Canadian Gold!

After losing to the United States in a shoot-out at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea, Canada won the Olympic Women’s Hockey gold tonight in a thrilling 3 -2 victory over the USA at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The USA were looking to win back-to-back gold, but our super-star laden team kept them at bay long enough to win our 5th hockey gold medal since women’s hockey was introduced to the Olympics in 1998 in Nagano, Japan. 

With a perfect winning record throughout the Games, Canada’s play was so completely dominant it seemed almost inevitable we would win tonight’s match, though the USA has routinely been as dominant, and as always, the biggest threat to Canada in any competition. 

Once again Canada’s women have proven to be masters of the sporting world, and are coming home with another golden game in the record books. Congratulations ladies… you are literally the best!!

Thích Nhất Hạnh (1926 -2022)

It is with a heavy heart that I announce to you all that Thiền (Zen) Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh has died at the age of 95.

Master Hanh was not only the main inspiration for what is known as “engaged Buddhism” (applying Buddhist ethics and morality to environmentalism, politics, etc.), he was even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by none other than civil rights icon Martin Luther KIng Jr., and banned from living in Vietnam for his opposition to the Vietnam War while it was occurring (only being allowed back in 2005).

Hanh’s preaching and books on mindfulness (living in the moment with full compassion and awareness) are classics of Zen Buddhism, and his gentle, quiet manner was such a soothing influence in the lives of all sorts of Buddhists everywhere. The man exuded peace; the living embodiment of a quiet morning, and people of all religions flocked to his commune (Plum Village) to learn from him and apply his lessons in context of their own beliefs.

In a world filled with angry, selfish, war-loving leaders, Hanh’s quiet words were a healing message, the antidote to the heartlessness driving the world. So if you are not aware of who Hanh was, and are curious about what he said, check out his biography and look up information on his message. You will feel happier, more peaceful, and more engaged with your own spirituality, whether you are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.

An Giấc Ngàn Thu, Master… may you rest in the very deep peace you gave to the rest of us.

習慣… the Word of The Year.

As regular visitors to my blog know, every January 1st I pick a Japanese word to be my yearly “theme”, a word that will be the guiding principle to help me move forward with all the different aspects of my life: career, spiritual, financial, whatever it may contextualize and improve. Last year I felt I needed a reset, a “getting back on track” kind of approach to things after having had my life radically altered by COVID protocols and so on. Thankfully I was not personally affected by the COVID-19 virus, but it is not fun to constantly be wearing a mask, social distancing, sterilizing one’s living space, and so on. But since it is now a personal and social habit, why not build (or rebuild) all the other habits that can keep us moving forward in Life as the virus seeks to hold us back.

Thus, this year’s word will be shuukan (習慣): habits or customs. The iconic choreographer Twyla Tharp wrote an entire book about developing the right kinds of habits to be maximally creative, and everyone should read it. But before one can build and keep creative habits they must have already become successful habit builders in their regular Life. 

The key to success is starting so small it is practically impossible to fail. If one wants to do something at the highest level, they have to do it at the lowest level first then build from there. It is much easier to do laundry for example if your clothes are in the hamper: you just have to take the hamper to the washing machine. But if you have to pick up and sort your clothes, then put them in the hamper, then take them to the machine it is harder to do as one activity. 

So automatically doing little things all the time means you will never have to build any large, difficult habits. It is like eating one French fry. Once you have one you want to keep on going with a whole series of events: eating more French fries, drinking a milkshake, and eating a hamburger – a whole fast food meal. In jazz college I used to practice saxophone for at least 7 hours a day. This is because I liked practicing the saxophone for even just 5 minutes, and would not feel like putting the saxophone down. I had organized a full seven hour plan for practicing, but even just a couple of minutes set the whole process in motion. Every day I practice the drums for two hours, and the practice pad for another two hours. I feel terrible if I don’t, because it is such a deeply ingrained habit. 

Every day only requires small starts: the habits that lead to greatness only require “showing up” more than others do, staying in that activity longer and more productively. Poet Robert Okaji has his work published all the time, because he submits his work for consideration all the time. But he only does one simple thing habitually. He submits one poem to one publisher or magazine at a time. That is easy. Then all you have to do is repeat that tiny habit a million times.

So it is not that a habit requires great concentration or commitment, but rather doing a small thing in such a manner you end up doing it all day and night. If that is the case then the great habits are the ones that produce the best results. Planning, organization, efficiency, and all the other things that go into a great plan must then go into a great habit. Working out all the different exercises that lead to proper growth as a drummer can be done before one begins to make practicing habitually, so you don’t have to be held back by a lack of planning or inefficiency. 

