Friday, August 17, 2012

How Safe Are You on the Internet...?

How confident are you that the Internet is a safe place?  Very confident?  Somewhat?  Not at all?  If you chose not at all, you're probably right.  It never occurred to me until just recently, what a dangerous place the Internet is.  And now, as much as we think we are protecting ourselves, we have absolutely no protection at all.  Zero.  Nada.  Zilch.  None.  It's the wide-open wild, wild West, and we have very little say in how our personal information, photographs, children, pets, recipes, et al, are disseminated on the Internet.  The moment we post that first comment or photograph on Facebook, we're toast.  And we take our whole 450 friends, family and pets with us.  Toast.  The Internet is like Russian Matryoshka dolls. Inside one person's profile is another, and another and another, ad infinitum.  And they carry on exponentially, depending on how many friends your friends' friends' friends friends' friends have, up to multiples of thousands and even millions.

Occasionally I like to read the comments posted on the articles on the CNN website.  They're a hoot.  There are some extremely intelligent people out there, well-read and knowledgeable.  And then there are others who ... are not.  In fact. it's actually astonishing how many folks out there have little or no knowledge of world affairs, current events, history, geography, cultures of other countries, or even what is going on in their own back yards.  Where do these people spend their time -- on the dark side of the moon?  In the 21st Century when knowledge is available instantly, how can folks be so ill-informed?  It boggles the mind.  Perhaps it is just a case of not wanting to be informed.  Ignorance is bliss.  I don't know...

The other day a commenter logged onto the CNN website and was posting really vile racist comments. He hated anyone who wasn't white, and he posted every horrible racial slur you could imagine ~~ and some I haven't even heard.  He was disgusting.  The stupid man was posting with his Facebook account.  All anyone had to do was click on his profile, and it went straight to his Facebook, which was public.  He had 482 friends, many of whom were non-white.  Many!  So, here was this stupid man, in a public forum, posting racist comments about the very people with whom he was friends on Facebook.  But the worst part of it was, he also had pictures of his children, in their bathing suits, for anyone in the entire world to click on, with one click.  And included in his Facebook account was his place of business and where he lived.  It would have taken a predator no time at all to find that man's little girls, or at the very least, to copy their photographs.  And not only that, but his 482 friends were exposed to the Internet on the CNN website, and their friends, and their friends, and their friends and their friends...

Okay, perhaps I am being over-reactive, but I don't think so.  We should at least have a say in what information we want to have shared with the world.  Do we really want a photograph of our nine-year old child, in her bathing suit, easily accessible on the CNN comment board?  I don't think so.  I logged on and commented to the silly man gentleman that perhaps he should change his privacy settings to private before he posts controversial and provocative comments on a world-wide website.  I told him I am a Mom, and I was just trying to give him some friendly advice.  Well, long story short, that was a mistake.  And he's still posting his ranting, racist comments, and his Facebook page is still open to the whole world.  I did notice that in the last 24 hours his list of friends had gone from 482 to 450. Quelle surprise! But the pictures of his beautiful little daughter are still there for thousands millions of people's viewing pleasure.  You can't teach stupid.

We cannot change the world, and yes, it can be a dangerous place.  But we can change how we protect ourselves from this new reality known as globalization and the world-wide web.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Boredom...

When I was in school, I could hardly wait for summer holidays. "No more pencils, no more books..." And yet, by the time August rolled around, boredom had set in and I was actually looking forward to fall and getting back to school and my regular routine.  Often people will say September is their favourite month, and that is usually because it is the true beginning of the year.  I still feel that way.  There is nothing more exciting than new school supplies, complete with a fresh bouquet of newly sharpened pencils.  So, I laughed the other day when Phinnaeus said he was starting to get bored.  Thankfully, he has a summer job just as the Olympics are finishing, which gets him outdoors and earning some money.  But, he came up with a boredom equation that is so brilliant. I wanted to share it with you.

Boredom Equation, by Phinnaeus:

Boredom = (bv)(Ai)(C)(H%) / (F x Km), where:

Bv is the number of beach volleyball games you’ve seen.

Ai is the number of times you’ve seen an athlete interviewed that day.

C is degrees Celsius.

H% is humidity percentage.

F is the number of friends/people you’ve hung out with that day.

Km is the number of kilometres that you’ve travelled outside of your house.

Currently for me, this is (2 x 4 x 27 x 48) / (0 x 0).

Giving me a Boredom Level of 10368.

Work it out for yourself and see just how bored you are.

Note: if you get a zero, ignore the category. ~~ Phinnaeus.

