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Saturday, January 20, 2018

My Bonny

(I can't be alone with my thoughts right now, so am writing this to cope)

One thing my cat has in common with me is that we have been healthy enough most of our lives to avoid having to see the doctor.   I got her as a kitten in 2004.  She was from an animal shelter and had been neutered before being put out for sale at Pet Smart.  I had my niece with me to help choose my new cat.  I remember there were twin cats in one cage meowing for my attention.  Perhaps there were about 4 others that didn’t catch my attention.  Then I saw these big black eyes looking straight at me, waiting for playtime.  She was on her side with one paw sticking out of the cage.  I tugged her paw with my finger a little bit.  Then she almost instantaneously started to clean herself.  A long hair black cat with white markings made her resemble Sylvester from Loony Tunes.  She just as well should have been a cartoon character.  She enjoys playing with toys well into her adulthood.  

When I got her home, I held her in my arms and gave her a hug.  She was purring almost instantly.  Unusual for a cat to purr so quickly when held by a stranger.  Her first act was to bite my earlobe and pierce my ear.  Eventually she did the same with the other ear.  She has all her claws and has learned not to use them when holding her, especially if she wants a lap to sit on.   Bonny also was potty trained, a great gift that almost all cats possess, the ability to do their business in a litterbox.   For the first couple months, she hardly made a noise, even though I talked to her like she was people.  But then she eventually began to vocalize a great deal.  Like she had found her voice, or perhaps more that she had bonded with me and felt obligated to engage in conversation.  

That was 14 years ago.  She is definitely an old cat now, but still does not act like one (other than sleeping the majority of the time).  I feel a sense of pride that I have taken good care of her.  I feed her Science Diet, the more expensive stuff, but also is better for her.  Since the beginning all she ever knew was the dry food, and never knew any different about what she got for a meal.  No complaints.  She learned quickly about when not to jump on a piece of furniture, or use something other than a designated spot to use as a scratch pole.  

Everytime I open my back door to go outside, she is quick to stand at the door edge and take a peak outside.  Her interest in the great outdoors was bred in to her.  She is a great mouser.   When she was young, however, everytime she would stand at the back door, hoping for me to let her out on her own, I resisted.   For the first two years after getting her, I felt she was still too young and perhaps too inexperienced to avoid danger being out on her own. I felt like a dad with his kid. There are a couple other cats that rome around my block, and I am not entirely opposed to trusting my cat to take care of herself out there.  So finally, the third spring, I let her venture outside, hoping she would stay in the boundaries of my yard.   My cat is thinking, however, that because we are buddies, that I am joining her on the nightly rounds.  Poor girl wishes we could be partners in crime all through the night.  But she is very content on her own.  I would watch her chase down mice in the backyard.  

Bonny is genuinely a beautiful animal.  She quickly made friends with my neighbours.  She also knew when I wanted her to come inside, I would not try to chase her or grab her if she sat at the back door.  She was always rewarded with a hug (she enjoys putting each paw on each side of my neck like a human will hug).  She is a hugging and purring machine.  When Scary Numan would rehearse every Thursday, she would patiently wait upstairs to avoid the noise until we finished.  Then she would appear at the top of the stairs and announce her presence, requiring everyone to give her attention.  

For a good portion of the time, anytime I sat at my desk editing video, was prime time for Bonny to jump up on the desk and be pampered.   Very hard to resist her charms, even though she would start knocking pens and other stuff off the side.  Once I started using the desk for my daytime job, there was no room for here anymore.  So I setup a chair beside me that she uses as perch.  Knowing that the window was a prime source of interest for Bonny, I setup a couple perches next to a couple windows.  I have a pile of books stacked up under the living room window.  They are stacked high enough so she can sit on top of them to peer out the window.  In the kitchen, her perch is simply a box I got from the liquor store.  It is stronger construction, reinforced with some gaff tape, so she can sit and keep an eye out in the backyard.  

Living alone, Bonny has become a great companion as I work from home.  She is there as a muse.  I will take a break once in a while to play with her.  She will always be a kitten.  Now in her later years, I have begun to reward her trouble-free behaviour with a human treat once in a while.   I will also buy canned cat food for her on special occasions (like Thanksgiving).  At 14 years old, she still has a lot of energy.  She likes to show off a special trick when I let her outside.  She will sprint across the yard at top speed and climb halfway up a tree.  

There are countless Bonny moments.  Like when a KARE 11 cameraman came by to shoot video of an editing session in my house, Bonny insisted on always being in front of the shot.  She would follow him around as he shot cutaways, a real camera hound. 

