Friday, March 30, 2012

Mourning the Copper Sunshine

Pocketful of Sunshine - Natasha Bedingfield

I doubt that Natasha was singing about a pocketful of change when she recorded this song, however to me a pocketful of money is a pocketful of sunshine - regardless of the denomination.

The other day the government of Canada decided to do away with the lowly 1 cent copper penny claiming that it costs 1 1/2 cents to produce each one. Well, you would have to be a fool to think that the government is going to do anything that doesn't screw you in the pocketbook somehow. Just because something costs more to keep than it's social value doesn't me we should do away with it. Yes, we are still talking about the penny but the argument is transferable to the infirm, vegetative or mentally incapacitated members of society who for whatever reason cost more money for taxpayers to support than they will ever earn. Let's group the prison population in there too! It costs more to house them and they sure don't earn their keep, especially the ones that are "lifers" - even rehabilitation is a waste if they will never be released! But I digress...

Back to the penny. I am not looking at this issue with a completely sentimental eye, nor the cost effectiveness of continuing with production. For the moment lets look at practicality from the consumer standpoint. Last night the price of gas at the pumps jumped up 2.8 cents a litre, they why is irrelevant at this point, what I want to know is with the demise of the penny will the price at the pumps increase in 5 cent increments? Using the rounding argument that everyone seems to be quoting - 2.8 is less than 3 so therefore we would not have seen an increase? Yeah right! I'm no economist or consumer pricing expert but I am fully expecting the price at the pumps to be rounding to the nickel at all times. And when the oil companies choose to raise the price they will hike by a nickel. Anyone who has the misfortune to have to visit the gas station will know all too well that waiting for the price to drop by a penny is like watching molasses pour. The Toronto Maple Leafs will win the Stanley Cup before the price would drop by 5 cents in one fell swoop!

You know if the government had announced a tax increase, people would be up in arms that once again we will be paying more and taking less of our hard earned money home. Yet that is exactly what is going to be happening. In the psychology of consumerism, stores have consistently been fooling us with the $.99 price extension on the purchase price of good. But when the penny is gone and the theory of rounding is applied - guess what? We are all paying more for everything we buy. A penny here a penny there, it all adds up. And at the end of the day it is you and I who will pay again. Of course, considering an alternative, I suppose that all prices could theoretically remain as they are for once the tax is added the final total to be paid could be rounded. That on the surface would seem to be the lesser of the evils. But would the tax rate be rounded? In a sense it would be for the dollar I spend at the dollar store wouldn't be $1.13 - it would be $1.15. Sneaky tax grabs are worse then in your face slaps.

One other question that really bothers me is the valuation of the Canadian dollar on the world currency market. Will this valuation be rounded as well, or will a final tally on conversion be rounded instead? This could have a significant impact on the trade market and the travelers who convert money on a regular basis. I am sure that there are many other issues that will come to the forefront with time but I will reserve the right to mourn the loss of the penny and be concerned about the economic impact to my financial bottom dollar before I go rejoicing. 

Unlike bills, the life span of a coin is almost limitless especially compared to paper currency. The Canadian government has long complained about the cost of production of the penny. Why? It's not like over the years they aren't getting their moneys' worth of use out of it. As a matter of fact it is because people hoard pennies. Compared to other coinage that remains in circulation, the government is constantly producing the penny to keep up with demand. Interesting phenomenon. The coin which people find so useless is saved like a...well, like a prized penny! And in the short shift I put in at a retail establishment this afternoon, no less than two people refused to hand over their pennies claiming they were going to save them if the government intended on phasing them out. 

Sentimentally, I have a lot of reservations about the loss of the Canadian penny. Albeit a long time ago, having a shiny copper penny placed in the tiny palm of your hand was like holding the wealth of the world. You had money, you were rich. And the joy at finding that the glitter you spotted from afar was a penny just waiting for you to pick it up. Yes, it was the days when you could take that penny to the corner Cow Palace and buy not one but two pieces of candy or gum for a penny. It was a great time to be a kid! People have always been notoriously too lazy to pick up the penny when it drops to the floor. Not I, for when you have a pocketful of change, you feel like you have possibilities. Pennies, nickels or quarters it all sounds the same jingling out of sight and running through your fingers as you wander down the street with a light step and a smile. Especially when I find a penny and pick it up for I will have good luck the whole day long.

Take a penny, leave a penny. I love to see the joy on a persons face when they can use the penny to complete a purchase that they were short on. I like to see the pleasure that leaving a penny for the next person gives. It certainly is a better option than seeing people who have such little value for the effort that goes into the earning of a menial wage that they throw pennies on the ground rather than help their fellow man. If every person I saw toss pennies like trash, gave them to the food bank - I don't think it would be seen as worthless. 100 pennies will buy the same can of apple juice that 4 quarters will buy.

Penny for your thoughts. 
Put your two cents in.
He's like a bad penny, keeps turning up.
Pretty as a penny.
Look after the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.
Not worth one red cent.
Have two pennies to rub together.
Penny ante.
Penny pincher.
Spend a penny. (UK idiom meaning to go to the toilet)

Remember the penny loafer? The penny auction? The penny arcade? I don't care that on it's own, the penny can't buy anything. I will miss it! 

Bottom line to remember is that rounding, however it is done will never favour the consumer - always the retailer and the government. I hope that you will be cheering as loudly when EVERYTHING that you buy and spend money costs more because the penny isn't in your pocket anymore.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Scanning the Oceans with a Sentimental Eye

Sentimental Lady - Bob Welch

If you are in a relationship, God bless you! I hope that you work at it to keep it fulfilling for both you and your partner. But just to put my two cents worth in, if the relationship you are in is not bringing out the very best in you all the time, you need to put some serious thought into changing your circumstances or getting your relationship back on track. There is a good chance your partner is not very happy either. I figure if you are still getting the warm-fuzzy feelings when you think about seeing your partner after novelty has warn off, you are doing well - even if you have been together for 20 years or more. Mutual and self-respect will keep the fires burning at home. 

I am not currently in a committed relationship so the notion of relationships is on my mind a lot. Like hunger but not having anything to eat lol! There are different stages in the needs of a relationship. I do not intend to demean or devalue the importance of attachments other than a heterosexual coexistence, but that is what I am personally familiar with and that expertise will be the focus of my thoughts. Additionally, being female I am best suited to an awareness from that perspective. 

In the teenage years, there is an emerging sexuality paired with raging hormones. We have a need to be with someone and seek that someone out but not necessarily for a relationship that we will hold for the rest of our years. Often just having someone to ease us into the sexual dance and accompany us to the latest and greatest place to be seen! Besides being a sort of right of passage, it is a coveted status symbol to have someone to count on to be an escort at all the major school events. Prom, grad and all the formals. Not scientific research - just personal observation but some of the most successful relationships I know are the ones that began at a very young age (high school) and they grew up together. With dedication and love they grew stronger as a unit instead of growing apart. These are also the ones, that should the marriage fail after many years or upon the death of a spouse, they have a much harder time coping with their new found solitude. They often left their parents home to set up housekeeping with their partner - not having significant time to be on their own.

