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, March 21, 2015

Oil's Not WELL in Paradise..

 There is an adage residing in a dusty old book somewhere that goes like this…

"...When your OUTGO exceeds your INCOME,
then your UPKEEP will be your DOWNFALL..."

…Which, when translated into regular everyday common sense, simply echoes the hard-won wisdom and warning of countless forbearers; that if you spend more than you make… you’re going to end up in deep, deep trouble!

It’s also a truism… a cause and effect formula that can be applied to any financial undertaking. Unfortunately, perhaps due to it’s proverbial “old folks” nature, it's also a message that is not quickly, or easily, taken to heart.

In particular, it seems that a fast-food, get rich quick, internally focused, entitlement-oriented society such as the one we’ve created for ourselves today, is far too anxious and eager to get it now (whatever IT may be); while being enthusiastically encouraged by the folks loaning the cash or credit, to pay much later. In the process of acquiring "stuff", we often just glance over the contractual niceties such as payment clauses, which typically assures our indebtedness for much, much more, and for much, much longer, than we ever imagined was possible.

Regretfully, the tragic consequence of our ignorance regarding increasing debt is akin to placing a frog in a pot of lukewarm water, then heating it over a period of time. Generally, the amphibian is blissfully oblivious to the changes until just before it is boiled to death.

The OUTGO axiom also holds true for business undertakings as small as mom and pop outlets to those of large corporations. And, most critically, it’s tenet applies upwardly to the economics of an entire nation. Accordingly, it would seem important then, that when the first serious media bubbles appear in a pot of warming fiscal water, the frog might catch on that something is seriously amiss.

A fairly dramatic example currently gurgling in the cooker is that of the oil industry and the undulating ripple effect it is generating for its ocean of interconnected companies. Suddenly, for whatever international upheaval, political conflict, or world economic reason, perceived demand for oil has dropped; and within a period of just over 4 months, the price of a barrel of crude has fallen from a profitable high of almost $100.00 to today’s market of $46.57. The heat of economic instability is turned up, and financial waters get warmer and warmer.

When the bid and ask for crude was floating high, companies worldwide saw exceptional profits to be made and willingly committed their businesses to weighty amounts of readily available long range debt in exchange for a piece of the action. Subsequently, despite quality management techniques and years of business acumen, mega-corporations and wildcatters alike extended their credit lines to the max, almost consciously ignoring historical economic lessons. Equipment and personnel were contracted by big and small, and everyone involved in sucking up black gold tossed caution to the wind in a fevered, sure-fire bet to make nothing but money, money, money!

Regretfully now, the aphorism is coming back to haunt us. Today, despite a momentary appreciation for a tank of cheap gas, for many companies, the cost of production (outgo) is far more than earnings (income). Ongoing loans for operating equipment and employee wages (upkeep) have begun to generate a wave of primary and sub-related layoffs, foreclosures and bankruptcies (downfall).

A number of economists even indicate that if the production price of crude falls into the low twenties then theoretically a domino effect of larger and larger company failures and closings will tip the scales of our financial system, possibly cause a monetary collapse, and boil the frog!

At the moment, however, the critter in the pot is only experiencing mild discomfort from what it probably perceives is simply an unexpected hot refreshment to its bathwater. It remains content to lay back and endure what is likely only a fleeting increase in temperature.
But... What if it's not?

Perhaps there is hope yet that it might awake and arise??? - J.

Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Misty, Water-Colored Memories...

