Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Stranger

It's been a weird week, kind of.  It's always a bit strange when there's a statutory holiday in the middle of it, and it splits the work week up, leaving your body to wonder what the heck is happening, especially when you're used to getting up at 4 in the morning on Tuesdays and Fridays, and it switches to Wednesday and Friday.  But it's all good.  Remembrance Day was the occasion for the holiday.  Not particularly a day for celebration as much as... well, remembrance.

I've been thinking about some Billy Joel songs running through my head in the last while.  Remembrance Day kind of makes me think of 'Goodnight Saigon', although it's a song about some American troops in the Vietnam War.  Men still paid a steep price for that conflict, though, and it just helps you remember others who lost their lives in other conflicts, or even survived.  It's kind of a noir-type song, where the character and his comrades in it don't survive the ending.  There's another song of his called 'The Stranger', which we all can relate to, I think.  We all wear masks in life to suit any given situation we're in, masks that portray us in a different light to others.

I haven't really discussed with anybody how tough my mornings have been this week.  In particular Monday and Wednesday mornings.  I'm at a loss to explain why I'm having trouble with the start of my days lately; just that a very dark cloud seems to hover around until mid-afternoon or so.  I choose not to discuss it very much verbally so as not to bring anyone else down with me.  I mean, what's to gain, right?  And besides, if there's one thing I've learned, it seems nobody really likes to hear from a depressed person, unless they're well-paid psychiatrists.

So I put on a brave face.  Not that brave, it's not hard to do.  A lot of us who go through depression issues would know exactly what I'm talking about.  In fact, the majority of people I work with have no idea whatsoever about my disability.  And yes, it is a disability.  No, you can't see it; nor can you detect it for the most part from people like me, unless we tell you.  And why we would want to tell you, at this point with me, escapes me.  I've discovered you lose the people you reach out to.  The one person outside of my wife that I've found really, truly gets it, was a counselor who talked to my family and myself to tell us that my mom was ill with Pick's Disease.  She'd turned to me at the roundtable with a genuine look of concern and asked me, having been living with my mom longer than anyone else, how I was, and how I felt.  How I felt?  I didn't know how to answer that.  And I don't believe I did, as words failed me.

I hear sometimes, "just let it go!"  That's another thing you don't tell a person suffering from mental illness.  You have no idea how much we would just love to "let it go".  No idea.  But our brains are dysfunctional and unable, for most of us anyway, to do this relatively simple task.  For somebody like me, just being around some crowds of people are a massive undertaking.  Or talking on the phone.  It's debilitating... hence, the disability.  Making new friends is harder, because we know nobody really wants to be around folks like us, and we don't want people to expect normal everyday things to be easy sometimes.  So we create distance.

Oddly enough, when I used to perform in a band and do some gigs, the stage was the most comfortable place for me to be.  Maybe because the stage in its own way is kind of isolating and distancing.  When I do readings at church, I feel no nervous apprehension at all.

Recently I read about Jerry Seinfeld, how he wonders if he might be on the autism spectrum because of his own social inability and similar behaviors to mine.  Then I wondered... could I be on the autism spectrum myself?  I actually doubt it, but I do wonder sometimes.  I do exhibit some of the symptoms of it.  Quite a few, really.  Although I'm not dependent like some autism patients are.  Maybe my wife would disagree with that!  She wouldn't outright, maybe.  But, I get a very small idea what these people deal with and go through, on a minuscule level.  I wouldn't necessarily say I 'suffer' from it.  It's depression I deal with, I believe.  But on some days, particularly mornings, that overwhelming feeling of isolationism is stark.

And so, like 'The Stranger' in the song, I wear the mask of a person who's not suffering from anything.  Sometimes people do see behind it, but most times, they don't.  But it's well-worn, and used every day for decades now.

Thanks for going on the journey with me via Ragnar Station, and staying in orbit.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Big City... Big City Nights

It is Sunday morning... 3:11am actually... here I am laying in bed with my lovely wife sleeping beside me, in our favorite room in the house.  Why not!  It's got a nice big TV, a fridge, bathroom's just around the corner, not much could make it better.  It's the first official day of fall for '14, I believe.

Now that summer's done, I can give a brief update on what we've been up to around here.  I look at that last post I entered, and yeah, a few things have actually developed since then.  But first, vacation.  It was fantastic.  Absolutely.  If you're a friend on facebook, you might have seen the well over 100 pictures we snapped while we were away in Boston very recently.  We love that city so much, we've pretty well pledged to go back every year now.  The big draw for us, of course, is our beloved Red Sox.  Last year's world champs, this year, not so much.  No matter, we're faithful Sox fans regardless of the win/loss record.  There's just nothing like seeing a game at Fenway Park.  We took in batting practice this time around and actually got to go on the warning track of the field, something I didn't realize was going to happen, so I was pumped!  It was pretty surreal being so close to the players and being on that sacred piece of real estate.  The game we took in had us wondering if we bring bad luck to our boys.  They lost quite badly actually, and played a sloppy game, par for the course this year really, but they do have a lot of real young guys on the team.  The last quarter or so of the season has basically been a tryout for who'll be with them next year.  Still, the place was packed and everyone was having a great time, especially us, and we're looking forward to doing it again next year.

We got to go on the Duck Boats this time, a vehicle from the older military that's a land/water hybrid, and we toured the city seeing the tons and tons of history.  What an amazing city.   You just don't know until you go there and go on one of the many tours there are there.  The history is astounding.  That might even sound boring or something, but you have no idea unless you've been there how stimulating it is to learn about everything that's gone on in that place.  We could go there every year for the rest of our lives, take two or three tours each year, and still never come close to learning all there is that Boston has to offer.  If you've ever thought about going, just do it!  One tip though, stay in nearby Attleboro or Mansfield; we stayed at the Red Roof Inn at the latter.  It's cheaper, but best probably to get a hotel rather than an inn or motel.  But hotels are real pricey in the city.  And bring a GPS.  Man, if not for that, I think we might still be in the midwestern States somewhere right now, trying to find our way back.  But that's me.  Never been good with the roads thing.

As we were doing stuff one day before the game, we checked out, very briefly, the science center, which Alexandra had absolutely positively no interest in, so we put it on ice till next year.  But what a massive building with tons of fascinating things there.  We shopped in a huge three floor mall, which had a Cheesecake Factory in it, the restaurant Penny on the Big Bang Theory works in (nope, she wan't working... DAMN).  Great food, greater cheesecake.  Ritzy but casual.  The next day, we opted for the far cheaper Jerry Remy's for our now-annual RemDawg, the biggest hot dogs I've ever seen.  You have to eat these things with a fork and knife, they're that big.

