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Tech Time Machine… You’re On A Rocket…

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Marty McFly… let’s hop into your DMC DeLorean time machine and juice up the flux capacitor.

OK, set the time back by 30 years to 1990 (if this takes you into prenatal times, please please tell me what that looks like, I want to know the answer to that as much as I’d like to see into my post-life times).

I’m thinking about time travel right now for a reason.

Looking back with today’s eyes, 1990 was a “foreign country” for us all.

Thirty years ago this week, I stood in chilly Okanagan Lake waters at 7 am on a Sunday morning with nearly 1,000 others clad in wetsuits.

Supportive family members and friends came from near and far to give me a cheering boost for an event I had trained so hard for in the year leading up to this day.

My heart was pounding in my throat, both in exhilaration and terror (the good news is that in the lake, you can pee your pants and no one knows better other than the swimmer directly behind you. Sorry… TMI?)

We participants were all ready to dive in at the sound of a booming cannon – the cannon that starts the Ironman Canada triathlon race, a 3.8k swim, followed by a 180k bike, finishing with a 42.2k run. Great way to spend a relaxing Sunday.

But today, I’m not only thinking about the gruelling race, but also about the huge changes to our world in these oh-so-short 30 years.

Here are a few other things that cross my mind.

It’s about our world and technology.

I’m thinking about how many folks pulled out their cellphones and snapped photos of their friends and loved ones jumping into the water that August 1990 morning. How many photos got posted online for the world to see within seconds…

Here, let me answer that for you… pull out my calculator… hmmmm, 960 participants multiplied by an average of 4 or 5 relatives and friends watching from behind the barriers…

… and the answer is???? ZERO. None.

Huh? Why not Larry?

Well, a myriad of stuff has changed for you and me in 30 years… call a taxi… right! Wait until next Tuesday to watch your favourite TV show… hardly! Meet your life partner-to-be at a bar… *cue laughter*….

A few more examples…

1990. No smartphones… a few cellphones (owned by 4% of North Americans in 1990) sure, but pretty much no such thing as a smartphone with a camera embedded. The first early versions were still 12 years in the future.

These days, when I enter even the tiniest running or other athletic race (in non-COVID times)… camera phones are everywhere, all the time.

In 1990, there were no smartphones, no text messages… no Tesla’s or other electric cars… no BlueTooth, no Facebook, no YouTube.

In 1990 you paid your utility bills at the bank or by snail mail with a personal cheque.

Watch a movie in 1990? Just run by your local VHS rental store or Blockbuster and make sure your neighbours aren’t there when you sneak into the “ADULT” section in the back.

In 1990, you answered your landline phone (usually corded) because it was someone you knew calling (although no call display told you who), no telemarketers or scams.

In 1990, when you wanted to find a street address or your way through a strange city, you hauled out something called a map and found the location with your fingertips, not your GOOGLE.

In 1990, people read books. I mean books made of paper and glue and hard and soft covers that had pages you turned and needed a flashlight to read under the covers. No eReaders, no Kindles (first released in 2007), no Kobo’s. Bookstores were popular “social media” gathering spots in 1990.

In 1990, did you drive through your local Starbucks for a Sexagintuple Vanilla Bean Mocha Frappuccino? Of course not. Starbucks had barely 100 stores in 1990, probably none in your area. Just Mary & Joe’s Cuppa Joe House (or Timmy’s for us Canucks) was on your corner in those prehistoric coffee days. Espresso drinks were something Europeans drank.

In 1990, a blog? Is that something stuck in your toilet?

In 1990, when you listened to recorded music, it was usually from a cassette tape, a big step up from 8-track tapes! Your choices were vinyl or cassette. CD or mp3? Huh??

In 1990, a restaurant meal or a plane trip usually involved breathing in someone else’s secondhand smoke. In my province of B.C., smoking was legally allowed in restaurants until 1996. Smoking on flights within Canada was first banned at the beginning of 1990.

Feel free to tell me some other things I’ve missed.

And finally, in 1990, when I crossed the Ironman finish line (below) as the evening sun set and my muscles cried, my kids were 5, 3 and 1 years old. It’s so long ago that I can barely picture them in my head. They were so cute.

Right McFly, bring me back to 2020.

Those little kids are older and smarter than me now. Yes, that’s right, they are older than me… I was 19 years old in 1990 and today I’m still… 19. (I turned off my time machine long ago. That’s new math for you.)

More importantly though, they were healthy then and they are healthy today.

I’m a lucky man to return to 2020 in my older DeLorean body.

OK Boomer…

My Very Early Letter to Santa

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VROOM VROOM… I’d love to be a hybrid. All muscle, no fat.

Like my car, a Toyota Camry that switches back and forth between battery power and fossil fuel… a mix of all the eco-goodness with only a wee tiny snippet of the deplorable. Nothing’s perfect, yes?

What I’m getting at here is that while I appreciate ALL of my wonderful, amazing positive points – far too many to count in a short blog post (“Larry, people are sick of hearing about how humble you are”) -, like Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof wishing to be a rich man, or the Barenaked Ladies wanting a Million dollars (really? a million? only? amateurs!)…

… I’d like to Super-Size myself and morph into a superhero in all areas of my personal humanity.

