Tuesday, 9 June 2020

The (un)JOY of MUSIC (I)

Have you ever heard a wonderful piece of music, performed to near perfection, that left you emotional?  Perhaps it made you happy or even sad, but sad in such a way that you'd happily go back for seconds if you could.

Such is the wonder of music.  It has the ability to move you.

And a good deal of credit goes to those practitioners who have developed their art to allow the listener to experience such emotions.

But let's look under the hood.  What will you see?

You will see the dedicated artist.  He or she will spend the majority of their available time attempting to master their craft.  If they are a performer, they will spend countless hours working on their instrument trying to achieve a mastery and fluency that few achieve.  And it's not exciting.

Hours are spent on technical exercises; numbing, and often boring, but necessary nonetheless.  More hours are spent on repertoire that can be so complex as to be discouraging, yet the performer carries on.

And like I said, it is BORING.

But that's the thing about music.  It's not about instant gratification for the performer.  If you want an instant music high, listen to the radio where the work has already been done by someone else.  There are no shortcuts.  If you wish to be a master of your craft, you have to put in the time.

I have encountered folks who think there is a shortcut.  However, in every successful music circumstance there is someone who has "done their time," whether they are out front performing or behind the scenes calling the shots.  And music in particular is a harsh master where near perfection has to be the goal or it doesn't fulfill the listener.  Think of how many lousy performers are out there.

Music is an endeavor that will seem to be joyless at times, especially in the learning phase.  It will frustrate as you try to master the nuances.  It may even cause you to pace restlessly as it did Chopin when he was writing some of his finest works.

But with focus, determination, and an openness to criticism, a performer can achieve an ecstasy and present a work of art that cannot be achieved in any other way.  And that is what music is all about.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

COVIS-19 Self-Isolation: A VERY Unfortunate Male Side Effect

The recent mandates from all levels of government to self-isolate due to the effects of the Corona virus, or COVID-19, has led to one particularly unsettling consequence.  Many men, especially those in the 50 - 85 year old range, are now sporting man-buns.

Guy Schroeder, a senior from Peace River, Alberta, thinks back about making this controversial decision:

"There wasn't much choice," says Schroeder. "It was starting to grow fairly heavy back there below my bald spot and I had to do something.  My barber closed down and I was desperate.  After the way my wife trimmed the hedges a few weeks back, I wasn't about to let her get close to me with no cuttin' tool."

Another senior, Abe Mollen from Medicine Hat, Alberta, tells a similar story:

"I just turned 76 when the pandemic really hit.  I was due for a cut, but my barber closed up. My wife left me about three years ago, so what was I going to do?  There was a beauty parlour still open, but I couldn't bring myself to going there.  It was so pink.  And they'd probably try and give me bangs."

Arnie Rochminster, current president of the "Alberta Man-Bun Optimists' Society" (AMBOS) is thrilled.  "It looks like we're going mainstream!" exclaimed Rochminster.  "After years of snickers, finger-pointing, and date-free weekends, men are now looking to us for support.  It's an exciting time for us here at the AMBOS. Our total membership numbers have recently soared to the mid double-digits."

But not everyone is happy.  Elsie Schroeder, Guy's wife, recalls seeing her man with a bun.

"I almost fell off my C-P (chamber pot)!  He looked so ridiculous, with like a moldy black-grey cinnamon bun stuck to his head!" She continued, "I think he also tried shining up his bald spot, but I'm not sure."

Elsie plans on taking action.

"I'm going to write Premier Kenney.  This should be illegal.  No one should be forced to see that thing every day, especially when you can't leave the house.  Besides, he didn't even try to do a comb-over."

Friday, 28 February 2020

New-Found Disrespect for the CPS

I never thought I'd write something like this.  It seems out of place for me.  But here it is:

I have little respect for the Calgary Police Service.

And I'm sure it's only temporary, but nevertheless.

So what is that has caused this sudden reduction in the CPS fan club?  

I got caught speeding by a multi-nova camera in a playground zone.

What?? A playground zone? Speeding?? Heavens to Betsy, Mr. Lorne, I can't support your rant on this! What were you thinking?  Is this (hopefully) temporary insanity?? You screwed up!  Admit it!  After all, who will look after the children?!?

And this is exactly what I'd say if it were someone else.  So what's my problem?

I got caught 2/3 the way through the zone while approaching a turning lane.   It has a natural downward trajectory and I let my car gradually speed up.  So I did 42 km/h instead of 30 for less than 100 m.  It was a slip that is now going to cost me $111.00.

Yes, I'm guilty.  

It was a lonely Sunday evening at 7:20 p.m. in a junior high school playground zone where no one was out because of the cold weather.  Kids most inevitably were getting ready for school the next day and I was literally one of perhaps three cars on that stretch of road at the time.  And I went 12 km/h or 7 MPH over the limit by mistake.  I should have put on my brake entering the turning lane.


I am all for traffic enforcement, but it has to make sense.  Up the hill from me is John Laurie Blvd where many a lunatic drivers can be found.  And they seem to have free reign up there; I can't tell you how many times I've been tailgated, sworn at (finger wise), and gestured at just for keeping within the limit.  That is one area that could use serious law enforcement.

Yet, instead, the CPS was found at a lonely stretch of road on a cold Sunday night with nary a soul in sight save a few diehards who have to get home from their daily travels.

I find this approach by the CPS to be mean-spirited.  I find it a cash grab. Worse, it can cause poor feelings between the public and law enforcement, and that's not good.  The CPS needs to build community support and not antagonize the nominally law-abiding.  

I reviewed my dash cam footage and by the letter of the law, I'm guilty, so I will pay.  But the ill will created by the CPS toward me will linger for some time.

