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Cake Therapy With CNN

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I am a CNN fan boy.

A few years ago, I’d catch the occasional minute or two of Wolf or Brianna or Anderson. On Blitzer… On Keilar… On Cooper… 

It was passerby TV viewing. Ho hum… take in a moment of toothy-grinned Obama speaking to the camera and merrily continue on with MY day.

ROUTINE World. Happy World.

Sadly today, I’m a full-fledged CNN addict.

They handcuffed my inner liberal bias and are holding me hostage. I’m in their grip and I can’t let go. HELP!!

I feel dirty.

Thanks Donald.

NON-ROUTINE World. Sad World.

In the old world, it used to be that “polite” Canadians genially crossed paths and discussed the changing weather patterns. Gonna be a hot one today eh Ginger Snap?…

Today, the passing eye-rolls of interchange revolve more and more around what shovelful (dump truck!) of nonsense hit Twitter overnight. OMG, Can you believe that sh*t?…

500+ days back, when the U.S. election results were shockingly finalized, I predicted we’d do a throwback to the Dark Ages for a few years.

But it’s become even darker than I could have pie-in-the-sky imagined.

It’s like the 50 Shades phenomenon a couple of years back. A huge portion of the population was swept into a surreal madness of worship of a man who merrily abuses and proudly dominates women.

My understanding sense was senseless. I didn’t/don’t get it.

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And now there’s this insanity sweeping a whole nation, a nation that has been a world power, the beacon of hope and possibility for a peaceful and tolerantly accepting world for 100 years.

Sure, every story has its dark sides and America has held a few snotty handkerchiefs in its back pocket, thanks in part to slavery and misogyny and treachery. Nobody’s perfect…

…oh yeah… cake. Don’t forget the cake.

I always buy too many bananas at my local Superstore.

It began as an accidental overbuy when I’d purchase a 6 banana bunch (… daylight come and me wanna go home…) and then always find myself with 2 or 3 extras at the end of the week when we’d head off again and buy 6 more bananas.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat… Buy. Blacken. Buy Again.

Maybe it’s an OCD thing. Maybe it’s a “don’t carry out the same action and expect different results” scenario.

Where was I going? oh yeah… cake.

I love banana chocolate chip cake (I love lots of cakes… almost any cake in fact).

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The deliciously smooth moistness and combination of banana and chocolate builds a delectable ambrosia effect that piggybacks on my love of peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

It’s a relatively healthy addiction, unlike my desire to smoke one Cuban cigar per week during the gorgeously sunny summer months.

And it doesn’t involve me spying through my neighbour’s window while they’re having sex…. EWwwwwwww! See? Healthy!

Building a banana chocolate chip cake is my sugar-drenched passport, my freedom to exclude the gluten free, superfood, and paleo folks who buffet me with their winds from all sides almost every day.

Take this!… eggs… and this!... white flour…. and THAT! chocolate…

So almost once weekly, I turn up the volume to CNN and gorge on the fetid faeces that emanate from the cake-hole of the TRUMPster whilst mixing flour and eggs and brown-black bananas and sugar … baking a yummy sweet cake for MY cake-hole.

Soothing with food.

My mind wanders in loop-de-loo circles and twists… why would Butch and Sundance think they could ever shoot their way out of that little Bolivian town?… I miss watching my young kidlets at their end-of-the-year ballet concerts… will the fear be greater in my head or my stomach when I dive out of an airplane in the next couple of weeks? I hope the spy couple who escaped back to Russia in the TV show The Americans, will get to see their children again in their lifetime.

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Weird random thoughts.

But anything to escape the CNN-Trump vortex for a few blessed minutes.

It’s a perplexing thing where I hate the impulse to watch Trump as he clumsily – spitefully – maliciously – twists and batters our 3rd rock world towards an unhappy ending.

Baking a cake is an antibody vest I can wear (and eat!) to protect myself against the nastiness and darkness coming from the south-of-Canada kingdom. It makes the world feel normal again somehow.

As written in DESIDERATA, I have to accept that there are some things I can’t change in the world.

It’s OK for me to be narcissistic in my own space, show up and focus on getting better in my own world today and not fret about the future.

We can’t always magically succeed. But we can get better.

My banana chocolate chip cake can always be better too, but it does take continuous practice. Weekly, in fact!

Oh… and here’s the simple recipe I use to anti-Trumpify myself while watching CNN … You’re Welcome!

LARRY’S BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP CAKE

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sour cream (low fat works fine)

3/4 cup chocolate chips

2 ripe, medium bananas, sliced or mushed.

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×5 inch loaf or 8 inch cake pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stir into the butter mixture until smooth. Finally, fold in the sour cream, chocolate chips and bananas. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Cool loaf in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

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The Smartest Gal In The Room?… A Grand Fiction

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I’ve sat in the darkness and sobbed salty, wet tears… tears from knowing that no one has ever suggested I’m the Smartest Guy in the Room and … sigh … never will.

It’s all good and well though, cuz I know I’m not alone.

When I watch Sarah Huckabee-Sanders walk into the Press Briefing Room of the White House, I think much the same about her.

Intellect need not apply. Sarah is today’s Queen of Grand Fiction. We all know who the King is.

I feel humiliated and dirty like a well-worn diaper when I watch and listen to her, maybe even like a male rape victim… beat up and confused.

But c’mon, really, is that a fair assessment?

Sarah’s doing a job, paying the bills, makin’ the bacon. She has conviction and blind faith. She has more balls than Sean Spicer (Spicey) was ever endowed.

