Of spaceships, cracked helmets, and more spaceships

This past weekend I went with my family to see The LEGO Movie. It was my second time seeing it. I got to see a preview of it earlier with my daughter and both times I loved it! Of course there are lots of moments in the movie for the kids to laugh at, but I found there was even more for adults to enjoy; well, this adult at least. More than the humour, though, there was a nostalgic connection with my own childhood. Of special mention is the character Benny. Benny is a LEGO mini figure from the 80s. Benny is a spaceman. I had a few spacemen when I was young. I loved my LEGO space sets, and I loved how there were details in the movie that really hit home. For one, the insignia on Benny’s chest was partially rubbed off; that happened a lot to LEGO spacemen. Also, there is a crack in Benny’s helmet, right in the middle where it passes under the mouth; once again, spot on. When faced with technology, Benny assumes he can navigate it, he is spaceman after all, but he discovers that he is out of his depth. That is until he encounters 1980’s technology, which he can harness to do whatever he needs. Finally, there is the particular aspect of Benny’s personality that compels him to build spaceships; only spaceships. When I played with my space LEGO, it was inevitable that the only things I would build were spaceships or space stations. Several times in the movie Benny tries to answer the call to build, only to be told by the others that, no, a spaceship is not needed. He is of course crestfallen when his ships are rejected, but that only makes it all the more glorious when the time finally comes that a spaceship is needed. At this point, Benny goes manic and builds a magnificent juggernaut of a ship whilst shouting, “SPACESHIP! SPACESHIP!” I laughed out loud and I beamed with pride for Benny.

The real hero of the The LEGO Movie, if by hero you mean the best spaceship builder
The real hero of the The LEGO Movie, if by hero you mean the best spaceship builder

You may think it odd for me to go on about Benny, a film character based on a LEGO mini figure from the 80s, but Benny and all his spacemen friends are part of my childhood. I direct you to a previous post, All your Space LEGO base are belong to us, for some background. Suffice to say, Benny was my favourite character in The LEGO Movie.

SPACESHIP!!!!

This is a SPACESHIP!!!
This is a Spaceship, Spaceship, SPACESHIP!!!
"Hey, my name's Benny, too!" "So is mine!" "I'm Benny!" "Did someone mention the name, Benny?"
“We know Benny. He’s an awesome guy. Builds great spaceships.”
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Gah!, or, Restarting after a loss of momentum

Q1: What’s more difficult than starting a blog?

A1: Returning to your blog after neglecting it for three months or so.

Q2: Is it difficult maintaining a blog?

A2: It’s complete shite, as is implied by A1.

I’m back.

Hooray.

The last few months have been a bit hectic; a bit disjointed; and I, for my part, have been more than a bit apathetic. That being said, I am back on task; ready to delight you with more children’s book selections, more tales of running, more aimless musings, and some more surprises to come (well, for now there’s only one surprise in the works, but I’m ambitious. No, I’m not; one surprise is in the works). Mostly, I am putting this blog entry out as a way to motivate (read: force) myself to get back into it; and by “it” I mean fostering any delusions that I am able to write anything entertaining and/or of interest.

So, stay tuned and thank you for your patience.

Another year over, a new one just begun

Just a quick post to let you know that I am crap when it comes to year-end reviews; mostly because I leave things to the last-minute (consider this post as case in point) and can’t be bothered to assemble a meaningful retrospective off the cuff.

Therefore, I will simply use this space to wish everyone; yes, that includes you and the person(s) sitting beside you on the bus; everyone a Happy New Year.

May this stomach flu that’s being passed around bypass your home, and may your health be otherwise good.

May we see a year of less violence and more legislative action to address the tragedies of the past year.

May you at least make a valiant attempt to hold to whatever resolutions you may make for the new year, at least for a month. To go with that notion, let’s not be too rough on ourselves; make the changes we can, accept that we may not be able to achieve all goals, but always learn from the process.

