Monday, February 6, 2017

Term In Nation

Tax time is here.

We're lucky enough to get a fair return when this time of year comes around, because we actually ask for more income tax to be taken off our checks than is necessary, so we get it back in accumulated amounts when it comes time to file.  Along with fixing up things that need to be done with the house, we allow ourselves little treats for ourselves, too, that we wouldn't normally be able to afford.  For me this year, it'll be a nice ride cymbal and tambourine with a multi-clamp for my drum kit.

I get to thinking sometimes of the old days, really old days, when my brother Greg got me my first drum set for my 13th birthday.  I remember I was clueless how to play it.  It was just an upside down snare with the snare wires over the top of the batter head, a small bass drum, and hi hats with a stand.  But it did the trick.  These were the only tools I needed to start my journey to becoming a drummer.  I met this friend, we'll call him "Ed", in school, and we were mutual KISS fans.  He was a guitar player who was self-taught himself, and I taught myself how to play my drums.  Ed and myself evolved into being able to play fairly well throughout our teen years.

But Ed was a troubled guy.  Like me, his dad died in his early years, and I think he had a lot of trouble dealing, like I did.  But he took to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain.  Through it all, his personality kind of changed.  He was the same likeable guy, but he tended to tell you things you wanted to hear to get your approval, only to leave you disappointed when time went on.  It was kind of part of his charisma, which he had a lot of.  People would believe what he said even when they were faced with the truth.  He wasn't always untruthful, but too often not.  My guess is that he desperately wanted the approval from people that he never got from his father.  We all come from somewhere, right?

We veered off separate ways in our late teens, when we got girlfriends.  That took me a lot longer, though.  I didn't have the confidence he did when it came to girls.  I remember, though, he had a girlfriend he was with for a little while, and she had friends that would tag along with them sometimes.  Ed would tell me that her friends 'liked' me and that we were actually out on dates, when really we weren't.  I had such a hard time finding girls to date that I would just believe it.  It was almost never true.  He'd tell me they said nice things about me that they never said.  Again, to gain favor.  Man, that kind of wrecked me back in those days.  Putting it short, really, Ed was a chronic liar that would say whatever it took to gain favor and leverage.

I didn't want to be around him anymore because of his excessive pot and alcohol use.  When he told me he was done with it and wanted to jam again a few years ago, we played a few times, and then it became evident he was just the same old Ed.  His old habits came back along with his old behaviors.  I was saddened by a couple of things:  That he hadn't come around from his old vices, and that I allowed myself to be taken in yet again by it all.  Ed's a smooth talker who had a knack for getting his way, only to do something entirely different when you weren't around him.

These days I just play my drums by myself, because it appears my friends have either grown out of their hobby or they just don't want to jam anymore, at least with me or whatever.  But the way I see it, once a drummer, always a drummer.  If opportunity comes knocking to make some noise with somebody, I'm there to take it.

Lady Gaga was on the Superbowl halftime show this year.  I'm really not a fan, I don't like her stuff, for me.  Just not my style.  But I had to respect the performance.  She pulled out all the stops to entertain everyone and did an exceptional job.  If she was lip syncing, it wasn't noticeable.  For the most part it looked pretty legit.  But... I long for music with real musicians and less machines and programming, and less overproducing.  My thinking is, for every person playing an instrument you take away and replace with a machine, that's one less soul you have in the music.  And music lacks soul these days.  There really isn't any.  And you can hit all the notes in your singing you want, it doesn't mean you should.  I'm looking at you, Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande, and pretty much every "pop princess" on the top 40 these days.

One thing Gaga didn't do, allegedly because she was told not to, was wax political onstage during the halftime show.  You just know she was itching to.  You had to think that the Trump Reich Trump Administration was watching, with the Donald having his tiny thumbs at the ready on his Twitter account if she made one false move.

And speaking of his Twitter account, it's a marvelous way to trip the wires of the man's temper, isn't it?  Like a teenager with her iPhone frustrated standing in line at a fast food restaurant because she isn't getting served sooner, he explodes when something just isn't going his way.  Just look at any tweets regarding the Obamas, the "so-called judge", Muslims in general, or anyone who disagrees with him at all.  But... if he meets face to face with any of these people, it's all peaches and cream, isn't it?  He shakes hands, praises them and tells you how much he admires them.  Then when it comes time to write executive orders, that's all out the window, and his true nature makes itself clear.  Just like that 'Ed' fellow I told you about.  He'll tell you everything you want to hear to get what he wants, and once he gets it, so what.  Trump did that all through is election.  He came off as a populist, promising to give people everything they wanted.  That is, until he got what he wanted, which was the people's vote.

In that regard, I sympathize with Trump voters.  We all know what it's like to be taken in by a charismatic con artist, and to feel the regret when we realize we'd been taken in.  It's frustrating.  Who likes a pathological promise-breaker?  Liberals, or democrats, tend to think they're higher thinkers than republicans or conservatives are, and look down on those without like-minded thinking.  But the reverse is also true.  There has to be common ground in there somewhere, though.  Could there be a simple solution?  I doubt it.  But I did ponder it, and this is my pitch on it.  Not like anyone would take it seriously, but still...

Imagine this... if every four years, there was a presidential election, where there was no such thing as more than one term.  But during that term, it's a Democratic president.  Everyone had to choose from a field of democratic candidates, whether they're registered Republicans or Democrats.  That's right... republicans get a say in who the Democratic president will be.  Congress is elected as usual, but the Democratic president gets the usual powers of veto and all the other dressings that come with it.  There are no squabbles about who the president is, because everyone chose him/her.  The term is over, then a republican nomination is chosen, and everyone decides who the best Republican president will be for the next four years.

This way the president is truly chosen by the people en masse each and every time.  It doesn't solve all the problems, but I'll tell you this... it'd go a long way into ensuring guys like Trump don't get into office again.  Oh, and do away with this delegate nonsense.  If that never existed in the first place, Bernie Sanders would be president right now and all of this upheaval would never have taken place.  In fact, Sanders is a perfect example of someone who appeals to both sides of the voting block.