No one has ever accused her of sexually harassing the poor men and women of the press. There’s never a suspicion that she’s grabbed anyone by the pussy or penis. She’s just good folk.

So, is Huckabee-Sanders just a hard-working Mom who’s found a place in the world to bring in a few dollars to support her family? Is any level of bottom feeding acceptable when it comes to feeding Scarlett, Huck, and George? Does she peer into her morning mirror and smile at herself with satisfaction at an important job well-done?

My only answers must be… drumroll please… NO. NO. And please NO.

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Huckabee-Sanders is a propagandized parrot that grew up at the knee of ignorance who continues to chew and regurgitate beefy Washington Whoppers fed to her in the back rooms of Maniac Mansion.

She can’t help it. Her ignorant sneers of disgust and self-deception are built-in.

It’s in her genes. After all, her father Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor, was interviewed by Canada’s Rick Mercer once, and asked this question:

Our capitol building in Canada is actually a downscale model of your Capitol building, except it’s made out of ice. It’s an igloo, you see. Now, we’re worried about global warming and the fact that it might, uh, melt, so we’re putting a dome over it but in order to pay for it we have to attract tourists. Would you be interested in visiting Canada’s National Igloo?”

Huckabee smiled into the camera, and looking the perfect politician, beamed congratulations to Canadians on the success of their campaign.

“Hi, I’m governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, wanting to say, congratulations, Canada, on preserving your National Igloo.”

The very same Mike Huckabee attempted runs at the presidency in both 2008 and 2016, proud daughter Sarah at his side. Warms my heart.

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Sarah and Dad Mike

Just like her boss, Sarah is totally fascinating to watch. She’s a 35 year old buzz bomb.

Normally, you know, I take a passing, ho-hum, interest in American politics.

But the past year’s fun and frolics in Washington have me mesmerized. I can’t help it. I’m totally entranced by the characters and plotlines that are moment-to-moment stunning in beauty and scope.

I’m in awe of this scenario playing out in much the same way I felt when I stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon and looked over the magnificence. It feels otherworldly and breathtaking and… dangerous.

Huckabee-Sanders is a Waste Management officer that collects all the foul, ugly “stuff” off the floor of Trump’s Oval Office and then gleefully returns to the Press Room with a disdainful curl of her lip. Once installed at the lectern, she opens the garbage bag and begins flinging the musty trash into the gobsmacked gathering.

It’s hilarious and fascinating… and yes, scary as all hell.

Here, let me put it another way.

In my musical world, I play with a little cool gadget called a looper.

The looper is a metal box, about the size of a cigarette package (do people still smoke cigarettes?) that sits on the floor with a button (my button is definitely smaller than yours!).

When I want to tape a short segment of my guitar playing, I press the button with my foot and the loop records my guitar licks until I press the button with my foot once again.

When I come back around to the same place in the song I just recorded, I press the looper button twice with my foot and it replays the section I recorded earlier.

This allows me to play another slice of music that adds a layer onto what I’ve already played. In effect, I become a one-man band as I play with myself (hmmm… maybe I should re-word that section! Fuhgettaboutit!).

Sarah Huckabee-Sanders often reminds me of my looper in the manner that she says something totally fabricated and ridiculous, and then when questioned further, loops back and adds another sonic layer of absurdity over the base line she’s already laid.

Sarah’s a press room virtuoso (a) with a southern drawl.

Each day, senselessness is produced anew.

As Frank Bruni wrote in the New York Times this November: “For some 20 minutes every afternoon, down is up, paralysis is progress, enmity is harmony, stupid is smart, villain is victim, disgrace is honor, plutocracy is populism and Hillary Clinton colluded with Russia if anyone would summon the nerve to investigate her (because, you know, that never, ever happens). I watch and listen with sheer awe.”

I could dish up innumerable strange utterances that have come from Huckabee-Sanders throat but I can’t type and giggle incessantly at the same time.

Sure, I normally abhor reality TV, but the real-life version is too intoxicating to ignore. If only Shakespeare had lived to write his comedies and tragedies in the 21st century. The source material is endless.

The cast and characters of this American tragi-comedy have given me something akin to ice cream brain-freeze. I love it and I hate it.

Just because reporters say something over and over and over again doesn’t start to make it true.”

Hopefully, one day Sarah Huckabee-Sanders will listen and take her own words to heart.

A bright, active imagination like hers could be put to productive use if she joined a club of writers and added her voice to the world of Grand Fiction.

In the meanwhile, Huckabee-Sanders brings bittersweet levity and laughter to millions like myself as we await the arrival of divinely perfumed spring.

I avidly look forward to Sarah’s next press conference and find myself pondering if maybe… maybe… sweet songsters Hall & Oates were prescient when writing their tunes in the 1970’s:

If you feel like leaving you know you can go
But why don’t you stay until tomorrow?
And if you want to be free
You know all you got to do is say so
Sarah, smile
Oh, won’t you smile awhile for me, Sarah?

Primal Scream

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Get out… NOW!!”

man yelling

WTH!… where is all this screaming coming from?

In reaction and haste, I try to slot the hot water sprayer back in its “holster” but miss the target and shoot a spray of steaming water onto the back of the trousers of Barb, one of the other volunteers.

She jumps in surprise but doesn’t seem scalded. She even smiles. Hallelujah!

I’m the soup kitchen dishwasher today – and turn around to see what the rowdy kerfuffle’s about in the dining hall.