We walked the streets a lot there, and it was just nice to take in the atmosphere of the living space.  The people in Boston are ultra-friendly... until you get them behind the wheel, then they turn into rather grumpy, unintentionally hilarious impatient drivers.  "Fawk!  Where'd ya learn how ta drive a cah??!  There ain't no pawking at a green light dumbass!"  Just funny to us.  Those accents are everywhere, and it's really endearing.  To us at least.  Even if they're blowing a gasket driving.

The weather was great the whole time we were there, although driving in was questionable.  We'd never seen such a torrential downpour for such an extended period of time.  I remarked "this is the kind of weather you wind up getting tornadoes with."  Sure enough, we got to our hotel, and the desk clerk told us there were tornado warnings just outside Boston.  Whew!  Too close for comfort.  But it cleared up real quick.  Otherwise, the sun was out, the temperatures were comfortable, and all was fantastic.  We even got to see skywriters in the sky, five or six little planes spitting out plumes spelling 'Go Sox' over the city.

Coming back, we had to make our usual junk stops, get our funky flavors of pop and whatever.  We'd said we wouldn't get a lot, and wound up overfilling the trunk and half the backseat with Alexandra.  We laughed the whole trip though, and just had awesome family time.

So we get settled back in, in the middle of the week, and we spend the last few days at home before going back to work.  I signed on to social media places and saw a lot of drama going on, and thought, you know what?  I'm going to deactivate this stuff for the rest of my vacation, so I did.  With every intention to go back on, which I did.  Except that damn Twitter, which I just don't find interesting, despite giving it a second or third chance.  I find it impersonal and rather insincere, so I turfed it.  If you're among the very few that was my friend there, sorry about that.

There have been developments regarding my health, with regards to that last post I did here on Ragnar.  Turns out I'm not a hypochondriac after all, at least with my knee, as the surgeon I saw told me I do indeed have damage in there, a floating piece of my knee, that could end up getting lodged in the joint and locking up my leg.  Lots of pain involved in that I guess.  So he more or less said, get surgery done, or I'll be back one day at outpatients with doctors trying to unlock my knee, and then it'll just keep happening.  So surgery it is.  I guess the waiting list is very long... something like a year, but I agreed to be on the cancellation call list, so I could go in tomorrow for all I know.  I don't know what the recovery time is, but I'm assuming it's inside of a month?  We'll see when it happens I guess.   I remember my brother Rick getting his knee taken care of, and he wound up with a blood clot that kept him sidelined a lot longer.  Here's hoping I'm not as unlucky as he was.

In the meantime, the knee still hurts, I still limp, and the day before I left for my vacation, my knee actually gave at work, where I took a rather nasty tumble and cracked the back of my head on the hinge of a walk-in freezer door.  That didn't tickle.  I was lying there on the floor for about a minute before I picked myself up and went home, thankfully at the end of my shift.  Tylenol 3 was in order.

Alexandra has now officially graduated from her makeup artistry course, and is going to Fredericton Monday for an examination to get her license.  She'll have to do a few makeup jobs on a volunteer... in this case, her mom... to get her evaluation.  Obviously I'll stay behind.  I asked for the day off from my boss since I won't have the car so they can go.  Next time I pipe in here, I'll say how she did.  I've no doubt she'll do amazing.

Janice is doing good, still faithfully going to the gym, as do I.  She does a lot of extra cardio, though, and it's a struggle, because her multiple illnesses fight back at her battling to lose the extra lb's.  She's still not really fully recovered since the whole Bell's Palsy thing as far as getting the full effectiveness of her arthritic medication, being in considerable pain on a regular basis.  In spite of her illnesses, though, she never misses time at work.  Only when she suffered that bout of BP did she take time off, and she had to be told to.  Make no mistake, though.  Mess with her and she'll drop you like an Acme anvil on Wile E.Coyote.

As for me, I've got an appointment with an ENT in November, finally.  I haven't had a nosebleed since the last massive one last time I posted, thank God.  That doesn't mean things are fine.  I still get wicked sinus headaches, and I can't help but feel like my nose is a time bomb ready to go off any given night.  Still no word on a shrink appointment though, but all's good concerning those issues.

If something's really bothering me these days, that would be a friend of mine who recently got a diagnosis that she has a terminal illness.  We pray for her that something will happen to turn it around, and I don't believe in a no-win scenario when it comes to doctors anyway.  I've heard of way too many who bounce back from a dire prognosis.  But of course, it's heavy on my mind.

Before I sign off, I'd like to give shout-outs to those who I think might be reading....... my great friend Tim, whom I haven't see in a bit; Michelle, my lovely author buddy; another Michelle, going all the way back to '84; bros Rick and Pete, who both check in and see how things are at Ragnar every so often; of course, my lovely wife Janice; my good buddy Darren, whom I reconnected with not all that long ago, a friend since we were still in our single digits; and to everyone else that I don't know of that might be reading, thank you for checking in on me.  Your interest in my goings-on makes me feel quite loved.

Time to fire up the colortinis and watch the pictures as they fly through the air.

Good night.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Random Thoughts 8/4/14

It's been quite a while since I did one of these RT blogs.  It's a lazy last day of vacation, so I thought, why not.  

It's been a good summer.  Hot, humid, and not too wet.  We haven't really gotten away much to do anything, but that's okay.  We knew this would be a 'staycation' kind of a holiday, until we go to Boston in September, at least.  Alexandra took off last week for her 1 Direction show in Toronto and arrived back today safe and sound, Janice and me had a magnificent holiday, Crocky the cat is pretty much back to normal after another health scare, so all is right with the world.  Let's get on with it.

Had vivid dreams last night, and somewhat recurring, about being alone on the street at night lost in a dark city, looking for home.  I had this dream before Alexandra nearly got lost in Toronto Saturday night, so I doubt there's a correlation.  Janice told me I did some strange things in my sleep.  Needed an Atavan to calm me down and actually keep my eyes shut.  I take those maybe once every two months.

The wife and me watched the first season of 'Orange is the New Black' on Netflix over the last few days.  Excellent show, in that you can't really outguess what's going to happen next, which is the only thing that'll keep me watching anything anymore.  'Game of Thrones' is like that.  'Person of Interest' is another show we're discovering that we really like.  I clued into that one when I found out Jonathan Nolan, Chris Nolan's brother, is a producer on the show.  We're getting ready to binge-watch 'Homeland' season 3 next.  On the comedy side, nothing beats 'Big Bang Theory'.  Nothing!  We can watch and re-watch countless times every episode of that program.  It's become this millennium's comfort food.  Of course, the new standard for TV has been set by 'Breaking Bad', arguably the best TV art ever broadcast.  Its sequel, 'Better Call Saul', has a very high bar to jump.  We BB fans have very high hopes.

I still have a review page set up that I just haven't worked on yet, but I really have the itch to lately.  The reviews will be short and to the point, with the occasional essay on films, shows or products I feel especially passionate about.  The Gravy Pot is simmering, and I'll let you know when it's ready to be served.

