Dec 29/11

I'm not a hockey fan. What I like is baseball - and sometimes football - but I can never watch either. I just don't have the time.

I grew up watching hockey. I'd say it's actually a bigger deal in the rest of Canada than out here on the west coast, probably because you rarely can play it outside here - it just doesn't freeze hard enough. Some years the ponds here never freeze at all. The rest of Canada is the other way: most years you can play hockey outside many winter days on frozen ponds or lakes.

You can't escape hockey, though - even here. People talk about it during the playoffs, and many people play it at the rink, which is only a mile from where I'm sitting. My kids don't play hockey, but they do go skating, so they see hockey being played on the ice next door.

I don't mind telling you that I think I liked hockey better before people got ten million dollars a year (or whatever outrageous sum it has reached) to play. There's just something unsportsmanlike about that, as far as I'm concerned. A million a year, sure - even two million. But ten? Come on! It's supposed to be a game, after all. When the salaries get too high, it stops being a game and starts being a bunch of rock stars on the ice. Then you've got a music video, not a sport. That's my opinion, anyway.

Well, Wayne Gretzky, pictured at right - I just decided I had to draw him. I grew up hearing about Gretzky. Even not being a hockey fan, you still learn by osmosis. I understand Wayne is a special person. I get the impression he's special even if you don't count his hockey playing.

What I want to bring up now is that, from the point of view of a non-hockey fan, I sensed that Gretzky's best days were when he was with Edmonton. I know now those "golden years" were as much because of the whole team. There was something magic about them, just new to the NHL - they had a winning chemistry. After Gretzky went to Los Angeles, I heard about him much less. Until tonight, I didn't even know he'd played for St Louis or New York.

Wayne, I'd call myself a fan, but not because of your hockey skills. Rather, it's because you're part of my childhood, and because there's a kindness about you.

Wikipedia was a source for this article: Wayne Gretzky and Edmonton Oilers.

Wayne Gretzky Home

Dec 30/11

Tonight I want to talk a bit about the Iowa Caucus, which I think is on Tuesday. Forgive me, please, if I misuse some terms. However, I'd say that it's the beginning of the Primaries, and of course it's much more important to the Republicans: the Dems are putting Obama up for re-election, whereas the Republicans don't yet know who they'll send.

Anyway, today I heard on McNeill/Lehrer that Mit Romney and Ron Paul are virtually tied in Iowa - possibly, Romney is a bit ahead. I think the prospect of a Romney win might not be so bad, but the prospect of a Paul win is very exciting.

From what I understand, Paul thinks the US should stay out of foreign affairs except for defense. He believes in the gold standard and in following the Constitution. They call him a Libertarian, which means he believes the government should stay out of Americans' lives as much as possible.

My only question is, why would you vote for anyone else? The values in the previous paragraph spell out what America was meant to be. Anything else is a departure from what was intended. Look where it's gotten us.

Yes, I am a Canadian, but nobody loves America more than I do. I lived on an American military base as a kid. I've been through Texas - Ron Paul's home state - and criss crossed America on the freeways, both north and south.

The world is waiting for America to take the lead again. Other countries count on the US for that leadership. However, America has to fix itself first. It won't be easy, but I think Ron Paul can make it happen.

Here's the man himself. Good luck on Tuesday, Ron!

Ron Paul Home

New Years Eve

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Mark Knopfler is so connected with the guitar, he makes it talk. Dire Straits' songs seem choreographed for that guitar - yet not dominated by it. Knopfler has a light touch, so very often the guitar seems distant, albeit clear. It's like a faraway voice reminding you of something....

Knopfler is a musician, through and through. He's not in it for the money; rather, he's like Harry in Sultans of Swing. Dire Straits' songs weren't contrived to be marketable. Many were, but I'd say that's just coincidence. Dire Straits was about artistic expression. Listen to Love Over Gold or Making Movies; you'll know it to be true.

