Friday, March 6, 2015

Photo Friday: Best-Laid Plans

For months, my darling wife and I have been making plans to spend my birthday in The Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, New York, New York. We were to head down, bright and early, on my birthday and spend Thursday after noon and evening, all day Friday, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning taking in Broadway, the end of Restaurant Week, breweries and brew pubs, and art galleries, and looking for new places for me to photograph one of my favourite cities.

I was also going to buy a new camera.

But life gets in the way when you're busy, making plans, and when a crisis arises, you drop everything, unquestionably and without hesitation, to be there for those who need you more.

And that's what has happened.

New York isn't cancelled. It's postponed until we get through this crisis.

The city will still be there when we're ready to go.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Throwback Thursday: First Photo

Fifty years ago, today, I was born.

And on that day, a portrait was captured so that, years down the road, my parents could prove to me that, yes, I was once an actual baby.

I have always looked at this photo and thought, "God, I was an ugly baby."

I have often joked that it looked like I was pressed under a glass plate, to hold me still, while that photo was taken. I have a big, flat face that looks compressed.

I'm not a baby any more. I'm firmly entrenched in middle age. Even though I sometimes continue to act like a kid.

And I still have a big head.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Just Perfect

Midge Ure said it best.

To paraphrase, music today has become too contrived, over-produced from cookie-cutter production houses, with more contributors to the creation of a song than the list of ingredients in a ready-made cake*.

Just add water. Just add singer.

Rare is it, on the hit charts, a good song that is conceived, written, performed, and produced by the actual artist. Now is the age of Beyoncé, of One Direction.

As Midge put it, there are too many Karaoke singers.

And so it is a good thing that we still have legends like Midge Ure, who continue to create, to compose, to give life to music.

Midge Ure played to a packed house at the Black Sheep Inn, last night, and exceeded expectations. After more than 30 years, he can still belt it out, without an auto tuner, showing his fans that he and an acoustic Fender can create a warm, intimate atmosphere.

Between numbers, Midge delighted the sold-out crowd with wit, humour, and personal anecdotes. He played songs from his new album, Fragile, some of his older hits, and more classics from his days in Ultravox. Before arriving, I wondered how he would cover songs that generally have a heavy synthesizer presence, using only an acoustic guitar, but Midge is a master, and he sustained a high energy.

It has been more than 25 years since I last saw Midge perform live: I'm hoping I don't have to wait many more before he returns.

I felt honoured to be able to meet with him, after the show, to chat, to tell him how I've admired him, how he has inspired me and influenced my artistic side. I was also honoured when he thanked me for helping get the word out about his show, when he wished me a happy birthday, and when he accepted a copy of my book.

I swear, I didn't ask him to hold up my book. The evening was all about seeing him. But I'll take the unsolicited promotion, with much gratitude!

Midge is mentioned in the story, and one of his songs plays a small but important part.

Attending Midge's performance was a delight, but what made the evening even more special was to have so many friends and family members join me for the evening. Thank you to my parents, Faye and Greg, to my sister, Holly, and to my wonderful friends, John, Kerry, Becca, Krista, Katheleen, Russ, Nina and her family, and Ed.

I feel so privileged. The night was perfect. Just perfect.

ilThere was cake, by the way. It was delicious.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

There Will Be Cake

It is the most-delicious cake I have ever had in my life.

I'm not denied many pleasures in life, though the ones I desire the most are among the ones that are held back.

The first time I took a bite, it filled my mouth with flavour, richness, decadence. Sweet, but not too sweet. Moist, but not soggy. Fulfilling, but not filling.

My wife got the recipe from a magazine. It could have been one of the LCBO's publications of Food & Drink, the free magazine that often has the most mind-blowing recipes we've ever enjoyed. We keep one of the holiday editions with our cookbooks, the delicious recipes being plentiful within its pages.

About five years ago, my wife baked a multi-layered, dark-chocolate, applesauce cake with a chocolate-cheesecake frosting. Just thinking about it, now, gets my mouth watering. When I took my first bite, that day, I knew she loved me. I could taste it.

"I want you to make me this cake every birthday for the rest of my life," I told her.

"I think I can arrange that," was her reply.