Elections are coming.  Here in New Brunswick, we have a bright, shiny opportunity to erase the mistake that is/was David Alward's Progressive Conservatives.  They have done absolutely nothing right since taking over from the stumbling Liberals from the last election, and they sure bragged a lot at the time about toppling Shawn Graham's party after only being voted in once.  Turnabout is fair play, though.  To be fair, I'm no fan of the Liberals these days.  No party in Canada is more wishy-washy, federally or provincially, than they are.  I once liked the idea of Justin Trudeau as leader, but I find he's inept, unthoughtful, unwise, and unconvincing.  Stephen Harper, on the other in a category all by himself.  Canada is a shame on the world stage because of him and we have a lot of rebuilding to do when he's gone, not unlike when Dubya was president in the U.S. for eight years.  The most alarming thing about Canada is the lack of attention to our environmental concerns, which require immediate attention, and no party is serious about addressing this issue except the Green Party, who gets my vote provincially, and federally.  Elizabeth May is the smartest person in politics right now, and I think the other parties know it, and will never admit it, perhaps even scoff at the notion.  It would be argued that a vote for the Greens is a wasted vote.  I understand that reasoning, and I counter it.  I realize my vote for the Greens will most likely be a vote for the losing party, in both instances.  But every fledgling party grows from some starting point.  The Greens become more relevant with every year that passes, as environmental issues become worse and worse, with no one taking any serious measures to do anything about it.  I know the Greens will, because they stake their commitment to it in the name of the party itself.  They do not engage in dubious political posturing in the form of attack ads or condescending pulpit preaching like the other parties, and in my eyes, they deserve a chance to try to make things happen.  If the sudden influx of votes results in a few more seats in the House of Commons, even if it means no real leveraging power, it's a beginning.  It means the voice is getting louder, will be heard more, and the truth has a better chance of getting out.  To be blunt, the very existence of our species depends on the voices of people like those who make up the Greens, and if they can influence other parties, then all the better. 

We ventured out to see 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' last week at the theatre in Dieppe.  The bad:  I HATE those theatres.  I hate that they blast your ears into oblivion with outrageous sound levels that completely take me out of the movie and make me uncomfortable to be there.  When we saw 'The Dark Knight Rises' on opening night years ago, it was the same thing.  We went to see it again in Moncton where the sound was reasonable, and the mix was far better, and were amazed how much Dieppe ruins their movies with their irresponsibility at their sound adjustments.  I think we'll be taking an extended break from seeing movies in Dieppe.  The good:  'RotPotA' ought to be a candidate for Best Picture.  Beyond the shadow of a doubt.  This film was so well put together, with so much rich character development - including with the simians - that I'm convinced it can't be ignored by the stuffed shirts come awards time.  Amazing story, amazing acting, stunning visuals, and just a completely rewarding theatre movie experience.  

Ah, my Boston Red Sox are merely existing this year.  In the basement of the standings, that is.  From worst, to first, back to worst again.  I can't explain what happened, other than that they poured their hearts into everything they had after the Boston bombings last year.  The very same team sputtered out of the gate and have been spinning their wheels ever since this season.  But we Boston faithful will stand by and wait for them to power out of the darkness of the cellar once again.  

Janice and me have been doing the gym thing, still, quite faithfully now for months upon months.  Speaking for myself, I'm not a hell of a lot larger or stronger, but I feel good.  I can run a mile and a half on a treadmill in 15 minutes routinely, and get through a strenuous workout twice a week (our current program requires two workouts).  Janice is a machine.  She goes every single day, and on the days with no workouts, she does an hour of cardio and other things like ab stuff and stretching.  She's very determined to whittle herself down.  I encourage her to go every day, even though I myself do not.  I would if she wanted me to, though often headaches after work prevent me from doing a lot.

Speaking of which, I finally have an appointment with an ENT in October to perhaps address my sinus issues.  And another for my knee later this month.  Now it's just to see a phychiatrist, I doubt I'll get in to see one until 2016.  Seriously.  It's how the system is.  

I have an iPod on the way for me next week, which I'm pretty excited about.  Janice bought me one for Christmas last year, a 16G, and as I began to transfer all my CDs to my MacBook, I discovered upon trying to upload them to my new iPod that it isn't near big enough.  Not even close, in fact.  So I offered to give it to Janice, where she doesn't have as much music that she listens to.  She flat out refused that.  Enter Alexandra, who had a 64G iPod, with a broken viewscreen that she doesn't use anymore, especially where we gave her an iPhone for graduating.  She offered to give it to me, where Apple has a policy that if you send in your broken iPod, you can get a new one of the same model for a reduced price, in this case, $200.  Janice jumped at the chance of making that happen to get me this iPod, and it's on its way now.  She will then accept the one she originally bought me so that we all have something.  Everything works out!  I've been excited because now I'll get to have all my music on this iPod and get some good headphones and jam with it on my drums, which I've set up again and got a renewed interest in playing.  Also in teaching Alexandra.  

Ah, music.... there's just nothing new out there that excites me anymore.  I wind up just rediscovering old stuff that I used to listen to that I gave a break, and then get excited for it again.  I'll turn on our rock radio channel here to try to find something new that sounds good, and all I'll really get is the usual Steve Miller, Lynard Skynard, Eagles, Eric Clapton, etc.  You get it.  Sometimes if they play something new, it'll be something heavy with no heart or fun in it at all whatsoever that maybe a handful of people out there like.  It's why rock and roll and hard rock is in the toilet right now.  Nothing with conviction or feeling, or at least nothing that's getting played or getting attention.  There are lots of "pop punk" groups out there, which to me is an oxymoron; and emo crap.  They're in abundance here in Canada.  My rule of thumb with rock is, if you can't attract guys and girls both to your music, you are NOT rock and roll.  Period.  Rock is supposed to bring the masses together to have fun.

Not a whole lot more to write about at the moment right now.  We're sliding through August rather quickly, so savour the moments that we have, because winter's going to come along and screw it all up sooner than we like.  Happy thoughts!

Take care and see you on facebook, or Twitter, or wherever.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Suck it up!

I've been mulling over in my head what I'm going to spill on Ragnar for the newest post.  No point in prevaricating about the bush...

I have some pretty amazing people in my life, that I know.  I get to interact with them from time to time.  Some are just online, some I've known for years and keep in touch with online, others of course are family and former co-workers.  Sometimes, you can look around and watch someone pull the curtains back on their lives and allow you to peek in, and see an entirely different world.  I think that's a gift.  When anything is revealed to you, those are jewels, of various values, that they entrust to you.  Something I pride myself on is my trustworthiness.  If you confide in me, you can be pretty damned sure I won't use what you told me against you in any way, shape or form.