May you hold your family above all. They are your life, your love, your past and your future. For those of us with children, they are your legacy, both figuratively and genetically; cherish them.

The world’s problems will not be solved at the turning of the year, but let us all do what we can, in our own little way, to help each other as a family, as a community, as a species, as a planet.

Happy New Year!

Enjoy the Silence, In which I faithfully pursue the Policy of Truth

I’m no good at “desert island” lists. I do enjoy reading other’s lists, and I will happily scavenge off of their choices, “Ooo! I like that one! Oh, I completely forgot about that one, nice!” However, if given the task to compile a list of ten albums to bring with me to a hypothetical island in the middle of a hypothetical body of water, with little chance of a hypothetical vessel spotting me for an undertermined, but let’s say, hypothetically, extended length of time, then I would have difficulty. Not for lack of choice, of course, but rather it all comes down to the editing process. I would only have chosen six before I’d start feeling compelled to edit the ones already on the list.

What’s that? I can only bring five! Argh! No, no. I’m not complaining, really, it’s just that… What? I can only bring one now? Well, that’s simple! Violator by Depeche Mode. There.

It’s been a while since I had listened to Violator but a couple of weeks ago I started listening to it again on the bus, on my breaks, doing the dishes, and I discovered once again what I already knew; I love this album, but not just for the music.

Violator came out in 1990. I was in grade 10 at the time and I was in my own little world. My previous years in junior high were, to say the least, brutal. I didn’t fit in at all. I wasn’t smart enough for the geeks, stylish enough for the preps, athletic enough for the jocks, hardcore enough for the metal heads, talented enough for the artists, and I couldn’t ride a skateboard to save my life. I didn’t own anything with Club Monaco, Airwalk, or Levis labels. Overweight, under-height, and adrift on an ocean populated by island cliques with no port-of-call in which to drop anchor. I pretty much hated my life. With these glorious years fresh in my psyche, I was now in my first year of high school. It was a chance to start fresh, and in many ways it did get better; yet there was a residue of pain and loneliness that refused to leave completely.

Up to this point, I didn’t really listen to Depeche Mode, although I was familiar with some of their work just by way of radio play. In fact, I don’t remember what was behind my decision to purchase the album (read: cassette tape); most likely videos on MuchMusic (ah, the good old days when there were videos on MuchMusic). Anyway, I now had my own personal edition of Violator and I was smitten. No, that’s not the right term. I was not smitten because this was not an album that I played over and over for the sake of it, nor was it one to be frittered away whimsically as a simple means to “pop in some tunes.” No, this was my special music. This was part of my escape. This is the album I would listen to as I sat on my bed and read my comics. I spent a lot of time by myself, and a lot of that alone time was spent in my room. There I could forget about my physical self, which I wasn’t all that pleased with, and lose myself in thought. I would imagine myself as a different person, usually dark and brooding, yet this alternate me would have talent and skill and charm that the real me was lacking. I would dream up scenarios, adventures, really cool dialogue. Often my fantasies involved something that had happened to me that very day, only this version had me at my best. No, not even me but Alternate Me, because even at my best, I still couldn’t hope to be as awesome as Alternate Me on any given day. When I wasn’t recreating my day in my imagination, I was reading my comics. Even now, when I listen to Violator, I immediately envision my meager collection: Cholly & Flytrap, Nightbreed, Fafhrd and Grey Mouser, Spider-Man, X-Men, I Am Legend. I was by no means a hardcore collector by any stretch of the imagination, nevertheless I loved to read my editions over and over again, and more times than not, I would have Depeche Mode playing in the background; or perhaps Enya, but that’s a story for another day.

