Saturday, January 31, 2009

Go Cardinals


I grew up following the NFL during the era of Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, and Lynn Swann. The Steelers of the late 70's, early 80's, were big, bad, mean, uncompromising...and while I was keenly aware of the spell that they cast on so many people around the country, I never fell victim to it for some reason. Maybe it was because I was way out west, in Washington state, excited by the upstart Seahawks - Pittsburgh seemed like a long ways away. I was more into Jim Zorn, Steve Largent, and Steve Raible.

Even so, I was never really blown away by anyone I saw, until many years later when Kurt Warner - fresh from his job bagging groceries - exploded on to the scene as the Rams's starting QB. I'd watched Staubach, Bradshaw, Plunkett, Montana, Young...but I'd never seen any quarterback with as much total composure, as much peaceful intensity, as Warner. That was inspiring. I'd gotten married very young, and with small children and a young immigrant wife, I often felt a lot of pressure - felt often that there were a lot of problems and crises I had to solve or everything would fall apart - and I suppose that a part of me liked to imagine that I had a fraction of the same composure and wherewithal that I saw in Warner. And, I aimed to get more of it.

Now here we are, in 2009, years after we all thought we'd seen the last of Warner, on the eve of his third Super Bowl, and yeah, I am totally rooting for the Cardinals. It's not just my admiration of Warner's unique poise; Cardinals's coach Ken Whisenhunt, in my view, got the shaft being passed over by the Steeler's organization (no disrespect to Steeler's coach Mike Tomlin), and it would be nice to see him get some revenge. But maybe more is that people have dissed the Cardinals's for so long...and the media love affair with the Steelers is so intense...and the Cardinals are out here, out west...and that Warner and I are close in age...it'd be really cool to see the underdogs bring their A game and win.

My guess is that we will see the Cardinals pretty much go with what got them where they are: a lot of passing. I also think they'll use Fitzgerald as a decoy to get a lot of shorter passing options. I expect the Steelers to come out very aggressively offensively, but I also expect the Cardinal defence to be prepared for that.

Prediction: 38-27 Cardinals.

Go Cards!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Comments on "Lost"


1.) Can someone remind me of what Jack has ever done? How did that spaz ever get to be the "leader" of anyone? I don't get it. He's the most irritating character on the whole show, and maybe, on TV right now.

2.) Does anyone else keep thinking that we're going to find out eventually that Ben is actually a good guy?

3.) When do we get to see the charming Claire again?

4.) Who else thinks Sun is up to something sinister?

5.) Why couldn't Hurley have just said no to Ben, instead of giving himself up to the police, especially after AnnaLucia told him to not get arrested?

6.) I think Jin's still alive...

Add comments or questions below.

Ten Mediocre Things


I think of good, bad, and mediocre as sort of being on a circle. Imagine a clock. The six is the dividing line between horrific and flawless - that is, they are adjacent. Twelve is mediocre, and it just fans down from there on either side.

For me anyway, mediocre is a lot farther away from horrific and flawless, than horrific and flawless are from each other. In reality, the dividing line between horrific and flawless is often very slim, which is why I hate mediocre a lot more than horrific. Remember "Springtime for Hitler"? It was so bad, it was great. Neil Young solos are like that, too, as are Michael Bolton vocal performances. My friend Kevin tells me that the John Travolta movie "Face Off" is the same - so horrific that it's actually brilliant. I could say the same for Bret Michael's TV show "Rock of Love", or McDonald's, or Robert Plant ad libs.

Anyway, here is a list of ten mediocre things. They're not horrific, they're not great...they're just out there, floating, refusing to take a stand one way or the other, being really mediocre. Booooo.

10.) The Phillips screw (the Robertson screw, the standard in Canada but unavailable in the US, is far superior).

9.) The Snickers Bar

8.) CNN legal correspondent Jeffrey Toobin (close to horrific because of intolerably smug attitude, yet his mediocrity overwhelms even that).

7.) CNN

6.) Swiss Army Knives

5.) Kellogg's Corn Flakes

4.) The Vancouver Canucks

3.) Gibson acoustic guitars (and hugely overpriced)

2.) Colgate toothpaste

1.) English Leather aftershave

Add your Ten Mediocre Things below.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Boy Named Pizza


They were obsessive. Every morning, every night, breakfast time, dinnertime, in the car, in the tub, everywhere...