There was a tragedy in Moncton recently, when a crazed gunman one Wednesday evening shot dead three of our city's cops, and wounded two others.  This caused Moncton to ground to a screeching halt for the following day and a half, with police issuing lockdowns and businesses closing until they caught the gunman, who'd evaded capture until the wee hours of the following Friday morning.  It shook Monctonians and Canadians alike to the very core, not unlike the terrorist bombing that happened in Boston a few years ago.  Police from all over the country descended on our humble city with armored vehicles, helicopters, and fancy equipment in an effort to speed up the process of rooting out the killer. Those cops were very young and in the prime of their lives, with families.  It was painfully sad to watch the state funeral they were granted.

One of my friends from way back in my mid teens was a cop.  She retired very recently, just before these crazy events took place, thank God.  She stopped by to see us here at the house to catch up on things.  This woman is a real life superhero; someone who charged toward danger while others fled from it.  She talked about those days days when it felt like martial law in the city for a very short bit, which led to her telling us stories about her countless other adventures as a cop.  She's a role model for women everywhere.  Tell her she can't do something and she'll do it, just to show you you're wrong.  She talked with humorous intonation and detailed verbal imagery about some of her travels during her career, and I for one was just spellbound.  I've always loved tough, smart women, and she's as tough and smart as they come.  Not to mention honest, driven, forward and uncompromising.

Then at work, an old friend came shopping and saw me as I was doing my duties.  What a great thing is was to see this guy:  my very first boss when I got a job at a corner store up the street from where I lived.  I wound up working for him again a few years later for several more years, and I tell you, he is bar none the best boss I have ever worked for.  He's the standard to which all bosses are measured, for me, and for a whole lot of others who have ever worked for him.  He's gone from running a corner store, to a restaurant, to co-owning and managing a big time distribution outfit on a global scale.  Despite his level of success, he still talks to me and treats me as he always has.  He was like a big brother/father figure to a lot of his employees.  I can look to him and say he's the smartest man I've ever personally known, and maybe even the most generous.  Generous of his time, patience, and wisdom, among everything else.  His daughter is also a policewoman in the city, and was involved in things the day all the commotion began.  I also used to work with her at the store he ran, back in our teens.  She's another heroic role model.

I communicate regularly with a friend of mine whom I've known as a friend of my wife's, who used to work with her long ago.  We got to know each other better as the years have gone on, ironically the most in the last couple of years, where she's been away, since she's moved out west, then recently moved back to the Island.  She's quite a brilliant little spitfire, having authored three books, always working on more, and always looking for ways to change things for the best.  When I think of the phrase "go-getter", she springs to mind.  She encourages me to write, because she thinks I'm good at it.  A compliment of the highest order coming from an author of three books and counting!  It's interesting seeing her trajectory take its path, because she's always pushing to make it happen, and there's that anticipation of what's going to come next.

My daughter just graduated from high school last week, from the time I write this.  She was looking sparklingly beautiful in her grad gown as she accepted her diploma.  She was rather screwed out of her french immersion certification, that a few other students got (many others never got it either that you would think would have), and she got a $1,600 bursary that went unannounced on her getting her diploma because of some weird issues about the organizers not knowing it soon enough.  Whatever, she still rocked high school, is fluently french, and is starting at a renowned college for esthetics this week.  The future is tremendously bright for her.  To say we are proud parents would be a tragic understatement.

Then there's my wife, who was also a former co-worker at that same fateful store back when we were teens, also working for the same guy.  She wound up actually managing that store, then managing another one shortly after that.  After toiling away at other jobs, looking to find her niche, she's now an accomplished post office outlet manager with great success.  Nobody does what she does better than her, and her comrades would tell you exactly the same thing.  With pride.  Add to that, that she is a second degree black belt in taekwondo along with our daughter, and actually taught classes, even though she has debilitating arthritic ailments that requires intravenous medication that runs up to north of thirty grand a year.  I'm positive there's no one that does what she does.  She handles a lot of crap at her work, asserting herself appropriately and with conviction when things aren't always going right.  She's gotten awards from pretty much every business she's been involved with, including the post office.

Both of our families are chock full of siblings with success stories too, ranging from post office workers, to CN workers, sign shop owners, real estate agency, bookkeeping, you name it.  Everyone with careers they can be proud of and assured of their futures and families futures with.

Then there's me.

I had my humble beginnings, working in that corner store for a long time.  Seven years to be exact.  Seven years on the overnight shift.  Got robbed a couple of times, had to toughen up and throw guys out of the store that were... significantly larger than me.  One time actually physically lifting a guy up off his feet and throwing him out.  I chased a Mt. A football player through the parking lot when he stole a handful of skin books, and caught him and took them back.  Pretty impressive, eh?  No?  No, I don't think so either.

I was promoted to assistant manager of that store at one point, fairly early on.  But, as things would tend to recur, I dropped the ball, mis-arranged my priorities, and my future wife usurped that title from me.  She deserved it, I did not, just to be crystal clear.  I did wind up leaving the store to search for a more meaningful career other than working night shifts at a corner store, though, and found salvation via getting hired at a newly opened tissue plant here in Moncton.  Big bucks!  The starting wages were jaw dropping for a guy like me.  The future indeed looked bright.  Until I broke my foot on the job, couldn't find my path back to the promised land, and got laid off as the dubious accident #1 at that plant.  They politely told me not to re-apply there again.  Yay, me.

Then I dropped into a funk for quite a few years after that.  I took a computer college course, which sunk me $5,000 in debt with nothing, absolutely nothing, to show for it, as I got no jobs related to said education.  But I did get a gig with my old boss driving for his restaurant, which wasn't exactly lucrative, but I enjoyed it for a good 11 years.  I wanted to get away from it, though, seeing if I could do better cash-wide.  And I did, moderately, working for a drug store chain.  Three of them, actually, as I settled at the one I'm at now for the last nearly four years.  I'm a receiver.  An okay job, but I'm not management, and certainly not getting wages that would suggest I'm even close.

I've been playing drums for a long time, since I was 13 when my brother Greg got me a little drumset for Christmas.  I taught myself how to play, and wound up in a few bands, playing cover songs, but not very many gigs.  I got a three man group together with a friend, and we released a CD, which I've heard virtually no praise for outside of friends (certainly not family), and after one for-charity gig at Moncton's university, ceased to exist.  Since then I've done nothing for gigs.  No interest from any outfit that might've needed a drummer, though I haven't really put myself out there.  Conclusion:  I'm really not that good.

So now... when I talk to my friends who are police officers, business owners, aspiring lawyers, managers, authors, etc... and they tell me their stories.... then they ask me what I'm up to and what's happening in my life?  Forget it.  How in the hell do I follow up so many success stories with what has become known as the failure which is my life.  I don't, so I really don't offer anything.  "So how have you been?  What's going on?  What have you been up to?"