Joe, one of the scruffy diners in the main eating area of the Soupateria is carrying a tattered plastic Value Village bag filled with 6 small canisters of propane.

I don’t know his why. Maybe he has a small Coleman stove he cooks his supper on in a cramped culvert pipe down by Okanagan Lake.

He’s worked himself into an infuriated lather.

Brawny Liv, the security lady that resembles Lucille Ball, is yelling at Joe to get the hell out of the building with the flammable/explosive material.

Instantly, they’re both lit, flammable and explosive.

Ear-piercing F*-Bombs are flying back and forth like shuttlecocks in a badminton match.

Other wide-eyed diners around the noisy display show a mixture of adrenalinized excitement, some fear. The anti-anxiety drugs may not be enough.

It’s just another round in a daily lunchtime set of mostly minor squabbles amongst folks who’ve lived and felt small, maybe excluded, maybe bullied. I don’t know anything except it’s loud and angry.

Volunteering a few days a month in a soup kitchen has probably been one of the more rewarding things I’ve ever done … partly it’s because of the internal stroking I get helping to relieve the discomfort in others’ lives, but more so because of the greater perspective others – different others – out there have given me in my world.

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In many ways, the sights and sounds of this foreign world are surreal to my life’s experiences.

We all live in a rarified, kind of ignorant strata of life, don’t we?

It’s like taking a shovel and pushing into the soft earth. We lift the blade and see the layers, the various types of minerals and tiny pebbles that make up that microcosm of soil.

Then we dig in again and scoop down further and lift another strata of soil sub-structure. Now we notice that the types of minerals and composition of clay vs. sand vs. silt has changed from the first shovelful.

The world beneath us has changed in just one quarrying of the shovel.

Most of us never dig and bore in on the second or third shovelsful of humanity surrounding us. We believe that all of our world is made of the same soil because that’s all we’ve been exposed to.

We live and breathe within our own strata of life.

Growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, I believed everyone lived a similar life to my own. Didn’t every town and city have a mix of British-heritaged and Eastern-European and Italian families that loosely amalgamated as one group to work in factories that produced steel and cars and appliances with an abundance of smoke pumping out of their chimneys?

It wasn’t until I reached my twenties that I learned differently.

Thank God I had a fortuitous phone call with a job offer from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories that flung open the doors and windows inside my head. That clear chill Arctic air changed my life forever as surely as Dorothy and Toto experienced plowing down into Oz post-tornado.

It shocks me that there are so many out there who are unwilling to accept the differences that make our world a special place.

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This year… today… I’m living in this surreal space north of an unguarded, supposedly friendly border where the seemingly unbelievable is bizarre reality.

The usually amiable country to my south is like the soup kitchen, filled with a confused mixture of folks who’ve lived and felt small, maybe excluded, maybe bullied. I don’t know anything except it’s loud and angry.

There are canisters of fiery propane exploding daily with every tweet.

The fetid anger and stink is blowing across the globe like a cloud emanating from a volcanic eruption. There is one mouth, one volcanic spew that’s precipitating a sensation of global chill.

I’m disturbed and gobsmacked by the “Ice Age” that’s descended so quickly.

All of this blah blah blah above really comes down to my need for some self-soothing.

It’s childlike and its primal. My thumb is getting way too wrinkled from spending so much time suckled inside my mouth.

More soothing? Reading through some course materials in the Screenwriting course I’m just beginning brought me this short monologue spoken by the character Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) in the movie, The American President:

……………

You want free speech?

Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.

You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.

Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.

Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free.” 

I wrap myself in a warm blanket of comfort when I spot intellectually rational, yet emotional memes and speeches that exude hope and positivity to push back against the rage and fear and ignorance.

It keeps my primal scream in check.

……………

It’s hard for me to put myself in the shoes of others and truly feel their pain.

That old Scout’s song, The Quartermaster’s Store called it right…

My eyes are dim I cannot see, I have not brought my specs with me…

But when I visit the soup kitchen, I pop on my specs and see that I’ve been “segregated” from parts of my own world that are difficult to understand.

When I travel to other countries and grasp the way others live and survive, I grow out of my ignorance.

Like any stressful period in human history, we all need to hold on and know that this moment, this challenging epoch… yes, This Too Shall Pass.

Brrrr… It’s a chilly autumn day here as I scan the grey, clouded Okanagan hillsides.

Chris, today’s chef du jour, has made 3 deliciously amazing soups for the folks in the Soupateria today: Tomato Vegetable, Bean and Bacon, and Seafood Chowder.

Why don’t we sit down together, and share a calming bowl of hot soup?

eyeglass of ignorance

 

 

 

SHUT UP and DANCE With ME

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In the sad but excellent movie, Blood Diamond, gem smuggler Leonardo DiCaprio – in a charming South African accent – hisses to journalist Jennifer Connelly,

Well, off the record, I like to get kissed before I get fucked, huh.”

U.S. Election 2016 – There’s a frightening date rape happening right in front of our eyes at the quadrennial prom but everyone’s too sloppy drunk to know what to do about it.

Worse yet, the uncontrollable perpetrator is a terrible dance partner… there’s no waltzing sway or nuance or romance in his moves. He’s not even attempting to avoid crunching down on his partner’s feet.

It’s a terrifying dance with a whirling dervish; a bucket of pig’s blood spilled over Carrie‘s head in the high school gym.

So…. KISS US Donald

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I’ve tried so hard to stay positive.