While I enjoy listening to all the tracks, save one; “Blue Dress” was never to my liking and I found it annoying that it was the second to last track on the album so I would have to skip it just to get to “Clean” which definitely was to my liking; my favourite track, quite possibly my favourite song, period, is “Policy of Truth,” and when you pair it up with the previous track, “Enjoy the Silence,” it’s very near perfection; shame about that “Blue Dress” coming right after it. I love  this album, (almost) every track resonates emotionally with me, for example, “Personal Jesus.” When I first heard this song, I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I did know one thing, I felt somewhat uncomfortable whenever I listened to it. It wasn’t until years later that I could make some sense of these feelings. I don’t believe in a god, even when I was younger I didn’t really believe. However, I was raised Roman Catholic and so I was inherently aware that the name, Jesus, was afforded a certain amount of power; so much so that anytime I heard the name outside of a church or other similarly sanctioned setting, I felt uneasy. Even now, as an adult, I still get a flash of that same feeling that I can only approximate with the label, “guilt,” though I don’t quite think that is it exactly, when I listen to “Personal Jesus.” I will admit it causes me to skip this track from time to time.

I’ve listened to the majority of Depeche Mode’s work and for the most part I enjoy it, but for me Violator remains, to quote track number two, “The Sweetest Perfection.” It’s more than just the music, but rather the combination of emotions and memories that the music elicits every time I listen to it. While this album no longer carries with it the listening restrictions it once had back in high school, I will nevertheless only listen to it if I’m in a particular mood; but then, I guess that’s the case with any great album. When I listen to this album, I am instantly transported back to my room, where I sit upon my bed, my comics spread around me; maybe today I have Jon J. Muth’s Dracula: a symphony in moonlight and nightmares open before me with its sensual watercolour illustrations drawing me into its depths.

Violator will ever be the “Halo” I am drawn toward when I am “Waiting for the Night.”

Funny how music can do that.

The sweetest perfection

Old Man Chinery goes a-stomping

I haven’t posted for a little while. Seems I’ve been too busy getting old. Well, I’ve been doing other things as well, but certainly getting old has been one of them. A couple of days ago I turned thirty-seven (37). The fact of the matter is that I rarely think about my birthday, generally speaking. It’s often the case that my birthday sneaks up on me and before I realize it, WHAM! Yes, that’s right, a shit band from the Eighties starts playing in my head. Now, if that reference is lost on you, then maybe I really am getting old! Seriously, though, I was helping my five-year-old daughter with her bath the other night when she said to me, “It’s okay, Daddy. I can get out of the tub myself. I don’t need you to lift me because I know that you’re old now.”

“I’m not that old!”

“Well, how old are you?”

“I’m thirty-seven (37).”

“Daddy, that’s old.”

“Thanks, Abigail.”

Seriously.

I vaguely remember the feeling I had when I turned thirty-five (35). It was a somewhat more celebratory feeling, a feeling of distinction; a milestone, if you will. Compared to that, thirty-seven (37) seems rather, I don’t want to say depressing, but more, oh I don’t know, sobering; I guess. Forty (40) is sneaking up and it doesn’t help that I’ve been feeling tired and run down for the past week or so. I can’t even attempt to reclaim some of my youth by partying hard on the weekends because I rarely partied, much less partied hard, in the first place. It only takes a couple of drinks to make me loud and then very quickly dozy. While others are drinking into the night, I’m sleeping in a chair. Woot.

Yet, as my thirty-sixth (36th) year came to a close, I was able to find one thing that allowed me to reclaim some of my youth. This week we had a new fence installed in our yard. Of course, there can be no creation without destruction. Shiva taught me that; or was it Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg? In any case, there was an old fence to destroy and I was a man armed with sledgehammer and pry bar, and I had family to back me up. As I was getting around to the business of smashy-smashy I knew that only one thing would be better than whacking down a fence with a sledge, and that would be kicking the fecking thing down; and kick it down I did! Well, a good portion of it. Not to sound too thuggish, but there’s nothing like the feeling of putting the boot to something you just want to get rid of (and now that I say it, I realize I really do sound like a thug). I even let my kids get in on the action, which, in hindsight, probably wasn’t the best parenting decision I’ve ever made, but, meh.