"Ah, you know, livin' the dream."  And I leave it at that.  I will not dissolve your amazing stories with my absolute lack of one.  A day in my life is getting up in the morning, going to my adequate but perhaps meaningless job, and putting my day in, though working quite hard, so I can come home and be at my house with my wife and daughter, which is the highlight of my day.  If that's all I can thrill you with for stories, then I think I'll just keep it to myself.  Your life is far, far more interesting.  And I'm not being sarcastic.  I'm being starkly honest.

A lot of this kind of thinking has come upon me in the last year plus.  I did something to my knee at the gym that popped something, making walking a lot more difficult than it used to, though I'm not some kind of cripple or anything.  My wife even goes through worse than this every day.  But I've gotten x-rays, an MRI, and various doctors and therapists to look at this damned knee, and they all say that, other than some arthritis, there's really nothing wrong.  So suck it up, boy.  On those Tuesdays and Fridays at work when the job is most physical and I can barely drive home to work at the end of those shifts because of that knee, to those days at the gym where I have to cut my workout short because I can barely stand, I guess it's just in my head and I'm some kind of bloody hypochondriac.  It's time I changed my mindset, I guess.

With all my depressive issues, I've asked to see a shrink.  Two months ago.  I haven't even gotten a referral yet.  Christ, it's a good thing I'm not suicidal, right?  I'm starting to sound like Rodney Dangerfield now.  Just take more meds and hope for the best in the meantime.  What?  Self loathing?  Resulting sometimes in injury?  Well, at least you're not dead!  It's all in your head anyway.  Suck it up, boy.

I at least better see an ENT about those wicked nosebleeds, the last 2 of which might've killed me.  For real.  I'm not kidding, or exagerrating.  Ask my wife, who saw blood spewing from my nose and mouth at the same time so badly I was choking on it.  Okie dokie, referral on the way.  Two months later, no word.  Thank God, no nosebleeds since then, but I never know, because I wake up with those.  There was one time years ago when I woke up in a pool of blood in bed because I didn't wake up.  Bah.... all in my head!  Suck it up, boy.

You might think this is about self pity, a woe-is-me type of trip.  Maybe it is!  But I acknowledge that I've made this bed that I sleep in.  So be it.  But I will do anything I can to make somebody else happy, at least.  In fact, it's my life's mission.  To make my wife happy, my daughter happy and successful, and any friends I have feel loved.  Because I love each and every one of them.  I even want to do what I can for a stranger to turn their day around.  I do that at work a lot, or I should say, try to.

But make no mistake... I can be one hell of an asshole.  I know that.  I nearly broke up my entire family once.  There's peace there, now that I'm not there to fuck it all up, at least.  I don't think I do enough around the house.  I'm certainly no handyman.  I never took the time to learn in my life.  Again, hello, that's cuzza me!  What can I say.

But anyway, life is good.  I'm alive, have house, family, job, food on the table, some friends, and I thank God for it all every day.  No, really.  I know a lot of people just say that.

I guess that's enough misery for one day, eh?  Sorry for this blog.  But it's been just... hanging there.

Now it isn't.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Parallel Universes of Ragnar: The Purse

If you haven't seen it yet, here's the very first shot of mine at fictional writing in the form of a short story called....

The Purse

It was written from inspiration from a song from one of my favorite bands, with a link to that song at the bottom of the story.

Probably will do more of these.  It's a start, so don't expect Shakespeare or anything!

Feedback is welcome.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

What's up, doc?

What I'm thinking is I might create another blog space to write about what's been going on with me specifically.  I've kind of found that the topics I've been exploring here are a bit redundant, and maybe self-focused... or maybe that was the point?  I forget.  By the way, I'm getting old.  At least I remember that.

But for those few of you who follow what's up on my blog here in the efforts of getting an update on the fabulous wellgoodgravy boy, I'll give you the gist of it while I figure out what I'm going to do with all that.

I know I talk about the depression thing a lot here, which is why I think a blog specifically dedicated to that might start up sooner than later, so this might be the last time you see me discuss it here.  I have had to deal with it more over the past few months or so than I have in a while.  There are many very large unresolved issues that will always remain that way, so I have to find a way of coping with the reality of them more than actually exterminating them.  'Them' being situational things.  I don't think anyone who's not depressed or has never been depressed can relate, or is qualified enough to give any kind of advice, not that I'm seeking it, although I have reached out very recently.

Alarmed that I might be sinking further out of reach than I expected to, I sought help from my doctor.  About 20 years ago, I began drug therapy in the form of Zoloft, which if you ever read up here, you've probably been told ad-nauseum a bajillion times.  It literally saved my life, that in combination with having a steel-nerved wife and daughter.  Long story short, since I've told it too many times already and I'm paranoid about that now, I think maybe I need more help in advancing my own wellness.

When I talked to my doc, he says we can either increase the dosage of my meds, or I can see a specialist, probably a shrink.  I opted to enlist an actual person over more meds.  The trouble there is, the waiting list to see one is probably at least a year.  So yeah, all that stuff you hear in the media these days about mental health being so important, that people should have access to it before it's too late in some cases?  It can't be that important.  I hear a whole lot about 'women's health issues' and money being thrown at it, which I completely condone!  I mean, women have to put up with the likes of ME a lot of the time, right?  But in the meantime, I have to take up residence on the back burner in hopes that things don't get too bad over the next year or whatever.  So, I have to be mindful of my own mindset.  Yeah, that's easy for those of us with mental health issues. <sarcasm>

All this isn't to say that I'm tough to get along with.  I talked with Janice recently about my openness with women, which has crashed and burned over the last couple of years.  While at the gym the other day, I made kind of a discovery, though.  While I was on the tortur.....errrr, stair climber, a woman got on the one next to me and began using it.  She struck up a conversation with me, asking me if I thought her pace was okay, and advice on how to use it.  I happily obliged, and gave her encouragement and told her not to worry as she's getting underway onto her fitness goals, saying we all have to start somewhere, and all of us here have.  She was quite happy to hear my words, it seemed.  I told Janice about this conversation, and discovered the revelation that I'm not so much scared of women, as much as I give what I receive, whether that's good or bad, who knows.  I won't be rude if someone's rude to me, though.  But, if a woman's closed off to me, then nope, if you don't serve the ball then I don't have one to volley back.

Anyway, that provided some relief, because I always figured I was actually an asshole that didn't know how to not be one.  I'm that hard on myself.  But, the whole return-the-volley theory makes a lot more sense to me.  My door might be closed, but it's not locked.

The thing there is, that though my door is closed, if it's completely ignored too, I will wind up locking it.  i.e. : When my daughter performed at a lounge here in town for a singing contest a few weeks ago, after the thing was over, lots of people mixed and mingled with each other, but I couldn't seem to find a way to blend in.  I'd speak a few words to people to be met with stone faces.  So I scurried out to the car and waited for my wife and daughter to come out and we could leave.  There's that, then.  I often feel like a weed among the healthy blades of grass.