This same rule would apply nicely to Canada, although our voting system is vastly different from the one in the U.S.  We have a parliamentary system that kind of mucks up the idea.  But the abolishing of the "first past the post" system is a start, something Prime Minister Trudeau promised, but reneged on.  Hence the need for it in the first place.

Regardless, we need some way, whether it's via mandatory one-term leaders or not, to tell certain leaders they have no way of saying "I'll be back".

Thursday, January 12, 2017

RT Jan 12 2017

Been a while since I did a Random Thoughts post.  It's a day off today, so why not.

Going to attempt slow cooker meatballs today, and baby smashed garlic potatoes.  Gotta do something new, and start putting that slow cooker to more use.  Updates on facebook how it turns out.

Could it be time to change jobs?

Today is the day I double the dose of Cipralex after a lengthy washout period from Trintellix, which was/is incredibly rough.  Still not out of the woods.  Might be in March or so.

I understand Canada is "hockey country" and all that crap, but I hate being one of the few that's stuck in the pool with all the fanatics splashing the water too much.  Football even more so.  Still waiting for baseball to ramp up.

Poor Ronda Rousey... she would've done better had she listened to everyone else, including her own judo expert mother, and had a better coach/trainer.  I bet Stephanie McMahon is drafting a pretty big deal to get her at the next Wrestlemania, though.  Rousey's a huge WWE fan.

Contemplating plans to see a couple of tours this year, the KISSworld Tour and U2's Joshua Tree anniversary.  Montreal or Toronto among the possibilities, maybe Boston.  I'd always wanted to see a WWE pay per view show in person too.

Still going to the gym, but took some more or less forced time off through most of December, due to the wife's and mine work schedules.  Busiest Christmas I've been involved with in retail (hence questioning 'could it be time to change jobs?', among other reasons).  My schedule does me no favours, with two 5am shifts, three 8-4's, and even two 2-10's every third week.  Those shifts don't co-operate with my mental health issues either, I'm told.  But... still want to train for the Fundy Marathon this summer, a 28 mile run.  If I did that... not bad for a 51 year old, after taking up running only a year and a half ago and going for it.

Janice is training like a pro athlete.  Goes to the gym nearly every day for around two hours.  Weight has slowed falling off her although she's getting smaller, as is evidenced by her clothes sizing.  She will be 50 this year and can kick your ass even if you're a teenager.  Guy or girl.  Warning:  She finds Ronda Rousey inspiring.

I don't talk much about politics these days because, as I've discussed previously, I find it hopeless now, and my daughter's kids, if she has any, may be one of the last five or six generations to survive.  Not even kidding.  BUT... I do find U.S. politics increasingly hilarious.  The Golden Don is making his upcoming presidency the laughing stock of all of the history of planet earth, let alone the U.S.  Comedians everywhere will thrive over the next four years.

Our daughter has a new job working for a clothing store at the mall, and I haven't seen her happier in a long while.  She was screwed at her last job, I'll make no bones about it.  I won't even enter that building anymore.  In hindsight, a lot of people were.  Seems to be the culture of that workplace around here, not limited to just one building.

So far this winter is awfully similar to last winter, as to say, not bad.  Some might argue, but Moncton here hasn't really experienced a bad storm in three years, in my view.  Mind you, three years ago, we did experience our worst winter maybe in my lifetime.

Looking forward to fixing up the outdoor eves of the house this spring, and finally, hopefully, getting some walls replaced inside.  Doors would be nice... but then megabucks enter the picture.  Eventually.

I've wanted a nice, big ride cymbal for my drums for years, but to get a nice one, you have to pay a little.  I've always had them, but never a nice one.  This spring, Mr. K from Zildjian will be in da house.  Or a reasonable double.  Drumming is a solo hobby for me these days since I don't know anyone who plays anymore.

Last summer was so awesome, so good, that I can't wait for this summer to come around.  Janice and me spent a lot of time outside last year, thanks to our taking up running, not to mention getting back on track with the peeps in Caissie Cape.  I had a blast doing photography for the big washer toss tournament and look forward to it again.  We'd love to return to Fenway for a couple of games.  Might visit some fam in Welland too, who knows.  $$ will dictate a lot of that.

Going to be a great year for movies.  New 'Blade Runner', 'Dunkirk', 'Spiderman Homecoming', 'Alien Covenant', 'Mute' (Netflix), 'Star Wars Ep. VIII', and that's just off the top of my head.  Really wish the next 'Avatar' would get here already.  James Cameron will once again revolutionize movie making when he puts it out.  It's taking awhile because he's making three sequels at the same time.  Or four, maybe.  Ah yes, 'Alien 5' next year, a sequel to 'Aliens', skipping over the awful 3 and 4.  Newt and Hicks with Ripley will be back!

'Better Call Saul' is about to hit the TV screens... can't wait.  We get to see Gus Fring again.  I'll have to model my Los Pollos Hermanos kitchen apron on facebook sometime.

About TV... if you haven't seen 'Westworld', please please please, DO IT.  By the time you've finished watching the last episode of the season, you will see why I say it's the smartest, deepest, most stunning show on television.  It rivals 'Breaking Bad'.  Yes, it's that good.

Anybody else think Trump is the antichrist?  Maybe a precursor?  Obama only has a few days left to start World War 3 like all the conservatives have said, not to mention take everybody's guns, so he better get cracking.  Seriously, Obama = best U.S. president maybe ever.  Even Kennedy was rocked by scandals.  Nothing for Barack.  Argue if you want... but you're wrong to.