I didn’t want to succumb to the temptation but I’m weak.

I’m so weak I really need you to pour me a strong latte right now to stay awake.

I try to be as optimistic as I can and avoid those things that might bring me down.

In days past I was attached at the hip to daily news reports and The Globe and Mail newspaper, but now I watch and read the world news sparingly because it gets inside my head and makes my brain cry.

Yet frankly I’ll admit that I have an inner urge to peer over the border at the twisted auto wreck on the southern side of the highway despite the terrible carnage that bombards my tender senses.

It’s like running with the bulls in Pamplona…

And so, here I am wanting to look away and yet I can’t. I’m mesmerized.

Donald Trump has me hooked in his misogynistic, bigoted, nasty and hateful universe. I keep orbiting back to peek in at the shit that spews from his oral orifice. It’s a Clockwork Orange reality show that gets more real each day.

clockwork orange

I get it that many people are angry, frustrated and feeling disaffected, but I still shake my head at the coming of the Trumpocalypse.

Such a short time back, the Trump cancer of self-importance began so innocently, so childishly naive, and then it caught on like a Fort McMurray wildfire and spread in a pernicious ugly growth that wouldn’t be halted.

Even the Republican firefighters have thrown up their hands in defeat, sat themselves down by the campfire with their marshmallow skewers and strong licker and accepted the fire that rages across the countryside.

As a Canadian watching on, I’d like to be oh-so casual like my cat Cali, disinterested and uncaring as a blitzkrieg of hatred and venom spews from the dragon’s pouty mouth. Still mesmerized.

If Canada elected a Trump (or perhaps a Harper), the world would barely take note. Big Deal! Business as usual in the universe.

But it scares me when the world’s one main superpower teeters on the edge of the precipitous cliff – all of humanity riding piggyback, scared – prepared to jump into the rocky abyss and in a fit of hateful anger, splatter us all in an shattered bloody heap on the spiky granite below.

In my reflections and dreams at night, I envision a different scenario. Yes, I have a dream.

Hillary dream

OMG! NOOOOOooo!! Not THAT Dream!!!

My dreamy scenario unfolds in a world where even more women are better educated, a world where women leaders hold greater sway, and a world with a greater sense of humour.

This world needs more women leaders – Thatcher aside – tough yet more compassionate commanders with an ability to empathize and smile and laugh and respect the dreams of others.

Trump-like leaders and followers (Trumpests? Trumperites? Trumpeters?) have had their historic day in the sunshine for millennia. The 50 Shades of Grey Dominants are archaic and drained of human hope.

Enough blood has been spilt on battlefields and in subways and in innocent marketplaces. Testosterone-laden speeches filled with threats of walls and anger and control are from a different era, a frightening era where we sent battalions of young boys to their brutal tearing-limbs-apart demise.

I’m a Pollyanna’ish kind of guy who believes a sense of humour makes the world a better place.

When we’re feeling low, what revives us better than a good hearty laugh. Norman Cousins showed it to be so in his book, Anatomy of an Illness… “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep” he reported.

The world we inhabit sleeps better when we understand each other better and can share food and smiles together… a world without walls.

Who watches a Donald Trump speech and finds something… anything… funny or humorous or enlightening in his words?

A nation is only as free as its sense of humour.

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Before we go to bed tonight?

Before the lights go out and the party ends?

The last dance with THE DONALD beneath the worn disco ball should be SHUT UP and DANCE without ME. No Kiss for you Donald.

And then, maybe, before we slip off into dreamland?  We should all go outside and frolic and dance beneath the moon and catch fireflies and make the longest Slip-And-Slide EVER.

(NOTE to Self: You can lead a person to knowledge… but you cannot make them think)

 

My Blood Flows in Fredericksburg …

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Union soldier

.

Let us cross over the river,

and rest under the shade of the trees.”

……………………………………………..Last words — Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

……………………………….

December 12, 1862 — Fredericksburg, Virginia.

The morning air is chill, but not freezing, thank God.

I’m wearing the standard blue woollen Union army uniform, my McClellan cap or kepi sitting low over my brow, a long-barrelled musket held tight in my nervously-sweaty hands. There’s a frighteningly long straight line of my Illinois friends and neighbours on either side of me, with whom I’ve marched through many dark, cold nights.

We are McClelland’s Dragoons, Company A, come from the farms just outside Chicago.

There were times on this march to Fredericksburg when freezing rain made the chill run so deep into my core that I shook and my teeth chattered in my misery. One of my neighbours just sat himself at the side of the road and quietly died. Two others died of typhoid on the march. I have a rotting tooth that is aching, and bleeding blisters on both feet that also have fungus itching between the toes that is driving me crazy.

Growing corn on my father’s farm was hard work, but nothing comes close to this wretchedness.

Back home — it seems like years ago now, but is actually only 7 months — I anxiously joined my friends enlisting for this exciting adventure to quash the rebel uprising, and to put those southerners in their place. They think they can take our jobs by using the free labour of niggers to make their fortunes. We need jobs for our families too.

And now, I have the glory of walking steadily forward into the smoke and cacophonous blasts of rifles fired from behind a stone wall by those damned grey-coated southerners. I have no armour to protect me, just this heavy woollen coat.

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And all I can think about right now is what my wife will do with our young children when it’s my turn to march towards that bloody wall of fire 300 yards away, and I’ve been ripped open by a blast to the chest of heavy 55 mm lead-shot and I lay on this pockmarked field, in a mound of mud and bodies and blood.