I've come to realize how important that actual physical activity is to the mind, though.  If you're at a place like a gym, especially the one I go to where there's people there of all shapes, sizes and ages, you realize you're amongst those who have a similar goal.  As my old taekwondo Master  used to tell me, getting through the doors is the hardest exercise of all.  Making the habit to go is the next goal after piercing those doors.

That's not to say that I can't participate in any social events at all.  I'd never go to a work-related one, because I don't even feel like I fit in amongst my co-workers, but I can go to a movie or concert or whatever.  I had a ball with my buddy/brother Tim at a Honeymoon Suite show not long ago that he took me to.  I brought my wife to see Styx, and a few days ago, Bryan Adams.  I was all excited to see Honeymoon Suite again with Haywire and... cough... Glass Tiger too, until I found out the tickets were 90 freakin' dollars and each band played upwards of two hours.  No thanks.  My back vetoed that idea, knowing it would be a floor show, and standing even for an hour at church is a challenge to me.

Speaking of church, I don't do readings anymore there, either.  I still go, though.  But again, if I'm in a situation if I don't feel wanted and/or needed, I will effectively remove myself.  That saddened me a bit.  I did readings for many years.

While I was at the doc's, I had to address an ear issue that I have since I'd gotten a sinus infection, and was seen by a doctor on-call to get antibiotics.  She'd checked my ears and said, "um... you should make an appointment with your physician to get this taken care of."  So I did.  After he'd looked in my ears, "yup, that's quite an earfull you've got there."  Enter the syringe:  if you can picture one of those steel cake decorators, it squirts water into your ear and flushes it out.  He had to send in a veritable typhoon to wash this big greasy bastard of a waxball out of my ear canal.  The fifth time was the charm, though it couldn't be washed out.  He had to get the tweezers to pluck it out.  "THOOOM!"  "There, got it!"  Holy, I can actually hear!  You don't realize how deaf you are until you've had something like that taken out of your friggin' head.  He showed me the thing and I couldn't believe the size of it.  "That's not a record, but... that's pretty close!"  <-- a="" and="" as="" aural="" aybe="" birthday="" candles="" could="" couple="" doctor.="" e="" enamoured="" even="" excised="" for="" good="" he="" home="" i="" impressed="" intruder="" it="" janice="" make="" my="" nbsp="" of="" off.="" ou="" out="" p="" probably="" quite="" ring="" should="" show="" so="" t="" take="" that="" the="" thing.="" though.="" thought="" to="" toilet.="" was="" wasn="" wax="" with="" words="">
Anyway, as an aside, I also asked the doc to look at this spot on my nose, a sore kind of, that always peeled and wouldn't seem to heal.  I've had this at least a year or two now.  As it turned out, it's some kind of pre-cancerous sore, likely sun-related, that wasn't about to pose any threat to me at all, but gave me some heavy duty ointment to treat it with to heal it.  I'm glad I decided to get that looked at.  It might've been a bit more difficult to take care of if I'd just left it alone.  I would encourage anyone that might have something like that on their own bodies to get it looked at.  Better safe than sorry.

Janice is doing good, although her gut issues have been challenging her, as well as very frequent headaches.  It isn't blood pressure related, that's for sure.  She goes to the gym and gives it her all, and her b/p was perfect as of last night.  Her gut issues, though... she certainly needs to have that addressed.  She's had tests done and not much progress in spite of it.  She's seeing a doc, actually a couple, soon to discuss more action on the issue.  I've said it before, I'll say it again, nobody is tougher than she is.  No one I know, at least.

Then there's Alexandra, getting ready to graduate from school in a few weeks.  She'll jump right back into college for the summer for cosmetics, and then take it from there.  A bit of a tough time yesterday, though, when she went to the doctor where they needed a biopsy for some kind of issue with her tongue.  We thought they'd just swab it.  As it turns out, it required freezing, needles, and a sort of hole puncher to get what they wanted.  I mean, bloody hell, man!  Really??  Is science not advanced enough to get a sample by easier means than that??  Anyway, we're awaiting results on that.  It's benign, whatever it is, but it's a nuisance.

That's going to be about it for now at the Station.  We'll see where I go from here for blogs.

Fire up the colortinis and watch the pictures fly through the air.

Good day.  

Friday, February 28, 2014

A Mother's Milk

Thursday, January 30, seemed to be a normal day starting out.  It panned out as a normal day, too.

I was at work, which is as a receiver at a popular store chain in Canada.  I do like my job, I think because of the nasty job that came before it.  But the boss I work for is quite the antithesis of the one from my previous workplace.  That is to say, he's the angel to the proverbial devil.  So I'm blessed to be where I am, and I truly believe that.

A lot of my time is spent alone, despite working amongst a group of about at least a dozen others at any given time.  There are parts of the job I really like, such as 'order days', when all the food and merchandise comes in, and my job as receiver is most accentuated, as well as parts I'm not fond of.  Like if I have to kneel for any lengthy amount of time.  It's hard on my back and knees if it's prolonged.  I recently found out from my doctor that I have 'moderate arthritis' in my lower back, which explained a lot.  I fight it, though.  I take prescription meds for it and go to the gym regularly to retain my strength and mobility.  One of these parts of the job where I have to kneel a lot is filling that damned milk cooler.  We sell a lot of milk because it's priced at cost, which is pretty attractive to shoppers.

Other time that I spend alone is in the spacious back shop, where overstocked goods are kept, and the walk-in cooler and freezer contains the appropriate food and products.  I take a whole lot of pride in how the back shop is kept.  I get a lot of comments from sales reps and merchandisers and the such, saying how well kept and tidy and organized it is.  It's not just because of me, but a team effort.  But I do make sure it's fine tuned and clean so that it's not a drag to be back there, which I know other stores in our franchise chain can't necessarily claim.  Keeping it clean back there means taking out garbage.  A lot of it.  We've got two large receiving doors in our receiving area, and a man door, which is where I go out to haul any garbage to the bin that's located about a minute's walk up a slight hill (don't ask, I'm still trying to figure that out).  On my way to the bin, I'm overseen by a large, modern Catholic church, one which I've never been in actually.  And atop the church is a large cross, which beckons prayer from me on a daily basis.  I use this beacon as a means to talk to God and offer my thanks for everything in my life, always the first of which is, for the beautiful day that it is.  Every day is beautiful, I would say, because He chose to bring me to life again when I woke up that morning.  Then I give thanks for everything we have, and ask for blessings for my friends and family, and those who need it the most.