I have had cats as pets since I was around 13.  I guess I prefer cats over dogs as pets, but I have enjoyed great companionship with both.  I once found a cat while walking in a snowstorm.  It was pure white out when I heard the meowing of a cat.  It was a pure white cat in the snow.  I named her Emily Dickinson.  She was a special cat for me when I was young, and she continued to live with my parents to a ripe old age after I moved away from home.  

I adopted an older cat when I first moved to my house.  She was nice cat, and also was growing old.  She happened to pass away while I was on vacation (a friend was looking after her while I was gone).   Since then I have had Bonny, and we are quite attached.   After a couple years I would let her out after dark in the summer, with her quickly coming to my call when I woke up in the morning.  She would always appear, something I grew to trust in my precious cat.  When she didn’t respond to my call one morning, I knew something was wrong.  For the first time as an adult I felt real anxiety about losing a loved one.  I plastered posters all over the neighbourhood, knocked on doors, and spent a long period of time slowly walking up and down alleys calling her name.  My God, I never realised what a painful experience it would be to lose such a special animal.  I was sick to my stomach, nearly in tears.  Just a day later she was found just a couple houses down, and I learned my lesson and put an ID with my phone number on her collar.  

As the years have gone by, I have grown accustomed to my dear feline friend to accompany me as I go about my day.  She watches as I organize things in the basement.  While I’m at my desk, she will jump up on top of my office chair and rub up against my hair.  Her purring acting like a sedative as I go about my work.  One does not deny that for almost all pet owners out there that will declare their pet as a member of the family.   They are loved just as much as any other human member.  

Growing accustomed also has meant that I never worry about her getting sick.  Or being able to take care of herself if I go out of town for a couple of days.  I would return to some animated complaints and extra hugs.  But she kept her appetite and kept herself healthy.   Thursday of this week was like any other work day.  My cat was doing her usual routine.  However that night, she didn’t jump on my bed as usual.  I knew immediately at once something was wrong with her.  She was sleeping when she usually starts following me around.  Worse, she was not getting up to eat.  After only drinking a bit of water, I went to get some canned food after work on Friday.  Normally she will be very animated and poke her head up on the table where I am dishing out the yummy fish goo.  But she wasn’t interested at all.  Now she had gone all day without food.  

Trying to be optimistic, I went to bed Friday night praying and thinking positive thoughts.  "She has some kind of flu, she will sleep it off and be better", I coached myself.  But I didn’t sleep much.  She was sleeping too much and still hadn’t eaten anything.  It was now at least 24 hours since she had eaten and it was time to contact the vet.   After going through some tests, the vet said he was hopeful (actual word used in his write-up) that it was a mild case of inflamed pancreas or mild GI issue.  Being that this was her first visit to the vet since she was a kitten, she got some worm medicine.  Then she got antibiotics for the possible infection, and a new type of drug to help reduce nausea.  

Despite her low energy, Bonny is still responsive, relatively alert, and is otherwise physically healthy, is perhaps underweight.    She has a strong heart, good lungs and kidneys.  For a cat that just the night before would eagerly leap up on top of my chair, now was battling a serious illness.    It is now late Saturday afternoon.  I have been letting Bonny sleep after the traumatic experience she had at the vet this morning (she resisted when they took a blood sample).   She woke at about 4pm and I tried to get her to eat some extra special yummy stuff that the vet recommended.  She would only take a couple sips of water.  I will not get push her too hard, since it may take time for drugs to take effect.  She was also given some fluids at the vet, which I could tell helped her.   

But if I can’t get her to eat Sunday, it will the emergency room.  Having the possibility that Bonny could go away forever took me over emotionally a lot more than i expected, more than the time she didn’t come to the back door one morning.   Right now there is an ebb and flow of heartache as I think of this precious girl leaving me.  She is too cute, too playful and energetic, too close as a family member to leave just like this.   I could not get my self to eat much for lunch, and can’t get my self to think about other things.   So here I am typing to come to grips with some things.  

First of all, I recognise that I get overly sentimental with animals, perhaps more than people.  While watching the Iraq war on TV in 2003, there was a brief clip about a dog that was trapped in an abandoned building, and was eating paper due to starvation.  My heart went out to this innocent animal caught up in a chaos when he didn’t deserve to be.   I felt bad when I spotted a crippled squirrel still alive in my backyard.   As well, I am very endeared to my pet cat, more than any other pet I have had in the past.  

But I must confront the fact there were pets that I was fond of while growing up that are gone now.  Back then I was able to get over the grief, and must coach myself that if the worst happens, I will grow attached to a new pet.   If I can get to sleep tonight, I will continue to think positive thoughts about Bonny, knowing that she is a strong cat that can endure this illness.  