……………………………..

September 17, 2013

The Civil War Trail

The red clay in the  soil beneath my feet makes me think deeply of the huge rivers of blood that soaked into the earth here.

The blood of Union soldiers, the blood of Confederate infantrymen, the blood of countless horses, husbands, wives, brothers, women and children. The blood of warriors and innocents who stood in the line of fire of armies dedicated to destruction in the name of a cause they believed in.

Somehow, it doesn’t feel right that here I am, relaxed, with a warm sun stream coming from the left as I absorb the terrifying violence that tore families and loved ones apart.

A historic saga is running in the breeze through the grasses of Fredericksburg.

I can feel it as I stand on a partly-paved, partly-dirt road recessed behind a long fieldstone fence that rises about 4 feet high overlooking this small, peaceful town. The towering pines and maples and oaks have all grown back tall after they too fell in the maelstrom of the battle 150 years ago.

A few thousand Confederate soldiers crouched behind this fence and slaughtered and wounded 12,000 federal soldiers that approached them head on across a wide open landscape. Above the wall on the hill behind, Confederate cannons blew the walking walls of Union soldiers to bloody shreds with their shrapnel. It was a killing field for young men and boys that marched here from the farms and cities of Connecticut and Maryland and Illinois.

Today, Peter, a young park ranger, maybe 30 years old, walks us along the thick stone wall and tells us a wonderful story of a terrible event. He’s animated and interesting, and interested too not just in the battle, but how it affected the soldiers and their families. How the politics were as muddy as the fields the soldiers marched upon.

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Over the last 10 days, we’ve visited the Civil War battlefields of Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania in Virginia, Antietam in Maryland, and the granddaddy of them all, Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania.

I’ve stood on the spot in Chancellorsville where General “Stonewall” Jackson was shot in the dark by his own confused soldiers (he died 10 days later from pneumonia). Jackson, like so many Civil War Generals, while a brilliant warrior and strategist, screwed up royally and paid the price with his fatal mistake of reconnoitering at night.

I’ve looked over the rolling hills of Antietam from the vantage point of General Robert E. Lee, searching his mind for a stategy to beat Ulysses S. Grant and Abe Lincoln.

I’ve pondered the senselessness of war from the peaceful, grassy knoll in the cemetery overlooking the graves of thousands of Union soldiers where Lincoln delivered his short, but infamous Gettysburg Address.

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From my side, a grey-hair ponytailed fellow approaches with a smile. He begins to talk as if we’ve been friends for years, telling me that he’s a Civil War buff who knows just about everything there is to know about this tumultuous event. I heard him in the museum earlier, collaring others and telling them stories of the battles and strategies used by the generals.

He’s an intriguing guy from nearby Washington, DC. I don’t usually like to be latched onto by strangers, but he seems friendly and harmless, so I let him ramble for a few minutes. We share notes on what we’ve seen as the cool, late afternoon wind buffets and blows our hair a bit.

The sun is just about to set as we shake hands and part ways, cannons silhouetted alongside the paths we take to the vehicle lot and the end of the day.

……………………….

The monster-sized Civil War museum at Gettysburg contains a stunning cyclorama, something popular with the masses in the 1800’s.

Climbing 2 flights of stairs inside the museum after a movie presentation about the Battle of Gettysburg, we enter into a huge darkened theatre that’s like a planetarium in the round containing a cyclorama, a 360° cylindrical painting.

This version that hangs in Gettysburg, is a recent (2005) restoration of the version created for Boston in 1883. It’s huge,  27 feet (8.2 m) high and 359 feet (109 m) in circumference.

The painting was created by French artist Paul Philppoteaux and depicts Pickett’s Charge, the climactic Confederate attack on Union forces during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.

The intended effect is to immerse the viewer in the scene being depicted, and includes the addition of foreground models and life-sized replicas of cannons and fences to enhance the illusion. The presentation comes to life with a narrated story, loud cannon booms and rifle fire while flashes of light behind the canvas give life to the cannon blasts.

It’s stunning to contemplate the number of artists and the creativity used to produce a painting of this size and complexity.

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A small segment of the cyclorama

……………………….

 

We’ve titled this road trip “The Country Music and Civil War Tour 2013

Travelling these middle-America roads, just like our other travels, has made me ponder many great matters, both important and trivial.

For instance — and you’ve probably asked yourself this question a thousand times …

Which is better, Pancake or Waffle?

Waffles or Pancakes

I throw myself firmly into the Pancake camp. None of those difficult nooks and crannies that catch too much peanut butter or syrup. Warm, tender, fragrant. It’s the perfect breakfast food for getting the day started.

However, the waffle is winning the hearts of those who stay in the hotels of America. The mid-range hotels with brand names like La Quinta, and Best Western all provide a breakfast to varying degrees as part of the package for spending the night between their sheets.

The breakfast, whether simple continental or sumptuous hot buffet, always has THE WAFFLE MAKER.

Nine nights on the road, sampling from a different hotel each morning, has made me the quintessential waffle connoisseur of North America.

Just pour the premade thick batter from a plastic cup onto the round griddle surface, close the lid, flip the whole thing over on a pin, and two and a half minutes later, out pops a golden-brown waffle. Perfect, every time … almost!

Never one to look too carefully, or read instructions (come on, I AM a man!), one morning, I scooped the mix sitting to the right of the waffle maker and poured it over the searing metal plate of the appliance. As I closed the lid, I could see a sign to the left labelled “waffle mix”.