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
- The Go-Between by Leslie Hartley
Once upon a time, way back in the psychedelic haze of the mid-seventies, I was passionately impressed to commence writing my personal history and, in connection with that process, to also begin keeping a journal. At the time, my motivation for doing either was a complete mystery, other than for the inexplicably compelling reason that I seemed instinctively certain the activities would one day be important.
The historical volume has been under intermittent construction since that incident, but has frequently fallen to the sidelines as a task self-critically, either too cumbersome, too wordy, too imaginative, too self-indulgent, or just too painful at times to continue. However, because of the epiphany, I’ve managed to remain fairly diligent to the demand. During sleepless nights I return to it with bleary eyes, but renewed enthusiasm, and hope that the final collective, despite how fanciful I think it sometimes appears, might at the very least, provide context for the choices both good and bad, made throughout the paragraphs.
The challenge of keeping journal entries seems to have been easier, fundamentally just requiring a commitment to keep plodding along, ten minutes or so at a sitting. Once the first year was wrapped up, it just made sense not to waste the practice and to keep adding to it. And, even though the first half decade contains a fair amount of mundane daily factoids, including weather and temperature statistics, time constraints of an active, growing family eventually taught the lesson of filtering. Very quickly the entries slacked off to less frequent, but hopefully more notable, weekly and sometimes monthly, commentary.
In a nostalgic review of both projects a while ago, I became aware of a rather peculiar phenomenon. At their moment of documentation, the anecdotes in my history, although distant in time… were quite distinct. However upon reading them again, after many years since that initial record, a lot of those same memories had become like faded images on old sepia photographs. Many were a little bit less recognizable. Early childhood recollections of certain people, activities, toys, and events, once crisp, colorful and poignantly clear, now read almost as if belonging to another writer. The journal entries on the other hand, were still freshly vibrant; maintaining essentially as much atmosphere and impact as they did when originally delivered to paper.
Initially, I surmised that the difference between the two was quite natural and simply a matter of the growing distance between my current age, and the fixed-dated timing of the actual events. Commentary detailed in my personal history was written well after the facts from a post-partum mode and admittedly, may have been potentially fogged at the outset. In contrast, my journal writing was penned “within the moment” and was, and hopefully continues to be, as accurate and honest as I dare care to present it.
The answer it seemed, was obvious. Presumably, as my mental faculties would most likely diminish (as indicated by statistical surveys of the elderly, but in my case hopefully only after many years yet to come) I was rationally confident that my recollection response to the journal writings would be similar.
And then… the faintest scent of honeysuckle drifted through my open window.
Like a magician’s illusion, logic and reasoned analysis vanished, to be mystically replaced by a flood of emotion and sensory impact. Somehow, the sheerest of a whispering fragrance managed to transport me from my book and recliner to another time and place from my past. So vivid, real, and emotionally branded was the effect, that it momentarily caught my breath and made me gasp in surprise!
The question, “Why do we even have memories?” has, throughout the ages, evoked countless theories and speculation both philosophic and scientific; each field generating even more complex and convoluted questions and concepts to support and bolster their separate views. Upon presentation of the query, a host of heated responses have been, and will ever be generated, often dramatically emphasizing their authority and righteousness, one over the other. However… most likely, only when both merge, into a future, singular, and absolute knowledge, will the correct answer be revealed.
It may seem like wishful thinking mixed with a liberal dose of personal conceit, but perhaps some time off in those halls of tomorrows, and unfortunately, only upon second or third reading, maybe my family or a curious passerby, or even myself, will gain additional insight into who any of us may have thought we were during this time.
Meanwhile, particularly since the advent of the computerized cloud of the Internet, let’s enjoy pondering this provocative quote from the artificial life theorist, Steve Grand. - J.
“[Think] of an experience from your childhood. Something you remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all you really were there at the time, weren't you? How else could you remember it? But here is the bombshell: you weren't there. Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place. Every physical bit of you has been replaced many times over (which is why you eat, of course). You are not even the same shape as you were then. The point is that you are like a cloud: something that persists over long periods, while simultaneously being in flux. Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you. Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff of which you are made. If that does not make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, read it again until it does, because it is important.”

Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2015

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Naked Dating...???

For several weeks now, recent holidays have kept me sequestered from alternate realities, and so passing news reports, good, bad, or ugly, have managed to escape my miniscule viewpoint. However, all things must come to an end and let's face it... media has a way of grabbing one's attention.

With today's International headlines hawking stories of wars and rumors of wars, as well as second and third page human tragedies, there are definitely bigger and more important issues to make comment over. However, this one, in the starkest of contrasts, simply screams for a shot or two.
From an article recently published online by Huffington Post and other news media, it is being reported that “...During an episode of the risque reality show "Dating Naked" which aired on July 31, New York model Jessie Nizewitz claims the cable network aired uncensored footage of her privates.”

In a statement made by her, Ms. Nizewitz says something to the effect that, despite repeated assurance by the production companies involved, that both her’s and her date’s sexually-related physical parts would be shadowed, or blurred out of scenes in final production, that a violation of this understanding had taken place. As a result of the now infamous, public screening, and the questionable “accidental or not” reveal of her “naughty bits”, she now feels that she was manipulated and lied to. Consequently she has filed a lawsuit against the show for ten million dollars, and either knowingly, or ignorantly, has automatically provided the producers with immeasurable free publicity.

Whatever the outcome of this specific media circus, previous similar events indicate that the network and it’s affiliates will be the overall winners of the battle, while the model’s concerns regarding her virtue will quickly vanish into obscurity. For a while at least, until something more pruient comes along, this particular reality show’s sagging ratings will most likely sky-rocket, as will the pricing the producers are now able to charge for advertising.

