Friday, 31 January 2014

Photo Challenge - January

The theme of this month's photo challenge coordinated by P.J. over at a 'lilhoohaa is "new". Now I wasn't able to participate in the last couple of challenges so I'm happy to be back for the first one of the New Year.

Speaking of New Year I spent the first couple of weeks of January in Panama. While the so-called Polar Vortex roared to record low temperatures at home, I spent my days on the beach, in the ocean and playing golf in sunny 90F temperatures.

It's all a distant memory now, save the photos…

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Bibliofile - January

2014 is off to a good start. I leafed through 8 books in January. Not bad.

Among the highlights this month was the first book I read, The Goldfinch. This is a fabulous coming of age story that sprawled over more than 900 pages on my e-reader. Sure it was a tad long but it really held my interest and when I rated it on Goodreads I give it 5/5.

Music played prominently this month with Americana by former Kinks founder and frontman Ray Davies and two books he actually recommended in his book - Dusty! Queen of the Postmods and Beatles vs Stones.  I found Davies book interesting and entertaining although it practically skipped over the early days of the Kinks. The Dusty Springfield book was intriguing but I found it's style to take too much of an academic approach. I really enjoyed Beatles vs Stones where the author compares the groups via their musical output and cultural influence on both teenagers and their parents, not to mention each other.

I read some books from my favourite genre the hard-boiled detective novel. Of the three I  read in January I have to say I enjoyed the Rankin novel the most in which he treats the reader to the latest adventures of John Rebus who comes out of retirement and works at a lower pay grade as he solves this most recent case.

Here are the books I got to in January...

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt
Americana: The Kinks, The Road and the Perfect Riff - Ray Davies
Testament: Funny Badgers - Indigo Roth
The Devil's Home on Leave - Derek Raymond
Dusty! Queen of the Postmods - Annie J. Randall
Heaven's Prisoners - James Lee Burke
Saints of the Shadow Bible - Ian Rankin
Beatles vs Stones - John McMillian

Not sure how well I'll do in February. I'll be doing a little writing of my own as I join some other bloggers in a little something called 30 Minus 2 Days of Writing. We'll see how much writing I can fit in.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

30 Minus 2 Days of Insanity

It's that time again. My brother Steve's birthday? Yeah, that too. Happy Birthday Happy Wanderer.  Meanwhile, February is almost upon us and that means another round of 30 Minus 2 Days of Writing - or as some would call it "Pass the Vodka" - as coordinated by the lovely and talented Montreal blogger extraordinaire Nicky Eff. I think the equally talented but not nearly as lovely Cheesy Mike may have a role in this too. They both are the well-known and much-loved proprietors of We Work For Cheese. Although, coming back with another round of this writing exercise they are really starting to push their luck.

What do they have in store for us this time around?

1. Gouda
2. It was no accident
3. Temporary insanity
4. When Hell freezes over
5. The empty bottle
6. Scatterbrained
7. Hint, hint
8. Damn
9. Dylan
10. Zombies
11. Succubus
12. One bite
13. Incommunicado
14. It has to be aliens
15. My ears are ringing
16. Shakespearean English
17. I faked it
18. Liars
19. Tastes like chicken
20. Chaos
21. Yes, I made that
22. It’s only a dream
23. There are things
24. And then she said
25. Social media
26. Naked and lost
27. How did you find out?
28. And then my brain exploded

That empty bottle in prompt 5 doesn't appear soon enough for my liking, nor does prompt 28. These prompts will be quite the challenge for many of us participating. The upside is I usually post about two items a week on my blog. If I write every day for 28 days, that'll take me well into 2015 without writing another word.

Like a lamb being led to the slaughter I have blindly accepted the challenge posed by Nicky and Mike. But this year is going to be different. I'm going to do something with this challenge I've never done before. What do I mean by that? You'll have to come back February 1st to find out.

