Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Much ado...

We humans are absolutely ridiculous creatures.  Besides the obviously terrible, evil ways we can behave towards each other, not forgetting towards other species', we can behave in simply stupid ways that defy belief.
Although it appears on a great many other news sites, a few days ago I read a report on the BBC website about a ludicrous global craze - or 'scourge' as it has been termed - that is so damn stupid all I could do was shake my head.  In the wake of utter nonsense like planking and pouring quarts of milk over ourselves - you know, for a laugh - we now have 'manspreading' to concern ourselves with.  Even the word itself is preposterous.
Rather than me blathering on further about it, getting myself all riled up over nothing, here's the report for your amusement/fury/disbelief: Delete as applicable.
"Transport chiefs in the Spanish capital, Madrid, have launched a campaign discouraging 'manspreading' - men encroaching on other seats by sitting with their legs wide apart.
Bus operator EMT is putting up new signs showing a seated male figure, legs akimbo, next to a big red cross.  A similar campaign is planned for the city's Metro system.  The move follows an online petition by a women's campaign group, which garnered more than 12,000 signatures.  Manspreading - which was accepted as a word in the online Oxford dictionary two years ago - is already discouraged in some other cities around the world.
EMT said in a statement that the aim of the new signs was to remind male travellers "of the need to maintain civic behaviour and to respect the space of everyone on board the bus".
The women's group Mujeres en Lucha (Women in Struggle) said in its online petition that it was not uncommon on public transport to see women "with their legs closed and very uncomfortable because there is a man next to her invading her space".
It's hashtag #MadridSinManspreading (#MadridWithoutManspreading) has been widely used on social media.
In 2014, New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority decided to crack down on the manspreading scourge with signs on the city's Metro that read: "Dude... stop the spread, please."  The US city of Philadelphia also launched a "Dude, it's Rude" campaign, while Seattle's transport provider put up signs showing an octopus with its tentacles draped over bordering seats."

Saturday, May 27, 2017

What Were They Thinking?

As you can imagine, in my work at the music store I see a constant stream of CD and LP sleeves and packaging, day in-day out.  Of course, I see a great many that are already familiar, but also a whole ton that I have not seen before.  There are occasions where a sleeve design or packaging element is so impossibly bad that it stops me in my tracks.  It could be a dreadful painting, poor layout, crappy font or whatever, but all I can think when I see them is that someone, or more than one person, and more often than not also the act in question, will have approved that design as the way to sell that product.  In so many instances I simply cannot believe how terrible the sleeve is, and that it has been approved, making me wonder 'what were they thinking?!'

Speaking of, just take a look at the utterly fucking useless example above.  After watching a wonderful documentary about her, Susan and I have been buying and enjoying what we can find by the late jazz-blues singer, Alberta Hunter.  There isn't too much out there, especially of her really early work, so we were delighted to learn that a brand new 4 CD set of her recordings between 1921 and 1940 was to be released this month.  As soon as it arrived at the store I snapped it up, eager to hear it at home.  However, upon unwrapping it I was astonished, angry and amused all at once to see what you see above.

This is what is revealed upon taking CD 1 from its tray.  There, right in the middle, is an archive photograph of Alberta, her face perfectly obscured by the retaining hub.  God alive, how can this have ever been approved?!

Picture the scene:  the four disc set has been meticulously compiled after the recordings have been restored; a lovely booklet of biographical information has been researched and written, and the CD set's packaging layout has been drawn up.  It is all sent to whomever at the record label and someone - OBVIOUSLY A MORON - looks it over and says, "Yes, that looks awesome."

Seriously, I am lost for any more words on the subject.  Everything about this piece of design packaging is totally shit.  It is a fact that cannot be disputed or argued against.  It is a pitiful oversight blighting a historically significant collection of vintage material, and poor Alberta would be turning in her grave if she could see it.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Gimme dat Oscar!