Oh, yes, I know about boredom like that.  My cure for boredom is retail therapy.  What's yours?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Lee J. Cobb, also known as Mr. Chalmers

The town where I grew up was in the middle of nowhere, nestled in a valley in the Beaufort Mountain Range that made up the spine of Vancouver Island.  We were just about as isolated from the rest of Canada as any town could possibly be, and still be part of the country.  My mother had grown up in South Africa and my father had worked as a Chartered Accountant in Toronto, and they both told stories of those far-away, wonderful places.  My childhood was fun, and filled with fabulous adventures of riding our bikes out to Sproat Lake to go swimming, or ice skating at the rink, or dancing at the high school dances, or hiking up the mountains.  It was a beautiful area nestled in the valley at the foot of Mount Arrowsmith, but still it was a small town, and I couldn't wait to shake the dust of it off my feet.  I wanted the bright lights and big city.

The high school I attended was a fairly large school, and our graduating class was over 200 people.  We were like family, having grown up together since kindergarten.  For me, it was like having 200 brothers and sisters and many of us have kept in touch over the years.  My mother used to tell me that my school friends would be "ships that passed in the night", but she was very wrong.  My ties to some of my school friends are as close now as they ever were.  Last week there was a high school reunion, which I opted not to attend, but I received a CD of all the biographies people had written about themselves, including photos.  Some were unrecognizable, others had not changed at all.

Each of us had been asked to write our favourite memories of high school.  Without even thinking, I wrote that my favourite memory of high school was Mr. Chalmers' grade 12 English class.  I adored Mr. Chalmers.  He looked and sounded exactly like the actor, Lee J. Cobb, but more than that, he instilled in me a love of literature.  I remember he once said to us, "If you are going to make the effort to read a book, at least make sure it's a good book." When I read through the biographies of each of the graduating class, there was a consistent thread that ran through them all.  When asked what was their favourite memory of high school, each person had said the same thing.  Mr. Chalmers...  Mr. Chalmers...

Mr. Chalmers...

We studied Shakespeare in grade 12 English, and Mr. Chalmers used to stand at the front of the class and act out all the parts as we read along.  He translated the English of Shakespeare's day to a room full of 17 year-old kids in a remote town on Vancouver Island.  And we all got it.  Mr. Chalmers made it come alive, and we understood it.  I was convinced that Mr. Chalmers was really the actor, Lee J. Cobb, moonlighting as a high school English teacher. That one hour of English class was magical for me, and I have recently discovered that it was magical for everyone else too.  And everyone else remembered it.

Mr. Chalmers is no longer with us, but I can't help thinking he would be honoured and perhaps a bit amused to find that all these years later we still think of him, and we remember what he taught us.  The alumni of Mr. Chalmers' class consists of a rich man, poor man, baker man, thief; doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.  Is that politically incorrect?  Well, there is indeed an Aboriginal chief in the alumni of Mr. Chalmers' class.

How often do we go through school saying, "Why do I have to study this?  When am I ever going to use it?" It is indeed a special teacher who not only teaches us, but teaches us why we need what he is teaching us.  And we remember not only what he taught us, but we remember him.

"Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven."  ~~ Wm. Shakespeare

Thank you, Mr. Chalmers.  And, by the way, you really were Lee J. Cobb, weren't you?

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Morphing Face...

I have always been fascinated with facial features, and in particular features as they morph and change through a person's lifetime.  These pictures here are me at age four, and me at age ... not four.  It amazes me how much my face has changed, and yet I can see in both pictures that it is me.  It is the same face that I have looked at in the bathroom mirror every morning for my entire life.  And yet, if I had been struck by blindness at an early age, and then suddenly recovered my sight today, I would look at the face and wonder, "Who the heck is that?"

Some friends of mine recently went to a high school reunion, and they said that even with name tags, they were not able to place a name to the faces, and vice versa.  Their school mates had morphed into completely different people, and it was like having a reunion with strangers.

The human face is fascinating and mysterious.  No other species on the planet has the range of emotions that the human face has.  I remember when I was a little girl, if I crossed my eyes my mother would say, "Don't do that, you'll stay that way."  In some ways I think that is true.  The experiences we have had over our lifetimes are etched in our faces.  We wear our emotions like a permanent imprint.

One of my cousins sent me the following video of the face of the Queen as it has morphed from an infant to an 86 year-old woman.  It's fascinating to watch it, and some of the greatest changes took place during the teen years and the 20s.  Once the Queen got into the middle years and beyond, her face stayed much the same, only an aging version of it.  It's very interesting, if you have the time to watch it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend...