Be there or be square.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Oil Man Take a Look at My Life

Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll know that Neil Young was on a mini Canadian tour last week wherein he blasted the western oil sands, not to mention the Alberta and Canadian governments. In comments that were widely quoted he compared Fort McMurray, where many of the oil sands workers live, to Hiroshima. Sure that might have been a little over the top but hell, the guy's a rock star not a diplomat.

It was called the Honour The Treaties Tour and Young was raising funds for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation who say the government is ignoring their treaty rights through oil sands development.

I like Neil Young. I've followed his career and bought his records and CDs for years. I've attended his concerts.

This isn't the first time Young has spoken out against things that don't sit right with him. The best and earliest example is the quickly-penned Ohio, a best-selling effort critical of the Kent State shootings in 1970.

The most recent example was his Living With War CD and tour a couple of years back where he took the US government to task for it's role in the Iraq war.

But the Prime Minister's office and others have said Young should stick to music and keep his nose out of politics. Young, in an interview broadcast nationally on the CBC,  responded - as only Neil could. You've gotta love his answer…

Young's always marched to the beat of his own drum.  It's what makes him so endearing, so respected. It's a quality largely responsible for his shifting tastes in musical output, not to mention vehicles to deliver them be it as a solo act, with Crazy Horse or as part of Crosby Stills Nash and Young.

What's different this time is Young has set his sights on his native homeland - Canada. And he's given voice to something others in this country have chosen not to - the environmental mess that is the tar sands.

Some have been critical of Young. Mostly the oil producing companies and the Alberta and Canadian governments. Surprised? They have a vested interest. But he has a right to speak out. Last time I checked we were still living in a democracy in the great white north. And with democracy comes freedom of speech.

But criticism didn't stop Young, or the many folks who turned out to his news conferences and concerts in Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary.

This isn't just an aging rock star. As well as continuing to be musically relevant - his most recent release Psychedelic Pill has been nominated for a Grammy - he's also still socially relevant and has the capacity to make us stop and think about the "issues" in both cases.

Good on ya Neil. I agreed with you back in the day and I agree with you now.

God bless your heart of gold and keep on rocking' in the free world.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Whither The Blog

There's a rumour going around that blogging is dead. I read this on the internet so I'm sure it's true.

Sad, but true.

And last week I hit a new personal low with all of 23 people visiting my blog one day. Of course I haven't created any content since Christmas and that might have something to do with it. And I did taunt everyone over the last two weeks when I sent pictures of the ocean, the beach, the pool, the golf course in 90F Bijao, Panama to all my pals caught in that Polar Vortex. Nah, that possibly couldn't have had anything to do with it.

Anyway, the blog is dying? I mean really? I'm a blogger. I like to blog. Sure I may have creativity lapses now and then but then a brain fart'll come along and away I go spouting off on one thing or another.

And on those occasions I find I really have more to say than Twitter's 144 characters would allow. Or a picture on Pinterest. How creative is that? Sure I'll post funny pictures or cartoons to Tumblr but, hey, I'm not original. I'm posting something someone else has seen, not to mention countless others before him or her.

Instagram? Forget it.

What else is out there? I don't know and I don't care.

A blog allows one to play with words, to lovingly caress the language and take your time nice and slow until you reach your literary climax. Hey, get your mind out of the gutter. I said literary climax.

A blog allows you time to develop an idea, lay it out there, dress it up and send it off for others to enjoy. Gee, that sorta sounds kinky, too.

Now Facebook, despite it's popularity, will never replace the blog. Well, that's my opinion of course. Sure I follow friends on Facebook. I post items. I comment on other people's status updates. And I've been known to hijack a comment thread or two along with my buddy MikeWJ from the great high as a mountain state of Colorado. But after awhile even that gets old.

And what's with the "Like" button. That just encourages illiteracy. I guess it's for people too lazy to string a couple of words together. You know, noun verb, adjective, adverb, modifier? Click Like if you agree with me. Like, fer sure. Gag me with a spoon.

