Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hidden Joys

I talked up my life with Paul Simon's early music in a previous post.  He it was who introduced me to Louisiana's unique fun-filled zydeco music through a catchy song about Lafayette LA on his '86 Graceland album. I was once thrilled to hear zydeco legend Queen Ida being interviewed on our local Radio Canada station. Her Cajun French was a hard to follow but the joie de vivre of her vocation came through loud and clear. Nowadays, through the magic of internet radio, I can easily travel musically down to the bayous and swamps in the Creole regions of Acadiana in Southern Louisiana.

Not long ago the New York Times had a long article about mysterious woodland horse rides down there that culminate deep in the back country in exuberant zydeco dance picnics. The Times author is excited by her good fortune in finding an unremarked and secret folk tradition. I once had similar luck in quite another country. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Musical Hair

Why is it that surviving pop music icons of our youth that haven't entered our consciousness for eons all seem to be surfacing a brand new opus? Hard to miss the publicity for Paul Simon's new CD, his first solo writing for yonks. I saw one print interview where he is photographed. He's talking about the creative process in the context of this new output.  I'm amazed he's so tiny - just a little gnome with wispy hair. I dug out my original of his iconic 60s album Bridge Over Troubled Water with then sidekick Art Garfunkel. I'd forgotten how much Garfunkel towers over him.  To be sure I checked out my DVD of the Simon and Garfunkel reunion Concert in Central Park - it's true, they are folk music's Laurel and Hardy thinned-down visual.

By now I'm hooked, and I'm off! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The New Radicals?

I have just finished the book “The New Radicals” (www.wearethenewradicals.com) by Julia Moulden. After listening to a CBC program, my wife suggested that I read it and report to the blog readers. As a wise husband and having a great deal of respect for my wife’s insights, here I go.

Julia Moulden is a Canadian “consultant who counsels clients in search of more meaningful career paths, helps you determine if you are ready to follow their example and offers her expert guidance on how to make the transition to your new career.”

The book, “A Manifesto for Reinventing Yourself and Saving the World”, is a series of stories about people who have transitioned how they make their daily bread and are also making a difference in the world. It is aimed at Boomers.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Blame Game

I've been avidly reading blogs for a number of years.

At first those blogs were to be found outside conventional journalism. Now all but the most traditional news-sheets appear in an alternate online or an online-only form where the option to comment is standard. This replicates the blogging practice of subscribers responding to what they read without the brutal sieve of Letters to the Editor. Online newspaper 'Comments' are getting more lively as more and more readers realize that, when a piece they see gets their goat or tickles their fancy, if they take fingers-to-keyboard what they write will get published. Where there's an option for other readers to comment on those comments, things can get especially interesting.

My preference is to get most of my daily diet of news-and-views from text, both print and online. Print when at breakfast since spilled coffee or dripped marmalade is a frequent outcome of aging fingers. Online when later in the day I'm at a keyboard. Online my journey through 'Comments' and 'Replies' can be an unexpectedly chilling ride, and today proves such. Underneath a dish of muesli (how else would you expect an 60-something to start his day?) I read about: "ReGeneration: A rallying cry for apathetic teens" and later at my computer I travel down its comment tree.

This newspaper article is about a US documentary showing at a kids film festival in Toronto. In it the commentator sees hope for today's youth. In contrast the long tail of comments-and-replies get straight into who's really to blame for youthful feelings of hopelessness. I groan as we Boomers are an obvious target. Our first abuser is a self-declared '70 plus' (hiding his identity as 'tsunami11'!). As it's usually Gen X that gives us stick, I'm intrigued and read on: "..the(ir) parents are from the 60's and clueless about most things except dancing with the stars and other crap". Ouch!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Criminal Death in Northern Places

I've been a fan of modern Swedish noir writing since I first discovered Henning Mankell lurking obscurely on a store back shelf in the first English translation of his Kurt Wallander detective novels. Since then I've devoured every Wallander tale and as much as I can find of the BBC TV adaptions starring a brooding and distraught Kenneth Branagh. Plus some of Mankell's other dark gems like The Eye of the Leopard where he draws on the part of every year he spends in troubled Mozambique.

Imagine therefore my delight when I find him interviewed under the print heading of: "What makes these Swedes and their mysteries so addictive". We learn that a final Wallander novel will continue to "help us understand the world through the lens of crime and justice" to quote Mankell.  And I learn just why I adore mystery writing so much!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Disappearance of Patrimony

Nowadays I try to focus more on my local surroundings. After a career of jetting to global 'centres of biotechnology excellence', I loathe the sight of airports. Back then I didn't mind them so much and had little time for what was up right next door. My teacher wife, who had, tried to keep me posted but the details passed me by, except when a new campground was to be across the road or a row of pylons on the back field.   