Not that it would qualify anyway, apart from saying the word 'No!' in a preposterous, mercifully brief, live breakfast TV skit 'starring' famous British cheese-ball radio DJ, Tony Blackburn, I have never in my life acted until this year.  Even then, as the video above illustrates, I hardly turned in an epic performance upon my proper debut, but bearing in mind the point of the video that doesn't really matter.
As a volunteer for the Canadian Cancer Society, I was saddened to be part of the organizing committee responsible for reluctantly deciding that 2017's Relay for Life be the last one to be held in Nanaimo.  Rapidly declining participant registration and plummeting year-on-year fundraising totals forced our collective hands, so from 2018 we will look at new initiatives and fresh ideas for campaigns.  So, this year we are hurling everything we've got at making the very last Relay for Life in our community as good and successful as it can be, especially in terms of promotion.  For my part, this has included calling on my insanely talented filmmaking friend, Raymond Knight, to see if he would be up for making a short film for us to help promote the event.  With cancer affecting his family at this time, he jumped right onboard.
The resultant clip is pretty upbeat and fun, and we had a blast making it.  The real star is 11-year-old Dexter Komen - at just five-and-a-half weeks old the youngest person ever to be diagnosed with the rare and aggressive rhabdomyosarcoma.  He's a wonderful lad, and if the Nanaimo Relay for Life has such a thing as a poster boy, Dexter is he.
Over the course of a morning, directed by Raymond - who was ably assisted by his volunteer crew of extras - Dexter and I hammed it up at the Hub City Cinema Society in Downtown Nanaimo, fumbling our lines and corpsing repeatedly.  Then, with filming done, after much skilful editing and a separate voiceover session for me, the resultant film was launched in April.  I have to say I absolutely love it, as do Dexter and his lovely mom, Sonia, so we're all delighted with the end product.
To date, although it's only received just over 70 views on YouTube, it's been watched over 7,000 times via the Nanaimo Relay for Life Facebook page.  That's just great, and the more people that watch it, the more likely it is that some of them will want to participate in the final Nanaimo Relay for Life.  If so, job done.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Reginald Iolanthe Morrison

That gorgeous creature - all neatly tucked in, fast asleep and impossibly cute - is our cat, Reggie...or, as my dear wife decided to fully name him when we adopted him, Reginald Iolanthe Morrison.  (I had nothing - I repeat, nothing - to do with that.)  Yesterday, this utter bundle of joy celebrated the fifth anniversary of his birth.  Or rather we did, as he was obviously utterly oblivious to the fact, presumably unaware of the concept of time.
Anyway, I digress.  Reggie is a fantastic critter, unlike any beastie of his species I've ever owned or encountered.  His personality continues to surprise and delight, four years and forty-two weeks since we brought him home as a tiny kitten, all shaking with fear as we took over his full-time care from his foster mother.  Since then it's been wonderful companionship all the way, with a great deal of hilarity as, a small piece at a time, his personality has unfolded.
As I type, Reggie is sprawled across the heat register in my office, totally blocking any heat from coming my way, as he warms his belly and bum.  It's just one of hundreds of his lovely ways, some of which I will, in no particular order, recount here...
He loves to be brushed, so his coat is silky and immaculate at all times.  When we brush him, he'll allow his flanks, bib, legs and back to be done, before throwing himself over so his belly can be brushed.  He behaves in a similar way when we return home from work, greeting us at the front door before literally falling over, stretching and exposing his belly for rubs.  "Drop, thud and roll," Susan calls that.
Our 'Mini House Lion' plays fetch.  Yes, just like a dog.  His favourite fetch games involve his two favourite ball toys, the Bonker Ball and the 'Wee Ball,' which started life as a pompom on one of Susan's woollen gloves.  We stand in the kitchen and hurl one of these things into the bedroom, above the bed, uttering a loud, shrill "Boooooo" as we do so, whereupon he tears after it, leaping onto the bed, skidding right across it with his back legs splayed, before disappearing over the other side.  Seconds later, he'll appear proudly in the kitchen with said Bonker or Wee Ball, and drop it at my or Susan's feet so we can do it again.
He loves to scrap feistily with me in what I trust is a spirited attempt to usurp me as the Alpha Male of the pride.  This occurs mainly when on the rug in the lounge, or the runner in the dining room - areas we have consequently designated as Reggie's 'Combat Zones.'  With regular occurrence and utter predictability, he'll roll about all cute in these zones, luring me in to rub his belly, then he'll grab hold of my arm and clasp on with his front legs, sink his teeth into my hand (which rarely hurts) and kick away at my arm with his back feet.  'Kangaroo Boy' is what we've called this ultimately futile and unfailingly amusing act of aggression.  When he thinks he's got the upper hand, I'll scoop him up and cuddle him, whereupon he looks so guilty and apologetic.  I just love that he does all this, as he retains a degree of wildness.
It's easy to directly communicate with Reggie.  I'll look at him intently, blinking slowly in an exaggerated manner, and he blinks right back.  It should come as no great surprise that we have called this lovely feature of his behaviour 'Blinkies.'  (Classic middle-aged, childless cat nuts - that's us!)
He gets 'Full Moon Fever' and can detect storms on the way long before we do.  When there's a full moon or inclement weather coming in, he'll run around the house at top speed, a grey blur, howling something like a wolf in cat form, which is just another example of his frequent dog-like personality traits. 
He does so many beautiful, side-splitting things, with new tricks on a regular basis, that I could write about our nutty, gorgeous feline companion all day long.  At this five-year mark we look back at how he has grown and developed, just as a parent would and does with their children, and we feel so lucky that the little blighter entered our world.  He brings us so much happiness, fuzz therapy whenever we need it (which is often), and whatever the feline interpretation of unconditional love is (especially, as a Mama's Boy, for Susan).  He's such a little star.
Happy Birthday, Reginald Iolanthe Morrison!      

