Being naivE

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Many years ago, when I worked in Parks and Rec, the bottled water craze had newly infiltrated society.  Some coworkers of mine bought into the belief that the tap water they’d been drinking for years was now unhealthy compared to the new bottled water alternatives.  My water-drinking associates even preferred certain brands of bottled water over others because, apparently, certain companies made better tasting water.  Not than anyone here on earth really makes water; It’s more an art involving filtration. To me, it all just tasted like water.

I also think holding bottled water made people feel attractive.  If you compaired a mental snapshot of me drinking water from a tumbler (freshly poured from the tap) to any of my coworkers drinking from one of their branded bottles, 9 times out of 10 times their drinking definitely looked cooler and sexier.  Mind you, most of them were young women, fit life guards, and looked both cooler and sexier than me doing almost anything.

Bottled water also became, dare I say, fashionable?!  A person might stroll into a room, OR that same person might stroll into a room with a bottled water in hand.  Did the person with the bottle look thirsty?  No, not really.  Did they look prepared?  I suppose, but not boy scout overly prepared.   That bottled water portrayed the drinker as enlightened, and made statement that tap water and drinking fountains were unfit for their lips (which reminds me of a movie… but read on).naive

As you may have guessed, bottled water was never important to me.  Sadly for both the world and I, neither was fashion.  At some point, someone brought it to my attention that evian spelled in reverse was naive.  This pretty much solidified in my mind that I would never become a bottled water toting person.  It seemed very naive indeed.

dutch_parking

Being naive was something I hoped not to be. Try as I might, I couldn’t avoid it forever.  In 2000. I moved into a four-plex rental in Edmonton.  The buildings were converted military barracks and had huge backyards without fences.  At the end of the backyard was the community gravel pad for parking, and at the end of my designated parking was this sign that read DUTCH PARKING ONLY.

I’d never heard of the “dutch parking” term .  Did it refer to a method of parking like angle parking?  Maybe it was like going dutch on a date?  I noticed some of the neighbors parked bumper to bumper, two cars deep.  Was that the elusive dutch parking method?  This was Edmonton after all, and I was the new guy.  Maybe along with Edmonton’s crazy traffic circles, dutch parking might have been a unique regional term.

When the property manager stopped by to have me sign some paperwork, I asked her about dutch parking.  She looked confused.  I pointed at the sign and wondered out loud what it meant.  She rolled her eyes and said, “It would be removed if it bothered me that much.”  The light finally went on in my head; it was ethnic humor placed by the previous tenant.  Now I was the one rolling my eyes, but at myself.

While writing about bottled water and being naive, drinking fountains came to mind.  I can actually remember the few drinking fountains in my life that provided reasonable satisfaction.  As a thirsty kid, nothing was more annoying than a drinking fountain that lacked water pressure.  Nobody wanted to suck the water from a public fountain. blah!  I’d rather have kissed a girl.  Later in life, I still rather kiss a gal.

The most memorable drinking fountain movie scene from my youth had to be in Michael J. Fox’s Secret of My Success movie (1987).

I can’t help but smirk at the sappy David Foster tune playing in the background, or how Helen Slater’s hair style looks eerily like Princess Diana, but that was the 80s.  Had the movie been shot two or three years later, I doubt she would have been sipping from the drinking fountain.  I’m guessing it would have been from a plastic bottled water.

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Ah Snap! Another One Bites the Dust

The other day I was Googling help about an MS Word dictionary issue, and noticed this in the margin of the page…

Roger_Ebert_Dies_at_70

Immediate disappointment rolled over me like dark clouds.  “Ah Snap!  Another one bites the dust.”  (Insert my sigh, here).  People old enough to remember the PBS program Sneak Previews or At the Movies may experience similar sadness when hearing about Roger Ebert’s passing.

