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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fairy Tales Can Come True

Well, there it is.

I would never have thought it, but because of an unexpected inheritance from my Uncle Ken, I was finally able to buy myself the convertible I've been coveting for so many years.  I kinda like to think Uncle Ken would be happy to know that I did something completely frivolous with part of the money I received from him.  He was a bit of an adventurer himself...loved boats and cars :-)

The story of my love affair with this car has been well documented in this blog, so I won't go into the history of it again, other than the fact that it was the summer of 2003 when I first rented one because it was either that or a big, burly Buick, which didn't fit me well at all.  It was a 2004 Mustang convertible that I ended up renting that year...and wouldn't you know?  The one I ended up buying is the same year.  Mine is a 40th Anniversary edition GT with a V8 engine, grey leather interior, and alloy wheels.

I've had it for about a week now and plan to take it on a cruise to the interior with my husband (I'm driving!) during the first week of August, just to give it a real road trip. 

Sigh. Thanks Uncle Ken...:-)
IJ

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

To Do or Not To Do

IJ at 17, playing in the backyard
When I was about 11 years old my best friend Kelly got a guitar and started taking lessons.  On one occasion I was at her house and she let me hold the guitar after she showed me something she had learned.  I immediately started playing what she showed me by ear...and that was the beginning of my love affair with the guitar.

I really wanted to play piano, but my parents told me that they couldn't afford to buy a piano, so eventually they bought me my own guitar.  I think it came from Sears (it was called Simpson Sears back then!) and was probably purchased for about $15-20.  But I loved it.  I didn't get any lessons, so I had to figure it out on my own.  Somebody showed me a quick way to play a couple of chords with one or two fingers, and I was on my way.

Of course, I couldn't play any of the songs I heard on the radio...most of them had more than the two or three chords in my musical vocabulary, so I just started making up my own songs.

As I found out over time, that story isn't all too unique;  a lot of songwriters seem to begin to write in the preteen and teen years.  I guess a combination of circumstances and all of those changes happening in our young bodies at that age bring out the creative stuff.  When I was 14 and trying to come to grips with my mother's death, songwriting was a way to cope.  I didn't write about her, I wrote about everything else...it was like an escape for me, and a way to channel all kinds of emotions that I had no idea how to deal with.  At first the songs were about things like my dog or my home (remember, I was just a kid!), but over time, a lot of songs predictably dealt with my teenage crushes and other exploits.  My songs followed my life. 

When I got married and started having children, the songs often reflected the day-to-day of being a mother and my view of the world at that point in time.  I got myself an 8-track recorder and began to record some of them.  My setup was pretty cheesy...I had my guitar and a little drum machine and a mini sampling keyboard to make some other sounds.  The girls were little then, so I would alternately run between my motherly duties, my work and my recording.  Over two years I worked at it, and finally had a cassette of my songs. 

I made four recordings in total, one cassette and three CDs, not a lot really, but at least I had 'em!  I did a lot of performing over the years at all kinds of events, coffee houses, festivals, whatever I could find.  Three or four years ago, I began the task of preparing a bunch of new songs to record when my writing abruptly stopped.  I didn't think much of it, every writer has their dry spells.  But this one was different because I didn't even have the gumption to sit down and write a thing.  Usually I would at least come up with a few lines of a melody, even if they didn't turn into anything.  But there was nothing.  Now that I look back, I think some of it had to do with the affects of peri-menopause...I couldn't keep my attention on anything for long and was FAR more frustrated with any attempts than I had ever been.  I was too pissed off, too muddled, impatient and far too hot to write!

Last summer I decided to at least start recording the songs that were pretty much ready.  But due to an enormously large "to do" list, I didn't get them finished.  I didn't get a lot done at all.  I don't think "to do" lists help you get much done in the long run.  But this summer, I have decided for myself that I need to get them finished, even if just to clear my plate and start anew.  I still have not written a thing, but my intention is to get these songs recorded and compiled and then I'll put them out there to the universe where they belong.  Kind of like releasing salmon fry.  They do or die.

