Friday, 18 April 2014

Of Birthday, Change and Human Kindness

For a few moments I toyed with the idea of not writing a post today. I usually write in the evenings, unless it's one of those that take several days to write. Those have been few. Related to that, and, as I must've mentioned before, I don't write and schedule publications. About 95% of what gets here is fresh off the mind and heart. But, the mind is tired tonight. The heart is fine. Heh heh. Thanks for wondering.

Being on vacation does that to one, I guess. Being on vacation and celebrating a birthday is something else. And, being on vacation, celebrating a birthday and observing Easter, is an even more potent mix for successfully dividing one's attention. Plus, I'm hot. I mean, it's tropical here so the temps... You know what I mean.

My birthday was a couple of days ago. I had a truly delightful day. As I told an acquaintance, I love having birthdays. Consider the alternative, eh? :-) I'm thankful my life was spared to see another one. And, it's always nice to spend time with family and friends in celebration.

I was reviewing something earlier today and came across a gem I'd transcribed. It was a quote by a Grade 6 student in the USA, and it went stteo: As you get older, everything will seem different. But nothing will change, except you. I promise. I really like that quote. It's true, isn't it? The world was here before you got here. It presents its usual offerings. We use - or misuse - its resources. And we perceive what it becomes, and how, as our needs and desires change over time. The principle of existence (love), and the issues related to the human condition, make us see things in different ways as we grow.

That's one of the perks of being a writer. It is always nice to look back at previous writings and see how your views or passions have changed. Fun project in compare/contrast.

There was an unusual and nice moment on B-day. After a lovely lunch, as we were leaving the restaurant, the doorman, who had learnt a few minutes before that I was celebrating my birthday, offered to sing for me. I graciously accepted his offer. He cleared his throat a few times, then proceeded to charm me with a delightful rendition of the Happy Birthday song, while walking to the car. We topped it off with a hug! Human kindness overflowing...

I'm looking forward to a great year! I can hardly wait to use the "Hummunuh! Hummunuh!" a girlfriend of mine insisted I use when that time comes. Okay. You mightn't get it now. But, if...when the time does come, I'll go into more detail. In the meantime, let's just consider this a placeholder of sorts.

Let the new year begin!


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Getting it off my chest: The uncovered cough

It is no secret. I have quirks. As do you. No, I’m not seeking company –as one might do in, say, misery. See, misery loves company. I don’t suffer from these quirks. Au contraire! (I’m also learning French.) I’m okay with them; have come to terms with them.  I wouldn’t say I enjoy them, per se. The familiarity of them overcompensates for any measure of discomfort – or misery. I’m good. I’m good.

My quirks (yes, I own them) are not without reason. That is my story. Things have to make sense – except when they don’t. Let that one simmer for a bit.

I’m coming from the “favour ain’t fair” and “God works in mysterious ways” angles. Yes. Two angles – at once.

Now, let’s take a look at a few of these quirks, and see whether you can relate. And, if you simply can’t, whether you can, at the very least, understand.  If you can do neither, I’m happy you dropped by and so on and so forth.

The Uncovered Cough
Everybody coughs. Whether it be because of a cold, or allergies – as one does whatever it takes to scratch one’s throat – or an anti-choking reflex. Everybody coughs. What everybody does not do, apparently, is cover their mouths while coughing. I find it challenging to think of a personal habit that annoys me more. The GO Train is where I encounter most of these transgressions. People sitting next to me; across from me; two seats down the aisle. It doesn’t matter. As soon as this abominable act is carried out, I cringe. I don’t have “a mini heart attack” as someone tweeted after observing a woman’s reaction on the train the other day. And, again, I state for the record, it wasn’t me. That tweet was not about me. Though it kinda, sorta coulda been. Let’s move on. I cringe. And, not only do I cringe, the power strip on my cough-radar subsequently operates at maximum efficiency. I listen out for the next uncovered cough and when – not if – it happens (because, you know, those things come in twos and threes, if not an outright fit) I execute Plan A.

Plan A – The Exit
I leave the area. Whether it be that car of the train or the platform as we wait for the next train, I skidaddle on my saddle. (Reference to the artist formerly known on Snoop Dogg in the role of rap artist Murderous in Mr. Monk and the Rapper.) If it occurs as I walk down (or up) Bay Street, well, one hears a cough behind one, one does not look around to ascertain whether it’s uncovered. One immediately walks a little faster.

