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… Who Do YOU Love? …

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HELP WANTED:

Mentor needed for middle-aged hack seeking inspiration and all-round creative abilities.

Love-Story with rose

Forget the ad above, the job has been filled already, although I haven’t called the winning candidate to congratulate him just yet. Or to tell him the pay rate sucks.

This is a love story.

And I’m really sorry to tell you …  there will be no sex involved (unless you’re up to something while reading this), just unrequited adulation.

…………….

A fortuitous flame burns hot as molten lava, it pours over the upper surface and spills into the world for us all to see and revel in its heat and intensity. This is the nature of genius, whatever its form — scientific, artistic, athletic.

Each of you and I either has, or should have, a mentor(s), someone we admire and who will help to draw out the genius that exists in us all in some way, waiting to break free.

Ernest and Judd — NOT a Love Story

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Recently I wrote of my half-love — half-loath of Ernest Hemingway, both on a personal and a professional writing level. I don’t particularly like the person he was, and I don’t love his writing style or subject matter either. However, he has been a mentor to me in my writerly attempts to use slightly more spartan phrases to make a point — Like this. Or this. And then he was dead. The end.

Earlier still I wrote of my disdain for Judd Apatow,  the writer and producer of many ManBoy movies. Pandering to the lowest levels of body-fluid based humour jettisons him off my list of potential mentors. I want cleverness and intelligent wit, not baseball bats bashing through my boy’ish farts.

…………….

So. Enough negativity.

Today, it’s time I told you about someone I love.

Don’t we all observe someone else and say to ourselves, “Wow, I wish I could do what Janice does. I wish I could be just like her.” Of course we hate them for it, but we love them at the same time.

I’ve contemplated others frequently throughout my life and daydreamed I was as good at writing, interacting with others, running marathons, public speaking, painting scenery, picking up hot girls, thinking analytically, and on and on.

This isn’t bad. This is a really good thing to do so long as we don’t spend our entire journey from birth to death merely admiring, and not acting.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so we should flatter the hell out of our lives and imitate like crazy until we’re great at something, anything … except perhaps bank robbery or being a U.S. Republican Congressman.

And the time to start is today. Right now.

…………….

I LOVE YOU Aaron Sorkin

kristin-davis Aaron sorkin

Not only are you brilliant, but you get the hot chicks like Kristen Davis too…

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You’ll never know it Aaron, but I’m taking you on as my mentor.

I’m way in love, I’m smitten, I’m besotted with your writing, always have been. I relish your ability to compress massive, idea-rich thoughts into one or two irony-dripping sentences. How did you get to be so frickin’ brilliant?

I want to do a Being John Malkovitch and crawl inside your gifted little head and see how you do what you do because it’s beyond my meagre abilities to see it from here on the outside.

Whoa, stop right there.

       Did you really just say:Who the hell is Aaron Sorkin?”

  • The Newsroom
  • Moneyball
  • The Social Network
  • The West Wing
  • Sports Night
  • Charlie Wilson’s War
  • A Few Good Men

What do these TV shows or movie titles have in common? They were (or are, in the case of The Newsroom) all screenwritten by Aaron Sorkin.

Here are a couple of soundbites of his writing from various broadcasts, spoken by fictional characters of his making:

We [America] lead the world in only 3 categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies. Now none of this is the fault of a 20 year old college student, but you nonetheless are without a doubt a member of the worst period generation period ever period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”  

……….Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom

You can’t handle the truth!

……….Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men

— Casey: How am I conversationally anal-retentive?
— Dana: Let me answer that question in four parts, with the fourth part first and the third part last. The second part has five subjects–
— Casey: All right, all right.   

……….Peter Krause, Felicity Huffman, Sports Night

I’m an alcoholic. I don’t have one drink. I don’t understand people who have one drink. I don’t understand people who leave half a glass of wine on the table. I don’t understand people who say they’ve had enough. How can you have enough of feeling like this? How can you not want to feel like this longer? My brain works differently. […] I don’t get drunk in front of people. I get drunk alone. […] You think it has something to do with smart and stupid. Do you have any idea how many alcoholics are in Mensa?”

……….John Spencer, West Wing

Jack Nicholson-you-cant-handle-the-truth

Aaron, if you had only one memorable, witty, hilarious, ironic statement in a TV episode or movie, I’d be relatively impressed. But no, you pile them bang bang bang, one on top of the other until my head is spinning with the messages, sent in riotous, quirky fashion.

Aaron Sorkin speaks in a voice that obviously resonates strongly with me. Watching, listening and imitating people like Mr. Sorkin will make me a better writer over time just as paying close attention to the easy way that Barack Obama speaks will help me connect just a tiny bit better with those around me. We’re swimming in a pond of potential positive mentors all of the time.