Unfortunately, as a cruel and bullying addendum, the New York Post is already reporting that Nizewitz has been heavily mocked online, "...making her literally, the butt of everybody's jokes."

I have not seen any episodes of the show, nor do I intend to do so, but since it’s first early advertising spots, made mental note of the fact that reality programs in general and this one particularly, have managed to rapidly sink to new lows in television standards. They seem to be desperately grasping for market share and appear willing to promulgate any concept that might generate a bit more money than the other guys. At the same time, perhaps in light of, or despite my own questionable follies of the past, I couldn’t help but also wonder how anyone, either man or woman with even the smallest shred of integrity, and/or intelligence, could involve themselves in such a production, without partially sensing that their participation would ultimately be exploited to the fullest extent legally possible.

There is an old fable told of a snake that was trying to scale a mountain in order to get to a spot where it could warm itself in the afternoon sun. The route, although easy at first, had become extremely rugged and rocky, making it difficult for the reptile to slither its way further to the summit. Frequently, the sharp stones would cut into its skin and  force it to pause to regain energy. The snake was about to give up the quest when finally, it saw a man rapidly hiking his way to the top, nimbly hopping from one craggy boulder to another. 

“Please!” begged the serpent plaintively, “Have mercy on one of God’s lowliest of creatures. Put me in your pocket so that I can get to the top safely and without further havoc or accident.

“But, you’re a snake,” replied the hiker, “and a poisonous one at that. There is no doubt in my mind that upon placing you at the top of the mountain, you will strike me dead!”

“I promise by all that’s holy in the serpent world that I will not bite you, but instead praise your name to all, for the kindness you will have extended to me.”

The possibilities involving the two went on for several minutes until the man reluctantly agreed to put the reptile in his jacket pocket and carry it on towards the mountain’s peak. In short time, the summit was reached. The good Samaritan took out the snake and carefully placed him on the sunniest part of a precipice. Immediately, the snake unleashed it’s coils, striking the hiker’s hand.

“Why would you do that?” the hiker asked in disbelief... “after all which you had promised?”

“I am a snake!” the reptile hissed, watching the man slowly fall to his knees. “I am a snake! And you knew that when you picked me up!”

It may not parallel exactly, and without being a first hand witness, I am only guessing as to the real truth of the situation detailed above. In reading anything these days I try hard not to be judge, jury or executioner...but it sure seems, on the surface at least for Ms.Nizewitz, that perhaps this same sort of thing happened to her.

Well... ten million dollars, whether earned or awarded, is a nice paycheck whichever way it is penned. I just wish that all the BS was being shoveled out by the media moguls alone. At least that way a person could utilize the remote or the delete key more effectively. - J.

Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum…

In a world where there are so many people sincerely trying to do good, attempting to live decent and positively progressive lives… earnestly sharing their skills and talents in efforts to improve the common good, it is nevertheless severely challenging to be faced, almost daily, with blatant, deeply rooted corruption at the highest levels of our so-called “civilization.”
Sadly, it is a repetitive phenomenon within human history that when individuals and organizations manage to gain a certain level of authority, unrighteous dominion begins to taint their interests; power and gain become their hidden agenda, and wholesale corruption becomes their legacy.
Gratefully, in growing opposition to that malignancy, there are much more intelligent voices crying in the wilderness collectively illuminating the corruption; ever hopeful of diminishing the negative influence and removing its destructive potential.
An unknown author wrote that: “Corruption is authority, plus monopoly, minus transparency.” Consequently, the more we do as individuals to add our singular lamps to any problem’s shadows, the sooner the true essence of the image will be revealed. Ingenuous authority can then be challenged more effectively, and the scurvy of monopoly eventually eliminated.
A present example of increasingly questionable legitimacy is that of the FIFA organization (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) the governing body of European style football that we in the untamed New World call "soccer." Initially founded in 1904 with the noblest of intentions to foster and encourage popularity of the sport, the association has succeeded beyond it’s wildest dreams and has become a major player in influencing world governments to support its endeavors.
Perhaps due to an unknown quark of cosmic consciousness, the pendulum of avarice has been legislated to swing both ways, and Karma inevitably, must come due. The debatable financial rewards reaped by those in authority, and the ensuing havoc created by such corruption is now generating sufficient critical commentary that eventually the focus will be so intense upon the association, that its final existance will be nothing more than a flash in a pan.
In reference to the current World Cup event being held in Brazil, architect Miguel Capobiango detailed that… “in order to stage the tournament, the country built or refurbished 12 stadiums at an estimated cost of $3.6 billion, including one in the city of Manaus deep in the jungle. This particular 42,000-seat Arena de Amazonia in Manaus cost an estimated $319 million but will only see four World Cup games. In addition, after the event, the stadium's future is unclear, since Manaus's home club, Nacional, only attracts about 1,000 spectators per game.”
And, in addressing the dubious social benefits FIFA claims to produce for it’s host countries, Scottish journalist Andrew Jennings, author of Omertà: Sepp Blatter's FIFA Organized Crime Family, brought up the controversy surrounding the planned 2022 world Cup in Qatar, the sweltering Gulf state that is currently the subject of a FIFA bribery investigation.
"[FIFA members] either have to be committed to an asylum for the mentally ill or taken to court and accused of corruption. You don't give it to Qatar in the summer."
And finally, to lighten things up and bring the entire fiasco into sharper focus, the sarcastically biting wit of John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” injects the dot of the needle right over the i and slashes surgically across the t in a brilliant, but regretfully true, condemnation of one of humanity’s greatest weaknesses!
Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum... I smell the blood of an Englishman! - J.
Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2014

