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Lights… Action… Kiss

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Butch and Sundance1.jpg

Bolivia.

Sundance: What’s Bolivia?

Butch: Bolivia. That’s a country, stupid! In Central or South America, one or the other.

From a rock cliff high above, an armed lookout signals to Butch.

Butch and Sundance saunter forward on horseback into Hole-In-The-Wall – rugged Wyoming canyons – where turn of the 20th century US robbers and criminals hid away from the law.

The two are the perfect pair: Butch, an independent, unconventional thinker, has the brains and is a quick-witted visionary, disrespectful of both the law and the establishment… Sundance provides the strong, quick-draw, traditional Western hero.

Sundance has heard Butch’s fanciful dreams before, such as his bright idea that Bolivia has better pickings with its silver, tin, and gold mines… and easy-to-rob-banks.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford were the perfect pair that lit up the silver screen in the 1969 bromance Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. 

Even more than The Sound of Music, it was a romance that captured my movie heart in a deeply visceral way.

Since then, I’ve sat in the darkness of a theatre hundreds of times, gazing up at the cinematic products of countless directors and actors, consuming truckloads of grease-laden popcorn (in a future life, I may return as a movie maker, or failing that, a movie popcorn critic).

There was no on-screen kiss between Newman and Redford (what mainstream audience in 1969 was ready for the kind of on-screen love that Brokeback Mountain unveiled later) but there was a love connection that even Katharine Ross (Redford’s female romantic interest in the film) couldn’t come between.

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When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” ~ When Harry Met Sally

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Movie romance is as common as cheesy love songs in the 1950’s and ’60’s, but just how often do we succumb to their charms?

Most romantic actor combos are sloppy, cliched furballs made from a mixture of lard and lemonade… anything with Matthew McConaughey, Seth Rogen, Jennifer Aniston or Cameron Diaz is a non-starter (I don’t care how good looking they are… and yeah, leave Seth Rogen off that list too!))

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On the other hand, I’ve been charmed by movie romances of a dozen kinds … deliciously sensual pairings such as :

  • Bonnie and Clyde – Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway
  • Benny & Joon – Johnny Depp & Mary Stuart Masterson
  • When Harry Met Sally – Billy Crystal & Meg Ryan
  • Silver Linings Playbook –  Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence
  • Reds – Warren Beatty & Diane Keaton
  • Brokeback Mountain – Heath Ledger & Jake Gyllenhaal
  • The Notebook – Ryan Gosling & Rachel McAdam
  • Thelma & Louise – Susan Sarandon & Geena Davis
  • Leaving Las Vegas – Nicholas Cage & Elisabeth Shue
  • And most recently, A Star Is Born – Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga

Cooper and Gaga2.jpg

I’ve come to the conclusion that you could blend Jennifer Lawrence or Bradley Cooper with any actor sporting a modicum of acting chops and come out with beautiful chemical burns.

Those chemical bonds that spark a romance between actors channel some vulnerable and magical territory. If it was easy to do, we’d be flooded with a tsunami of unforgettable love stories. Smouldering romance takes great writing and actors tuned to each others’ frequency.

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I wish I knew how to quit you.” ~ Brokeback Mountain

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Most of these flicks have left an indelible impression on me because of their balance, the humour mixed with an underlying sadness or trial that infiltrates and takes up residence.

Movie romance needs to be coddled along with enough tension between the “potentials” that you want to scream out, “oh for God’s sake, just admit to her/him that you love her/him“… that unbearable tension needs to be real and believable, delivered with the possibility that the two may never be together in the end…

The Ending

The flirtation finish, like the final taste of wine in the back of your throat, is critical.

So many movies make it to the final 15 minutes in great shape and then collapse into themselves.

I would have added An Officer and A Gentleman (Richard Gere & Debra Winger) to my list of winners above had the screenwriter not blasted it apart with a corny, cliched carry-the-girl-off-to-co-workers’-applause-into-eternal-bliss-from-her-hell-hole-of-a-life ending. BLAH!!

Titanic lost its sensual sizzle when Kate Winslet couldn’t find a way to share her floating door with Leo DiCaprio. Come on Kate… show us YOU own the Heart of the Ocean.

Blessed catharsis

A smile or a tear explodes inside us when we’ve plumbed the depths of human experience… when Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton finally come together on the train platform in Reds, when Benny and Joon make grilled cheese sandwiches on an ironing board, when Butch and Sundance, or Thelma and Louise plunge forward to their deaths.

When the screen dims … when the theatre lights go up… there should be a lingering silence … a moment or two for the actors, the crew, the audience to absorb, reflect, internalize and feel.

Off in the distance, we finally hear a faint echo from the director, “CUT!”

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8 Things I’ve Learned At Age 60+

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Lincoln with man bun.jpg

I’m how old? Get the f*** out… can’t be…

Or…. can it?

