Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mark Twain!

Though, I have a feeling you wouldn't have cared too much if I forgot it.

And actually, I did forget it.

Today's Google Doodle helped inform me that indeed Mark Twain is now 176 years old. Though I'm sure he doesn't look a day past 40 (if you find the appropriate portrait that is).

The Google Doodle is an image of his most famous literary creations, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. It was just last year that I decided to reread The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and I once again fell in love with that magical novel. It is considered the Great American Novel by many for a reason.

I like Twain because he was witty and sarcastic. He also didn't seem to have this snobby view of what literature should be. He just wrote engaging stories with compelling and quirky characters. His stories did have some powerful messages; the type I'd argue has just as much value to hear today. I know, some of his books have been banned and partly that is due to some of the racial slurs, but it was a product of the time. Twain's books, especially Huck Finn, did a great job of speaking out against many of the social crimes of his time. I feel those same messages can give some much needed perspective today.

You're a great writer when you can not only offer up work that can be intelligently debated and discussed in academic circles but also provide a really engaging story that is just fun to read for a few evenings. Twain was able to do that. He did it well.

Plus the guy liked to stir things up and always had something witty to say. I can definitely respect that, because I try to do that here on a pretty regular basis.

So, Happy Birthday Mark Twain, and much respect to a man who is still remembered and loved after 176 years.

My Life Update: November Edition

Whew, good thing I squeezed this post in right before the month disappeared on me. This November can sneak past you pretty quickly sometimes. I've always been more apt to pay attention to it more than other months because it happens to contain my birthday. But that ends before we're even half way through, so I stop monitoring the month far too soon. Anyway, November is indeed wrapping up and this year is only one month away from being in the record books. As I've said before here, it has been a pretty bittersweet year with some massive heartbreak and major stress events along with some of the most exciting news and events you could imagine. It was the definition of a mixed bag, but then again, that is often how it ends up going anyway.

But more specifically, how has my November been?

Professionally: The fall as a whole has been a bit of a disappointment. After the summer hauled in so much work, I was expecting the fall to bring work in by the truckloads. Unfortunately, the truck must have got a bad tire because it never made its way to me. I'm not saying my family is being shipped off the poor house now, but I am saying I learned a bit about the unpredictability of freelancing. More importantly, I learned the value in creating strong and lasting relationships with clients who can not only refer you to even more clients but also give you a rather steady stream of work. I definitely need the steady stream of work this winter because. . .

Daddy Update: The due date of January 4th is fast approaching, which also means the actual time the baby could be healthily arriving is even sooner. The baby has continued to do back flips and somersaults in mommy's tummy, in order to prepare itself for a run at Olympic gold. The baby seems to be warning us that he/she will be an active one, and I should be investing in a track suit and good running shoes. An active baby will be good for me, since my only forms of exercise at the moment are walking Summit and allowing my fingers to run on my keyboard all day.

I've already had a bit of a glimpse at the potential parent I may be. There were a few things over the last few months that could have led to some potential complications for the pregnancy. It was the sort of deal where it wasn't major, but could lead to something awful. Yet I found myself getting filled with anxiety and was rather worried about the possibility of the fulfillment of such complications. I found myself hovering over the tummy on a much more regular basis and constantly wishing my baby the very best. It seems my sweet words were enough to avert the problem, but it sure revealed to me the type of dad I might end up being. Not that I should be too surprised, since I am also the apparent reason my dog is a giant fluff of suckiness. I know this revelation is a shock to many who know me.

I'm ready for this dad thing. Most days. I still see myself fretting a little about being the major source of income come the next year and also have my moments I dread the evaporation of my sleep and relaxation time. I like relaxing, but I see it minimizing to an extreme degree. On the other hand, in the last bit I've been pulling some 14 hour work days, so it isn't like I've been floating in a sea of slothfulness or anything. I also realize that when I'm not begging for the baby to sleep a little bit more or trying to clean up the hourly baby surprise, there is going to be some really magical moments with my child. The type of treasures that I'll never want to let go of, and will always be firmly implanted in my heart and soul. I know this, because I'm currently getting those types of moments with my wife's moving tummy. I have a feeling it gets even better when you actually have a little life to hold in your hands.

Family: As you know if you follow this blog, some tragedy and heartbreak hit the family last month. It was expected, but it was still hard. But there has also been some good that came from this extremely sad event. I feel Emily's side of the family has never been closer, and we've already had a few opportunities to gather in a positive way since the loss. It has also reminded me the huge importance of family, and has motivated me to also stay connected to my own side of the family. Both Emily and I have decided that it is one of our key goals to try to keep our families close, and continue to have many memorable and happy gatherings.