Who's going to win the Royal Rumble?  Not Lesnar.  Not Goldberg.  Those guys will screw each other over in the Rumble and we'll see one last match between them at Wrestlemania, that's my prediction.  And I'm stickin' to it.  Finn Balor is the dark horse in the Rumble, not even announced, but he's owed a rematch with Owens, so I look for Owens to retain and keep his title until WM where Balor will get a shot at taking it back.  But that won't be the headlining match at WM.  Lesnar vs Goldberg will be.  Maybe.  Perhaps Undertaker will be involved for a 3-way.  I'd LOVE to see Rowdy Ronda get involved somehow in the women's division, but odds are very long on that.  But eventually I'd like her to get a deal similar to Lesnar's.  Then there's The Rock.  How will he figure in all of it?  Seth Rollins vs HHH will happen at Mania, too, I predict.

That's about it.  Fire up the colortinis and watch the pictures as they fly through the air.

Good day.  焕

Saturday, December 31, 2016


The year is over.  Cripes... you just don't have any clue, ANY clue whatsoever what could be ahead, do you?

I think I've seen worse.  '15 was worse, for sure.  It seemed when things couldn't get worse, for me at least, that it just did.  It would get worse.  But I got out of it with more life experience than I expected, and it came in somewhat useful in '16.  Sometimes you go through crap and it hardens you as a person, and it prepares you for what's to come.  You know, it's sad that this is something that needs to happen to you in life sometimes just to survive, but, that indeed is life.

There sure was a lot of death this year.  And it's not even over,  There are a few hours left of '16 as of this very moment, and God only knows who's going to go next, and when.  I've had relatives die, friends die, countless celebrities have died this year, sports stars... it all leaves a person quite numb when it's fed to us in such large, heaping doses.  I do have my faith.  Death doesn't do a lot to shake it.  In fact, sometimes it even strengthens it.  It forces people like myself to take a harder look at it, to find some kind of validation in it.

I like to go to church.  In particular, my church, Saint Bernard's Roman Catholic here in Moncton.  It's our city's oldest church at over 130 years.  I'd left my last church in favor of St. B's because one of my favorite priests, Father Peter McKee, did services there.  After Father McKee died a few years ago. Father Carroll took his place.  I kind of grew up with Father Carroll.  As an altar boy in my youth, I served with him as a deacon and watched him become a priest, one of the favorites in the local area because of his ability to personalize with the congregation.  He's an everyman, someone anybody could talk to and feel very comfortable with.

Being a churchgoer, semi-regular at least (I'm on the church schedule as a reader, so I go at least every three weeks or so), I've found the church a very comforting place to be.  It's good to be in there and just meditate, or pray, whatever you like to call it.  Connecting with God takes work, I find.  I have to have a clearer mind and be in a good place to actually feel 'the vibe', so to speak, but I do.

I know the vast majority of people don't go to church, and that's okay.  This is just me.  It's what I like.  I don't think I get extra points in the books because I go as opposed to someone else who doesn't.  If you're atheist, that's fine too.  It's your choice.  I think you should be judged by how you treat others.  I know Christians who are utter assholes and atheists who are good as gold.  Whatever.

When I was visited by a friend last summer who I used to work with, who became a nun a few years ago, I was taken aback by several things.  Just with this particular visit.  She comes to see us every year, and we share stories of what's happened in each others' absences, and update one another on our lives.

Here's the deal with why I'm writing this blog to begin with:  This visit with my friend caused me to go into somewhat of a spiritual crisis that resonates to this day.  My belief in God will always be there.  My belief in Catholicism, though, got tested this summer.

Of course, '16 was the year that saw the election in the U.S. that made the whole world turn their heads and stare.  Without delving too much into it, because it's been done and done and done again, the fact is that Americans elected a misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic, faith-challenged, Russian sympathetic, unqualified public servant with no previous experience and bankruptcy-addicted serial wife cheater, climate change deniar and unapologetic compulsive liar to succeed the greatest president in our lifetime, effectively spitting in the face of those championing women's rights, environmental awareness, income equality, and anyone concerned about their rights to health care or even clean air and water.  There are facts piled up from here to Kingdom Come to back up everything in this paragraph.  These are not opinions, they're facts.  And as a well known entertainer has said famously, you're entitled to your own opinions, but you're not entitled to your own facts.

Now, my nun friend made it quite clear that she considered Obama to be what's driven the world backward in our modern era and that Trump was the man to make things right.  When we discussed this particular subject, I threw a lot of questions at her.  It would seem that her choice in Trump as a world leader is particularly faith-based, i.e. Trump is anti-abortion.  Fair enough.  I'm anti-abortion too, to a point.  Getting pregnant is not an inconvenience, it's a gift, to me.  I've felt that since my wife and I were blessed with our daughter.  Doctors told her she'd more than likely never conceive, yet here our daughter is.  Now she can't conceive, as she needed a partial hysterectomy shortly after having Alexandra.  But if someone raped my daughter, or if a pregnancy threatened her life for some odd reason, you can bet I'd be siding with my little girl's choices.  Something tells me Donald would be exactly the same way under similar circumstances, as would most conservatives in general.  When shit happens to you, your opinions tend to change.

My friend also was told that Obama would be seeking a third term somehow so that World War III would be brought about.  I'll leave that one all by itself, because I'll illustrate in a moment the reasons behind such a pattern of beliefs... I queried her on a few things, in light of her unabashed support of the King of Reality Television (sorry, Mr. Probst).  Had she heard of Trump's mocking a disabled reporter at one of his rallies in South Carolina?  How about when he basically told a mother to shut her baby up while he was speaking?  He regularly incited violence at his rallies, how about that one at least?  I don't suppose being a chronic liar while running for the most powerful position on planet Earth is an issue... is it?  Surely being in charge of nukes, he won't consider using them even remotely, would he?  Is it REALLY okay for a potential president to be saying things like grab them by the pussy; I did try and fuck her, she was married; I moved on her like a bitch, etc. God almighty, the list goes on and on and on.  I don't know how it is that Teflon Don gets away with so much, so very much, when only one of these things would bring down any democratic nominee in a heartbeat.  I digress.... my friend did not even know about one of these things.  NOT.  ONE.  Zero.  Now, you have to wonder to yourself, how can it be?  How can someone possibly avoid it, even the most pro-Trump supporters?