When I was a kid, I’m guessing twelve years old, some Saturday afternoon I stumbled across this television show called At The Movies.  It was rare that interesting shows appeared on channel 13 (a cable  PBS feed from Washington), but this one caught my attention.  Going to the theater as a child was novel and happened seldom.  Disney’s The Rescuers was the first movie I ever saw, and the whole experience was especially memorable.  For some reason, the popcorn and candy at the theater tasted amazing compared to any at home.  Despite my shoes sticking to the floors, the fold-down theater seating was cool, the sound was louder than any TV, and the screen was wider than my eyes could see.

The idea that a couple guys, dare I say friends, went to multiple movies every week for a job seemed heaven-like.  One of the shows’ introductions included a clip of each guy sneaking up to the balcony which was of course closed.  Ah, even more forbidden fruit… sneaking into places a person wasn’t aloud.  So cool!  And up until that point, the thought that a movie might be deemed “bad” hadn’t really crossed my naive mind.

I came to realize Siskel and Ebert were strongly opinionated fellows and seemed to enjoy arguing their points.  Sharing heated opinions drew my attention like a spectacle since my parents seldom argued and in my elementary school, students weren’t yet encouraged to debate each other.

From that point onward I was a fan of Siskel & Ebert, but wasn’t faithful to watch every episode.  As a teenager, I was shocked, nearly hurt for Roger Ebert, when Slappy Squarell on The Animaniacs had made fun of him and the duo during this episode:

Some of it was obviously good satire, but at about 8 minutes into the clip, Slappy serves Roger Popcorn at the theater’s candy counter and offers him “artificial butter” which is horrifically  liposuctioned from Ebert’s belly while he stands there.  That scene left me momentarily stunned and remains vividly etched in my memory two decades afterwards.

I was saddened when Gene Siskel’s died due to complications from brain cancer.  Richard Roeper was a decent enough fill-in, but the new duo’s magic was lopsided towards Roger.  I pretty much gave up on the show when Roger was forced to leave due to his own battle with thyroid cancer.

In 2011 I rediscovered Roger Ebert online at http://www.ebertpresents.com/ and although his reviews were limited and read by other actors, it was encouraging to see him doing his thing.  Roger Ebert hosted an interesting and unusual interview with Quvenzhané Wallis who starred in the film Beasts Of The Southern Wild. During the interviewed Roger, mostly off camera, uses his computer to interview the talanted young girl. At the end of the sequence we Quvenzhané shaking hands with him.

Unlike me, Roger Ebert was a critic of intelligent design, an atheist, and a secular humanist.  Shortly after the film Prometheus, I discovered an exhaustive blog where Roger Ebert and folks debated intelligent design with Randy Masters and others for nearly 700 posts.  It turns out the Roger and Randy had done this once before on some thread that lasted 3600 posts.  Randy Masters, a conservative and being on the opposite side of nearly everything Roger Ebert believed, found a genuine friend in his virtual sparring partner:

http://rmasters78.blogspot.ca/2013/04/roger-ebert-american-treasure-has-gone.html?showComment=1365162354502

I think Randy Masters saw the same personable fellow I first saw on the TV.  Sure, Roger was hard headed in his opinions, but his flawed humanity made him likable, and his passions for film review was inspirational.  Here’s a clip how Ebert started out on TV…

http://siskelandebert.org/video/GWHWHKY3W9R7/Opening-SoonOne-Flew-Over-the-Cuckoos-Nest

Some dads have way too much time on their hands…

I enjoy documentaries, especially popular music documentaries about bands and behind the scenes.  VH1’s Pop Up Video used to be my favorite show on Much Music, though I haven’t seen it in years.  I also haven’t watched Much Music or Much More Music in years.  The other night I caught a 2006 series of documentaries covering the career of Depeche Mode (DM).
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At this point, while writing , I have to ask any friends who are turning up there noses to please bear with me, despite their initial shock.  In my mind, I imagine them saying, “I had no idea he’d listen to those guys.” and I imagine others going on about how “Electronic music sucks!”  The truth is, that my taste in music was and remains eclectic ranging from classical to metal (and nearly everywhere between).  I’m certainly not DM’s biggest fan, but did and do enjoy their music in limited doses.
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While I was growing up, I think DM was especially interesting to me because the band were pioneers in MIDI and musical sampling.  Most people I knew didn’t listen to DM for any lyrical genius, but rather for how the band fused pop music with emerging technology, and without being too far out there (wherever there was).