Huh? What did I just ladle into the waffle maker? OHHHH, that would be the oatmeal porridge, just like the little sign said beneath its container.

So, did I panic? Not a chance. Quickly I poured some of the REAL waffle mix over the bubbling oatmeal frying in the maker and closed the lid with a little prayer. I waited with anticipation.

Two and a half minutes later, the beeper sounded indicating the waffle was finished cooking.

I lifted the lid, and there sat a PERFECT golden-toned waffle with extra oatmeal specks, steaming and smelling deliciously wonderful.

So please forgive me for being so glib, but BREAKFAST, like WAR, is HELL!

The first thing I'm going to do when this war ends is eat a pancake ...

The first thing I’m going to do when this war ends is eat a pancake …

The Worship of Power and the Need for Love and Admiration

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Lovers help each other undress before sex.

However after sex, they always dress on their own.

MORAL OF THE STORY:

In life, no one helps you once you’re screwed.

Frank Underwood

It’s strange, but I kind of like Francis (Frank) Underwood. Frank loves power. Frank loves sex. Hmmm … maybe it’s not so strange after all.

He’s this nasty, conniving, charismatic, shrewd, cruel, pragmatic guy. He makes things happen, occasionally ethically, but more often in a calculated, cold manner. He’s not diabolically evil like Batman’s Joker; he doesn’t really want to destroy people or their reputations, but if accomplishing something he deems important requires collateral human damage, then so be it.

Sex is a currency and an urge that he exercises and uses and loves and loathes, all at the same time. It reminds him – and he needs frequent reminders – of the power that he commands.

Sex is his currency of being someone who matters.

Frank Underwood isn’t wickedly handsome like Christian Grey (Fifty Shades of Grey), but both of these men thrive on a raw sexual power awarded to them by their political or financial strength.

Power to him means magnetically attracting smooth young skin and exposing the hidden tender parts of the women he both desires and hates. So long as he can plant his penis in the fertile feminine fields of those who might find him unattractive or perhaps even repulsive, he can arrogantly perch in front of the mirror, look himself in the eye, and know that he holds influential sway.

So who is this Francis Underwood?

He’s fiction. He’s a made-up character portrayed by actor Kevin Spacey that resides on the Netflix-produced political drama called House of Cards. Underwood is the Majority Whip (ie. boss) of the Democratic party in the U.S. Congress. He’s Washington’s version of conniving JR Ewing (from TV’s Dallas).

Men are drawn to desirable women like little boys to ice cream cones. Women are drawn to famous or powerful men like little girls to Barbie.

Girl with ice cream

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Sex as a currency is not a new concept.

Women realize this very well.

Women know that if there is absolutely no other way to buy the milk to feed their infant child or pay the overdue rent, there is ALWAYS a willing buyer of sex.

We men will always be there when sex is in play.

There is reassurance and implicit threat for both women and men who know they hold a swollen wallet of currency either through physical attractiveness or power.

Writer David Foster Wallace, in his 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College said:

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious.”

frank zoe g string

Frank scouting his Zoe…

In a scene separated just millimetres from rape, Frank Underwood plumbs the literal depths of Zoe Barnes (an ambitious Washington reporter) from behind up against a wall. Within the accelerating huffing and gutteral grunting, there’s no pretense or semblance of tenderness or lovemaking in this sex act. This is pure primal animal pleasure and power privilege.

Frank gets his rapturous moment of physical release and a reaffirmation of his power; in return, Zoe reaps “Deep Throat” insights into the backrooms of political authority that feed her own need for media power.

A perfect illustration in the real world of the appeal of power and fame is the almost-elderly Mick Jagger, who hypnotically continues to attract and make women of all ages swoon. Skinny, outright ugly (in my view!), average intelligence … THIS is a Chick Magnet?

Would any women feel the heat of desire for old Mick if he were a truck driver or a mailman?

So, in the real world where we all live, does power and the need for love and admiration have any true meaning?

I can only speak my own truth and leave it to you to decide for yourself where you reside.

As an example, the very fact that I write and post these blog articles tells me that, as David Foster Wallace says, I am subconsciously seeking love and admiration. If I wasn’t, I would just sit here at my home office desk and pound out my ideas to be saved only to my own hard drive.

But no.

I WANT you to read my stuff. I want and hope that you’ll appreciate at least some of what I have to say. Some of my musings might rub you the wrong way, but I kind of want that too. I have my Walter Mitty moments where I grow my facial hair out a bit and envision myself as some Hemingway-esque romantic writer creature.

I plot out my ideas and write and revise and edit some more, and then … I tentatively hit the “PUBLISH” button that tosses my words out into the internet ocean to anyone and everyone who might care to take in my meanderings.

Mesage in bottle

It’s all very narcissistic and ego driven.

There’s no exchange of money, so I don’t do it to pay my bills.

There are no agendas or advertising that are part of a larger scheme to influence your buying habits.

I’m no better or worse than Sally Field standing on the Oscar stage saying, “You like me“… except I’m saying, “I HOPE you like me“. And in payment to you, I hope that when I explore things about myself, that you are able to occasionally peer within yourself and say, “Yeah, I’m like that too” or “Something similar happened to me last week“… or maybe even “WTF“!

I’m a user.

I’m using you to help me develop my writing skills.

Week in and week out I write so that I can become just a fraction of an inch better at developing imagery and concepts that will make me a better, more interesting writer. Writing that may take me into composing short stories or a novel a bit later, or just supply my own muse in enhancing my songwriting attempts.