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Wisdom of Robyn

Susan and I are big fans of the veteran English psychedelic pop singer-songwriter, Robyn Hitchcock, currently resident in Nashville.  Since 1972 Hitchcock has kept us hugely entertained with his wonderful, frequently whimsical and surreal songs, and he never really drops the ball with album after album of  consistently good material.  Live, between songs he tells the strangest, tripped out stories that seem to be improvised on the spot, and they are usually hilarious.  The odd sense of humour he employs in his songwriting and stage banter is clearly displayed in his Twitter feed, with random 'nonsense' pronouncements such as:
"Music is really good fun, and some musicians even play golf.  Our cat is going to sneeze.  It's not long 'til Easter.  I like mint chocolate."
"If we were more evolved we would sorvkng dfhi cgui wotdb until we zoefmu forever."
Delightful and silly, but of late Hitchcock has felt compelled to join the billions of right-thinking individuals around the world with a stream of powerful statements about and against Donald Trump and his insane 'executive orders.'  He has just about nailed it with the following quotes, with which I will conclude this brief post.
"Either we will eventually become extinct and be replaced by cats with articulated thumbs, who have evolved the way apes slowly evolved into us, or we will become empathic and mildly telepathic.  People like Donald Trump won't happen because biologically no human will be born with that lack of empathy."
This next one is an open letter to Trump, published on certain music blogs the day after the inauguration.  It is, in my opinion, very powerful, beautifully measured, and absolutely right on:
"Yesterday the whole thinking, feeling world gave the thumbs down to Donald Trump and everything he stands for. 
What does he stand for - or stand against, more importantly?
He's against every single gain we've made as a species in the last sixty years: in racial equality, in gender parity, in sexual tolerance, in environmental awareness, and in welfare, just to start the list.  Less than a day into his presidency, he has begun to nullify and marginalize all that so many have fought for in these areas since the Civil Rights movement.
But you can't marginalize the melting ice caps, Donald, and you can't nullify people's feelings when they get sick and starve.  You can't steal a woman's body from her, or steamroller someone's sexuality.  No matter hard you legislate.
Your supporters are mostly either so wealthy that they feel immune to life and death, or so misinformed that they think losing their health care will somehow help them.  Or they just can't face a female president, for reasons of their own.  We don't understand them, and they don't understand us, frankly.  You're presiding over the United States now - a nation with a greater divide than the Rockies ever were. 
You're not alone.  Your greedy, vainglorious, vindictive nature finds its echo in Britain, Russia and other lands.  But you will never find the admiration you lack, or the respect you crave, by alienating every empathic soul on earth.  And right now you're doing just that; you may relish it, but it's not making you happy, is it?
Yesterday my old friends marched in London, my partner marched in Washington DC, and my Nashville friends and I marched here in Tennessee.  I'm proud of them all, and proud to be among them.  There was no violence - just a bunch of us across the social dial celebrating what we believe in, and celebrating each other.
You must believe in something - other than the lustre of your own gold, and hurting those who disagree with you - or am I missing the point, Donald?"   