As of this moment, she will get up to lie down again in a different position every 30 minutes or so.   It is times when I feel this grief that I can relate to good friends of mine who have lost a longtime companion.   As much as others sympathise, including me, we still can’t feel the real loss such a close relationship has on a person.  One friend talked about how his dog would rest it’s head on his foot while at his desk.   That kind of personal physical attachment makes for a deep pain when it is no longer there.  

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Ladonna Virginia Gammell

Calm amidst the Chaos
The one fault I would say about my Mom was that she would give in too easy. Rarely would my Mother try to stop any of the children from doing what they want. Unfortunately that pressure from all of us took a toll on her. She had multiple sclerosis, and became frail as she got older. For her, I know my Mother enjoyed growing old taking care of her grandchildren. As much as she was a pushover, she was more than willing to provide Mom's taxi, and drive us where ever we needed.

Super Mom
My Mom was old fashioned in the role of the wife. She was always content with her routines taking care of chores. On the other hand my Mother was very active and involved in many aspects of the community. She was politically active, and involved in the arts. The most important thing I wanted my Mom to know near the end was that she had fulfilled her role as a successful Mother, being able to see her three children all grow up healthy and well adjusted.

I Still Hear Her Nagging
Thanks to my Mom's incessant upbringing, I always clean up after myself, have a sense of decency, know how to do my laundry and dishes, and know the importance of being polite to others. One distinct trait of my Mom that will endure is her sing-song personality. She would create an atmosphere of playfullness by making up songs, or just whistling along while driving or toiling about the house. I credit part of my ability to write music in my head from the constant musical perspective I had when around her.

Mom's Taxi
I had a few good long conversations recently with my Mother. I reminded her of all the trips to art class when I was in preschool, and later the weekly drive to the piano teacher. I reminded her how she went beyond a reasonable effort when she continued to drive the 90 minute round trip to the same piano teacher after we moved to Green Bay. She cared enough to make sure I had the best quality upbringing, willing to sacrifice her own time for me in that way. She soon had found a suitable piano teacher in Green Bay, but I will never forget her efforts like that for me. She never complained. She always gave in.

Always a Mom
It made me happy when we connected recently to know my Mother was at peace with her life. She was happy living in beautiful New Mexico, teaching young Girl Scouts and helping out with her grand-daughter's child. It is amazing how she had survived, not only after the undue stress of unruly children, including having to deal with police. But also surviving a least two severe car accidents. Still, my parents have enjoyed traveling around the world in their later years. A well deserved retirement (or at least as close to a retirement my workaholic Father can handle).

The Final Healing
I am glad she is no longer suffering from the ailments that were taking over as she grew more frail. I drove down to New Mexico to visit her last Christmas. It was an important chance for both of us to feel like a family together while she was still relatively healthy. Between that last visit and the healing conversations about the turbulent years bringing the children up, I knew we were at peace, with no misgivings, and plenty of opportunities to express our love.

The Spirit Lives On
I dearly wish she was healthy enough to stay around longer, we recently had conversations about our concerns with Donald Trump. It resembled the many passioned concerns we had about George W. Bush and the damage he did to our country. She should know that although her voice is gone, my voice is still strong and will carry on her efforts. I want to believe she is carrying on in spirit the same passions she had in life.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Playing God

Most of my adult life I have kept a journal of my thoughts.  In the age of blogging, it is time for me to share these thoughts.   Maybe the world will be a better place for it.  Maybe they will be ridiculed. A lot people like use the internet as a vehicle for denigrating others.  It is your choice how you want to treat the world and people around you.  You can be hateful and divisive, or you can give yourself a serious chance to grow from the experience.  These writings are for those that are willing to open their mind instead of easily dismissing it (and not be capable of presenting a coherent explanation).  

The following was written in 2006.  I was doing well as a freelance editor and was getting close to being hired full-time, so life was good.  My friend Eric was married to a lady from Russia, and would have a get-together with her Russian friends at their home in Edina, MN. 

Here’s an Ego (11/13/2006)
Ego – a preface.  Shakespeare must have certainly allowed his imagination to travel in the direction of a mad and evil character when writing his plays.  To play God,  and let the wicked potential of letting a brilliant mind delve into the dark side of existence,  one shivers at the kind of twisted manifestations that can be conjured up.  This is the downside of Free Will.  While it is one of the most cherished foundations of every living man and woman on this planet,  Free Will has it’s ugly side,  where many acts of evil go unpunished.  Where the perpetrators may do it for no other reason than they can.   Simple as that.  They play God and do not value the well beings of others. 