"Dad, can you tell us another story?". J-Dawg was four, A-Roq was three. I was flattered, in a way; this must mean my stories are pretty good, I thought. But other times, staggering in mentally exhausted from the studio, I would sometimes think, What am I, Hans Christian Andersen? I need some peace - please!

But I figured that those enchanting days wouldn't last, and so I always tried to indulge my two little boys. I was a pretty new dad - not the grizzled veteran I am now (:P) - and hell, I was enjoying the adventure. So I was always on the lookout for new story ideas - in the paper, in magazines, on TV. I'd get an idea and adapt it so they would understand.

Sometimes the stories were true; most of the time, I would invent stories, about little boys with a pet dinosaur, or performing some heroic mission as a soldier, or sailing off in search of lost treasure. I remember one story series from when J-Dawg and A-Roq were six and five, which I entitled "The Silver Dragon". It was about a boy who became the assistant to a samurai warrior in medieval Japan. The boy's master was the most fearsome warrior in the whole army; but then the master fell desperately ill and couldn't fight anymore. Knowledge of this would cause the army to lose heart, and their enemies to gain confidence, so it had to be kept secret. The master tried to get better, but only got sicker, with the army continuing to send messages for him to come and help them.

Fearing death and worried about the fate of the army, the master finally came up with a plan. He had seen his assistant's devotion and intelligence. In fact, the boy seemed very special indeed - the master had never seen his equal. So he decided there was only one way to help the army: teach his young assistant all the secret tricks to being the ultimate samurai swordsman, and then send the boy out wearing his armour (disguised as his master) to fight in his stead.

Each night, the story advanced; it just seemed to write itself; and J-Dawg and A-Roq, along with T-Bone, who was just getting old enough to understand, would listen in rapt silence as the master taught his pupil everything. "To be fast, you must be slow"; "to be strong, you must be weak"; "to succeed, you must fail": the master would always start his lessons with a contradiction, but would then go on to explain just what he meant, and how it really made sense.

Finally, one day as the boy sparred with another servant, the master realized the boy was ready. End of the story is, the boy goes on to be a hero, and becomes known as the "The Silver Dragon", etc.

But that was not the most successful story I ever came up with. It was one night, after dinner, when the boys began clamouring for another story, another story, another story...I just couldn't think of anything else. I'd exhausted every last story idea I had floating round in my head, and I was totally blank. And then I remember very distinctly, just starting yet another one with no idea where it would go:

"Okay, here's another one. Once upon a time there was a boy named..."

And in that split second, a word came out:

"...there was a boy named Pizza".

I remember the look on the boys's faces. They were suddenly dumbstruck, their eyes wider than ever in excitement and anticipation. Total silence.

Wow. Maybe I have something here...

"Pizza was five years old, with red hair and freckles. And....um....Pizza was a very, very naughty boy".

I glanced at them. A-Roq sucking his thumb, eyes still wide, J-Dawg, riveted gaze...

"One day, Pizza went out to the garage where his dad was working on the car. All of a sudden, the phone rang. Pizza's daddy said, "Okay Pizza, I have to go get the phone. Make sure you don't touch anything in here. Just stay right there and I'll be back in a second. Okay?'"

"'Okay', said Pizza".

"Pizza's dad walked through the door and into the kitchen. Pizza was now all alone in the garage...and he started to think about how cool it would be to drive a car around all by himself. 'I can hardly wait till I grow up', he thought to himself".

"And the more Pizza thought about how cool it would be to drive, the more he wanted to sit in the front seat of the car and pretend, until finally, he decided that it would be okay if he just snuck into the front seat, just for a second, to pretend to drive the car. So he opened up the door and slipped in. 'Vrrrm vrmmm!', said Pizza. He moved the steering wheel back and forth. He had seen his dad turn the car keys a bunch of times, and decided he was going to pretend to start the car just like him."

"But.....just as Pizza put his fingers on the keys, he sneezed; his hand shook and he turned the keys by accident - and the car started!"

The boys remained rapt.

"And then Pizza got super scared. Maybe he was going to get in trouble. So he tried to turn the keys so as to turn the car off, but as he was fiddling around, he accidentally knocked the car's gear shift into reverse! The car started going backwards! Pizza tried to put his foot on the brake like he'd seen his dad do, but by accident, he put his foot on to the GAS! And the car suddenly jolted backwards and smashed right through their garage door! OH NO!"