Let’s go for a different version of Super-Size…

This could be a major makeover…

Areas such as:

  • physique-wise
  • intelligence
  • business/finance
  • compassion
  • philosophy
  • lover
  • fighter
  • musician
  • writer
  • philanthropy
  • teacher
  • learner…

Obviously, I’ll need help here (no need to nod your head in agreement!)

But who do I know with the power to transform me?

Tony Robbins is booked until 2027, Angela Merkel and Jacinda Ardern are tied up fighting the COVID threat, Oprah charges too much, even the Google doesn’t know God’s cell number or postal code.

BRAINSTORM!

Maybe a carefully-worded begging letter to Santa would do the trick. This is his downtime so the time to ask is now…

Santa is mystically powerful (his sleigh runs on hybrid reindeer) and knows all about me, he even sees me when I’m sleeping and knows when I’m awake. This is Idea Sex in its finest form.

My fingers are crossed… let’s put this missive together:

Dear Great Omnipotent Father Claus:

.

Larry here… How are YOU? I am fine. How’s the Ms. and the People of Diminished Stature?

It’s been awhile since I’ve written to you.

It’s long overdue but firstly… I’m sorry about the letter of complaint I sent you in January 1962 when you brought me a Casper the Friendly Ghost doll instead of the GI Joe action figure I specifically asked you for, while sitting on your lap in the Centre Mall in Hamilton. It was a child’s rash outburst that I’ve felt really badly for all of these years. I hope you’ve found it in your heart to forgive me and refrain from shifting me onto the NAUGHTY list.

Still, I’ve been a huge admirer of yours since… well… since, forever. Will Ferrell sends his best too!

You’ve brought joy and happiness to billions of us mere humans, and never once been found to have diddled with children, or swindled grocery money out of grandmas, or instigated a violent riot against any government (you weren’t involved in the Cabbage Patch caper, right?).

I know it’s early in the Christmas Wishlist year but I kinda need your help.

I’m just a simple, modest, super humble guy. During these viral days I’m trying my best to make myself into a better, stronger, and smarter version. Vitamin C and Viagra have only taken me so far.

I’ve been thinking about all the people out there that excel in realms and spheres whom I admire and look up to.

As a perfect example Santa, I am in awe and desirous of your generous spirit and jolly good mirth, but sorry to say, I don’t want your “bowlful-of-jelly” tummy. I want the very best of my heroes without their drawbacks, I have plenty of those already.

You probably need to get back to your late-winter nap, so this is the crux of my note. Here’s what I’d like you to send my way ASAP with many thanks Mr. Big…

In no specific order, I’d like a teaspoon or 2 of the supernatural pixie dust from each of the following:

    • the physical prowess, mental strength, and skills of Jesse Owens, Patrick Mahomes, Clara Hughes, and Wayne Gretzky
    • the writing chops of Stephen King, Aaron Sorkin, John Steinbeck, and Nora Ephron
    • the investing acumen of Warren Buffett, Peter Lynch and Catherine Wood
    • the compassion genes of Mahatma Ghandi, Terry Fox, Harriet Tubman, and my Mom
    • the intellectual capacity of Barack Obama, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, and Yuval Noah Harari
    • the philanthropic know-how of Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, MacKenzie Scott, and Priscilla Chan
    • the oration skillset of Pete Buttigieg, Stephen Lewis, Winston Churchill, and Barack Obama
    • the balls of Elon Musk, Greta Thunberg, Steve Jobs, and the Chess girl from The Queen’s Gambit
    • the music magic of Tommy Emmanuel, Keith Urban, James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Harry Chapin, the Eagles, The Beach Boys

Thanks for helping me in my quest for perfection.

Oh… one last small thing… Do you think you can do something about this nasty virus so little kids don’t need to be nervous about going to school, or visiting their grandparents?

Is my list too much?

Well, just do the best you can and I’ll put whatever you can’t manage this year on next year’s list, OK? Delayed gratification is a virtue…

Mr. Claus… I think you’re the best… they should make you a Saint… too late?.. how about a movie? that too? for sure a bubblegum card… well deserved Big Guy!

Sincerely, your little friend, Larry

PS. Virginia O’Hanlon, as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, was surely right to look up to you.

Gone Bananas…

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It’s a Super Twofer Sunday!

FLASHBACK x 2

… first to China 9 years ago in 2012 … and then a jump forward to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 2019.

Ten years back I was contacted by my eldest brother Robert from Saskatoon about accompanying him and his wife on a tour through China.

Hmmmm, honestly, China hadn’t been on my “travel radar”. But… given the 15 year age gap between myself and my bro, my wife and I decided this was a great opportunity to spend quality time when chances for sharing time together might be limited as his age advanced.

It was a fabulous journey through China (the Terra Cotta Warriors… OMG!), but one morning, while sharing breakfast on a small cruise boat on the Yangtze River just downstream from the Three Gorges Dam, I was surprised when my brother showed no recollection of a cold that I had been sniffling, snorting, and coughing from over the past 2 days.

Nothing else unusual jumped out.

It was really a tiny thing but noticeable nonetheless. I was suspicious. I could hear a faint alarm bell ringing. Not normal.

OK, flash forward 7 years to June, 2019.

My brother now spends his days and nights in a Saskatoon care home in a hunched over position in a padded wheelchair, lacking spark, no vivacity, much less any ability to initiate a conversation.

It’s not certain, but he seems to recognize me and other family members as we chatter away at him in his tidy little room where all of his physical needs are looked after by attentive, friendly care staff.