The desire for a relationship post-secondary schooling depends on the nature of the chosen career. Especially in this day and age, there is a large amount of debt to deal with, so often the career must take precedence over the personal life. A relationship may consume valuable time needed to climb the corporate ladder, one may not be able to dedicate the time to cultivate a long-term relationship. Partners may be more friends with mutual benefits of companionship and opportunity without the need for commitment. They can be called to attend the family wedding or just a weekend social gathering but nothing more is expected. The proverbial friends with benefits.

In the 30's, especially for a woman is a critical time in the hunt for the perfect mate. What has been on the back burner for everyone but the wanna-be grandparents asking too many questions, suddenly becomes a pressing issue. The question of motherhood. Will it happen? And in this progressive society, what form will it take? Not to downplay the important role of a daddy in a child's life, but it can be done with only their initial output. And society is much more accepting of the non-traditional roads to motherhood. Knowing how hard it is to raise children alone, I would suggest that having a partner would certainly make things easier (both financially and emotionally). What surprises me more is that recently I am hearing more and more about the women who are not embarking on their journey to motherhood until their mid to late 30's. As a young dreamer, I wanted to have 4 kids by the time I was 25. Not in a relationship in time, I ended up with 2 before I was 29 and I thought that was old. I worry about the health and viability of the eggs and sperm and I hope that procreating so late in life is not responsible for the increase in childhood ailments that we are seeing. 

You start to find a lot of singles in their 40's who with mid-life are embarking on new relationships. Traditionally, at middle age, the kids are grown to a being more self-sufficient and the parents have grown apart when they put the kids before their own relationship. Of course there are some in this age group who haven't had a kick at the parental can and are still fixated on this option. Looking for a relationship at this age is tough because you are often not considering just the suitability to yourself but also the compatibility with your ready made families and how they might blend. I knew many women at this age who were so fearful of being alone that they had a succession of "Uncle John's" moving in and out of their homes. 

Beyond the 40's comes the question of whether a traditional marriage is a desirable option for some. Particularly, if on has been in and out of several serious long term relationships that may not have ended well. People can get a little gun shy! Like Ross on Friends who was worried about the perception of him and his "3 Divorces". But relationships don't come with guarantees, sometimes you just have to dive in and take a chance. I don't know myself if I want to be married again or not? It will depend on the person who comes into my life, how much I want to share with that person.

I suppose the bottom line when looking for someone to forge a relationship with, what you ultimately hope for is someone at the same stage in life as you. In addition to similar likes and dislikes. With my kids grown and successful adults outside of the home, my personal interest does not lie in "becoming a mother" to someone else's young children. As they say - "been there done that". With the blending of families and many people having navigated several relationships that may have produced off-spring the children in one family may span in age from toddler to young adult. For each individual person, it is a question of determining what you consider to be preferential qualities in a mate.

So where do you find them - the perfect Mr Right or Ms Right? That's where high school was a great option, lots of choices to look over. Post-secondary can be a little more difficult depending on your area of study. Dependent on the nature of courses, you may find yourself in a traditionally gender-biased career choice. Not a lot of males in the nursing program and not a lot of females in the mechanics program, for example. Ah, but with youth comes the freedom and acceptance of the group date attending the meat market at the local watering hole. As you get older, it is harder to find the single girls willing to go on display at the local pub with you in search of the right one. 

But all is not lost, for with the advent of the internet came the explosion of the internet dating sites. And we all sound great on paper, especially when we are the authors! Like a resume, we aren't going to divulge the less than successful job where they fired our butt! How many of us have the experience in human resources to be able to weed through all these profiles and find the ones that could really be a right fit? Looking at my share of them, all I can say is the beaches must be awfully crowded with all these people taking long walks! Quite frankly it is very difficult to describe yourself so that you will stand out from the crowd without sounding full of yourself. In a sense, we are all the same, just people on a mission of looking for someone to love us, to share our life.

One of the very popular sites is Plenty of Fish. It's popularity comes in part from the fact that it is free. According to some of the male users of the site, the other appeal for them is that it is often referred as Plenty of f-ing. Many who are often on there looking for physical contact under the guise of a relationship. Great for the unsatisfied married people who want a liaison without a financial trail that can be followed. At most, it might cost you a cup of coffee to meet someone and if you time it right and she gets there first, not even that! It's cheaper than going to a bar and spending all night liquoring up someone in the hopes you might hook up. Ah yes it simplifies it and cheapens it, but it is a reality in the quest for a real relationship. It is also a quagmire that I waded through with hope and a lot of disappointment. Knowing the vein of thought, perhaps more disappointment on their part for their lack of success. I once met someone who wanted to go for a ride down the road because he said he had never been in that direction. We could take our coffees, drive and talk. Yeah right! I had visions of young women strewn at the side of the road, discarded like so much trash. They all seem nice in the black and white typewritten word, and in the open and very public coffee shop. Who knows what they are really like when you get down the road alone with them?

So, are paid dating sites any better? I don't know, I only know 2 people who went this route. One maintains a successful relationship to this date after 5 years or so. One told me about receiving up to 10 potential matches a day in his mail box. E-Harmony had a very extensive questionnaire that had to be filled out to make sure only the most compatible of mates were forwarded for your perusal. Without becoming a paying member, only the most limited of information could be viewed and no pictures. But the sheer numbers were encouraging so he paid the money for 3 months, thinking if he couldn't find someone with this current statistics in that time, his luck wouldn't be any better with a 6 month subscription. The credit card had barely been validated and the flood of potential life mates stopped like a car hitting a brick wall. Suddenly, he was told that the parameters that he had chosen were too restrictive, he expanded the age range, distance, ethnicity, religious affiliation. He opened himself up in every category except gender - he just wasn't ready for that. Less than two weeks in, the matches dried up like a puddle on the hot tarmac and he was told when he complained that they didn't have anyone else that was a match to him. What a blow to his ego - after a myriad of personality tests, he matches with nobody! Fortunately with the support of his friends, he survived this devastating news and still believes there is hope for him without the help of e-Harmony. There are thousands upon thousands of on line profiles and it takes a substantial time commitment to wade through the weeds before getting to a garden.  

