Monday, December 19, 2011

The Other Senses

There has been much talk over the years of “the Sixth Sense.” In my past few blog entries (five, to be exact) I explored the five recognised senses known to Man and the Scientific community. However, the existence of the sixth sense is both contentious and compelling.

As a drummer, I have long been familiar and comfortable with the science of numbers; small numbers at least. Scientists have been able to explain weather patterns for generations, and how the moon’s gravity has an effect on our earthly tides, but when it comes to a sixth sense, science backs away, denies its existence, and then tries to justify the bad weather we got when fair weather was predicted. The trouble with science is, they are controlled by popular opinion and government funding.

The “sixth” sense is a slight misnomer at best. It is a blanket statement to describe a number of phenomena; from seeing ghostly apparitions, to “knowing” when one is not alone in a building or room, to “knowing” what the winning numbers will be in a lottery draw.

When my father was in the final stages of lung cancer, my older half-sister woke suddenly one night, (not a common occurrence I understand) to see what she described as our father standing at the foot of her bed, looking at her in a way she described as “longingly.” He said nothing, but just “stood” there, looking at her. When my mother called her the next day, she was not surprised. Mom had called to tell my sister she should come home immediately because it was doubtful Dad would live much longer. My sister came home, spent some time with Dad, and then went back to her husband and children in Ontario. Dad died about three weeks later.

Science would dismiss that as coincidence, yet if scientists were to be as totally analytical and dismissive as they try to appear, they would not even believe in coincidence, since that cannot be quantified either.

A little more than a year after Dad’s death, I was doing some cleaning up in the yard of the house I was renting, and noticed the clouds moving in the sky across the valley. As I watched, I saw the clouds come together and create a formation that resembled Dad’s face. Then the clouds moved slightly, and Dad smiled. Coincidence? Or communication from the other side? Some, perhaps most, reading this will opt to say coincidence, but in my heart I believe Dad came by to say hello.
While on tour in my musical career, I have often been in towns and cities that are unfamiliar to me. Sometimes, I would walk to unwind, and occasionally I would find myself in a neighbourhood that `felt` uncomfortable. Later, someone who lived in that town or city would verify I had been in area where many acts of crime had been committed. There was no way I could tell that these neighbourhoods were questionable, yet something made me sense it was not a good place to be. A sixth sense?

In the same vein, there have been numerous recorded incidents where others, (as well as myself) have left a place, only to have something unpleasant occur shortly thereafter. “I got out just in time.” When asked why they left when they did, that answer can nearly always be paraphrased, “I don’t know, I just felt uncomfortable.” Is this a sixth sense at work?

Many people claim to be able to see into the future; they go by names such as Clairvoyants, psychics, Mediums… they also can see the spirits of the departed, or communicate with them. Often these are carnival attractions or back alley novelties, but there are also many documented cases that are legitimate. The late magician and escape artist Harry Houdini often tried to communicate with his dead mother, finally taking the stance that the Spiritualists were frauds and set about debunking them. After his passing, his wife Bess attempted to contact his spirit with varying, yet unsatisfactory results. Perhaps the most famous and successful Spiritualist to have lived to date is H.P. Blavatsky.

Quantum science tells us that nothing exists until we believe it. Can the spirits of the deceased communicate with the living? Can mortal humans see and predict the future? Can we know when things are about to go wrong? What do you think?

I think anything is possible if we open our minds to the possibilities.

~Still Wandering…

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Art of Touching.

Our sense of touch is a magnificent thing indeed. With it, we can tell the difference between hot and cold, sharp and dull, hard and soft; a myriad of textures.

A tradesman can identify objects simply by touch. A musician or painter often talks about the touch on the instrument or of brush on canvas. A touch can reassure; or cause injury. To a blind person, touch is everything. One phone company even coined the slogan, “Reach out and touch someone.”

Watch a baby. To an infant, learning about the world is an experience of touching; when a child encounters a new object or being, the first impression is to touch it. Children soon learn that fingers and toes operate quite differently, and while it is possible to curl one’s toes around an object and lift it, fingers work much better.

As we grow, we learn the joys of touching favoured objects; that special toy we treasure, the softness of a warm sweater, stroking a cat or dog during quiet moments. Sometimes, the same type of touch can have different meanings. A playful slap on the shoulder is quite different than an angry slap on the face.

I remember when my father passed away, after the funeral, everyone went back to our house for tea, coffee, and sandwiches. A friend of the family came to me to express her condolences. As she talked, she nonchalantly touched my arm, conveying sympathy, and friendship. It was a gesture that brought great comfort to me at a time of immense sorrow.

Throughout the years, our senses decline, yet for most of us, the sense of touch remains not only intact, but integral. Some of us however lose some of our sense of touch as well. Those of us who have used our hands extensively suffer nerve damage, reducing our ability to feel things the way we used to. Mechanics may not have the dexterity they once had. Those who sew, seamstresses and tailors, lose sensation in the tips of their fingers from repeated needle punctures. Arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, tendinitis, and many other afflictions reduce one’s ability to use one’s hands and fingers as in the past. Yet those awkward, injured, impaired hands can still offer compassion, support, love and hope to someone in need.

Go ahead, reach out; reach out and touch someone.

~Still Wandering…

Friday, November 18, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear?

[My advance apologies for the length of this entry]

I cannot remember a time when music wasn’t the biggest and sweetest part of my life. Dad was a guitarist and singer who had spent some time with an early incarnation of Don Messer’s orchestra. He always had the radio on, in the house and in the car. Mom too enjoyed the music from the radio, and could often be heard singing along. The only radio station I heard for years was CFNB in Fredericton New Brunswick, the city closest to where I lived. CFNB broadcast with fifty thousand watts of power, so the signal was always strong. They played a wide variety of music from Pop to Country, Big Band to Polka, religious programming and news… Everything was covered.

In the early to mid 1960s music became more tangible; some students of our school had formed a small band and would perform every Friday at lunch time in the auditorium. The rest of the students would dance, or “cruise” around the perimeter of the room while the hits of the day issued forth from the drums and amps on the stage. It was the drums to which I was most attracted. The drummer, Reg Sansom, was kind enough to share his knowledge, and it was during this time that I began to lose interest in many other things. My drumming career was being born unbeknownst to me.

When the Beatles came to North America and appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, followed by the other Rock ‘n’ Roll acts of the day; The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, Johnny Rivers , etc I was glued to our television set. I watched every act I could see. Our school’s student council brought bands in regularly to play for Friday night dances, which ran from 9:00 – 12:00. I got to see many drummers during my school days and several of them became friends and, like Reg, were generous with their knowledge.

When I began playing in public, all thoughts of having any other occupation quickly faded. I was completely enthralled with drumming and soaked up anything I could learn like a sponge. In my early twenties, I had the opportunity to study from a professional teacher. He moved away before I could learn much and the little bit of knowledge he had imparted only served to make me want more and resulted in frustration. It would be a few years until the opportunity again arose to study. Eventually I managed to learn to read music well enough to teach myself through books available at music stores. A subscription to Modern Drummer magazine proved to be an invaluable resource as well.

