Laughter at inappropriate moments…

Decades ago, when advertising before movies was just new (not to be confused with movie previews–they’d been around a lot longer than me), I recall going to see a show and the above commerical playing before hand.  It had me in stitches and to this day, while the ad plays fresh in my mind, I can’t recall the movie that followed it.

I showed commercial to a couple co-workers… they didn’t quite get it.  Sure, an eager young fellow seems to be having a lot of fun driving “some big ass boat of a car,” to quote my co-worker.  They both seemed to miss the fact that the music-loving driver is in a herse leading the funeral procession.  Once I pointed that out, then came the inevitable “aha” moment (not to be confused with the band, A-ha).  Then it seemed funnier, if not amusing.

The flipant irreverance and portrayed disconnect from the seriousness of the moment is probably what strikes a cord with me.  That, and most peoples’ feet start tapping to the sound of Another One Bites The Dust.  It’s kind of like getting the giggles in church.  Some things just seem their funniest a the most imappropriate moments.

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Thanks God for windy days… and those things we cannot see

Much of my free time as a boy was spent riding my bike all over the neighborhood.  There was a few neighbors who thought my brother and I were hooligans on our bicycles.  Some of them were bold enough to say so.

Being hooligans, rain or shine, summer or snow, my brother and I would ride our bikes in nearly every type of weather.  Pretty much anytime, day or night,  we would pedal those thangs all over the place.

Riding into a strong head wind was about the only condition where I actually hated bike riding.  A tail wind was great fun as it seemed like we could coast forever, but inevitably, we’d always have to ride back against the wind to get home.  For some reason, riding into a wind just sucked the joy out of bike riding.  So much effort expended seemed to take us almost no where.  After riding in the wind for a while, our hands and faces would be freezing–this would just add frustration to an already burdensome experience.

Growing up, I can only remember flying a kite once or twice, and it was in early elementary school.  I don’t even recall owning a kite, so when I did fly one, it probably belonged to a friend.  On a windy day, a kite could be an interesting thing.  Anything less, like a breeze, made kite flying into more of a running type of experience.  That was annoying because while a person is running they can’t even get a good view of the kite he’s trying to fly.

This last Christmas was far from the beautiful white Christmas many might sing about.  Calgary gets occasional warm winds, Chinooks, that blow through town and usually melt away the snow.  Since my family was hosting Christmas at our place, and our usual tobogan hill was missing all traces of snow, my daughter and I headed off to the hobby store to get some kites (just incase the adults has “just about enough” of the kids and sent them outside to play).  I figured if the opportunity presented itself, then the kids and I might try flying some kites.  Drat, the kids were too well behaved–we didn’t get exiled outside, and we didn’t end up needing those kites.

So a few weeks later my son, Justin, and I ended up trying out one of the kites.  He’d never flown one before, and it had been decades since I’d done it.  So off we went to the local soccer park to give it a go.

The day was perfect–nice and windy (the kind of day you might avoid riding a bike).  After working at flying and steering (if one actually steers a kite), it wasn’t log before we had the kite fully extended on all the string from the spool.  Both of us seemed to have a good time doing something unusual (or at least different from playing video games).  At times, we seemed to be in control, and other times the wind took the kite in ways we certainly didn’t expect.  Sure, the kite crashed a few times, but in my mind, it was a successful venture!

While we were flying the kite, I was reminded about wind being like faith.  Someone once said that faith is believing in things unseen,  and in Hebrews 11, faith is described as evidence of things unseen.   And recalling a Billy Graham audio clip speaking about how he could not see the wind, but we could see the effects of the wind.  So it also seems with God, although I cannot certainly don’t see Him (at least in the way we see others), I certainly see evidence of His work in my life, and how He effects me (and the world around me).

Day Dreaming of Simpler Times

Do you recall simpler times?

While working late on Friday night at the Purple Prison, another self-imposed craziness, an old Payola$ song started playing on Jack FM.  It was the end-of-shift and I was wrapping things up by myself.  Usually, I’m very focused on the job at hand, but amidst the music I found myself daydreaming.