Friday, January 20, 2017

Inauguration Day

                                                    (Thanks are due to Sherri Israels.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Starting Again

In some respects it is impossible to comprehend, but today - December 20th, 2016 - marks ten years since Susan and I landed in Nanaimo to start a new life in our forties.  Ten years!
Looking back over this decade we have crammed in a lot of living, doing the thing we do, and considering the state we arrived in, we have come an incredibly long way.  Six weeks prior to our arrival we lost our Brighton home to fire, an understandably traumatic event that considerably expedited our original plans to move here.  The fire started in the apartment above ours when the moronic son of the woman that lived there fell asleep drunk, dropped a lit cigarette, then woke up and went out.  How can that even happen?  How can someone wake up to presumably find the place on fire, then go out?  We have never been given answers to how everything unfolded, and will never receive any, but it is what happened.
Consequently, we had no choice but to up sticks and head over here, a moved sanctioned by Canada House when Susan was approved as my sponsor...the day after the fire!  Remaining in ultra-expensive Brighton and starting over there simply was not an option.  Susan desperately wanted to come home; we had somewhere to temporarily stay - with Susan's ever-supportive parents - and it felt like my time in Brighton, just short of twenty years, had run its course.  Besides, my mother - never a fan of Britain - urged me to get of the 'shithole' if any opportunity to do so ever arose, so hey, mum, I did it, and with an incredible woman I wish you could have met, but alas...
Our exit from the UK was a six-week blur of goodbyes, packing, planning, fretting, paying off debts and other outstanding expenses, and a ton of other things on our to-do list.  I could go into the chaotic events that transpired in the wake of the fire, but I would rather not recall them, especially such as witnessing Susan burst into tears upon the sight of any passing fire truck.  Let's just say it was a highly emotional, crazy, frazzled and hectic time that, even if paid handsomely to re-enact it, I would politely decline for the sake of my mental health.
The day of departure was one of the most stressful days of our lives.  As we were leaving just before Christmas, Gatwick Airport was absolutely crammed to the rafters with travellers, all about as nerve-fried as each other, eager to get the fuck on planes and get out of there.  For us, leaving our beloved cat Eddie in the hands of the live cargo department was awful.  He was thirteen years-old, not in great health, and we genuinely wondered if he would survive the flight.
After having bid an emotional farewell to our dear friend Shaun, who had kindly driven us to the airport, and his two lovely daughters, we joined the masses moving like molasses through the terminal, firstly to ask where we needed to take Eddie (which proved to be somewhere so far away we had to get a taxi to and from it), then to check in and join the endless queue to get to the departure lounges.  It was absolute hell, and so slow-movingly busy we thought we would miss our flight.  Then when we finally did get on the plane we couldn't even sit together.
What seemed like an eternity later we landed in Vancouver, where after a right rigmarole and rip-off scenario we collected our freaking-out cat, then were scooped up by Susan's friends Carol and Ariane, whisked off to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal at high speed, only to be the very last passengers (and cat) aboard.  It was madness, and not at all how I had ever envisaged arriving in my new country.  It was freezing cold, but because we had an animal with us we had to huddle in a particular area on an outside deck.  The journey to the Duke Point terminal was only two hours, but it felt like two days.
Collected by Susan's parents at this end, we were taken 'home' to begin our new life.  I could relate the events and emotions of the first few weeks and months, but will resist.  I will say that it was a period of unexpectedly enormous adjustment that brought with it high emotion, a great deal of uncertainty, and not a little fear...
...but it all worked out in the end.
As I type I am in my office in our dream home, a beautiful and large house, the basement of which was once a noted recording studio.  It feels very, very right living inside these walls.  We continue to make it our own in terms of adornments and upgrades, and in truth I have never felt happier living anywhere than I do in this wonderful dwelling.  Our condo - bought in 2007, and lived in for five happy years - was great, but way too small for our needs and desires.
We both have work, as well as a wonderful cat, Reggie; a community of fantastic friends that took time to find, and are generally very happy with our situation.  Like anyone we have our problems and situations to deal with, but we live each day as if it's our last, making the very best of our time together and deal with the crap as it comes along.
We have absolutely no regrets.  Moving here, albeit with forced hands at the time, was one of the best decisions we have ever made.  Susan needs to be here, near her family, while perversely conveniently I have no one left, so we have that support network as well, without whom we would have truly struggled.  We are so very lucky in that respect.
A suitcase each, $1,000 between us, and a cat in a basket: that's what we arrived here with ten years ago today.  Now, an extraordinary decade later, in all but wealth we are millionaires.