I want you to be great at something. So what I’m asking of you is to be vigilant. Pay attention.

Mentors can be people, things like movies or books, or the world and everything that surrounds and inspires us. The right mindset puts us in a place where a towering Ponderosa Pine tree can energize someone in some way.

The world is jammed with potential geniuses, including you, but I’m learning more and more that genius is far less about genetics and far more about ridiculous amounts of hard work, self-belief, focus and perseverance in the face of setbacks.

There is romance and love in greatness. My love affair with Aaron Sorkin can be yours, and with whomever you desire. No Help Wanted ads are necessary.

And if you ever get pulled up on charges of stalking, you can forget I ever said any of this.

Great to Start

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1967 … Back to the Future …

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Grade 5 Glen Echo School 1967

My Grade 5 class 1967 – Glen Echo School, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada … I’m bottom row, second in from right.

Yeah, I was bleeding alright … all over the driveway.

And I screamed bloody murder with monster salty tears streaming down my chubby little cheeks.

My brother Gord’s friend Ron had pulled back hard on the rubber band and shot a U-shaped fence staple from a slingshot into my exposed lower leg from about 6 feet away. But it was a game, and so this end result should have been anticipated. Is it possible that maybe we weren’t the brightest kids?

When I pulled the two pronged galvanized projectile from my leg, the blood poured out pretty profusely. Everybody was apologetic and concerned and all, but you know, this was 1967 and I was 10 years old; these were the sorts of games we played to cement our childhoods.

Where were the parents you might ask? Oh puh-lease

Parents and kids of the 1950’s and 1960’s led pretty independent lives — we met at mealtimes, and outside of that, we were all mostly free to head in whatever direction we wanted. From any age.

But remember, this was a naively different time when we were still just standing at the front door of the haunted house that held all of the understanding of the dangers of child abuse and abductions, drugs, war atrocities, and all of the other scary things that go bump in the night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My leg felt like this …

Boy's bloody leg

…but probably looked more like this.

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It was all normal stuff from an era that no longer exists.

Hell, as a 1990’s and 2000’s parent, I would never have dreamed of sending my kids outside to play at 8 in the morning, and then not expect to see them until they came running in starved at lunch time.

Not only would I have not dreamed this, but frantic neighbourhood watchers would have sent apoplectic police officers to my door before an hour had passed.

………………

Like a wistful Ken Burn’s PBS documentary, this blog post has me delving into ancient 20th century history.

And it’s truly unsettling from my perspective because the message that runs indelicately through my head is that this means my lifetime on our good earth is running low on ticks of the clock … and since we’re talking 20th century, that’s an analog clock, you know, the kind with hands that sweep around the circle.

Burn’s documentaries beautifully lay out history in sepia tones. Dreamy nostalgic music floats through while sentimental rivers of images appear like miniature puffs of smoke that recede into the pale blue sky. I like to think of my life’s experiences in sepia, it lends romanticism and import that would otherwise be absent.

1967 was a big year in the 20th century – for me, and the rest of the world too. I think that 1967 is the first year where I’m really cognizant of my being an individual person. This is striking because I was only 10 years old in ’67.

It was the year of Canada’s 100th birthday — or Centennial —  and there was a huge international party going on in Montreal called Expo 67. Across the land, Canadians spent the year wandering their streets, schools and businesses in geometric-striped or paisley shirts, and mini tent dresses, singing, “CaaaaaaNaaaaaDaaaaa… One little , two little, three Canadians … we love thee

I visited Expo 67 twice. I loved the awe-inspiring country pavilions — Iran’s brightly-toned blue tile walls, the Sputnik satellites hanging in the sloped-glass USSR building, the Buckminster Fuller geodesic-dome U.S. pavilion that had monorail trains gliding right through its middle. The breezes of the St. Lawrence River were filled with the intoxicating smells of foreign dishes with names we couldn’t pronounce.

It was so exciting that I hardly needed the extra adrenaline boost found in the amusement park area called LaRonde, it was that cool. At one point, I got lost from my parents and aunt and uncle in the park which really pissed off my Uncle Dwight. Come on, I was TEN!

Expo_67_Pavilion_of United_States_PC_004

Humankind began to grow up in the 1960’s. Incredibly, in 1967 many of us were just beginning to realize that war was a bloody miserable thing to march into. It really wasn’t the glorious, fun-filled tromp into camaraderie and dancing with easy local girls and drinking and singing we thought it was.