He is a shell of the highly intelligent (PhD- Chemistry), sassy brother I have known all my life.

Yes, Alzheimer’s vapours have enveloped another soul, hungrily sucking up his humanity. In your life experience, you likely know someone(s) who has also been hijacked this way. The fire is out and only a few dim embers remain.

Having a parent travel this dementia road is tragic… having a sibling afflicted is surreal.

So, on June 9, 2019 I posted some song lyrics in a blog post here about my “lost” brother.

It’s called LET’S BAKE YOU A BANANA CAKE

… you may think the title sounds irreverent, perhaps even disrespectful, but to my Monty Python-loving brother I once knew, I think he would laugh at the “dark, sick humour”.

For a long time, I’ve sweated and re-hashed music to accompany these lyrics over and over.

Then about 2 weeks ago, in one of those “aha” moments, the music muse unveiled a melody and chord structure that – at least for me – fit the subject of the song.

Good songs need to absorb and reflect the tone of the message in the lyrics. It’s called prosody… where all the elements of a song create a synergy towards one meaning or essence.

Below is a version I’ve recorded with my rudimentary grasp of recording techniques (and thin singing voice!) in my little home studio. The lyrics I wrote in 2019 follow afterwards…

Jade-shopping in China Bro-style

Let’s Bake You A Banana Cake

VERSE
I called my brother the other day
when he answered I knew he wasn’t there
his voice held up strong but it was clear
the same world we didn’t share
at least not anymore.

VERSE
It’s funny that you can hear a smile
though the sound travels a thousand miles
the words are a salad, they even sound sane
Do you think you can remember my name?
No, not anymore.

VERSE
Books linger hushed on your shelf
framed photos pretty your little room’s walls
blue summer skies and childhood smiles
are prairie breezes sharing your favourite waltz?
I don’t think so anymore

CHORUS


Maybe you’re Lennon’s Nowhere Man
so let’s bake you a banana cake
there’s a batter of sorts
all mixed up of course
And you don’t know what you’re missing

VERSE
So let’s chat lightly for a bit mon frère
I’ll ask the questions, to see if you’re there
You’re pretty cheery so does it really matter?
We’ve sipped some wine, skied some trails
but, perhaps, not anymore

BRIDGE
There’s a thief in the house
taken the marbles and flown
the halls echo empty where you, my brother, once roamed

CHORUS


Maybe you’re Lennon’s Nowhere Man
so let’s bake you a banana cake
there’s a batter of sorts
all mixed up of course
And you don’t know what you’re missing.

The Mirage of EXPECTATIONS!

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W TH is that bright… light?

A few hours after I woke up this Brrrrr-isk February morning here in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, I was jump-up-and-down excited and surprised to see… SUNSHINE!

Big deal… right? Sounds like a normal day…

Well, it’s about expectations.

Moving to the Okanagan – a semi-arid desert – 30+ years ago, I cheerily envisioned this bucolic, dry, sunny, Arizona-North sort of existence.

In my imaginings, the thoughts of a mere 15 inches of annual rain/snow meant year-round sunshine and mild-by-Canadian-standards temperatures.

Well, I nailed it on those expectations… EXCEPT… for the part about … year-round sunshine!

I quickly discovered that little rain doesn’t automatically imply oodles of sunshine, and that clouds don’t HAVE to rain!

To be fair, it does mean exactly that in the summer months, but come October… the grey gloom settles in here like a set of blackout drapes in your bedroom. It’s 50 Shades of Grey-land.

Surprise… this scenario was not a part of my expectation. I hadn’t done my homework ahead of time. My expectation was shattered and I had to learn to adjust and accept.

Statistics fooled me just as we know they do in many areas of our intricate and convoluted world… “There are three types of lies — lies… damn lies… and statistics.”

Yes, my expectations based on weather statistics fooled me.

I really should know better given that I spent the last 10 years of my working career engaged in medical statistical analysis and reporting.

Expectations are closely bundled with HOPE and FEAR, and finally… and hopefully… GRATITUDE.

Expectations walk alongside and guide us throughout our lives… expectations of how we’ll do in school, what our love life will be like, how much money and how many consumer trappings will surround us, how our children will turn out with our perfect parenting skills(!).

Many of our expectations are based on realistic thinking and are justified. You study extremely hard for the Organic Chemistry exam and expect a good mark? That sounds realistic.

You bought 10 tickets for the lottery instead of the one you normally buy and expect your chances are 10 times better and that you’ll surely win a bundle? That sounds fanciful.

Or… the photo of the studly guy on your Tinder app looks appealing until… he enters the restaurant? Expectation crushed!

Think about it… when a woman becomes pregnant, we describe her condition as “EXPECTING”. The unknowns of parenthood are balanced with panic and exhilaration of the that which is to come. A world of expectation. Scary vs euphoric. Known vs unknown.

Many girls and boys, women and men grow up with the perfectly normal expectation of having children. If, for any number of reasons this doesn’t happen, then a series of mental accommodations has to happen to deal with the unexpected reality.

No More Cloudy Days – Eagles

Sitting by a foggy window
Staring at the pouring rain
Falling down like lonely teardrops
Memories of love in vain
These cloudy days
Make you want to cry

Today, in line with my – unexpected – view of the world this past year, expectations are a blessing and a curse.

When it comes to my earlier outlook on the local weather, I was filled with the blessing of hope that winter would look much the same as summer in this Okanagan region ie. sunny, but with cooler temperatures. Expectation denied.