So when you speak incredulously of the person who is "still" single like there is something wrong with them, keep these words I have shared in mind. It isn't easy out there. When society decided to accept the proliferation of divorce as commonplace, no one considered how all the newly single would heal and move on. Worse than a death, there is no grieving procedure to deal with the death of the love and anger of dreams smashed for either the former spouses or the offspring. If you are in a relationship you don't know that the rules have changed a lot and the expectations are quite different now. The bar has been raised and what hasn't changed is probably not known by the same name as it once was. Like a fish being thrown back in the murky water, navigation to the calm waters where you can feel at peace while you scan the depths of the ocean is the biggest but not the only challenge to be faced. Don't let anyone you feel unworthy nibble and never settle. You alone can decide if you want a salmon, angelfish or shark - it's a personal choice. Know what you are after and stay focused. It has been said that we all have baggage and it is important to find someone who is willing to help us carry it or unpack if we are in it for the long haul. 

I'm just a sentimental old fool who still believes in the notion of love, laughter and a life shared with a partner and a life/soul mate. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Look At Me...No Wait Don't...Argh!

Too Shy - Kajagoogoo

The 80's, that was not a good time to be shy! Or an introvert! The big and long hair for both genders, the outrageous clothes (from puffy shirts, over-sized shoulder pads, to mini skirts and tight pants), the make up with bright blue shadow all over the eye, it all screamed...LOOK AT ME! But for those of us who would rather blend in, it was hard. Myself, I wanted to be noticed by the right people (insert boys for convenience :) because I felt in a strange way that could take me away from the sadness and validate me. For everyone going "yeah, yeah whatever" let me explain what I mean. There is a very big difference between being loved by family and friends and the love of a potential life partner. Although it doesn't always happen, family is supposed to love you - it's almost as innate as a mothering instinct. If friends didn't love you on the friendship level, well, they wouldn't be your friends. But a life partner chooses you over everyone else, with all you assets and faults - that is validation in ones own self. 

I have never really considered the concept of introversion and extroversion and how profoundly they could affect your life until I started to see the evidence in my own life. I always believed myself to be a friendly person who just had some fears that had to be overcome. Well, not all of them - some had no impact on my life, like sitting in a restaurant and eating alone. There are a lot of people who are uncomfortable with this notion. You won't starve in this day and age of the drive through restaurant, take-out and delivery. Then there are things I don't like and am uncomfortable with but do it anyway because I have to. For example I am not a fan of crowds, so you probably won't see me in the line-up to grab the latest and greatest must have gadget. But I will be at the boxing day sale if I am going to save a considerable amount of money on something I really need. As much as I may want to go to a party, I am probably not going to go alone or meet someone there unless they meet me outside. I'm a chicken!

But that's just how I thought I was, I didn't see it as a bad thing. People who have taken the time to get to know me will describe me as an extrovert and it is true that once you get to know me, I do open up. One good friend enjoys telling me how she had quite a different impression when she first met me and I for one am so glad that she took the time to take a chance on me. She still gives me courage and hope for she eats in restaurants alone! What most people don't know is that what is perceived as bitchiness or anger is in actuality fear. I have a fear of being judged and to that end I only show my true self to those I feel won't hurt me when I let them in. That comes from being hurt, and in my defense I got pretty good at writing people off and wiping them from my mind and thoughts if I deemed them unworthy. I also thought that was a good thing, but alas another symptom of introversion. Difficulty in confronting people on the spur of the moment - this would also include defending oneself and accusations. 

And that is just one of the serious downfalls to being an introvert. Self-protection from detractors and people who don't get you. Also you don't get noticed, even when you may want the attention. You are perceived as weak and are more likely to be the victim of bullying. You may be taken advantage of by family, friends, co-workers and bosses due to your pleasing nature. In general, people are by culture taught to be wary of introverts who they see as different from themselves. Between you and me, if someone is wrong in their approach to life and behaviour it has to be you extroverts, who simply don't understand the modus operandi of an introvert and so you judge them and jump to conclusions based on all you know - the habits of an extrovert. 

In our society the extrovert is glorified. They are the go-getters, they will be more successful in public positions because they like being with people. They are believed to be friendlier, nicer, kinder. Because of their presence in the public eye, they will be the ones we look up to, admire and idolize. They are more likely to get what they want just because they aren't afraid to ask for that promotion, last piece of steak, the date with whoever they want or anything else. Although on the downside, if the extrovert is ever forced to be alone for an extended time, they have a lot of difficulty for they get their seemingly boundless energy from other people. It is likely the extroverts that you see wandering the malls at the weirdest hours just looking for people to be near. Is the internet chat and facebook talking to a wall, a good thing or bad thing for the extrovert? You are talking with people but can't hear voices. If you are an extrovert...let me know your thoughts. 

Take a Chance on Me - ABBA

You can take your own quiz to find out where you fall on the scale of Introversion/Extroversion by going to Psychology Today Quiz. Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum the only thing I can assure you of is that none of us wants to be alone. Take a chance on the shy quiet one - it may be the best decision you have ever made. 

For the record, if at first I seem rude or elitist, believe me I am neither! I actually fall into a different category for I am not a true introvert. Rather than falling into the 90th percentile of Introversion, I may actually be a little closer to the border line of intro-extro. While it is true that I am happy spending time with me - I am rather interesting :) I also equally enjoy the company of people - once I lose the fear of them individually. Ironically, I had the worst job ever for me. I worked in the school board where every September and new batch of kids would come in. As excited as I was to see old colleagues again and share stories of summer adventures, I dreaded meeting all the new people. Although it was easier to handle because I had the upper hand - I knew I was good at my job, it wasn't a new situation for me and I had allies. Most of my introversion comes from the fear of people themselves and that isn't typical for an introvert. I became afraid of people through circumstances in my life and beliefs that were instilled in a fragile mind and soul grappling with my place in the world. There wasn't a place for me where I would be accepted. Although my personal fortitude and stubbornness blew that one out of the water, the fear remained. What I would classify as the careers I would excel at all are reflective of positions more suited to the extrovert. I am such a paradox! My talents and abilities in the workplace all involve working with people. Although previously trained to work with the members of society deemed different, I volunteer at an information desk and would love to have a reception type position. Walking into a party is a lot different than sitting at the door letting you in. You are coming to me because you need my help. I love helping people - in anyway I can. And if I can make your day a little brighter and you are smiling after our encounter, to me it has been a success. 

For all the people who want to remind me about the conversations I have had many conversations with strangers who are stuck in traffic grid lock with me. It is infinitely easier to allow yourself to be vulnerable from the safety and security of a 2 ton machine with working door locks, functioning windows and the ability to whisk you away and knowing that you will never see that person again. But the extrovert in you knows that he will be talking about you later when he explains that he was stuck in traffic. And smiling...I hope!

I just have one other question, if it is so easy for introverts to accept extroverts as they are without trying to change them, then why can't the introverts be accepted without judgement as well? I'm just sayin'

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Paradise Forever...Lost!