By the end of the story, Pizza had smashed over fire hydrants, driven off a bridge, been chased by sharks, gotten hit by a passing freighter, got taken to a hospital where he disobeyed the nurse's instructions by hanging out the window to look down below, whereupon he fell into the back of an open garbage truck and was then deposited at the city dump covered in rotting slime, had to walk home freezing and injured all night, had broken his left arm, bleeding lip, and all because he hadn't obeyed his dad (subsequent stories would include mom).

I finished the story with Pizza lying his bed with a cast on his arm, bandages around his head, with a black eye, with his mom and dad saying, "Pizza...we love you, but you must remember: when we ask you to obey us, it's for your own good. Please be a good little boy now, and go right to sleep. Please don't try to walk around - your leg is injured. Call us if you need something, but whatever you do, don't get up and try to walk around".

I stopped talking.

About five seconds passed. And then, all hell broke loose.

"DAD CAN YOU TELL US ANOTHER STORY ABOUT PIZZA WANNA PIZZA STORY DAD PLEASE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT DAD PLEASE TELL US ANOTHER PIZZA STORY CAN YOU TELL ME A STORY ABOUT PIZZA PLEASE"

And as God is my witness, I was hounded by those two for like the next, I would say, three solid years, for more Pizza stories. It never got old (for them anyway). It was really the same story over and over: Pizza's mom or dad would ask him to do something perfectly sensible, his curiosity would get the best of him, he would decide it was okay to disobey, one thing would lead to another, and by the end of the story, he would have been grabbed and taken away by gigantic eagles, been framed for a bank robbery, captured by Malaysian pirates, drafted into the Iranian army, would have crashed a motorcycle into a train, slipped down eight flights of stairs and knocked his teeth out...and J-Dawg and A-Roq's appetite for cosmic retribution for disobedience (or maybe I should just say, their appetite for perversity) seemed limitless, and we ended up spending hours laughing at how ridiculous the stories got.

And now, a decade later, my little boys Sno-cone and Trixta, six and three, continue to pester me to tell them Pizza stories (my little girls aren't as keen on Pizza stories...).

One day, maybe I'll write up a few and pitch them to a publisher...but then, it's hard to believe I'd ever get anywhere. What school librarian would ever recommend books about a really bad boy who winds up strapped to the outside of a submerging submarine, or being trampled by a herd of goats, or falling down a manhole into the city sewer?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cicero's Dust












Are we who he says we are? It seems
Both true and untrue, sane and insane
Yet all the same, beyond the power to deny

For...

There is a stillness at the heart of being
A quiet awe, a reverence amidst the clash
Of battles, sorrow, anguished falls
And prizes lost and blood that runs
A quiet spanning back and deep
Inside a tunnel round and endless
Where light never fades

There is a memory, only shadowed, flick'ring
A glimpse within each cell, within each mind
Apart from any stilted credo
In and through each everything we are
Forlorn and distant from that place
Preceding hour or day

And all those notions that we can't but scorn
When thinking thoughts in rightest, sharpest mind
Well up from under reason's gloss
Like clovers through a mortared stone
Who can shout them down, or chase
Them into nothingness?

We come, he says, from out there, from the stars
From gods who created us, some race of unknowns
Yet known through echoes of intuition
We live, he says, forever, somehow,
Some way, more than dusty dust
He says, "We have some other sort
inside" -

A diamond dust of the divine
For all our madness. He says
He knows it, feels it, knows it,
Knows it, knows it, knows it.

I feel it, too, but do not know it
I sense it, but cannot grasp it
I see it, but cannot describe it
I love it, but cannot fathom what it is
That stillness at the heart of being

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ten Worst Things


10.) The worst picture of Hilary Clinton: See left.

9.) The worst fast-food restaurant: Burger King.

8.) The worst Beatles song: "Revolution #9".

7.) The worst car: AMC Gremlin.

6.) The worst NBA executive: tie between Isaiah Thomas and Stu Jackson.

5.) The worst make-up: now that Tammy Faye Bakker is dead, Gloria Allred.

4.) The worst hair on a male TV personality: Ted Koppel.

3.) The worst non-fiction best-seller of the past five years: "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins.

2.) The worst big movie of the year: "Twilight".

1.) The worst NHL team name: tie between The Predators (you're supposed to pick a specific predator) and The Senators (who names a sports team after politicians?).

Post your ten worst things below!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ten Best Things


10.) The best peanut butter: Jif Extra Crunchy.

9.) The best acoustic guitar for the money: Yamaha FG-720S (and 730S).

8.) The best overall temperature: 68 degrees (no wind chill).