I see it as part of a process, and I’m using you to carry me forward. In the run-up to publishing a blog posting, YOU are my finish line.

When I watch Frank Underwood screwing others – figuratively and literally – on House of Cards, I find myself  revelling in some satisfied sensation of moral superiority, until I realize in at least some small way…

Frank Underwood is me … I am Frank Underwood.

He's had sex with 4,000 women, what sets HIM apart?

He’s had sex with 4,000 women, what sets HIM apart?

LINCOLN and SPIELBERG vs. POPCORN

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If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”

                                                           Abraham Lincoln

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I LOVE Steven Spielberg, the director of motion pictures like Schindler’s List and Lincoln. And, I LOVE popcorn too!

I have a huge crush on Spielberg’s abilities and vision. He’s not beatifyingly perfect, just like any paramour we admire. But he’s done enough to get on my register of platonic lovers. Fortunately, these two loves (Spielberg/Popcorn) don’t need to live mutually exclusive existences in my life. I can be polygamous in this sphere and encounter no moral or legal burdens…Life is good!

Quality filmmaking is something of which I’m in awe. Spielberg is a good part of the reason.

I don’t typically go to the theatre with the idea of watching something memorable or amazing. There are so many important pieces to the movie puzzle that need to fit seamlessly in place, meaning that there is only about one or two made each year that shine brilliantly – and that’s in a good year! It’s just entertainment usually and I accept this.

And so because of that, the movie-going experience is really about the popcorn.

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The intoxicating mix of hot maiz crunch suffused in systolic-elevating sodium accompanied by a finish of atherosclerotic-inducing butter fats is orgasmic to the senses. Discerning the subtle flavours and textures within a good popcorn is akin to drinking wine and picking up the nuances of smoke, and blackberry and citrus.

Just gliding by a theatre with the aroma of popcorn wafting reminds me of the cartoon scenes of a character floating nose-first dreamily through the air, the waving lines of scent drawing him into the open window with its steamingly-aromatic apple pie. It’s majorly unhealthy stuff but it pulls me in like iron filings to a magnet.

There are rare occasions that I go to see a movie where the wonder of the flavour profile of the popcorn gets lost in the beauty of the film itself. Steven Spielberg’s LINCOLN is one of those occasions. Spielberg and actor Daniel Day-Lewis and screenwriter Tony Kushner make harmony of a tragic and desperate time in American history.

Lincoln is not cinematic perfection but it comes close enough to bump popcorn as the real motivation for entering the theatre.

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Honestly though, Spielberg drives me crazy when he brings on board a bunch of well-known actors into his epics- I don’t want to see former TV bartender Ted Danson in Saving Private Ryan, just as the iconic faces of  Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Epatha Merkerson in Lincoln pull me jarringly out of the story in which I’m immersed. It’s small stuff Steven, I know, but Hollywood is full of quality, unknown actors that don’t send me back into an episode of Law & Order or Cheers!

More importantly, what Lincoln DOES have:

  • There is the exquisite beauty of the cinematography that delicately brushes each scene like a Dutch Master’s painting that you could lose yourself in for hours and absorb all that it encompasses and symbolizes.
  • Warm amber oil-lamp light on Daniel Day-Lewis’s face. There is a complete story told in all of the well-worn facial wrinkles and crevices in his countenance. These are the marks of a man who has struggled with the vexing morality of life and death decisions that changed the lives of thousands upon thousands of families.

  • Exquisite, nuanced acting by Day-Lewis sculpts a total person of Lincoln with human foibles but mostly principled and heart-felt virtues that many of us believe Lincoln to have possessed. The quality of the writing combined with Day-Lewis’s acting could have made a memorable movie if filmed entirely in Lincoln’s shower under fluorescent lights…I wonder how Lincoln bathed in those days??
  • A reminder that the reality of the political world that lives today is not greatly changed from 150 years ago, or likely 1,500 years ago. The horse-trading and arm twisting that occur in our political chambers of Congress or Parliament are nothing new and are the price to be paid for decisions made by many of differing backgrounds and circumstances. Bullies versus nerds versus whatever playground personalities play out in any arena of substance, real or trivial.
  • The interplay between Sally Field’s Mary Lincoln character, deeply worried about her own family’s plight versus the worries that Abraham Lincoln necessarily feels for the multitude of suffering families is mesmerizing and poignant. Agonizing choices don’t get any more difficult or bitter than this.

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Lincoln, like any film worth its weight in butter-drenched popcorn, sends me into the recesses of my own life and experiences.

I walk the earth in a place and a time where life is lived in an historic cocoon. War, disease, poverty, torture and rape, natural disaster, financial ruin all happen somewhere else, and to someone else. I haven’t personally experienced any of this. Setbacks, sure. But minor stuff in reality.

The intensity and drama of  the films The Color Purple, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln are all human tragedies of Shakespearean magnitude and beyond. And these are but a few of Spielberg’s roll call.

These features all provide us a reminder of what life can or could be, given different times or governments. By displaying to me the real lives lived by others in traumatic circumstances, it serves me well to observe and reflect on what it is that allows me to live a peaceful, prosperous life. Films such as these give me the opportunity to live vicareously the trying experiences of others and still walk away unscathed…slightly changed but unscathed nonetheless.

Steven Spielberg keeps my head out of the clouds of complacency, and occasionally, when he’s at the top of his game, my fingers out of the popcorn bag.