So after viewing the DM documentary, I stumbled upon this DMK video on youtube.

Clearly, some dads have way too much time on their hands… or maybe this Bolivian dad is a stay at home dad with his wife working during the day.  How do I know there’s a woman in the picture?  That little girls hair certainly wasn’t done by any dad I know.  Whatever the case, this cover kind of Everything Counts cracked me up.  I shared it with my wife and son, both of whom watched in amazement.  My wife didn’t recall the original song, even after I played the DM version of it.  My son thought it was interesting (not to be confused with cool, though).  Who knows… had I been more musical and had more time on my hands (and a pile of makeshift studio equipment), maybe me and my kids would be doing cover tunes.

I finish off today’s muse with the original, Everything Counts by a much younger Depeche Mode… (for all you who don’t remember either)

Thoughts on 40…

…not to be confused with turning 40!

I stumbled upon an article on the site Digital Spy where a poll conducted by LA Fitness asked 2,000 people for their 2013 objectives.  Here’s the top 40 list from the poll, many of which certainly did end up on people’s lists of New Year Resolutions (and my thoughts trailing afterwards).

40

1. Read more books (I’m confused… texting, youtube, and social media has all but eroded everyone’s attention spans.  Why would we want to read more books?  Maybe we subconsciously want our attention spans back?  Wait?!  What was I writing about again?  Dang!)
2. Save more money (Sure, I’d like to save more of my money.  How ’bout finding extra money?  Or armed robbery?)
3. Lose weight (Just like money; think more dollar bills and less change.)
4. Redecorate (… your walls with cereal boxes.  That’ll save more money.)
5. Take better photos (… by using real cameras again.  Or by stop using InstaGram.)
6. Go traveling (… which seems counter to saving more money… unless using a bicycle.)
7. Sell old unwanted stuff on eBay (Agreed.  eBay is cool, but Kijiji is cooler–you actually meet freakish people, when you’re not getting stood up by them!  Jerks!)
8. Buy a tablet (… from the paper isle at Staples.  Kickin’ it old-school!)
9. Organize photos (Start by not taking pictures on every mobile device you own?  Just saying.)
10. Do something for charity (Start by buying the person behind you in line a coffee.  I’m the guy with the plaid shirt.)
11. Spend more time with kids (Can’t quite understand it.  My kids would rather not. Perhaps 2013 wasn’t the year to stop buying deodorant.)
12. Buy a Sunday paper  (Really, with the same money we’re trying to save?  The TV guides online now! And we still have no attention span.)
13. Less TV time (Agreed.  Cut the cable.  Watch more shows online.)
14. Connect my computer to my TV (Sure, right after I buy a new TV in 2014 with all the money I saved in 2013.)
15. Leave work on time more often (Great idea! But I’d rather start by just getting to work on time more often.  Unless we’re trying for a shorter workday?!  Duly noted.)
16. Less time on Facebook (Excellent!  Please help me find more annoying friends to further repulse me from using it.)
17. Totally revamp my wardrobe (Plaid?  Plaid forever!  The rest of you are nuts.)
18. Try a new hairstyle (Sure.  But first I’ll have to transplant some from the lower regions.)
19. Get a six-pack (Okay, But beers not really my thang.)
20. Eat less chocolate (What?  Who are these freaking people!)
21. Socialise more in real life rather than Facebook (Yes.  It’s called a telephone young people. You talk with it.)
22. Drink less alcohol (Agreed. Even better, drink someone else’s alcohol).