Paradise - Coldplay

"When she was a little girl, she expected the world but it flew away from her reach" 

This song doesn't have a lot of lyrics but the ones that are there touch my soul to the very core. This is a tough subject for me. I have always said that I have talked about it so much that I fear I have begun to sound callous and unfeeling about it. Like Sgt. Joe Friday from the old cop show Dragnet was whispering into my subconscious "The facts. Just the facts, ma'am." But, the truth is that in my solitude and private moments it is still painful and emotional 38 years later. While the rest of the world heralds the first day of spring as the reawakening of the world after a cold winters sleep, I recall the day that my world died. I was living in a paradise and in the blink of an eye it was ripped away and I was standing alone on an island. Forever different and forever changed. 

38 years to heal and get over it. Life goes on, and there are times of normalcy and moving on, there are times when you can honestly say that you have learned to live with it. Times when the tears flow less frequently and you remember some of the happier times. But those times that are hard for you - average girl and average boy - those are the times when you turn to your mother or father, brother or sister for support and comfort. Those are the same times that you might find me leaning against a wall holding myself. Ah yes, the wall rears it's ugly head again. The wall, that I hid behind. The wall, that protects me. The wall, that many are afraid to scramble over. The wall, that gets higher as the pain intensifies. But stop for a moment and consider that my wall has taken the place of the people in my life that were supposed to be there to protect me but left. Left me alone and vulnerable. 

Sometimes when children have bad things happen to them, they repress the memories and live as though the trauma was just a dream. But I couldn't do that. Every time I looked in the mirror, I was reminded that I was different than you. It was no longer the carefree, happy girl I saw, it was a monster who was frightened and who frightened others that was looking back at me. I was in my mothers' house, with my mothers' decor and it was my mothers' presence that I felt. But it was an old lady who didn't like me very much that had taken her place. And when I retreated to the sanctity of my bedroom, my sisters empty bed was still there and she would never come back again to lay on it in the darkness of the night as we whispered our dreams to each other. My confidants and best friends were gone. I retreated further into myself where I felt safe and where the memories were happy. The house, to the ones looking in, looked the same but everything had changed. It wasn't a happy place filled with love. The love died and it would be years before I would see a glimmer of love from that house again. 

38 years isn't enough time to get over that depth of trauma. It was life-changing and just by continuing to live doesn't mean it can ever be forgotten nor should it be really. In times of uncertainty, joy, fear, elation, trepidation, melancholy, dread, excitement - my mother and sisters would never again be there for me to turn to. All I saw was my wall. I covered that wall with graffiti that were the thoughts and words of my life that I wished I could have shared. Why would I want to take it down? Who knows, maybe there were angels sitting on top of that wall watching over me? I love that visual that comes to my mind with that thought! Like it or not that wall is my reality until someone is strong enough to stand beside me and help me see the other side - real love! 

Livia, Linda and Sandra Sdraulig

Even if you have suffered loss, you will never comprehend my sense of loss. Circumstances are different and cannot be changed. The loss of my father at the age of two was not as devastating for me simply because there was still the support of family to rely on. It was hard to miss someone I didn't know. But go back to my wall and look at the make up of it. Upon the foundation of the death of my father there is one row of bricks for the loss of my mother, another row of bricks for my older sister, another row for the loss of my younger sister, another row for the loss of my innocence, another row for the loss of who I thought I was for my vision of self died as well, another row for the anxiety and trauma of a life of love lost, add another because now I was told on a regular basis that I was not good enough to even be. And with every crushing blow of hurt in my life where the pain was to much to handle alone, I added another row. But through it all, I still emerged (with time) to believe in myself and feel worthy and happy. 

I am not judging your life experiences, I am asking you not to judge me by mine. The difficulties in my life today most certainly wouldn't be if I had not suffered loss in my childhood. But not for the reasons that are being put forth! The truth is, were it not for the events of March 21, 1974 my family would be by my side to help me kick your ass! But I don't want to talk about them - for they aren't worth it - but they work for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. And they personify evil. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I-rish I was Irish

Barrett's Privateers - Signal Hill

Nobody does this song with as much passion as Signal Hill, but this is the song that got the party rolling for me last night during the annual St. Paddy's Day festivities, not in Halifax or Dublin but a wee watering hole in Streetsville. The happiest day of the year it is said. And everybody it seems becomes Irish for a day - the whole day. And being as for the first time in 5 years the day fell on a Saturday, people were determined to do it up right. I know people who were in the bars downing the sudsy brew at 7 am - Halifax really knows how to do it up right! Locally, the consensus seemed to be more around a noonish start time. Either way, the popularity of the event seems to be growing, of course it is another way for the corporations to squeeze a few more dollars from our pockets. The displays of the Pride of the Irish and all things green took up aisles in the stores rivaled only to the space given to Halloween and Valentines Day. It's a bit like Halloween because the paraphernalia for sale is to decorate ourselves - Be on the lookout for leprachaun costumes next year! Mardi Gras type beads, stovetop hats and shamrocks - all green and a lot of glitter. But to be authentic it must be Kelly green or the Emerald green synonymous with the Island where it all began. 

In the last while there seems to be an explosion in the popularity of St. Patricks Day. Not just with those of bar age either. This year would be an exception, but maybe it's the time of year that it falls. Mid-March, we are finally beginning to see the tail end of winter and are ready for a party and a celebration. For some of us - get that mirror away from me lol - any excuse to party will do! The bars and the beer companies go all out to bring in the thirsty with promotional giveaways throughout the night, and we oblige by lining up, then waiting in holding areas before we are let in. But we feel so lucky when finally we become one of the chosen to get in, because through those doors are the friendliest people you will meet. More than any other day in a bar everyone is friendly. Like a family - we are all pretending to be Irish for the day. What is gone from the typical Saturday night at the bar is the fake people dressed to kill looking for a companion to brighten the darkness of the lonely nights. People who have no business wearing pajama pants in public are wearing them tonight because they have shamrocks on them. People are wearing "Kiss me I'm Irish" boxers over track pants - they look ridiculous and they fit in. This is not the meat market of typical Saturday night it is all about the congeniality. 

And to that end, here is a little shout out to the Meadowvale gang that we met. What an awesome bunch of people! New friends, neighbours and high school friends all getting along and enjoying each other but still with enough joy and laughter to share with even more people. You made the evening even more fun! I will look for you when I am cruising above the clouds :)


May there always be work for your hands to do.
May your purse always hold a coin or two.
May the sun always shine on your windowpane.
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain. 
May the hand of a friend always be near you.
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

Ireland, is a place that I have always had an odd attachment too. I say odd, because I have no known heritage to the people of Ireland. But for as long as I have been able to remember, I have wanted to go to there - more than that, I have felt like I need to go there. Long before the days of the internet, I wanted to see and experience the beauty of the land and the people. My knowledge was limited to the awareness of the Irish Potato famine and the violence and devastation caused in the name of religion. Yet in the heyday of the bombings, I longed to go while friends wondered if I had lost my mind. The only thing that deterred me was money. I could barely make it across the street let alone across the world. 