Television brought Vietnam into our living rooms each evening. There were terrible bloodbaths and chemical burns, and innocents shredded in the crossfire just like in World War 1 and World War 2 and every other war that had played out over the millennia, previously unseen in our living rooms. It was scary and painful and messy. We were all scared shitless of nuclear war annihilation.

We’d been Lee Harvey Oswald‘ed and Albert DeSalvo‘ed by now, but still had no signs yet of Richard Speck, Sirhan Sirhan, Mark David Chapman, James Earl Ray, Clifford Robert Olson, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer to name just a slight few. We were semi-naive babies taking one last delicious suck on our thumbs.

But despite any worries of the time that existed, I loved 1967 for a whole bunch of reasons.

  • There was a shiny new (alright, 2 years old) Maple Leaf flag flying over the Expo 67 celebrations in Montreal.
  • Elvis married Priscilla.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup.
  • The Mad Men era where men were men and women were subservient was in its final throws.
  • The summer of free love bloomed in San Francisco.

Maple Leafs 1967

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It might be strange to you but an even more important cause for my love of all 1967 was the movies that hit the theatres. It was a classic year in cinema.

  • To Sir With Love
  • In Cold Blood
  • Wait Until Dark
  • The Graduate
  • Bonnie and Clyde

All great movies. Thoughtful, serious, funny, emotional movies.

Remember at the beginning of this post I said kids and parents went their separate directions?

Here’s a perfect example. On Saturday afternoons, I, along with one of my friends Jerome, Renato, Larry, or Frank would jump onto the Main West bus that traversed Hamilton from east to west. It was about a 30 minute ride to the central core of the city. We’d hop off downtown and find our way over to the cavernous 2,259 seat Capitol Theatre, or the majestic Palace with its huge balcony, or sometimes the relatively plain-Jane Tivoli.

Give the lady at the front kiosk your 25 cents kids’ admission, head to the snack bar for popcorn and a big chocolate bar and you could ensconce yourself in the theatre for the whole afternoon.

Why watch Bonnie and Clyde get gunned down in bloody slow motion just once when you could sit and watch it again a second time? Faye Dunaway was just way too pretty to leave behind after just one performance. Jesus, even Warren Beatty was too pretty to leave behind with only one viewing. And it took at least two viewings to understand Buck Barrow’s joke, “And she called him over and she said, “Son, whatever you do, don’t sell that cow!

You could enter the theatre at 11 am and not leave until 11 pm if you wanted. Of course, we didn’t because I had to deliver the Hamilton Spectator newspaper to my customers by 5 o’clock or I was dead meat.

Bonnie-and-Clyde-1967

I think that if I could play out my own Back to the Future scenario, 1967 would easily be my year of choice.

I’d luxuriate in the warmth of my long-gone Mom and Dad, and the rest of my family. I’d eat lots of MoJo’s and french fries at Van Wagner’s beach on Lake Ontario. I’d spend hours playing football in the park across the street from my house, pretending I was a famous Hamilton Tiger-Cat receiver like Garney Henley. I’d ogle poor blind Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark for even more hours at the Palace theatre.

More importantly, I could make sure I ran far and fast away from Ron with that damn staple-shooting slingshot.

Then today, I wouldn’t have to look down at the two bumpy little scars on my lower leg when I happily reminisce about my youth.

She was JUST the Wife of …

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Miley Twerks

The Miley in your life just twerked her way ahead over the blistered remains of your poor neglected groin.

Alright, it’s just a cheesy metaphor, but how would you feel about giving your life over to another person who would use you like a well-worn power tool to enhance and build their own life’s ambition, their career, their aspirations?

History is laden with the carcasses of those who have made just such a sacrifice.

What do I know, maybe you’ve thrown yourself on the pile already too.

Instinctively, do you feel a rush of warm, goodwill sensations bubbling up from deep within, climaxing with an enthusiastic,

YES, I must give of myself to do this for my one important person, the constellation of my life“?

I hope NOT.

……………………

The reason all of this is coming to mind right now is that I’m absorbed in reading a book written by Paula McLain entitled The Paris Wife.

It tells the semi-fictional but largely factual inside tale of a woman, Hadley Richardson, who marries a yet-to-be-discovered writer Ernest Hemingway in the early 1920’s. The new Mrs. Hemingway sheds any ambitions or dreams of her own (which included becoming a concert pianist) to be the jock-strap support to dear Ernest.

Young Mr. Hemingway and Hadley, his first (of 4) bride, travel to Paris where they live in semi-squalor so that he can write and mingle with the famed writers of the era: Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Artists of all sorts rightfully want to be around others of their ilk hoping that brilliance will shimmy into them by osmosis, and fame will fall gloriously crashing into their laps.