The answer is, the filter of the Catholic Church.  My nun friend was not even aware that our very own Pope Francis hesitated to even call Trump a Christian.  Many of those in the Catholic faith and its clergy are fed filtered news, if you want to call it 'news' to begin with, that scarily seems to support an alternate agenda from what our very own Pope teaches.  I know Lifesite News on the web openly and unabashedly supported Donald Trump for president based solely on his anti-abortion views.  Never mind all the other stuff I just gave you links to.  Never mind his elitist views and cabinet appointments that boasts the biggest collection of billionaires in the history of the world.  Christian faith, and especially Pope Francis, after all, are ardent champions of the poor.  A Donald Trump presidency is the antithesis of what Pope Francis stands for, and thus, Catholicism in general.

So, knowing all this... knowing that the inner core of Catholic media is controlled by what has to be seen as some form of extremism that only serves one singular purpose by and large, sent my faith into a tailspin.  This was all strange to me, because when I go to mass at Saint B's, we regularly offer prayers for the poor, the homeless, and the unfortunate in general.  Now we have to deal with a president on the way with mass approval who champions the rich, lives in palaces of his own making and revels at the disparities of others.  My dear friend was surprised at all of the information that I'd offered her, and I even wondered whether she actually believed me, or if that it was all just hyperbole.  Which it isn't, because the video footage is right there, along with an endless list of press of all the terrible things Trump has done and said over the years.  It doesn't even scratch the surface.

I like to follow politics.  I keep a close eye on it because I like to know what's happening in the world around me.  I've voted Liberal, Progressive Conservative and Green in my voting life, and I can tell you I'm stuck voting Green probably the rest of my life.  Voting for anything else is like voting against planet earth.

I respect the fact there are people from various sides of the political spectrum that support their parties, but I will never, ever respect groups like the Tea Party or anything that deems itself "alt-right".  If you've openly supported Trump for his presidency, you've tested my faith in you as someone who's of sound judgment.  I've had judgment issues over my life, hey, I'll be the first to tell you!  But never, never has my discernment been as questionable as it has for hordes of people who voted for the man openly supported by the KKK and Vladmir Putin.

And so, I've lost faith, alright.  I've lost faith in people.  I've lost faith in democracy, where someone who garnered nearly three million less votes than their competitor actually won an electoral contest to decide who leads the free world.  I've lost a lot of faith in Catholicism, but at least not its leader, whom I claim as my own.  I've lost faith in the world's ability to pull up its bootstraps and stand up against climate change, no longer a theory but a fact supported by over 97% of the world's scientists.  If you don't believe in climate change, that's too bad.  You deserve to be ridiculed as supporting the 3% of scientists who side with you, yet you'll still buy the toothbrush that four out of five dentists recommend.  You'll never buy the one that one out of five does.

My belief, outlandish as you might say, is that Donald Trump is perhaps the antichrist.  Or at least a pawn to it.  When we're talking about the proliferation of nukes and fossil fuels in an age where the world is already dying at record speed, and so many readily embrace that which enables the acceleration of it all, suddenly it doesn't seem too outlandish anymore.

As a symptom of my disbelief at it all, I've taken down my facebook.  It's amazing, some of the stuff I see people post.  It makes me sad, angry, and at times outright disgusted.  Since leaving I've felt this feeling of peacefulness, somewhat at least.  Perhaps, to a point, ignorance really is bliss.  I may go back on it, I may not.  Originally I just wanted to take a break.

I did have another blog page where I posted my own personal things about what's going on.  I did make one last post some time ago, and it will be my last post there.  I discussed my openness about mental illness and my battles with it frequently there.  And I've decided I'm done with it.  I've concluded that keeping it to yourself really is the best way to handle it.  What I've discovered, sadly, is everyone wants to know what's wrong with you.... until they know.  Then, it's like pressing two polar opposite magnets together.  They seem to naturally push away.  I've noticed it with friends, especially co-workers, and even with medical professionals, to a point.  But I do have the support of my wife and daughter, and my family.

So as I grapple once again with the changing of medications, for the third time in the past six months, over the holidays no less, I'll sign off the year with a tinge of hope, but with the bristle of protective caution.

Because when '17 is over, I'm sure I'll look back and say, I had no clue that was coming.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Reality Bites

The 2016 U.S. election is over.  It's two days after, now.  I thought it best to let it sink in a bit before I offered my opinion.

I know there are those that will agree with some of it, some will disagree.  I don't care either way.  How I see it is how I see it.  And I respect most others' opinions.

My views have changed over the years.  Maybe not all that drastically, but they have.  Some would be shocked and disappointed at the tweaking of how I see some things, some would be... "meh".  I'm fine with all of it.  One of those views is on the whole "gay thing".  I used to say, 'I don't agree with the gay lifestyle.'  I think that comment is just idiotic and dumb today.  How do you agree or disagree with a lifestyle?  How someone lives their life is inconsequential to me or anyone else, as long as no one gets hurt.  The only people I see getting hurt are gay people themselves, getting beaten up or denied their human rights by those who oppose them.  So who's wrong here?  Throughout my years, I generally have only seen the most gentle of people within the gay community; who care, in many cases, more than their straight counterparts about the good of all humankind.  When the issue of gay marriage comes up, the real firestorm begins.  Voices are raised, soapboxes erected, bibles come out... and hatred exposed.  The ugliness of humanity is magnified in all its self-righteous glory.  And over time, though I've not bought into the hatred of it all, I was unwittingly a part of it, because I "didn't agree with the gay lifestyle".  But I ask myself the question... if a trio of guys are beating up another guy on a street corner because he's gay, and I'm walking on the other side of the street, do I ignore it and continue on, or take my taekwondo black belt ass over there and protect the innocent man on the ground getting abused?  If I don't, I'm as guilty as those beating him up.  So I would go over and do the right thing, and defend him.  Jesus would be appalled.  Appalled that three guys chose to vent their prejudism through violent behavior against a peaceful individual who shares passionate love differently than they do.  Real Christians defend those who are helpless.

