As anyone who might happen upon these digitized thought balloons will quickly discover, they have either nothing, or maybe everything, to do with grilled cheese sandwiches; and most likely never touch on anything relating to cooking or the kitchen... except perhaps, the very first posting. And so, with your indulgence, may I present, the ramblings of a reforming philosopher...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Canada Eh?..

Like many who live in general comfort and peace, the political struggles that agitate other countries often seem too disconnected for common understanding. The issues are frequently confused by subjective commentaries, often too remote by physical location and in the main, totally foreign from our direct contact concepts of day to day reality. Regretfully, it is not until we become almost face to face witnesses of the deaths and destruction such as that which has recently taken place in Kiev’s Independence Square do we begin to partially comprehend the true price it continues to cost, for any people to struggle for, obtain, and preserve that elusive asset known as freedom.
Along with most Canadians, I’ve also had my attention temporarily interrupted from world politics by the  hard won medal successes of our dynamic Olympic teams. By proxy, those of us at home collectively share genuine pride and excitement every time our athletes reach the podium and our standard is raised in honor of the achievement.
As these contrasts have made effort to blend into some form of logic in my mind, the composite before and after photo shown above seriously kicked my conscience, not only in chastising me for not better appreciating the great privilege I have in being a Canadian but also for taking much too casually those rights and freedoms that rise in tandem with our flag.
And so… amidst the hustle and fervor of televised sessions and re-caps, I thought it pertinent to review the specific document which technically permits us to accomplish everything I was enjoying so vicariously. I’m not one much for legaleeze, and hereby claim no certification whatsoever to justify any of my markups pertaining to this particular set of laws, but I sincerely trust that the reader, if any, might take  away some deeper understanding of the subject, hopefully resource it even further, and ultimately treasure it a little more carefully.
… as I understand it, guarantees some fundamental rights and freedoms for all Canadian citizens and is subject only to those reasonable limits prescribed by law, which can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. (please note the emphasis on FREE and DEMOCRATIC.
Everyone who is a Citizen of this country has the following fundamental freedoms:
·  freedom of conscience and religion;
·  freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
·  freedom of peaceful assembly; and
·  freedom of association.
In addition, Citizens of Canada have the following rights:
·  to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.
·  to enter, remain in, and/or leave Canada.
·  to move to and take up residence in any province; and to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province.
·  to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure, as well as the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.
If a Canadian Citizen is legally arrested or detained, they have the following rights:
·  to be informed promptly of the reasons of their detention.
·  to retain and instruct counsel without delay; and to be informed of that right.
·  to have the validity of the detention determined by a court of law (Habeas Corpus) and to be released if the detention is not lawful.
If a Canadian is charged with an offence, they also have the following rights:
·  to be informed without unreasonable delay of the specific offence and the right to be tried within a reasonable time. They also cannot be compelled to be a witness in proceedings against any person in respect of the offence.
·  to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, according to law, in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.
·  A witness who testifies in any proceedings has the right not to have any incriminating evidence so given used to incriminate that witness in any other proceedings, except in a prosecution for perjury or for the giving of contradictory evidence.
And, as far as I can tell… whether you are a citizen or not, if your situation happens to come under Canadian jurisdiction then the following also applies:
·  Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
·  And here is some extra icing on the cake… No one is to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment in case of arrest, charge or conviction.
It is coincidentally, quite interesting then, that the monument topping the tall white pillar in the middle of Independence Square in Kiev, represents Berehynia, the Slavic goddess of protection.  J.  
 Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Faith Value...