It was the sign of an era and perhaps humanity to that point in time that a woman like Hadley would willingly leave behind her life, dreams, and family to facilitate the ambitions of her man, with no expectation of equivalent opportunity.

Hemingway and Hadley

Ernest and Hadley with young son Jack “Bumby”

You think Hemingway was a brilliant writer and true example of a REAL man?

His spare verbiage and testosterone-laden images of self-assured manliness — dragging huge sun-sparkling marlins onto a battered wooden fishing boat … or marvelling at the masterful skills needed by the matador to thrust a lengthy banderilla into the heart of a boiling-angry bull within the arena — are legendary.

Many many love Hemingway. I have a grudging admiration for his ability to transpose fully-laden ideas into crisp, compact sentences, but beyond that, I think he was an asshole narcissist.

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I look at the reflection of my amazingly handsome visage in the mirror, fancifully seeing only the wrinkle-free 19 year-old that I once was and no longer am, and I can’t help but reflect on the narcissists of the world.

Can it be right for one “Hadley” person to act as a support, a lifelong appendage with no ambitions or personal goals, other than those that belong to another? Is it akin to becoming a monk or a nun and dedicating your eternal earthly soul to ONE other only?

Conversely, where is the human sense of honesty and fairness of “Ernest” when placing another in the position of servitude to his own talents, and abilities, asking, or even allowing another to sacrifice their own dreams and talents to live life as a crutch-bound Tiny Tim?

There are two pathways we can choose to take in our lives:

  • one is the profound journey.
  • the other is the surface journey.

Lifes journey

It may be a tragedy of human life that some of us allow ourselves to be distracted by the surface journeys while believing them to be the profound journeys.

The profound journeys are internal and substantial; the surface journeys are external and likely not significant.

For the first Mrs. Hemingway,

In many cases, the role was supportive only, sitting in the wives’ corner with Alice Toklas as she attended to her needlepoint—while on the other side of the room the “artist’s” talk crackled with excitement and invention. But some of the literary wives had strange and even toxic power—Zelda Fitzgerald, for instance. It was important to Hadley that she not try to run Ernest’s life but be his ally and his best friend. I think of her as essential to his emotional foundation, and that’s when the word “supportive” takes on a new strength and meaning.”

It brings me to tears to see someone leave a life of untapped potential shelved in support of another. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Hillary Clinton was obviously far more than just a sexy little thong hanging by her man’s side. Hillary was, is, the intellectual and ambition-laden equal to Bill, who lent her support to him for his aims, but didn’t just linger limply in the background.

Too, despite his “I did not have sex with that woman” faults, Bill Clinton also encouraged Hillary’s ambitions and lent his support in equal measure upon completion of his presidential terms.

But Hillary is still the exception, not the rule. It appears that Michelle Obama will be another of those exceptions … time will tell.

……………………

After writing 80 blog posts, I’ve found that the ones that have been the most viewed and probably provocative have been the ones I’ve written about the dwindling power and dominance of men in the western world. This is, and should be seen as a great movement forward in humanity’s development.

I give it a hardy thumbs up, so long as it’s based on women’s freedom and ambition to climb upwards, and not just a result of men’s tumbling off the rocky mountain’s precipice.

An article published in the Globe and Mail by Tabatha Southey this past weekend optimistically suggests that men are not falling back in their interest in higher education, it’s just that women are clambering like high-seas refugees onto the post-secondary boat in far greater numbers than ever before.

This is the future I dream of when I shutter my eyes for the night.

Unlike Hadley Richardson, er, Mrs. Hemingway, women (and men too) rightfully need to pursue their own personal goals and dreams. If the dream cloud can hold them both equally afloat, totally supportive of the other’s lofty ambition, there’s no reason to move like, and sing out like Jagger, “Hey You, Get Off of My Cloud“.

But for God’s sake girls, choose the profound journey.

Don’t ever let yourself become The Paris Wife and settle for saying, when asked what it is that you do: “I’m JUST the wife of …”.

the-paris-wife

I Almost Killed a Baby with Creativity

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Lab Data

It was not one of my prouder moments.

I’ve spent decades of my life running scientific tests on blood and urine and other ghastly body bits, and you can’t just wing it creatively when you’re dealing with someone’s life.

You’ve heard of creative accounting?

Well, I tried being creative once as a student in my hospital training as a lab tech.

I had a sample of amniotic fluid and was running a chemistry test called an L/S ratio to determine if a developing fetus’s lungs were sufficiently well developed to cope and breathe in the outside world.

amniocentesis1

The test involved a math calculation to come to the final answer. I did my figuring and sent the result off to the doctor.