With the civil war going on in Syria, and millions fleeing the country, many are seeking refuge in other parts of the world where they won't get bombed or shot at, like many of their friends or family members already have.  Stop and think, if you will, of your city being under siege from an invading army; many of your friends are dead, much of your family is dead or gone, and maybe you only have a child or two, and if you're lucky, a spouse with you still alive, and you make your escape.  You find a kind foreign force willing to take you in, give you shelter, and prepare you for life somewhere else that you won't have to dodge bullets or landmines.  But you so love your city!  How could you leave where you've lived most of your life, and never come back?  Then you ask yourself, how could you subject what's left of your family to chance by staying?  So you submit to the vetting process by the samaritans, and by some crazy stroke of luck and good fortune, you get whisked off to another country where there's no war.  No bombings.  Just a very different way of life, albeit peaceful and welcoming, that lets you take your religion and harmless belief system with you, after the vetting process, and settle amongst a new group of neighbors in a calm, war-free setting.  You're crazy grateful at the good fortune afforded you to escape the sad, violent war zone, and come to what's comparitively viewed as paradise.  Nearly everyone around you has a different color of skin, but it doesn't seem to matter to them.  They're welcoming you with open arms.  Your faith in humanity is somewhat restored.  You're surrounded by countries that have checkpoints, but no barriers.  No barbed wire or fences to forbid you from where you want to go, provided you have legal documentation to prove who you are.

I've written ad-nauseum about how I have a mental illness.  A disability.  There are pros and cons that you can't visually see it.  Some won't believe I have it, unless they see my medication bottles or know my medical history.  And then, some still won't believe it!  But I'm very fortunate that I don't need physical assistance to come and go.  I need no wheelchair or walker or artificial limbs.  I have no degenerative physical ailment.  One time, when I broke my foot on the job and wound up losing said job because of it, I was down on my luck and went downtown with some friends.  I don't drink a lot, so when my friends threw one down after another, I decided to leave.  The walk was a couple of miles home, and that's a long way when you have a cast on your foot up to your knee.  As I began my lonely trek home and crossed Main Street, a group of ladies nearby pointed, laughed and mocked my limping, while I cried putting one painful step in front of the other.  It was a very lonely, depressing time in my life, and I thought to myself as I soldiered home, "what if this is how it was all the time?"  I experienced only a tiny, microscopic example of what it was like to be a permanently disabled person.  It was horrifyingly lonely.  No one offered to stop and help during the 45 minute journey home, where I'm sure I looked visibly tired and in pain.  I'm grateful this happened, believe it or not.  It gave me a wealth of understanding for those who are far, far worse off.  It gave me eyes that were sharper than they were previously.

All these things helped shape the man that I became today.  I'd say that I'm a fairly decent guy.  Maybe not overly smart, certainly not monetarily rich, and even prone from time to time to a joke about someone less fortunate, though I so try not to find humor or entertainment in such things, because there isn't any!  Perhaps that's a part of growing up.  People have to do that - grow up.  Perhaps maintain their "inner kid" and retain some of that innocence, to prevent you from becoming some stiff, boring old windbag.  My wife and I behave like kids around each other all the time!  We say it keeps us young.  Some people around us call us a cute couple, some might call us immature, which we actually take as a compliment.  Keep your boring-ass 'maturity'.  Go to tea parties or luncheons or meetings or whatever you call entertainment.  We'll keep our movies, gym outings, TV watching in our onesies with our snacks and pop and making supper at home together any day.  I've learned over time how much I value the women in my life.  My Mom is my original hero.  She raised seven of us virtually by herself, and most of us fought back against being raised properly, but we all made it.  We all got married and had families, and were responsible to them.  None of us were in trouble with the law because of the values instilled in us by our mother.  In other words, we all have our family values.  And all of the boys, despite growing up in adversity, maintained respect and love and admiration for our female counterparts, all shapes, sizes, colors and ages.  I would dare say we are all gentlemen.

Something Mom taught us all was to be raised Catholic.  She revered the Popes of the times, brought us to church on Sundays, and reprimanded us if we cursed in the house, or anywhere for that matter, while she was around.  We were to recognize Christmas as Christ's birthday (I know it's really not, that it was really some other time, but whatever), Easter as Christ's resurrection (read between the brackets before the last comma), and observed other events on the Catholic calendar.  There are protestant religions that are more or less the same, with a tweak to the Catholic beliefs here and there, which are all fine by me as long as we worship the same God, peacefully.  Most Christian religions would see the Pope as their leader, I think, some maybe not.  And some popes, they agreed with more than others.  Our current one, Francis, has really emerged as the Pope we need for our times.  He's worked vigorously to bridge the gaps between faiths, heal the wrongs of the Christian past (a very, very tall order, but at least he's trying), and tried to restore faith among those who have lost it.  He's the most Christ-like Pope I've ever known of, welcoming everyone in his presence, championing the poor and the weak, and yes, even offering an olive branch to gays.  We so need him in these times.  When he speaks on the issues of the day, people listen.  He's even warned us not to be too focused on abortion issues, and allowing it to fade out all other important subjects of our modern era.  He continuously warns us about climate change, and tells us to embrace science alongside religion.  Never mind a progressive Pope, this man is a progressive human being altogether, perhaps moreso than any of us.  At least most.

Growing up, I was taught, as most of us were that becoming the nation's leader was the finest thing you could be.  The very finest.  Here in Canada, it's Prime Minister.  In the U.S., it's President.  But I've recognized in the States that young men more aspired to be president than Canadians did prime minister.  It was romanticized in songs, poems, speeches, and kids would pretend to be the nation's leader.  A lot of little boys would study hard in school with hopes of serving in public office, and who knows?  Maybe become president one day!  "Son, if you study hard, work hard, pay your dues, and respect your fellow human beings and do all you can to serve and protect them, you deserve to be the leader of the country."  That kind of thing was spouted all the time in TV shows, which would in turn influence little boys everywhere.  Now, the world has changed.  Girls have a shot at it, too.  Girls are recognized as being at least as smart as boys are, and every bit as capable of doing what boys do.  As time goes on, the competitive spirit between genders is deteriorating, and we are being all seen more as equals as we seek out amongst ourselves who is best to do whatever task is at hand.  As long as the good of humanity is served and our dignity respected and recognized, may the best person lead us to further greatness as a people.