Is it the struggles of the people? The harshness of the economic climate? The history of oppression and poverty? There is a beauty that emanates in the words of the poems, the blessings and the pre-drink cheers. There is a romanticism in the names of the places - Killarney, Galway Bay and Kilkenny. The is a depth in the lyrics sung by the artists like Chris DeBurgh, U2, the Cranberries - a richness in the voices that reminds me of the rich green grasses, the rhythm of the waves pounding the shores. 

You can have your Mexican and Jamaican all inclusive vacations on the sandy beaches. I dream to go to Ireland over anywhere else save maybe Scotland - ayi those kilts! ;)

I-rish you a very nice place to live,
I-rish God's greatest gifts he'll give.
I-rish you health, wealth and more.
I-rish your smilin' face were at my door!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Brand Loyalty Only Goes as Far as The Dollar Stretches

Money - Pink Floyd

Commercialism and Consumerism - Loaded topic! Hey, I've heard that somewhere before! lol! I am not a business tycoon and know very little about the subject of economics both nationally and internationally. The range of my actual experience extends from working as an employee in a retail environment and as a shopper. I am actually quite experienced in the latter :) But I never purported to be an expert on any subject that I have delved into on this blog. Just absurdity as I see it.

Monopoly - Not Parker Brothers
To that end, there was a time when all you heard and read about was the monopoly that Microsoft had when it came to home computing. And indeed, they had a product in "Windows" that everyone wanted, and to bolster their success in the corporate world, Microsoft packaged Windows with other programs of their own design like Office, Media Player and Internet Explorer. In fact, Microsoft was sued many times over this alleged monopoly that they had. Or was it jealousy because AOL customers preferred IE over their own Netscape. Face it, consumers are fickle and if they perceive that something better has come along, well the proof is in the ultimate choice. For me, Netscape was great until I discovered IE then along came Firefox. Today I move between Google plus and Safari. I would dump Safari but I don't have that option. And herein lies the problem. How is what Microsoft was doing a monopoly but Apple forcing Safari, iTunes, iCloud etc upon us is somehow different. It seems to me with my limited computer knowledge, that I can play many formats of media with Media player but the same is not true for iTunes. My Media Player library transfers efficiently to iTunes, but iTunes is not compatible with any portable player but iPods and some music is not compatible to even Media Player. I don't care for this double standard as I see it. I also feel that Apple is taking advantage of this marketplace niche by keeping prices artificially inflated. Consider that Apple is only sold in select locations chosen by the company, sale prices are dictated by the company, not the market. Don't get me wrong, Apple as a company can do whatever they want to sell and market their products, my point is that this should be practice across the board. Why should Microsoft be criticized when they play the same game. 

RIM and Apple
Let's move from Microsoft and computers to Apple and RIM. Two completely different products despite both being cellphones. It reminds me very much of MacIntosh Computers versus IBM compatible. Hold on...consider that for a moment. Mac's are stand alone, like nothing else, and not friendly with other home computing systems. IBM opens the door and lets everyone share. I sense a form of racism. :p The point is that for consumers, there was a place in the market for both systems. Where one failed, the other excelled - and that was good. Like humanity, we can fight each other or we can work to complement one another. Mac was great for the design and artistic programs. IBM was viewed as more of a work horse dealing with finances and productivity. Blackberry and iPhone are the same. Blackberry has traditionally been the phone of choice for the Bay Street Suits and those who use their phone as an extension of their office. It was a question of familiarity using the keyboard to respond to e-mails and such. Along came the iPhone and suddenly people flocked to the new kid on the block so they too could have a chance to play Angry Birds. With the wide open touch screen, it was a great format on which to play, no doubt about it. There was an explosion of games in the forms of Apps that could be downloaded for the iPhone. Blackberry didn't have that - they had BBM which is an instant instant messaging service. No delay between the providers. There are advantages and disadvantages to both systems, neither one is better than the other, it depends on what you want your phone to do for you. 

Rogers and Rogers
Going back full circle, has anyone picked up on the market saturation by Rogers. Someday I would like to sit through an hour long television show just to see how many Rogers commercials I would see. The cellphones, television systems, internet connections, sponsorship of special events, publishing and television programming. Now ownership of television stations and programming and home security systems. It is no wonder that they chose to bow out of the video rental market. Quite frankly I tune out most of their commercial simply because I feel overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. Two or three commercials by the same company in quick succession is at least two too many. And most seem a little stupid and condescending "thanks you gorgeous creature". The scene is too fake and contrived. One of their ads though simply boggles my mind - so we will call it ineffective. The one number add, where your cell phone number is used to access all your accounts. Well, in the year 2012, not only do a high percentage of us have cell phones, but it may be our primary or only telephone. More people with access to my home and electronics have my cell phone number than my home phone number. If they have that "One Number" does that mean they too can access all my accounts? How stupid is that? If there is more to the program then that, then Rogers has done a very inadequate job of communicating that with their advertising. And no, I don't really care because I am not a customer of Rogers. And one more thing about Rogers, they would have been smarter to add their name to the Skydome rather than change it to Rogers Centre. It will always be Skydome to most people who aren't paid to refer to it. Rogers Skydome has a better ring to it. 

Pepsi and Coke
But in the best possible scenario these companies can all co-exist and let us, the consumers, make choices on what and where we want to spend our money without feeling like we have made the wrong choice. What I dislike is the general negativity I hear. You like Coke I like Pepsi, but the only time I will force my choice down your throat is if you are in my home. But did you hear the bashing of RIM recently when BBM went down briefly? Did you also hear about the lengths that the company went to in order to apologize to their loyal customers? Now, do you remember when iPhone had a bug in it's alarm? A casual search on the internet will identify that it has happened more than once, with some people complaining of losing jobs over the glitch. All electronics are subject to malfunctions at one time or another, that doesn't make your iPhone better than my Blackberry. Thank you very much. :p

New and Improved! 
I recognize that all companies do it and the more hype you can generate, the better the bottom dollar but it drives me crazy when companies come out with yearly with better and more expensive versions of products. It makes me think that what they put out previously was just junk. Back when the kids were younger, I developed a real sour taste in my mouth with Nintendo and other gaming systems that released new systems every Christmas season - rendering the currently held ones worthless and useless when wanting to purchase new game releases. I have a Sega Genesis gaming system tucked away unable to play anything but the old Pink Panther game that is packed away with it :) 

But wait, this is the premise and marketing strategy of nearly every business in the marketplace. For clothes it is seasonal and we are led to believe that our current wardrobe just won't do - despite the function remains the same. New car models are thrust upon us yearly. But something happened there, it used to be the new models would roll out in the early part of the year on the sticker, now it seems throughout the year new models are unveiled. And whatever make and model you currently own is no longer safe enough or good for the environment. I guess it is what keeps the economy rolling along and us working. But it sure can get frustrating...Brand loyalty only goes as far as the dollar stretches. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Not Suitable for the Easily Offended

Please note that due to the language and subject matter, this is not suitable for younger readers or the easily offended. 