That's too bad.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

The Case for Professionalism

Those who know me well, know that I have been a professional musician for about 35 years.  It hasn't always been smooth sailing, and there were, and still are, more than a good number of bumps that are encountered in the midst of exercising my career.

Nevertheless, one learns and carries on.  And those bumps add up to something that is called "experience."  And presumably, the more experience one attains, the more adept they become at their vocation; this above and beyond the initial pieces of paper one receives after graduating from higher places of learning.

So the combination of these two things creates what may be defined as a professional environment.  Doctors and lawyers have them and so do some musicians, including those who opt to open a studio or music school.

A lot of work has been accomplished behind the scenes.  At times, we may make it look easy, but we didn't get there by accident.  And the lack of acknowledgement to this fact by the lay person can be frustrating.

For example, a parent may want to sign up their child for piano lessons, but they want a "deal."  "Your rate is too high," I might hear or, "This other teacher down the street charges less than you do."  Sigh.  There are reasons some teachers are less expensive, the main one being lack of the aforementioned training and experience.  Another reason is that some folks shouldn't be teaching and do so anyway, muddying the waters for those who are specifically trained to specialize.  (I heard about an extreme case once, where a grade six piano student was hired by a commercial music studio to teach a grade seven piano student.  But at least the rate was cheap!)

During an initial conversation with some parents, I can try to insert my credentials into the conversation stream, but the same question of money comes up again and again.

And the result?  In two out of three conversations, if I don't pony up said lesson rate before said conversation ends, I will not hear from them again, even though I offer to discuss that very thing with them during a complimentary meet and greet.

Isn't experience, education, and success at least as important to discuss as how much I charge?  

Sunday, 5 January 2020

The Stupidity of the Stupid

Well, I'm off to a cranky New Years post for 2020.

So what has me ranting already?

A recent poll shows that 36% of Millenials have a favourable view of....Unicorns?  Mr. Clean?  Decaffeinated coffee?  Noooo....COMMUNISM!

I don't understand these people.  A system that has brutally suppressed or KILLED millions of people has curried favour with the younger folk.  What are they thinking?  Are a third of young people really that stupid?  (Yes, "stupid;" I've said it!)

Squalor, hunger, angst, persecution, spying, fear, knocks on your door in the middle of the night...all hallmarks of an evil system that should have died along with the Berlin Wall in 1989.  Instead, there are hooded young people out there who wreak havoc in marches, sometimes engaging in brutal behaviour on the spot and harming anyone who disagrees with them.

So what caused this?  I think a lot of things.  The breakdown of family, the rejection of God, teachers in the schools and Universities who preach from the socialist pulpit.  Kids who are looking for something to embrace, gravitate towards the loud brashness and carefully-crafted slogans of the extreme left, like they have for almost 100 years.

More than ever, it's time for those who have suffered under Communism to speak out; it's time to hold teachers and their leftist agendas responsible to the young minds they are training; those in the know also need to lend a voice to add rationality to the discussion.  And it's important that the hooligans in these marches who engage in violent activity, be held accountable and exposed for who they are. 

There is enough historical precedent to show how disastrous this philosophy has become.  George Santayana's famous phrase needs to be imparted to these misguided people now, before its too late.

Monday, 16 December 2019

If I Had a Little Money...

...with apologies to ABBA.

We work.  Sometimes very hard.  Many of us go to University or some other school of higher learning just so we can do better for ourselves and our families.

And then we find a job, or if so inclined, so go into business for ourselves, which often is a far more riskier venture.

But the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel arrives when we get our paycheque.  And then the non-fun begins when we notice all the deductions, especially income tax.  The amount on our paycheque goes down, sometimes way down.

But we worked, we payed our taxes (and then some), and finally we get our net pay.  Great!  Money free and clear!

But hold on there...this is Canada.  Income taxes are only Part A.  There's Parts B, C, D where government insists it's not done with our pocketbooks yet.

You want a new car using your net income?  Fine, but now you get to pay the government again in the form of a consumer tax, the mighty GST!  Is that fair?  You already paid taxes on your income?

Oh, you want gas for your car?  Hoo boy! There's excise, provincial, carbon tax PLUS you pay GST ON THOSE taxes as well as on your actual purchase.  All with the net income you received AFTER you already paid the government its mandated share.

Enough said.  You get my drift.

"But the government needs all that extra tax revenue to run programs!" someone bleats.

Assuming for now that that is true, the government does us, the taxpayer, yet another disservice.  Rather than just using what it takes in from all revenue sources, the government du jour goes above and beyond that amount and "borrows" money, creating a deficit in the budget.  Yep.  Taxes aside, the "smartest guys in the room" go even further and pin further financial burden on us lowly folk often leaving it to accumulate to the point where TPers pay more of their income on taxes than they do on food, clothing, and shelter combined.

And they leave the debt to grow and grow.

To their credit, our new UCP provincial government is trying to hack away at their debt, created by our previous socialist administration.  A 2.8% reduction. That's it.  2.8% with a decimal point after the two.  And...their popularity has dropped.  The knives are out.

Should we keep spending so the Left will put those knives away?  I think not.

But that's where we're at now.  Think about it.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Breaking the Champagne Bottle

My inaugural post.

Didn't think I'd ever get this blog going, but miracles apparently do happen.

For this blog, my thoughts are literally just that, my thoughts.  You can agree, disagree, or meet me somewhere in between and it's all good provided all invective is left at home.  Any cursing, taking the Lord's name in vain, or overall intolerable speech will be deleted.  Keep it respectful and we can debate, chat, and have a great old time!

So more about me.  I love coffee...obviously.  Older country music from the 70's to the 90's is on my playlist and as well as anything Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach.  And I'm "anti-stupid" so I can almost guarantee I'll be commenting on politics, locally and abroad.

Enough for now.  Feel free to leave a comment...or not!