September 4, 2017

The Weird Uncle, the Anti-Social Media and why a hammer is sometimes the wrong tool for the job

I am writing a blog post about Facebook, as Facebook is not the best format for a longer written observation. Facebook allows you more space than Twitter, but people get around that, with streams of tweets.  Twitter and Facebook are both just tools in the social media communication tool box.  Just one of many tools.  Sometimes we get mad at Facebook, while posting on Facebook just how mad we are with Facebook.  But getting mad at Facebook is like getting mad at a hammer.  It is just a tool.
And like a hammer, sometimes it is the wrong tool for a particular purpose.

Facebook is ruled by the algorithms.  This is mysterious stuff these algorithms.  Big Brother stuff.   And the algorithms are not always right.  We can feel overwhelmed with the flaws in the algorithms, that paper our "walls" with negativity, politics (which is the same as negativity, as no one ever is in favour of anything any more.  We are only against it. )

Then there are the atrocities, which disgust us and make us feel human nature is a lost cause.  And then there are the band photos, selfies,  cats and cute dogs.   The sentimental crap that drowns us in Pinterest Pollyannes.  

There are days when we say that we need to take a break from Facebook.  It is getting us down, it is making us angry. We announce we are taking a break with Facebook or shutting it down.   Five hours later, we are back on it.   Since we can carry it on our phone, it never leaves us.   We don't have to leave home to get it.   In the words of Karl Malden, don't leave home without it.  OK five people maybe got that reference.

So what is it with this social media that absorbs us and repels us in equal proportions?

We say want to be connected to our family and friends.  Really?  If we wanted connection, wouldn't it be better to just pick up the phone and use it like a phone and call the person and talk to them?  The phone is already out of our pockets, because we are using it as a mini-computer to go on Facebook.  So instead of calling, we "like" a post.  Maybe even give it a heart emoji, if a particular post touches us on a deeper superficial level.  Deep down, I'm very shallow.

The evil genius of the Facebook addiction, the FB time killer, the FB social disease, is the scrolling function.  We open up the app, and we can see  how many likes we have, we can see the comments that people have made on our posts.  To be on top of your "social media identity, or persona for those whose Facebook hardly resembles their real self, we need to do this.   We want to know the current pulse, what might we posted that struck a chord, which sarcastic comment of ours that might have elicited a response?  

We scroll by, dazed and confused by the endless political diatribes, the online version of arguing at the dinner table with Weird Uncle or Racist Dad or Sentimental Sibling.    
We get drawn into discussions we are not intellectually prepared for, but that does not matter.  Facebook is an egalitarian smorgasbord, with the emphasis on gas and bored. Two thumbs up!  Two thumbs down.  Everybody's opinion is relevant.   Except they are not.  

Because some people are just plain stupid.  Some people are mean and petty in real life.  Some are uneducated in real life.  Some are mean, uneducated, petty, stupid and racist in real life.  So why does it surprise us when "friends" offer a condensed version of the same on social media?     Sometimes the scroll-by is more closely related to the "drive by".

OK another sore point.  Friends.  I have over 1200 friends on Facebook.  Many I do not even have a clue who they are.   I have forgotten how we are related, or connected, who was the Kevin Bacon in the BLT.   I could make a big deal, like some friends, of the annual "cull".  Worse than the wolf cull, is the FB Friend cull.   Thousands of "friends" culled every year.   Even worse is the Block, although you keep someone as a friend, and just filter them from your feed.  This is the online version of crossing the road, or ducking into a store when you see a "friend" coming in your direction, who you would rather not talk to today.   Getting into conversations with people who are also still connected to the Blocked, is a most interesting phenomena.  Getting half the conversation.  I have re-friended
people whose opinions piss me off just so I can understand the conversation better.

Sarcasm alert.  Sarcasm is a lost art.  It is pretty much dead.  Deader than the Friend Cull.  See what I just did there?   That was sarcasm.  Did you miss it?   Never mind, it was stupid, like many comments I make.  Like the two little morons standing on a cliff.  One fell off.  Why?  He was a little more-on.
Get it?  More on.  MORON!!!   This is a actually a trigger alert for some politically correct, as moron is probably not acceptable anymore.  Kind of like traveller's cheques.   See how I did that?   Bringing one reference around back to a previous one?  