If Hillary was President…

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Congratulations U.S.A.!

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You guys got my heart racing faster than when Sexy Clint Eastwood and Slutty Honey Boo Boo came trick-or-treating at my door this HalloweenThe rest of the world and I screamed at the possibility. But you thankfully came through in the end, and elected Barack Obama. 

50 years from now, I believe that Obama will be seen as an extraordinary president in the pantheon of Lincoln and Roosevelt. His legacy today is obscured by the day-to-day flotsam thrown at his feet and in his face that prevents us from seeing his skills and accomplishments. He does have his faults for sure. But he sees the forest and not just the wind-blown trees that keep toppling in his way, making his forward momentum a frustratingly difficult but worthwhile slog.

And for this, I’d like to give thanks:

(From Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life”)

Chaplain: Let us praise God. O Lord…
…Ooh, You are so big…
…So absolutely huge.
…Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell You.
Forgive us, O Lord, for this, our dreadful toadying, and…
Congregation: And barefaced flattery.
Chaplain: But You are so strong and, well, just so super.
Congregation: Fantastic.
Chaplain: Amen.
Congregation: Amen.

And so, shall we move on?

I’m not a real “politico”, but the US election involved major issues that transcended politics. Issues that affect real people in real ways. There were national, international, and intensely personal matters that would have been disturbed significantly by the election of a Republican president. A rip in the fabric of time like Marty McFly returning to Hill Valley, California and marrying his own mother.

The Republicans would have slashed taxes to 0% for the top 1%, made carrying of automatic weapons to school compulsory for all kindergarten students and I’m pretty sure they would have made hiring of women at anything above minimum wage an indictable offence subject to the death penalty. I read all of this on a FOX News network blog (or was it the National Enquirer?), so it must be true. My head hurts thinking of what could have happened with a sequel to George W. Bush. U.S. voters made the right choice on November 6, but the undertow currents are still pulling ferociously, trying to drag the electorate under.

But isn’t the US still a great country?

Sure, I think it is in a (dwindling) financial and military sense. But socially it’s trying to emulate Dickens world of Scrooge or Oliver – it lives in the 19th century and refuses to wake up from a bad dream. Its education system is fraying at the seams. Millions without medical coverage are at risk of financial ruin (and unable to get the liposuction and breast augmentations they so desperately want!). Crumbling infrastructure is compounded by HUGE deficits and debts.

Yet fear of the changing colours, social mores, and languages of its burgeoning immigrant population has people walling themselves off from the new reality.

Despite all of the problems that exist, the US made a wonderful choice 4 years ago in electing not just a smart, charismatic guy, but a black-skinned man who knows his basketball too. I was mightily surprised when Obama won, but pleased.

Each person needs a sense of hope in their world. The election of a black man told millions that there was hope in theirs’ and their childrens’ lives. It reaffirmed the “American Dream” that says that anyone can rise through the social, economic and educational ranks with perseverance and determination. Electing just another rich, white guy tells half of the population that they don’t really matter…21st century slavery may be against the law, but it really lives on if you are black or brown or anything other than white, and your leader is ALWAYS a rich, white dude.

But, with the shifting demographic tides, will the next momentous move in 4 or at most 8 years be the election of a woman…and could it be Hillary Clinton? Or in the Trudeau, Kennedy fashion, maybe Chelsea Clinton.  Let me rephrase thisplease let it be Hillary  or Chelsea and NOT Sarah…yes, Sarah Palin, the “Dan Quayle” of the 2008 election.

Twenty five years ago, the thought of an elected black president would have been a laughably outrageous, outlandish, foolish concept. The same was true for a woman president. Silly as a computer in every home, and phones without cords. But throw in a burgeoning hispanic population from Cuba, Mexico, and a few other Latin American countries and a couple of decades later…SHAZZAM…little Barry Obama wins.

Four years from now, statistically, the skin tones of the population will continue to darken and the aging demographic and longer lifespan of women will push the percentage of women vs. men voters to a higher level than today.

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Bada bing bada boom!!…a woman President.

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I want a woman president elected who has strength and integrity, but still has some woman in her (Margaret Thatcher need not apply!). She should be empathetic, and smart, and worldly, and mature, and have vision. But especially, she should be able to have a disagreement with the other little tykes in the sandbox and still find a solution that makes everyone at least reasonably happy. Half a tootsie roll for everyone. We men aren’t very good at this. If my kids borrow my car and it comes back with a scratch…my response?:

YOU SHALL NEVER DRIVE THIS CAR AGAIN, EVER! DISCUSSION OVER…

My good wife’s response:

WHAT WILL YOU DO TO MAKE UP FOR THIS SO THAT I CAN TRUST YOU IN THE FUTURE?

Now which of these approaches is likely to have the most long-term success? I know I don’t have to answer the question because it’s obvious. Well, obvious except when you’re a manly rage of hormones in the heat of the moment. So, my next question becomes:

WHO DO YOU WANT WITH THEIR FINGER ON THE NUCLEAR WEAPON BUTTON, OR REGULATING THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE?

Our world will become a kinder, gentler, saner place with Barack and then Hillary and Chelsea (but not Sarah) in charge.  And we’ll all laugh when Hillary gets caught checking out the man-thongs her male interns are wearing … take that Bill!

But of course she won’t do anything of the sort because…well…because women just don’t do that sort of thing… I don’t think… do they?

There’s no time like the present…I’m starting to wear my HILLARY 2016 button next week.