Basic Black by Arthur Black
Arthur Black is host of Basic Black, heard across the country every Saturday morning for the past seventeen years on CBC Radio. In previous incarnations, he’s been an underwear salesman, farm hand, sheet metal apprentice, magazine writer, comic book editor and freelance fruit picker. In July of 1995, Arthur had the great good sense to point the hood ornament of his aging Jeep due West, carrying his Boon Companion Lynne, three quarters of a ton of books and aging mutt Rufus from Ontario to Salt Spring Island which lies halfway between Vancouver the City and Vancouver the Island. That’s where he now lives except for the three days a week he spends in Vancouver helping to put Basic Black together. In addition, Black host the award-winning television show Weird Homes, on the Life Television Network and writes a syndicated newspaper column that appears in 40-odd (and we mean odd) newspapers from Saltspring to Grand Falls, Newfoundland. Black has also written eight books, two of which won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. Despite these accomplishments, Black still cannot hit a golf ball, jump start a dead battery or program his VCR.
VIRGIN EARS FOR VINTAGE MUSIC
When you turn 35, something happens to the music. Gene Lees. I know whereof Mister Lees speaks. I remember, as a tadpole in the ‘50’s, lying on my parents’ living room floor watching a dreary succession of unfunny comedians, corny musical acts and lame-o jugglers, clowns and animal trainers on a television program called The Tommy Dorsey show. Typical Sunday evening in the 1950’s. But then. Here is the host, Tommy Dorsey introducing this weird-looking performer wearing a white sports coat and a duck-tail haircut. He has a guitar which he commences to flail as he begins to sing. My life is changed forever. I’d never seen or heard anything like it. I couldn’t have been more galvanized if I’d stuck my privates in a light socket. Me and thousands of others. I was watching the TV debut of a musical phenomenon called Elvis Aaron Presley. That was the big shock of that Sunday evening. The secondary tremor was the reaction of my parents who were also watching. They hated him. They were angry, abusive even. “What does he think he’s doing, the clown,” scoffed my father. “Can’t even understand the words he’s singing,” said my mother. And my revelation, even as a chubby pre-pubescent was: they don’t get it. Flash forward a half century. A couple of kids I know are listening to some rapcrap on a CD from some guy named 50 Cent. “That’s not music,” I snort. “That’s doggerel. And illiterate doggerel at that.” The kids’ eyes roll in unison and I have another revelation. Omigod, I think. I’ve become my Old Man. Well, maybe. But let me introduce you – here in the sixth year of the 21st century — to David Zeke, a high school student who’s not quite old enough to drink, drive or join the armed forces, but seriously into music. What kind of music? The Who. The Beatles. Early Neil Young and vintage Dylan. Music, in short, that’s old enough to be his grandfather. And it’s not just David Zeke – all his buddies at Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Washington are into this Paleozoic rock and roll too. They’ve formed a group called the Classic Rock Appreciation Society. They meet every Friday afternoon to talk about and listen to the music they love. Pink Floyd. Jethro Tull. Led Zeppelin. “I’m a classic rock guy’, says 16-year-old John Jaskot, one of the club members. “It all started in sixth grade when my sister played ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen for me, and I was like: Whoa! I started going through my Dad’s records. Now I listen to Jethro Tull with him. My whole family does – including my brother, who’s 6.” What about the current music scene? Hip hop, Global? New World? Not for these guys. You won’t be hearing Eminem at a meeting of the Classic Rock Appreciation Society. Zeke’s take: “The music industry has turned into a factory that’s just churning out stuff.’ John McDermott, a music industry watcher, agrees. “Music is countercultural again,” he says. Kid’s don’t think it’s their parents’ music; they just view it as cool music that’s not sold to them by MTV.” Such talk must be music to John Densmore’s ears. Densmore is the man who played drums on Doors classics like Light My Fire, People Are Strange and Break On Through (to the Other Side). And yes, he’s still alive. And kicking plenty. Multi-national corporations have been knocking on Densmore’s door waving multi-million dollar cheques and begging for the right to use Doors songs as soundtracks to peddle real estate, pick-up trucks and toothpaste. Densmore’s telling them all to take a ride. “People lost their virginity to this music,” says Densmore. “I’ve had people say kids died in Vietnam listening to this music, others say they know someone who didn’t commit suicide because of this music.” Recently Cadillac waved a $15 million offer under the noses of surviving Doors band members in exchange for the use of “Break On Through” to sell luxury SUVs. Densmore told Cadillac to stuff it. “Onstage, when we played these songs, they felt mysterious and magic. That’s not for rent.” Good on ya, Densmore. Thanks to geezers like you — and newbies like David Zeke — Neil Young may have been right when he sang: “My my, hey hey. Rock and Roll is here to stay.”
NOW THAT’S RICH!
Story goes that one afternoon F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway were sitting around having a whiskey or two and chatting about wealth. F. Scott templed his fingers and opined loftily: “Of course the very rich are different from you and me.” “Yes,” said Hemingway. “They have more money.” That they do. A report released in Switzerland last month forecasts that by next year more than half the world’s wealth will be owned by less than one percent of the population. Put another way, the 80 wealthiest people in the world will have as much money as three and a half billion of the world’s poorest. How will they spend it? Have another drink, F. Scott, and let’s count some of the ways. Ten underground parking spaces have just been put on the market in downtown New York under an apartment building at 42 Crosby St. The spaces – empty, mind — which measure ten feet by 15 feet, are listed at one million dollars. Each. Once you’ve got the jalopy ensconced you might consider popping over to London to book a flight on the new Airbus A380. It flies daily between London and Abu Dhabi and offers fliers three-room suites – living room, bedroom, private bath and shower — plus a butler. Price of a ticket: $21,000. One-way, of course. That would be so much confetti for, say, Mukesh Ambani. He’s a billionaire who lives in Mumbai. You know Mumbai – full of teeming slums and wretched masses sleeping and dying in the streets. Not in Mister Ambani’s neighbourhood. He lives in a 400,000 square foot (not a typo) house that is 27 storeys (also not a typo) high. A place like that requires serious maintenance. Fortunately Mister Ambani has a staff of 600 (six hundred) to see to the details. Ah, well. Such is the price of bliss. What was it the Duchess of Windsor said – ‘One can never be too rich or too thin’? If, like me, you suffer from neither of those afflictions, take heart in the findings of a recent Harvard study of what being rich means. Here’s how it came about: Michael Norton, a professor at the Harvard School of Business, persuaded a big investment bank to let him survey the bank’s rich clients. His purpose was to find out how getting more money affected people who were already rich. He asked these rich people (the poorest were millionaires) how happy they were – and how much money it would take to make them even happier. The answers were (a) Not particularly and (b) Lots, lots, more. “All of them said they needed two or three times more than they had to feel happier,” says the professor. Conclusion: the old cliche is actually true. Money won’t buy you happiness – although even the very rich continue to believe it does. But here’s the kicker: money can make you happy – if you give it away. “While spending money upon oneself does nothing for one’s happiness,” says Professor Norton, “spending it on others increases happiness.” So accumulating mountains of money can make you happy. But only if you don’t keep it. Who said the gods don’t have a sense of humour?