As time passed, I began using the knowledge I’d acquired to teach others. It was in this capacity that I met a young Mi’Kmaq chap who was related to the Drum Keeper for one of the Traditional Drum groups in our area. A few short years later, I was invited to co-produce a CD of this Drum group’s music. When the CD was released, I was asked to join the group.

It was a short step from drumming at Pow - Wows to drumming at Healing Ceremonies. I learned the Sacred Healing Songs and participated in many Healings.

At that same time, I was introduced to the works of Peter Kater and R. Carlos Nakai via the soundtrack for the TV mini-Series “How the West Was Lost.” I began exploring other “New Age” music and the healing properties of music, both rhythmic and ambient. I delved into the writings of Mickey Hart and Joseph Campbell. The route began to branch off into religions, philosophies and much more. As I began to explore these avenues, I discovered the Tibetan Singing Bowls and Buddhist Tingshas and Meditation Bells. Music from Stephen Halpern, Hennie Bekker, Suzanne Ciani, Constance Demby, Steve Roach, Paul Winter and so many more was constantly in my CD player. Then Dr Andrew Weil weighed in on the subject along with Kimba Arem. They described how all life is vibration, and sound, as vibration, can disrupt or re-align our body’s natural vibratory patterns. Of course, I realized this to be true as soon as I heard it spoken, and realized also that everything we hear has an effect on us and the way we feel. Realizing the need for personal Healing and Transformation, I began to use music in my Meditation; soothing, relaxing, re-vitalizing sounds to realign my vibrations.

As my explorations continued, I discovered the music of Deva Premal, Snatam Kaur and Jai Uttal.

Sound can also have negative effects. After the end of World War Two, many people in Britain displayed adverse reactions to hearing a siren. The sounds of Industry can cause nervousness, tension and anxiety. I believe that some music, such as Gangsta Rap can incite violence, and of course, there is the “Brown Note;” the infamous note discovered by the Moody Blues that when slowed down, oscillated, and reversed, can cause one’s bowels to move. They wisely have not revealed what note that is, or by what degree it is slowed or oscillated.

When we examine sound and how it affects our minds, emotions and bodies, we must then examine our very words and the effects their vibrations have upon us. Even in joking, many phrases can be harmful. Choosing our words carefully can be a wise move, but many of us are too busy talking to actually think of the effect of what we say.

We all know the effect of sound in movies; it creates tension, pathos, joy, or longing, to enhance the mood of the scene on the screen. This is all very intentional, and in many cases, the soundtrack is available on CD. Many soundtrack CDs are as successful as the movie from which they come.

Besides music, the sounds I prefer to hear are the sounds of the natural world; birds singing, bees, water (especially rivers flowing) and the other sounds that occur naturally and are not man-made.

My many years as a drumset player have taken their toll as well; tinnitus developed and steadily grew to where conversations are difficult at times, awkward on a regular basis. I hear sounds, but not always distinct words; the frequencies muffled and compressed. I recently drove away from a drive—through due to the frustration of not being able to distinguish the words spoken by the store employee.

Whether sound is important in your life or not; whether you are soothed, aroused, frightened, or reverent, sound will have an effect, either directly or subliminally. Take some time and examine how various sounds affect you. Go for a walk in nature and listen, really listen, to the birds as they call to one another. Do you hear silence as they become aware of your presence, or do they realize you pose no threat? Observe the sounds the trees make as the breezes pass through the leaves or needles. Can you distinguish one tree from another by sound alone? There are differences, you know.

Listen closely to the sounds of the voices you hear. Are they coloured with anger, fear, or frustration? How does the sound of a loved one’s voice differ from a casual acquaintance? Do you recognise the calming effect of the voice of someone like Thich Naht Hanh or the Dalai Lama?

No matter what you are hearing, I hope you find Joy and Happiness within.

~Still Wandering…

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Here's Looking at You!

I began to develop myopia when I was about eleven years old. It happened so suddenly, my father thought I was making it up, but after some of my teachers brought it to his attention that I wasn’t seeing the assignments on the chalkboard so well, he decided to take me to the Optometrist.

It was determined that I would need glasses, and even though my vision had deteriorated drastically in less than a year, there was no need for concern. “It happens frequently” my parents were told.

The first few years I wore glasses were a period of “on again, off again” experiences, since they kept getting broken. Because my parents couldn’t just take them to the mall for repairs, I would often go for weeks or sometimes months without them. Walking around in a blurry world is awkward, but I noticed my sense of hearing changed. It didn’t get better per se, but I was able to distinguish sounds with more accuracy. I could hear tires approaching and tell whose car it was.

By the time I had turned fifteen, I had learned how to not have broken glasses, and life settled into a sort of “normal.” When I was in my mid twenties, I got contact lenses and wore them for years until it was decided that to proceed would be detrimental to the health of my eyes.

I value my sense of sight; a gift from Creation that has allowed me to gaze upon heart-stopping beauty.

We all enjoy a sunrise or sunset; a rainbow after an afternoon or evening shower; the colours of the autumn leaves, and many of us have sights that are our personal favourites; a favourite place that holds special memories or brings a sense of peace and comfort. I have such a special place, a turn in the Nashwaak River in the village where I grew up. Sitting on that river bank, my life becomes whole again, the troubles seem to float away, with the ripples on the water. [Check out the attached video to share my bliss.]

Sight can also offer warnings. I have seen movement from the corner of my eye while driving and applied my brakes in time to avoid a collision with another vehicle. I have likewise been able to avoid attack from various dogs, people and falling objects while walking.

Sight can be descriptive: There are people who are not articulate enough to describe something, but can sketch it out and make others understand it. We can recognize our friends from afar by the way they move, or the colour of their favourite piece of clothing, or some other distinguishing feature.

The previously mentioned spot on the river bank or sunrises etc are but a few examples of how sight can bring us joy and peace. I love the sight of a well set table before a meal, even if the food has yet to appear. A well-kept lawn, especially if large trees are integrated, often makes me pause to enjoy the sight. Cars, motorcycles, drumsets, animals, architecture, can all be sources of enjoyment for me. However, these are subjective, and certainly not all examples have the same effect. It is odd how one building or car can strike my fancy, take me into a state of near reverie, while another of similar style gets barely a glance.

The same goes for people; especially those who are revered for their good looks, such as the celebrities on TV and in films. Sometimes I agree with these assessments, other times I do not. Yet, I know many “ordinary” people who have beauty beyond description. In some cases, a person may have no particularly outstanding physical beauty, but the beauty of their personality or spirit becomes associated with their appearance. This inner beauty is often so profound that the external body takes on a radiance that would be lacking otherwise. When such a person comes in sight, it is as if a Hollywood red carpet has been rolled out. The sight of a cherished friend can warm my heart and turn a bad day into a memorably wonderful experience.

Conversely, there are people who we are not overly thrilled to see. Their presence fills us with negative feelings, depression, fear or even loathing. Usually again it is not that they are ugly (some really attractive people still manage to make me feel disgust) but that their personality becomes associated with their outward appearance. Over time, I begin to feel apprehension at the appearance of said people.