Jesus would be Ridiculed Today
I am an observer.  I am somewhat omnipotent about my position in things.  Nothing gets by me,  and in the process,  I can be the little man,  taking my time to go through the motions that allow me to really be a part of Everyday Life.  As if Jesus decided to come back, but not announce himself,  walking among us,  without anybody ever knowing his true identity.  Such as in fables,  where the prince walks among his subjects,  and discovers what it really is like to be Alive.  I seek to have a larger awareness about Life,  the Universe, and Everything.  As Douglas Adams observes in "The Hithchiker's Guide to the Galaxy",  life is a ride and you'll do best to go with the flow.  

Kenneth Martian Gammell
A simple conversation between two older woman about some of their trials and tribulations raising a child,  becomes moments of illumination for me,  adding to my ‘databank’ of knowledge,  reserved for future use.  God knows,  I have this incredibly expanded mind.  Now there are a few people who know my secret (I am a Martian) and are aware of my potential.   It all comes back to me.  I’m going to make a positive impression upon Everybody.  I am going stand up, and make a fool of myself,  trying to make everybody believe that what I have to offer will be something of interest to them. 

Party with Diversity
 As I sit at a party tonight,  I am amused by the near hopeless attempt at playing ‘Taboo’ with a group of foreign speaking people.   As the hourglass spills the sand,  Russian native Semyon is using his wife’s glasses to try to read a game card,  telling him the word he has to get his teammates to guess without using the 5 most obvious clues.  It takes up most of the hourglass for him to figure out what the word is.  Then the predicament of figuring the English translation for any Russian equivalent becomes near ludicrous.  Like I,  an American being given ‘La Boheme’ and trying to get his teammates to say it.  

What's so Funny about Peace, Love, and Understanding
Anyway,  it became an exercise in futility,  but I, in the meantime, became audience to a type of conglomeration you might encounter at the U.N.,  or something.  (Semyon did announce a clue,  “A tiger that lives in the house” – answer: Cat”,  that showed he tried and succeeded in such a difficult assignment).   I am honoured at the privilege to meet and get to know many people from around the world.  I swear I have gained a more global understanding in the process.  No  I’m not a globetrotter like the US Secretary of State.  But America is the world’s melting pot,  where all cultures are encouraged to influence our culture,  and we all become the better for it. 

The Balance in Wisdom
This is a fantastic idea to base a country on,  and it works.  I feel like a diplomat,  truly,  finding a position in relating to others that lends to mutual understanding.  I am neutral in more ways than I care to admit.  I find the convergence of both sides of the argument,  where the wisdom gained from two opposing points of view,  form a grand design of a more complete picture and the ultimate wonder of life

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Prince Enigma

Word of the prodigy Prince Rogers Nelson was already echoing throughout the Twin Cities when I was in high school in 1980.   His music video for “Dirty Mind” was able to make it on a late-night syndicated music video show on local TV, yet no radio station in town played his music.   So it was hard to hear his music.  On the other hand, for those over 19, Prince concerts were pretty easy to come by in town early on.   I remember KQRS playing cuts off of “Controversy”, but only on a Sunday night show called “Twin Cities Beat”.  I dug the Moog and Oberheim synthesiser parts.  I recognised their sound by visiting the Roger Dodger music shop about once a month.  By then, the Minneapolis Sound was invading everywhere.  KTCA, the local PBS affiliate, started it’s own TV program called “Music Twin Cities” (or something like that).  It brought into the TV studio live bands including the Time.   

For my part, I still preferred English pop music, which was exploding into the U.S. via MTV at the time.  Synth pop reigned supreme back then, with Gary Numan and Human League leading the way.    But in 1982, Prince released “1999”, and all that synthesiser pop esthetic was embedded into an album made by a guy from Minneapolis.    That album was the first time Minneapolis came under the global spotlight.   There was a charge of excitement in town now that the Golden Child had finally reached stardom.   Perhaps like Seattle later became synonymous with the grunge sound, Minneapolis now was identified as being a funk pop mecca.  As much as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were integral to this scene, it was the addictive energy that emanated from this little man, Prince, that caused this incredible buzz.

“1999” took off.  All the talk in high school was about getting tickets to see him at the Met Center.   Back then you went to the Dayton’s ticket office downtown.  By midday all there was left were seats in the very back.   For me, it was a chance to witness the phenomena of a rare period of time when a history-making personality was just starting to blaze a legendary career.  At that concert, there was The Vanity 6, and the Time opening.  Like I mentioned, the long funk jams, and other extravagant arrangements weren’t my favourite, as opposed the tightly arranged radio-friendly tracks like “Little Red Corvette” and the title track.  