Plan B – The Ask
Plan B is put into action if I am in proximity to the offender, and no other seat is available. I turn to the individual or tap the uncouth being  on the shoulder and politely ask, “Could you cover your mouth when you cough, please?” Now, I already know the answer to that. Yes. Yes, they could. On one occasion, the persona non grata who occupied the seat next to me simply stopped coughing. I thought, I should patent this! Beat the profits out of Dayquil. Just. Like. That. Heyyy!  On another occasion, the person was sitting in a row in front of me. I leaned in through the space between the head rests and asked her to cover. She didn’t glance back at me in acknowledgement. Meh. She did, however, cover the next few times. Mission accomplished.

Now, I know I’d mentioned taking a look at a few of my quirks, but, given the extensive treatment of the uncovered cough, I’d rather not get into the others. For example, I’d rather not get into the utterly disgusting habit some folks have of spitting on sidewalks, leaving others to look at that gross mass of phlegm. Ugh! Who are these people? I can’t believe we breathe the same air! (Mr. Monk and the Astronaut)

Neither will I get into the fact that the hangers have to face in.

And the DVDs have to be shelved in alphabetical order.

And the tweets have to be without grammatical or spelling errors. Have you seen the placement of some apostrophes, lately? Oh, the humanity!

And the dishes must be placed in the sink. In the sink. For the love of sanity, not on the counter. In the sink. Just saying. No. As a matter of fact, I’m not #justsaying. They should be placed in the sink.

Of course, there's a reason for all these...preferences. I have to live with myself.


Friday, 28 March 2014

"If He Loves You"

I was tempted to share my latest poem - written yesterday! But, I've shared it with only one person so far. And, it does need a bit of editing, I think. Plus, an additional stanza has been engraving itself in my brain. So, there's that.

The poetry work-in-progress is almost through. I've had it edited. There is a category I'm hoping to fill with poems that speak of happiness and loving and being loved in return. Grabbing the closest piece of paper I could find yesterday, I hurriedly penned such a one. They do not come by very often, so I dared not lose the moment. Turns out I'm pretty excited about getting those words down on paper or some electronic device. They carry with them a measure of...hope, if you will.

And, hope is a good thing. :-)

This one is entitled, "If He Loves You". It's from that batch I wrote in April 2012 when I took off for vacation and ditched the playwriting contest. But, I had to keep myself writing, so I went on an "A Poem A Day" adventure! Glad I did. I produced some that took the focus off of myself for a bit.

And that was a good thing. :-)

If He Loves You

I overheard someone at work today
Talking about a fight they'd had
Sounds like it was pretty bad
Between she and her lover,
And, like any other love story
It had the element of surprise
I saw it in her eyes
She blamed his mother.

Seemed he found it hard
To give what due to each.
That one was out of my reach.
I smiled because, well, to be honest
I did not know what to say.
Not that she was talking to me
But I felt hard pressed to duly
Inform her it would be okay.

There was something inside that said
Tell her it gets better
It looks bad but it doesn't matter
If he loves you - and he does - 
Then you two will work it out.
But something else spoke even louder
Above the din of my despair
So, why didn't you guys work it out?

- Dnafcnatgada


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Stretched Minds: Beyond the Zapruder Film

"Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

As I prepared for this post, I reflected on whether the course I had alluded to in the previous post, had in fact been Ethics in Media. I revisited the Comms site of my alma mater, and I am now wont to think the course in question was Media and Society. That's what happens when you have the same professor for more than one course - and several years have passed since graduation. :-)

What I won't forget, though, is the impact that that morning's class had on me. The new information to which we had become privy made me stop and think. Suddenly, and almost involuntarily, I began to reflect on the shape and texture of the world around us. How long did it take for us to get from there to here? And, what had we given up in the process of being stretched in mind; in expectation?

The clip Prof showed us that morning is what has been popularly known as the Zapruder Film. It depicts the assassination of President John F. Kennedy - in the moment! The Zapruder Film is the most famous - and, I think, the most graphic - film of the shooting. Apparently, Abraham Zapruder, a member of the public, had managed to get a sweet spot to test out his newly acquired home-movie camera. He wished to record the President's motorcade as it made its way through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, on that fateful day, November 22, 1969. He had it rolling as the motorcade came by and, well, he managed to get that moment caught on film. Of course, he realized afterward the value of what he had in his possession. I do not recall the intricacies of how it came to move from his hands to media - after a bit of negotiating - but, do feel free to look it up. Here's a good starting point.

After sharing the story and the clip, Prof facilitated a discussion that raised comments on what was appropriate for television (in the USA) at that time; how much of a shock was it to people's sensibilities; looking at where we are these days with scenes of a graphic nature on television and in movies; how did we get from there to here? One student chimed in: "That happened." That's all he said, "That happened."