Looking into the eyes or upon the face of someone very special, seeing a friend on the sidewalk or in the mall while shopping, gazing at a stunning sunset or a forest of autumn leaves, window shopping for a new car…. These are just some of the ways our sense of sight can bring us pleasure. What does it for you? What are the things you look at that make your heart skip a beat or take your breath for a moment? I’d love to hear from you.

~Still Wandering…

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Try it, it tastes like Chicken!

It is said that if you plug your nose and close your eyes, you will not be able to distinguish between an apple and an onion when biting into them. I don’t have any basis for this comparison since I’ve never tried this experiment, but I do know that when I have a cold and my nose is plugged, food loses its taste.

Science has verified what we already mostly know; that taste is dependant largely upon smell, so since these two senses are so intrinsically tied, it makes sense that they be the first two in my series.

As a pre-schooler, I was a very finicky eater; my mother tried nearly every trick in the book to get me to eat. Having endured many health issues during her pregnancy and being told by doctors that it was possible I would not live, she was determined to keep me alive if for no other reason than to prove them wrong, so when she found the few foods I took a liking to, she fed me those constantly. Over the years, I was coaxed and cajoled into trying other foods and today have a much larger menu than I did fifty years ago.

However, those early experiences have left me with limited flavour preferences. I am known to loathe anything sour or bitter, but recently have begun to accept a few new flavours. The sour of vinegar is less unpleasant now than in years gone by. I prefer sweeter tastes, and preferred such things as peanut butter and jam sandwiches, ice cream, and baked goods until well into my adult life.

It was also decided at an early age that I enjoyed meat. Beef, pork (and ham) and chicken were all staples in our household, and I ate with great vigour. As in many maritime homes, the staple diet at our house was “meat ‘n’ potatoes” with a side vegetable. My parents were fortunate enough to have enough land that they could plant a small garden and grew many vegetables such as beans, peas, carrots, corn, and potatoes as well as lettuce, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers etc. and stored them in a cool room in our basement. This garden was not a health or lifestyle choice but one of finances; it was simply cheaper to grow their own than to buy at a store or supermarket. Still, my choices were limited despite the availability of home-grown vegetables. I really wasn’t fond of them.
There was something about pasta that resonated within me as a youth, and the choice of topping was typically a tomato base with meat added. Today that is still a much favoured meal for me.

In some cases, I partook of tastes simply in order to “fit in” as many teenagers do. While I hated the taste of beer, I drank it to socialize with my friends. I eventually developed a taste for it, but again, I think it was what it did to me that I sought rather than the taste.

Sometimes we are forced by circumstances to try new flavours. Once I became a professional drummer and was on tour for extended periods of time, I would find myself in situations where “eat or go hungry” was the order of the day. In this manner, I learned to enjoy Chinese, Thai, Indian, and Greek food. When my spousal unit began to develop health problems in the late 1980s, we began to look at our diet and made a conscious effort to eat more organic, more beneficial foods, some of which tasted like nothing I want to taste again.

I think we are as intrinsically drawn to the food of our upbringing as we are to the familiar surroundings of where we spent our youth. My father was a prolific salmon fisherman, and caught as many as legally possible to store in our deep freeze. Trout were also a favourite staple in our diet. I can see now that this was again probably financial but it was good food and plentiful at that time. However, to this day, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, I prefer freshwater fish to seafood. It’s just what I had become used to.

While today I enjoy a much wider variety of foods and flavours, I still remember the foods my mother used to prepare. Food can evoke many memories and associated emotions. Food can offer comfort during stressful times, and food can become a reason to socialize.

Bon appétit!

~Still Wandering…

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On the Heaven-Scented breeze....

I used to feel like blogging a large percentage of the time. I’d jot down ideas and later expand them into blog entries. But this summer I feel too private for that. I’ve turned inward and isolated myself (and my emotions) from others.

Part of that is that I feel somewhat unfocused a lot lately, and part is because I think I just put too much “out there” too often. But I think I am beyond that; for a while at least.

At night, many people in this community like to sit in their backyards and make bonfires. Part of this is to make smoke to keep the mosquitoes and blackflies at bay while part I think is the call of our ancestors who used to make open fires to cook food and for protection from predators. (Today the predators are other humans it seems) Frequently, the wood of choice is ocean driftwood, salty, pungent and somewhat unpleasant at times. Tonight however, someone is burning what smells to me like sugar Maple; sweet, reminiscent of the fires that used to burn in people’s stoves and furnaces when I was a child in New Brunswick.

This smell, along with the memories it triggered, got me thinking about our senses and how we use them and so in this entry, I will begin a series of blogs focused on our senses.

Smell, I think of all of our senses, can trigger so many memories, emotions, and sensations. Take the smell of a wood fire for example. Where I grew up, fires were used primarily for heat in the winter. Being a province rich in wood lands, our homes, were heated mostly by wood as were other buildings such as the “shack” at the skating rink where we put our skates on and occasionally thawed frozen toes and fingers; so to me, a wood fire brings back memories of winter with its sounds of snow crunching beneath our feet, the sight of the smoke from chimneys, sometimes laying flat against the rooftops, sometimes rising straight up to the heavens.

I can’t smell freshly cut grass without thinking of our little dead-end street in the early summer evenings. After the final meal, the men would head out and mow the lawns while the women washed the dishes and got the youngest of the children ready for bed. As we grew, the boys of the households became the mowers of the lawns while our fathers did other, more meaningful things, like smoke cigarettes and drink tea. Yet, even today, several hundred miles from that street, I have only to smell freshly cut grass and I am back on my street, in my village, in my family home.

Food smells are also a great trigger. Coffee made in an old-fashioned percolator can nearly always drag me back to my aunt Ruby’s house on a Saturday morning. (It’s odd how a certain smell can be associated with one certain place even though the smell itself is more universal) Bacon and eggs in a cast-iron frying pan takes me to the cottage, affectionately known as “the Camp” or “The Doughboy.” (No idea where that came from) Turkey and the trimmings will forever be Christmas day with Mom and Dad. Apple pie is generally associated with a favourite restaurant of long ago. French Fries and cotton candy are of course a Carnival.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the forests surrounding our village. Fir, spruce, cedar, and pine trees were constant companions and I knew their scents intimately. I knew also the scent of spring, of the earth returning to life after a long, cold winter. I am familiar with the pungency of the decomposing leaves in autumn. The scents of animals; skunks (of course) bears, the wild cats and foxes all hold a place in my memory and even my heart.

More recently is the ocean, and while it pretty much surrounds me, there is one place that comes to mind when I smell the salt air. It is a short walk from this very house and I spent a lot of time there when I first came to this area. It has no real significant meaning to me other than I always remember it as being where I truly came to know the sea.

There can be unpleasant and frightening smells too: The smell of a burning old building, coated in coal dust, will forever remind me of the day I nearly lost my life in a fire that took all things musical from me. The smell of a forest fire still touches me with dread, such is its fury and uncertainty.