What’s that Serenity Prayer thing about “having the wisdom to accept what you cannot change…“, yeah, my age qualifies under that…

Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

Socrates was a clever man, but I’m not buying into his philosophical ditty there…

I know lots, but I also have the wisdom to know that I have a ton to learn…

I have so much to learn… my days may wither and shrivel on the vine, and still, I’ll never really truly know if a God exists (although I’m pretty heavily invested in Stephen Hawking’s NO side) … how to fold a fitted sheet… why women have to bleed every month just for the pleasure of having children… why McDonalds doesn’t sell hot dogs… or… if chocolate comes from a bean, how come it’s not in the vegetable group?

But still, I DO know lots. I’ve survived to this point through the school of hard knocks and picked up a few valuable tutorials along the tortuous passageway of years. I’ve come a long way from, “Larry, don’t touch the iron with your hand.” “Yes, Mommy.

I’m not an expert, just an observer and sifter. I sift and I weigh, I ponder and I sift some more. Then I make my conclusion which usually sits in a grey zone. Maybe that’s why my hair’s gone grey – the older I become the more grey zones that inhabit my inner space. Like right now … I can’t decide who to vote for in today’s municipal election.

voting ballot

But this doesn’t stop me from sharing my siftings anyway… sucks to be you, eh?

A few points that stand out for me in my continuous lifelong education? Try these:

    1. Don’t stop even if it hurts (a little). If you’re on the right track: physically, educationally, personally… don’t bail because things hurt a little. Perseverance and persistence are hallmarks of success in any endeavour. The price of this improvement often involves a modicum of pain… my body usually moans an achy-breaky ballad after a long run, my fingers are sore and dripping blood (just kidding) after a productive practice session on guitar.
    2. Be responsible for your own finances. No one cares about your financial health today and tomorrow with the same intensity as you. Don’t buy into something with your hard-earned and saved capital unless you understand it and its risks well. Market makers love to yell FIRE even when there’s barely the hint of smoke in the air. So when the market yells FIRE, don’t run for the exits. The one true time to run when it comes to investing and markets is when you hear the term, hot tip... HOT TIP = FAKE NEWS 90% of the time.
    3. Discipline is key. OK, it’s bloody cliche’ish but the way to get better at something you love is to do it, over and over, then over again, practice (with intent) like crazy… put in the 10,000 hours, the 1,000 hours. Your inner happiness soars when you do something you never believed possible. Do the tough stuff first, then relax.
    4. People need to be complimented. The world is full of walking wounded – I see this constantly when I’m bartending at the Greek restaurant, or dicing and chopping at the soup kitchen. People’s inner voices dwell on the negative about themselves so often, but we can give a great gift to anyone. Remind your family members, friends, and even minor acquaintances of what they’re good at, what makes them special. I was a Microbiologist in my lab career, dwelling on the tiny points of life… nowadays I’m drilling in on the personal micro level… there are those who like to be acknowledged and recognized on the grand stage – the macro- and still others that prefer privacy and humbly favour a micro acknowledgement… I’m trying to live like a Microbiologist in my personal relations today. Simple e-mail notes of recognition or appreciation can be huge in a person’s day. I try to do a least a couple of these each week.
    5. Forget who you think you are or were. Don’t become trapped in a vision of “you” that was created when you were 20, or 30, or 40. Orange may be the new black and you may be the new “________” (you fill in the blanks). Letting the preconceived notions and concepts that have been drilled into us by our family, friends, and society shouldn’t prevent us from reinventing, reimagining who we are and can be. A scientist’s occupational life doesn’t rule out an artistic vision in later years. A bean counter can find rejuvenation in bean cooking. Throw the gates open and allow new ideas to filter through.  Kudos to Val who now fundraises for the Sally Ann, Jim who grows his own medicinal herb garden, Betty who tutors a young El Salvadorian woman, Chris who runs from soup kitchen cooking – to Critteraid – to Okanagan Gleaners that prepare and send dried soup mixes around the world. All new life episodes.
    6. Don’t complain, whine and bitch. For God’s sake, take responsibility. Your life is yours and no one else’s. The hardships (and successes too) are what make us stronger and more flexible and understanding and compassionate. Complaining breeds anger and distrust. Whining holds us back from taking the positive steps to improve and move forward. Bitching, well, bitching is mere manure oozing out of an angry, frustrated mind.
    7. Be a mentor and an intern. Help others along their path. Share your wisdom and expertise (with permission) with those who will listen gratefully. At the same time, drop your own ego and allow others to help you along your path. Both giving, and receiving wisdom and knowledge are gifts.
    8. Google is in my head. I’m getting older and my “hard drive” (in my head, not my pants!) is overstuffed like Grandpa’s armchair, which means it takes longer to access names and numbers and Jeopardy answers. But the beauty lies in letting my subconscious do its thing and find answers in its own time. When I relax and allow my mind to process, answers are magically floated to the surface. Google may be the fast food of today’s world, but my slow food is far more satisfying.

Keep learning and growing… after all the Serenity Prayer also says, “grant me the courage to change the things I can.“… that includes ourselves… one day I may even learn how to fold that *&^$% fitted sheet!… ah hell, maybe I’ll Google it!

google is my brain

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