Money for Nothing - Dire Straits

Commercialism and Consumerism - loaded topics. 

First a word from our sponsor...Did you know that in 1984, the year that the British band Dire Straits released this song, it immediately faced controversy. Lyrics such as "Look at that mama, she got it stickin' in the camera, Man we could have some fun", "Get your money for nothin' get your chicks for free" and of course "See the little faggot with the earring and the make-up" had the morality police screaming racism, sexism and homophobia among other things. But in the end it was "faggot" that got the most attention, in order to get airplay, Dire Straits replaced the word with "mother". A tongue-in-cheek slap in the face, since they viewed it as a shortened version of mother-fucker. Whatever lyrics you heard the song in, the video and the song went on to win many awards and topping many charts. 

But the real surprise comes from the fact that more than a quarter of a century later the Canadian government in the form of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has ruled that the song is too offensive to play on Canadian airwaves. Oh how will I repair the damage done to my fragile emotional being for the past 27 years of being subjected to such demeaning lyrics. There is one listener with an overly sensitive psyche is from St. John's Newfoundland who decided that the thrice reference to faggot is anti-gay. How has this listener coped with the song playing all these years? There are songs that I am not particularly fond of, even an entire artists portfolio - do I strike out to have them banned from the ears of every other person in the country? No! I change the station! Duh! 

Isn't the whole point of a democracy is for us to all have the right to our own opinions and viewpoints without being overly-dictated by our elected officials.  If you want to ban this song in its entirety from the Christian radio station or the Gay and Lesbian broadcasts, go right ahead. But the only thing I find offensive is that you are infringing on my rights to listen to music. For 27 years I have been exposed to this song, and I never paid much attention to the faggot reference, the free chicks or the mother not taking pictures with the camera. It's not a new song...or did it just reach the signal waves in St. John's. Seriously, why now? 

Why faggots? Why not Nigger? Why not the song glorifying the abuse of women? Why not the songs encouraging rape? I doubt that there is a "group" out there that can't find a song with negative references. And that includes nationalities, religious affiliations and sexual preferences. Even someone as historically controversial as Marilyn Manson receives airplay on the airwaves somewhere. I've never heard any of his offerings, but Charles Manson has a discography you can research. And yet the Canadian government and one lone citizen in Newfoundland have chosen to spend my tax dollars to ban a 27 year old song with the word "faggot" in the lyrics. Argh!

Still thinking that this all a little much and overblown? Let's play a game: Who immortalized these words in song?

"I'd rather see you dead little girl, than to be with another man"

Incidentally, Sting (from the group the Police) has co-writing credits for the song "Money for Nothing" as well as a cameo appearance as the falsetto lead intro for the song. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Life as an Obstacle Course

How Many (Rivers to Cross) - Luba

How does that old saying go - You'll never understand your fellow man until you've walked a mile in his shoes...With each obstacle I come up against that I don't think I can scale on my own, I feel like I want to kick off my shoes for just a while and walk in yours. I get that everyone (or most people) have walls  or other setbacks in their life, but sometimes it is just too much for one person. 

Life reminds me of a obstacle course. Most often we are making our way from one event to another. We alone get to decide whether we are going to run blindly without stopping to look at the scenery or saunter casually smelling the flowers along the way. More often then not it is a combination of both and something in between. Although we all get to a certain point in our lives where time seems to have passed so quickly that we feel like we went through it at a dead run. But there are times where we must jump through the hoops - so to speak - so that we may grow and learn. Many of us have the same tests to accomplish as part of the journey of life - school, relationships, career - but some have more ladders to climb and walls to scale. And I swear that sometimes that damn wall is greased to make it damn near impossible to surmount.

The Tunnel: Of course, birth was the wiggling through the tunnel :) Don't know how hard I found that event, but I was successful. That is a good start for most of us. Not a lot of thought process necessary thankfully and a lot of celebration upon completion. 

The Tire Agility Test: I see this event as similar to our youth. There is a real knack to navigating this successfully without falling on our face. It is the dance that teaches us the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. But it is about the balance of choices as well, between family and friends, between school work and play. If we can step through as many tires on the left as on the right, we will have good balance in our lives. I think some people never learn the fine art of running through tires because their feet like their egos are too big to navigate them. They spend their lives stepping on people instead of dancing with them. 

The Balance Beam: Contrary to popular belief, it is okay to fall off the balance beam at least once if not more. This piece of equipment is all about relationships and that ever so intricate dance that we must do. It is perfectly acceptable to have a spotter/helper to walk along beside you to catch you if you fall but you need to learn how to be successful on your own up there on that narrow walkway. If you can't be successful in your own right, you will fail as a partnership. As we are learning in our immature teenage years, we often fall off when we have not chosen the correct mate to be our spotter. Getting back on is the key. It seems that in this day and age, many of us are encountering numerous balance beams through the course of our lives. 

The Rope: This is much like our career experiences. Every knot that helps us scale higher is a new challenge, new opportunity, new responsibility. Close to the ground, it isn't too hard to hang on and there are not too many demands made of us. As you ascend it gets harder to hold on and our grip is a little less secure as the competition swings our rope and the stability of our youth is gone. Sometimes we must get creative to find new ways to hang on - or drop and start again. That is another thing that is becoming quite common in this generation. Good or bad, depends on the person affected I suppose. 

The Ladder: We use the ladder to climb up and over setbacks in our path. The equipment we are provided may be the flimsy rope version or the more stable wood or metal type, or a combination of both. Essentially, if we have a support system in place we have the sturdier option - on our own, we are struggling with the insecurity of the rope. The ladder is placed before us in varying elevations. 
What we consider a step stool stool is a tiny obstacle in our life journey. Using the car as an example, this might be the day that your once reliable transportation is not and you must find another means to your end for the day. If you are on the rope ladder, you might not have another option like family to reach out to. A typical 6' household ladder has the stability to protect you and let's say your car is decommissioned waiting for parts to arrive but within a week you'll be back to normal. The ones on the rope ladder  are swinging indefinitely but will make their way with time - but with no guarantee how long you'll be left stranded. Then there is the extension ladder, much higher and a lot scarier. This could be compared to a collision and on that stable ladder we are safer and more protected, there is something secure to hold on to or waiting arms to help us back on our feet. Swinging on the that rope ladder when we get to the top, we fall alone and usually fall hard. Getting back up is more difficult.
The ladder is probably the most dangerous piece of equipment. We all have ladders in our path - it is the height and the construction and of course the sheer numbers of them that differentiate us. Of course never forget that here is an added danger of the foot slipping off the rung (consider that personal injury) and it is much easier to lose our footing of course on the rope ladder. 

