Out of Touch

It’s been a while.  Too long in fact. My working title for this entry was Forsaken, but it sounded far too serious and left me with visions of Clint Eastwood’s movie, Unforgiven.  While surfing tunes on YouTube, something lighthearted, corny, yet cool (or as cool as the 80s could be) inspired me otherwise.

In October of 1984, Out of Touch started its climb to become Billboard’s Hot 100 number one song.  MTV and Much Music were still in their infancy, and unlike today, in those days the stations actually played music videos.

This video amplifies the prevalent corniness of the mid 80s.  I love the video’s cigar chomping music executive, the shamelessly (and repeated) advertising plugs for Big Bam Boom (the Duo’s newest album), and Daryl Hall’s animal-print suit and slacks.  Didn’t Amy Grant wear the same leopardskin jacket only one year later on the cover of Unguarded?

Amy_Grant_Unguarded One could say, my blog and I have been “out of touch…not around.”  After nearly a year of neglect… I’m putting thoughts to fingers, and fingers to keys again.

So what’s changed since last July?  More than I like to admit.

While away, my dearly departed mother-in-law had a song written and performed as a tribute to her.

The Trifecta Writing Challenge site, where I labored and toiled over my few feable submissions, closed for good.  There’s no doubt in my mind that I was in way over my head with that crowd of writers, but it was fun to try.

And then one of the nicest folks I’ve read on WordPress, Rarasaur (the same that pointed me to Trifecta’s Writing Challenge), she ended up going to prison in California.  Yikes!  How did that happen?

All of this to say, a whole lot can surely happen in a year.  Looking back over the last 365 days, many personal disappointments lay scattered in my mind.  I’m looking to make the next 365 days different.

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” ~ James 4:13-15 NIV

Stereotypical

When I first started my job, a local clothier was liquidating his inventory of plaid shirts, and for ridiculous single-digit prices.  Succumbing to momentary insanity, convinced it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I stocked up.

My hasty shopping spree left me relegated to wear oxford-style tartan for years to come.  Workplace associates would later proclaim that plaid became my personal trademark.

The following Halloween, everyone in the office donned plaid shirts to celebrate my limited, and somewhat lacking, fashion sense.Scary_Plaid

As the company I.T. guy, I prided myself  on building rapport and improving morale whenever possible.  Often this meant helping with menial tasks, which many times interrupted my mundane technical responsibilities, but more importantly, provided an excuse to shed my necktie.

The Friday before last, ladies in accounting had requested my assistance with carrying boxed files to the basement storage.Matching_Plaid

With banker boxes heaped five high on the handcart, my free hand fumbled to call the elevator.  The doors parted to expose the empty car. Using the old heave-ho, the cart’s rubber tires protested lethargically, but eventually conceded the threshold from marble tile onto elevator carpet.  With a closing clunk, the car descended.

The lift slowed, stopped, and divided doors on fifteen.  Motion from the lobby was absent.  The symmetrical panels reached to reseal the compartment, until interrupted by an arm adorn with a monogrammed gold cufflink.  The doors recoiled to reveal a polished executive.  He boarded the car.

“Sorry…  I hate to hold up anyone getting paid by the delivery,” said the dapper gentleman.

My eyebrow arched.  A forced smirk failed to conceal my grimace.

“…or do you delivery guys get paid by the hour?”

My mind turned introspective.  My getup looked neither like FedEx, nor UPS, and I hadn’t a clipboard, nor even a courier crest sewn to my chest.  What made me appear to be a delivery guy?  Was it the plaid?

Ideas for a witty rebuttal simply vanished.

Constraining the truth, I muttered, “…something like that.”

————————————————————————————————————————–

The story mentioned above was inspired by the Trifecta: Week Seventy-Nine writing challenge.  This week’s prompt required me to write a response, 33 to 333 words in length, containing the word APPEAR  (specifically using its third definition).

APPEAR
1a : to be or come in sight <the sun appears on the horizon>
b : to show up <appears promptly at eight each day>
2: to come formally before an authoritative body <must appear in court today>
3: to have an outward aspect : seem <appears happy enough>

Feel the Burn

Aqua Velva

“Aftershave!” Lars exclaimed, revealing her renowned gift for grandsons. “I was nearly out!”