Just a twenty minute drive away are the monthly meetings of the Heritage Caledon Committee, a worthy thirty-five year-old creation of our Town Council that I was recently invited to join.  I'm now a convert to the good fight against urban accretion and its tendency to destroy all in its path. Generally our enemy is developers large and small.  But as I roll up my sleeves to get down and dirty in this my new and as yet untested role, I am amazed to read about A Developer whose Focus was Heritage

Friday, March 25, 2011

Perils of Being for a Boomer

I recently got my hearing tested. No, I didn't pop down to my local WalMart's hearing aid desk. It's open to all and right by the front entrance where anyone could see me sitting there! Instead I executed a stealth sidle over to my ENT specialist (note I do have the excuse of  hay fever).  He quietly directed me to a 'hearing services' office tastefully tucked away in an obscure tower - little chance of being spotted there.

Monday, March 21, 2011

On Fulfilling a Dream

I first started SCUBA diving at age 18. I learned in a pool in Toronto and got into open water at my brother’s cottage near Peterborough. Visibility was all of 29 feet and I got to a depth of about 35 feet. That was what the rest of my diving career was like for the next 40 years.

As is my habit, I read voraciously about diving including getting a subscription to “Diving” magazine which lasted many years. (By the way, if you know of anyone who wants vintage Diving magazines I still have them from the 60’s. Collectors [hoarders] R US). One of the things that caught my attention during my vicarious diving experiences was pictures and descriptions of riding on the backs of Manta Rays. I thought that would be one of the greatest thrills in the underwater world. I imagined soaring through the clear blue ocean faster than anyone could swim, being on the back of a living flying carpet, lying flat on one of the great creatures of the sea, watching the twenty foot wings gracefully slide us through the blue realm. I lived that dream so often I could sometimes taste the salt water and feel the warm water flowing over my back.

I recently fulfilled that dream.

The Passing of Social Interruption

After Skyping a longtime pal today I found myself in wonder at our long, meandering and often humorous conversation...in wonder??

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cyberspace as Today's Not-So-Hidden Closet

I've been consuming a steady diet of science fiction since, way back in the 1950s, I discovered the legendary Foundation series from New York-born biochemist Isaac Asimov.  That's why I'm delighted that I live in Canada where, despite our relatively small population, we exceed our quota of successful SF writers for folks with my chronic addiction to enjoy.

One such treasure is William Gibson of Vancouver, the man who is credited with inventing the term cyberspace and forecasting the Internet. Last year he wrote a droll op-ed article he called Google's Earth  for the New York Times. No, it's not about maps but a futurist writer's take on Google as a form of AI (artificial intelligence) no author ever envisaged. Google of course was founded by two math geniuses who developed algorithms that are key to its intellectual property and there's even a connection between Google and the Foundation books in that at the core of the story are projections by a fictional mathematician named Hari Seldon.

To develop his theme Gibson uses a published interview that Google Chairman Eric Schmidt gave. It contained this pearl: “I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Times They are So Strange

We do seem to live in strangely uncertain times which can gift us some indelible memories. The last New York Times magazine had a wonderful story from a journalist who spent an amazing evening in an apartment on Cairo's Tahrir Square where many leading lights of the recent revolution hung out. He lovingly describes the eclectic collection of  house guests and their bedazzlement when that night Egyptian tyrant Hosni Mubarak stepped down. It's a powerful piece of writing that quickly drew me into my own memories of being  amazed.

News of the fall of the Berlin Wall was one.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rage at the Monopoly

A pet peeve of mine is the Canadian cable and phone racket. If like me you are persuaded that in voyaging across the Web we enter into a social experiment more profoundly changing than anything humans have ever done and you live in Canada, your freedom to participate is firmly limited by our national trio of monopolist telecom-media conglomerates. They keep our local access to the magic global realm of the Internet world-beatingly expensive.