Which of the above would you prefer to have in your pocket?? And yes… choose wisely, this is a very tricky question.
The reality is, that none of these items has any true value at all unless common perception indicates they do, and where a mutual belief system is established that permits the exchange of one of the tokens for one or more of another.
For example: If the barter system is the method of exchange, a cow or side of beef might be valued to be the same as one horse, or possibly a goat and 10 chickens, or a pig and 5 apple pies. Whatever one trader has, it’s worth, or worthiness depends primarily on what the other trader needs and how badly they need it. If chickens are running about freely all over the place, then despite how good they taste; barbecued, baked, deep fried, chow-meined or otherwise, they won’t be worth much. However, if you were starving and only a few of the feathery fowls were pecking about, they might be considered as priceless!
And so it goes with the so-called money we have conveniently substituted for all that heavy bulk transfer of cows, sheep, chickens, pigs and pies, back and forth from the local farmer’s market. The shells and shiny rock-like baubles we used in ages past, and originally agreed upon communally as trade tokens for our lettuce, meat and potatos have gradually been replaced by government authorized and appropriately controlled, pieces of paper and other shiny metallic baubles that do exactly the same thing.
The local market, in natural course of time and with advances in technology, has become a global one. And now the stuff each of us needs is traded back and forth with those monetary tokens we all work hard for, except the bartering is also done on an internationally accepted basis; with one form of currency fitting precisely into the value established mesh of others like cogs in a very complicated, yet intimately connected, watch mechanism.
Consequently, whether the tokens are US dollars, Rubles, Yuan, Bit Coins, Pesos, Euros, Gold or Silver, it is only when everyone accepts this same belief system and agrees that the symbols involved are worth such and such, that those currencies become viable.
And so the question automatically rises… What happens when a specific money token begins to be corrupted, and starts to deteriorate; when it is finally recognized that too much of the currency note in question is being printed, or is counterfeited, is no longer backed by anything substantial, or is severely impacted by the financial difficulties within its indentured partnerships, and suddenly finds itself no longer universally recognized as having the purchase power it once had? (Does any of this sound familiar?)
At one time, each local farmer’s market was isolated and totally independent from another. If the currency in one area went belly up there was no bearing on any other. However today, our markets and the currencies we use to negotiate within them are fully combined. Similar to the watch cogs, whatever affects one spindle, cannot help but turn another, then another, and another... until the collective host is changed.
So let’s pretend that tomorrow the populace wakes up to the realization that the current standard of international trading, the US dollar, has become victim to many, or all of the conditions previously mentioned, and that international markets simply don’t want it anymore… or at the very least, begin drastically raising their US dollar purchase price for goods in order to even out the rapid pace of that currency’s inflation (a case of too many chickens?).
Quite naturally, items previously purchased from China, India, or some other market now begin rolling off their assembly lines at double, triple and quadruple their previous USD prices. Subsequently, a different token of exchange, perhaps the Euro, Yuan or Ruble begins to jockey for preeminence, and anyone holding handfuls of the unwanted cash begins to trade it as quickly as possible before it fritters away to zero. (aka Zimbabwe)
Banking units within the country and those most intricately connected, begin to freeze their shareholder’s accounts and rapidly foreclose on mortgages and loans in effort to support the massive debts they have over-accumulated. Depositors, attempting to withdraw their dwindling funds, rally en mass at the cashier’s cages and cash machines of financial institutions in vain effort to salvage their savings. Internal prices for that country’s goods and services begin to skyrocket.
With their purchasing power rapidly weakening, the general population divests itself of the unwanted coin and paper, and begins recouping and hoarding anything, or any commodity, which is now perceived as being of value. Priorities shift from the want side of the shopping list to that of the absolutely necessary. Small and Big box retailers alike begin closing their doors due to marked reductions in sales. Subsequent unemployment along with the general economy of the country goes into a tail spin of potential destruction, and riots begin to break out in previously friendly and productive communities.
Prior to a collapse of the society however, government intervenes with steps (often militant) to reduce and alleviate the chaos it has either knowingly, or unknowingly created from its earlier expenditures. In exchange for that increased sense of security, in a step by step process, freedoms are gradually bartered away until control is firmly established.
Unfortunately, because the US dollar is so universally woven into the fabric of world markets, other countries begin to falter as part of the main (remember, no man is an island). Consequently, in response to correct the decline, alternative financial pressures are generated which in turn stimulate international crises and the potential of a more inclusive, and perhaps final, war.
In eventual avoidance or termination of such economic catastrophe, a singular stabilizing authority eventually becomes forcefully established, or elected by acclamation, and a universal monetary token is then stipulated to be in effect. This is done ostensibly with the most noble of intentions and always in grand proclamation of it being for the common good.
Mankind finally becomes as one… at least economically.
Now all the presiding authority needs to do is weed out the riff raft, the oddballs, the dissenters, and those who disobey!!
And so, I guess the bottom line is to be very careful in what you choose to value and in what to put your faith.  J.
Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cantankerous Chili McStew...