More realistically, if we had stayed in Yellowknife, or moved to Saskatchewan or Manitoba, a dreamy expectation of days filled with winter sunshine would have been fulfilled, accompanied by the burden of bone-chattering cold temperatures.

However, I reframed my thoughts after the fact and came around to an appreciation of the curse of grey days positively counter-balanced with the blessing of milder temperatures (by Canadian standards). GRATITUDE…

I guess what I’m saying here is that our heads are often filled with rosy expectations… expectations of how future days, events, our lives… will unfold.

It’s magical thinking perhaps. (In my case I was convinced I’d be a millionaire and retired by the age of 35… Muddled thinking… HA!!)

Reality shows us that life usually has a way of giving us something(s) we desire, but not always everything.

I love and appreciate sunlight in far greater measure today than I did years ago.

My expectation has changed and I don’t take something as simple as sunshine for granted. No more cloudy days…

The mirages in our heads can slam us face-down into the dirt or lift us upwards into the clouds… it’s all based on our expectations.

Guys v. Dolls – I’m Short Term Wrong But Long Term Right?

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A painful truth I’ve discovered in my 3 score plus 3 years is that if I should prognosticate on almost anything, you had better run in the other direction, because I’m most likely incorrect.

Like…… if I say, “Buy shares in GAMESTOP, you can’t lose…” (I would never do that!), or “Tampa Bay is a sure thing in the Super Bowl” (although you should never ever bet against Tom Brady)… odds are pretty high that the opposite will come true.

Today is no different, except, in this case, I believe I’ll be proven correct in the longer term.

So what the hell am I talking about?

Well, 6+ years ago (can you remember that far back before Trump was anything more than a reality show oddity instead of a real world NUT CASE?) I confidently predicted that women would soon rule the world

The BOSS with Balls!

In that post, I laid out my case with these points :

Here’s some reasons why women WILL dominate in years to come:

  1. Women don’t waste time playing video games and watching porn. Girls just grow up and get on with life…well, and obsess over shoes but that’s a minor pastime on the way to the corner office.
  2. Women excel at communication and conciliation, whereas mens’ authoritarian style of coercion is outdated. Women are attuned to social dynamics and know the benefits of collaboration vs. competition.
  3. Women are getting educated and at higher levels. In just about every field, women are either in the lead or are charging hard to take the lead. It’s like China vs the U.S.. Get lazy, and complacent and watch the competition overtake you.
  4. Women know how to balance career and family. Both career and social worlds can thrive simultaneously. Men (like myself) can’t pull off multi-tasking unless beer and a TV remote are involved.
  5. Men persist in thinking they can rise through manual labour. The world has changed and many men refuse to believe or acknowledge it. If men don’t excel and women do, don’t blame women. Wake up and smell that coffee boys!
  6. Womens’ self-definition is changing. Women don’t feel the need to acquiesce to men to sooth their egos. If a job needs doing, women will just jump in and do it. Damsels in distress are so yesterday.
  7. Allowing women to vote, fight wars, run businesses, and play sports, levels the field. Women may never be able to build the overall physical strength of a man, but can equal or better him in every other facet of life if they choose to.
  8. Men want to get rich quick but don’t want to work or wait for it. Men are too impatient and unwilling to take the longer, slower route to a better solution. Too many impetuous mistakes are made by wanting everything now.

I was taken to task at the time by a couple of comment’ers for “trying too hard to submit yourself to some imaginary dominatrix”… or… “I wish a strong woman would castrate me. preferably in a ritualistic setting with her sisters there to assist”.

Comments like those assure me that my thinking was running along the right track, even if not 100% correct.

Misogynists aside… I’m not pandering or even man-hating.

So, where’s the hold-up? As the past 4 years and the present are showing us, the threatened world view of old, white men (and not all are OLD) is fighting back against the inevitable tide; the only thing I truly missed 6 years ago was the time frame in which the process of female ascendancy would take place. It’s a process that takes years.

I’m observing an unmistakable trend with a few bumps along the road, not unlike the uneven rise of wealth in the poorer countries of the globe. The ride can be rough but the vista ahead is clear.

We can look at exceptions to try to turn the tables, but the Julie Payette’s and Marjorie Taylor Greene’s of the world are minor aberrations alongside the sea of angry dudes who refuse to accept the direction of the wind and turn their sails towards cooperation instead of confrontation.

Look at the forest, not at the trees, and the view becomes more evident.

• In Canada, Parliamentary seats are held by 29% women now compared to 23% in 2010 (Inter-Parliamentary Union).

• Worldwide, democratic assembly seats are held by 25.2% women today vs 19.2% in 2010. (World Bank)

• In the US, Congress and Senate chairs are made up of 27% women vs 17% in 2010 (NPR).

So, if I look back again in 6 more years, will my crystal ball win any prizes? Women rule?

Hmmm… given my track record, perhaps not… but I’m not giving up…

… I’m stubborn… I still think I’m short term wrong, but long term right!

BEYOND MOO, Cluck, Oink, Gobble, and GlubGlub…

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The bloodless revolution is in full swing… load up your tofu fork now…

The meaty secret is out of the bag – the world is awash in major transitions in a hundred different areas… and one BIGGEE that strikes us all every day is in what we eat.