Being in Wild Places

On the chilly midwinter weekend last I drove down to the annual symposium of the Wilderness Canoe Association. Those intrepid folks gather every year in the East End of Toronto from points all across the US and Canada to relive the joys of passage through the deep wilderness of Canada's boreal and arctic north. They tell tales of great adventure in one of the last wide places of the world, stories that have thrilled me for many winters past. When amongst these grizzled heroes I always feel a bit of a poseur for I was only a canoeist in the wilderness, rather than a true wilderness canoeist.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Boomer is not a Boomer is not a Boomer

I have done a lot of different psychological assessments in my career; in fact I am qualified to use several different types. One of the things which I have learned is that no one assessment can possibly describe an individual. By using several tests for one person you will come closer to finding out who they are but still not be able to predict behavior on any one occasion. This is why I have a schizophrenic relationship with the labels we put on people and groups.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bring on the Bandwidth

Once upon a time in the mid 2000s I worked with programmers to put up two Internet products. The first, TheInformedLife.com, was focused on busy mid-career professionals. The one after, ePartnerup.com, we designed to help companies in the medical equipment space find partners to collaborate with. Neither is active today. Hindsight lets me see there were at least three trends impacting our work. As we were in the centre of them, we didn't fully understand what was happening.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Amazing Times on Mainstream TV

Last night's NFL Super Bowl was a great TV spectacle. That was true even for a guy watching with a major handicap; only really understanding the rules for the 'football' they play outside America. I loved the athleticism and the chutzpah of all that Texas-Large! And we all saw that George W and Condoleezza were loving it too.

I was amazed by the Black Eyed Peas at the Super Bowl halftime. And I was surprised that a staff writer for the Washington Post was a lot less amazed. Probably he just wanted the football to return. It was a thrilling game. Then I was cheered up by a celebrity column in the same newspaper, even though it's only a little less harsh: "The Peas don't possess even a fraction of the musical credibility owned by recent Super Bowl halftime performers like The Who, Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. But the abundance of Tron-esque effects in their performance, not to mention the trademark Peas spunk, managed to make this halftime spectacle more entertaining than expected."

I own albums from all those previous Super Bowl acts but I'd never heard this music before. How come?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The World according to Grey

I belong to a cool tech association out of Kitchener-Waterloo, the beating heart of Ontario’s Technology Triangle. As is usual, they send out e-newsletters, and these link to a blog. There I came across a recent posting from a lady with Grey Advertising.

As I like people in advertising, indeed I was one for a short time myself, I check the writer out - ‘accrediting’ you might call it. I need first to decide whether to take her seriously. For me LinkedIn is the best quick fix on the professional in a ‘person of interest’ (as they say in law enforcement circles). Sure enough, there she is. She has a financial and IT marketing background and is a mid-lifer in her Forties. She is definitely to be taken seriously.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Diaries from Our Lives

Since my days working and living just over the Hudson River from New York City, I've been a fan of the New York Times. I'm a blogger, a writer on the Internet, so the Times really got my attention last week with a piece on how US President Obama seems to have lost his way on the Web after he very successfully used it to fund his campaign.

From For Obama, Getting Message Out Online Is a Challenge:
"Perhaps, though, the president’s team is over-thinking the challenge, putting too much emphasis on how to use the trendiest applications or on how to interact with voters, when what really matters is creating an authentic narrative. One of the most pervasive activities on the Internet, after all, is the basic conveyance of personal experiences by way of the written word — a tendency to share stories widely in e-mails or on blogs, rather than talking one on one to a friend on the phone. In the online age, we are all diarists."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Teenage Decisions

The other night I watched the film of the musical 'Passing Strange' (http://www.negroproblem.com/passing/) by Stew and Heidi Rodewald. I really enjoyed the experience. I thought it was well written and well sung.

One of the lines struck me as a jumping of point for a good discussion. The narrator Stew(stewsongs.com) made the following statement and I paraphrase <Isn’t it strange that, when we wake up, we realize that all our adult life is based upon the decision of a teenager, perhaps a stoned teenager>.

I think those of us who have had a midlife crisis or two have some understanding of what Stew was getting at. I look at some of the decisions that my friends, acquaintances and I made as a teenager that affected our adult lives.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Music to Our Ears

I recently encountered a great magazine called Stereophile. It is now available on a digital reader program, Zinio, which has some nice features to combat the far-sight that comes with mid-life. The magazine focuses on what it calls the High End of audio.

Reading it takes me back to my first week as an undergraduate and the thrill of discovering that the students' union building had a state-of-the-art listening room for our LPs. You could book it to wallow in your latest record acquisition while sitting in really comfy chairs and with truly great acoustics. Carefully made new recordings (sometimes even direct-to-disc!) heard through new hi-tech cartridges were a far cry from teenage 'doo-wap' years listening to cheap sounding 'record players' or tinny portable radios. Us '60s undergrads spent our time auditioning potential hi fi equipment purchases and dropping audiophile jargon endlessly to our peers (then mostly men), when we weren't off listening live to the latest pop group, jazz or folkie 'discovery' in a local dance hall.

