignores my words unless I’m staring right at her. That’s because experience has taught her that my “I love you” could just as easily be directed at my iPad as at her.

Does this means, over the years, I’ve somehow evolved into my parents? Oh, God, I hope not.

Because that would mean I’d be appalled at the kids these days, what with their loud, crappy music, inappropriate clothing, disgusting language and over-revved cars.

Bald, overweight people couldn’t possibly be  that miserable. Could they?

Viking Woman insists I’m a pessimist. Rather than ponder whether the glass is half full or half empty, she says I, instead, am always waiting for someone to knock the glass over and spill whatever contents it may have originally contained.

“Au contraire, my dear,” I say. “I am, in fact, a realist.” And then go on to point out how no one would have bothered coining the term “shit happens” unless it were, in fact, true.

I believe mankind is, by nature, pessimistic. How else to explain the belief that bad things come in threes? Do we then, in turn, expect good things to happen in equal proportion? Yeah, right.

One stroke of fortune and we are required to bow to whichever Supreme Being we believe in and be both grateful and humble that said Divine Deity has been so kind as to smile upon us. Asking for two more wonders would somehow feel, well, greedy.

This line of thinking was prompted by Viking Woman and I winning a miniscule percentage of the $28 million Lotto that was available in last Saturday’s draw. Instead of thinking, oh boy, here we go, two more strokes of luck are coming our way and let’s hope one of them is a job offer for me, instead we were like, oh good, now we can afford to buy a quarter tank of petrol.

Are we due two more good things? Sure we are, and Santa and the Easter Bunny are going to deliver them anytime now.

Speaking of lottery draws, remember when winning $1 million was cause for wild celebration and instant retirement? Yeah, neither do I. These days, Viking Woman and I don’t even bother purchasing a ticket until the total is a minimum of $15 million.

I mean, why bother. By the time we paid off the mortgage and the credit card, divvied up enough cash among parents, siblings, children and grandchildren so no one speaks ill of us when we’re dead, there wouldn’t be enough left over to buy even a small island. Waste of time winning anything less than $20 million, if you ask me.

Dreaming is free, of course, and so Viking Woman and I did just that last weekend, over lattes and gluten-free snacks. It’s interesting, when it comes to passing out cash, to see how shallow the dip would be into the family pool.

The uncle and aunt who never gave a gift that didn’t come with strings attached? They get nothing. Unsavoury partners would be separated from the windfall by phalanxes of lawyers.

(Note: I’m not naming names here in the off chance one of the above should happen to win a lottery and, having perused this posting, proceed to erase our names from their wills.)

As for last week’s modest winnings, well, it seemed only fitting that the $34 be reinvested into tickets for the next draw because – and surely this must be a sign of further good fortune to come – the Lotto total has now reached – wait for it – $34 million.

Surely 34 plus 34 must add up to something good, right? Only a pessimist would think otherwise.

When people discover I was a syndicated film reviewer for 15 years, it prompts the inevitable question: “What’s your all-time favourite movie?”

That always stumps me because I really don’t have a definitive No. 1. But I can name several movies that have given me much viewing satisfaction, including the likes of The Wizard of Oz, A Christmas Carol, Jesus Christ Superstar, Deliverance, Jaws and Alien.

You’ll notice that The Sound of Music is not on that list. There’s a very good reason for that and it’s because I have spent the past 44 years avoiding it.

That’s quite the feat because SOM (as I like to call it) just happens to be my parents’ all-time No. 1 favourite movie.

In fact, I can quite easily picture the following scenario:

Mom and Dad encounter St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.

St. Peter: Welcome to Paradise.

Mom: Do you play The Sound of Music in Heaven?

St. Peter: Um, no.

Dad: That’s OK. We’ll just wait over here in Purgatory until you do.

Mom: Nuts to that. No probs, Pete my man, I brought my own copy.

St. Peter: Jesus H. Christ!

I was hoping a move to New Zealand would make it easier to avoid hearing Julie Andrews warble on about love and sashes and female deer.

If insulation and central heating and high-speed Internet have never reached this distant outpost of civilization, then surely the Von Trapp saga must also be unheard of.

Nice try.

Upon discovering that I remained an SOM virgin, a workmate was kind enough to loan us her copy. Well, not exactly “loan.” More like “bestow.” There is, apparently, no one quite as fanatical as a SOM-bie.

And so it came to pass that I lost my do-ra-me-fa-so-la-te-cherry.

Here are my thoughts on the experience:

* I knew the plot centred on events in Austria leading up to the Second World War. What I didn’t realize is that the movie actually runs longer than the war did.

Now I know what they mean by “timeless” classic.

Seriously, 168 minutes?

Director Robert Wise should have cut loose one of those annoying children (preferably the youngest girl, the one with a face like a slapped arse) and used that money instead to hire an editor. There are no deleted scenes in the DVD Extras. That’s because there aren’t any.

* There are approximately six songs in this movie. You hear each one of them approximately 30 times. I understand foreshadowing. I understand introducing a song under seemingly innocent conditions so, when it is used later, when the plot calls for both poignancy and tissues, the audience is already primed.

But if I had a dollar for every time I turned to my wife and said “Again?” I’d have enough to buy my own copy of this movie. And then burn it.

* According to imdb.com, Christopher Plummer hated every second of making this movie. I now know how he feels.

* I spent the entire running time trying to remember what TV series Angela Cartwright (Brigitta) starred in later (it was Lost in Space) and thinking she was part of the crew of the Nostromo in Alien (in fact, it was her older sister, Veronica). For most of the other child actors, SOM was the beginning and the end of their careers. So karma does work after all. Who knew?

* The movie just ends. With everybody gaily strolling through fields of that bloody edelweiss. Walking to Switzerland.

In reality, the Von Trapps drove to a train station and crossed into Italy via the railway before making their way to America. But that mundane mode of transportation isn’t particularly photogenic nor does it tie in with the ongoing theme of climbing every frickin’ mountain.

Proving yet again that real life is a not a musical. Which would explain why I can’t sing.

Despite the above grumblings, I did not exactly hate The Sound of Music. That would be like saying you hated raindrops on roses. Or whiskers on kittens.

And no one is that miserable. Right?