On this Thursday, it was a bright, sunny day, with a chill in the air from the January winter.  Most times when I haul garbage to the bin... I know, sounds glorious, right... I need to make two or more trips, which leaves me with ample time for prayer, actually.  After my prayers are done, I'd walk back in the door into the receiving room, secure the door and continue my work.

Sometimes when you carry through your day, you'll encounter sights, sounds or smells that instantly transport you back in time, and remind you of things, situations or eras of which you look back fondly.  I don't know what it is that caused me to reflect at that point exactly.  Just that it made me reminisce deeply about the distant past.  I thought about my dad and my mom, both of whom are passed away.  My dad back in '78 when I was 12, and my mom in '98.  As would anyone with good parents who've been gone awhile, I think of them everyday.  On this particular day, I thought of Mom and Dad, and how the times were then.  No computers or internet, no cell phones, fewer automated conveniences to make life lazier. 

I remembered going to the grocery store with my dad.  It was always fun going with dad, because as a somewhat adorable young fellow, I could con my way into getting things that I couldn't sometimes with Mom, like the newest junk cereal or chocolate bar, or soda pop instead of that bag of Tang orange drink crystals.  I remember going with Mom too, of course.  I might have gotten too big at some point to be picked up and sat in that seat in the grocery carts, but I always loved that little ride.  I'd pull Mom's heartstrings to get things sometimes that all kids do, as I see when I'm out in the store where I work from time to time.  I didn't know then, but I had these big brown eyes that Mom just loved.  She always bought me brown clothes to match them, and I always thought brown clothes were kind of drab and boring, but that's what Thora wanted.  Thora.  That was my mom's name.  Isn't that really a pretty name?  And unusual.  Not long ago, I watched a movie called 'American Beauty' again for probably the sixth or seventh time, and in it is an actress named Thora Birch.  It's the only other time I've ever seen that name.  I'm sure it's out there, and others have it, but I'm also sure most of us can count on one hand how many times we've come across it. I deeply regret not naming my own daughter after her.  But, there are always grandkids.  I hope!

Anyway.... sometimes, like during this particular time of reminiscence, I'll think about how I could have been a better son to my parents, especially my mother.  I didn't have a chance, really, with my dad.  But with Mom, I'd lived with her right up until I was 27.  I could have moved out sooner, but was confronted with both guilt and fear.  Guilt of leaving my mother alone in her house, which once was home to seven kids, and fear of just facing the world on my own, like many of us.  I probably should have moved out much sooner, but I regret nothing in regards to how long I was there.  Especially in retrospect.  But, I also think back at how I could have done things differently.  Far, far better.  I could have been more respectful, done more, and actually represented my parents better than I did.  I did get a lot of my own food, but didn't pay room and board or anything, and I very much regret that.  These thoughts crept into my mind that Thursday morning.  And along with them, connecting memories, but most of them happier ones.

There are so many people from my family who have passed on.  I thought of my mom and dad and their families that they came from.  I never got to know my original grandparents.  Mom had me late, when she was 40, and so her parents and Dad's parents were far along in their lives, and passed on before I was able to know them at all.  I have no stories to tell about them, or memories to recollect.  I can't regret it, because it's just the hand that life dealt us.  But, there are so many people on my mom and dad's sides of the Cook and Gould generations that I didn't know, or get to know.  Being born later in your mom's life can have its drawbacks, that being chief among them.

But for reasons I can't quite explain, I chose to be withdrawn in my years following Dad's death.  Life's hard.  It is for all of us.  We all have stories to tell that would make others sorrowful of our past, every one of us.  Pain is relative.  What might have been excruciatingly painful to some could be shrugworthy to others, and vice versa. 

I have memories, very fond ones, of going to my uncle Maurice's and aunt Gail's house.  It was an old, well kept war time house, like the one I called home myself.  When I went there with Mom and, less times, Dad, the house always seemed like it was full of so much love.  Gail and Maurice were people of Catholic faith, like all of my family.  They always treated me like a little king when I was around.  They took great joy in the sacraments I celebrated, like First Communion and Confirmation, and would give me religious-themed gifts like a rosary or kids' Bible.  They always seemed so happy and full of life, and their kids, my cousins, were all so sociable.  This was the scene of a vibrant, interactive family life that existed within that generation.

I reflected on those times, and under my breath, talked to God some more, giving thanks for having such wonderful people in my life that helped instill the good in me that I have today.  And I wished I could have gotten to know more of my family that I just can't now.  All of Mom's generation are gone.  Uncle Jack, Mom's brother, passed away a few years ago, closing the chapter on that sect of the Gould family.  When my aunt Bernice passed (Dad's sister), the last surviving member of that family, it hit me that I didn't get to know these people the way I should have.  I could have gotten to know more about Dad's history, and Mom's history, and the people they were in their formative years.  But instead, for whatever reason, I eschewed all of those opportunities, minus the time just before Bernice's death.  When she elected not to have treatment for her terminal cancer, she spent her final days in the hospital as friends and family visited.  I was among them.  And during that time, I came to realize the years I'd squandered not getting to know about my family history.

So I thought about Dad's brothers and sisters, many of whom I can't even name because I don't know them, or got to know them, or the cousins that they spawned.  When I visited Dad's sisters in Chatham, NB (now Miramichi), I did get to hear stories how his brother Gerry was a revered floormaker among his peers and region.  You could see the fine craftsmanship of his work in Bernice, May and Marg's house - those three were Dad's sisters.  They were such sweet ladies.  They did whatever it took to make a kid feel happy and loved.  Often times I would go up there by train with Mom, and we'd get picked up at the train station there, and go to that wonderfully unique, old fashioned house.  It was a building with a high angular peak.  Not an A-frame, but the upstairs had that feel to it.  It was just a little house, a little smaller than Mom and Dad's maybe.  I remember the Saturday nights when we were there, and hockey games would be playing on the old tube TV, with Bernice cheering on the Boston Bruins.  We would sit in the smokey air, everyone with a drink in their hand... pop for me, of course... and laughter and love were bountiful in that place.  I have so may fond memories of my mom.  Dad too, just not as many because we lost him so soon.

I would continue on with my work that morning thinking of these things.  Thinking of my uncles and aunts who are all gone now.  My parents.  And then it hit me.  I just kept praying.  I don't mean dropping to my knees on the floor, I mean while I carried on, in the back room by myself, I'd be whispering these things, hoping God would hear me.  All those memories, I thought, are just that.  Memories.  I can't revisit them, not physically.  I can't go see Mom and Dad again.  Ever.  Or Maurice and Gail, or Jack and Barbie; Jack who was Mom's brother, and Barbie who was Dad's sister; or May, Marg and Bernice.  I saw another favorite movie of mine just a few days ago, 'Blade Runner', with Rutger Hauer playing the clone 'replicant' Roy Batty, whose life is abbreviated to only three or four years because of what he is.  His speach at the end of the film before he 'expires', or dies, is hauntingly memorable:  "...all those memories will be lost, like tears in rain."  When each of us dies, so do those memories.