Gasoline, motor oil, and grease, all remind me of special people and places. My father worked for many years as a delivery man for Esso, and so always smelled of petroleum products. My cousin was handy with wrenches and always had a car or two on the operating table. Later, some of my high school buddies had less-than-reliable cars and so were frequently working on them to keep them going. Being inside those cars, the smells associated with them were ever-present.

The places I have performed throughout my musical career generally had distinctive smells. Many smelled of stale beer and cigarette smoke, but they all had something else as well. Perhaps it was the cleaning products that were used (there is one that always reminds me of school too) or the cologne of the bartender;

Which brings me to people scents. I can go some places and know if a certain person is already there or I am aware when they arrive, just by the smell of the air. People, even those who don’t use scented products all have a characteristic scent. Granted, it sometimes requires a certain level of intimacy to get close enough to notice, but it is there. I have encountered it during embraces and it is often very much the way their homes smell as well. One home I visited always smelled of apples, and the inhabitants did too!

What smells or odours remind you of good times and great people? What turns you off? What brings up unhappy memories or frightens you? I’d love to hear from you.

~Still Wandering…

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Finally, a chance to catch up…

As you can see, it has been a while since I have posted here on this blog. There are many reasons for this, and while I make no excuses, I will offer a few explanations.

To begin with, there has been little to write about that would offer more than a sentence or two. Since (in my opinion) this would make for less-than-stimulating reading for my readers, I have remained silent.

Another thing that kept me away is a situation that arose within the household. My wife needed retinal surgery and the operation was performed on June third of this year. This required several trips to Halifax; once for an examination, once for the surgery, and a number of follow-up examinations. If any of you have had this operation, or know someone who has had it, you will know that the recovery requires the patient to remain very still for an extended period of time, gradually returning to a normal life. (Although “normal” surely changes for someone who has experienced this) Again, blogging “I put drops in her eye again,” would have bored you all to tears so I didn’t bother. I am happy to report that as of her last appointment on August third, she is in full recovery and “normal” can once again be attempted.

The weather this summer in our little corner of the world has been less than conducive to adventure and exciting things to write about. Rain, cold, wind; we’ve experienced it all with very little sunshine and warm temperatures. Mosquitoes rule the backyard this year, and everyone’s short-tempered and listless. By this time last year, I had over a thousand kilometres on my bicycle, and if I’ve managed five hundred this year it would be a miracle. I’ve done a couple of important (to me at least) rides; The Ride of Silence, which I lead in May, The Heartland Tour in July. I took part in a Canada Day parade with Velo Cape Breton followed by a ride around Edwardsville/Point Edward/Northwest Arm which was fun and invigorating. But besides a few one-hour rides locally and an afternoon of “noodling” around, I haven’t really been out much.

I started physiotherapy to begin re-building my body after a back injury in October. This has only served to verify my awkwardness and reinforce the knowledge that while I am seeing some improvement, it will be an ongoing process, and I am plagued with insecurity and doubt. That I believe is an inherited behaviour.

Finally, Bad Habits have been steady, but not too much really exciting work has come our way aside from the week of Seaside Daze in Dominion NS. That was really fun and we got two nights out of it, the best of which was the Fireworks display on July thirty-first. While the evening started out cool and breezy, it warmed up once the wind calmed and we had a blast (pun intended) playing and watching the fireworks, which was reported to be the best in the CBRM. I have included a picture of myself (as well as a video) taken during that show. It seems fairly obvious that I really DO love playing my drums.

~Still Wandering…

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Copyright and Taxes

With a Canadian Federal election coming up in just over a week, party leaders are all vying for votes, saying what they think the majority of constituents want to hear in order to get them.

There has been a great deal of activity recently in Canadian Parliament by the Harper Conservatives, attempting to bring Canada’s copyright laws into parity with those of the U.S. There are rumours from both the Conservatives and Liberals, led by Michael Ignatieff, that a tax or surcharge will be added to such devices as iPods, iPhones, MP-3 Players etc. There is already a tax on recordable media such as blank CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes and so on.

What I’d like to address today is the inherent unfairness and inequality of such a tax.

While I can understand the notion of compensation for the creators of written, recorded, and televised works, I cannot buy the idea that copyright laws and taxes protect the “artists.” To understand what I mean by this, let’s look a bit deeper into the matter.

I, as a drummer, am considered to be one of these artists; a title I wear willingly and with a certain measure of pride. I have performed onstage and on recordings with a vast array of other artists, some of whom are household names, and intend to do so again for a number of years. But if copyright laws and taxes are to ensure the artists receive compensation, I am here to assure you that they do not!

The truth of the matter is that when I perform onstage, I get paid for the performance. Period! Putting this in perspective, I began learning my craft at about 10 years of age. I learned consistently for many years by observation, asking questions, and eventually paying for lessons. I’ve put a lot of time into honing my craft, practising for many hours every day for years, all unpaid. On days when I perform, I make sacrifices so I will have adequate time and energy to get to and play at the gig. I arrive at least an hour before start time and stay a half hour after we finish in order to set up and pack away my drums. Our gigs last for an average of four hours and I arrive home at sunrise and as a result the following day is generally lost to me as well. For all this, I receive a sum of money that many people earn in a couple of hours.

In the recording studio it is a bit different but often not much better financially. Generally in the studio, the days are long, (often ten to twelve hours) and the sessions frequently take three to five days. Again, for this, I am paid generally fifty percent more than I receive for a live performance. Note: Once I am done with both the onstage performances and the recordings, there is no further compensation for me or many other band members. Why is this? Simply because copyright laws cover “intellectual properties,” meaning the person who came up with the idea (lyrics, music, concept etc.) is the person to whom the money is sent, and then only if they belong to an organization that ensures they receive said money.

For example, in 1994 I was involved in a recording where I added a line to a song. According to copyright laws, I am entitled to financial compensation every time a copy of that album is sold, but because I am not a member of SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) there is no way of them even knowing of my contribution. Considering that I am not likely to ever become known as a songwriter, and considering that my lyrical contribution to that one song was just that; one time; there is little sense in me belonging to SOCAN or any other such organization.

So, now that I`ve established how the copyright laws DO NOT protect artists, let`s look at tariffs, taxes, and surcharges on recording and storage media.

While conceptually, these things can be, (and frequently are) used to copy already existing works, as in the case of borrowing a CD or DVD and making a copy of it, (thereby circumnavigating a sale) they can also be used to store one`s OWN works.

For example, if Canadian author Margaret Atwood writes a novel and wishes to give a copy to her publisher, it would make sense for her to copy the text to a CD and deliver it that way, rather than to print it off onto “hard copy;” real paper. A songwriter who is looking to be published or wants to submit his/her works to famous performers in the hope that said works will be recorded, will submit said works on a CD. If I shoot a video on my camcorder and want to share it with my friends or family, I can burn it to DVD copies and send them to members of my family and friends.

In all these cases, no copyright laws were broken and yet we are being charged extra “hidden” taxes (something the Canadian GST was supposed to eliminate) in the form of surcharges for the CDs and DVDs we buy for these purposes. This money then goes in small part to the writers, of songs, books and screenplays, but in large part to the distributors of recorded, printed, and filmed works, and in NO WAY back to me for the home video I shared.