Listen Here – You’re The Only One – by the Payola$

My mind was transported back in time to simpler days–Summertime, hanging out with friends around a picnic table in the heat of August sunshine.  Imagine those blue skies, laced with fluffy white clouds, being surrounded by trees, and feeling gravel crunch under foot.

There we were, finishing lunch (likely KFC), listening to songs on the radio, and not a care in the world.  Later, playing games in the park, drinking up the sunshine, and running with boundless energy–where did all that energy go?

In those carefree hours, how could my friends and I know ever the little taste of heaven we had?  Unbeknownst to us, we lived so simply–no bills, no dependents, no worries, and no looming concerns to preoccupy our thoughts or dreams.

Even relationships, and the whole matter of love, seemed simpler in those sun drenched days of summer.  Love was new, allusive, and mysterious.  Much later in life, experience slowly revealed love’s complexity and its full ranges of emotion.

Like the lyrics in the song say,

I’ve finally found what I meant to
Now my face is filled with laughter
Soon I’ll be gone
then I’ll be dreaming about you

Sure enough, much later in life, triggered by an old song on the radio, I find myself dreaming about [then].

The Best Things In Life…

If I started out singing, “The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds an’ bees…”  could you finish the next line of the song?  “I need money, that’s what I want” and it’s one of those songs that came to mind while writing this post.  Before today, I didn’t even know who wrote it let alone originally recorded it.  According to Wikipedia, “Money (That’s What I Want)” is a 1959 hit single by Barrett Strong for the Tamla label, distributed nationally on Anna Records. The song was written by Tamla founder Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford, and became the first hit record for Gordy’s Motown enterprise.” Wikipedia: Money (That’s What I Want)

Thanks to GrooveShark.com, you can hear Barrett Strong sing it here…

Barrett Strong might have first recorded it, but I am more familiar with a 1979 cover performed by The Flying Lizards; and before today I didn’t even known the band’s name.  From the rockumentary provided by the YouTube link below, it seems The Flying Lizards’ cover of Money (That’s What I Want) enjoyed popular music success more by experimental accident than by creative brilliance.

Deborah Evans-Stickland, lead singer (or is it speaker) for the Lizards, with her professed public school accent is amongst many popular artists who also covered the song; some of whom include The Beatles and The Doors.

From my own experience, the song writer makes his point when he expresses how love doesn’t pay the bills. Perhaps the irony between love being free and it not paying bills is what most resonates with listeners.  Infatuation, puppy love, love at first sight, a crush, love’s first kiss; these are both free and truly exhilarating in the moment.  Commitment. Now that’s a love that costs.  For us mortals here on Earth, it might even be the most expensive kind of love.

Recently, at a friend’s going away party she was given The Book of Awesome.  The book’s novelty describes everyday experiences in life that are deemed to be awesome.  Included are examples like going to buy something just as a new cashier opens up, almost as it the checkout lane was opened just for you.  When a parking spot nearest the door frees up just as you arrive–that’s more awesomeness.  Snow Days, the kind where you get to stay home from work or school, these too are considered awesome.  Looking through the book, it occurs to me that many of the awesome things mentioned in the come without a price tag, thereby making the awesomeness all the sweeter.

My seven year-old son repeatedly converses with me about, “What if everything in the world was free?”  On other occasions, he suggests how cool it would be if things in stores cost nothing.  I seem to recall having the same crazed idea at his age.  Looking through the Sears catalog, I would imagine having anything printed on the page simply by touching it, and for some unknown reason, that would apparently make me happier–not just to own one or two things, but to have it all.  My son seems to have the same ideas of material happiness when he dreams about his imaginary world full of free-ness.

We as adults dream in similar ways, only we believe it’s more sophisticated.  For only a few dollars, if we so choose to play the lotto, we imagine what all we could buy and how happy we would be if… if only we might win that jackpot.  Or we go to the mall and buy shoes, but not just one pair.  Often we’re enticed to buy one and get another free because regardless of whether we need more than one pair, two pairs for the price of one is just too good to pass up.