The next year, we got busy. I don't typically celebrate my birthday. I have a party maybe once every decade. But we will go out for dinner or she will prepare a special meal at home. On the year following my first taste of that awesome cake, we had something else going on during my birthday, and she couldn't make the cake.

"Over the weekend," I said. "You can make me the cake next weekend."

It didn't happen. My heart sank. 

The following year, I reminded her of that cake. "You owe me two, this year: one for this birthday and one for the cake you never made last year."

She laughed. What was so funny? Had I made a joke? I didn't think so.

I didn't get a cake that year, either. With both of our daughters in competitive dance, there just was no time. Weekends, that year, were an utter write-off, as far as finding time to do any housework, shopping, or other errands. By the time an evening came 'round, we would prepare a dinner and then relax with a movie or TV show. There was no time for cake preparation.

And so, with the subsequent years in which the kids danced, that lovingly baked cake would remain a memory. I'm not blaming the dance school, nor do I hold any resentment towards our rigorous schedule. We were helping the kids follow their passions, and we took pleasure in watching them shine.

But there would be no cake for my birthday. If there was, it would be something purchased from a store. Its ingredients would be over-processed. The cake would lack any personality.

There would be no love in the cold mouthfuls.

This week will mark my 50th birthday: my 27th birthday with the woman who is now my wife. It is also one of the few years in which I celebrate my birthday with a party, with as many friends around me as possible. I consider myself a lucky man.

But I swear, there will be cake.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Long Life and Prosperity

A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP—Leonard Nimoy
I can't think of many people who, in playing not only another person, but another species, in an acting role, has affected so many. And I don't think there is anyone in our popular culture who has touched us in his passing as much as this man.

In the age of social media, I think only two other deaths have had as large a presence: Steve Jobs and Nelson Mandela.

Leonard Nimoy, in his portrayal of STAR TREK's half-human, half-Vulcan character, taught our generation of humanity's strengths and weaknesses. During the space race and the Cold War, he taught us that only as a cohesive unit, working together, can the world achieve great things. In the 80s, in The Voyage Home, Spock showed us the consequences of our short-sightedness in not caring for our planet.

Even in his reprisal in the remake of the 2009 film, STAR TREK, Spock showed us our lives are not set in stone, and that we have to take charge of our destinies.

I saw my first episode of the original series when I was three, and grew up watching reruns, countless times, in my youth and teenage years. I have seen all of the movies, became an addict over The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. To say that I have been immersed in the STAR TREK culture is an understatement.

And that culture would not have existed, if not for Spock, James T. Kirk, and the crew of the Enterprise. As much as I looked up to Captain Kirk for leadership, I turned to Spock for inspiration, for hope, for perfect reasoning.

Even outside of the STAR TREK universe, Leonard Nimoy has had a profound presence. I saw him in the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where, even then, in his role of Dr. Kibner, he tells of how humanity, in being turned into clones by alien pods, would be in a better state without emotions.

Each week, in the late 70s and early 80s, after watching yet another episode of the original series, I would turn to a show called In Search Of..., which was narrated by Nimoy. The show would explore strange phenomena and try to explain theories in unsolved mysteries, such as the disappearance of Amilia Earhart. The show was, in Spock's words, fascinating, and I felt that having Nimoy behind it lent the show some authority.

"A solar eclipse. The cosmic ballet goes on."
Nimoy even lent his deep, serious voice to The Simpsons, where he played himself but also insinuated that he was part spaceman. And on an episode of The Big Bang Theory, nerdy and self-absorbed genius, Sheldon Cooper, has an imaginary conversation with his Spock action figure. Leonard Nimoy, of course, gave the figure its voice.

Many Canadians have also honoured the Vulcan by defacing a five-dollar bill, transforming Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier into Spock.

I didn't do this: you shouldn't, either. But still...

I have even consumed and reviewed a beer that was inspired by Spock. In the past couple of years, I have followed Leonard Nimoy on Twitter, and have also admired his photography.

Nimoy has been like a star on my journey, not always guiding but ever-present. Now that that star has been extinguished, the universe seems a darker place. But, just as our eyes adjust to the dimness in a lightless room, our lives will go on, having been enriched by the man, whose character gave humanity hope for its future.

He lived long, he prospered, and our lives are made better for him having been there.
Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most human—William Shatner, as Captain James T. Kirk