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The Only Way To Get Smart Is To Look Stupid

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lookng stupid

I never asked a girl out on a first date and had the response of “NO“.

100% success … (just don’t ask about my success rate on 2nd and subsequent attempts!)

Aren’t I wonderful? On the surface this appears to be a good thing, yes?

After all, NO means rejection.

NO means hurt.

NO means I’m worthless.

NO means being thought less of.

NO means I look stupid.

YES is success…

But it wasn’t about success… it was about fear. Fear of being judged, fear of looking stupid.

A NO doesn’t make us worthless.

NO is an opportunity.

NO is a learning chance.

NO is a driving force.

Of course we MEN should know that some NO‘s mean NOOOOOOO! Interpreting THAT NO as a MAYBE is stupid.

But for a lot of us, NO brings out the fear of looking stupid.

In my younger years I was terrified of looking stupid. I look stupid all the time now.

ask on a date

The reason I never heard a NO when putting my fragile ego on the line and asking a girl out is that I waited, then waited more.

I probed and deliberated and spent whole nights awake… wondering, weighing, wishing… doing my “mental homework”.

I would flirt some. If she wasn’t flirting back like crazy, I knew the time wasn’t right.

I would wait and wait until the edge of the cliff was so enticingly close that the sweet young lady was almost set to ask me out in restless frustration. There were actually a couple of occasions when the gender-norm-of-the-time was flipped and she did ask me out.

But I also knew that if I waited too long, she might walk away in irritated exasperation… “… he’s cute, but he’s gutless. Time to move on …” 

Once my level of certainty was 99.8% of a positive response, I would finally make the societally expected masculine approach.

“I see that the new Star Wars movie is at the theatre this week…. would you like to come with me?

Of course that latter half of the statement was an added flirt… a double entendre to see if I could make her blush. Being nervous and provocative simultaneously aren’t mutually exclusive. A boy’s gotta have fun sometimes. BAD!

movie date

I wasted a lot of time – my own and young ladies’ –  too afraid to make a polite gesture and ask for a date even if I was only maybe 50% certain of the outcome (who can tell I’m a statistics’ and numbers’ nerd?).

I was afraid to look stupid.

If I was smart I would have realized much earlier that taking some measured risks not just in romance, but also in education or business or anything else I could think of, and taking the chance to appear stupid is OK. Really OK.

After looking stupid I can come up with 8 more plans of ideas I want to work on. I can use the experiences of failure to become a better person, to have a better chance at success, to maybe work with other people who will contribute to my success (and I to theirs) and to increase my odds of doing what I love.

Good people accept honest stupidity in others when they can see that they’re trying to better themselves. The not-so-good people should be happily ignored… they’re the arrogant stupid.

Smart people are lucky. Smart people are curious. Smart people are humble. Smart people ask “What if…?” Smart people learn from their mistakes and don’t blame others. Smart people learn new skills to enhance their old skills. Smart people don’t listen to what society tells them they should do. Smart people work the 10,000 hours and over-prepare.

Smart people aren’t afraid to look stupid.

I look stupid regularly now. I ask stupid questions. Unfortunately I too often say stupid things (but that’s another blog post!)

Stupid is good when it leads to better.

I don’t mind trying things where I’m likely to fail until I’ve practiced them over and over. I studied violin for 4 years as an adult.

I sounded stupid. My bowing technique was terrible.

I sounded and looked stupid but I carried on. After 4 years I still looked and sounded stupid. Stupid but sadly, not better. The stupid I could manage, the screechy sound and lack of “better” finally wore me down and I turned in my bow.

Yes YODA… I tried…

Psycho violin

Maybe stuck-stupid is still banging your head on a wall after wearing out the padding. Smart can be knowing when to move on.

Fear of looking stupid is a prison cell we lock ourselves inside. Those bars that imprison us sometimes are really just an illusion, a mirage.

Allowing ourselves to appear stupid is a measure of courage and confidence, maturity, self-acceptance, and finally, success.

Ultimately, looking stupid is a stage we pass through on the way to becoming better – a better date, a better guitarist, a better curler, a better therapist or surgeon or linguist or burger flipper.

Forrest Gump knew that…

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Thanksgiving and Civil Wars

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Don’t you hate it when you feel a rant coming on and nothing you do can slow or deter the beast? Today is one of those days…

Even worse, this is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada which makes the following all the more humbug’ish. I truly am thankful for so much.

However, my friends, the words Civil War have become a recurring mantra that’s disturbed the inside my head for weeks now… perhaps the only cure is to expel those inner voices, lighten my load and burden you with my burden…

………

washington sunrise

When the sun rubs its eyes and slips hopefully above the horizon, long shadows cast their sinewy fingers across the serene landscape – shadows that hide the carnage rising and fomenting like a slow cooker set on high heat.

Civil war.

Meandering tails of dark silhouette and contour slide between stolid concrete edifices and buildings, up and down the alleyways of the city, like in the opening credits to House of Cards.

Civil war.

A Washington dawn that spreads its ascending murk onto my sleeping innocence.

Modern, contemporary Civil War is the uninvited phoenix.

Civil wars

One of my (many) favourite musical groups is the Civil Wars, a sweet-sounding male-female country duo. Ironically … sadly … the talented pair themselves have now parted and melted away, torn and victimized by their own internal civil war.

