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

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.