Thursday, June 28, 2007

Just In Case You Didn't Know....

I have been exceptionally frustrated with the "music biz" of late. Shopping for stuff at the retail level has been an exercise in monumental futility.

"Music Retail. It's not about selling you what you want. It's about making you buy what we have!"

Anyway, despite my frustrations I have uncovered some music "gems" so I'll share them for your summer listening.

In the Blues category you need to pick up The Road To Escondido by J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton. Eric has posted on his website that he's taking a couple of years off starting now, so other than his ongoing work at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago each year there will be no tours or recording projects unless something extraordinary strikes his fancy. So get The Road To Escondido and be thankful that every single tune on it is a masterwork 'cause it's gonna hafta satisfy ya for a while!

Patti Smith always had - in my never-to-be-humble opinion - one of the most evocative and powerful voices in rock music history. Now she has released an album of cover tunes that demonstrates that she still possesses a voice of singular presence and power. "Twelve" is an addictive romp - as if anything Patti does could be characterized as a "romp" - through twelve carefully chosen pop/rock "standards". Her rendition of "Gimme Shelter" alone is worth the price of admission.

I'm going to get in trouble here because this next band uses some bad language - but if most Christians I know would be honest it isn't anything worse than what they might have already heard at the movies, theatre, read in books or listened to at the company water-cooler. And most importantly these guys are by far and away less offensive than dozens of other bands who use profanity or controversial subject matter to promote their careers, a manipulative tactic this group definitely does not use.

So if you haven't given Bowling For Soup a chance, this is the summer you should. I suggest you start with "A Hangover You Don't Deserve" which contains their ridiculously infectious Grammy Winning '80's nostalgia anthem "1985". Then if they get as far under your skin as they have mine you'll have acquired one of the most fun new musical obsessions money can be traded for.

Finally just go to and if you don't think "Ugly Is Beautiful" is a killer tune then I give up!

Now the trick is trying to find somewhere to buy these things. If you're patient the internet awaits to serve you AND it's not usually too busy to help.

Peace out children! It's summertime! Time to groove!

*Music hath charms.....OH YEAH!*

All I Have To Do Is Dream....

I know I already used this title from the classic Everly Brothers song elsewhere on this page, but I like to think Don and Phil are eminently gracious and generous guys - born as they were in another era - and they (hopefully) don't mind. Anyhoo - this reference isn't about me dreaming about ground piloting a Lingenfelter Performance Engineering massaged Corvette at near obscene speeds across a day long Texas road - top down, tunes up, grin wide. *sigh - drool*

Nope, I'm riffing on the fact that for nearly 5 years - maybe longer - I have not been dreaming. This has been due to the fact that I have been suffering from severe obstructive sleep apnea. Yep, according to the results of my polysomngraphy test - taken just over 2 weeks ago at the Regina General Hospital Sleep Disorders Laboratory - my brain was trying to wake me up 130 times an hour so I could breathe!


I know I can be persistent and annoying, but I had hoped that less-than-charming facet of my personality would be damped down a bit while I am unconscious (or semi-unconscious). But, hey! Wherever you go - there you are! The practical upshot of my brain seeking oxygen with such vigor was that I couldn't experience all the levels of sleep - REM sleep being one notable level I haven't visited in a looonnngggg time!

I hadn't dreamed in so long I wasn't even getting reminders anymore - like that guy in the TV ad about sleep disorders. My dreams weren't hanging out in my kitchen or office complaining that I never spent time with them anymore. Evidently they had simply left me a note saying;

"Dear Brian,
Well we're pretty much totally frustrated here so we decided to move to a retirement community in south Florida. If you decide to look us up our phone number is 786-32X-XXX5*. Call sometime, schmuck!

Pleasant dreams.


You know you're in trouble when your dreams abandon you!

Well I got my CPAP unit a week ago Tuesday and I'm back to dreaming, sleeping, waking up not feeling dead and getting through the whole day without falling asleep in the afternoon. I use a Mirage Swift pillow-style mask. It's fairly unobtrusive, but we're getting used to it. I say "we" because for the last couple of years my snoring and stopping breathing was not just interrupting my sleep but my wife's sleep too. We actually have slept in separate rooms for almost one year.