In happier times, according to Joy Williams (half of the duo), they named themselves Civil Wars as an homage to Plato’s quote:

Be kind, for everyone you meet

is fighting a great battle.”

Civil war develops when kindness hides its face for a period and personal victory must be attained at any and all costs.

Civil war tears apart families and friendships and communities.

Used to be that civil war meant the wielding of vicious knives and bayonets, organ-tearing explosions of gunfire and cannons and bombs, destroying former friends and neighbours all in a cataclysmic cyclone.

Friends become fiends. Neighbours become nay-sayers…

Civil War, like all war, is a tremendously disfiguring and tragic episode. Smiles turned upside down. Bodies strewn across the landscape in an abstract, gruesome form of art.

I’ve grudgingly admired the USA for decades. Despite its many problems, it has, in my lifetime, held a position of reluctant reverence for its solid, world-calming influence… sanity above all.

The American attitude that anything (positive) is possible rang out above the other dirt that sifted to the ground.

Sanity Lost.

Today, a glance across my Canadian southern border affords a view of civil war (civil but with broader worldwide tentacles) unleashed and unrestrained. Nasty. Heartless. Brainless.

Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee vs Abraham Lincoln brought forward into the 2000’s.

Trump vs Country vs World.

I see a spreading civil war unleashed out of anger and ignorance and dissatisfaction and fear.

The divides are sharp as razor blades, bloody and vicious and cruel in ways that could be compared to the slavery vs freedom arguments of the 1860’s. Right vs wrong gone murky.

The war being fought may be weaponless on a physical, body-distorting and -destroying front, but the sides have clearly been chosen.

Each day a distasteful battle for supremacy occurs…. Republican vs Democrat… White vs Non-White… Male vs Female… White Collar vs Blue Collar… Roe vs Wade… Truth vs Lies… Industrial Revolution vs Techno Revolution… Christian vs Muslim… Conservative vs Liberal… CNN vs FOX …

Always US vs THEM

US = Good

THEM = Terrible

us vs them

Great battles aren’t calmly debated but instead inflamed with WMD’s wielded by one named Trump who cares little about tolerance or acceptance or finding common ground.

His stealth virus infects us all, the same as advertising execs have influenced us for decades without our truly understanding… YES! watching gorgeous Clydesdales does make me want to drink a BUD!

These are bruising infectious battles that aim to destroy and victimize and emerge with one solitary victor. Show no mercy. Take no prisoners.

Win – win scenarios are for the weak and useless.

I feel thankful… and confident… that Trump is a short-term President (and a long-term convict).

As I’ve said here before, I believe that our shared existence – humanity – is on an upward curve of tolerance that hits minor and occasionally major bumps along its path. Bruises and cuts happen along the trail.

Minorities and women will rise higher in the tides of time.

But we are now going to carry the noxious, venomous Trump virus going forward and that saddens me.

Might is right. Winner takes all.

There are many sad people, like in 1930’s Germany, who now feel emboldened by nastiness and victimhood used as tools for personal adornment and advantage. Mirrors are superior to windows.

I prefer to live in a space, a world where…“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle” is the guiding force that carries us along.

The warm shadows of the sunset are a calming reminder that each day has the potential … the beauty… the tolerance and understanding to sleep with only a slight itch of nervousness about the demons that creep out of the closet from time to time…

Civil war or not… I’m eating pumpkin pie … Happy Thanksgiving, eh!

PS And friends… a wee reminder when staging your charitable turkey drop from a helicopter… no no no … turkeys still can’t fly!

WKRP

Thanksgiving meal

 

I Like To Nap… So Sue Me… Positive Addictions.

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nap time.jpg

True story …

I spend a lot more time napping and less time reading the news now than before.

Addiction Confession: I used to be a Globe & Mail’aholic and I still consume too much CNN and Chocolate!

I know that Brett Kavanaugh is huge in the news, but what can I do other than watch the children give each other bloody noses in the government schoolyard? Will my observing make a change? I think not.

I know that Trump thinks that Canada and Justin Trudeau are being nasty and unfair in trade negotiations … SAD… (boo hoo donald… you don’t even deserve to be capitalized a**hole). Will my opinions be the butterfly-wing flapping that miraculously changes the tide of trade? I think not.

I know that drinking lots of lattes will/won’t give me cancer, heart disease, impotence, flatulence, and the inherent ability to speak Italiano. Will quaffing less caffeine improve my quality and quantity of life? I think not.

I know that my Hamilton Tiger Cats football team (BTW, the Tiger Cats were a “question” to a Jeopardy answer this week!) will struggle to win their game against BC this weekend, but will my cheers tip the scale in their favour? OK, on this one I think I can have a positive effect! (Last minute UPDATE: Hamilton 40 – BC 10… I’m right!)

Chocolate and Tiger Cats are addictions that will sizzle along with me as they slide my chilled corpse into the crematorium chamber.

Chocolate and ticats.jpg

Football AND chocolate donut… OMG!!

The point I’m going after this morning – and I think I do have a point – is the old “don’t read/watch the news” … be the one to “create the news“.

News noun vs News verb.

I’ll never write AI code. I’ll never run a successful entrepreneurial company. I’ll never win an Olympic medal. I’ll never cure Ebola or Irritable Bowel Disease.