Now I’ve talked here before about the challenges I’ve faced in inviting guests into our house and feeding a group that sounds like the making of a CLUE game: Ms. Vegan, Professor Celiac, Lady Lactose Intolerant, Colonel Keto, the list of characters goes on and on…

Today though, I want to delve a bit into the shape of our future as it pertains to MEATY Matters.

North America/Europe/Asia/DownUnder have all led us down the cultural belief-street of the wonders of protein from animal sources.

Family beef roasts were as much a part of my Sunday WASP upbringing as the United Church minister’s boring sermon. I love succulent beef. I savour rich Yorkshire Pudding. Gravy? Mmmmmm….

Meat is convenient and pretty darn easy for the average consumer.

So long as we are willing to cultivate animals (and their products) and then kill/harvest them (or better still, have someone else do the killing), we have a handy source of accessible protein to feed our muscles and bones.

It’s life sustaining for humans.

Watch out though, because, my friend:

As the present now

Will later be past

The order is

Rapidly fadin’.

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’.

(Bob Dylan)

Yes, I can see the future in my shiny crystal ball… times are a-changin’, and it will not look like the past, although hopefully, it will taste like the past.

We are entering the Twilight Zone… the relatively new phenomenon of non-animal based protein sources that mimic or reproduce animal foods sans animal. Moo-free meat!

You can’t visit a supermarket or read a news journal without a sighting of non-meat information.

Beyond Meats, Impossible Meats, Soy Curls and Tofu-this-and-that are a mere beginning of what will land on our plates and palates in coming months and years.

Wishful thinking my Carnivore Compadre!

One day you and I will find “steak” and “chicken breasts” and “shrimp” that resemble what we are accustomed to seeing and relishing from the farms of our lush countrysides… EXCEPT:

Those “meats” will be products of food laboratories and industry farms that use miraculous tools of technology to bring us the flavours and textures of cow and chicken and pig… Wagyu beef without the intermediate step of birthing a cow. No heartbeat. No suffering.

My own set of beliefs on the use of meat are in constant flux as we travel this pathway of transition.

We can agree or disagree on the ethics and challenges of these products (and we surely will!)… but… we will not hold back the tide just as we can’t hold off the tsunamis that bowl us over in other areas of our lives.

We can affect the management, politics and morals of it, but we’ll not successfully prevent or outlaw the wholesale use of these sciences.

Here we sit today in a transition period just as the internal combustion engine is in an age of transition… we all need to get used to it and adapt.

Soon, cows and chickens and pigs will celebrate in the streets…

…yes, the bloodless revolution is underway… beet the drums, lettuce make merry… VIVA LA REVOLUCION!

SUMMERLAND – The Song

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I wonder if I should have my testosterone levels checked?

I’m just a sentimental Summerland sap.

There is a lovely, poignant movie recently released on Prime Video that swept me up and embraced me with its tender story. (Aside: if you’ve ever seen the heart-rending movie Summer of ’42, you’ll find some similarities here)

I guess you could call it a consequences of war movie – it’s set in the British countryside of World War 2 as London is being bombed mercilessly by the German Luftwaffe – with an underlying LGBTQ storyline that is understated but clear in its societal message.

For eons too long, those who stand outside the mainstream heterosexual realm have been sidelined and chastised and humiliated. And like a pernicious virus, too many human sorrows and tragedies lie crushed in the wake.

I believe we all need to see and be exposed to gentle messages of inclusion to rub away the sandpaper-cruel roughness from this world. The movie takes us down a bumpy road before finding some smoother ground in the end.

The title of the movie is SUMMERLAND… yes, the same name as the little town where I’ve lived and raised a family over the past 33 years.

The film comes with an unexpected twist near the end that has the nature of deliciously fine wine with a serene aftertaste that lingers.

The beautiful cinematography of English rural life combined with the movie’s eponymous title inspired me in my songwriting this week… how could it not? Summerland, whether in England or in the mountain-ringed orchards and vineyards of British Columbia cries out for poetry.

………………..

One tiny thing this movie taught me was the phenomenon of FATA MORGANA… “Summerland” was a fata morgana in the movie – “heaven” to the Vikings.

Wikipedia says:

A Fata Morgana is a form of mirage that can be seen in a narrow band right above the horizon. It is an Italian term named after the Arthurian sorceress, Morgan le Fay, from a belief that these mirages… were fairy castles in the air or false land created by her witchcraft to lure sailors to their deaths.

Fata Morgana mirages significantly distort the object or objects on which they are based, often such that the object is completely unrecognizable. A Fata Morgana may be seen on land or at sea, in polar regions, or in deserts. It may involve almost any kind of distant object, including boats, islands, and the coastline.

The optical phenomenon occurs because rays of light are bent when they pass through air layers of different temperatures in a steep thermal inversion where an atmospheric duct has formed.

………………..

And so, in this context of my town of Summerland and a cinematic’s scenic panorama, I’ve put together a short song lyric that combines two stories/ideas into one (yup, it’s Idea Sex again!)…

… a local landscape inhabited by historic characters living an aching internal war with the secret of their forbidden love, in a time of true physical war.

SUMMERLAND

by Larry Green

Giant’s Head climbs a wintry horizon

windswept skeletons of Ambrosia

outstretched arms of Cabernet

your windswept nut-brown hair lashes

chilly shoals lining cliffsides of clay

.