Friday, May 23, 2014

Absolutely FREAKIN' Brilliant!!...

Every now and then, I hear about someone, or something, that is so far beyond my scope of intelligence that my ego is stunned into frenetic submission, like a person Tasered by a troop of enthusiastic, but well-intentioned, gendarmes.
While my own personal problem of the day might be pondering the repercussions of whether or not I should shave, others of a much more illuminated plane of thought, are actually trying to enhance, salvage, or restore, the overall well-being of this planet’s inhabitants.
Such is the case with Scott and Julie Brusaw of Sagle Idaho, and their idealistic concept of replacing the highways and byways of America with hexagonally shaped platters of virtually indestructible solar panels.
As proponents of the ingenious scheme proclaim, not only would the resulting production estimates of viable electricity be more than triple current demand, the disks would also drastically reduce, and even eliminate, many requirements for snow clearing, and dynamically lower the carbon footprint now demanded for asphalt paving. The addition of digital L.E.D. circuitry to the plates would also permit roadway lane illumination and parking lot signage, as well as emergency alerts and highway directions and notifications. And, the additional fact that the segments can all be generated from recyclable materials has the majority of environmental advocates giving the project a big green thumbs up!
Critics of the cause present some interesting and possibly valid objections to the Brusaw’s proposals, but so far, the inventors have been able to parry effectively with counter-points backed by very convincing statistics. You can check out their FAQ site here.
Personally, I love the idea that if a moose, deer, bear, coyote or other animal of known local habitation chooses to cross the highway in front of me on a dark evening, digital signage in the roadway could alert me well in advance to slow down sufficiently to hopefully avoid a tragedy involving them or my family. Plus, I am totally jazzed about the possibility of turning an entire shopping center’s parking lot, or a city square into a series of gaming courts or even a disco ballroom at the flick of a sequence switch.
As a Canadian citizen I am a hockey fan by automatic mandate, and so I am obliged to imagine the chilling entertainment and even the horrendous advertising possibilities of one of these things installed under the ice. Oooohh! The endless potential and advantages make me shiver in erratic anticipation. I can almost see and hear hockey commentator Don Cherry now, demanding a suit made from the same materials.
And, as far as concerns go... I am already wondering just how well the heated highway would work during a week or two spell of our Great White North’s -40C winter weather, with potential intermittent snowfalls of between one and three feet. In addition, with the current price tag of the individual solar segments being so high, I question who would pay for the 24-7 armed guards who would need to be deployed, fed, and housed, along the proposed construction route in order to fend off would be road warriors from hi-jacking the honeycomb.
Nevertheless… the concept is stunningly magnificent! Hopefully, it will stimulate each person who views the project into visualizing a much more progressive world which is actively engaged in the collective well-being of our environment rather than it's destruction, and how we might someday, somehow, assist in the former, noble undertaking.  – J.

Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Say Cheese..!