But that doesn’t mean I, nor you, should despair. Nope.

A human being’s success isn’t always measured in the millions or billions, like McDonalds’ hamburgers. One or two great burgers can be life changing.

A lot of our personal victories can be counted on our fingers and toes. A lot of success needs a telescope or microscope to recognize.

Creating the news can be a small-scale operation like those mini-loans operations in Third World countries that give women opportunities to be courageous and self-sufficient.

Saving … improving… the world can be intimidating. It looks like too big a bite for most of us “non-lions”. It’s like a huge tsunami wave coming at you, perhaps a giant skyscraper tumbling over you, crashing in a monstrous wave.

Disaster.

But step away, go a kilometre or two inland and that terrifying tsunami shrinks into a gentle manageable wave that pushes and tugs at our fragile knees and toes but allows us to stay upright and do the job we want to accomplish … to stand and be counted as making something happen.

To be the news verb and not the news noun.

breaking-news-.jpg

Did I mention naps?

Can naps be labelled an addiction?

People get confused when I say “I need a nap“. They think I’m hip and 21st century-cool saying, “I need an app“. But I’m not cool.

Doesn’t matter. Naps are an important part of my “create the news” plan.

Sleep is my creative bliss time… I often do more productivity-wise with my eyes closed than open.

Sleep and nap time are where the old sub-conscious puts on its big boy pants and goes to work.

The challenges of navigation through difficult music passages, new blog ideas, personality frictions, altered approaches to tutoring… they all hatch on the nap front.

All of the thought and planning personnel needed to make good stuff happen for me is sitting down restlessly, yet patiently waiting… patiently waiting in the inner office of my mind.

They’re sipping lattes, eating donuts and cinnamon buns – where’s the fresh fruit? – and chattering quietly but the meeting hasn’t been called to order yet.

At this point, I stand up and leave the room (nap).

They don’t appreciate me watching over them, so I happily vacate the space and away they go. Suddenly, the buzz in the room takes on a spirited youthful energy and life as the zzzz‘s emanating from me in the outer office increase in intensity.

Twenty minutes or half an hour later, I stir back to the surface, wipe away the sloppy drool at the corner of my mouth, then open the office door.

I rub my eyes as my faithful representative at the adjourned meeting gives me a synopsis and plan based on the group’s deliberations.

Answers and remedies and focussed ideas flow on broad rivers that were filled as I snored. BEAUTY!

It’s a pretty great day when not only can news be a verb in our lives, but so too can the power of napping transform into a verb… ACTION.

The morning is morphing closer to an afternoon and I can feel the zeal and energy slowly drain, like thick syrup, from my head and my fingertips.

I’ve been typing away here for a few hours.

Thanks for joining me in this sunrise to high noon journey.

I can now go forward in my day and make that news verb a reality, but…

… only after I’ve grabbed a quick nap… such a terrible addiction!

nap time.png

 

 

Rain… Fall… Food

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rain in the pines.jpg

Thick, juicy plums of rain are falling on the grass surrounding the towering Ponderosa Pines outside my window. Incessant… drop… glop… plop…

The overnight stream has brought out a mass congregation of nasty Flickers and Starlings that terrorize the songbird woodhouses and my peoplehouse with their stabbing sword-beaks.

Their frontal assault began at first light and may not diminish until the first chirpy sounds of evening crickets begin their nightly symphony.

A solo humpty-dumpty magpie causes a large limb to dip and sway like an ocean liner in a sea swell as orchardist neighbour Devon roars past on his space-age enclosed tractor, sending up a fine cloud of misty rainspray .

This combination of rain and the official commencement of fall (I prefer the word AUTUMN – “fall” makes me envision little elder ladies on city streets tumbling to the sidewalk beside their unsteady walkers) trains my eyes inshore, into the ovenly warmth of the bright, now inviting kitchen.

Hot summer kitchens are best used for short social visits, the throwing together of light airy salads and icy slushed drinks – then rushed to the outside patio for immersion in the sounds and perfume of summer.

Fresh, citrus-laced lettuces, spinach, and juicy grape tomatoes generously layered with light amber olive oil and feta… ahhhhhh …. yes, I already lament the dwindle of summer, even a campfire-scented smoky one like this year’s in the Okanagan Valley.

OK Salad.jpg

But, let’s return to the autumn kitchen… inviting and open-arms ready for laughter and aroma, thin and thick sauce lines, slipping from summer gewurtztraminers into more autumn’ish pinot noirs, drawing us inside the world of culinary dance, the friendly tangle of spice upon spice, gossamer walls of taste…

My autumn and winter kitchen revolves on a daily basis around a global trail of flavour.

I was raised in a WASP’y home of routine Friday evening bacon and eggs, Sunday roast beef and oven-browned potatoes. Ham and scalloped potatoes, meatloaf, shepherd’s pie.

One flag flew over our repasts and it was the stolid Union Jack. Hail Brittanica!

Today, multi-toned flags are drawn down each evening, changed, and raised anew each day in my kitchen. The Maple Leaf and the Union Jack are mere temporary apparitions, akin to AirBnB guests.

My restless taste buds, like Anthony Bourdain’s culinary travels, wander the continents and back alleys of dusty towns.

The thought of some routines is comforting, but when it comes to food choices, I crave a unique flavour palette each day that doesn’t come back around for at least a week, preferably longer.

