Thursday, August 28, 2014

Some Parents Need a Slap Upside the Head

When I first heard of the tragic shooting of a firearms instructor in Arizona, it was difficult to even begin to wrap my head around it.  Several thoughts went through my mind.  Nothing good ever comes out of the end of a barrel of a gun so I'm stunned that parents would even consider allowing their child to handle an Uzi sub machine gun.  I should say that I am no anti-gun nut.  I believe strongly in the responsible use of firearms.....the operative word here being "responsible".  Clearly, giving a military-style weapon to a child is not being responsible, regardless of circumstances.  Growing up, I never shot anything more powerful than a .22 calibre.  (Yes, I know an Uzi uses the same calibre round, but there is a huge difference of course in the amount of recoil, which clearly was a big part of the problem here.)  I did once shoot a 12-gauge when I was around the same age as the young girl in this tragic tale and I still remember to this day the amount of "kick back" I experienced.  It quite literally knocked me on my ass and my ear protection flew off.  Even today as an adult, before I fire any weapon the question of just how much "kick" I will experience is one of the things going through my mind.  I always remember that little episode of my childhood as it gave me a healthy respect for the power of a firearm.

I did a lot of shooting as an army cadet and again in my early 20's in the reserves.  I know that even the standard Canadian automatic weapon (known as the C9, if I recall correctly) can be a challenge when you first use it.  Heck, I recall from basic training a few people (myself included) finding if a challenge to fight the "barrel rise" from the recoil.  And this was when firing using a bi-pod in the prone position. Needless to say I grew up with a healthy respect for firearms.  I don't mean to get in to the whole gun control debate here as there are obviously strong opinions on both sides of this issue.  I do believe strongly in the responsible use of firearms and I struggle to see how this sad incident is an example of that.  I think its truly sad and speaks volumes of American society in general where anyone, let alone the parents of a 9-year-old feel compelled to put such a weapon into the hands of a child no matter what kind of instruction may be available.  These aren't toys out of a video game.  They can kill if not approached with the respect they deserve.  Sadly, this lesson came too late here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Comedic Genius of Jim Prentice

(My apologies for strong language but a fellow can only put up with so much nonsense.  Anyhow, to be foretold is to be forewarned.)

Apparently former federal MP Jim Prentice was in town  this past weekend to drum up local support for his run at the premiership to be decided next month.  Now nothing against the guy personally but when I read in local media here about some of what he had to say, I could only really shake my head and wonder who writes his talking points.

In the world according to Jim, we have great local leadership in our local MLA's.  I'm sure we do......ok, other than the fact that one of them was arrested, charged and found guilty on solicitation charges.

He also won't commit to time lines for improving or increasing infrastructure.  Of course not.  Because that would require commitments that he would then be responsible for and I'm sure Jimbo has been around in politics long enough to see the folly in that.

Preston Manning once said, in reference to the former Chretien Liberals, that you can repaint a house but underneath it all, it's still the same old house.  So forgive me if I take Mr. Prentice's claims for transparency with a grain of salt.  Government transparency sounds good on the campaign trail or in this case a leadership run but frankly, I've seen nothing to make me think that changing leaders, or repainting the house as it were, will really make a difference.

I don't like to be a cynic.  Honestly, I don't.  But after 43 years in power, how can this sorry lot claim to be innovative or to be striding toward transparency?  Wouldn't transparency be like telling Albertans which MLA's voted to allow local MLA Mike Allen back into caucus after being found guilty of solicitation?  Ah, I can hear the crickets chirping.

Wouldn't ridding government of red tape and bureaucracy be like having our hapless education minister not dicker with the math curriculum when it is clear that it isn't necessary and many parents don't want that to happen anyway?

Wouldn't it be great if our PC MLA's were like Nascar with all the names of their sponsors glued to them?  Because I sure as hell know I wouldn't see my name on their shiny suits.  Can we just dispense with the bullshit that our politicians have my best interests at heart?  Can the PC's just be honest and admit that at this point it's all about holding on to power rather than the fiction of "public service"?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cat Days Of Summer?

It must be the heat.....because I really don't know how else to explain her rather odd sleeping positions as of late.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Mother of All Encores

One of the things I love about classical music is discovering a new work or a piece by a composer you may not be all too familiar with.  Such was the case this afternoon when I decided to escape our mini heatwave here and indulge in a few tunes.  While Mozart is of course familiar to most, oft listened to and performed one of the unfortunate side effects with music of the Classical era is that there is a great deal of other great music out there that deserves to be better known but often isn't simply because....well, it's not Mozart.  Anyhow, I came across some small ensemble works by Italian composer Domenico Cimarosa and its been a great listen so far.

I can perhaps be forgiven for not being overly familiar with the man given that I probably only played one or two of his piano pieces growing up, nothing of his during university and also for the fact that he was known in his day (like many an Italian) as an opera composer.  He wrote more than 80.  Cimarosa also had the misfortune of being a Mozart contemporary.  He was a child prodigy, didn't die young or have fiery romances.

He DOES however, have one very interesting claim to fame for having the best encore in operatic history.  Following the premier of his opera, The Secret Marriage in Vienna in 1792, a mere two months after the death of Mozart, Cimarosa received the mother of all encores, so to speak.  So impressed was Leopold II with the opera that he ordered dinner for the entire company and asked for the entire work to be repeated.  When I first read about this, I didn't know what to make of it.  I had to go look it up.  I did attend a performance once by English pianist Murray Perahia at the University of Michigan 20 years ago where he played 4 or 5 encores of some smaller pieces and I thought THAT was impressive.  But apparently, this mammoth encore actually did happen.  Having an opera heartily endorsed by the Emperor is certainly a good for the resume, especially since unlike with some earlier composers, Cimarosa didn't always have a powerful patron.

In this one respect, though Cimarosa certainly trumps Wolfgang hands down.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Neighbours You DON'T Want vs The Neighbours You DO

When I first heard the story and read the article about some crazy neighbours, my initial feeling was one of gratitude that they didn't live next to me.  It was only a day or two later that it was pointed out to me that this story actually happened in town here.  Now, I have no idea exactly where these sweet hearts live but as I said, they don't live next to me thankfully.  I feel bad for the family on the receiving end of all this nonsense and it makes me grateful for the good neighbours I have had since I've lived here.

Since I moved in here, the houses on either side of me have both changed hands but I haven't had any issues.  My one former neighbour, who had lived these for 20+ years was a real gem, oftentimes cutting my front lawn for me when I was working insane hours.  He even saved me money when, in the course of a conversation he let me know that the former owners of my house had mentioned to him that the air conditioning unit (which to this day sits on my back deck) was too small for the size of my house here.  Better to buy a bigger unit if I was looking into installing one, he said rather than to waste money installing one that probably wasn't up to the task.  The house on the other side of me was a rental when I moved in and despite the stereotypes of a group of guys renting rooms in a house, they were great neighbours.  One was actually a DJ for a local radio station apparently.  A couple years ago a younger couple moved in and while I don't know them that well due to work schedules, they are quiet and keep to themselves.

Obviously, the neighbours mentioned in the news item above, have some serious issues involving territorial aggression, and perhaps paranoia.  Whatever their issues, I'm thankful they aren't MY neighbours.