Second Chances

wavesFor a number of years when I first started working down here, I used to take wedding pictures. Something of a hobby, made a little money at it. I would just do a budget job, flat fee, take about 72 pictures (two rolls of 36, for those who have forgotten, or never knew the days of Kodachrome), and when the first prints were back, I would just hand over the prints and negatives to the couple to do what they wished for copies and enlargements.

“Let me tell you an interesting story,” I said to a few friends in early December. “Thirty years ago…” I started, and I’m sure they hoped I didn’t fill in all the missing time, but I had their attention.

Saturday evening. July, 1983. I was watching TV when Ellen said the unforgettable words: “Didn’t you have a wedding this evening?”

KaPow! Out of my chair! The wedding was at 7 pm, was about ten kilometers away, and it was almost that time. I grabbed my camera equipment and raced out the door. Continue reading

Aging. Gracefully?


Several months ago, I got a renewed interest in the music group The Seekers.  I was converting some LP records to CD’s and owned two of their albums from back in the ‘60’s.  They were, and still are, a group based in Australia, with memorable hits for my generation like Georgie Girl, I’ll Never Find Another You, A World of our Own, and the haunting The Carnival is Over.  They were probably the last of successful folk-based groups, and managed to bump both the Stones and the Beatles off the charts in the days when those groups were expected to be on top.

The Seekers story is interesting.  They left Australia to try for success in Britain—booked as entertainment on a cruise ship to cover transportation costs.  Shortly after their arrival, their popularity took off.  Much of their sound came from the wonderful voice of Judith Durham—she was very much the “Seekers sound”.  But Judith had issues of her own, particularly ones of poor self-esteem and lack of confidence.  Despite appearing in the dreams of most young men at the time, she thought she was overweight and unattractive, and despite later being described by Elton John (he once played piano for them) as possessing “one of the purest voices in popular music”, she wasn’t even confident in that ability.  She decided to leave the group at the peak of their success to pursue a singing career of her own.  She did have that, mainly singing jazz in America with her husband pianist Ron Edgeworth.  The remaining Seekers had an assortment of replacements for her through the years, none of which was a Judith Durham. Continue reading

A Changin’?

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Bob Dylan wrote The Times They Are a’Changin’ in 1963, and it became the archetypical protest song and a rallying call for a generation. It drew on some older Irish and Scottish songs, and even got inspiration from Ecclesiastes and the Gospel of Mark (“the first shall be last”). Dylan wasn’t sure himself if it was the right song for the time. (It’s comforting to find that sometimes even he didn’t understand his songs.) For the youth of the time, however, it spoke to their feelings about Big Government, Big Business, and Big Control by parents. This would all change. The world was going to be different. They would see to it.

A month later, JFK was assassinated, and in the next few years, the US got more firmly involved in the Vietnam War. They couldn’t count on government. Things were ripe for change. Things needed to change. Students started protests. Marches were held, thousands strong. The Civil Rights Movement was underway. We Shall Overcome.

So what happened? Continue reading

A growing disconnect . . .

A columnist in Macleans offered a comment related to the troubles Toyota is having with its runaway cars. While there certainly are real mechanical problems, he felt the more serious issue was related to our not being able to do anything with our cars other than drive them. He had a point.

The red flag for him was the fellow who raced on with his Toyota Prius, ignoring the requests of a chasing police cruiser that he put the thing into neutral. The driver confessed he thought of that (and hopefully did when the officer bellowed it at him from the cruiser loudspeaker), but was afraid that the car might roll or go out of control if he tried.

It’s an example of our current disconnect with our vehicles, not to mention most aspects of our technology.
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Think Rich

About two weeks ago, Bill Gates announced a long-term gift for funding childhood vaccines. Some people make headlines giving a hundred thousand dollars– a considerable sum– or on rare occasions by presenting a full million dollars. Far more impressive, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave what might be the largest philanthropic donation in history: ten billion.

That’s hard for us to comprehend. Even in digits, it staggers the mind: $10,000,000,000.00 (I added the cents, though somewhat meaningless at those rarified levels of finance). This will be over the next decade, and follows on the $4.5 billion they have already given over past years.

How much money do the Gates have? No one really knows, probably not even Bill. Probably enough to get a better haircut than he usually sports, but that’s not our focus. You and I might quickly calculate our “net worth” (or net debt) by adding what we currently have in the bank (including overdraft), adding on the value of a house, a car or two, subtracting off what we owe and hoping for a plus at the end of it. It gets a bit more complex at the Gates level. It would take a team of accountants a month to add and subtract what they are invested in, and the best they could do would be arrive at a moving figure that would be changing by the market minute. Someone once said Bill earned $800 a minute– I don’t know. I’ll call and ask.
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Charlie’s Line

Many years ago, I had a senior high math teacher named Charlie Read: a very capable teacher, highly respected. He made math interesting enough that I made an 85 in Geometry, with very little effort. That was convenient, since very little effort was what I gave studies at that time, and most of my other subjects showed it.

Charlie started some geometry courses with flair: he would stand at the back of the classroom and without warning fire a piece of chalk at the blackboard, hitting it with a snap that made students jump, leaving a single yellow mark on the board.

Striding up the aisle to the board, he would bellow, “Take a point!” He would go from there with the basics of geometry: you have a point in space. String points together, an infinite amount of them, and you have a line. With lines, you form shapes: triangles, squares, and more.
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