The Crawl Under the Barrier: In the obstacle course, the barrier under which we crawl is often a webbing of intertwined ropes. As we wiggle our way through, we are exposed for all to see how we are doing and usually not our best side I might add. These are the times of our insecurity, where we want to crawl away and hide but we cannot. The best we can hope for it to come out the other side and find some sunshine, ever though we may be covered in mud from the journey. Not every one has experienced this event nor will they ever in their life time.

The Tire Swing: This is another event that is not placed in front of everyone to experience. It is the solitary existence. The tire is close enough to the ground that you can get into it alone, and manipulate the movement. In times of confusion it spins in circles. In peace and joy, the back and forth motion like rocking will soothe. In times of contemplation the wind to take it at will. It is a dance you do alone with the added benefit of being partially hidden from view with the size of the tire. It has always been easier to dance alone when it is harder to be seen. 

The Wall: Like the ladder, this apparatus comes in different heights for different folks with the added option of a helper rope for some, making the scaling of the wall much easier. Unlike ladders, walls have no exact footing there is no right and wrong path and the potential to slip is greater. The wall is terrifying - we cannot look at it and think "one step at a time to achieve success." On the way up we have nothing to hold onto and often must make a run for it and hope we reach the top before we begin to slide. Many a time, we can be knocked back down if we don't have enough of a grip onto the top ledge. Consider the wall like a faceless corporation that you have come up against. Just barely hanging on, they step on your fingers like so much hope and down you go again. And sometimes it doesn't matter how many times you get to the top, you can almost see the other side - but hope and faith alone won't keep you stable and give you the nudge you need to get over and not look back. The monster at the top is just waiting for you to relax ever so briefly before knocking you down again. 
Sometimes it is just easier to stay off the wall and look around to see the other side using the safety and security of the wall to protect you. Or build a doorway in the seemingly impenetrable facade and only let those with the right credentials in. Sometimes the wall, it's height, it's strength, it's frequency is just too much. We can't dismantle it, we can't overcome it, we can't bend it...and the more we hit it, the more we hurt.

The difficulty of the obstacle course we encounter in our life is random. It is not dependent on our gender, heritage, hair colour or financial status. Obstacles may be more frequent the longer we live but the difficulty of accomplishment does not necessarily increase with time. Consider losing a spouse to death as a household ladder, losing a child to death an extension ladder. Personally, I sometimes feel like I had a lot of obstacles that were hard to overcome very early in life. Raising my children alone was much like a sprint around the course, encountering hoops that I had to jump through and hurdles that I could overcome with perseverance and sometimes an extra run at it. But that damn wall that I alone built to protect myself when there was no one left to help me through the obstacles fell on me when the corporate monster (read Dufferin-Peel Catholic Board of Education) not only knocked me down but proceeded to throw the bricks at me! I am not alone on this side of the wall. I am learning to live with the wall and even peek around it now and then. I was happy with the wall being there before - I had it decorated so nice, I was comfortable and happy. I knew that I didn't have to finish the race around the track to be self-fulfilled and happy. Sometimes we need to make our own course. I believed in myself and that was enough for many years. All I want now is what I've earned and what I am entitled to without prejudice, further harassment and discrimination because of the obstacles I faced.   

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Looking For Love and Fame On-Line

Barbie Girl - Aqua

There is a disturbing trend popping up on YouTube recently. Whether it is attention-seeking behaviour or just someone who needs some assurance because of a low self esteem, doesn't really have any bearing. The reality is that primarily pre-pubescent girls are posting videos for the world to see and respond to their query "Am I Ugly?" Some of these videos are garnering millions of hits and hundreds of comments - not all of them positive. It is a lot easier for people to say mean and hurtful things to an anonymous picture on the internet when they don't have to consider the ramifications. 

To each his/her own, we are entitled to our own opinion. What I find appealing to look at may not be the same as your choices. So when you question the masses as a whole it only stands to reason that you are going to get both positive and negative responses. The problem here is that these people feel a need to validate themselves in this way. And what would happen if the negative comments out-weighed the positive? What then? Yeah, yeah...I know, I am one to talk...but really the only thing that should really matter is what we think of ourselves. The trick is in finding that one person who likes you for who you are despite the flaws you see in yourself. For the flaws are really just individual traits that make us unique, and the one who loves you for the person inside will truly not see the external characteristics. Outer beauty not only can fade but can disappear in an instant. We must ask, would we still be loved if we lost a leg? a breast to cancer? our eyesight to age? True love must be able to overlook the out packaging that can change so dramatically. And true love does.

I can also promise you without a word of a lie that as beautiful as you are at 12 or 13, you will be equally as beautiful (although perhaps outwardly different) at 30, 50 and 70 years of age. At least to yourself if not a life partner.

Someone needs to tell these young people seeking affirmation on their physical appearance that anything can be created with the right tools. 


The beauty pageants of the JonBenet Ramseys' of the world may have gone the way of the dinosaur in some cases. Gone are the road trips from pageant to pageant, endless competitions, constant auditions, the thousands and thousands of dollars spent on wardrobes, hair, makeup and photos for the portfolio. Keep the money in your pocket and don't bother with the cattle casting calls and agents full of promises and hot air. 

All you really need is a bit of an imagination and a cheap video recorder - even your cellphone will do the trick. Set the stage in your own home or yard, get your kid to do something goofy or say something scripted and download it to YouTube. Then sit back and wait. For reasons I cannot comprehend, some of this stupidity is collecting hundreds of thousands of views. Word of mouth and human curiosity perhaps? But along with all the watching, people are even taking the time to comment and not always positively. The authenticity of some of these mini-movies are being questioned and scrutinized with the eye of a Hollywood director. Frame by frame, second by second. If you are gonna do it, take care to do it up right.

While the parents may have a thicker skin to accept this criticism, it can still be difficult to see people question your parenting abilities or the attractiveness of your children. But what of the children themselves, if they happen to become one of these on-line sensations? They may not have the emotional or intellectual maturity to process not only the mean and sadistic comments but also the positive ones may swell their fragile egos. If you have fabricated the scene, you may have inadvertently taught your offspring that lying and manipulation is okay as a means to reach an end. Stardom. However fleeting it may be before the next sensation comes along to grab the fickle public attention. 

There was a time when all these faux-pas and silly antics where dutifully sent to "America's Funniest Home Videos", but how many clips did we see on there that we thought were scripted? The same has become true of the YouTube downloads. While the parents of the tiny "wanna-be" superstars are watching the numbers roll up on the views and comments. Wait, who are the wanna-be superstars again? The parents or the kids? With the television airing, all you got was a chance at some cash, on the internet you get potentially even more media exposure. An invitation to a morning talk show or the local news, maybe a real Hollywood big-wig will see you and turn your kid into the next Lindsay Lohan. Hold it...Do you really want that?