My daughter and I came up with a name, and we're going to do the artwork together.  I'm not going to spend a gazzillion dollars on all of the things I did before;  I won't get it mass produced or hire a graphic artist.  I still have hundreds of the old CDs gathering dust in my basement!  No, this time, I'll do it simply and the only thing I'll put any extra money towards is releasing it on iTunes.

And then it will be done.
I'll let you know :-)

IJ

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Got Any Ideas?

Once upon a time many years ago, I worked at our local television station here in Victoria, CHEK TV.  I worked in the traffic department and occasionally I would fill in at the reception desk, direct people as they came into the station and answer the phone, as receptionists do.

Now a TV station tends to be a bit of a magnet for, shall we say, borderline lunatics.  Everybody's got a beef or an idea.  Beefs could be anything from an annoyed person complaining that their neighbour had knocked down a tree, to more serious complaints about local politicians or organizations.  The people with beefs would be directed to or given a contact number for the news department.  Other members of the public had ideas for television shows.  Most of them were under the impression that you could just walk in and introduce your idea and BANG!  The station would spend thousand of dollars to produce your amazing show.  The people with ideas would be directed to someone in the production department.

And then there were those who you just couldn't place.  For instance, one day when I was filling in at reception, a rather scraggly fellow with a bit of a scary look in his eyes came in and wanted, or should I say demanded, to talk to someone in the news department.  You see, he had a brilliant idea.  He had it written down and everything and he handed me a dirty, crumpled piece of paper that described it to a tee.  His idea was inspired by the fact that we needed to grow more food and feed more people in the poorest countries of the world.  It was easily solved, he said, if we took everyone's poop and shipped it to the Arabian desert where it could be cultivated into the sand to make the desert into arable land.

That was his idea.  He was pretty excited about it, and while I quietly wondered whether I should call the cops, he stood with his crumpled diagram and explained it all to me quite thoroughly.  I finally realized the only way I was going to please him was if I took his diagram and told him that I would immediately pass it on to the news department.  That seemed to satisfy him.
 
I can't remember what I did with the paper.  I think I showed it to a couple of people and maybe I did, in fact, pass it on to the news department.  But I'll never forget it.

Lately I find myself enjoying the Canadian version of "The Dragon's Den", a show where inventors and small business dynamos present their ideas to a panel of investors in the hopes of getting a little financial help to bring their ideas or inventions to the next level.  Of course, some of the inventions are bizarre, but many of them are very clever.

Since the devastating oil spill in the Gulf, literally thousands of people have come forward with lots of ideas as to how to clean up the 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil that continues to spew out from the pipe every day.  Just go to YouTube and you'll find lots of videos posted by companies who have ideas or products that they think can help.  Here's an example:




From what I understand, there have been thousands of potential solutions presented to BP, most of which have been at least considered.  Out of those thousands, a couple of hundred have been deemed viable, including Kevin Costner's "dream machines" or V20s, which are said to be capable of separating 210,000 gallons of oily water a day.  Costner has signed a contract with BP for 32 of the units.  But before the spill, he had been trying to employ the technology for 17 years, spending $20 million of his own money, only to be pretty much mired in red tape.

And why is this?  It seems like a brilliant idea, along with the one in the YouTube video above.  But we don't care about these kinds of inventions or technologies until we are in desperate need of them.  Forward-thinking people are not respected the way they used to be back when Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity.  Or maybe they weren't respected then either, and it's only in hindsight that we adorn inventive people with  any admiration.  Or maybe it's more about the technology itself.

When it comes to cell phones and software programs or anything computer-related, we have hundreds of companies chomping at the bit to come up with something new that the public will eagerly line up around the block to buy.  These companies spend millions and even billions of dollars on the next  big thing.  It's too bad that they aren't as anxious to put their money into inventions and ideas that could actually save lives.

Right now, we need the right "idea" people more than ever.  Not just to tackle this oil spill, but to find alternatives to oil dependency in the first place, and to solve so many other problems we have on this planet.  Governments need to put money into programs and schools to encourage younger people to become inventors, and come up with some great ideas to solve all kinds of problems. And big companies have to SMARTEN UP and realize there is a lot more good they could do with all that money.

We have to pay more attention to little guys who have big ideas.  Come to think of it, maybe that strange fellow who wandered into CHEK years ago to show me his idea for creating arable land wasn't so crazy after all.
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