Let me make this a bit more clear. If I write a song, and have my band record it, and SONY CANADA distributes it to all the “record stores” in Canada, I will receive a small percentage of the sales, my band will receive nothing, (unless I decide to share with them) and SONY will receive the largest percentage of the monies received through sales. Therefore, when you make a copy of that CD for your cousin, I will lose pennies, my band will lose nothing, but SONY will lose dollars! How is this fair to or in any way protecting the artists?

Additionally, many products that are released onto the market today have “anti-copy” software embedded that makes them work only in the first device into which they are inserted. In other words, if you buy a CD, and play it in your car on the way home, then take it into the house and try to play it in your Home Theatre system, it will not play. It turns out there is a detection device implanted that will recognize only your car stereo. A friend of mine took a CD into work and tried to play it in his work computer only to have that computer freeze and fail to work again until he reformatted the hard drive. Is that really fair? He BOUGHT the CD, was not attempting to copy it, and had he not been computer savvy, would have lost a lot of work-related information when the computer crashed.

I do not really care how you choose to vote on May 2, but I ask you to be aware of the insidious, underhanded legislations being negotiated today in Canada and how those legislations will affect you and your fellow Canadians. Ask questions of your candidates. Hold them accountable for the actions of Parliament. After all, you and so many other Canadians are paying their salaries. Do not let Canada become a cheap knockoff of the insane activities we see to the south.

~Still Wandering...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ride of Silence

I began cycling as a seven year old when my father bought me a second-hand CCM from another boy in the village. Between that time and the time I turned fourteen, I probably had another four bikes. Some I outgrew, while others I didn’t take care of properly, resulting in their early demise.

When I became a musician in the early ‘70s, cycling was left behind as the behaviour of a child. However, it was only for a year or two since ten-speed bicycles were becoming the rage among young adults for a number of reasons.

First, they were inexpensive to operate, using no gas and requiring no expensive insurance, registration, and parts.

Secondly, they were environmentally non-threatening, and the environmental movement was beginning to gather momentum. I had to do with a three-speed that I bought second-hand since I couldn’t afford a true ten-speed at that time.

When I moved to the city after high school, I was able to buy a ten-speed, and became a “cyclemuter,” choosing to ride as much as possible instead of driving the car. In this way, I was able to explore the city at a slower pace, and get to places the car was unable to go.

I continued to ride until the early ‘80s when that old ten-speed was stolen, and I was financially unable to replace it.

In 1993, I bought a mountain bike; ill-fitting and heavy, but I rode it until I lost it in a fire in 1997. Again I stopped riding until I bought a second ten-speed at Value Village in 2001. I managed to get a summer out of it and inherited another mountain bike the following spring.

Finally, in 2008, I purchased a Norco Mountain bike from Framework Cycles and Fitness in Sydney NS. I rode that bike as much in the following year as I’d ridden altogether since 1997. Finally in the spring of 2010, I bought a Devinci road bike.

Built with the dropped handlebars and sleek design of my earlier ten-speeds, but with a lighter frame and better gearing system, this machine was ... IS, the one I’ve waited my whole life to ride.

One of the most important issues for me is bicycle safety. I’m not sure why, but motorists seem to have a grievance against cyclists over fifteen years of age. As long as you’re a child on a bike, you are not discriminated against, but as soon as you’re old enough to drive a car, you’re expected to not ride a bike. That to me seems ludicrous, and Velo Cape Breton as well as many other clubs, both formal and informal are proof of this.

While doing an internet search one evening looking for safety tips, I came across the Ride of Silence, and was immediately drawn to it. “This is something that makes a very clear statement, without saying a word,” I thought. I brought it to the attention of Velo Cape Breton’s Jacques Coté, and asked if it was something he thought should be looked at for this area.

Fast forward to early May 2010, and Jacques had taken it upon himself to have a Ride of Silence organized and advertised. As soon as I was aware that it was proceeding, I e-mailed all my friends and talked it up as much as I could. The ride drew over sixty riders of all age groups and from every walk of life and riding style, from casual infrequent riders to hardcore racing/triathlon riders.

This year’s ride will take place on May 18th beginning at 6:30 PM at the Sydney River Superstore, 1225 King’s Road Sydney River NS. Riders will proceed along King’s Road, to Townsend Street, turning right and proceeding to the intersection at George Street. At George, the procession will turn left and follow George St to its Northernmost end. The procession will then turn left onto Ortona, left again onto Esplanade and proceed to the Civic Centre, 320 Esplanade, where there will be a public assembly.

After the assembly, additional riders who are not inclined to travel the entire distance will join the main ride for another loop around the downtown area, from Townsend to Ortona and back to the civic centre where the main group will continue on the return to the Superstore.

The Ride of Silence occurs on the third Wednesday of May annually. Riders ride single file, at a slow speed, (maximum 20 km/hr) in complete silence. International Ride of Silence organizer, Chris Phelan in Dallas Texas asks us to treat it as a funeral procession in order to keep everything in perspective.

I encourage everyone to show your support for this cause by either riding with us, or by attending the assembly at the Civic Centre. It won't take much time out of your day, and it will be a great step in bringing attention to cycling and increasing safety for us all.

~Still Wandering (this time on two wheels)...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Help Japan.


I met this guy through a mutual friend. His appeal for help in Japan is both personal and touching. Help if you can, but if you can't help, leave a comment or sent me a message which I'll pass along to him. As he says, "They need something to tell them that life's gonna be okay."

Thank you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

End Times?

With the recent devastating earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan, as well as last year’s event in Haiti, it is easy to believe that we are in our final days. Add the predictions of Nostradamus and the Mayan calendar which “runs out” on the winter Solstice of 2012, and it seems almost a certainty.

I think however that the sudden annihilation or destruction of our planet is quite far-fetched. Cataclysmic events are not new to this chunk of rock with life upon it; going back to the extinction of the dinosaurs we can see that life forms exist, cease to exist, and new ones come to be. If the predicted asteroid collision becomes a reality, life will still exist on Earth, and our technological advances will ensure that at least some humans will survive.

Theories abound as to just how our end will come about. Some say we will be hit by the before-mentioned asteroid, others say sun-spot activity will knock out our electrical grid and leave us defenseless against the elements. Still others think it will be a more esoteric event.

Owen Waters, author of “The Shift” has said that while an end is coming, it is an end to a destructive way of thinking. He believes that our destructive habits; mining, cutting of the rainforests, pollution of our air and water, will come to an end as human values shift from material wealth to spiritual enlightenment.

That seems to be something to look forward to.

But what of all these earthquakes and tsunamis? Surely there must be something to that?

While it might seem there is an increase in the frequency of these events, and that the severity also seems to be increasing, we have all heard rumors, and conjecture that “the big one” is coming. I’m well into the advanced stages of middle age and I’ve been hearing of this impending doom my entire life. I don’t think there are more earthquakes and volcano eruptions than in the past, but that we are more informed about them. CNN, CBC News Network, and CTV News Channel broadcast images 24/7 for the morbidly curious. While it can be said that the tremors are tipping the Richter scale with higher numbers than in recent history, evidence shows that in the past there were equally large quakes and tsunamis, and yet we are here.