starbucks_barrista
23. Buy less coffee from Starbucks (Sure.  That’ll last a week.  When was the last time you tried office coffee? So how do you steal Starbucks coffee anyways?)
24. Start my own business (By now I think we’ve determined I’m trying to save money, and my attention span is limited at best.  Let’s wait til 2014 for this one.)
25. Tell someone I have feelings for them (I’d love to tell my boss about my feelings, but suppressing them helps keep me employed.)
26. Quit smoking (Yes.  Setting things on fire is bad!  I think we covered that in 2012.)
27. Gain a promotion (Again.  That’s why we keep our real feelings to ourselves, right?!)
28. Learn how to use Twitter (Sure. So I can miss use the hash key and further erode my attention span).
29. Run a half or full marathon (Who are these people?!  Ah, right… silly LA Fitness poll.)
30. Call people more than text (That depends… how about good news by phone, and bad news by text?  Seems like a reasonable compromise.)
31. Cut someone out of my life who isn’t good for me (Hey, why are you looking at me that way?!)
32. Meet online contacts in real life (I’m not sure I want any more scary real life people in life, unless you’re buying me coffee in the Starbucks line.)
33. Watch less reality TV (And more YouTube instead?  I don’t think this is helping any of us.)
34. Text people less (Less bad news is a good thing… see my point at number 30.)
35. Try to save relationship (Does that involve you saying, “I think we should just be friends?”  No.  Say it isn’t so!)
36. Try extreme sports (Only if I get a cool free Redbull outfit, a TV special, and a good looking nurse.)
37. Get better at social networking (How about we try complete sentences with capitals and punctuation?)
38. Stop contacting/going back to an ex-partner (That depends.  How much money money did she have?)
39. Have a face-to-face with my boss to find out where I stand (This was covered under the previous “feelings” discussions.)
40. Do a bungee jump (Only as the guest of Reality TV–please come back ABC’s The Mole *sniffle, sniffle*)

2013. Tuesday’s Grey and Wednesday Too.

Friday, I’m in Love

On the opening weekend, my family and I went to see the Hobbit.  My kids loved it.  My wife thought it was a bit too violent.  My nine-year-old son delighted in the fact he’d just been to a 14A movie (and that “he was only  age nine!”).  Yep, in his mind, he’d pulled a fast one on his dear old dad.  I had to laugh thinking back to seeing The Lord of The Rings at some midnight showing with friends and co-workers, long, long before my son had even been conceived.

It was in the moment, that I realized I’d been to see the movie with my friend Chadd; the same fellow who departed earth for heaven this last year.  That brought a moment of sadness.  How could so much had happened between then and now?  It made me wonder if there’s film showings in heaven.  It would seem a shame to see the other three films and then to miss the Hobbit.  Or is the business of heaven, what I imagine as pure fun, simply too distracting?  For a few seconds it was mind boggling.  But life waits for no one and time marches onward.

New Year’s Eve always seems anticlimactic for me.  Maybe it’s because past New Year’s Days seemed blue to me.  Or in the lyrics of The Cure, this year “Tuesday’s Grey and Wednesday Too!”  Yep.  I imagine Wednesday, my first day back to work  (real work that is), will seem a bit grey.  *sigh*

Welcome 2013!  I know that not all the days will be blue or grey.  Some days will definitely feel like Friday, and being in love.

2012, I’ll always be thankful for a wonderful Christmas spent with loved ones.  And to my friend who departed this mortal life too soon, thanks for helping me remember just how precious each person and friendship can be.  And for every crumby thing that happened in 2012, thanks be it that I can leave you in the dust with reassurance that “This too shall pass.”

So in 2013, I pray God make every new day his reminder that the business of love, His Love, must remain my most important focus.  Matthew 22.39

Thanks also to Loy Valera for the cool design found here…

http://beta.threadless.com/product/1589/Friday_I_m_In_Love/tab,guys/style,shirt

Wow! Now There’s a Choir I Might Actually Join…

…assuming they would have me (or by some miracle I wasn’t cut during an audition)!