The decision gets harder and harder in recent years as more and more ethnicities contribute to the menu board. A short 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of my home floating with the scents of:

  • Morocco
  • Peru
  • Nicaragua
  • Korea
  • Cuba
  • Thailand
  • Syria

And yet, here I have this autumn, a cupboard jammed with spices, sauces, grains and noodles whose names I can barely pronounce.

In my younger days, my international standards were “exotic” French Onion Soup and Italian Lasagna. A pinch or two of oregano, basil, garlic and thyme were sufficient spicing for these delicacies.

I saw myself as a crazily adventurous cook when I prepared an Indian Lamb Rogan Josh, Mexican Chorizo Frittata con Queso, Spanish Paella Valenciana.

paella

My 1960’s family would have thought we were living in a Back to the Future world if presented with these nose-bombing dishes. Eyes widened in a disbelieving shock and awe. I would be playing Marty McFly in real life. Cue Huey Lewis & The News…

But here we are in the 2010’s and the local horn-of-plenty is literally overflowing with pungency and aromatic bouquet beyond belief.

What does Martha Stewart say again? And that’s a good thing!

Of course there is a down side to this cornucopia.

Having a wide range of ingredients and spice combinations as well as the decision of including meat protein or running the vegan road, makes choosing a dish du jour über challenging.

So, whether it becomes Beef Vindaloo, Indio Viejo, Sushi, Falafel, Moros y Cristianos, Lomo Saltado, Bibimbap, Vegetable Tajine, Perogies, or Tourtière just don’t matter a wit. The end result is always (OK, usually!) a thrilling delicacy of flavours.

When the drizzles, showers or torrents of water descend from the September or October heavens and the daylight grows smaller, it just feels saintly to cocoon and welcome a sliver of some other culture into my kitchen.

You could spend thousands of dollars to jet to the culinary locale of choice… get the full adventure… or go the budget route and knock the price down to a mere few bucks. And for that handful of moments, experience the backstreets of Delhi or Cusco or Casablanca in the heady scents emanating from your oven.

So yeah, so long summer … bring on those autumn rains!

tea in the rain.jpg

 

Arrogant Earworms

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Ceti eel.jpg

I want to scream until blood gushes from my eye sockets.

In the movie STAR TREK II: The Wrath of Khan (which we saw at a Prince Edward Island Drive-In theatre in 1982), there is an earworm scene.

As part of his plot, the villain Khan (Ricardo Montalban… good to the last drop) introduces us to his household pet: a loathsome, slug-like creature called a Ceti Eel.

You see, their young enter through the ears and wrap themselves around the cerebral cortex. This has the effect of rendering the victim extremely susceptible to suggestion… Later, as they grow, follows madness and death…”

I don’t remember a thing about the movie other than this repulsive scream scene that sticks in my head like a Chinese finger trap.

I suppose you could say it’s become a visual eyeworm about an earworm.

The good news is that I don’t usually scream (there is one exception, the cliffhanger will be resolved below) when I’m infected with a musical earworm.

Most earworms – those snippets of music that refuse to go home when they’re told –  are a trivial annoyance, although there are occasions when they can be a pleasurable repetition inside our heads.

I’ll admit I cringe and throw up a little in my mouth when I’m contaminated by incessant YMCA or Chicken Dance song scraps, unless … I’m thoroughly ensconced in a Molson or Smirnoff haze. Then it’s Dance Fever! You too?

Earworms come in lots of flavours.

Commercial jingles are the bane of the earworm world.

Successful jingle writers know they can plant their flag at the pinnacle when the ditty they penned is hummed by millions of office and factory workers for many years afterwards…

  • “I am stuck on …”
  • “I wish I were an …”
  • “Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun …”
  • “Meow, meow, meow, meow …”
  • “Plop plop, fizz fizz …”
  • “Like a good neighbour …”
  • “I’d like to buy the world a …”

Notice how I didn’t complete the jingles as a test to see if you could figure out the product being advertised? Pass or Fail?

Yes, most of these are oldies, but knowing that they’re from decades past and I’m still consciously aware of them tells me just how juicy the jingles are.

The earworms I love are catchy songs like Tommy Tutone’s 867-5309, whistling Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy, Pharrell Williams’ Happy, The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles.(who doesn’t love the word Havering?).

I don’t even mind Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass, that Psy guy’s Gangnam Style or Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah-ah

They’re all fun and bring a smile to my face.

 

Happy2

I chuckle out loud when I get the anti-vegan Arrogant Worm song, Carrot Juice is Murder jammed in my head….  Carrot Juice constitutes murder (and that’s a real crime)
Greenhouses prisons for slaves (let my vegetables grow)…

But understand that not all earworms are fun and games.

Earworms that aren’t joyous or cute but make the tenderness of melancholy so very sweet are the violin theme from Schindler’s List and the sad saxophone strains from the movie, Summer of ’42. They impart a late night ache inside me that inexplicably soothes.

My all-time favourite?

I carry a soft space of wonder for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody . The opening harmony lines :

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality

… gets caught in the sugary spiderwebs inside my head.

I’m in a universe of awe when I contemplate how the song – a modern symphony, with so many intricate movements – was ever constructed by Freddie Mercury.