While it might seem we are safe here in Atlantic Canada, I remember in the early 1980s waking up to feel my apartment shaking, and there were at least two aftershocks that day. More recently, there was another earthquake in the same area, albeit a mild one.

However, we are not completely out of danger. The entire surface and sub-surface of our home planet is in a constant state of flux, not just in the Pacific region but all over. In fact, a few years ago I saw a show on television which explained how part of the topography of western Nova Scotia was once in Africa!

With evidence like that, how can anyone possibly believe we are safe from anything?

~Still Wandering...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

How Our Technology Has Let Us Down...

In the mid-1980s, I was on tour with a young woman singer from Brampton Ontario. As is the custom of most musicians, the first day I had free after arriving in a new town, I would go to the local music store to see what was in stock. At each and every store, I would see one or more sets of Simmons electronic drums which were the rave at the time and the only electronics available back then. I was not a fan of them and, being as vocal as I am with my opinions, voiced my preference for traditional acoustic drums. The arguments I heard in favour of the electronics ranged from, “The sound man has more control” to “They’re so easy to record” to “They’re always in tune.” All valid points, I must concede, but all refutable as well.

Those discussions though, were a great insight into the way non-drummers saw us; those of us who hit things with sticks. At first I was offended by these statements, but I began to look at them for what they were; the truth as seen from the perspective of others.

Then I began to look at why others had that perspective.

Could it be that they had encountered so many drummers who could not play softly? Surely that was true in some cases, but if we go back far enough, pre–Rock and Roll, we can find all sorts of examples of drummers who could play with fiery intensity and be barely heard, and then unleash a barrage that would frighten the hounds of Hell back to their lair.

And what about electronics being easier to record? By today’s standard, I would have to say yes, they are. Set up the pads, connect them to the module, connect the module to the mixing board, and lay down the tracks. No microphones to put up, no experimenting with placement, no time lost. I can only assume that applied to those earlier pads as well, and today’s pads and modules are much better.

But they aren’t infallible. If the module goes down, the whole drum kit is gone. If in an acoustic drum situation, a microphone goes south, it can be replaced quickly and easily.

Which leaves us with tunability. Electronic instruments rely upon circuitry to provide the sounds we desire. If we don’t like a certain sound, we tailor the module to compensate. If we want higher or lower tone, the module can do that. If we want pitch bend or overtones, the module can do that.

Finally, there’s the actual recording studio of the twenty-first century. Gone are the days of huge rolls of tape and reel-to-reel recorders. Today, it’s all digital, using computer software programs such as ProTools or Adobe Premier Pro. These programs allow the engineer to “go in” and move sounds to make them more metronomically correct, or to duplicate them so the same part can be used in another section of the song. It is possible that the piano or guitar player on your favourite song did not play completely from start to finish, but played a verse and chorus that were then duplicated as many times as necessary to get the finished product.

Recently, I was listening to some demo tracks one of the students at McKenzie College was working on. He was explaining how he still had to go back and electronically repair some timing inconsistencies. I asked why he didn’t just play it right when he recorded it.

Which brings me to the point of this blog: We depend too much on the technology that was designed to assist us. Many drummers today do not know how to tune their drums or play with dynamics; they believe it’s up to someone else to “fix it in the mix.” Vocalists don’t have to sing in key; pitch bend takes care of that. Timing isn’t important anymore; that can be quantized.

Music today isn’t being made by musicians, but by studio technicians.

Another way our technology is letting us down is in the area of social media.

WHAT? The Lonster is dissing Twitter and Facebook? E-mail? Sup wit dat?

Well, I’ll tell you, but before I do, please let me reassure you, I am not dissing them, I’m simply pointing out how they can be abused and unhelpful; possibly even harmful to the relationships they were designed to enhance.

I often find statements made, words “spoken” in e-mails of on social forums are misunderstood, taken out of context, or completely confusing to myself or others. There is something, ... dare I say “sacred,” about person-to-person conversations wherein we can draw upon such additional information as body language, facial expression, or eye contact. A straight-to-the-point “What do you mean?” can set things straight immediately if necessary.

Now, I’m not advocating we give up our computers, blackberries, or even paper and quill, but I DO suggest getting out and having conversations with friends and family over dinner or coffee as often as possible. Time shared this way is time that will lead to great memories and stronger friendships or family bonds. Time spent this way will be the topic of future conversations, either real or on the virtual plane.

Time spent this way will never be wasted...

~Still Wandering…

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mid-Winter Ramblings...

I’m restless.

Today is February 16, just a week and a half from March, or as a friend pointed out today, “Just 26 days from daylight saving time!” As I sit here at my computer, the sun shining through the window feels extremely hot, a total contradiction to the severely cold wind chill outside.

When I began blogging, I created a word document where I could keep my ideas for future blogs and work on them until they were completed. In some cases this has been successful while in other cases it just sucked. But here on this day, when it’s really too cold to go snowshoeing or play with stuff in the garage, and I can’t seem to concentrate enough to read, I thought I’d compile some of those ideas into a more complete state and share them with you.

Following up on a previous post’s theme of Meditation, serendipity has once again come to visit, and slap me into awareness.

Since that post was added to my blog, it seems every magazine I read, every internet forum, every You-Tube video, has had some reference to Meditation. I’ve been on this planet long enough to know that when these things happen, I’m supposed to pay attention!

Before Christmas, probably as early as October or November, I had come across a series of You Tube videos about the life of Jazz drummer Jerry Granelli. I met Granelli once several years ago when he performed in Sydney NS. While his drumming was beyond anything I’d witnessed in person, he was an extremely humble and gracious man. At the time I met him, and for several years after, I had no idea of his enviable history.

Jerry is also known and admired by my friend Roger Strange whom I have looked up to since I met him in 1985. Roger also has an enviable history dating back to the late 1950s. He has worked and studied with an impressive line of big names and has many amusing anecdotes which he is more than happy to share over coffee or on breaks when he performs.

Through our discussions of drums and drummers, Roger has been a great source of education to me. I have learned the essence of drumming “in the moment,” to play spontaneously, reacting to the stimuli surrounding us. I began to wish I had more opportunities to play Jazz, to have the freedom of spontaneity. The kind of music I play is quite structured, the patterns well-known to all musicians and audience alike. There is little freedom for improvisation.

Zen is like Jazz; there is no time other than this micro-second known as “now,” and even in the process of saying it, it is gone. Zen teaches that life cannot be planned. While one can prepare for possibilities and/or eventualities, life is seldom that simple, and situations and people change and with those changes our plans must also change.

Life also cannot be changed after the fact. That’s generally a “given” in our society where statements like “you can’t change the past” become so commonplace, we often don’t stop to recognize the inherent wisdom in them.

Remembering back to the day I saw Granelli perform, I was carried away by the way he played. He did not try to recapture past moments through repetition, nor did he “set up” the moments yet to come... he played, eyes closed, head back, so completely in the moment; a part of it.