Most know of Prince and his connection to the music club First Avenue, in downtown Minneapolis.  Even without Prince’s influence, First Avenue already was developing a national reputation for showcasing breakthrough bands.  But now, First Avenue was the center of the musical world.  After high school, I moved into a warehouse space downtown.  I was a delivery driver for a pizza place called A Slice of New York, which was co-owned by Mark McClellan.  The McClellan clan had a local reputation that is not something to go into right now.   Let’s just say the McClellan brothers are larger-than-life characters.  Mark’s brother Steve ran First Avenue.  For that reason, staff from Slice of New York were pretty much allowed to go into the club anytime they wanted.   Except perhaps for the more high brow events there, then it was better to get some comp tickets.    

So for the majority of the 1980s, the same time Minneapolis and First Avenue were in the spotlight, I was living and hanging out there.  My musical ambitions at the time were to have a pop band, one that was especially focused on heavy studio production.    I shared a practice space with Chuck Zwicky, an accomplished sound technician and engineer.  He became especially fixated on Prince’s studio sound.  When “Purple Rain” came out, there were extended listening sessions, dissecting the type of drums sounds and reverb amongst other things.   My natural inclination to all the hype was to make fun of it.   I had heard “Let’s Go Crazy” a zillion times on the radio.  My brain had started to concoct alternate lyrics, primarily to make the 100th airing of his songs more entertaining for me.  

But also as enticing for me was to emulate the production style of “Purple Rain” in a completely lo-tech fashion.   So I sent the Drumulator drum sounds through a speaker placed in a concrete hallway of the practice space.  I had a microphone in the hall to pick up the reverb, and mixed it with the drums.  To make the reverb sound bigger, I compressed it using one of Chuck’s home-made effects boxes.   I asked Chuck, who was also a guitar prodigy, to lay the guitar tracks on my cassette demos.    I created about 6 tracks from the Prince album that were both experiments in pop music production, but also to share my sense of humour.   The lyrics exchanged the subject of sex for food.  The project was called “Purple Grapes”.  

For fun I made a copy of my music experiments for Jodi Itman, a friend I knew back from high school.  She would send my music to her brother Joel, living in Paris at the time.   He loved my quirky take on Prince and immediately wanted to come back to Minneapolis and film a parody.   With so many people touched by Prince in town, the ability to replicate the look and sound of the movie and the album came very easy.    Andre Cymone supplied the Linn Drum used to create the signature drum beats.   Dave Comer, a studio technician, had cobbled together old studio equipment.    No one had dared try to make a parody of Prince before.   Joel and I really did this whole thing on a lark, hoping to put smiles on people’s faces.  

We knew that Prince would hear of “Purple Grapes”, and we had no idea what the reaction would be.  Bill Bruce, a friend of Joel, sent a copy to Prince.  Chuck later confirmed that Prince at some point watched some of it.   No legal warning was ever sent to us (even so, I pulled a prank calling Joel pretending to be a lawyer just because of our paranoia about it).   On the other hand, no profit came from any sale of the film (of course no one was willing to buy it without legal permission).   The film gained cult status, and played underground showings at First Avenue, the Uptown theatre, music and movie night in Loring Park, and Film in the Cities.   All this time, I never met Prince myself.  In my mind I was the Anti-Prince, the only person in town bold enough to make fun of him.   

Although I was the star of the film short, I never acted much after that.  I made plans to create parody songs off of Prince’s new album “Around the World In a Day”.   It was also around that time that Dave Comer brought into his home studio Prince’s actual LM1 drum machine.  Here was the generator of the immortal handclap sound that became part of his signature sound.  The drum samples could be tuned up or down, and Prince was the first person to deliberately exaggerate the tuning, so the hand clap now sounded like a wicked noisy sound effect.  But by the time the film “Under the Cherry Moon” was released, it seemed nobody could make Prince look more ridiculous than himself.  Oddly enough, a French pop singer named Sapho, who Joel Itman knew, was offered a role in the film.  She turned it down.  My efforts to form a band never materialised, instead I became proficient in creating entire song arrangements in the studio on my own.   By the 1990s, my own sound and music career had not taken off.   It was only my humourous approach to the world around me that allowed me to be a soundtrack composer and video editor for a sketch comedy TV show, and later an 80s mashup band.   