November as a whole has actually been pretty crazy. I've spent much of the time trying to track down long term clients, and pitch a few projects to companies and publishers. Emily and I have also spent time trying to prepare for the coming bundle of joy, which has either meant spending lots of money on baby or attending classes/appointments. We've also just been trying to deconstruct all that has happened this year, which some days are easier than others. On top of that, we decided to throw in a few more extra complications that have been taking up our time, and that doesn't include a few issues that came about without our aid or wanting. All in all, it has been busy, but at least, our city wasn't burnt down by a horde of dragons -- it would have made it so much harder for the Santa Claus parade.

So, that is my life in blog form. How has things been with you crazy kids?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Here, Have Some Cash!

It isn't often that the cover of a song outshines the original. Especially when the original song was actually really good and was incredibly popular. But leave it to ol' Johnny Cash to take a popular song, and make it his own, maybe even to the point that some may think it is the original.

"Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails was an emotionally powerful and authentic song. You could really feel Trent Reznor's pain and struggle. It did a great job of capturing the psychological scars and years of addiction that have clearly ripped away at Reznor. I've always loved the song, especially when I'm in one of the dark, moody places that creative types sometimes find themselves in. NIN creates really raw and innovative music that always tugs deep at your emotions. I like them. I really do.

But Johnny Cash's version of "Hurt" blows away the original. Johnny barged into Reznor's house, drank all his OJ, poured whiskey all over the furniture, and ran away with Reznor's baby. Because "Hurt" is now a Johnny Cash song, because he owned it that hard. The song is just jammed with power, emotion, and authenticity. You're talking about a man that was plagued with decades of hard living and was tormented by the bottle and bad decisions. He sang this song after he lost almost everyone close to him, and was now trying to cling to his own life. The words may have been originally written by Reznor, but they always belonged to Cash.

Plus you know, it is Johnny Cash. The man is a legend, and he knows how to rock out the good. This is probably one of his best songs, even if it is a cover. It is the type of song that can drive me to tears even while I'm bobbing my head along with it. It really is an anthem for those scarred by emotional turmoil and life destroying addictions, but also a song that still can leave an emotional impact on those who are relatively at peace with their current lives.

No matter how you want to analyze it, I think it is a pretty awesome tune, and definitely one of the best covers of all time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

In an Attempt to Be a Good Canadian. . .

I watched a whole 5 minutes of the Grey Cup.

I would have watched more but after my Bears' loss, I completely forgot there was this little championship football game going on up here until my wife reminded me. It doesn't help that the Canadian sports station I was watching also seemed to forget there was a CFL championship game and made no mentioned of it during their sports recap show (may have something do with the rival sports station being the carrier of the Grey Cup). But once I started watching a part of the game, I was quickly reminded how different the rules were compared to the NFL and it made it sort of hard to watch (though from the five minutes I watched, the game seemed pretty fast paced).

I don't really watch the CFL, and prefer the NFL several hundred times more. I went through a bit of pro-Canadian football kick in the early 90s where I claimed I thought the CFL was way better than the NFL, but even then, I watched NFL games more than CFL. I love my country and all, but I prefer my American football from the actual American league.

The stadium seemed pack, and the fan were pretty rabid. There seems to be enough people that enjoy getting a bit of a CFL fix. I know around here, it is usually pretty rare you'll see anyone wearing CFL gear, but NFL jerseys are really common. But I am sure that isn't the case in all Canadian cities, plus it might just be a matter of me not paying close enough attention to what people are actually wearing. I don't talk CFL with any of my football loving friends, and I've never really seen a CFL game played in a bar. Though, I'm sure it would have been playing in most bars tonight, because otherwise, I hear the bar owners get deported to the moon by the Canadian government.

Though, it probably doesn't help CFL's case for being recognized as prime modern entertainment when they're pushing the fact Nickelback is there big halftime entertainment. In 2011, I am not sure if there are too many people that openly admit to liking Nickelback unless it is in an ironic way (the same way most hipsters drink Pabst Blue). I really don't think most major organization would willingly pay major bucks to showcase Nickelback, and pass it off as a pretty major deal. But that is the CFL for you, and I'm sure they had Men Without Hats as the backup band for tonight (though, I'd stuck around for the live performance of "The Safety Dance").

So yeah, I feel CFL is the inferior product and so I'm less likely to invest my time in it. Plus it is a league that decides to not follow the same rules as the more popular league, and thus it makes me less eager to even bother trying to follow it.

But at the same time, I'll defend the CFL because I'm funny like that and take pride in the fact Canada has its own football league. One that has developed many legendary players and have had several CFL stars that went on to be huge NFL superstars. I do think CFL is a fine league and I'm glad for its existence; I'm just not so good at following it nor do I ever see that changing.

But I do try to catch the Grey Cup every single year. I did a mighty fine job of that back in the '90s, but the addition of adult responsibilities has meant my 2000s track record has been far less impressive. I believe I've missed the championship completely the last few years. I've made up for it by catching the whole 5 minutes this year.

