It is better to be an outcast, a stranger in one’s own country, than an outcast from one’s self. It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.
Chris Hedges

Monday, June 23, 2008

Language as Medium... Yes?

The Medium is the Message; especially in the context of public speaking. I first noticed it in the '80s, when women began taking their rightful place at the podium. The start of any comment began with, "umm". Umm's at the beginning of each comment or sentence created an illusion of deep contemplation - as if the speaker was sorting through millions of bits of information to find the right tidbit, irrespective of the carefully written script before them. I believe linguists call these 'interrupters'. In today's techno-speak we would describe it as 'insufficient ram'. It was a huge distraction as I often found myself counting the umm's, sometimes collaring the speaker afterwards to ask if they were aware they had said, "umm" 76 times in a two-minute talk. Usually these were pretty women with sensible haircuts, pinstripes and flat shoes.

The 'umm' was improved upon by the BBC, and replaced by the 'stutter". Each roundtable usually contained at least one person with a stutter. When asked to contribute, this type would begin with a crisp "yes, well" and launch into ten seconds of "ma, ma, ma, ma, ma, ma" before exploding in a set-piece run of genius - quick stop - ingest of breath - continue. This performance accompanied any and every bit. It was also a very clever way of cutting off or horning in on another panel member. Here, one pictured the befuddled genius in bow tie and mad haircut, twitching blinks, out-of-breath; at once blessed by God with a first rate intellect while on the other, limited by speech as the medium. No wonder aliens use ESP to communicate.

The latest verbal affectation is beginning to make me twitch in my seat. The newest thing is to say something, but instead of an umm or stutter at the beginning of each comment, you get the comment followed by a "Yes?" Gordon Ramsay uses this to great effect. As in, "This fucking soup is cold! - Yes?" Now lecturers and speakers everywhere are mesmerising audiences with a statement followed by a 'Yes?'. This new trend eliminates any thought that the speaker is unsure of their subject. It also creates the illusion that an opportunity is being presented for a response, when it is really meant as a twist of the knife after it has ripped into your bowels.

I'm going to take the opportunity to stand up and and say "No!" everytime I get the Yes tactic. After all, it works for my 3-year-old grandson.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Chicken Soup

If you really want to know what your neighbours think of you, just drop off a pot of fresh homemade chicken soup. I did, and their dog is slurping is up quite nicely. It's true that we have never really gotten along, but when I heard the missus was home with the flu I thought sharing some of my homemade soup would be just the ticket to improve relations. I don't quite blame her though. Because if she dropped off chicken soup to me I doubt that I would tuck into a bowl without at least trying it out on someone else first. But to just plunk the pot by the dog house, in plain view of where I am sitting?

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Serenity Prayer - Enya (May it Be)

May your days be full and warm.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Satchel Paige's Rules for Living

"Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching."
Satchel Paige got paid for throwing a baseball. He was past 40 before he made the Major Leagues, spending most of his career playing in the Negro Leagues. He was a character also known for his quotes. These 'Rules for Living' were taken from his autobiography, Maybe I'll Pitch Forever (as told to David Lipman, 1962):
"Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood."
"If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts."
"Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move."
"Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society — the social ramble ain't restful."
"Avoid running at all times."
"And don't look back — something might be gaining on you."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Towards Spirituality

I am grateful to Paulo Coelho for choosing to become the advance scout in my search to find spirituality. He is fearless and inclusive in his search. There are no fees and dues to join with him, short of getting a library card, or purchasing a book. Nobody is excluded from the spiritual experience. His books fire the imagination and possibility, often containing step-by-step instructions. I like that the instructions are there. One can try them without being limited by their definition. Or you can choose to treat them as most good rules should be, not abolutes, but guidelines. I believe anyone, anywhere can embark on their own pilgrimage, whether it be around the world or around the block. An inquisitive nature coupled with humility is required, together with the capacity to be in tune to nature and people. It is requisite that nothing be dismissed as insignificant or coincidental. We should allow time to ponder and reflect on what happened. To that end I am going to start testing my ideas with a daily walk. I will be alert to sound and eye-contact with the people I meet. I will pray before leaving, asking God to guide me towards my purpose for today. And in the spirit of Paolo, I'll let you know what happens.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


To most of us 'gratitude' is a polite reflex after receiving something. We get and say, "Thanks." But in a deeper, more profound way gratitude is about saying thank you even when something is taken away from you. A mind disciplined to find the good in everything will ultimately result in a living state of grace.