But Minneapolis, and everything about it, was charged with the energy of Prince.  I once participated as an extra for a music video Prince was shooting at Paisley Park.  What I felt was so terrific about Prince was that by this time (around 1991) he was like everybody’s friend.  Nobody would crowd or rush him if he was seen in public around town.  When I hung out between takes at Paisley Park, I enjoyed sitting on a purple couch, taking in the behind-the-scenes going on.  The backup dancers were complaining that Prince kept changing the choreography.  When the cameras were finally rolling, I made sure I was in the shot.  Prince liked my dancing, asking the other extras to be more like me.  He never recognised me as the guy from “Purple Grapes” (not that I expected him to).  

The only other time I saw Prince was one of his First Avenue shows, this time to debut new material from “Sign o’ the Times”.  I remember waiting on the main floor for 2 hours, and that my feet were sore by the time the concert started.   Nevertheless there he was.  Prince has performed incredibly long and legendary performances at First Avenue.  This show was thankfully under 2 hours (for my feet’s sake).    I continued to pay attention to music released by Prince throughout the 90s.  My friend Chuck, who eventually worked at Paisley Park studios, told me that the man was constantly churning out material.  He would do all-nighters in the studio, burning out sound engineers like him.   I later recognised that Prince possessed almost a curse, where he always had music pouring out of his head, whether he wanted to or not.   Paul McCartney also seems to be constantly producing material.  In Prince’s case, there are whole albums recorded and stored away, because the common wisdom is to not dilute your music legacy by releasing so much music.  

By the 2000s, I only occasionally would hear new stuff from Prince on the radio.  Catching video of him jamming here and there (what a big moment he had at the Super Bowl), but otherwise not really keeping up with him.   But again, when word would get out that he would hold a private concert at his studio, the same glow would return, relishing in the fact that this person who has become one of the biggest musical legends in history, still invites the people to join him.  No other celebrities do that.   I caught word of his hip surgery, and more recently of his plane being diverted because of medical reasons.   But when I heard of his death it was a complete shock.  Since there were no other signs of him being more gravely ill,  I thought perhaps it was a car accident or something like that.  

Nobody, especially in Minneapolis, understood Prince’s true influence upon the world immediately after his death.   After all, Michael Jackson was given a large array of tributes once he passed away, and there were many who grieved outwardly around the world.   More recently the passing of David Bowie was noted worldwide,  but perhaps with less of an outpouring, mainly because of his legacy being such a long time ago.   But it soon became something more personal when Prince died.   One of the best examples of how many people he touched was the fact that the President made a statement about his passing.    His child-like attitude about having the world treat him special was a both a gift and source of ridicule.  For one, he certainly deserved to be treated special, because this man gave so much to everyone around him.   Never once did he perform without going for 100% crowd pleasing expectations.   

I am now finding that a Minneapolis without a Prince will probably be a little less exciting now.  The legend is gone.   

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

An Open Letter to Supporters of Donald Trump

I know you believe you are on the side of America.  You believe you are a Patriot standing up for the European-based (White) population that you feel should be the dominating presence in this country.   A Patriot should feel proud of our democratic philosophy, and our right for all of us to express ourselves.   A patriot knows that what made this country so strong and so envied across the globe was our openness.   We didn't need to try suppress any group of people, because everyone could enjoy their right to express themselves.  Through our system of government, any tax-paying citizen can work to fulfill their dreams without fear.

A Patriot knows that violence has no place in self-expression.  You don't make a statement with a gun.  A gun is a weapon and the use of a weapon in the name of political differences automatically weakens your cause.  It is the moment when you are no longer a Patriot and no longer love your country.  It is the moment when you no longer embrace our country's strength in allowing free expression for all people.  Worst, it provides evidence that your philosophy of how this country should be dominated by White people is a losing argument.  Because you now are trying to suppress free speech of others instead of engaging in proper political discourse.

For our brothers and sisters that are our fellow countrymen; they are law abiding citizens that are your neighbours, your co-workers, your fellow tax-paying Americans.  They live and thrive in this country without bringing harm to you.   We need not be selfish about our European-based culture, there is plenty of room for everyone to enjoy their own customs without offending others.   Again, you look weak when, instead of standing for our country's principles, you use your energy to make enemies of your fellow citizens. 

I have felt a need to mention Donald Trump, who is currently showing a strong following among the politically conservative people in our country.  I implore you to ask yourself if this man is really a Patriot?  Does he represents what this country was founded upon:

Freedom of Religion - the ability to peacefully practice your faith without persecution. Donald Trump has advocated that people with a certain religious affiliation have their rights taken away.