Next year, I hope to actually try to catch the whole game, because it will be the 100th Grey Cup. That is a pretty impressive feat, since there isn't too many sport championships that can claim to be kicking around for 100 years. I'm assuming they'll do something all bright and shiny and almost modern next year. I'd like to try to remember to actually watch it.

As for this year's game, BC Lions downed the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and the people in Vancouver appeared to be mighty pleased. Maybe it almost makes up for that whole Stanley Cup thing from a few months back.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Status of the Cutler-less Bears

Well, we can say good bye to the win streak. It was nice while it lasted.

The first half was a little scary with Hanie loving to throw passes to the opposing players. But this was also the first game he ever started in the NFL. It was taking time for the Bears offense to get adjusted to Hanie's style and skills. Once that happened, things became much nicer to watch in the second half.

The Bears defensive team was incredibly strong today, and kept the game close even when the offense was struggling.

I'm not happy with a loss, but only losing by 5 points against a strong Raiders team isn't enough to get me too pessimistic about the future of this season. Bears still have a strong chance to stick close to the Lions and fight for that wild card spot. I really think Hanie is going to grow and improve over the coming games.

Though, I also wouldn't be opposed to Cutler pulling off a miraculous recovery and return to the team immediately.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Fourth Thursday of November!!!

Or as you call it in America, Thanksgiving. I know this holiday is a pretty big deal for most Americans and I hope you have a great time with the family. A happy Thanksgiving to you.

But in Canada, this is probably our most cherished and beloved of all holidays. Thursday. And I thought to celebrate this special time I'd refer you to last year's blog where I finally revealed this special day to the entire world (or my slightly smaller groups of readers). Enjoy and remember to dress up for the reading of The Hungry Caterpillar.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Time to Add a Little Groove to the Blog

It just seems like one of those days that I should throw some musical goodness your way. I decided to deliver something different than the usual fare I put up here. Foster the People definitely fall under the different category for a band, and there music video for Helena Beat goes even farther down the road of being different. It is sort of a Children of the Corn meets Mad Max meets a David Lynch film meets a nightmare after too much jalapeno peppers wrapped in bacon dipped yak fat kind of video.

But I like the song just the same, because the music makes me want to do a little jig while I work. And jigging at work is really one of the best things you can do in life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Addendum to Father-in-Law Tribute

I'm touched by the amount of people who contacted me through email and private message to thank me for the tribute to my father-in-law. As a writer, my best way of 'coping' and 'dealing' with things is to write it out, and so this was a pretty crucial part of the mourning process for me. I'm glad so many people enjoyed it and felt emotionally moved by it.

I also got a few emails from people asking about the memorial service eulogy that I referred to in the blog tribute. I thought it would be nice to continue some public acknowledgement of a really great man and share the eulogy that I wrote and presented (there was actually several, but for privacy sake, I'll only present my own). Now, the piece does contain a lot of the same stuff I mentioned in yesterday's tribute, but goes into more specifics of why I think his laughter and smiling are such fond memories for me.

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In a few years, my child is going to ask me what Grandpa Ho was like. The first thing I’ll tell my child is grandpa smiled and laughed. Because that is the image I always get when I think about him.

I know I got it real easy when I first started dating Emily. I had heard horror stories from friends about the terror that was meeting the girlfriend’s dad. They cowered in the corner from this mammoth, angry bear-man who would interrogate them and scowl at them until they cried like a little baby. I didn’t experience that; now partly this was due to the fact I was about twice the size of Emily’s father. The other was that almost instantly I remember my father-in-law displaying his award winning smile and letting out a laugh that spread joy through the entire room. I always felt welcomed and happy when I was with him. I have known my father-in-law for over 7 years, and almost every memory I have of him involved smiling and laughing. My father-in-law was always great for my ego because he would make me feel like the world’s greatest comedian by laughing every time I tried to be funny, and actually laugh at me most of the time I wasn’t trying to be funny, too.

I have many fond memories of my father-in-law’s jokes and witty remarks. I remember calling him out for not playing a board game properly, and then him telling me the fun doesn’t start until you start cheating, then he’d end his remark by flashing a sly grin – so you knew he was joking. His sense of humour stayed with him even after he was ill. One time, at the Hospice he had just used the special jug to relieve himself. After it was clean, he passed it over to me and asked if I was ready to use it? At first I was confused and shocked, and I was ready to explain that it was for him. But then I saw it. The trademark, awarding winning Peter Ho smile, and I knew he got me and was once again joking.

I will have a lifetime to share with my child that his grandpa was a great man, and my child will learn of all his wonderful traits. But first, I will tell my child that one of the most important things I learned from grandpa was that life is far more magnificent if you remember to laugh and smile.