I have made many errors with the Facebook app.  I have posted many stupid statements, been advised by the responses of friends and family.  Normally I delete them myself, and try to destroy the evidence.  Keep in mind, sometimes evidence is harder to erase than you think.   There are people out there who have so much time on their hands, that they will "screenshot" posts comments if they think you may delete them.

Let's return to the hammer metaphor.  If FB is a tool, like a hammer, then sometimes I should quite using it when the situation calls for a wrench.  I should quit hitting my two thumbs up.  STOP THE VIOLENCE!!!!

Once I posted a picture of myself where I looked all beat up.  My wife said take that horrible picture down now.  Get it off the internet.   I took it down in about 20 minutes.   Months later, I googled my own name and "Images" on Google.   Sure enough, there was the same photo staring back at me.

So forget political office.  Way too many skeletons here.  Unless I block everyone.  But then I can't see the other half of the conversation.


May 21, 2017


"The Nervous Light of Sunday: The pain was excruciatingly vivid, and for many moments I was terrified by the fear of death.  Illogically, this was one terror I believed I had long since cast off - having cast it off, I thought, with the effortless lunacy of a man putting a shotgun into his mouth and ridding himself of the back of his skull. That the fear of death still owns me is, in its own way, a beginning."  Frederick Exley A Fan's Notes 1968. 

Today is Sunday May 21, 2017.

Today is the Ten Year Anniversary of a pivotal moment in a life of many moments, the day of my "myocardial infarction", which sounds like a faux pas made at a party, a small mistake, I guess I misspoke, it was a failure to communicate, a mere something that could be excused later with an apology to the hostess the morning after.  "Myocardial infarction (MI), commonly known as a heart attack, occurs when blood flow stops to a part of the heart causing damage to the heart muscle. The most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort which may travel into the shoulder, arm, back, neck, or jaw. Often it is in the center or left side of the chest and lasts for more than a few minutes. The discomfort may occasionally feel like heartburn. Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, nausea, feeling faint, a cold sweat, or feeling tired. Wikipedia"

Today is the Ten Year Anniversary of a heart attack that changed everything.  "After an MI, lifestyle modifications, along with long term treatment with aspirin, beta blockers, and statins, are typically recommended."  

Time is a strange concept, the meaning of which has been debated for centuries.
As best as I can summarize, time is an inexact measurement of experience and memory.

A lot can happen in 10 years, just as a lot can happen in a few seconds.  A quick look in the mirror tells me that I am still here.   One day at a time.   Living in the now.  Living then, for now.

Much has transpired in those ten years.  Winners.  Losers.  Changes.  Many friends and family are gone, some through death, others through attrition.    Babies were born.  Jobs were changed, we moved twice, my daughter graduated from high school and soon will graduate from University, friendships have been lost, but then again, many new friends have become a part of my life.

Did I modify my lifestyle, as directed?

Modifications happened, some were planned, and some, just happened.

Ten years ago, I went through the physical rehab, my body got stronger, only to have my mind fall into depression.  This is a very common after effect of an MI, a result of the event, the psychological changes, changes to brain chemicals, brought about from some the beta blockers that were supposed to make me better.  After getting a handle on that, there was an eventual return to a workplace that science fiction come to life.  I experienced a lesson in mindfuckery that will one day have it's story told, but eventually, I had a coming to of the senses resulting in a change of work,  We moved back to the city,  I fought hard to immerse myself back into the creative music scene I had abandoned for anywhere from 3-14 years, helping organize benefit concerts for stricken friends, benefits to bring focus to past creative involvements.

In those ten years, I have experienced the death of some of closest friends, and witnessed the dementia of my mother and eldest brother.  Dementia is a cruel distortion of time,  a living death sentence that lasted until their final moments on this astral plane,  a year apart from each other.

I am nearing sixty.  As we age, death starts to surround us.  The water gets higher, the bodies float by, but still your head is above water.  People die from all sorts of things, heart attacks, broken hearts, cancer, drugs, broken minds and depression, suicide, and sudden tragic accidents. "That the fear of death still owns me is, in its own way, a beginning."  Death after all, is a part of life, and as such, is not to be feared, but yet, this fear of death can colour everything.