When I was a kid, my Mom made my brother and me join our church’s Jr. Choir.   Mrs. Craig, the Choir director, probably gained her sainthood while trying to make something out of us elementary boys.  As a child, I really had no appreciation for singing.  Sure, I liked music, but I didn’t have the pipes or the know-how to make my kind of music (or at least the kind  I wanted to listen to).   In those days, my churched peers and I spent many Sunday afternoons practicing and learning songs that we would eventually sing to congregation members of our church.  Practices seemed like torture by boredom intermixed with prolonged lessons about self-control (specifically how to least annoy our beloved Choir director).

Was I talented?  Nope.  Have I acquired more vocal talent since then?  Not even close.  I know I can sing better than some folks, but I’m realistic… meaning I have no delusions of ever getting a recording contract.  Even so, I love music.  I listen to plenty of it, sing it in the shower (or in the car), google to contemplate lyrics, read about it in books, and enjoy finding out useless trivia behind the tunes (usually from artists, songwriters, musicians, producers, or managers).   BTW, does anyone  know what happened to Pop-Up Video anyway?  I used to love that show.

So when I happened upon a video of Choir!Choir!Choir! I thought, “This is a choir I so want to join.”  Watching the video, these people look like they’re having fun, singing their hearts out to some of my favorite songs (Isn’t this the coolest Sloan cover?).  And they’re enjoying beer while doing it… that’s my kind of choir!  It’s too bad I don’t enjoy beer… but I do like the occasional glass of wine.  Enjoying wine while singing old pop songs? Even better!

A couple of my co-workers have mentioned how easily they get sucked into the show Glee.  If you know me, you know I seldom have time for TV (mostly because of my dedication to the Purple Prison), but I have seen parts of Glee episodes to know their appeal.  Popular songs as old as my generation, arranged with a fresh harmonies, and performed by vibrant youth pretty much equals ear candy.  What’s not to like?

Unfortunately, I won’t be auditioning for Choir!Choir!Choir! because they meet in Toronto (which is only a stone’s through from Calgary, if you happen to be Superman.  All 3235 km).  From what I can tell, you pretty much pester the leader on facebook, bring $5 each week, and show up ready to sing.  A singing hack like me might even get in, eventually.  I like how this article indicates this choir has ” solidified a reputation as the best damn no-commitment choir in the city.”

One of their two facebook sites says “Choir! Choir! Choir! is a singing group based in Toronto. Since February of 2011, they have been throwing down and saving lives.”  I’m not exactly sure how they’re saving lives.  From what I know, Jesus Saves.  Conversely, I suspect Choir!Cubed (my nickname, not theirs) might save people from boredom on a weeknight, or from going crazy when lacking an outlet for expression, but these folks don’t seem to be teaching CPR, First Aid, or Lifeguarding.

All the same, I think that the Choir!Cubed brings its members, audience, and random listeners into community.  And couldn’t we all use a little more community–spending time together, friends and strangers, sharing each others company, singing (or listening) together to songs that bring smiles to our faces?  I think it’s why that Cheers intro always tugs on our hearts… “Where everybody knows your name…”

While I was writing this post, it reminded me of an old favorite song that pretty much sums it up.  Sing for the Melody by Sweet Comfort Band “Everybody sing for the Melody, Everybody sing it in Harmony…”

Learn more about Choir!Choir!Choir! here…

blogTO – An informative article about the Choir!Choir!Choir!
http://soundcloud.com/choir-choir-choir – listen to songs recorded by Choir!Choir!Choir!
http://www.choirchoirchoir.com/ – not much here… make sure to scroll left.  Way left.

Does this place Smell Like Teen Spirit?

My oldest child started Jr. High this fall.  I hadn’t anticipated it, but ended up a bit edgy for both her and us old folks (a.k.a the parents).  For Jana, a few tears were shed under the pressure of everything new, unknown, and uncertain.  Recalling those uneasy feelings from our own school days, Karen and I found ourselves at a loss for those perfect words to ease our daughter’s worry.