In keeping with the title/theme, or whatever flavor this blog might be or become, it is only fair to comment on the discovery I happened upon recently of a distant artful blogger and his experiments with “The 100% Cheese, Grilled Cheese Sandwich.”
Unfortunately, the specific curd product combo mentioned in his description (Carr Valley Cheese) is not readily available in my neck of the woods and so I will have to wait a while before I make effort to replicate his masterpiece. But thanks to the marketing moguls at even that minor miracle, sans CBSA confiscation, is only a few days away.
And, as I pondered the sandwich’s potential for sheer genius, my only hesitation in ordering the item was not for personal concern regarding any medical issues even close to lactose intolerance, but rather for whether or not my already palpitating heart would be able to handle such a magnificent creation, considering the sheer caloric intake involved.
However, the fact that someone was so inspired in their culinary endeavors to even think that such a possibility could exist, illuminated the article, and the overall blog site, to one of particular fascination for me. It is just not how my own delegated portion of grey matter works… and so encountering this ability in another is almost like chancing upon buried treasure.
Temporary aside: I think that’s what I find most intriguing and exhilarating about the Internet. Not only are it’s participants presented with a gamut of fact or fanciful information on just about every subject on, in, around and under the earth, we are also sparked within our own imaginations by the digitally induced flavors, senses and colors that inherently make some of the data so unique and of notable merit.
This may all add up to simply being trivia absorption at best… but it is amazing trivia, akin to the hypnotic effect of Ripley’s “Believe it, or Not! 
In this particular case, my ignorance was inadvertently and thankfully diminished (even if only by a smidgeon) with the discovery that not only is there such a thing as “Bread Cheese”, but also that it has been around for over 200 years, having originated in northern Finland and Sweden as something called Juustoleipa. Apparently it’s unique flavor and texture characteristics come from the fact that it is traditionally made from Reindeer milk and can be dried to an almost brick-like consistency, permitting it to be stored without refrigeration for many years. The necessity of grilling the sandwich simply softens the product appropriately and increases it’s overall flavor, lending it the necessary practicality in sharing berth as a 100% Cheese, Grilled Cheese Sandwich.
Whether or not it ends up being classified as the “Perfect” one… the taste of time can only tell, but I certainly appreciate Nick of for toasting it!
Encore, encore! 
And if you just want to know more about cheese in general, check this out.
That's probably enough Cheesy advertising for one day, even though it is a tasty subject.  J.
Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mello Jell-O... Quite Rightly!!

Being “In The Moment” is one of those Zen-like concepts that seems readily expressed these days, for the promotion and enhancement of personal awareness, in relationship to just about anything. However, like most philosophical insights it’s real nature is about as difficult to grasp as it is to nail Jell-O to a tree... in a forest where no one is present, to hear whether or not the potential timber yells “ouch!”
For anyone who has ever been “on stage” for a theatrical performance, act, speaking assignment, skit, solo, concert, or similar event being presented to an audience, the heightened levels of sensory consciousness generally experienced bear vivid testimony of a very tangible, and keenly focused vitality that is frequently generated. This ethereal essence augments the particular talents being utilized for the event and assists in conveying the artist’s message more powerfully across the footlights. The performer, if skilled sufficiently in harnessing the dynamic, becomes “the moment” with each note, gesture, word, or flourish; and onlookers, willing to temporarily suspend their personal realities for the cost of admission, vicariously embrace the magic.
The performer captures the moment; the moment becomes enchanting; and those of us in the plush velvets are caught up in the bubble of emotional euphoria being generated. This is the invisible, sparkling opiate that hooks thespians to the boards and seals their common kinship with each other.
In a separate form, a master archer is able to envision an arrow piercing a target’s center mark within the same instant he or she withdraws it from a quiver and notches it in a fluid, full draw and release motion of the bow. Years of self-discipline and keenly focused practice permit the warrior to become “one” with the event; having compressed the individual coarser segments of the act into a singularly perfect, combined moment of purest thought and movement.
In the wisdom of Yoda and early 80’s Cinemasophy this would translate as “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
During circumstances of extreme external stress or trauma, either our perceptions, or the properties of time itself seem to change dramatically. The shift occasionally permits us to view and experience otherwise instantly occurring events as slow motion, drawn out, and intimately inspectable, micro-second slices, which give the illusion and overall effect of being “in the moment!”
Can you imagine then, if our awareness was somehow “quickened” to the point where time ceased entirely?
Actions and their consequences would be generated within identical points of existence, while a paralleled decision to initiate the action in the first place would be correctly determined WHILE the button is being pushed.  Talk about being “In THE Moment!!”
This non-time fictionality could then be easily extrapolated backwards from our reference point to the specific nano-fraction flash of existence; when the so called “Big Bang” may, or may not, have taken place. Within that slivered wafer of potential eternity, all possibilities of reality both in advance of, and post advent of the mega-boom would co-exist in some mystical realm or another. And, of course… the fact that you and I are currently able to experience any of this, in whatever rippled status we have somehow been caught up, must mean we are part of the whole shebang.
Are we perhaps then, not only “IN The Moment,” but also co-equal witnesses OF it?  Somewhere off in the distant expanse of possibilities do we have the potential of not only being the actors, but also the audience of the plays we are currently producing?
And now that my brain is in synaptic hyper-drive, I believe I could really enjoy a bowl full of Jell-O.   J.

Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2014