Freedom of Speech - the ability of someone such as a protestor to peacefully express themselves without being violently attacked. Donald Trump has advocated that protestors be physically attacked

Equal Opportunity for All - Where all people can peacefully pursue a prosperous and happy life in this country without being demonized as belonging to a particular race, religion, national heritage, or political philosophy.  Donald Trump has advocated that an entire population belonging to a single national heritage be physically removed from our country. 

I beg you, fellow countrymen, to ask whether a potential President of the United States should openly advocate for tearing apart the very fabric our strong country. 

No matter what your concerns are for the well being of our country, be it economy, violence against others, the ability to enjoy your peaceful way of living, the problem is not from these other groups.  Our country is strong enough to peacefully resolve problems that can accommodate everyone.  If you do not trust our system of government, then you are not a Patriot. 

Please, lobby for your cause without demonizing others.  Donald Trump has not advocated for peaceful change to support his cause, and I ask you to consider whether his demonization of others is truly what you stand for as an American.   More, I ask be honest with yourself about whether you would advocate the same things Mr. Trump does if engaged in a polite discussion with a fellow neighbour, who might have a different point of view.  Are these inflammatory statements sensible?  Do they sound like a peaceful way to resolve our differences?

You are a fellow American, a brother, a neighbour, a friend.   I truly support your right to advocate for changes to our system of government,  so please understand that there is a problem with supporting Donald Trump and also supporting what you know is truly great about our country.   A more sensible candidate who has peaceful intentions will find a bi-partisan (yes, me too, a liberal) approval, and will have a better chance at creating the change you desire.

Peace be with you.  

Saturday, January 04, 2014

The Cat and Mouse Freakout

When I decided to get a new cat, I wanted to get a kitten so I could make sure I could raise it myself so there would be no bad habits or what not.  She was from an animal shelter and loved to play.  Turns out she was trained to be mouse catcher, and she is a good one.  During the summer she will patrol my yard and track down any mice (or baby rabbits) that invade.  She has had a great deal of success, I have had the charming gift of a mouse carcass deposited on my doorstep several times.  During the winter, I have usually been able to keep my cat occupied in the off-season by using simple objects like a pipe cleaner and a shoelace to amuse my feline.  It's been a few years now since I got Bonny, now a full grown adult.  She still loves to play but now is bored by the normal distractions.  I could tell by the complaining tone of her meows that she wanted something to do.  I felt it was my duty to follow the mission of Confuse A Cat, and do whatever it takes to create a distraction for my bored animal.   So for Christmas I finally gave in and purchased her a cat toy, a realistic looking furry stuffed mouse.

I Am The Claw

I attached the mouse to the end of a shoelace and I dragged it across the floor.  Like the classic Tom & Jerry cartoons, my cat's eyes instantly went wide.  She crouched into attack position, setting her hind legs like an Olympic track runner on a starting block.    As she pounced for the mouse, I yanked it away and she gave chase.   More lethal than I expected, she was able to successfully swipe at the toy with her front claws several times as I dragged it over the carpet, behind my trash, onto my bed, and finally a quick run into my dressing room.   I let her clutch it in her mouth as she dutifully carried her hunting prize back to where I sat next to my computer.  

No Longer A Game

A few minutes later I picked up the mouse toy and checked to see if she was still as entranced with it as before.   She nearly barked once she saw it move again and immediately went back into attack position.   This time she was even more determined to terminate with extreme prejudice.   The fact she was more vocal as she stalked indicated to me that she had elevated to Defcon 2.  Again with lethal precision she swiped multiple times at the fake rodent only to see it scurry away.   Like a running back being denied the endzone over and over, I would finally let go of the string to let her claim her kill.   I was both tickled silly at my cat's behaviour and terribly sympathetic.   Here was an all-pro mouse killer used to downing her quarry by one mighty swish of her trusty claws.    Yet this mouse rose again and survived!  The tone of her voice and her unusual behaviour lead me to believe that my cat was freaking out over this Zombie Mouse that continued to rise from the dead.  It was particularly bewildering to my cat when the mouse displayed characteristics she had never encountered before, able to make huge leaps on to furniture and possess super-strength ability to free itself from her superior weapons. 

My Cute Pet Declares War

After a few more times of pulling the toy around and then letting her grab the mouse and declare victory.  I put the toy away, a little concerned that my cat was losing self-esteem, long accustomed to being the ruler of the back-yard jungle.   This seemed to upset the cat even more.  The absence of the mouse only made her switch to hunter/prowler mode.   I observed what now seemed like some unintentional animal behaviour experiment as I witnessed Bonny methodically return to the trash, the bed, and into the dressing room again, peeking under the furniture, looking for targets.   My god, I thought, what have I done?   I triggered the part of her brain that turns my cat into a autonomous killing machine.  She will not stop until all mice are eradicated.  The poor kitty had one job, to keep the house clear of varmints, and now she lost her touch.  Am I going to have to put her in Cat Therapy now? 