That was a few days ago.  Everything went just fine.  Insert collective sigh of relief here.  Most fears quickly deflated, and everyone seems excited by the new year.

As our daughter has entered the adolescent years, I’m reminded of how teenagers can sweat, and how those developing sweat glans can… er… what’s the word? Stink.  A couple of days ago we visited Jana’s school for a parental orientation.  The school board seems to have adopted a sparing usage of the air conditioning.  Despite it being September, at the end of the day, the place was stifling and reminded me of the Sahara Dessert.

One of the teachers joked about the place being hot, and the importance of making sure our kids took a daily shower (more for her benefit than the kids).  Later, as we walked down the hallways to our next class meeting I caught a whiff of something.  The school, nearly 30 years old, had a unique odor… maybe even a funk… and then a Kurt Cobain song title popped into mind… Smells Like Teen Spirit.  Maybe that’s what he meant?

Nope.  After I Googling it,  I determined that Cobain meant something completely different, but  in the end the song title ironically did make reference to an odor.  More specifically, fighting odors of the armpit kind….

Teen Spirit was first released by Mennen early in 1991, and with heavy advertising campaigns, it had soon “established a market niche” with teen girls.[3] However, one of its biggest boosts came from the grunge band Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a song that was inspired by a friend of lead singer Kurt Cobain, Kathleen Hanna (lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill at the time), spray painting “Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit” on his wall (because Tobi Vail, Hanna’s band mate and Kurt’s then-girlfriend, wore Teen Spirit). At the time the song was released, Cobain had no idea that the brand even existed; when he did find out, he was rather upset that the song had apparently been named after a line of deodorant.[4]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teen_Spirit_(deodorant)

Thinking back to the stink…  When I was in Jr. High, grade eight I think, white leather Reebok shoes were all the rage.  Pretty much every kid had them, or wanted them.  And when I got mine, I was just happy to be in style.    A month later, sitting on the floor in a Phys. Ed class, I remember thinking, “What stinks?”  I sniffed closer to my shoes…  I took my shoe off.  Blah!  Sure enough, my feet were sweating up a storm in my leather shoes.  Together, my feet and the shoes were creating this horrid aroma.  Those shoes might have been trendy, but in a second, I vowed I’d never wear them again (at least at school).  I figured it was far better to be known for lack of fashion than to be known to have smelly feet.

Growing up in the eighties, most guys I knew went through the ever-popular BMX years.  And along with BMX-ing came Vans shoes from California.  Nearly every kid riding a BMX bike had a pair of those checkered Vans.  The black & white pattern was most common and early imports were of the slip-on variety.  Eventually different colored checkers and tie-up versions also made it to Canada.  Despite being popular and therefore deemed cool, these shoes were pretty much useless.  Skateboarders (or should I say skaters) might argue differently, but the rubber bottoms were crappy for running and the canvas tops didn’t breath (ah, yes, more stinky feet for me).  Since the shoes were slip-ons, it meant they also easily slipped off, often at unexpected and inopportune times.  It wasn’t uncommon to end up bare foot (or in stocking feet) while running a fast football play on the field.

Most the time, I proudly wore my Vans while riding my bike, but on two occations my prized shoes got shredded by the Bear-Claw BMX pedals on my Factory Kuwahara (for the lay person, that was the brand name of my BMX bike).  Never the less, my friends and I persisted and wore them anyways–all in the name of popular fashion.  Well, actually, we just wanted to be cool.

Below are some pictures of my bike that took me way… way back.  I had a KZ-02 model that was nearly identical bicycle pictured below (except my seat post was metallic blue, and I only had a one piece crank).  The last paragraph sparked my curiosity.  Here’s what I found online…

Below is a picture of an IRC BMX tire that came with my Kuwahara.  It only took about 2 months and I had to replace the back tire (as a kid, skids and power slides were extremely fun).