The first night we were so unused to being together we thought the bed had shrunk - 'cause we sure couldn't admit we might have gotten bigger, eh?!? And we actually spent 3 days shopping for and considering moving up to a king from a queen-sized mattress. But a week has gone by now and things are settling down. We seem to have re-accommodated each other and we are happy to be "together" again. The last year was one of those challenges in marriage they don't warn you about.

While I'm on a personal health note here I've also found something to help me with my tinnitus. Actually, I haven't gotten a proper diagnosis of that, despite seeing an ear specialist over a year ago. The whole experience with him was quite disappointing.

*Digressive Commentary - If I had a reasonable amount of compensation for every time we have used the term "quite disappointing" in reference to health care since we have moved to Flatland I suspect we'd be nearly debt free. Whatever you think is wrong with your local health care system just amp it up a few orders of magnitude and you'll get the picture of what it's like on a daily basis here. I call it "Your tax dollars in inaction." - End Digression.*

He told me I had chronic listening fatigue and that I also had some considerable loss in mid and high frequencies in my left ear - something I already knew. My prescription? Wear earplugs while driving! For that this guy gets a six figure income! Sheesh!

Thus I was left to self-diagnose. I may not have full-blown tinnitus but I have enough symptoms to suggest a mild case or possible Meniere's Disease. The reality for me was that the hissing, rushing sound in my ears was getting so loud I was having trouble hearing, especially voices in ambiently noisy conditions. This was getting really traumatic for me because I am a HUGE music lover and the thought of losing the ability to rest in the arms of my musical muse was chilling to say the least.

I once got into a heated debate with my mother-in-law about whether it would be worse to be blind or deaf. I'd take blindness if I had to choose. I might not be able to see, but I could still hear the voices of the ones I love, experience the music that moves and motivates me and communicate with others relatively easily. In fact, it would probably make me a better listener - something I have been told many times I need to work on, and I do.

So one night I'm watching Jeopardy - God love Alex Trebek - and on comes an ad for a product called Lipo-Flavinoid. Well faster than you can say "Google that" I'm doing online research, a couple of hours later I'm ordering some and now I'm blogging that I'm already feeling better after only taking this stuff for a few days. The websites say I should take this product regularly for at least 6 months, but I'm sure I've already experienced some relief. And you can't get this in Canada. Pity. Again our socialist, government-controlled, big-business friendly wonky health care system does not fail to disappoint.

Nevertheless, it seems the internet has just given me a new reason not to write it off as nothing more than a cesspool of porn and self-indulgence in that I can order life-altering substances online for reasonable prices - thanks to a buoyant Canadian dollar - and have them shipped to me with a minimum of fuss. All that and I can find out of print books, comics and lps - maybe I'll let the internet live after all.

And now all I have to do is dream. Dream about being rested and re-energized as I learn to sleep and dream again. And I can dream of a day - hopefully soon - when I can clearly hear all the subtleties in a song, the delicacy of a bird call, or the words spoken by my wife, or son, or friend. Now I all have to do is dream that my dreams have not abandoned me and that nightmares are not all that lies before me. And praise God, it seems some of my dreams may be coming true, soon.

*Pursuing it.*
*Sharing it.*

*You know if I hadn't put those X's in that made up phone number some goof would have tried to dial it.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Of Real Estate, Gambling and Getting Rich

Lots of crazy stuff seems to be going on in the real estate market (don't I know it!). If we had moved only 3 years later from Edmonton to Saskatchewan our house would have sold for double what it did in 2002.

My friend, Lee has a post at his blog that comes from someone intimately involved in the market in Edmonton. The following was going to be my comment/reaction, but I think it better belongs here.

Please understand that I do not want to in any way disparage the hard work, effort, study, training and ability of those who through their diligence and effort make a living in investing in all manner of ways. The following comments are aimed at those who pursue get-rich-quick strategies.