%&^###$ -----"vinyl record scratch"-----&*#$%++%

Donald Trump is president-elect of the United States.

This man has made it a promise to repeal gay marriage.  Has claimed to be Christian while behaving the most un-Christian-like throughout his ENTIRE CAMPAIGN.  He's incited violence at his campaign rallies while pledging to his supporters he would pay for their court costs if they're brought up on battery charges against protesters.  He has openly attacked Muslims and their faith, offering and promising to block them from coming to the U.S. if elected.  He belittled an American Muslim Iraq war hero and his parents.  He marginalized blacks at his rallies, and pleaded ignorance to any knowledge of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacy advocates that openly supported his campaign.  He pledged repeatedly to build a fucking WALL between Mexico and the United States to keep Mexicans out, because, he says, they're "rapists, drug dealers and murderers"!  He kicked a baby out of a rally because it was crying, and belittled the child's parents.  He said he would "bomb the shit" out of middle east countries and even possibly use nukes on them.  He's pledged his support to Vladmir Putin and aligned himself with Russia and its atrocities to modern humankind, and even invited them to spy on his rival Democratic Party.  He would stop the flow of refugees to the U.S., which was barely a miniscule trickle to begin with.  He infamously mocked and made fun of a disabled reporter.  He's mocked and made fun of ("Miss Piggy") a Miss Universe pageant winner for gaining weight from depression.  In fact, he's made fun of women just about every goddamned day.  His hatred for Rosie O'Donnell ruled his Twitter account.  When he was discovered as having said he loves to assault women in the infamous "hot mic" debacle ("grab them by the pussy"), HE DIDN"T APOLOGIZE.  Instead he just attributed it to "locker room talk", like that would normalize it.  He repeatedly cheated on his women (three wives and counting) unapologetically, even bragging about it.  HE DENOUNCED THE POPE.  [where, oh where, are you so-called republican Christians to defend your leader???  Oh, wait, it's TRUMP you worship, not Christ] He belittled the poor and uneducated.  He dodged the draft to Vietnam while shaming fellow republican John McCain for being a P.O.W. there.  He's said people who get abortions need to be punished!  He NEVER served in public office in all his 70 years.  He's declared bankruptcy and defaulted on loans more times than anyone could imagine, and as a billionaire did not pay taxes, AND BRAGGED ABOUT IT.  He promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act and deprive millions of health care who've not had it before Obama took office.  He accused Hillary of scheming to repeal the second amendment, which 1) is virtually impossible, and 2) SHE actually sought to protect to keep guns out of the hands of the worst people in society......And he said he'd have Hillary Clinton investigated in efforts to have her put in jail if he were elected.  That's right, he said he'd incarcerate his political opponent.

I was going to get into the whole Bernie Sanders would have won in a landslide if only Debbie Wasserman Shultz hadn't rigged the Democratic primaries tirade, but there's no point anymore in getting into what-if's.  Sanders appealed to a wide swath on the right AND left, and was the perfect matchup for Trump to take him down.  Trump was the alternative republican candidate, Sanders was the Dems' alternative.  Instead they chose institution over a more relateable rebel.  But I digress... The fact is, nearly half of eligible Americans decided not to vote at all.  Half of the rest picked Trump to be their leader, and leader of the free world, over a woman who's served in public office for over 30 years, and whose worst mistake during her campaign was calling Trump supporters "a basket of deplorables".  Well guess what... those "deplorables" proved her right.  Repeatedly.

I realize there are a lot of Americans who are shocked and saddened at the outcome of events on November 8, 2016.  My heart goes out to you.  I know some of them.  Some are angry and afraid of what will come in the days and months ahead.  The republicans don't just have a president.  They now control the senate and the house of representatives, and will surely appoint a seventh tie-breaking conservative judge to the Supreme Court.  Gay rights and women's rights will exit the country like the Obama family from the White House, and most of the progress made with the deficit, health care, human rights, environment and the economy will surely be reversed.  It happens with every turn of republicans leading the country.  And that's not even to mention whatever new wars they will invent to spend taxpayers' money on.

But here's the real butthurt... America, you wanted this, and now you've got it.  You think Trump's going to give you jobs?  Reduce your deficit?  Increase your wages?  I won't even offer a rebuttal for that.  I'll let you experience it yourselves over the next four years.  Oh, and since you've elected a reality show host/non-public service candidate for president, congratulations!!  You've just won the distinct opportunity to have a legitimate contender on the next presidential ballot, Kanye West!  What??  No way??  WAY.  Who did you just elect??  Wait and see.  Kanye 2020.  I bet the signs are being made right now.

And I do not subscribe to the whole "we have to work together" shit people are saying right now.  Please re-read this blog and try to say that with a straight face.  You have a racist, elitist, misogynist, homophobic bigot for president.  Overseas, you cheer when you see countries that have riots in the streets with the people trying to take back their country from people just like Trump.  The people who have voted against Trump are only trying their best to put the fire out before it turns into an inferno.

God bless the U.S.A.  And God bless those trying to protect what its founders sought to always guard against.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Getting Back On Track


There's an awful lot of talk these days about renewable energy, isn't there?  It comes down, in many instances, to "tree huggers" vs "oil barons".  But, the massive elephant in the same ring as that battle is a fella called Climate Change.