Bohemian

OK, finally… worst of the worst earworms. Scream worthy! Ceti Eel screamworthy?

Drum roll please …..

Boney M. Anything by Boney M.

Top of the exasperation list? Mary’s Boy Child, Rasputin and Rivers of Babylon.

Even writing the names of these songs and I’m holding back a torrent of stomach contents. And of course, now I have this electronic buzz reverberating through my skull… NOOOOoooooooooo……

Hark now hear the angels sing, a king was born today
And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day …

Earworm … BAD

Earworm … GOOD

In the end, isn’t any earworm playing through your head better than a disgruntled voice telling you at 2 am how you could have handled such and such a situation better? Or, what you should have said as a smart retort to a nasty comment directed your way?

Of course. And much much better than a Ceti Eel earworm slipping slyly into your ear canal.

I’d even take Boney M over that.

(Care to share your favs or detests?… I’m all ears…)

Boney M.jpg

 

 

 

 

I’ve Got A Peaceful Easy Feeling…

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lottery winner.jpg

Never won a lottery. NOPE!

Never been to Vegas. Never been asked out by a Victoria’s Secret lingerie model.

So how do I know I’m one of the luckiest guys ever in human existence? Well, lots of reasons but near the top, a mere stone’s throw from the hoodoo peak?

I’ve never once been asked … or tempted… or coerced… to go to WAR.

Never had to defend my home or wife or children with a weapon, other than a flyswatter.

NOT. ONCE. EVER.

In the thousands of years of humanity insanity, how many men can say this? They could almost fit into a historic-timeline broom closet (if the closet was as big as Vancouver Island).

My Ontario childhood was idyllic – riding my banana seat bike with the high handlebars through sprinklers, playing with bugs in the cool grass beneath a huge leafy chestnut tree, licking the drips from orange and grape popsicles, slipping folded newspapers beneath my pant legs for shin protection on the backyard hockey rink my Mom stayed up late to make.

popsicle.jpg

Armed conflict was a hazy cloud in the rearview mirror… but the memory of recent European battles played a part in my juvenile play.

Yes, I played war with my little buddies. We’d fashion guns out of broken hockey sticks and broom handles to run and shoot and hide… Bang bang, you’re dead (… no I’m not, you missed me!).

GI Joe was a toy superhero.

But I never heard the heart-stopping pounding of exploding mortar shells, the sight of goose-stepping soldiers on my city’s streets, saw the tears of a classmate whose family had just received a telegram from the War Office.

In my earliest youth, war was entertainment.

I’ve watched TV, gone to movie theatres where I’ve munched popcorn, viewing countless masses slaughtered senselessly. Brave, heroic actors shooting pretend guns.

Much of this was what we label “entertainment”.

How is killing others entertainment?

Two of my favourite movies of all time are Schindler’s List and Platoon. Gruesome, vivid stories of World War II and Vietnam. 

Beautiful cinematography, powerful narratives, filled with intense scenes that show me the emotional terror and panic everyday people endured.

Both scared the shit out of me.

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That’s what “real” war movies should do.

War isn’t really John Wayne romantic. War is horror. War kills literally and figuratively (how many vets return home dead inside?).

These were horror movies far scarier than Freddie Kruger and Hannibal Lecter and Chucky combined, because they were (reasonably) accurate portrayals of the misery and wretched fear we naturally feel when confronted with our blood and brains splattered, bowels hanging loose from a belly opened wide like a peeled orange. Screams of pain and cries for Mommy.

When I watch a real war movie, I don’t do it for two hours of fun leisure time like I usually do at the theatre.

I do it as a reminder of the harsh cruelty we are capable of inflicting on one another.

I do it as a time of internal reflection on what armed conflict does to children and families and towns and countries. Orphans and refugees.

I do it as a mental prompt of the efficiency of weaponry and how it shreds a fragile human body like a meat grinder.

I do it as a message to myself to vote for stolid politicians who have the mature judgment and intelligence to work towards peace. One of my most important jobs, to secure the future for the faces of the generations that will follow me, is to select wisely with foresight.

I’ve perhaps not been more aware of my lifetime good fortune than since I began tutoring a young Syrian man. Forced to flee with his family from his home and homeland, his life has suffered huge turmoil. And still he smiles. He’s a gentle man.

He did nothing to deserve the upheaval that came his way. He merely made the mistake of being born in a chaotic region of the world, whereas I made the unintended happy blunder of taking my first breath in a Shangri-la.

War has been his experience, no movie scenes needed for him to feel the terror.

My eyes are open but I have hope.

The peace dividend paid to me in my life has been the greatest ROI (Return on Investment) to which I never had to contribute a cent of my personal fortune.

Simply put, this peace dividend will only increase over time as education standards rise worldwide and women have more power and influence in the running of the world.

Shorter term blips of worry occur the same as they do in stock markets, but the long term trend is always promising.

It’s often said that children are our future. Yes, true. But my firm belief is that women are really our future. Decision-making by women is and will make this planet a safer place.

I don’t buy lottery tickets. No Victoria’s Secret model will ever ask me out. Yada yada yada…

I’m just a lucky guy who still harbours a peaceful easy feeling.

sunset bench

 

Why is Simple So Hard? E-Mail Hell…

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From: Larry Green
Sent: Sunday, September 2, 2018 06:01 AM
To: Donald J. Trump
Subject: Re: FAKE E-Mails

 

Fake e-mail

What?