Flames kiss the moon in the sky

Sweet smiling eyes reflect lovers’ shine

sun diamonds dance on the lake

each Monet frame makes a painting

at sunrise before her heartbreak

.

CHORUS

Song of seclusion

Hint of allusion

Fata morgana

drifts over Summerland shores

.

Salish sunflowers upon Ponderosa pine

call out the new season’s coming

through the sage’s turn to sadness

cage of love’s play and maternal desire

burned to ash in the grasses

.

BRIDGE

Take off your sweater

in this hot summer sun

Shed suffocation of expectation

that withered away

your twins of desire and hope

.

CHORUS

Song of seclusion

Hint of allusion

Fata morgana

drifts over Summerland shores

.


How Do You Solve A Problem Like Winter…

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I loved winter as a kid.

As long as my scuffed hand-me-down skates and hockey stick were sitting by the back door, and a frozen rink – made through frigid late nights by my Mom – waited in the backyard or in the park across the street by Glen Echo School, I was one happy pint-sized Canuck.

Getting my Mom to drive me and my friends to Chedoke Ski Hill for some night schussing under the lights was also a perfect way to finish up a winter’s day… accompanied by a comfortably singeing hot chocolate reward at the end.

Winter was:

• Scotch Pine Christmas tree scent and Santa Claus

• Apple crumbles and Mom’s sweet Christmas sticky pudding

• Pine logs crackling in the fireplace

• Watching snowflakes drift lazily past streetlights at night

• Licking long icicles that we broke away from house roofs

• Kids with snow-caked mittens hanging by wool threads from coat sleeves

• Jack Frost lacy patterns on windows in the morning

• Nutcracker and Johnny Mathis music (but NO Boney M!)

• Snow Angel making and tobogganing

• Snow drifts that necessitated “Snow Days”… NO school days

• Christmas lights on houses and trees… LOTS of lights!

My sister Betty finds her inner “angel” child in this winter’s Ontario snow…(I hope she’s OK, I haven’t heard from her in weeks!)

And I love winter now… if… and especially if… it lasts only about 1, maybe 2 months, tops.

Nope it’s not cold weather that creates problem status here.

OK, sure, it is cold weather a bit but it’s much much more than that. (Honestly, by Canadian standards, we don’t even have cold weather here in Summerland)

And yes, it is a pain to have to put clothing on, layer over layer, latex over lycra, wool over fleece, only to find that yes, like Robert Munsch’s children’s book (I HAVE TO GO) you really do need to pee.

And the problem isn’t jogging on sloppy, slippery roads, feeling your finger and toe tips growing more numb by the frosty minute.

Nope, the real problem with winter is DARKNESS.

In my first professional lab job in my early 20’s, I lived in Yellowknife, NWT (above the Arctic Circle) for a couple of years. It was a fabulous place to live for awhile… but…

… in the winter:

Did you know that DARKNESS is the only thing you see when you go to work in the morning? … when you slip down for a coffee break mid-morning?… SEMI-DARKNESS… and when you’d head home later in the day? … Yup, DARKNESS! Bloody Hell…

I don’t think human eyes are genetically built for darkness the way cats’ eyes are. We humans are meant to live our days in… well… daylight. Lots of it.

Did I hear you say you want proof?

• We cry for our Mommy’s when we’re little because we know that monsters live, thrive, and eat children in the dark. (Also, we know that spiders crawl in our mouths while we sleep in the dark)

• We get frightened when we wander streets and alleys in the dark of night, despite the glow of red lights (wrong streets do you think?)

• We put windows in our houses to let light spill over us, and so our neighbours can spy on us walking around naked (you’re making people nauseous Larry)

The solution is and should be simple: TECHNOLOGY!

We can outsmart Mother Nature and the Laws of the Universe with technology.

Light is simple for us ever since we discovered fire and our ability to harness water power…. we brighten our homes and buildings continuously.

We should be lighting our outdoor world year-round – north and south hemispheres – using a human-made “fix” when needed in the winter months.

We have in the neighbourhood of 6,000 satellites orbiting our globe currently… 6,000!

I believe that Elon Musk and Richard Branson and Bill Gates could set aside their Mars habitation plans for a wee bit, and put their science genius hacks to work today at reflecting sunlight, or creating powerful solar lights that illuminate us to daytime brightness during the dark days of winter. Spotlight please.

It’s a small request. All I ask is that you give me 16 hours of outdoor brightness every day and I’ll take the ravages of winter storms with a lunatic Joker grin on my face.

Finally and totally unrelated to winter darkness… I’m popping in a song I recorded this week here in my songwriter’s lair.

Six or seven years back, I wrote this song about unfulfilled longing and desire between a waitress and a travelling salesman.

It’s simply titled THE WAITRESS. I hope you enjoy it…

My 8 Unimpeachable Quarantine Goals for 2021

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A daring bloodless revolution is underway…

… not in Tehran or Washington… nope… in the confines of my home.

Do I think New Year’s resolutions are passé? … well… not so much… but…

… OK, I’m still a goal setter – and it may just be my advancing age – but it’s more likely this whole COVID thing has me becoming more discerning and self-critical.

The belly button gazing has become more intense (and fogged by fluff).