I think it took a few seconds for that profound statement to sink in before we each did a quick reflection - well, I did - trying to think of a time before that present when we were not inundated with violence on TV and in movies. And, what was more, when we were put off by it.

I did a quick search... Yes, it was quick. After all, I am no longer obligated to turn in papers for this course! :-) This should be enough to get you going, should you wish to do some more reading about whether there is a correlation between that 1969 broadcast assassination, and what we have progressively come to tolerate - as entertainment, to boot! So, yes, I did a quick search to get an idea of what the mind set was re violence on American television pre-November 1969 and post-November 1969. I found a few posts of note:

  • The American TV series The Wild, Wild West, aired from September 17, 1965 to April 4, 1969. It was popular and earned high ratings, but was cancelled as a concession to Congress over television violence.
  • The Surgeon General's Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior was announced on June 3, 1969. This came as a result of "15 years of 'consistently disturbing' findings about the violent content of children's programs." Makes you wonder what was the nature of the "violent content of children's programs" at the time (and 15 years prior to that) that gave rise to "consistently disturbing" findings.
  • There's a site that lists, in the compiler's opinion, the 30 most violent movies (published 2012). I'm still not sure how 300 and Kill Bill Vol. 1&2 did not make the list. But, as I said, opinion. Of the list, one of the closest to 1969 was "Salo", released in Italy, January 1976 - noting: "an almost universal banning greeted Salo in the beginning." It was released in the UK in 2000 and in Australia in 2012. The other closest to 1969 was "Shogun's Sadism", released in Japan in 1976. 

Other factors, unexplored here, and, likely, in class that day, have had a measure of impact on how violence on American TV and in film has made progressively bolder moves over the years. It is my opinion, however, that the sensibilities of many became less and less jarred after - and because of - that pivotal moment.

Do we even give a second thought now to movies like 300? 300 - Rise of an Empire? (Can you tell?) Kill Bill? Speaking of Kill Bill. A then-friend and I went to see Kill Bill Vol. 1 in Rochester, NY, shortly after it came out. I could not sit through it. It was simply too much. Sometime after that, I saw 300. Well, sometime after that, I had the pleasure of watching Kill Bill - Vols 1 and 2 - sans flinching.

The mind had indeed been stretched.


Saturday, 8 March 2014

Stretched Minds: A Twitter Example

"Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

That thought came to mind a few days ago. I came across a story in a newspaper about a man from Texas, who'd set out to break the new record Ellen DeGeneres set for most retweets (RTs). Ellen's tweet, posted on March 2, 2014 (Oscar night) - and now sitting at 3,352,469 - has far surpassed the record set by Barack Obama's tweet of November 6, 2012, now sitting at 781,484. I'm not sure what the Obama RT count was when Ellen tweeted. For a while, it had stood at over 700,000. Hardly matters now. She wanted to break the record of most RTs - and she shattered it.

What struck me about the Texan's story is not that he was, in Internet speak, a "virtual nobody" who decided to pull this little stunt using a selfie of himself and his two dogs. (The fact is, there have been other tweeps who've set out to break the record, but their tweets have not gained as much traction.) No, it is that the Terry Shipman tweet has so far received 179,138 RTs - mine included. (Go get 'em, Terry! :-)) It is that so many people have "bothered" to give their support on this fun journey. Sure, there may be a few bots, but I'm pretty sure the majority of those RTs are from real folks.

But, what really struck me? The fact that, after Ellen's 3.35M RTs, a 180K RT count hardly seems like a big deal. Those numbers are usually enjoyed - for need of a ... nope, I don't think I need a better word - by celebrities with follower counts in the millions. After this, figures like that, even though they mightn't come along very often, will not carry that awe as they might have before. Pre-Obama tweet, they were jaw-dropping. Post-Obama tweet, meh! Post-Ellen tweet, yawn...

However, this 180K RT figure for someone who was not "Internet famous" (or any other kind of famous, it seems), is a big deal - at this point in Twitter time. So, on the one hand, the numbers aren't so shocking anymore. But, on the other hand, they kinda are, for a "regular guy".

Now - and this is very important - just in case this is a hoax by the likes of, say, late night show host, Jimmy Kimmel, the point would still maintain its validity about how the mind, once it gets stretched to accommodate a new reality, cannot shrink to its previous dimension as though it had never had that new experience. Once something new comes along, whatever similar follows in its wake does not have that shock/novel value. Celebrities/Entrepreneurs would agree - hence the constant re-invention of self/service. These days, people get bored very easily. They want the next "next best thing" the next minute.

Look around; listen. There are so many things that we accept as the norm these days, that were, at first, shocking to our sensibilities. Have we become jaded? In a sense? In more than one sense? Next time, I'll write about a more serious and common example of the way our minds have been stretched. That realization struck during a class on Ethics in Media years ago. Certainly, for me, that was an A-ha! moment.