I get an e-mail from a friend, relative, or acquaintance at least once a week that is unintelligible. Clipp. Incomple. Non-sensi…

This week I got two in one day.

I’m gonna vent here because … well… maybe because I’m worn down by the smoky haze that hotly raging forest fires have inflicted on this valley for the month of August… or …

… maybe just because I’m sad that summer is winding up already and I’ve barely managed to swim in Okanagan Lake 3 or 4 times.

The trout are sending me soggy letters telling me they miss me.

When I was a young grasshopper, my English teachers pounded into my head the idea … the notion … that when you communicate with anyone, whether written or spoken, you need to remember your 5 W’s and H. Right?

Standard, journalistic stuff. Grammar gold nuggets.

And, if YOU don’t understand the 5 W’s and an H, then you’re probably on my “GD Frustrating Communicators” list.

OK… the 5 W’s are Who, What, Where, Why and When… the H is How.

Yes, I get impatient. Please shoot me in a few years if I start making remakes of Grumpy Old Men. 

Angry e-mail.jpg

Like many of you out there, I know that there are only so many hours in a day and I want to travel somewhere stunning and exotic in my existence.

Truthfully, I waste a lot of time. My head likes nothing better than to float in the clouds, a lazy glider dipsy-doodling in the updrafts of invisible feathers.

And… if I get to the end of my day… and I feel like I’ve taken even a baby step forward, maybe a tiny 1% improvement in some area of my life, well…  I sleep better.

So, when folks send me an e-mail that’s supposed to help me along in my travels, I don’t want to be stuck in an airport holding lounge because they didn’t take the time or manufacture the thought energy to be clear in what they are saying.

You’re squandering my raindrops of time. Let me fly!

I know you have a wide-open prairie landscape of background and context inside your head, so please open up like a spring wheat kernel and share it with me, OK?

Right, an example.

This week, I got this e-mail from a friend (who hopefully doesn’t read my blog posts!) I play guitar and sing with sometimes:

Well it looks like this Friday night is back on at the request of the Widow …won’t be here 2 weeks down the line.. I’m not really ready for Right Down the Line yet Larry so if you are coming to play this week do your own stuff if not we’ll do it together in two weeks.

OK. Weird grammar aside (I accept punctuation and spelling gaffes in e-mails) I’m scratching my head wondering what’s wrong with me… like,

  1. Who the hell is the “Widow”?
  2. And, who won’t be there in 2 weeks, you or the “Widow”?

Is this message supposed to be encrypted in code so some crazed Nazi won’t intercept and lay waste to the earth?

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Author Ursula le Guin :

two people talking, form a community of two. People are also able to form communities of many, through sending and receiving bits of ourselves and others back and forth continually — through, in other words, talking and listening. Talking and listening are ultimately the same thing.

When you talk (write) to me, we both need to touch… feel… taste… the meaning and emotion of the communication dance. 1,2,3…1,2,3…

A good dance partner is clear in communicating the motion, whether giving or receiving.

Ginger always knew that Fred would be coherent and definite, Fred always knew that Ginger was conveying an equally clear response (even when dancing backwards in high heels!)

I write for a whole host of reasons, some selfish, some altruistic.

I write because words and language are ravishing and elegant and sexy.

I write because I want to understand.

I write because I want to communicate and be understood.

An e-mail message surely shouldn’t be a jigsaw puzzle of jumbled, mismatched pieces that I can’t decipher.

Bottom line…

• Who? All of us. Me included.

• What? Write an e-mail where I can understand your meaning and emotional direction.

• Where? Anywhere. Isn’t e-mail fantastic that way?

• When? All day, everyday.

• Why? So I don’t misunderstand and read your words through my own crazy, warped filter.

• How? Easy. Remember and use your high school 5W’s and H! Voilà!

Simple and yet so hard it seems.

No FAKE News or E-mails here.

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Wig Shopping With Anthony Bourdain

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end of summer

The end of summer as we know it is on the horizon – can you smell the difference in the scent of the air?

… and so … in a pretzely-twisted kind of way it seems appropriate that I’m writing a song these days about another end… death.

More specifically? Suicide.

And now here I am trying to think of a way to drill down into these depths and find some humour to share because I don’t want to be all morose and maudlin. I like to write upbeat posts filled with fun and hope and smiles.

But sometimes upbeat is hidden in a dark closet and unavailable.

My first exposure to suicide was in my teens. Luckily, his wasn’t a successful suicide.

Steve was a young co-worker of mine at the local McDonalds.

He and I weren’t bosom buddies but we did share a common cause.

Steve and I went out wig shopping together… yup, you read that right… wig shopping!

No, neither of us had cancer with chemotherapy that robbed us of our glorious hair. No, neither of us had early onset alopecia.

What we had was… 1970’s teenaged-onset long hair.

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Give me down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy…. HAIR……..

McDonalds had a firm policy that no male employee would sport tresses that fell across or over the ear.

Steve and I had a firm policy too!

My friend and I wanted the McJob but there was no way in the world we were going to allow some barber to neuter us like treacherous Delilah had done to Samson. Teenage years were difficult enough without nerdifying us into Lawrence Welk sycophantic clones.