I'm not going to make this an excruciatingly long post preaching about everything that's wrong with carbon pollution in this day and age, because everyone knows pollution of any kind is outright wrong.  The challenge is embracing the extinguishing of it, namely in the face of greed and profit.  Imagine a world where the energy we need is produced right where you live.  You don't need help from overseas or across any borders, or dealings from unsavoury dictators to get that what you need to sustain yourselves.  That age is upon us right now.  Do you really want it?  A growing, tidal wave of supporters doesn't just want it, they're demanding it.

I'm fresh into my 50's now, and what I see largely is a movement of young people who have become increasingly aware of what their future may look like, should the 'old guard' not loosen its grip on the reigns of the current political realm.  Change has to happen, and it has to happen right now.  Results can not happen overnight, mind you, but plans can be made to assure that we don't veer onto the wrong path.  We need entities in politics that are forward thinking who will grab hold of that elusive brass ring and not let go, and assure not only that our future generations, but indeed humanity, have a chance not just to thrive, but to survive at all.

But here's the thing... the present requires us to make funeral arrangements for big oil, but not push it into the grave just yet, as it's still alive and still sustaining us as a species.  That's the cold, hard reality for Tree Huggers like myself.  Electric cars are fast approaching the horizon, and provide us all with the promise of clean air and deteriorating greenhouse gases to give us hope.  Likewise can be said with cheaper, more efficient means of renewable energy, which is making advancements every day, it seems.  The death of the oil industry is unavoidable and imminent.  Fort McMurray and Hibernia can beat their chests all they want about Canadian home-grown energy, but the fact is, sooner than later, no country will need energy from anyone else.  This means quite potentially that a golden age of peace is possible, where greenhouse gases fade, clean air thrives, and energy is plentiful for everyone everywhere, without the reliance of supply from grossly rich leaders, largely in the middle east.  Imagine a world where we don't have to feed money to those who have a stranglehold on our very sustainability.  We could tell places like Saudi Arabia that, "no, you can't have our armoured vehicles or tanks, because your oil doesn't hold us hostage anymore."

Still, we actually need oil for the short term, don't we?  You and I still have cars and homes that need it to run.  I know some of us have electric cars and heat pumps, but not all of us.  It's not necessarily affordable to everyone.  In fact, it isn't, or I'd have both of those myself right now.  So, I have to bitch and whine about oil and gas while actually needing it.  The goal is to not need it for much longer.

So, there's the tar sands in Fort McMurray.  It's an oil haven, rich with black gold, albeit the dirtiest stuff on planet earth.  What oil barons want is to build several pipelines to move raw bitumen, in its thickest, hottest, dirtiest form, through pipelines across our country and across the United States to refineries to be processed and, head-scratchingly, be moved across the oceans to places that will buy the stuff.  Some of it will be used here.  It doesn't matter, where the finished product winds up is not the point I'm trying to make.

Our federal government, not so loudly, has come to the realisation that the oil beds are on their deathbeds, with a life expectancy of not a lot more than another 15 years.  Consider that for a moment.  Hundreds of kilometres, or miles if that's your thing, of pipelines hogging considerable space on our countries' lands, and bearing down with the inevitable threats to the ecosystem when there are ruptures.  And there will be, make no mistake.  Pipelines this long have never proven to be safe over those lengths of space, and if the pipelines do go forward, they most certainly will be hastily built.  Argue against that all you want.  They will insist, ad nauseum, that they are safe.  And they most certainly are safe.... until they aren't.

"But Mike," you no doubt are saying to me in your heads, "railway accidents with oil trains are happening all the time.  Pipelines are far safer and more efficent".  Really?  Okay.... when those pipelines are obsolete in 15 years, and you and I know that's not a hell of a long time, who's going to disassemble them and clean them all up?  I'll tell you who:  Nobody.  They will be left to deteriorate and ugly-fy the lands they occupy, and pose even more hazards long after the hot, thick black goo has been trying to be flowing through them.  We're left with a huge mess that no one wants and no one is willing to be held accountable for.

So, then, there are no alternatives.  Grin and bear it.  We're not long for this world anyway, right?


Here's what needs to be done, in my own humble opinion:

Why do accident like those in Lac Magentic happen, anyway?  Braking systems on the trains?  Bad railway systems?  Here in Canada, under the Harper Conservatives, deregulations occurred all over the map, making our ecosystems fair prey for those who want to harm them.  Canada's lakes and rivers were left completely vulnerable and unprotected in the name of Big Oil.  Indian reserves were threatened.  Cities and towns were left to watch our leaders roll the dice on our safety, which they didn't give a damn about anyway, as oil freight rolled through our lands without anyone imposing rules and regulations on the trains or the tracks they ran on.  Maybe you see where I'm going, here.

Railway systems are the problem that needs to be addressed, not the creation of pointless pipelines.  Our tracks and many of our trains are in dire need of an upgrade.  The need for them is not going to go away, but in fact, like the sources of the energy that sustains us, they must evolve to be safer, more efficient and better-serving.  When oil goes bust in 15 years, the tracks that are still there are still going to be abundantly useful.  It's a chance to advance the train industry and accelerate the means of transit for people, potentially taking even more cars off the road, whether they're electric or not.

But there are so many tracks!  Well then, you prioritise some tracks in the beginning, like the ones most frequented by oil freight, naturally, and let the rest develop as it will.  This is a win-win scenario.  Oil lives out its final few years in a safer manner, while green energy's tentacles grow throughout the land, while the economy thrives on the jobs that it creates during its transition.  Energy steadily becomes cheaper and cheaper, putting more money in the common person's pockets, and everyone is left happy and thriving.  Before you know it, no one needs oil anymore, and terrorism wanes because the funding for it has dissipated into almost nothing.

Doesn't that sound like a world you want to leave for your kids?  I know it's one that I'd like to see my daughter and (hopefully) my grandkids have.

And I believe it can happen.