Then I panicked.  This intangible darkness fell upon my being, and I felt this ominous sense of gloom.  What if there's nothing?  What if, when we die, that's it?  We cease to exist, the flame is extinguished, and everything that led up to that moment that we pass, becomes irrelevant?  I thought, I may truly never ever see Mom and Dad again, or any of my deceased family.  All of those memories lost, like tears in rain.  Is death really that final?  Only one of us has come back, according to my family's beliefs at least, from death to be among us again.  What if none of the rest of us do?  That sense of loss, of hopelessness, and that sinking feeling, seemingly enveloped everything I was raised to believe and hold dear to my heart.  What if, what if.... we don't have a soul, and one day, it really is all over?

I did my best to try to regain my composure, as I was in the back shop beginning to lose it a bit.  Tears welling up in my eyes at the thought of never seeing my lost family again.  I always held out hope and belief that one day, all of us would be reunited.

In the meantime, I had a job to do.  The floor was dusty, there was paperwork to be done, and that friggin' milk cooler had to be dealt with.  Deep breaths... and just a final prayer.

"Lord... Lord Jesus, if you really are listening to me, I don't expect a miracle or a sign or anything, because you taught us, blessed are they who believe but have not seen.  I'm not looking for special treatment.  But I wish I could get some kind of reassurance.  I'm in a dark place at the moment, as you would know!  If you're listening... please, say hi to everyone for me.  Say hi to Maurice and Gail, Jack and Barbie, May, Marg and Bernice, my grandparents and step-grandmother Greta, and my mom and dad.  I miss them so much.  I can't go home and see Mom, and that makes my heart heavy.  Thank you Lord, as always, for listening to me.  Thank you."  I do the sign of the Cross, and carry on.

About Greta, my step-grandmother; she married my grandfather after his wife, and my grandmother, had passed, after some time.  Greta was extremely gracious with the family.  She always stayed close and kept in touch, and she was more than just friends with Mom and Dad.  She was indeed family.  If memory serves me correctly, her health began to deteriorate when her doctor prescribed her the wrong meds for the wrong illness, and her kidneys failed her.  She could have sued for malpractice.  You might say she should have.  During one of my last visits with her, I discussed it with her, and asked why she never took legal action.  It just wasn't Greta to do such a thing.  She didn't want to be any trouble, even though this mistake was costing her her life.  I remember at the time, why is something like this allowed to happen?  It tested my faith.  But Greta remained faithful.  She asked me if I believed in Heaven and hell, and I told her, Heaven yes.  Hell, I'm not so sure.  "I don't think I believe in it either," she offered.  "I just don't think God would let a place like that be around!"  I agreed with her.  It didn't matter, as far as I was concerned, when it came to Greta.  She was a shining light in our family, one that would carry over into Heaven, with certainty.

What I learned from Greta was the strength of forgiveness.  Why did this have to happen to her?  Perhaps to set an example for others who knew her.  Jesus was all about forgiveness, never about revenge.  A malpractice suit would have been vengeful, and very un-Greta-like.  She would not betray her faith.  How inspirational is that?  I kept this close to my heart ever since.  Perhaps this act of hers saved a soul or two, or many more.

It was quite a day at work alright, all these thoughts going through my mind.  It was heavy on my head and heart.  With my depressive condition, I'm a little more prone to times like this than a lot of others might be.  Recently, I saw my doctor about the effectiveness of my medication, and he upped it marginally.  It seems to have worked quite well.  He said I needed to find that threshold, where the drug would kick in to its best efficiency.  Still, I will have my days.  This was one of them.

The morning turned into the afternoon, and I was finishing up. That beloved milk cooler is the last thing of the day to be done.  I opened the door to the cooler to retrieve some crates of milk, and this is what I saw:

Thank you, Lord, for saying 'hi' for me!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

"Jurassic Park" - How it changed Visual Effects Forever... And NOT for the Good! -Brian Bourque

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome guest blogger and good buddy Brian Bourque with his musings on the recent evolution of cinematic visuals.  Brian's been a friend since wayyyy back, and one of the nicest guys you could ever meet.  Pass this on, and let's encourage Brian to get going on a blog of his own!


"Jurassic Park" - How it changed Visual Effects Forever... And NOT for the Good!

I remember the first time I saw "Jurassic Park", and I was both excited and blown away.
The Visual Effects(VFX) were amazing and unparalleled at the time, but I also knew that visual effects changed forever. This was the first time that Computer Generated Images were used to produce organic and fluid movements of the dinosaurs. The gauntlet was thrown down, anything that could be imagined could now be put on screen. Gone were the days when effects were governed by movie budgets and the ability to actually produce the effects.
During the 1980's, this was a time of unequalled growth in the VFX industry, and it seemed that blockbusters were topping one other with new and improved visuals, and the results were outstanding. One of the main reasons that Star Wars was so successful was because of its cutting edge special effects. People waited in lines because they knew that they were going to see things that have NEVER been seen before on screen, It was part of the excitement. The "Star Wars" franchise is great but the story is simple: the characters were thinly drawn, one dimensional and the dialogue cheesy.... so why does it work?
The VFX is a big part. Don't believe me? Look at the prequels of the late 1990's and 2000's, when the art of the effects had improved to the point that the movies had to stand on the merits of storytelling and character development, because the visuals were the same as most big budget movies during the same time, In fact, "The Lord Of The Rings" trilogy had a better look.
Gone are the days where expert model makers would delight us and make us believe that a spaceship model measuring 24-48" across was, when filmed skillfully, appeared hundreds of feet wide. Today's CGI of ships, while quite beautiful, just seems artificial. In "Star Trek-The Motion Picture" from '79, the shuttle flyby of the most gorgeous model of the Enterprise still stands as one of the most beautiful VFX moments in my memory, made all the more beautiful with the fact someone laboured many hours over a model and not a keyboard.
Then there is Yoda, who in 1980 became a fully realized character through the use of an incredible puppet and the skill of Frank Oz as its master. The CGI Yoda of the prequel just looks plain creepy! Enough said.
Don't get me wrong, I love the CGI/VFX of today, and nothing is impossible to put on screen. And I think therein lies the problem, "Independence Day" and "2012" are both produced by the same team, and are both considered Disaster Porn, but "Independance Day" was more sucessful with less VFX, and they were all practical on top of that. The look of that film is better and more appealing, I think because of the work that went in making the models of the city and buildings.
I hope that the use of CGI does not take over the storytelling, because special effects are a tool to enhance the story telling process, not to make it. I wonder if Steven Spielberg knew he was changing the world when he made "Jurassic Park".
...Of course he did! He's Steven freakin' Spielberg!
- Brian Bourque