The physician looked at the result — the baby’s lungs were good to go. The Mom was struggling with high blood pressure or something dangerous to her health like that so a C-section was scheduled in ASAP.

The surgeon was soon in the OR suite washing his hands thoroughly for the C-section that would get the little one out but, feeling some inexplicable niggling doubt, he decided to call the lab to confirm that the test result was correct.

The senior technologist in the lab department reviewed the result and looking at my calculations, discovered that I had put a decimal point in the wrong location. When corrected, it showed the baby’s lungs were far from ready for breathing outside the womb.

If the doctor hadn’t phoned to double-check the result, ten minutes later, I would have been responsible for killing a newborn.

My creative approach to lab testing was a MAJOR failure.

I made the BIG mistake, but what is really sad, is that the senior tech who was responsible for watching over me got into more shit than I did.

He trusted my skills and abilities based on what he had seen in the few weeks we had worked together, and didn’t double-check my work any longer. I had let him down.  Fatal mistake … well, almost.

Bottom line? Lab work doesn’t call for the creative right-brain to activate a whole lot.

………………………………………

I want to be the most creative person … EVerr (sounds like a line from a Taylor Swift song, I know).

Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Brian Wilson, Joni Mitchell, Andy Warhol, Michelangelo, stand aside.

lennon-mccartney

Earlier this year I took an online Songwriting course and now I’ve started another free course through the online presence of COURSERA on Creativity, Innovation, and Change via Penn State University.

If you’ve read any of my earlier posts, you’ve probably guessed by now that I am in awe of the inner workings of those who can paint, write, play music and find any number of ways to be creative and make things happen from nowhere, out of nothing.

Of course, it’s never from nothing — we have a huge mind bank of input from years of dirty-dancing with this world. Still, it feels like it’s new and spontaneous when we discover an inspired force bubbling to the surface like lava from the central core of the earth.

Ideas and creativity are all about taking what floats around us and mixing and matching to bring out a new concept … remember, it’s all about Idea Sex.

Creativity can be a challenge, and so most of us look around for a springboard of inspiration, sometimes in the great outdoors, sometimes in reading others’ stories, and often by just observing and absorbing what others around us are doing.

I have just such an inspirational person that I work around one day each week.

Cindy is a cool and enthusiastically-energetic lady. She gets the highest-endorphin high from conceptualizing. You talk to her and immediately you see the wheels churning.

She can’t turn her mind off. She lives her life in metaphor… how everything — both in the workplace and in her personal space — somehow relates to something else.

For all I know, she doesn’t sleep at night because of all the ideas flowing continuously like the Nile into one ear and out the other. She casts her net into the passing river and picks out the tasty fish-that-are-ideas swimming past.

canned-inspiration

Cindy is a bit like me (although she is far more attuned to details, I’m a big picture kind of guy, details usually drive me crazy) in that she works in a science-based profession, but really her mind works in a more free-flowing artistic sort of way.

She works in a job situation filled with IT problems and challenges. She has to find solutions quickly. A lab test result that warns of bad cardiac damage in a heart attack victim communicated a week after it’s done is next to useless. People will die or become much sicker without fast turnaround of lab tests. Cindy spends most of her weekday working two phone lines simultaneously, solving problem after problem.

Her’s is a much preferable use of creativity in the science world than I exhibited in my early student days.

Cindy lives in this headspace where she’s always perfectly located to get the message she wants when she needs it. You might call it coincidence, but I really believe it’s because she’s constantly ready to receive. She has a consciousness that is open and able to pick up what passes others by.

Modern day geniuses like Steve Jobs can absorb and synthesize ideas that make no connection in the typically unprepared.

………………………………………

So will I ever join the ranks of the super creative?

Probably not.

But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try and be enthused and motivated by the amazing capacity to see things “different“.

Think Different

I’m trying hard to shed the lab mindset that tends to see things in a black and white way and find meandering paths that have an undetermined and mysterious end.

I marvel at those who produce and imagine and synthesize, not spending their whole lives as spectators.

Our super-saturated world makes it so difficult to be creatively productive, to not just observe the TV, the video games, the professional sports, the theatre and dance productions, the Hollywood movies.

Where do we carve the moments in our days to be producers and not only consumers? It is tough. But surely we deserve  to breathe more reality into our once imaginary dreams — to make ourselves more than just bystanders..

The unknown can be scary and intimidating but it’s the uncharted roads that take us to places where ultimately, our hearts beat vigourously with the most profound intensity and satisfaction.

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Live to the Point of Tears”

                                                               Albert Camus