Not everyone has the strength of character and stamina to withstand millions of people criticizing and watching every move you make. Not everyone understands that what we see in the pages of our magazines and on the screens of our TV's is not necessary real. People are airbrushed and made-up to be what we expect them to be, not necessarily what they are. 

On a more serious note, I hope that parents are seriously considering all the different types of people that might be watching the videos of their children. I doubt they would intentionally expose their babes to the pedophiles and sexual predators that may live in their community, don't make free for view porn for them either. 

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Mixing Melody With a Memory

Drinking Games - Library Voices

"There she goes again 
mixing melody with a memory
She's got a song for everything, 
everywhere she's been, everyone she's pleased..."

Ahh music. My life and my passion. I have a memory, because I have a song. If you want me to remember something for life, put it to music. One boy from elementary school, every time I hear a particular song, I think of him. And I haven't seen or heard from him in 35 years, he wasn't a first love or anything else memorable except the song. I have songs in my head that I associate with people, places and events. Some good, some bad, some happy, some sad. But none forgotten if the right song plays. 

Sometimes, it is the melody and music or the voice that draws me to a song, but more often than not, it is the lyrics. However, that being said: when it comes to a song that is associated with an event it is often neither, but rather just circumstance that welds music and memory as one. But somehow, upon reflection that song adds meaning to the event. Ironically as much as music is important to me and my life, I do not consider myself a musician despite more than 8 years of classical piano training. I would like to be able to play guitar - so I could play some Blue Rodeo tunes :) But other than that, I don't have a real desire to make music...just enjoy it. Music is always playing in my life. Right now, I am being serenaded via iTunes on the computer and if I wander upstairs the radio is playing something quite different. I am more comfortable with the serenading sounds in the background. While the girl tolerates it, it drives the boy nuts when I watch TV with the music playing in the background. My version of multi-tasking :)

My earliest happy memories involve music. Family gatherings when the records from the old country would be put on and everyone would sing to the traditional songs of Italy. The words and music so beautiful and sung with such passion that I was homesick for a place I had never been to. Years later, relatives would ask to be taught the traditional folk songs of Canada and I could think of none except for the songs that originate on the East Coast that speak of the life of a fisherman on the waters of the Atlantic. And that brings me back to one of my most vivid and clear memories as a child of about 6 years of age. My Mom was sitting on the chesterfield and the four of us children were gathered around, learning to sing "Farewell to Nova Scotia". Many years later I would find myself wondering about this, it was an odd selection of music to teach children from Ontario who barely knew the existence of a place called Nova Scotia. I will never know for sure, but I do know that I cherish the memory and I still love the song. Music was important to Mom and she shared her love with us. Across the genres and generations, we heard it all and learned to appreciate it. In fact the earliest birthday gift I remember getting was a portable radio which I still have. While others may have snuggled a teddy bear to go to sleep, I cradled my radio and searched for signals from far away places. 

While there was nothing quite like picking up WLS from Chicago in the dead of the night, it could never quite match the pleasure that came from listening to the truly under-rated Canadian band. While others may have grumbled, when in 1971 the CRTC mandated that radio stations must play 25% of music by Canadian artists, I applauded the initiative. Without it, we may have never learned to appreciate Blue Rodeo, Corey Hart, The Stampeders and the countless other bands that did not want to lose their citizenship to break into the mighty US market. There is something about Canadian music that I find very appealing and recognizable. I have never been able to pinpoint why exactly, but I have often wagered on my belief that a new artist is indeed from the Great White North. And won! With just the expertise of a layperson who likes to listen, I would suggest that it is a depth in the content and lyrics, as well as a sound that is unique in some way, not cookie cutter produced for the masses fare. Consider for a moment rap: when the genre burst onto the mainstream scene, it was quickly followed by dozens of acts all jumping on the money making craze. Bands and artists are not discovered, they are created in the music studio. One artist sounds like the next and for the average person, difficult to differentiate. Not to belittle the genre of music, as I am a fan of Eminem - mostly because he is unique and thought provoking. The music companies want to make money and will go to extraordinary lengths to do so, as evidenced in the formation of the Spice Girls from newspaper ads and Millie Vanilli who had the look but not the talent. One boy band was successful so the race was on to find another. And so it goes. Maybe in Canada it is the thousands of smaller communities separated by thousands of miles that force musicians to develop their own sound uninfluenced by other wanna be artists? Besides the traditionally inspired music of bands like Great Big Sea, east coast musicians in particular have a sound that is like no other. Without a word about the ocean or a fish, there is a maritime feel and unique sound. Perhaps like Jim Cuddy suggested in a recent interview, Canadiana is a sound that comes from the small town experiences as well as big city living. Maybe the purity comes from the relative peaceful existence of the people and the mosaic culture of the immigrants coming together to live on and with the harsh and vast landscape. Wherever you call home, I am sure you can relate this to singer-songwriters from your own country. Ireland comes to mind as one producing many gems! Thanks for sharing :)

"Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast
To soften rocks or bend a knotted oak"
 - William Congreve The Mourning Bride (1697) Act 1 Scene 1

Beyond the passion for the melody, there are other reasons to embrace the medium, as the often misquoted William Congreve stated music can soothe and calm the angered and frustrated soul. Consider the background music played at a funeral parlour, in an elevator, at a rally, at a sporting event, at the doctors office, in the mall. Music is selected for the audience and the intended reaction of that audience - do we want them excited or calm. What do we want to hear at a party? What is the choice for a romantic dinner for two? Increasingly, the medical profession is embracing the power of song to treat a myriad of mental and physical ailments. Everything from depression, addiction, stroke and Alzheimer's disease has seen beneficial effects with music therapy. Indeed this was recently well illustrated in the movie "The King's Speech" when King George VI experienced a lessened speech impediment when he put his words to music. The rhythm and sound of music illicit a primitive response that we have been reacting to since out time in the womb and afterwords with the pleasing coos of our parents and loved ones whispered in our ears. It has been proven that there are 20 areas of our brain that respond to music in both hemispheres - rhythm and lyrics on the left, melody and chords on the right. So if for example a stroke victim has lost the ability to speak which is a left brain function, she may be able to sing phrases for simple communication. People can learn to walk again using the rhythm of music - in fact, some music makes us instinctively move to the beat. The real trick lies in finding which piece of music works the best for which patient, it's all a matter of personal taste and experience. 

Now that you understand a little bit more about how music has impacted and influenced my life, you have an advantage over the traditional medical experts on how to bring me back - regardless of the diagnosis on paper. 

Play it again and Play it loud for it will speak to me!