The choices and opportunities for setting goals and achievements has narrowed substantially this past year. Today…

• I substitute PBS Rick Steves episodes for international travel destinations

• CNN is a surrogate for fantasy literature stories

• baking powder or starter mix does its bubble-dance in place of hard-as-toilet-paper-to-find yeast

• energetic hikes to the refrigerator take up the sweaty role of boot camp classes

• snatching a package of toilet paper from an elderly lady’s shopping cart makes for a high-five victory (and a lap of shame too, Larry)

Author Jim Collin’s Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG) remain out-of-bounds for awhile still.

So… my major mental activity these days is to categorize my minor-league goals; here are a select few of these 2021 Humbled Downsized Miniaturized Goals (HDMG):

  1. Hygiene: Brush my teeth at least twice a week. Finger rubbing between brushings scores chocolate bonus points. Avoid smiling at hygienist daughter: stay focused.
  2. Hygiene: create a small business of mobile face-mask washing kiosks outside malls and grocery stores to remove crusty spots and brown saliva stains from customer masks worn for weeks and jammed into filthy pockets.
  3. Exercise: Run 5k at least once a …. run 5k over the coming year. Marathon Stretch Goal– keep weight gain to 26.2 lbs.
  4. Exercise: Climb to the very top of local mountain, Giant’s Head, carrying a case of Double-size Charmin toilet paper, without the assistance of bottled O2 or an accompanying medic… train ahead of time with YouTube Couch Cross-Fit and BedBounce Yoga classes.
  5. Mental: Read War and Peace in original Russian… or 10 Trump tweets in English, whichever is less difficult to understand. Late breaking: No more Trump tweets, nyet… so War and Peace it is… da!
  6. Mental: Yell out in properly verb-conjugated Spanish at the neighbour’s Chihuahua when it poops on my property…. el perro gordo loco….
  7. Creative: Write 10 blog posts that don’t mention the words Trump and F*ck in the same paragraph. Also: write one full post using only my left pinkie finger.
  8. Investment: pour entire pension fund assets into toilet paper futures using Bitcoin (Larry, do you even have the slightest understanding of what bitcoin is?)

  • BONUS Goals:
    • Cooking: Work on sculpture-based meal-making using a combination of Beyond Meat and Chia Pet seeds. First up: Bob Ross Meat(less)loaf. Also: Send my 2 yr-old grandson’s famous recipe for Stinky Cheese Donuts to Tim Hortons.
    • Juvenile: Dress up as Miss Piggy and eat frog legs for breakfast.
    • Music: Write a Broadway musical about Trump called Hangry Humping On The Resolute Desk.

Welcome to silly season. So what will be YOUR goals for 2021?

Hang on cuz this will be a year of necessary continued patience and finding something funny in the absurd. Even many Holocaust survivors found room in their lives for dark humour to lift their spirits.

Those afflicted with COVID, or those with someone close-by affected, need the respite of laughter to distract and soothe. To quote my COVID long-hauler Irish cousin, “Let’s not forget all the positivity among the pain – those little glimmers of sunshine in the darkness that got us through.

Now’s a good time to start your own home-bound res(v)olution…

Rollercoaster Riding… wheeeeeee….

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The Year of Living Dangerously is sort-of over and a new calendar Year of Future Hopefulness is upon us…

HALLELUJAH!

It’s important that we all don’t think only of COVID… life has to manage through the struggles and go on, whether through personal challenges, world wars, pandemics, racial divides, or weather-related tragedies.

So, in that light… if you know me at all, you know that one of my passions is investing, more specifically, stock market investing; it’s welded to me like my underwear and socks when taken from the dryer without Cling-Free (or for my lab friends: like a colony of E. coli on room-temperature beef.)

Investing well births money.

Money in itself is not evil despite the aphorisms suggesting otherwise; money is like shaving cream on my face. I can shave without it and manage to get by, but using it saves me from a lot of nasty nicks and bloody cuts throughout my life from Day One to Day Gone.

Money is my shaving cream.

Every one of us needs a source of money to feed and house ourselves and our kids, to pay for education and transportation, to find our way upwards from the base levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Money, I love ya, but I’m not part of the elite 1% group. *sad face*

Working for the dollars is admirable and good. But I like it even more when my money returns the favour and works for me.

I really appreciate that money can work the graveyard shift sans complaint and reward me when I awake in the morning with a dividend cheque without me tying my tie or shining my shoes.

Research and sweat-thought in investing has assisted me and my wife in procuring a less hectic lifestyle than might otherwise be the case, and also to pursue other interests and passions without a huge concern for financial stability.

Of course I worry about a possible lack of funds, especially as my REAL senior years approach, but I don’t lie awake at night in worry and fret … I save “frets” for my guitar playing fun!

OK, it’s MEA CULPA time.

For a number of years now, I’ve shared my annual investment “disclosure” with you. My yearly Walk of Shame… or Fame!

Two years ago, I brought up the term FUCKedUPedNESS to describe my less-than-stellar year (-1.8%) in investing; then last year, with arms raised high, I told you of an annum of much improved UPedNESS(+24.6). A tale of 2 years, one down, one up; a rollercoaster ride over 2 years. This year compressed the bilious ride into only 12 months. (NOTE: FUCKedUPedNESS describes U.S. politics today much better than my investing!)

This past year of COVID was an investment period of intense rollercoaster riding, with a huge shutdown/downhill run in March and April followed by the steady climb up the other side.

End result? My final year-end increase sidled in at +5.0% for my combined RRSP, TFSA and Locked-in Retirement accounts. This compares with a U.S. Dow Jones Index increase of +7.2% and the Toronto Exchange increase of +2.2%.