...With sincere acknowledgement and apologies to Robert Service, whom I dearly wish to meet one day; to thank personally for all the enjoyment and education I've received from his talents.
A bunch of the gang was whooping it up
in a wild Alberta saloon;
Mad Mel was thumpin’ the music-box keys,
In search of a Celestial tune;
While cooking up grub in the back kitchen nook,
And watching him stir was the real spice of his life,
The Chili Queen known as Lou.
When in from the snow, blastin’ fifty below,
And into the fun and the fair,
There stumbled an oil rigger fresh out from the patch,
Coyote-hungry, who stunk like a bear.
He looked like a flake with one foot in the grave,
And scarcely the strength of a flea,
But he carried a tube of hot sauce in his hand
And ordered a bowl of chili.
No one could place the stranger's face,
Though each scratched their minds for a clue;
And as he looked for a chair, there came some serious stare
From Cantankerous Chili McStew.
There’s folks that somehow just steal your eyes,
You know, the kind that you’d like to dodge;
And somehow we knew, as he drooled o’er his stew,
That his home was in BeaverLodge.
He had a face full of hair, and the zombied stare
Of a dog’s bone who’s flesh is gone,
Then he spritz the hot sauce into his supper bowl,
And the peppered drops splashed one by one.

As I got to thinkin’ perhaps who he might be,
And wondering just what he might do,
I shifted my scan - and there watching him stand,
Was the Chili Queen known as Lou.
The Oiler’s eyes rolled right round the room,
But he seemed in some kind of a daze,
Till at last Mel’s piano stool fell in the way
Of his chili-breath, shrouded gaze.

Mel had left for a snort; and now the seat sat -
Quite empty, vacant,and bare,
So the stranger lunged, his meal locked in his arms,
And flopped down his skinny butt there.

In a checkerboard shirt that was mixed oil and dirt
He sat silent, just sniffing his meat,
Then he clutched his spoon with both of his hands -
Good grief! How that man liked to eat.

Have you ever felt fright on a bleak oilfield night,
With the moon beamin’ out crystal clear,
With the ice and the cold makin’ you feel so darn old
That the creak in your bones you can hear;

And stalking you there might be a wolf or a bear,
But you still set up camp with some glee,
'Cause though half out of your mind you managed to find,
Some grub to whip up as chili,

And up high overhead, green, yellow, and red,
The Lights of the North roll in bars?--
Then you've got a hunch what it means to have lunch...
With Chili, and beans, ‘neath the stars.

They say fear and hunger are banished with bacon,
And sauces made spicy and rare,
That feeble men grow into giants o’rnight
Who often make meal of the bear.

But a real fireside feast, far flung from the beasts
Within walls and a roof overhead;
And a woman’s love true, like the Chili Queen Lou,
Leaves nothing else left to be said.

Then all of a sudden, the atmosphere changed,
So swift that you scarcely did feel
But we knew that the boy’s bowl had been looted,
Quite clean of his absolute, favorite meal;

That someone had stolen the woman he loved;
And that her love was a devil's lie;
His Chili was gone but his guts still burned,
For the love of his hot-peppered eye.

Great chili seeps deep into the hearts it keeps,
Then it sears you clean, through and through--
"I guess I'll make it a feast misere,"
Said Cantankerous Chili McStew.

The scent of the sauce almost faded away...
Then it wafted back in like a flood;
And it seemed to say, "Repay, repay,"
As the boy's stomach demanded more food.

The horror was chance of an unpaid bill,
And it stung like a frozen lash,
As the stranger walked to the till, the till...
'Cause we all knew he had no cash.

Then - as he turned, his eyes they burned,
In a most peculiar way;
In that checkered shirt, stained with oil and dirt,
I saw him pause and sway.

Then… he wiped his chin and made with a grin,
And he spoke, but his voice was warm,
"Boys," says he, "you don't know me from sin,
And none of you care a darn;

But I want to state, and my words are straight,
And I'll wager my life they're true,
That one of you is a damn chili thief...
And that scum is Cantankerous Chili McStew."

Then I ducked my head as the lights went dead,
And two guns blazed away in the dark;
A woman screamed, then the lights came back,
But two bodies lay stiff and stark.