We made short work of the fencing, and it was fun to kick and smash the boards and railing. However, when we came to the posts we ended up getting stopped in our tracks by having to break up the concrete around the base. As I spent the next couple of hours hacking away with a pickaxe, suffering from the reverberating handle and the shrapnel that was flying into my face, suddenly my delightful romp turned into a laborious task. Suddenly, I felt thirty-seven (37) again.

Ah, well. Maybe I can set up a chair in front of my house and shake my fist at the kids that go by. If I’m going to get old, I might as well embrace it.

Messages from a floundering swimmer

I swim like my mother.

Last Monday I went for what I hope to be my first regular swim. Now that I have, for the foreseeable future, hung up my running shoes (yes, it still pains me to think about it) I desperately needed to find something to fill the void. In the weeks since I stopped running I noticed a marked change in my emotional, psychological, and, of course, physical self. As my agitation and my weight continued to grow, I knew that I needed to find out outlet soon, or I might regress back to the version of me that I swore I would never again become; and so I decided on swimming. The thing is, I’ve never been a strong swimmer. Swimming has, in fact,  never been something that I overly enjoy doing. I can’t time my breathing well enough to do a front stroke, I’m paranoid of running into people and/or walls when I swim on my back, and my legs are forever pulling me to the bottom like some sort of lead weight. Yet, I own a pair of swim trunks, the pool has hours that accommodate my schedule, and I can get a discount as a City employee, and I did take lessons as a child and am capable of not drowning; therefore, I went swimming on Monday night.

Before I left for the pool, I was determined to spend 90 minutes in the water. I didn’t know if this was feasible, but I wanted something concrete and challenging to keep me going. The first half hour, I soon realized, was still in the midst of public swim time, and so I did my best to swim laps whilst dodging other swimmers, inflatable balls, and stray flutter boards. As 9:00 came round the pool started to clear out, the swim lanes were marked, and the serious swimmers took to the pool; and by serious swimmers I mean senior citizens, but I had no problem with my company as we all seemed to be equally focused and respectful of each other’s space.

I had been swimming for about 45 minutes and feeling good. Sure I wasn’t breaking any speed records and I was taking a moment between laps to rest, but for the most part I was feeling quite pleased with my progress, except for one area: my actual progress in the water, that is to say, my ability to propel myself forward in an effective manner. It was ay this point that I realized two things. First, the particular strokes I was using, a modified breast stroke and side stroke, were not very powerful; and secondly, these very strokes are the ones that my mom always used when she swam. Yes, I swim like my mother. For a half moment I was slightly mortified, but that quickly passed as I realized that it really didn’t matter what I looked like. In fact, as I was slowly gliding on my side I had a brief flash of nostalgia of being a kid again in the pool with my mom; so much so that when I got to the end of the pool I rested with my arms along the pool deck, slowly bicycling my legs in the water, just like my mother used to do (I also made a point of phoning my mother and telling her just that. She seemed pleased.)

With that, it was back to the lengths.

I finished up my 90 minutes and left the pool feeling satisfied with my effort, but with a singular, nagging notion. This was no replacement for running; a substitute, yes, but not a replacement. I’m not sure how long it will take for me to get passed this; how long it will take me to stop looking longingly at runners who pass me by; how long it will take for me to stop telling people how I used to run, but can’t any more. However, I am looking forward to my next swim, of that I am sure. I remember how awkward I felt when I started running, so I have to expect the same with my time in the water. Maybe I’ll add a couple of different strokes to my repertoire in the future, but until then I’ll just take it one pool length at a time, knowing that I will make it to the end; it just might take me a while…

… after all, I swim like my mother.

It seemed like such a simple thing…

This post was inspired by an hour-long session of me trying to fix a sink.