So we trod off to a wig store on Hamilton’s “Mountain” and a very nice lady there found us inexpensive short-haired wigs that were our hair colour and … after a few dozen bobby pins and bobbles were applied… ta-dahhhh… everyone was happy. YAY!

But I guess Steve wasn’t happy inside. It wasn’t long after that when my co-worker/friend took an overdose of pills as a cry for help that sent him to hospital.

I had no idea what to do or say … I wasn’t Sweet 16, maybe Stupid 16.

I never saw Steve again.

I hope he got the help he needed and has lived a reasonably happy existence for the many years since. Maybe he’s dead. I don’t know.

My exposure to suicide over the years has been at arms-length. Thankfully.

I’ve worked in labs where on any given typical week, I would see an autopsy form tucked in the Pathologist’s In-Box that outlined the coroner’s story of a likely suicide victim awaiting examination in the downstair’s morgue refrigerator.

These cases – these people – these fellow humans – these suicides – weren’t reported in the newspapers like motor vehicle accidents. Their obituaries gave us no clue.

I know that suicide potential exists all around us.

Every one of us could be in the direct line of a close friend or relative who, unbeknownst to us is on the cliff’s edge. We may not know that until the jump happens.

OK. Back to the song I’m writing.

The recent past has brought a shocking number of celebrity deaths with suicide as the stated cause… Robin Williams. Kate Spade. Avicii. David Foster Wallace. Margot Kidder. Anthony Bourdain. These are the ones we know of and were successful.

celebrity suicide 2

According to the World Health Organization, someone on this planet commits suicide very 40 seconds. In Canada, the reported ones total about 10 per week.

Just as the expression tells us that the rich and famous pull their pants on one leg at a time… so too do they experience the depths of despair and depression. Sadness knows no socio-economic statistic that magically elevates the happiness quotient.

I’m writing an ode to the pain of suicide with celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain as my muse.

Why a suicide song?

Maybe it’s because I enjoy cooking.

… or perhaps because the sheer numbers of suicide are penetrating my awareness.

… or maybe my experiences at the soup kitchen have hammered home the potential that exists in so many to write the final page in their book.

Here’s one stanza of my song-in-works (pre-bridge and chorus) :

We didn’t know
It never occurred -we never prepared
another meal might not be shared
How could we guess
Why would we think – who ever thought
the ingredients were a sign of distress.

His Days were numbered
our days are numbered too
sometimes we choose to count them down
at times they’re counted down for you
the smiles cry smokescreen
shadow normalcy through pain
when sun comes shining thru the clouds
yet nothing falls but rain.

………………………….

It’s 6 am as I write these words and the sun is still settled well below the smoke-hazed Okanagan horizon.

Soft muffled sounds of tourist cars laden with tents and coolers and floaties and sleeping children in the back, echoes off in the distance in a mix with cricket chirps.

A moth flits anxiously against my screen window, the early morning flight of the Air Canada Dash 8 rumbles overhead.

Another day. Another start. And I wonder. I ponder.

Will all those who awake in the world with me this morning find a reason to lay their head back on their pillow at the end of this day…

dog countng sheep

I think that I shall never see…

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Poetry

Poetry…

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love (Leonard Cohen)

For most of my life, I’ve not truly, verily… understood poetry.

Mud puddles and Gobbledegook!

Sure, I’ve understood and tried to use poetic language in my prose, my letters, my e-mails, my blog posts… language is a beautifully scented rose in life’s garden …

But the essence of a poem: the stanzas, the subtlety, the nuance, the deep intrigue that typically holds hands within a poem have usually left me spinning – confused and suffering from a deep-seated feeling of “inferiority”… why don’t I understand what the poet is saying?

Poetry typically oozes emotional depth… am I merely too shallow to swim in these waters?

I know I can be accused of laziness.

In high school I enjoyed reading poetry.

My teacher would recite each line aloud and explain the meaning submerged within the words, like weed tendrils floating beneath the lake’s surface… the pain, the glory, the love … “ah, so that’s what she is saying, this is good stuff.”

Poetry is very cool.

Then… the teach would send us home with an assignment to read such and such poem or sonnet.

She’d command that we come back the following day with a well thought out interpretation of what the writer intended and why their choice of cutting metaphor and incisive imagery was so cleverly insightful and amazing. So deep.

“But Ms. French, I’M NOT deep.”

“Dr. Seuss I get… Bartholomew Cubbins and his 500 hats makes total sense… but this Shakespearean sonnet is about ….?love?… which physic did except? huh?”

My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease,
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
Th’ uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which physic did except.
Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are,
At random from the truth vainly expressed:
    For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
    Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

 

The weeds kept dragging me down into the darkness – I wallowed and drowned in starless misunderstanding.

Even music lyrics, like written stanzas of poetry are my dyslexia… a Johnny Flynn song I’ve been rehearsing with a musical partner lately goes like this:

Now quick to the cut are we waking
And seeing it all as the dream
The pillars that raised us are shaking
And Samson’s will is the theme
That one minute we see and the next we don’t
In our minds in the devil’s long tail
Slapping sense to its peak and a hard strung out week
And so back to the love in our sails
Gonna sweep this house clean out
Gonna blow out all of the lights
We’ll dream back up the Amazon
We’ll steer her home tonight
We’ll steer her home tonight

 

Samson’s will is the theme… huh?