7.) The best fitness magazine: Men's/Women's Fitness RX.

6.) The best wheat ale: Widmer, from Portland, Oregon.

5.) The best birthday activity: paintball.

4.) The best NHL captain: Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames.

3.) The best actor under forty: Leonardo DiCaprio.

2.) The best men's clothes manufacturer: Boss.

1.) The best overall cut of meat: rib steak.

Add your suggestions below.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Sad Day for British Columbia: Two Mormon Fundamentalists Indicted for Polygamy (Revised)


Wally Oppal, pompous buffoon and British Columbia's current Attorney General, has finally caved in to the hysterical demands of illiberal ideologues and charged two of BC's Mormon fundamentalist men with polygamy. Words cannot express how I loathe this sort of thing, and I don't even know where to begin in trying...everything about it is totally wrong. It is totally outrageous.

Where to begin?

Canada passed a law in 1892 banning "conjugal" relationships, though not sex, with more than one person. This the anti-polygamy law under which BC polygamists are now being charged.

So...it is okay for Mr. Jones to have a wife but also a revolving door policy towards girlfriends. It is okay for him to sire kids with a bunch of them. It is okay for him to have a mistress, or 100 mistresses. But if Mr. Jones, with the full consent of all the women involved, lives with any of them as a husband, even sporadically, and/or supports them and his children financially as as a husband would, he ought to go to jail.

I don't get that. Can someone explain it to me? If government in fact has some compelling interest in, or some viable argument for, maintaining a monopoly over the legitimation of certain social/sexual relationships between consenting adults, I can't imagine what those might be. Certainly I've never heard any sensible account of either; and why government should worry about who hooks up with whom, or for how long, when it cannot even stop us from killing, maiming, raping, and stealing from each other, is quite beyond my comprehension.

Even granting that government could make some sort of sensible claim over monopolizing the legitimation of certain human relationships, I'm curious to know how they came up with the "one man-one woman" "one true definition of marriage" conclusion. After all, the Mormon fundamentalists they're charging are certain that they know the "one true definition of marriage", and that it is "one man, many women".

In truth, neither the province of British Columbia, nor the religious believers they are now prosecuting in the most bigoted fashion, knows anything about a "one true definition of marriage", because no such thing exists. There are only people; and in different cultures and different times, and according to their own desires or needs, they engage in all sorts of different marital relationships...and as far as I can see, the only thing that matters is that the participants consent, and that they are old enough to know what they are consenting to.

Every time anyone starts saying any of this, there are always people who pipe up and say, "What about the underage marriages?". But in reality, underage marriages have nothing to do with any of this - they can, and should be, prosecuted in polygamous contexts as much as in monogamous contexts. There is no, and never has been any, dispute about that. But it is not even what we are talking about here.

What we are talking about here is a form of relationship which, in its essence, is actually identical in nature to that practiced by many British Columbians, but which is being prosecuted in only one case: when a certain type of religious believer practices it on religious grounds.

And that is total BS, the definition of government bullying. I don't really see how some man-about-town with eight or ten ladies who he "sees" is doing anything essentially different than some guy who lives in Bountiful with eight wives. That the latter talks about Mormon founder Joseph Smith while the former talks about Hugh Hefner, makes, or should make, no difference. You can't punish a guy for committing Act X just because of the religion he belongs to, and then turn a blind eye to everyone else committing just the same Act X only on grounds that they're not religious at all.

Wally Oppal should be ashamed of himself. As the attorney-general, he is supposed to ensure that BC law is applied fairly. With this act, he is actually spearheading an effort to apply it in the most bigoted fashion.

If men and women wish to remain celibate, be monogamous, be gay, be straight, be in "open marriages", act like sluts, enter into polygamous or group marriages, and do so for whatever reason...who cares? What business is it of Wally Oppal's? He doesn't crack down on homosexual promiscuity. He doesn't crack down on everday heterosexual promiscuity. He doesn't crack down on all his buddies who have mistresses. But he cracks down on religious believers who do the same thing?

Not fair. Wally Oppal is a weak-willed bully who ought to be replaced by someone with respect for provincial and Constitutional law, and their fair application.

Roland Burris Should Be Seated


Under Illinois law, the governor has the legal authority to appoint a new senator in the case of a vacated seat. So to fill Barack Obama's seat, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris. Yet Senate Democrats today refused to allow Burris to take his seat.