Four easy steps to removing my bollocks:

  1. Pick a seemingly straightforward household project
  2. Attempt seemingly straightforward household project
  3. Fail*
  4. Sulk away from project muttering, “Why does this have to be so fucking difficult? Why does this have to be so fucking difficult?…”

*In this case, fail can refer to anything from an utter and total cock-up to my not completing the project to my unrealistic standards (ie. a regular cock-up)

Today’s random neurosis deals with the wonderous world of DIY. If there is one thing that taps into my primal sense of masculinity and threatens it to its core, it’s do-it-yourself projects. Seriously. From constructing a back yard deck to hanging a shelf, I have yet to make it through a project without thinking to myself, at least once, “A real man would have finished this in half the time. What the hell is wrong with me?” Do I have any formal training in carpentry, plumbing, or electrical wiring? No. Does this make a difference? You’d think it does, and in the back of my mind I know it does, I really do; and yet this rather significant factor seems to always get pushed back into the recesses of my brain, somewhere beyond the spot where my anger likes to hang out and percolate, waiting for that moment; that special moment when I’ve already invested too much time for my liking and I realize that very little progress has been made; that special moment when my anger finally boils over as I clinch my fists, arch my back, flex my pectoral muscles, and a seething “goddamnit!” seeps forth through teeth fused together with enough force to produce diamonds. It is a special moment indeed.

It’s funny, really. After all those years assisting my dad with household projects; watching him react to his own shortcomings, listening to his cursing (“You bugger” was a standard) and self-abasement, and thinking to myself that I would not become my father; I have, essentially, become my father. You bugger! Now, I haven’t got around to asking my father what was going on in his head during these lovely father-son bonding sessions, so I don’t know exactly what was behind his ill feelings, but I am pretty sure what fuels my ire. For one reason or another, I have a list of criteria stamped into me head that, if not met, somehow, in my mind, reduces my status as a man. They are, in no particular order:

  1. Ability to build shit around the house
  2. Ability to fix shit around the house
  3. Ability to talk shit about motor vehicles
  4. Ability to fix shit on motor vehicles
  5. Ability to set up and maintain a proper camp site, and do basic survival shit.

Is this list archaic? Yes. Is this list sexist? Yes. Is this list irrational? Yes. Do I consider myself archaic, sexist, and/or irrational? No. So… what the hell? What the hell, indeed. I have no idea why I think this way. Wait, that’s a lie. I do know why I think this way, at least partially. I suppose I see these as some of the traditional bonding points for men, and I guess I find myself at a loss when I find myself in the company of men and these subject are brought up; I simply cannot hold up my end of the conversation. Keeping this in mind, when I attempt to take on a project, and I am unable to complete it to my satisfaction, it reinforces these feelings of inadequacy; only I tend to act out on them more when I’m on my own, because I realize how idiotic I’d seem if I started to tense up and mutter to myself while in a social situation; not that the private show is all that endearing (just ask my wife).

This, however, is not all that there is to it. No, this particular rabbit hole goes deeper. As it happens, even if I am able to finish a project, and even if it does turn out, I still find it difficult to take any pride in my work. It’s simply that, with every project, I know exactly where I had to fudge the job; I know where the mistakes were made; I know the spot where I had to perform a half-assed patch job in order for the final outcome to look half decent. All the while I’m thinking to myself, “Seriously, I wish I could figure out how to do this properly like all those other guys.” Let’s be clear, I have no idea who these other guys are. They are phantoms, shades, bullshit Jungian archetypes that may or may not exist; but to my pissed off self, at this very moment, they are real; and they are judging me, shears at the ready to remove my testicles as payment for my ineptness. It’s no small wonder that I have a list of projects that I am hesitant to start; Mr. Positivity I am not. Give me IKEA assembly any day; that I can do.

Ah, well. I suppose I should get back to the sink. It seemed like it would be such a simple thing. Why does it have to be so fucking difficult?

You bugger.