On a bright note, the increase inside just my RRSP account was +33.2% largely due to fairly substantial investments in APPLE and AMAZON… the world of our technology-bound future.

Here’s my basic financial return facts:

  • 1 year              +5.0%
  • 3 year avg.     +9.3%
  • 5 year avg.     +9.6%
  • 10 year avg.   +14.2%
  • 12 year avg. +18.9%
  • 15 year avg.   +13.3%
  • 18 year avg.   +14.2%

These numbers are just OK in my books. I accept that I’m not Warren Buffett or Bill Gates (two fellas I admire for their intelligence and philanthropic bents), but I’d really like to be a point or two higher in my results.

My long-term goal is an annual return of 15%. I’m skating around that number in the 10 and greater years, but showing signs of lagging in the shorter time-frame.

Looking forward and trying to see through the haze of my crystal ball, here are some solid stock picks I’m watching for future possible investment. Aside from the ARK ETF’s (High Technology fund), these choices all pay a healthy and safe dividend every 3 months :

  • Bristol-Myers (BMY)
  • ARK ETF’s
  • AT&T (T)
  • Enbridge (ENB)
  • Abbvie (ABBV)

One thing I’m ever so slowly coming to realize (about 25 years late *head slap*) is that in investment terms, the world is being pushed by this monstrous boulder called TECHNOLOGY

… the companies that participate in its rapid development, or at the very least, embrace its use in a big way, will most likely be the business survivors in today and tomorrow’s Darwinian struggle.

A good part of my job now in researching future investments is to ensure that technology is in the forefront of corporate management thinking, for anything less a company will join the faded dinosaurs and buggy-whip makers in a museum display case.

And so finally my good friends, to plagiarize my words from last year:

… I’ll never stop dreaming in lots of directions, and looking for a fine balance between my world’s opposing cultures of self-interest and giving to others.

Remember that investing in life is about time, money and energy. Take a few deep breaths and choose your investments with intent in all regions of your life.

A New Forking Year…

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What to do… What to do…

OK, I didn’t anticipate the year we’re just finishing.

You did?

Well, I bow in homage to you Nostradamus… maybe I didn’t read my Chinese horoscope closely enough as we leave the Rat behind us and enter the Ox’s domain!

I placed no DoorDash or SkipTheDishes order of COVID virus for 2020.

Traditionally, starting out a new year, I’d think and ponder about Christmas bills, my running and swimming goals, and if stock markets would rise or fall through the year and how my and my kids’ investments would fare… silly me…

… because… then came the virus. 1918 redux.

All of our lives changed immediately… overnight.

Millions were and are affected. Tragedies and near tragedies abounded in every nook and cranny of the globe.

It just happened and we’ve all had to whip ourselves into a different pretzel contortion of ourselves each week to adjust to the “new” world.

Another set of protocols for daily life were pronounced regularly, sometimes every few days.

Every country, every province/state/county, every town and city had its own set of rules du jour. We’d slog to the top of Mount Sinai and pick up our updated slate of Ten Commandments… depending on the current bend of the “curve”.

Looking back to pre-COVID time, my normal ADHD-based world was filled with lots of activities and social interactions in a swath of different directions. I typically thrive on a cornucopia of varied pursuits.

Not in 2020, nope nope nope.

But away to the window they flew like a flash… yes, Santa’s research elves went right to work in their North Pole labs …

… and through the miracle of today’s research, technologies and communications, science’d the shit out of this virus, and here we are in less than one year with a solution in a syringe, set to reverse the tide of this microscopic demon.

Despite our worldly problems and challenges, we are so very fortunate to live in 2020 and not 1918.

Fortunate that in only six months or a year from now, we’ll open our doors, rip off our masks, and step out into the sunshine of the world-as-we-once-knew-it… and clocks will start to tick once more.

Which begs a big question of us all.

Should we return to the old “me” or… is it a chance to create a new “me”? It can be our version of New Year’s resolutions.

Let the inner debate begin. What have we learned about ourselves during this period?

Isn’t the inner dialogue best faced now while in the throes of isolation, before the push and pull, the swell of the tides drags us back into the sea of “normality”?

I can’t answer the questions for you.

For myself, I know I have a tendency to over-schedule my life. It’s a blessing and a curse of having many interests and desires. I want to do everything that grabs my inner passion.

But I also know that as a semi-introvert (I guess the true term is omni-vert), I’m also beginning to feel a minor pulse of uneasiness rising.

As much as I enjoy the outside world, I also enjoy solitude, and the need to reflect and just let my mind wander aimlessly into corners and alleys where I discover inner worlds that no airliner can carry me.

Isolation has given me time and permission to focus so much more intensely on one of my great interests, music. Practising, writing, playing, creating, experimenting.

Almost 2,500 years ago, Socrates gave us his guidance: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Occasionally old white guys have wise messages (but ONLY occasionally!)

So, entering 2021, I’ll challenge you to examine your trajectory as will I.

Will the road you journey be the same as before… or will the Ox lead you to a courageous turn down the fork of a road unknown, novel, and undiscovered?

Whichever path you trek, make it YOUR path.

And in a nod to a year’s end and your new beginning… a song for Old Times Sake, a reminder of longstanding friendships: remember to take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Here’s a little guitar instrumental based on Robert Burns poem that I put together this week.

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