I believe.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: "Under the Skin"

Under the Skin

Scarlett Johansson, "Laura"

Jonathan Glazer, director

I won't make any bones about it, I LOVE me some ScarJo.  She's a fairly unorthodox actress, exceedingly beautiful, but talented enough to retain the attention of filmgoers beyond her superficial splendor.  Let's face it, there are an abundance of gorgeous actresses who are easy on the eyes, but not so much on the brain when it comes to making a story come to life onscreen.  Of course, the same can be said for actors; probably to a larger degree.

Not every movie Scarlett Johannson has done has made me want to rush to see it, of course.  She stole the show in "Iron Man 2" (to me, anyway, along with Sam Rockwell) and reprised her Black Widow character in more Marvel films, and even made a distinct non-physical presence reverberate in the recent "Her".  I balked at seeing "Lucy" because the premise didn't interest me at all.

And here we have "Under the Skin", a somewhat below-the-radar art house sci-fi/horror human character examination made on the cheap by director Jonathan Glazer.  Anyone who saw "Blade Runner" on its initial release in theatres, where it was viewed as a disappointment at the box office and even critically at the time, now knows that time was indeed very good to that movie.  It's come to be a go-to film for studious and budding moviemakers looking to hone their craft.  This is how I think "Under the Skin" will be looked upon in retrospect in years to come.

Although, "Under the Skin" is not nearly as 'Hollywood' as "Blade Runner" was.  In fact, it seems to go out of its way to avoid that tag, even trying somewhat to play down the beauty of its lead actress with a rather shaggy black wig, faux fur coat and run-of-the-mill street clothes.  Make no mistake, Laura (Johannson's character) is hot, as any man or even woman would agree, but she's normal hot, as opposed to Hollywood hot.

As I watched this movie with my wife, I knew what we were seeing was something weird and probably very polarizing.  When it was over, I didn't know whether I loved it or hated it.  But I knew what I saw meant to challenge me.  Challenge me to interpret the movie on my own, because it wasn't going to make things obvious for me like every other blockbuster does.  There is very little dialogue in "Under the Skin", and it relies on imagery, actions, and subtle suggestions forcing the viewer to try to figure out what they're watching.

This happens right from the get-go.  There's spacey, sphere-like images, scenes resembling eclipses, where light is overtaken by dark.  We learn that Laura is, of course, an alien, with the sole purpose to lure and seduce men back to her dwelling, with the promise of lustful fulfillment.  She has a partner, perhaps partners, in crime; men that traverse the Scottish landscape and city of Glasgow aiding and assisting in her hunt.  As she strips naked and beckons her prey to follow her, they become swallowed up in a pool of black ooze, which processes its victims into food for the alien world Laura is from, and she puts her clothes back on and resumes the pattern.

What's interesting is near the beginning of the film's opening act... the motorcyclist, also an alien assuming human form, collects an unconscious woman from the side of the road in the darkness, and brings her to a white van.  Inside the white van, she is put down, and we see that it's the character we will come to know as Laura - though we don't hear the name audibly.  Yet, the woman that winds up undressing Laura is also Laura.  My assumption is, that they are both aliens, and the laid-out Laura has failed in her own mission for reasons we will never know; however, a tear runs down her face as she watches the other woman assume her identity.  Why would this alien, who assumed a human identity, be brought to tears?  Like I said, nothing is spelled out for anyone.  You watch the rest of the film, and at the end, you get clues as to why she may have arrived in that state.

In the meantime, Laura drives around the streets of Glasgow (note:  not New York, not L.A., not Chicago, Detroit, etc.), scanning the streets for prey, normally lonely or vulnerable men she can convince to come for a ride in her van, and bring them back to her place.  Initially, she's cold.  Her eyes are empty, her actions deliberate, almost machine-like.  But as this alien assumes its human role, it finds out what it's like to be human.  She's cold and calculating, notably in one scene on a beach where a small family is frolicking in the water, at least at first, and she executes her mission with iciness where sexy persuasion fails her.  At this point in the movie, some might stop watching.  When I said this movie is challenging, this is one of the things that I meant.  Things in this movie are meant to make you uncomfortable, to feel.   And in fact, whether she wants to or not, Laura is on a trajectory that will force her to feel, as well.  To be human means to do as much, and she discovers as things progress that it's unavoidable.

In fact, the more she experiences humanity, the more it seems she wants to be human.  She even shows mercy to a victim she traps, a man with elephant man disease, as he's swallowed in the black pool; she sees her reflection in a mirror, spies a fly trapped in a screen, and then we see the man suddenly free and running in a field, naked.  At least for a time.

She slips and falls on the street, and people surround her with concern and offers to help her, and she seems bewildered at their offers.  She winds up on a bus with not much clothing for the weather, and is approached by a man to help her; he brings her to his house, comforts her, feeds her, and gives her the freedom to do as she chooses.  Laura seems taken aback by it all, as if it's a foreign behaviour to her.  But it also seems that she may be adapting, or trying to.  Maybe wanting to.  One by one, she experiences the signatures of what it is to be human:  need, want, desire, empathy, guilt, trust, betrayal, and finally, fear.

By the film's end, we discover why the title is what it is.  And for myself, I flashed back to the movie's opening, the doppleganger in the van being stripped, with a tear in her eye.  I realize that perhaps, Laura #2 encountered the same trappings of humanity that Laura #1 did.

I didn't really get all of this until later, as the movie ran back in my head.  We watched it two nights ago as of this writing, and I'm still coming-to, so to speak, with the message of the film.  Right down to its soundtrack, which is ultra-creepy and haunting, though I hate to say "haunting" because that's an adjective overused for movie scores.  It's just so fitting with this one.  And highly irregular.  As a matter of fact, there are a lot of irregular things going on with this show.  The thick Scottish accents, the lack of high-rise buildings and slick streetscapes, and even several shots where Glazer filmed an incognito Johansson attempting to pick regular-Joe men up on the street, caught on hidden cameras.  (Once footage was attained, these men were told what was going on and were asked permission to have the footage used.)

All said and done, I'd have to recommend you see this show for yourself, but I don't guarantee you'll like it.  At least, not necessarily right away.

Sunday, February 15, 2015