It was during an e-mail conversation with Roger that I was reminded that within the restrictions of the songs I play, there is plenty of room to play in the moment; the fills I play at the end of verses and choruses, the extra long intros when a vocalist isn’t prepared to start on time, the additional chorus or guitar solo when the crowd is really into our music... Yeah, I play Rock music with a Jazz attitude; flexible, in the moment.

Part of today’s restlessness is the sunshine making me miss my bicycle. As you know, I am quite passionate about that; I’d say it comes second only to my drumming.

I had become involved with Velo Cape Breton in late 2008, just before I bought my Norco Mountain bike. I knew right away I needed the structure of a club to keep me motivated and the educational value was priceless. I proceeded to take Can-Bike 1 and 2 courses, and am planning to go for my instructor’s certification as soon as practically possible.

One of the most important issues for me is bicycle safety. I’m not sure why, but motorists seem to have a grievance against cyclists over fifteen years of age. As long as you’re a child on a bike, it's acceptable, but as soon as you’re old enough to drive a car, you’re expected to not ride a bike. That to me seems ludicrous, and Velo Cape Breton, as well as many other clubs, both formal and informal, is proof of this.

While doing an internet search one evening looking for safety tips, I came across the Ride of Silence, and was immediately drawn to it. “This is something that makes a very clear statement, without saying a word,” I thought. I brought it to the attention of Velo Cape Breton’s Jacques Coté, and asked if it was something he thought should be looked at for this area.

Fast forward to early May 2010, and Jacques had taken it upon himself to have a Ride of Silence organized and advertised. As soon as I was aware that it was proceeding, I e-mailed all my friends and talked it up as much as I could. The ride drew over sixty riders of all age groups and from every walk of life and riding style, from casual infrequent riders to hardcore racing/triathlon riders.

This year’s ride will take place on May 18th beginning at 7:00 PM at the Sydney River Superstore, 1225 King’s Road Sydney River NS. Details will be coming forthwith, but we are clearly still in the initial stages at this point.

Finally for today, my thoughts turn frequently to my friends of the late ‘90s; friends with whom I would meet at a local coffee shop and discuss several topics for hours on end. We seemed to create a “learning vortex” within our circle; they, still in University with their minds alive and on fire, I with my many years experience in “real world” activities, and our mutual interests and open-minded desire to know more about everything. We shared knowledge and all became better for it.

I miss those friends a great deal. The human mind needs stimulation, and becomes weak, stagnant without it. This is what we gave each other; often expressing several points of view and sifting through the facts and fantasy to find mutual ground. With these young brilliant minds no longer here, I sometimes feel isolated and alone. Thank the Deities for the internet which allows us to stay in touch and occasionally have those deep meaningful conversations again.

So I send shout-outs to Mike, who is now a Friggin’ PHD in Edmonton. I love you my Brother, and your beautiful wife too. To Bobbi, who is closest geographically, in Dartmouth, letting old dogs teach her new tricks as it were. I will never forget the night of February 14, 1997, when you kept me laughing for hours and then held me when I could no longer hold back the tears. I love you with a grateful heart. Kevin, the funny one; you made us ALL laugh and found ways to point out the absurdity of taking things too seriously. I am happy your new life in Japan is rewarding and fulfilling. Together with your lovely wife and incredibly cute little son, I know you will continue to see the lighter side of the Human existence. Finally, to Tony, the Departed one... Your curiosity, wisdom, and incredible capacity to embrace life showed us all that life is indeed to be embraced for in the end it is all too short. Rest in Peace Tony; we love you still. Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti...

I love all of you for the friendship you have given me and allowed me to return to you.

~Still Wandering…

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Honouring our choices...

This time of year, things begin looking a bit bleak and drab. The grass is brown and the trees are dark gray. Some of the trees have suffered broken limbs from the high winds, while others, in wet ground, have been pushed over; their roots no longer held fast by dry ground. When there’s snow, it has a layer of coal dust on its surface, adding to the drabness of the winter.

Going into Glace Bay or Sydney, the debris on the side of the roads adds to the sense of neglect; the residue of salt turns the road’s surface a dirty white, empty coffee cups, cigarette packs, and fast food wrappings litter the side of the highway.

It was from this mind-frame that I found myself retreating earlier yesterday. I had my MP-3 player and ear buds with me and I decided to take solace in my musical medication. I had received my pay from one of my teaching jobs and it didn’t seem to be very impressive and I could feel myself slipping into despair.

I have always used music to enhance, alter, or even distort my experiences and moods, and yesterday, I was rather delighted to find the music that came on was that of Idan Raichel, a young Israeli musician who is known for his collaborations with musicians of other nationalities and religious backgrounds. I had become aware of him when a friend of mine sent me a You Tube video of his collaboration with India.Arie.

This made me think of another artist I had discovered on You Tube as well. (I sometimes have these “Domino” moments where one thought will lead to several other similar ones.)

At any rate, I began to think of all the wonderful music that I have heard in my life, and the comfort it has given me in times of emotional discomfort, and for a moment I felt connected to the musicians who created that music.

I know on some deeper level that I am connected to them. It is a fallacy of western culture that we are all separate; Man separate from God, Man separate from Woman, Man separate from other men of other cultures, white separate from black, and so on... but Eastern cultures and ancient ones, from the Druids to the Indigenous peoples of all continents, believed in the interconnectedness of all life. It stands to reason that if all we know and experience is derived from that pivotal nanosecond we know as the Big Bang, then we would all be connected to that; evolved from that, a part of that.

As the ethereal sound of the music carried me away from the drabness of a Cape Breton January, I allowed it to carry me back to the peace and tranquillity of a late January afternoon in Cape Breton.

A year ago, I was settling in, returning from Fredericton where I had hoped to live out my days. In the time since then, I have at times laboured with my decision to return, at other times rejoiced.

As I sit here in the semi-darkness, the room lit by the computer screen and the streetlamp outside on my driveway, I am gripped by the familiarity of this place. I have lived in this house for twenty-two years this spring, longer than I have lived in any other place. It has been as much a part of my life as was the house my parents built. What I see from my window is actually more familiar than the view from the windows of my first home.

The song that was featured in the You Tube video my friend sent me spoke the line, “We can debate till the end of time who's wrong and who is right, Or I can honour your choices and you can honour mine.“

... And I can also honour my own choices.

~Still Wandering...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Two Minutes to a Quieter Mind.

Yesterday, a good friend and frequent cycling partner sent me a link to a website that quite surprised me. When the site loaded, I saw a beautiful image of a sunset over an ocean, accompanied by the sound of waves and sea birds. A digital clock began counting backward from 2:00, 1:59, 1:58...

“Do nothing for two minutes...”

I don’t think ten seconds had passed when I began counting along, barely able to wait until two minutes had passed. 1:10, 1:09, 1:08...

I had been introduced to Meditation several years ago by more than one friend at roughly the same time. The serendipity of that was enough that I took a closer look at the idea. Some suggested lighting a candle and focusing on the flame; others suggested listening to soothing music. I tried them all. I looked into various Meditation techniques, from following my mind’s wanderings, (without trying to control the thoughts that arose) to pushing those wanderings away and vowing to deal with the things that came up at a later time.