Time is precious, as life can change so fast.  Are we using our time well?  Are we "doing" more or thinking less?  If we think less, do we become thoughtless?  If you "think" more than you "do", the mind starts to play tricks. One can lose track of the bigger picture, and become mired in the details of mounting anxieties.  Worries rarely hold up to scrutiny, under closer inspection or reflection, they disappear.

Regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too many to mention here. More importantly, some of my regrets are just too private to mention.  My mother would say if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.  If I listened and practiced those words, I would have lived  a monk's existence. My closet is a walk-thru, so I have little room there to stack the skeletons; then again for a small fee, plus one free month,  there is always storage lockers.

Anniversaries are important to acknowledge, but not necessarily to celebrate.  Still, it is important to acknowledge and take stock.  Ten years is a long time, and nothing at all.  Kurt Vonnegut  said, "so it goes."  As long as it still goes,  there is hope.  When there is hope, there is opportunity for new discoveries.  Here is to the next ten years.  May my passions still burn with the intensity of youth.  But if the burning sensation persists, drink more water.  Your kidneys will thank you.

  There is something so wonderful and absurd about this photo taken so many years ago by my beautiful wife, Michelle Normoyle.  I'm not sure why it seems right to close on this image, but it does.

Much love,

January 7, 2017

Previously on Dense Milt.......

Previously on Dense Milt:

What we're gonna do right here is go back, way back, back into time.
When the only people that existed were troglodytes...cave men...
cave women...Neanderthal...troglodytes.

Minus nine months:  Life is one of the strange ones, in that it doesn't start at one.   When does life start? People have been debating this one long before Roe v Wade; a twinkle in my dad'e eye, a stirring in his loins, or a hunger in his soul?  Did my mother dream of me and prepare the grounds for planting?  Was it scattered there like drift?  A trace of this and a dash of that.  For whatever reason, the me that is me began either late March or late April of 1957.  In June of 1957 my wife to be was born in Ottawa.  I had some catching up to do.

Zero:  When I began, I was a zero.  An open mouth screaming.  Apparently I was a month overdue. That is what I remember my mother saying at one point.  She can no longer verify this statement, as died and had dementia for many years before her death.  But right from the start I felt the need for attention.  I was waiting for the moment I could make the most impact by delaying the big day.  Timing- it is all a question of timing.  Like the drummer's description of the singer- How do you know a singer is at the door?  They don't know when to come in and they can't find the key.  A shard from a song I wrote Gods and Killers: "Right from the start broke a piece off his heart, just a little flack from his little mommy's sac, Life wasn't his bag."

15 months: The novelty has worn off.  The baby is boring.  My mother opens the door to her station wagon and welcomes another hitchhiking fetus, who will be my little sister.  My days as the baby of the family are numbered.  Roughly speaking there were 270 of them.  You hold the baby.  No, you hold the baby.  Can I get a bottle?  Who is minding the bar here?

Two: We move from Burnaby to North Vancouver.  I am no longer the youngest child.  My first actual memory happens at two when I fell head over heels for my new sister, down a concrete stairwell, losing my left front tooth in the process.  OUCH! What a kid will do for attention.

Three:  I have no memory from age three so I can only assume that this is either my first dissociative state or when the Satanic indoctrination began.  I ran out of the house naked (well who doesn't?) prompting my mother to beat me with abandon.  OK she just spanked me.  Most likely I learned how to use the toilet at this age.  Good boy.  

Four:  I punched a kid in the eye.  I felt bad.  I felt good about feeling bad.  I put my hands in wet cement.  We moved from North Vancouver to Port cessation.  Pulp mills, tomato plants, concrete, cousins....