Dire Straits' songs are often long with numerous stanzas of lyrics. Some of the best are narratives from someone who's excluded - either rejected or unknown. The subject is either the rejector or else the famous person who is unaware of the narrator. The narrator tries to understand the other's motivation. Often he laments that the subject's on a bad track, but can't see it. Thus, we realize why the exclusion: the subject doesn't want to see what the narrator sees. From the background, Knopfler's guitar gives melancholy hints with a hopefulness that the subject might come around.

On New Year's Eve, 2011, I reflect back on my life, as does everyone. Having spent some formative years exploring the music of Dire Straits, I can still hear the appeal of Mark's guitar. I wonder if it's telling me something specific....

Whatever we may not realize, I hope it comes to each of us tonight: may we hear the soft urging of Mark's guitar, and let it steer us back to our proper "Walk of Life".

Happy New Year. See you in 2012.

Mark Knopfler Home

Happy New Year

"You're gonna miss this...."

I saw Trace Adkins perform that hit song on Celebrity Apprentice. I hadn't known him before, but that song was compelling. It was too accurate: there was just no escape. The song was about everyone. It was about me.

The Christmas tree is still standing, but undecorated. My Santa hat has been put away. A mountain of wrapping supplies still stands on a table downstairs, needing to be put away as well. My kids - home from school, of course - have left writings on my white boards normally used for business. Funny: the nine-year-old gave himself a long division question. He got it right. Today, he told me that we should take down the Christmas lights from the house.

Back on December 14, I mentioned that the Holidays can be tough, but we all get through them somehow. The Holidays are always tough for me, and I'll tell you why: I find change hard to adapt to.

When I was in university, it took me three years to figure out how to be a good student. A year later it was over. So many situations in life turn out that way: just when I finally get used to them, they're ending. Then I have to start adapting to the next situation.

The Holidays are like that for me. My seven and nine year old are suddenly not in school. I like spending time with them: reading to them and taking walks in the woods with them and so on. However, we are all used to the routine of their being in school and my wife and I working, so we all have to find our new equilibrium when the holidays begin - it takes a few days. Now I'm used to having them home, they'll be back in school the day after tomorrow.

Tonight my wife and kids are gone to her parents, so I did some house cleaning. Cleaning house is like an archaelogical dig: you learn, based on toys and clothes you find together, about events that happened that you never knew about. Then you try to picture those events. You realize how much you've missed, just by being in the other room.

We all miss a lot of our own lives. Things happen to us, they happen around us, but we're occupied with something else. Like Trace Adkins says, "You're gonna miss this...You're gonna want this back.... These are some good times."

My New Year's resolution: Miss less this year - for me as well as for you.

Wikipedia was a source for this article.

Trace Adkins Home

Jan 2/12

"Pump it up!" -E. C.

Now the tree is put away, the outside Xmas lights have been taken down...let's face it, we're back to work.

January can be a cold, tough month. People have to get used to that cold weather, naked of the holiday cheer. The party's over.

The song "Pump it Up" by Elvis Costello is exactly what we need. Have you heard it?

Pump it up...until you de-feat it
Pump it don't even need it
da, da, da-da, da, da, da-da, da, da, da-da, da, da, da-da....

It's a great pick-me-up. If you watch the video (for instance on You-Tube), you'll see Costello's amazing ankle, which seems to be able to turn 180 degrees relative to his shin. Of course, the drummer is wearing a tie.

You know, I think I saw Elvis one day. He was wearing thick red socks, watching his kids play (mine were there too). A lot of people say that you're safe in Canada if you're famous: no one will approach you. On the West Coast, I'm sure it's true. Everyone's so busy on their phone, scheduling their next trip to Vegas or Whistler, they don't even notice anyone else. No one else seemed to notice Elvis the day I saw him.

Anyway, I hope you "don't even need" to be pumped up this January. But if you do, tune into Elvis Costello.

Elvis Costello Home