Today is the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death.  Her legend has now outlived her lifetime, and her popularity has not diminished.  If she were on the scene today, she would be recognized for the genius that she was.  She created the image of Marilyn Monroe, borrowing from her two favourite actresses, Jean Harlow and Lana Turner.  From that amalgam, Norma Jean Baker became Marilyn Monroe.  Her creation was brilliant, and if you listen closely to Lana Turner's diction and compare it to Marilyn's, you can hear that Marilyn perfectly reproduced Lana's particular way of speaking and made it her own.  It takes a great deal of intelligence to do something that subtle and intuitive.  But Norma Jean's creation was ultimately Marilyn's ruination.  She had typecast herself, and she couldn't break free from the person she referred to as "her".

Marilyn Monroe was no dummy.  She attended the University of California in Los Angeles, where she studied literature and art appreciation.  Marilyn wrote poetry and she painted.  She wanted to be taken seriously as an actress, so she joined Lee Strassberg's Actor's Studio in New York.  The school was the most prestigious acting school in America, with an alumni that included James Dean, Marlon Brando, Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, Montgomery Clift, Paul Newman and Al Pacino, just to name a few.  All heavyweights.  When Marilyn joined the Actor's Studio, there was a certain amount of ridicule and scoffing from the other members.  But when it came time for her to perform, Lee Strassberg is quoted as saying that, to his amazement, she was the best actress that had ever attended his school. Sir Laurence Olivier, with whom Marilyn starred in "The Prince and the Showgirl" was also quoted as saying, "Marilyn Monroe is a brilliant comedienne, which to me means she is also an extremely skilled actress".

All of Marilyn Monroe's movies would still hold up today and my favourite is "The Seven Year Itch".  That movie is so current, it could have been made last week.  Marilyn is so wonderfully funny and brilliant in it, she would definitely be nominated for an Academy Award if it were made today.  In fact, many of her roles are Oscar-worthy.  But in "The Seven Year Itch", she shines as a comedienne with a wry sense of humour, and sense of the ridiculous.  The chemistry between Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell is amazing, and you can see he is having the time of his life playing straight man to her character known only as "The Girl".

There was nothing Marilyn could not do -- sing, dance, act.  It's unfortunate that her beauty and her "Marilyn Monroe" persona got in the way.  It was ultimately her downfall.  Many people have attempted to imitate her, and everyone has failed.  There was only one Marilyn Monroe, and she was a brilliant, multi-faceted diamond.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Road Trip to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions...

There is a saying, "No good deed goes unpunished." That certainly applies to me, when it comes to my apparently ill-conceived good intentions.  One of my family members has been feeling rather dispirited lately, and I came up with the brilliant idea that perhaps a road trip might cheer this person up.  I have a week off work this week -- a staycation -- and I called last week and invited this family member and some other family members on a little day trip.  I told them they can choose the destination, and all expenses, including gas mileage for the trip, would be paid by me.  My invitation seemed to have been met with enthusiasm, and that made me happy.  Oh, goodness, what was I thinking?  I should have put the receiver down and stepped away from the telephone before I even dialled the number.

I have vacations the way Mary Richards had parties -- A "Mary Richards party" is a euphemism for a party that is disastrous.  Well, those are my vacations -- and particularly my well-intended road trip.  It turned into a horror show, and I'm not sure how or when it even happened, but I suspect it started before my guests had arrived to pick me up.  When they got to my apartment, I sensed agitation, irritation, anger and a distinct lack of enthusiasm in some of the family members.  My instincts were telling me, "Don't go!  Don't go!  This will not end well!  Do not get into that car!"  Yes, my instincts did use all those exclamation marks.  I should have listened to them.  But I forged on, thinking that once we were on the road and had started our journey, we would all be one big happy family, and actually have fun.

Oh, goodness, what was I thinking?

Without going into details, let me just say that the trip was a trip to hell horrible beyond belief.  As it turned out, no one wanted to go.  Well, that's a great start, isn't it?  The destination that was chosen by the family members was not my first choice as a destination, but my main concern was that the four of us have some fun together as a family, and make some positive memories.  We don't often get together on family outings, and I thought perhaps we could do something light-hearted that would give everyone a "warm, fuzzy" feeling that they would remember.  Well, they'll remember it all right, but for all the wrong reasons.  And I still have an earache in my left ear.

The moral of the story is, always, always, always trust your instincts.  If something doesn't feel right, don't do it.

"Hell isn't merely paved with good intentions; it's walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too." ~~ Aldous Huxley