The argument seems to be that because Blagojevich is under suspicion of having tried to sell the Senate seat, no candidate he appoints should be seated. This is ridiculous. Blagojevich may very well be corrupt and guilty, but he has not been found guilty and is still serving as governor. More importantly, there is absolutely no evidence that Burris has in any way purchased his seat.

This whole episode has been a farce, right from Patrick Fitzgerald's ham-fisted (if not unethical) handling of the whole case, to the Democrats's preference for public image over fairness and the presumption of innocence. Good on Dianne Feinstein for publicly voicing her disagreement with her party's leaders. I think that's the first thing she's ever done that I agree with...!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Who Invented Romantic Love?


For many decades, at least in the West, the most prevalent view of man/woman romantic love has been that it is a very recent invention, emerging along with the code of chivalry sometime in the Middle Ages, being most forcefully introduced into modern consciousness by the Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the late 18th century.

I first heard this as an undergradate years ago, in a political philosophy class funnily enough, and have since heard or read it numerous times. The last time was only a few weeks ago, in an Intellectual History class at the University of Victoria.

But...I've always thought it was nonsense. It requires believing that there has been some mammoth reconfiguration of human brain circuitry in just the last eight or nine centuries, such that no one ever fell in love 2000, or 5000, or 15,000 years ago; or even worse, that no one fell in love in a non-Western country until "we" invented and exported the concept. It requires believing that all of those obsessive thoughts, all the spectacular feelings of ecstacy and longing and even worship, are culturally conditioned, like deciding to wear trousers rather than a toga. Like I said, nonsense.

A more plausible view is that while the world's different cultures have mediated (and continue to mediate) the formal expression of man/woman attraction in many different ways, that no culture is, or could ever be, strong enough to eradicate the human propensity to fall in love, which is innate, or biologically rooted. In a word, I think that boys and girls, men and women, have fallen in love for many, many thousands of years. And thank God, finally someone with academic clout is making a hard case for this view.

Helen Fisher, an anthropologist from Rutgers, writes in her 2004 book "Why We Love":

"Thousands of romantic poems, songs, and stories come across the centuries from ancestral Europe, as well as the Middle East, Japan, China, India, and every other society that has left written records...from Siberia to to the Australian Outback to the Amazon, people sing love songs, compose love poems, and recount myths and legends of romantic love. Many perform love magic - carrying amulets and charms or serving condiments or concoctions to stimulate romantic ardour. Many elope. And many suffer deeply from unrequited love...

"From reading the poems, songs, and stories of people around the world, I came to believe that the capacity for romantic love is woven firmly into the fabrice of the human brain. Romantic love is a universal experience".

Yeah baby. You're preachin' the gospel.

Fisher marshals a lot of evidentiary support for this view. For example, she begins Chapter One by quoting from a poem written by a Kwakiutl from southern Alaska, translated into English in 1896:

"Fires run through my body - the pain of loving you. Pain runs through my body with the fires of my love for you...consumed by fire with my love for you. I remember what you said to me. I am thinking of your love for me. I am torn by your love for me...I am told you will leave me here. My body is numb with grief. Remember what I've said, my love. Goodbye, my love, goodbye".

She then retells a fable from 12th century China, in which Meilan - a pampered fifteen year old princess - falls in love with a charming lad named Chang Po. The problem is that Chang Po is from a lower class: their love is forbidden by the whole structure of Chinese society. Nevertheless, the two meet secretly in a garden, where on one occasion the boy tells the princess, "since the heaven and earth were created, you were made for me and I was made for you, and I will not let you go". Meilan and Chang Po then decide to run away together. They are pursued by Meilan's family; Chang Po escapes, but Meilan is captured. As punishment, and as a warning to other youngsters, she is buried alive in her father's garden. So...it's not that romantic love "didn't exist" in ancient China; only that other values were considered far more important. And certainly Meilan's punishers would not have made an example out of her unless they were well aware of the propensity in others to fall in love just as she had.

In the rest of the book, Fisher presents evidence from fMRI studies, endocrinological studies, survey results, etc., for the thesis that romantic love is rooted in the hardwiring of the human brain, not contingent upon purely cultural accident.

So...to the question of who invented romantic love?, I think we can answer - not Rousseau (as if Alaskan natives were secretly reading Swiss philosophers in between hunting polar bears and building igloos, or the Persian love poet Rumi had a time machine...), and not medieval knights...

It was the same force which "invented" sympathy, patriotism, religious feeling, or maternal instinct...if not a deity, then nature through eons of natural selection. It is just part of who we are as humans.