The Christmas Season is just winding up. How many gifts this year did you re-gift this year?  Much to my own surprise, I re-gifted more items than ever before.  Many of my re-gifts originated from delightful items given to me by co-workers.  Loved ones received most my re-gifts and I would like to think it was my generous spirit, but honestly, it was more about stretching my dollars.  This year giving re-gifts was amongst the best things in life for me (and my over-stretched pocket book).  After all, I was able to project love and giving without having to pay full price for it.

But do we really appreciate that which costs us nothing?  Things that are given to us freely, do we tend to take them for granted?  I’m sure you know College or University students that squandered their parent’s money while partying it away at school.  You probably also know students that held down part-time jobs while struggling to earning their education.  My assumption is that the student that works for their education has a greater appreciation of her earned degree or diploma.

As a matter of faith, I believe my salvation in Jesus Christ is offered freely  to me and to every person.  But for me to be a practicing disciple of Christ, His follower, the cost is significant.  And if Grace, God’s gift of undeserved favor, didn’t cost the believer like me anything, it certainly cheapens the Grace given.

And some free things in life on the surface appear great, but often come with unexpected consequences.  A friend of mine once worked where the employer provided free cans of soda to its employees.  Initially this sounds like a generous benefit, but my friend attests, drinking an excess of soda caused him significant and unwanted weight gain.  Similarly, my kids think a restaurant buffet that with unlimited free ice cream dessert is heaven on earth.  Hours later, between the sugar downers and the aftermath of their upset stomachs, to me, the parent, unlimited free ice cream seems more like hell than heaven.

For free things to actually be best, it might actually have more to do with the recipient and his attitude surrounding the circumstance. I’m not usually one for New Year resolutions, but in 2011, I’m making an exception. This year, in theme with much of this world’s emphasis on economic austerity, I’m endeavoring to make the most of free, but not just free-ness.  Only the best things in life, not necessarily extravagant or excessive, and both free or otherwise.

My Resolution for 2011 — In my day-to-day routine I endeavor to:

  • Attune my senses to more carefully watch for awesomeness (like in the Book of Awesome).  And when awesomeness is found, not to ignore it, or take it for granted, but to recognize and celebrate it for how I’ve been blessed.
  • Be weary of things marketed to me as free–to flee from things I don’t need to further clutter up my house.  And even if Starbucks promises me another free drink after purchasing 15 drinks, I will resist their perceived urgency to buy more from Starbucks.
  • Develop an attitude of appreciation and to be content whatever the circumstances, free or otherwise.

Free Hugs?

Have you heard of the free hugs campaign?  I had forgotten about it.  A couple years ago it first came to my attention as a popular video through facebook.  It appealed to me right away, and today I was trying to figure out why.  So, was it the idea of free hugs, or the story line surrounding the campaign, or the soundtrack provided by the band Sick Puppies?  Was it a combination of all three?  I’m not sure.  See it for yourself here…

The concept of Free Hugs is unusual, especially to me.  I’ve never been a natural hugger.  Everyone knows, has met, or dreads meeting those natural huggers.  They’re just so expressive, sometimes excessively, with their hugs.  A friend and coworker of mine, Su, is a hugger… not necessarily a comfortable thing while working amidst burly men.  Over time, I came to really appreciate Su’s friendship and his friendly hugs.  Conversely, I’ve also worked with people who are extremely uncomfortable with affection–I never figured out if it was their fear of  affection or pure disdain for physical touch.

Then there’s that element of coed hugging.  I’m okay hugging my Mom, my Aunts, my daughter, extended family members and little old ladies, but there’s always an element of discomfort when I hug women.  Why?  I’m not sure, but it might have something to do with squishing body parts, theirs, not mine.

When confronted with hugging, frequently I have memory flashbacks to my swimming instructor coarse where it was emphasized that you never initiate a hug with a child.  It was okay if the child initiated affection, but an instructor was never to encourage it–for obvious reasons.  For me, it just carried over towards adults too.  You’ll rarely find me initiating a hug outside of family members.  Fear, not my disinterest nor dislike, holds me back.

Was I a handsomer man, would I be more comfortable initiating hugs?  Perhaps.  Personal observations lead me to believe that hugs (and other activities in general) from society’s beautiful people are more often deemed acceptable.  Or maybe beautiful people just receive a greater measure of grace when they cross uncertain lines, like hugging.   And for me, I’m naturally skeptical about motives and intentions when a pretty woman offers me unexpected affection.  I don’t believe my body language emits signals encouraging people to hug me.