And what's with all the cats. Every day, everywhere I look people post pictures of their cats. Oh, look here's a picture of my darling kitty pooping on my head. Just about. I exaggerate. I've never seen a picture of a cat pooping on one of my friend's heads. Maybe I just have the wrong friends. I dunno.

And food. Why do some people think the rest of us want to see what they're eating at every meal. Why? I mean I wouldn't eat half the stuff I see on Facebook. And besides, I'm trying to diet. Posting pics of lunch and dinner is just mean.

Now if someone posted a picture of them eating their cat that would work for me.

Wait a minute. I think I have an idea for a new blog. People Eating Cats! What do you think? We can share recipes, cooking methods, summer BBQ hints, how to de-fur a feline, what the best cut of cat might be. Wow, I think I'm on to something. I know for sure I'd be a hit in China.

Instead of always worrying about feeding the cat let the cat feed you.

It would be purr-fect!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Bibliofile - December

I normally would have summed up my month's reads sooner but I spent 2 weeks in Panama in late December/early January. So like they say better late than never.

My monthly average dipped somewhat in December to 7 books. But add that to the 101 volumes I'd already read this year and the year-end total climbs to 108 books for 2013.

Highlights this month include finally getting to Outliers an interesting take on how success is achieved. Read it. I'm not going to give it away.

I also enjoyed Inside the Dream Palace, a somewhat historical overview of New York's Chelsea Hotel. The book makes it clear it's famous - or infamous perhaps - for more than the one night fling Leonard Cohen sings about having with Janis Joplin.

And I really enjoyed He Died With His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond. Raymond's name came up in another book I read this month by one of my all time favourites Ken Bruen.  Raymond is a nom de plume for British crime writer Robert William Arthur Cook, known by many as being a founder of British noir.

Here's a list of the books I read in December, in the order in which I read them.

Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell
Purgatory - Ken Bruen
The Gods of Guilt - Michael Connelly
Inside The Dream Palace - Sherill Tippins
He Died With His Eyes Open - Derek Raymond
The Neon Rain - James Lee Burke
Cockroaches - Jo Nesbo

I wonder how many books I'll read in 2014.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Remembering My Friend Donnie

I just got back from  2 weeks in Panama where I was taunting my fellow bloggers and Facebook buddies caught back north in the deep freeze with pictures of 90F heat from the beach, the ocean, the pool and so on.

But while there I got to thinking, "This is where I first met Donnie." Oh he wasn't actually in Panama but on the other end of an e-mail as a moderator for the original Humor Bloggers Dot Com telling me humour was subjective but I just wasn't funny and that my application had been turned down. Turns out, Chelle, the owner of HBDC had already approved my application and suggested I e-mail back in several days to confirm. Donnie didn't know that but, lucky for me,  over the years his opinion of me changed.

Donnie Kingery ran a blog called Beyond Left Field under the nom de blog Red Raider. And it was hilarious. I'm what Donnie might have referred to as a milquetoast, forever apologetic resident of the great white North, and Donnie - from Hattiesburg, Mississippi - struck me as a crusty red-necked curmudgeon and he ranted and raved about anything that struck his fancy and rubbed him the wrong way - but in an extremely humorous fashion.

And throughout the years, just as I left comments on his posts, he left comments on mine, almost going out of his way to tell me how funny he thought I was.

And not only that, he knew about my cancer and the chemo and radiation treatments I'd been through and from time to time he'd send me private messages asking me how I was doing? I really appreciated his interest which was very genuine and heartfelt.

And I learned from Donnie. Did you know former football great Brett Favre was from Donnie's home town of Hattiesburg? No, me either until Donnie told me.

They say friendships you make through blogging and on Facebook are superficial. True, I never met Donnie face-to-face (although I wish I had) but Donnie, through his actions and comments was a very good friend with a big heart.

Unfortunately that heart stopped beating in early December and so Donnie's unique voice - he had only just renewed his interest in blogging recently - unfortunately has been silenced.

I'll miss you my friend. Rest easy wherever you are. This world could use a few more Donnies.

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