The rhythm of the waves slaps at the shoreline but I can’t see where they’re coming from, the wordy fog too thick for my understanding.

But wait… there’s hope.

Now maybe… maybe… music, for me, has been the parallel substitute, the lyrical language that is my poetry… the wandering melody and harmony the stanzas of beauty that make my beating heart rise high and float with the clouds…

Music without words is its own poem. When we listen to music we feel the tugs and pulls of joy and sadness: the long drawn out sorrow of death, at times the elation of love, the passage of time.

Can you listen to Pharrell Williams sing and not feel HAPPY? Take in the strains of Vivaldi’s SPRING and the violin’s vision of birds flitting in their bouts of twitterpation?

What is this if not poetry?

Psychologist Howard Gardener proposed a variety of types of intelligence: visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical, interpersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal, naturalistic, and musical-rhythmic.

So perhaps … the poetry that we each find in our world is a factor of where our intelligence muscles originate.

Maybe you see and sense poetry in the movement of your body, your neighbour in the logical ways of numbers and math formulae.

But for me, I’ll pick up my guitar and delve into the musical poetry that reads true joy into my harmonious heart.

And occasionally, when I need some of that old-fashioned wordy-kind-of-rhyme,

I’ll slip into a scintillating stanza or two from Dr. Seuss or even Shel Silverstein…

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The Man From A.B.I… or… D.R.O.Y.L.

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boy improving

Yeah, that title’s a wee bit of a stretch. I do that sometimes when I want to draw you into my message.

So here’s the message…

Always Be Improving… akaDon’t Rest On Your Laurels…

I was at the beach late yesterday afternoon – the off-white sand of Sunoka Beach is sweetly satisfying in the blazing hot Okanagan August sunshine – and was stunned when I spotted a group of 4 – one man and three women – in their beach chairs beneath a blue shade umbrella at water’s edge.

No, I wasn’t stunned because they were stretched out naked, airing out their naughty bits (although I was in the buff – ok, maybe not), but because each, instead of eyes down into their iPhone or Samsung device, were eyes down into … wait for it… a book. Cue the piercing screams.

Four people. Together. Every one of them. Submerged. In a book!

I tried hard not to stare. Really hard. I felt myself drawn in to the bizarre visual like some creepy Peeping Tom.

I couldn’t tell for sure but it didn’t look like they were studying their scriptures or 50 Shades of Grey. 

Maybe they were exploring. Maybe they were learning. Maybe they were improving.

The sight ran against my expectation, like seeing a camel casually loping down Main Street in Vancouver.

camel in town

I felt shocked. I felt shocked that I would feel shocked. But I felt pleased too.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with perusing your phone. Communication is a good thing – to a point.

But an amoeba won’t likely ever grow into a Homo Sapien if it never improves and becomes a greater entity than its parent, its grandparent.

We’d probably all be amoeba still if we only carried phones. Hmmmm…. do you think amoebae could have invented an iPhone?

…………….

Henry Winkler “the Fonz”, in a later episode of TV’s Happy Days, gifted us the expression jumped the shark, that moment when we’ve crossed the dividing line into devastation, certain oblivion.

But “Eey… Correct-amundo“… the Fonz didn’t allow a momentary defeat to shape his life trajectory.

Today? Well, Winkler doesn’t look at all like the cool Fonz anymore. He has made himself over into a new popular character Gene Cousineau on the HBO show Barry.

winkler then and now

Winkler says: “When I was 27, I knew who I wanted to be as an actor, at 72, I am getting closer.”

Winkler learned, studied and grew.

I’ve jumped the shark too many times to count. When I was 19 I knew I wanted to write songs. I tried but I wasn’t ready. I’m not 91 yet but I too am getting closer to what I want to be.

Whaddya mean, closer?

Learning and trying and growing is the gunpowder in my head. Learning is how I’m getting closer.

We all traverse the spectrum of our lives like a Russian nesting doll. At different points through the years we grow and change and “unnest” a new entity of ourselves that carries us forward. Da

I’ll never be the boy wonder I’d like to be, but the effort put in to improving just a tiny bit every day keeps me both juvenile and rejuvenated.

Let’s face it. I’m just you sitting here in this chair, watching a tiny ant wandering around the desk surface, typing away with my host of worries and insecurities and ideas and dreams. I have lots of weaknesses and so I reach out… to learn.

We all open our doors in the morning and bravely head off into the world in different directions, the places we lead our lives, the places – hopefully- we love and want to be.

Reading good books, practicing and developing our skills and interests, keeping a keen focus on the important and not the trivial, attempting to be as fearless as possible and not worrying so much about what others think of us when we attempt and fail…

It’s the pursuit of ABI or DROYL that matters. We all need a sense of purpose – the desire to learn and improve. It’s our Northern Star.

It doesn’t matter where your focus, your passion lies. Learning and growing, always improving, inspires an inner flame of enthusiasm.

Always Be Improving is a lovely way to open your eyes to the morning each day.

It can be as individual as your fingerprint, the pattern of your iris, or even a beautifully romantic, wintry snowflake.

And… exactamundo… it just don’t matter whether the ABI inspiration hits in the midst of a marathon run… lounging in the bath… waterskiing over a voracious sea predator… or yes, better yet … while stretched out naked in the sun.

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