College kids today are of necessity more committed to the 'journey of learning' but they love their music just as much as we did.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Year’s (Resolutions?)

This year I did not make any New Year’s Resolutions. I followed the example of my wise wife and decided to live this year based on a motto. This year’s motto for me is “Positive Rants Only”.

By the sixth of January I have already been challenged several times to live with this new motto. I belong to a 'Men's Group' which has been meeting every two weeks for the last 20 years. During the discussion we were having I decided that one of the other members was looking at the world the wrong way and he needed to be informed of his ignorance, i.e. not knowing. I proceeded to point out to him all the things he was misinformed about, how he just didn’t understand the whole idea, how he did not have enough experience to see the whole picture, and how he must have received his knowledge by reading the 'Encyclopedia of Misinformation'. Boy, did I have a good time. I was eloquent, passionate, involved, charismatic and in the flow.I was really into explaining how he had gotten it wrong and how I was right. 

I then told the group about my new motto and for some reason they all laughed. I did tell the group that my response may not have been the best positive rant. 

Please be supportive, it takes at least twenty-one days create a new habit.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Booming Industry

Boomers are the first generation ever to have a name and be a category. Market researchers tell us that as a category they consume big and, as a group, are the wealthiest amongst all those who do. And we've already written about how they also spend for today, not tomorrow. Here in Canada the sponsors and advertisers of Zoomer Radio, Zoomer Magazine, MORE ("Canada's Magazine Celebrating Women over 40") and others who care about us as a tribe, are dying to know us better and better. They now hire social media consultants to teach them how to be our Facebook 'friends' and to Tweet us.

Inconveniently for them we aren't actually at all brand loyal.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Apocalypse approaches

Last week the Toronto Star newspaper ran a feature article Poor Figurehead for Elderly by one of its leading columnists. This reads as a rant around how Canada's new federal minister for the elderly, an ex-cop called Julian Fantino, is totally the wrong guy to represent the oldies amongst us. The Star is notable for being a left-leaning rag, perhaps Canada's most so, and attacking the current Conservative Prime Minister's choices is de rigeur for it. However, while claiming that seniors' needs deserve more attention, Ms Heather Mallick's piece is notable for its stereotyping, witness: "a tide of emergency hip replacements and crumbling spines approaches".

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Future in 'Another Country'

American psychologist, Mary Pipher, in the late 1990s wrote Another Country, published as an audio-book. It's a moving and eloquent summary of the communication difficulties we as Boomers have with our parents' generation. Our elders' beliefs about life are usually different from ours and can separate us profoundly. Add to that the self-absorption of many of our generation and you have a recipe for loneliness in the truly old.

Dr Pipher bemoans current society's lack of understanding and acceptance of the inevitable dependency that old age brings.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Demented or What?

The Alzheimer Society of Canada has been surveying a thousand of us Boomers. They found we mostly don't have a clue about dementia - how to recognize it coming on and what it means for the sufferer and the caregiver. Yet some of us already are involved with relatives in decline or soon will be. Some of the most unlucky amongst us may even be sufferers, mostly with the early stages - what the docs call Mild Cognitive Impairment. Two thirds of those will go on to full-blown dementia if they live long enough.

In my days running biotech companies researching potential treatments or diagnostics, I got to work on two occasions in the field of dementia medicine. It's the Holy Grail for medical R&D since it's becoming an epidemic and there's still no good prevention or treatment. Worse still, detection is a bitch of a problem. By the time the brain looks like scrambled egg, things are all downhill. And you can only confirm the signs in the brain after death.

Denial is a lot of the issue.

Monday, January 3, 2011

72 and Still Lacing Them Up

This was the title of an email my big brother sent out and the title of the program for his 72nd birthday hockey game.  He had a heart attack at 58, 2 years older than when our Dad had one, Dad did not survive. Following the family tradition I had my quadruple by-pass at 58 also. My brother was always a hockey player and raised two sons who also played. At age 65 he decided to play again and started this annual celebration of his birthday by organizing a hockey game for like minded men. Every year since then he has gathered together 22 men to join him in a hockey game. Most of the players are over 60. He does play on a line with his sons which scores every game.

I tell this story for a couple of reasons.