Seems to me a career as a professional Texas No Limit Hold 'Em Poker player would be about as stable as being an undertaker by comparison to gambling in any endeavor without putting in the hard work of learning how to do it well.

As a Christian I have some theological and moral issues with gambling, but I'm always surprised how many of my self-proclaimed brothers and sisters are willing to gamble big-time in real estate, the stock market, commodities or multi-level marketing scams schemes opportunities. And how quickly those with more knowledge in these fields are willing to fleece the naive investor. I am aware that "Caveat Emptor" is the rule of the day, but there are predators about who use the purported "respectability" of many investment disciplines as a mask to hide their duplicitous agendas.

Las Vegas may be the ultimate gambling "sin city", but the establishments there always seem morally superior to me when compared to most of the investment world when it comes to gambling. I mean, at least you get dinner and a show when they take your money, which is more than Wall Street or my adviser at Investors Group offers. And in Vegas they will tell you the odds. Try getting that information from most investment prospectuses.

Waitaminit, what about this - maybe these folks looking to make some money could try this - trade someone work for money! A radical idea I know but it's just crazy enough that it might work. (Please adjust your "Sarcasm-O-Meter" at this point by calibrating it for "10" on the "Snarky Scale". Thank you.)

"How high are the stakes?
How much fortune can you make?
Should I carry on?
Will this matter when I'm gone?"

- lyrics from the song "How High" by Madonna from the album Confessions on a Dance Floor

Now those are really interesting questions considering the source.

We all have to make a living, again I offer the idea that how really, really matters.

*It has the novelty of having never actually been tried before.*

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Signs of the Apocalypse

Over at my friend Lee Distad's blog are a number of disturbing entries that have gotten me thinking about the "end of days". Certainly my parent's generation witnessed cataclysmic events, and so have I from the fall of the Berlin Wall to 9/11. Still when many strange and inexplicable things begin to happen people are often inclined to see destruction looming on the horizon.

Whether it is the voice of satirical investment advice trumpeting the imminent demise of the investment market or yet another article documenting how the once-mighty Sony has lost its way in an even more dramatic way, the general market news isn't very good it seems. And for those of us with nothing little in the way of investments this comes as even more of a shock as we have not been paying that close of attention to anything having to do with money.

The utterly astonishing is now passing for the highest of quality these days. Those who claim some level of education or to at least be in the process of obtaining knowledge can't pass the weakest pop quiz. The marketplace is rapidly becoming a third-world minefield of substandard and dangerous import products. The marketing sharks are going after your money through the lives of your not-as-yet teenagers. And private equity firms are prepared to finance every bad idea they can get their hands on.

Then there's the fact that Lee created 7 new posts in only one day leaving me with a hopeless backlog to catch up on. And finally, Lee is mediating grace and forgiveness between previously warring factions in a manner that might make all pastors unnecessary in the very near future. (Undoubtedly, Lee will modestly demure regarding his involvement in this affair, but we the cognoscenti know differently.)

It sure looks like the apocalypse to me.

*I hope!*

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Alive, Alive, Alive

After reading this excellent article by Gordon McDonald I've been inspired to simply exhort you to read it and encourage you to respond to it.

On Monday I was driving to Southey to meet with my brothers-in-arms in ministry here in Flatland. The sun was shining, I had the windows down and my car stereo was blasting John Hiatt's "Real Fine Love" while I sang along at the top of my lungs - "You've got a real, fine love. One I am unworthy of."

I was simultaneously singing to my Lord and about my wife and the moment was perfect!

I get to be alive.

You do, too.

*Seeking all I can find - sharing all I have.*

Sunday, June 03, 2007


If ya can't beat 'em.

My pirate name is:

Iron Sam Cash

A pirate's life isn't easy; it takes a tough person. That's okay with you, though, since you a tough person. You're musical, and you've got a certain style if not flair. You'll do just fine. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Get a BETTER name.

He's named after a bird.

A little bird!

Jack Sparrow (pah!) meet IRON SAM CASH!

I'm probably taking this whole Johnny Depp/Cap'n Jack Sparrow thing too far but, hey - PIRATE!