"Yes dear, no, really you are an expert mouser, it was just a game, ok?  It wasn't real"
The Kitty Matrix

It now has been over a week that the mouse has permanently been a part of my cat's world.  She now appears to have slowly accepted that as much as she uses her hunting instincts, repeatedly swiping and biting, this particular mouse is a demon that continually rises from the dead.   I will make a point once summer returns to rehabilitate my defeated feline and assure her that the cyber-mouse was only a simulation and that real mice can't leap 4 feet into the air and are not immortal.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

It Took Five Years

In The Beginning
When I began this blog, I wanted to use it as an outlet for observations that hopefully others may find useful.  Meanwhile Facebook 'took over'.  However, Facebook is meant for a few sentences (and Twitter for a few sound bytes), whereas a separate blogsite is it's own entity.  Previously, all my writings were merely word documents that I typed and saved privately.  Before that, I wrote by hand in a notebook, dating back to high school.  I still have all those notebooks.  Many of them included poetry that were used for my music lyrics.  When I have the time, I will begin to organise and post some passages from the past.  It has been over a year since I last posted on this blog.  The frequencies of posts dwindled as I was less inspired to compose deeper trains of thought in a thorough enough matter to legitimise posting to the world.   When I got laid off near the beginning of 2007, I used this blog to organise my life and find perspective as the the economy collapse loomed.  I also used it as a way to publicly declare my determination to see the drought through.  I would have never imagined how long that drought would be. 

My Kid Could Do That
When I have spent time unemployed in the past, it wasn't a bad thing.  I always had something to live off in my savings while looking for new work.  I didn't stress it.  Being a freelancer, there usually is no such thing as a steady job.  Not everybody can live with the idea hanging over your head that you could be a few paychecks from being broke.   I figured that within a year I would land at another creative firm.  What I failed to realise was that as the popularity of YouTube lowered the level of acceptable production values, along with shrinking budgets, reduced the need for freelance video editors.  I tried to get involved with a TV production, even reality TV shows need real editors, but I had only done comedy television, not good demo reel material.  

Ken 2.1:  Reinventing Myself (Version 2)
The future was YouTube and everything else web.  Any company that has a website can have their own video channel.  I obtained a degree in Web Design and Interactive Media.  I wanted to find my niche, the intersection of video production and web design.   I found Motion Graphics.  Really it is animation, mainly having fun with words.  Words jump, spin, zoom, to become eye candy.   A good website is going to want to have movement, so the that it seems active.  Whether it is the interactivity when your mouse hovers over a button or a word, or an automated slideshow showing off your wares.  

Fear of Graduation
Beginning in 2010, I was released out into the working environment after a portfolio show and some meetings with a placement advisor.  I knew the economy was still dire, but I had good credentials, just no experience in Web Design yet.  Having no savings left, it was down to a few bread crumbles of freelance jobs that helped me pay the mortgage and buy food, but little else.   Undaunted, I continued to post my unwavering conviction that my niche would be found, and I would be a perfect fit somewhere, sometime.  

The Epic Extended Director's Cut
As I look over my Blog posts over the last five years, this has been the longest dry spell for work, and it started to take it's toll near the end.  The latest contract Web Design jobs I have taken in the last year,  will be enough to declare the drought over,  but it is hard for me to completely adjust to it right away.  An analogy would be an engaged couple where the girlfriend goes overseas for a year to teach English, and assure each other that when she returns the engagement will carry on as planned.  Only she stays an extra year, and another 9 months after that.  Once they are finally back together, the long separation of time still has created residual damage.  After 2 & 1/2 years of job searching, I am a little shelled out from living so long with so little.  Another analogy is that if a film were made of my life, this period would be depict me battling the very essentials to remain an independently living grown adult.  From disintegrating cars, frostbitten bus stops, computer disasters, and a depressing descent into poverty.  The scenes of endless depression would go two more extra reels than one would anticipate.  It was that bad.

Even so, I still am surviving with a 22 year old car that is falling apart, and several debt collectors hounding me.  Things will start to feel normal in a few months, but I really can't say that I will ever get over one of the worst periods of my life.   It took five years to finally find a regular job and start to feel like I can be myself again.  My track record has taken a huge hit with this overlong period of inactivity.  But at least I can finally say that I can put this life-changing chapter to rest.