And maybe in society’s pursuit of safety for all, in an effort to protect everyone possible, hugs have become a social taboo.  Physical affection is often the victim of suspicion.  For that reason, I respect those affectionate rebels that push past the unwritten rules that forbid hugging.  With modest envy, I admire those people for just being themselves and ignoring perceived propperness.

So what motivates those people to hold up signs advertising Free Hugs?  In my office, I have the privilege of working with a young lady, Nicole, who worked in Sydney in or about the time of all this “free hugging.”   I was curious to gain her perspective.  She knew about the free hugs thing, had seen the people holding up the signs, but didn’t know it as a formal campaign.  Her impression was that the Asian tourists loved that kind of thing, almost like a novelty, and the people giving the hugs looked like they were homeless street people  (does the fellow in the video look homeless to you?  To me his burgundy jacket seemed more artsy than homeless.  Then again, most artist are financially poor, right?).  Nicole didn’t understand why people would offer free hugs.  Needless to say, neither Nicole, nor I offered each other any free hugs.  Maybe it would be deemed “office inappropriate.”

Free Hugs.  Is it a public statement about society’s discomfort with public affection?  Or are these huggers actually reaching out to a world of infrequently touched people who have too often been famished from a good squeeze?  Would I feel comfortable offer my affection to a complete stranger?  Would it be easier than offering it to someone I know?  It would seem not, but having done just that, would I be changed in my efforts to demonstrate kindness, or even love, to someone in a way I seldom would?  It might, it might even be life changing.

The video’s storyline is definitely about the campaign being the underdog, having triumphed in the end.  What’s not to like about that?

And the Sick Puppies song that servers as a sound track? Well, I’m a sucker for strumming guitars and a certain passion expressed in music.  The lyrics are interesting at best, but the idea conveyed about acceptance, I think everyone would appreciate a bit more acceptance.

When I first saw this video, youtube indicated the video had been viewed about 500,000 times (if memory serves me correct).  Today, it has been watched nearly 65 million times.  In some way, different or similar to my own perceptions, the Free Hugs Campaign video has peaked viewer interest over the years, and in the least, it resonates with people at some level.

What would I miss if I was deaf?

Today was my lazy Saturday.  Instead of doing something productive (like I probably should have… ), I watched a movie on History channel called There Will Be Blood.  Never heard of it?  Neither had I, but it held me captive.  In the film, Daniel Day-Lewis plays a greedy oilman and prospector, Daniel Plainview, during the early nineteen hundreds.  In pursuit of oil found under the cheap California land, Plainview adopts an orphaned boy to appear family orientated to the land owners of Little Boston.  After an explosion at the well’s derrick, the adopted son looses his hearing for life.

Occasionally in my life, I had thought, “How terrible it would be to loose my eyesight.”  Watching the film and what happened to the boy, it had me pondering about what I would miss most if I lost my hearing.  Music immediately came to mind.  My ability to easily converse with others would no doubt be hampered.  It occurs to me that hearing is something I have always taken for granted.  The possibility of being deaf inspired to listen to some of my favorite music–what would I do if I never heard any of it again?  Would my mind still remember the music from deep within the recesses of my memory?  Over time would I eventually forget the tunes or might I learn to read musical scores and still appreciate it?

I remember reading a CCM magazine article over a decade ago where Amy Grant was asked to list the vinyl records she would want with her if she was stranded on a dessert island (hypothetically of course).  Thinking about my own imagined deafness, which songs or CDs that I would miss most? Or knowing I would eventually be deaf, what songs would I want to hear just once more.  In no particular order–these just came to mind…

Sad Farewell Instrumental from The Mole Soundtrack

Love Theme from The Russia House by Jerry Goldsmith

Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2

God Will Lift Up Your Head by Jars of Clay

Last Christmas by Cascada

Tender Tennessee Christmas by Amy Grant

When Stars Go Blue by The Corrs and Bono

Everybody Hurts performed by The Corrs

End of Innocence performed by Don Henley

What songs might you want to hear again?