“Aftershave? No wonder it burns so badly! I mistook it for mouthwash.”

Giggles erupted.

Grandma’s eyes loathed my false confession.

—————————————————————————————————

This confessional moment is brought to you courtesy of this weekend’s prompt at Trifextra, the nice folks still making Aqua Velva, and my dearly departed Grandma D.

The Prompt: a thirty-three word confession.

First Daze

The last thing I remember was the close up of patient’s eye.  Everything was copacetic right up until the surgical instrument extracted the metal filing.  My blood galloped to meet the floor and my body, the traitor, was helpless but to follow.

I was reawakened as classmates struggled to upright me.  “Are you okay?  You don’t look so good.”

“No, I’m fine.  Eye injuries just make me squeamish.”  The momentary humiliation stung.

“Mr. Dyck.  You’re excused for today.  Tomorrow, we start the real course material.”

How could I protest after being unceremoniously unseated on my first day?

I had been warned about the gory nature of the shop’s safety film and its aim to scare safety mindfulness into freshmen.  Putting forth my bravest face, I had grossly overestimated my ability to muster mind over matter.

I stumbled woozily onto the bus while fumbling to produce my monthly pass.  Defeated, I slumped into the seat and burrowed my head into my jacket.  My eyes stared blankly at the pedantic transit advertisements.

The transit meandered its way to my home with ceaseless stops and starts.

The girl seated in front of me looked around with a gaze that differed than most.  When had she gotten on the bus?   The Camwest Center?

With the most devilish grin from ear-to-ear, the girl turned to face me.

Next Stop

 She clasped something in her left hand.   A similar substance was on her cheek.  At first glance, I guessed chocolate.  The whiff that followed clarified otherwise.  It was a defecating matter!

My stomach contents ejected upward while my hand grasped desperately for the next stop rope.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

With breakfast in my mouth, I rushed the rear door.  The ride stopped.  I exited, expelled, exhaled, and embraced fresh air.  Sweet fresh air!

My composure was nearly regained as the next bus arrived.  Once boarded, seated, and mildly relieved, I couldn’t help but notice the constant trickle of passengers from the earlier bus, all being picked up along the way.

———————————————————————————————————————-

The above is my response to Trifecta: Week Seventy-Eight where this week’s word is pedantic (adjective)

1 : of, relating to, or being a pedant(see pedant)
2 : narrowly, stodgily, and often ostentatiously learned
3 : unimaginative, pedestrian

The challenge requires my response to be between 33 and 333 words.  The word must be used once in its third definition.

My response’s story idea stems from a real-life situations experienced by my roommate on either his first or second day at SAIT (over 20 years ago).  Good or bad, it was the first thing that sprung to mind when I looked up pedantic.

STAGEIT… featuring Lenka

Sara Bareilles is the first performance I ever saw on StageIt.  The second, just last Sunday, was a concert hosted by the Australian pop singer, Lenka.  Never heard of her?  Neither had my wife, so consider yourself in good company.  If you’ve scene the Windows 8 commercial linked below, then you’ve definitely heard Lenka.  Not necessarily my favorite song from Lenka, but her music indeed.

The StageIt company hosts live concerts through their virtual venue online.  Typically, these concerts are smaller productions, intimate in nature, and stream live from the performer’s studio, kitchen, or living room.

Lenka’s music is something I accidentally discovered while searching Youtube for a specific scene from Inglourious Basterds, dubbed Chapter Five: Revenge of the Giant Face.   In the Quentin Tarantino film, Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), the pretty protagonist, finalizes her revenge plans upon the murderous Nazi oppressors.  Maybe it’s because I’m a part of that MTV generation, but I especially like how the film’s scenes play out to the tune of David Bowie’s Cat People (…putting out fires with gasoline).