I discovered that by following my mind’s wanderings, I made many discoveries about my mind and the way it works. It “took me places” I would not ordinarily go in terms of the kinds of thoughts I would have during that time. By attempting to hold thoughts away, and focus only on my breathing, I became aware of the influx of thoughts and holding them off was very difficult. I tried to follow briefly and then push away the thoughts and once I started pushing, other thoughts would come to replace them.

Regardless of the method I used, regardless of the results, I began to feel like I was making some progress. I was able to calm my mind during times of stress and confusion, and I was feeling less frustrated and angry with everyday living. I was able to extricate myself from the darkness of depression that had been my companion for so many years.

Slowly, over time, my confidence that I had succeeded in Meditating myself into a better mental state led me to let longer periods of time pass between Meditations. Sometimes two or three days would pass, sometimes a week. Eventually, I was Meditating only once a month or so, and finally, about a year ago, it stopped altogether. Moving from Fredericton back to Cape Breton, and all the details of that move, made such demands on my time and the state of my mind, that I quite literally forgot to take that personal time to tune the world out for a few minutes every day.

To be fair, I think there were some times when I was cycling that approached Meditation in its simplicity. The up and down stroke of the pedals, the non-conscious shifting of gears, the lack of other stimuli all seem very Meditative in retrospect, yet the heightened awareness of my surroundings; the sound of traffic, the avoidance of obstacles in the road, the “knowledge” that a dog’s body language indicated that it wasn’t going to give chase, all resulted from a Meditative State of Mind.

So when I received the link to “Do Nothing For 2 Minutes” I was alarmed at how difficult it seemed. It came as a cold, cruel reminder of just how out of touch with my inner self I have become lately. In following e-mail conversations with my friend, we both stated how much we would like to make this a regular part of our respective days. I had even mentioned to him that doing it a few times daily would be helpful. After all, unlike medication, Meditation truly DOES work on the principle that if a little is good, a lot is better!

Here, in case you missed it above, is that link for those of you who would like to try it.

I encourage you to share your experiences, either in the “comments” section below, or directly to me in a personal e-mail for those of you who have my e-mail address.

Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti...

~Still Wandering…

Sunday, January 16, 2011

POTY Award!

At the annual Velo Cape Breton pot luck dinner and awards ceremony held at the Dobson Yacht Club on January 15, 2011, I was given the “Participant of The Year” award. I had been informed in advance that I had been nominated for something, but it was not revealed in what category. Jacques Coté is very good at keeping secrets. I speculated for days; “Most rhythmic rider?” (I am after all a drummer.) “Most outspoken?”

Finally, the time came to deliver the awards. As Rides Captain and all round great guy Peter Ross named the nominees for “Participant of The Year,” myself, Colette Smith and a third party whose name I can’t recall (my apologies) I felt it would go to one of the other two. After all, I didn’t participate in many of the group rides, my playing schedule keeping me out late the night before.

As Peter described the events that followed the disappearance of his bike after the Can-Bike II course in May, I understood slightly why I had at least been nominated, but I did not scour the city in search of Peter’s ride so that I would win an award. I did it because I had a bicycle stolen from me in 1982 and I remember the pain of that loss.

Bear in mind that at the time of the theft, I knew nothing of Peter beyond his role as Rides Captain and all round great guy. All I knew was that someone had stolen his ride and that was very uncool.

In truth, when I spotted his bike leaning against the side of the Needs Convenience store on George Street, across from Wentworth Park, I was on my way home. I stopped and there were three teenage males, two with skateboards, standing in front of the store. I asked if they’d seen who brought the bike and they replied “no.” I jumped to a conclusion and assumed that they had been involved (not too reliable in a court of law) and proceeded to unfasten my carrier rack to add Peter’s bike.

Once the bike was secured to my vehicle, I took it to the home of Jacques Coté and Micheline Guillot since I had no idea where Peter lived. Micheline was happy to accompany me to Peter's house and return his ride to him.

So, if doing a good deed for a fellow Velo rider is worthy of an award, then I accept gratefully, but I did only what I would hope anyone would have done. My thanks to the committee who put my name in for consideration and for choosing me as Participant of The Year.

Is it my imagination, or does coffee really taste better from a VCB mug?

~Still Wandering…

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Censorship in Canada.

WARNING! This blog entry contains offensive language and political interference. Reader discretion is advised.

"He who controls the past, controls the future"
~George Orwell

In a recent decision handed down on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council deemed the Dire Straits song “Money For Nothing” as discriminatory to gays because the song contains the word "faggot" in its lyrics.

Looking at the song’s lyrics in context however, I would think musicians should be equally if not more offended. The verse in question laments the “little faggot with the earring and the make-up” making more money than an unskilled appliance delivery man. The musician being scorned also has long hair. When the song was a current hit, I too had long hair and an earring, yet I was not offended at the lyrics of the song but found them funny. I have been called “faggot” many times because of the profession I have chosen as my career.

I have many homosexual friends, some of whom are bisexual and none of them that I know of are offended by those lyrics. The song also contains the words "chicks for free." Why then are women's groups not speaking out against this subjugating sentence?

And what about the word “gay?” Once upon a time it meant “Having or showing a merry, lively mood...” Hence, when Maria from West Side Story sings “I feel pretty, Oh so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and gay...” She is expressing happiness; but today that word garners snickers and derision. Would a heterosexual actress feel reluctant to take the role of Maria because of that word?

Hold that thought.

Also under attack is the Mark Twain classic “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” for its inclusion of the word “nigger.” While that word is not a part of my vocabulary, I have used it here to emphasize my points.

Again, like homosexuals, I also have friends who are of African ancestry.

I must however take exception to the removal of these words from their original texts. At the time Mark Twain was writing, “nigger” was a common, albeit cruel, word in the American lexicon. Today, it is featured profusely in rap music and the comedy acts of some of the African-American artists. In fact, I’ve watched some comedy routines such as the young Richard Pryor that offended me greatly because of the inclusion of that word, BUT... he wasn’t censored.

And that is the point I am getting to. When we start rewriting history to make it less offensive, we remove the horror that contains the lesson. It would be far better to keep the word as an example of inappropriate speech.

“Hear this word? Hear how awful it is? Understand how far we’ve come in our society by no longer using it in everyday speech?”

When we change the way books and songs were written, we cushion society from reality; a reality that if no longer prevalent, WAS at one time. This reality contains powerful messages and lessons that will be lost if history is rewritten.

I believe it is justifiable to make a word unacceptable on our streets and in current works of art. I would not use the words, “nigger” or “queer” in a book, story or song, but I refuse to accept the removal from works that are already written. That is getting dangerously close to George Orwell’s “1984” and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”

Removing or changing words is to deny history. We have all seen what happens when an anti-Semite denies the Holocaust of WWII.

And rightly so.

If we allow censorship in these two incidents, it is only a matter of time until we censor Shakespeare, or worse, the Holy Texts of all religions from Hinduism and Buddhism to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Removing or changing words is to infringe greatly on our freedoms. Being told what to say, what not to say, and when we can or cannot say it, is only one short step from communism. Is that where we as Canadians really want to go?

~Still Wandering...