Pitched on his head, and pumped full of lead,
Was Cantankerous Chili McStew,
While the man from the patch stretched his hand for the bowl
Held by the Chili Queen known as Lou.

These are the simple facts of the case,
and I guess I ought to know.
They say that the oiler was crazed with "Sriracha Hot Sauce,"
And I'm not denying it's so.

I'm not so wise as them lawyer guys,
But strictly, between us two –
The gal who kissed him so good, while stealing his food,
Was the Chili Queen known as Lou.

Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Winter's Grace...

Let white flakes fall and fill the void,
But not so much to make annoyed
Us shovelers wrapped in parkas warm
As we about our cars do swarm;
With scarves against our frost-rimmed noses
Whilst lamb-wooled boots caress our toeses....
This winter’s blast is not the first…
Won’t be the last, nor is the worst…
It comes afresh with conscience clear
And touches all both far and near
It’s just another thing that be
To test the best… in you and me.
Our metal’s not in scoops of steel,
But rather in the gold we feel
For others, less in fortune's sight
Who trudge their path and feel the bite
Of tearstained nights and empty plates
Without the walls, outside the gates…
The snow for many blows more cold
Who have no gloves nor hearts to hold.
Such flakes of fate provide us grace
To move our souls and make a place
Beside our fires of peace and nest
And gives us hope to seal the rest.
Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Les Jeux Sont Fait...

The Olympics in Sochi, Russia have opened.

Unfortunately, along with that event has come more thumping of the Putinesque iron glove that authoritarians throughout history have erringly worn in order to generate, stimulate, and encourage a consistent flow of “correct thinking” within it’s citizenry. Consequently, even though it was only an everyday hiccup that made the Olympic Rings of the opening ceremonies not function precisely as presenters had planned, that reality was not to be experienced by the Russian television audience.
Call it quick-thinking, technical wizardry, brilliant network productivity, or fear-motivated political butt-saving mentality… someone instantly judged it to be appropriate that an earlier rehearsal tape quickly be substituted so that viewers would never see the potentially embarrassing glitch. The net result, supposedly, is that everyone internally was cleverly fooled... or, depending upon one's viewpoint - "protected", while those on the outside merely had their James Bondian concepts of a corrupted country enhanced.
However truth, like cream, always rises to the surface. Sooner or later the populace, Russian and otherwise, catch on to the misdirection continually being practiced upon them. It’s simply a principle ingrained in our human psyche that no one likes to be suckered on a regular basis and so, it may take a while -  but eventually, somebody sufficiently oblivious to fear and reprisal says, “Look! The Emperor has no clothes!”
Poking fun at the Sochi Olympics is not really fair, in as much as it places the people of Russia on the periphery of a very powerful spotlight. But when that spotlight is being demanded from a fifty billion dollar expenditure by the head of state, in his attempt to promote and augment vanity, agenda, and personal gain… then let the fun and games by visiting reporters and their social media communications begin.

The die was cast well before Sochi. - J
The reception of our hotel in #Sochi has no floor. But it does have this welcoming picture.
This is the one hotel room @Sochi2014 have given us so far. Shambles. #cnnsochi
In my Sochi hotel. You're welcome to pop by and sit forlornly in my Chairs of Desolation.
My hotel has no water. If restored, the front desk says, "do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous." #Sochi2014
8:02 PM - 3 Feb 2014 - Water restored, sorta. On the bright side, I now know what very dangerous face water looks like. #Sochi #unfiltered

People have asked me what surprised me the most here in Sochi. It's this. Without question ... it's ... THIS.

#sochi good news , I have Internet , bad news, it's dangling from the ceiling in my room...
To anyone in Sochi: I am now in possession of three light bulbs. Will trade for a door handle. This offer is real:
Just arrived at Sochi, I could have sworn my hotel room looked different online
Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2014

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Wynken, Blynken and Blog...