A great habit is born in a lot of planning and thought beforehand, then begins with one small step. One doesn’t have to practice for seven hours. You just have to practice for one minute and let the momentum carry you for another six hours and 59 minutes. 

So this year will be fill with great shuukan-s: tiny acts repeated a million times. And it won’t be hard, because I will only be engaging in one little shuukan at a time. Why not join me and start doing tiny little things for a couple of seconds a day? They will turn into habits that will produce huge results, for sure.

Happy New Year… and good luck!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! 2022…

It’s 2022 and we have a chance at a full year of renewing, improving, celebrating, or reflecting on our lives as a work-in-progress. I don’t believe in having a “self-help” lifestyle, full of false promises based on other people’s ideas about what Life should be. But we can indeed find a path through Life where we are most likely to be at our best most of the time. That is possible and always my goal, so I hope you too can find that golden thread that leads through your mind, spirit, and decisions.

But before we discuss all that next year, let’s use the remaining minutes of 2021 to center ourselves and get ready for the best year yet… whatever that means to you.

Happy New Year… let’s get ready to go!

Merry Christmas!

Hi.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, and/or Happy Holidays if you are not Christian. Not like the Season has anything to to with the traditional meaning of Christmas anymore, since it is so commercialized and more about eating turkey and buying stuff than the birth of Jesus. But no mater what you believe I hope you had fun and are feeling good right now.

I will be back in january with a lot of writing, so in the meantime get ready for some historical anthropology, self-help stuff, and current events writing that will be new to the blog. See you soon!

In the meantime here is some old video footage of me drumming…

New Year and New Posts Coming…

Hi.

Christmas is coming and with that a New Year, and a lot more posts on this blog. I have been so busy that I have kind of wandered away from blogging. No more: you will get regular content in 2022, I can guarantee that!

More coming soon, but in the meantime, what are your goals for 2022? I will be discussing my own, and sharing how I prepare for them…

See you soon!

REMEMBRANCE DAY: 2021

Today, as we remember those who fought and died in warfare, let’s reflect on those who died in World War 2, the last (and hopefully final) world war in which so many fought and died.

It was such a brutal war for so many millions of soldiers and innocent bystanders that anyone connected to it was a victim of its very occurrence, no matter how near or far. People my grandparents age traveled from Canada to Europe to fight in that war, and the stories they told make the worst horror films look very tame by comparison.

It is important to never forget how sick the Nazis were and the bravery of those who fought against them. So if you are young, ask your grandparents about World War 2 and they might be able to share stories about what your own great-grandparents did to stop the world from being covered in darkness and hate.

Remembrance also means taking time to enjoy the life you have as a way of honouring those who made sure the future was safe for you. They chose to stand up against evil so that you would never know what standing up to such evil is like, and they would want you to enjoy a/the life they might have had if not for the war. They would have wanted you to have ice cream, fall in love, listen to music, and all the other stuff that they lost in their own lives, because they died to protect those things… and you… even though they never met you. Even the idea of you was so important to them they ran into the line of fire, and we wear a poppy to say “Thank you for standing up for me before I even knew who you were; though I still don’t know all your names”.

My great uncle fought for you: he did hard things and made hard choices so you didn’t have to… and maybe one of your own relatives did the same thing for me. So let’s both be thankful, for all veterans, for all that had the courage to say, “You will not take away what is good, your evil ends here and now”… and did something about it.

God Bless Our Veterans… and God Bless You All…

Remembering Norm MacDonald (1959-2021)

One day in 1997, while walking down the street in New York I happened to run into eccentric Canadian comedian Norm MacDonald, yet another one of Canada’s iconic comedians that became famous in the USA.

He was hilarious and super-friendly, and we walked and talked for a good ten blocks before he announced he was off to a taping show Late Night With David Letterman, since he was one of the featured guests that night. Then all of a sudden he stopped and asked me if I wanted to hang out backstage while he was on the show. So of course I said yes. We were having a friendly chat, two Canadian strangers, and then he invites me backstage at the biggest comedic talk show on the planet at that time, an opportunity that led to being backstage a second time a couple of weeks later, which led to me eventually meeting David Letterman himself.