Friday, 28 February 2014


Last day of February. That was quick. :-) 

The poem for today’s post has been a favourite since high school when I first had to read it for an English Literature class. It’s by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Of course, I memorized a part of it, and recited it often during my heavy-poetry-writing years. 

A few years later, after reading one of my own pieces to an audience of fellow poets and poetry lovers at the Poetry Society of Jamaica, one of the poets remarked, "I like it, without any literary anything!" Lol! That's kinda how this piece strikes me. It simply draws me in - not in the way of too much literary anything.

I have been looking forward to sharing it here! It was love at first read. You’ll see why.

    O LOVE, Love, Love! O withering might!
    O sun, that from thy noonday height
    Shudderest when I strain my sight,
    Throbbing thro' all thy heat and light,
    Lo, falling from my constant mind,
    Lo, parch'd and wither'd, deaf and blind,
    I whirl like leaves in roaring wind.

    Last night I wasted hateful hours
    Below the city's eastern towers:
    I thirsted for the brooks, the showers:
    I roll'd among the tender flowers:
    I crush'd them on my breast, my mouth;
    I look'd athwart the burning drouth
    Of that long desert to the south.

    Last night, when some one spoke his name,
    From my swift blood that went and came
    A thousand little shafts of flame
    Were shiver'd in my narrow frame.
    O Love, O fire! once he drew
    With one long kiss my whole soul thro'
    My lips, as sunlight drinketh dew.

    Before he mounts the hill, I know
    He cometh quickly: from below
    Sweet gales, as from deep gardens, blow
    Before him, striking on my brow.
    In my dry brain my spirit soon,
    Down-deepening from swoon to swoon,
    Faints like a daled morning moon.

    The wind sounds like a silver wire,
    And from beyond the noon a fire
    Is pour'd upon the hills, and nigher
    The skies stoop down in their desire;
    And, isled in sudden seas of light,
    My heart, pierced thro' with fierce delight,
    Bursts into blossom in his sight.

    My whole soul waiting silently,
    All naked in a sultry sky,
    Droops blinded with his shining eye:
    I will possess him or will die.
    I will grow round him in his place,
    Grow, live, die looking on his face,
    Die, dying clasp'd in his embrace.

    Alfred, Lord Tennyson



Tuesday, 18 February 2014

"It's Like That"...and more.

February's still here, so the poetry continues. :-) I'd like to share two poems tonight. The first is by one of my sisters, Durie. She's on Twitter as @MizDurie. Her blog, The Water IS Troubled (TWIST) features moving and inspirational pieces; pieces you will simply enjoy reading.

It's Like That is a poem that draws you in with its sharp imagery you can all but touch. And, by the time you wrap your fingers around it to press it to your bosom, it ends, leaving you with nothing but sighs, and a certain knowing. Here now, with Durie's permission, is:

It's Like That 

It’s like that.

That grey area of wonderment,

Expectation, and worry.

When my fingers tremble to write because

Nothing can do justice to the precious moment that exists

In memory –

Of that sweet conversation turned even sweeter.

When disappointments and heartaches and insecurities


Into the nothingness of the abyss of a time

That is perpetually the past.

It’s like that.

Like the smell of storm clouds,

The splash of rain that commingles tears

And drives the fears of darkness and lightning away.

But the storm’s coming.

And with breathless anticipation every drop

Becomes the priceless diamond of perfection and purity.


It’s like that.

When a heart loses rhythm in submission

To the other

And become one


When even the dream of a whisper of a breath

Fulfills every desire for freedom

To be enslaved by the silk cords of –

Crimson red cords of –

It’s like that.

If only the inexplicable could become

A thing, to touch, to taste

To feel.

To feel again, and again, and again…

And fall aimlessly through clouds

And rain, and pain,

And hit love hard,

And then smile.

It’s like that.

(c) 2009

The second poem is not really a poem, per se. It is a provocative admonition that makes you squirm and smile in sweet surrender - all at once. Well, that's how I felt it. It's a quote by C.S. Lewis. I came across it a few days before Valentine's Day and I couldn't help but share it on my Twitter timeline. In a sense, it does read like poetry. There's a quote for that, isn't there? Yes. "Always be a poet, even in prose." - Charles Baudelaire :-)  Here is, To Love At All, an oft-quoted excerpt from Lewis' book, The Four Loves:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

And here, dear reader, is a pleasant surprise. A cartoon illustration of To Love At All. The cartoonist, Gavin, did a marvellous job with this, didn't he?