The clip I was actually looking for was something like this…

The Lenka clip I ended up discovering along the way was this…

(As you can see above) I stumbled upon a well-edited music video where the creator uses clips of Inglourious Basterds set to Lenka’s song, Trouble is a Friend.  Technology has clearly blossomed  since the birth of early MTV; now just about anyone with a half decent computer can make their own music videos, and many of these home-brewed productions look really professional.  Lenka was new to me.  My curiosity lead me to investigate more of her music.  I end up watching her very creative offerings on YouTube (Trouble is a Friend and The Show).  I’m not what people might call a raving Lenka fan (nor anyone for that matter), but I do enjoy her music and have added it to my personal soundtrack (the ever-growing eclectic unofficial soundtrack for my life).

Like with so many of my online searches, I start surfing for one specific purpose.  Somewhere along the way I follow a link, click another, then another, and then many URLs (and hours) later I end up in a totally different place than what was planned.  It leaves me wondering, “Where does all the time go?”  This last week, I received an email invitation to see Jars of Clay at (or on) StageIt.  While investigating the concert date for Jars, I notice a banner advertising that Lenka’s backyard concert in a couple days.  It sounds cool and costs less than a latte; sign me up!

Concert Day:

Sunday is a typical spring day in Calgary–the kind that makes locals want to hibernate because of the relentless snow (more snow, and… yep, more snow).  My family and I gather round the TV to watch Lenka on StageIt’s live broadcast from sunny Sydney, Australia.  My kids watch for about five minutes before their attention spans fade.  Jana indicates that she’s not a really “into” Lenka’s voice.  I like to think her musical tastes are still developing.  Justin says, “Dad, I’m enjoying the show, but there’s video game missions that need to be completed before bedtime.”  Meanwhile, Lenka, her drummer,  a violinist, and another fellow playing the cello perform a handful of songs from her living room to our home.

During concerts, StageIt provides a way for viewers to text messages to the Performer (which are view-able by members of the audience, assuming they’re reading along instead of watching the concert).  Multitasking isn’t my forte, hence I opt to remain “textually” silent.  For a concert, the visual quality seems a bit rough around the edges, but the audio is far than I had expected, especially since its streaming from the far side of the globe.  Despite being light on production or polish, Lenka’s show totally makes up for it because of the intimate feel of the whole thing.  Before the performance, I knew of Lenka as a vocalist and musician.  It turns out she’s also an actress, a sculpturist,  a songwriter, and even an crafty artist who creates set decorations!  In highschool, if Lenka was my classmate, friends would have joked that she was becoming a real Renaissance Man (well actually a Renaissance Woman). Classmates and I stole the term Renaissance Man as a polite way of teasing someone who might be considered an overachiever.

Lenka

In between songs Lenka draws attention to this site called PledgeMusic.com.  I kind of understood it involved a charity and charities are mentioned on Pledge Music, but whatever the case…  a person can make pledges to finance artists’ projects.  So figuring I might enjoy her new album (available in June 2013), I investigate.  Much to my surprise, Lenka fans can pledge money for not just her new album, but also some pretty amazing creations handcrafted by Lenka herself… very personable.

Signed Posters, CDs, and even Vinyl — $28 to $93
Artistic Doodles on Handwritten Lyric Sheets — $63 — Great idea!
Baby Bibs — $38 — Sorry, not for me as my wife lovingly reminds me that she ONLY signed up for two kiddos *sigh*
Crafty Stuff — $48 to $138
Mystery Craft Stuff — $138 — Oooh!?  Sounds mysterious!
Crafty Fashion Stuff — $138 — Snazzy! Unfortunate for me it cost more than my whole wardrobe :-S
20 Minute Skype Chat — $100 — Intriguing!  It’s not everyday you get to speak face-to-face with a  Renaissance Woman!
Personalized Ring Tone or Greeting  — $150 – Cool! And practical too!  It’s a shame that no one ever calls me.

and the kicker…
A Personalized Lullaby — only $1,500 — Awesome! I wish I needed (or could enjoy) a lullaby, but I’m all lights out when my head hits the pillow.

jgh_LENKA_SHADOWS_cdsleevelayout_2I’m looking forward to hearing some new Lenka in June.  The Pledge Music profile describes her new album, Shadows, as “… a collection of lullabies for adults…Lenka style.”  Interesting.  Until then, I guess I’ll just sing myself to sleep.

Being naivE

Image

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.

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