Norm was innovative, often controversial, and great fun to converse with, so it is with a significant amount of pain I must announce that he died yesterday after a 9 year battle with cancer, which he kept hidden from both the public and his peers, so as not to be defined by his fight with the disease. I don’t truly know him, but in that amazing afternoon I spent with him I got to know a generous, deeply funny, and wonderfully offbeat Canadian legend.

As with artists like David Bowie or Prince, the passing of someone like Norm MacDonald is such a huge loss. Many artists are original, but people such as these are so unique, there will literally be no one even close to being like them to ever emerge again. Norm was extremely intelligent, and yet he played off of his own image as semi-naive and slightly baffled by the goings on around him. But at any moment his ferocious wit would emerge and you knew Norm had thought long and deeply about what he was saying. He was also an absolute master of uncomfortable pauses, moments of unusually long or short silences after which he would unleash some of his funniest lines in that eastern Canadian drawl of his.

he was also not one to show emotions like fear or sorrow on stage, save for moments like his last appearance on the Letterman show, a perfect set of comedy and a beautiful moment of love. R.I.P. Norm… undoubtedly you are in Heaven now making God roar with laughter…

Fernandez!!!!!

WHAT A GREAT MATCH!! SHE DID IT!!!!!!!

Canadian teenaged tennis player Leylah Annie Fernandez (world ranking #73) beat World #3 Naomi Osaka the other day and just beat world #17 Angelique Kerber. She came back from early pressure and won the second and third sets to win a real match for the ages, a David vs. Goliath moment for the newly emerging Fernandez.

Kerber and Osaka are masters of tennis, so for this young Canadian to come out of nowhere and take them down is wonderfully shocking, a real treat for fans and a landmark in her career. She is now off to her first Grand Slam Quarter Final!

What an incredible year for Canadian women!!!!!

Charlie Watts (1941 – 2021).

It is with great sadness that I am passing along the news that Charlie Watts, the drummer for The Rolling Stones, has passed away at the age of 80 yrs. old.

Watts was always a personal favorite of mine, playing straight-ahead beats on a small, jazz-style drum set, never playing a single bit more than what was right for the song. This “unassuming” approach made him the perfect rock drummer: making the beat (rather than his own playing) the point of his career. He also had a unique way of playing: using the traditional grip favoured by jazz musicians (in the left hand), and skipping part of the beat on his (right hand) hi-hats, leaving more physical space for his left hand to hit the snare while also opening up the sound for a lighter, bouncier kind of beat. Though he did not use it all the time, this signature style of playing was often ridiculed by untrained musicians who thought he couldn’t play an ordinary rock beat with the hi-hat playing continuous eighth notes. But Watts proved his point: his style was perfectly fantastic and truly unimitible when it came to creating the flowing effervescence he added to the Stones bluesy rock.

He was also known (amongst drummers with good ears) for his taste; for the things he could have but chose not to play in the interests of the song. As songs like “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?”, “Emotional Rescue”, “Moonlight Mile”, “Dance (Part 1)”, “MIss You”, and “Mixed Emotions” progress, Watts opens up his drumming and practically disappears in the tapestry of sound. He is so expertly woven into the mix his drumming almost seems like an afterthought. “Emotional Rescue” as well demonstrates Watts’ penchant for this economic artfulness, playing a hi-hat ‘hiss’ on the “and” of beat 3 rather than the usual “and” of beat 4 one hears in disco music. Clever little touches such as these make Watts the giant that he was and will always be: thoughtful, tasteful, economic, buoyant, and wonderfully musical.

Charlie really got out of the way of the music, which was as turbulent and raw as the times in which it emerged: the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, the assassination of people like JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Rolling Stones own disastrous free concert at the Altamont Speedway (in Tracy, California), which many consider to be the place and time where the hippy spirit of 1960s faded away. It is no surprise that bands like The Rolling Stones and AC/DC have lived as long as they have. The sound of straight-up blues-influenced rock and roll has been the grounding soundtrack both figuratively and literally of successive generations: what humans have listened to to make it through such times as teens became parents, and parents became grandparents. When the world seemed upside down, you can always throw on a Stones album to deal with and escape your situation. This is the power of the blues influence and/or blues base of the Stones music, the base of Watts’ effectively simple approach. Feeling sad never felt so good when Charlie kicked “Satisfaction” into gear…

Nothing is permanent but change itself, so as the inevitable arrives, we mourn and celebrate this towering icon. R.I.P. Charlie… and thank you so, so much for a lifetime of great rock n’ roll. In Art less is more, but now that Charlie has passed, less is REALLY less, and we drummers will miss him forever.