Five:  My youngest sister is born.  I am put up for a few nights with my sister at our aunt and uncle's house in Qualicum Beach.  I reported woke in the night to say to my 2 year old sister, "Let's get out of here, sis."  Uncle and Aunt overhear the escape plan, and my first plot is foiled.  Our family is now made up of Mom and Dad and seven kids, five boys and two girls.  Due to Canada's six child limit, my family is forced to leave Canada, travelling by caravan to Missoula Montana.  Montana is called the Big Sky Country.  We are in the old West.  Arguments are settled with a gun or a razor.  To avoid eye contact,  everyone looks up at the sky.
There were no speed limits in Montana, just tiny white crosses that they planted on the side of the road wherever someone died.  We finally find a family that is larger than our family with the introduction the next door neighbours.  They are Catholics and the last name was Sullivan.  The Sullivan family have nine children and their house smells like honey and urine.  For years I believed that was what Catholics smelled like.  I know better now.
As a January born child, I was held back from school.  Since the only kindergarten in Montana was for Catholics only, I stayed at home with my mom and two sisters.  I still had older brothers and a father, but they had their own fish to fry, their own deer to kill, their own cars to crash, their own wars to fight.   As a Canadian living in America, we were forced to relearn English.  American English.   Creek (rhyming with speak) was now crick ( rhyming with brick). 
Roof (like truth) was now roof (like the sound dogs make, or the hoof of a heifer).  
For two more years I was allowed to play with my next older brother.  Then one day, unannounced, he became a teenager, and I acquired the affectionate nickname "cowpie."
In Montana, I was introduced to my first pet, Peter the cat.  We inherited Peter from a family named Cunningham who moved away.  Peter was black and white, and vicious.  I hated him.  He would hide in the bushes near our blow up swimming pool, and jump out to attack me when I ran crying to my mother. Two other stories about Peter.  
One day my sisters saw a cute Pekinese puppy hanging around the back door where the cat's dish was.  In those days, dogs ran wild, and all animals were kept outdoors.  My sister's made the mistake of encouraging this little dog to come by and eat from our cat's dish.   One day, we are playing inside, and we hear a ferocious fight, cat snarling and dog yelping, whimpering and ran out to discover a lot of dog hair on the lawn, no dog in sight, and Peter walking around like he owned the place.  Because in the law of the west, he did own the place by asserting himself as the biggest pecker in the pecking order.   Peter Pecker pulled no punch, picking on a Pekinese, had Chinese for lunch....
Peter the Cat story two.  Remember we inherited this cat- we never chose to have a cat, and most of us did not want him.  And he was an outdoor cat.  One day he left.  Either tired of rejection, or lured by the promise of more love or tuna, he ran away.   Which should be the end of that story.  Except the cat came back.  About a year later, the cat came back.   I don't remember how we finally "lost" Peter, only that when we next moved, he was no longer with us.   Perhaps my parents were sending us a signal.  Watch your step kids.  There are seven of you.  Who would miss one of you if you were to go missing?   
Before we move on literally and in the telling of the story, let me tell you of how my mother decided to quit smoking.  As Canadians, my parents had been required by Canadian law and custom to drink rye whiskey with ginger ale, and to smoke.  Smoke 'em if you got 'em.    One night in Montana, my father was away on business, (he was always away on business - but that is another story), she fell asleep in a chair smoking, and according to her recollection, nearly burned the house down.  As good a cessation excuse as one could come up with on the fly, raising seven kids in the frontier town of Missoula.   

Six:  School starts!  My first teacher was Mrs. Lake, a tall woman with horn rimmed glasses.  She was very similar to my Nana (my mother's mother).  As a result of being held back, I was anxious to learn, and was not only a quick learner, but always did well in school.  Everyday I walked to school on my own, as kids did then, down a big hill.  On my way to school, I would sing songs of my own invention, and talk to myself.  To say I had a rich inner life, would be an understatement.  
In the winter, the snow drifts would be up to 5 feet high; the word "trudging" was invented.  In elementary school, I would meet many wonderful and strange characters, people who were even stranger than the Catholics next door, and believe it or not, more strange than my own family.
to be continued.......   

January 2, 2017

Raw Milt


They got me on the ropes
gnawing for a laugh
another noose around my neck
a pink elephant on a raft

I must be careful
I must be cautious
but the gnawing
Leaves me nauseous

And gnaw and gnaw anon anon
And gnaw and gnaw anon anon

"Is there a way to get out of here"
said the prisoner to the rat
The rat replies, Life's a box of chocolates, melting.