As a highly imaginative child of eight or nine, I remember laboriously drawing a detailed treasure map, with a proper seagull-quilled ink pen of course (which I presumed all decent pirates used during their time), and then scorching the edges of the document with a match, creasing it with muddied fingers, and doing whatever I could think of to make it appear ancient, and hopefully, authentic. Then, I corked the message into an exotic looking bottle, rode my bike madly down to the furthest outboard railing of the government wharf at the foot of the hillside where I lived, and enthusiastically tossed the flagon into the water. Luckily for me, the tide was on its way out. It gently accepted the small vessel, and willingly let it bob off into the silent deep.
Later that night, as I lay in bed visualizing the adventurous journey the fragile craft would no doubt take, possibly circumnavigating the globe and ending up beached on some distant atoll, my recent cub scout training kicked well into overdrive and I felt serious remorse that I had used the opportunity to promote a fraud, rather than convey any purposeful communication. Consequently, even now in potentially more cunning years, I earnestly make endeavors to be as legitimate with my musings as bucolic humor will permit, and to keep them void of any personal agenda.
The problem is, of course, that the very fact that anything is being written for public view indicates some sort of plan of the author, whether recognized or not. Because it is also noteworthy that not only are the recipients of the item (if any) total strangers… they also may not even exist until many, many years, decades, or eons into the future.
When all of this gets translated into current day social media venues, considering the amazing variables of Internet form and the vast amount of literary content, the odds of anyone beyond friends and relatives reading any of these postings skyrockets into oblivion. Like that fragile bottled message of yesteryear, their chances of survival and ultimate retrieval and examination by anyone, present or future, is at the very best… unlikely!
And so why do people like me and others I know and read even bother to write.
It may be due to a leak in the gene pool, too much or too little oxygen in the atmosphere, or simply fungus between the toes, but most humans seem to have a fundamental need to communicate with others of their species. There is a primordial void in their psyche and so they have carved on cave walls, sent signals airborne, etched metal plates, and tossed bottled dispatches into the seas throughout the ages in the dimmest hopes of conveying their message to others.
And the message is…???
Well… as Marshall McCluhan categorized it… “THE MEDIUM” of course!
And that dear reader may easily be the cosmic, overall message being conveyed.
However… if one is able to clear away the chaff from the wheat and be as non-ego involved as possible, the notable attempts could be viewed much more clearly as merely a solitary hand reaching out of the mist in hope of connecting with a kindred spirit. A Celestial mind-meld of ethereal proportions across time and space, which from our reality standpoint may mean nothing, but as an act of symbiosis, almost everything.
Happy texting everyone. - J
Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2014

Sunday, February 2, 2014

TOAD-aly Amazing...

I suffer from the same malady as did the infamous Toad of Toad Hall, as depicted in Disney's classic rendition of Kenneth Grahame’s "Wind in the Willows." When Toad encounters a passing motor car, he is not only stricken with visions of fancy, he is also physically shaken into a new dimension of thought, possibility, and action.
I too am occasionally totally awestruck by new potentials in art, music, technology, scientific achievement, or whatever appears in my peculiar frame of reference, to be a world shaking event. The items are typically unknown to me in advance of their presentation… or at best, outside my current level of awareness. Their seemingly sudden advent into my view is therefore, personally stunning... and always of surprising impact.
Equally astonishing is the powerful magnetic effect the new information seems to generate.
Once noticed, it pulls or reveals related material and events into this newborn reality in almost a self-willed motivation to enhance and strengthen it’s existence. The overall result is that the object, idea, or concept in question expands exponentially, penetrating deeply into consciousness until it occupies even the most feeble of my thoughts. From there, depending upon skills, talents, available cash, or room in the garage, it is just a matter of time before concept is transported into physical reality.  Within my own periphery of comprehension the subject morphs from non-existence, to thought, then to tangible authenticity.
Call it goal-setting, positive thinking, quantum realities or whatever… I really don’t care. All I know is that it works like a darn. Unfortunately or fortunately for me, it only happens when, like Toad… I am “Mesmerized” by something previously strange and totally unfamiliar. But the event usually ends with me being catapulted into a brand new and always exciting adventure.
Therefore... Of recent note was my venture into a Vimeo clip link received in an email from a friend.  It’s an amazing aerial view of surfing in Oahu which not only grabbed my attention as beautiful imagery, but also caught my attention when I discovered it was filmed by a small quadcopter. That revelation sent me surfing electronically, searching for additional information and insights into the realms of this brave new world. From there, I zeroed in on one specific model of quadcopter, the Phantom 2 Vision manufactured by DJI Innovations, and as of this posting, am in the process of reviewing everything I can find regarding the machine and its potential.
I don’t know what will happen tomorrow… J.
Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2014