More on this later. I'll try to make the next segment on this less boring!

T.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Life's Little Twists of Fate, Part I


Something happened when I was twelve. It changed my life, but sometimes I'm not sure it should have.

You see...I was very curious and read constantly. I also was totally into sports: baseball, football, and while soccer wasn't very popular in those days, I liked playing at school, and was thrilled one day when I heard my PE teacher introduce me to some kids as one of the best soccer players he'd ever had (those days are over - I stopped playing after we moved back to Canada, and I'm pretty lousy now as a result).

It's not that I wasn't into music: I listened to music constantly, too. It's just that it wasn't an exclusive obsession. I was into loads of different things.

But as it happened, one day when I was in the seventh grade, Mr. Bertrand, the band teacher, approached me in the hallway (this was down in Lynden, Washington). He invited me to join the concert band and play the baritone.

"I don't know how to play the baritone", I said.

"It's easy. Come and try. There's no pressure, and we need the people. And I know you have a good ear".

Prior to this, I'd had a beginning guitar class with Mr. Bertrand. (Our big hit was "Silver Bells"). Maybe he thought my guitar playing was alright. Or maybe it was just his desperation...

I say that because I heard rumours afterwards that a bunch of the concert band had quit due to Mr. Bertrand's bad temper. I heard once that he'd even thrown his baton at one of the kids in a fit of rage. I do know that a lot of kids joined around the time I did, so maybe it was true.

But I never saw any of that from Mr. Bertrand. In guitar class he'd been pretty cool - if we were good, he would sometimes put on The Who's "Who Are You?" at top volume for the last few minutes of class, which always sent all the boys into an air-guitar playing frenzy, and got all the girls dancing. This, I think, was fairly daring given that Lynden was a small, extremely conservative, extremely Christian, farming town. Especially daring given the "F" word in the song! In concert band he was the same. Cool guy.

Anyway, I showed up at concert band one day, fairly nervous. Mr. Bertrand got me set up with a baritone, showed me how to blow into it, and then gave me an instruction book with the fingerings for each note. I brought it home each day to practice, and pretty soon I was alright.

Now what made this pretty cool for me was that Mr. Bertrand was fairly ambitious - one of the pieces he wanted all of his twelve year olds to play was a piece by Tchaikovsky which, if I remember right, was called "March Entracte", though I've never been able to find it listed anywhere since (I presume it was a segment from some larger piece). Another piece was an arrangement of Haydn melodies. This sort of approach was right up my alley. Why fool around with mediocre pieces written by nobodies, when we could learn how to play some of the greatest music ever composed? Yeah baby!

This started my band career. In Washington, I ended up playing not only in the concert band but in the marching band as well. When we moved back to Canada, I played (at various times) trombone, tuba, and baritone in concert band, guitar and drums in jazz band, and sang in the madrigal choir (great tunes), jazz choir, and concert choir. At lunch times, I'd grab my Gretsch and hit the band room with Blair, the drummer, where we'd blow our faces off playing Hendrix and Zeppelin tunes. As I was friends with most of the other kids in our high school (which was quite small and very close knit), it never occurred to me that I was in any sort of clique, or that there was anything geeky about being involved in music. In fact, I think the first time this ever occurred to me was when I was being interviewed live once on the Vicki Gabereau television show. She asked me how I'd learned how to sing, and I said, "Well...I don't know really. I guess it was just always singing in the choirs at school". And she snorted derisively and made some little crack!

Anyway, I wonder sometimes what would have happened if, instead of Mr. Bertrand approaching me that day, someone else had. Like, say, the basketball coach, or the football coach, or the wrestling coach. Or what would have happened if, once back in Canada, someone had invited me out to play hockey or rugby. I'd ended up doing well at baseball, making the high school team my last year in Washington (ninth grade)...but once I got into band, sports fell by the wayside.

Maybe the worst thing that could have happened is if no one had ever invited me to do anything, since it probably would never have occurred to me to go try out for something brand new all on my own.

It seems to be a strange fact of life that often, very little things end up making big differences for us. If one little thing doesn't lead to another little thing, and to another little thing after that, some other little thing doesn't happen to you, and you end up...not meeting someone who becomes very important to you, or not doing something which changes your life, or becoming someone different from who you are. And disconcertingly, it often seems a lot like chance, whether something happens or doesn't...

And all this makes me wonder how much effect little things which I do might have on others...