Tuba Skinny


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I was up late the other night listening to a band on YouTube called Tuba Skinny from New Orleans. I could not stop listening. These are young folks that can really capture the hot jazz sounds 20s and 30s. Singer, Erika Lewis (also bass drum), is particularly interesting. With a style and approach that is strikingly authentic and true to the style, Lewis seems as if she is somewhere else deep in the music. The group often plays on the streets of New Orleans, where the band originated and can range in size. No matter the size, they play very hot jazz with no music in front of them. They have an energy that can only come from young folks who are immersed in this genre of music. Turn off the colour on your screen and the band looks as if it is back in time, back when their music was just being created for the first time.

Cornet player Shaye Cohn is classically trained in piano, however took up the cornet to play this music. I find that most classically trained musicians don’t usually play with a hot syncopated style. I have found it rare, however that is not the case with anyone in the Tuba Skinny band, despite how any of them may have been trained. The washboard player is truly interesting to watch.

Tuba Skinny takes its name in recognition of a popular New Orlean tuba player, Tuba Fats, who passed away just before the band formed in 2009. Initially, the band was a collection of street musicians, however, in the less than a decade of existence, it quickly garnered great attention as a unique and authentic sounding jazz band that now travels extensively. YouTube is full of great Tuba Skinny videos. While they do many popular tunes, most of gathered from lesser known sources and some are originals. This band is well worth a listen and fun to watch.

Tuba Skinny



Halloween war zone


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It was Halloween last night and we were once again having to endure the sounds of a war zone late into the night. It is hard to believe that people have so much money to spend on such a vast display of celebrating evil. These are no small puffs of firecrackers such as I had when I was a kid, but bursting bombs that shake the ground and then light up the sky like stars just above the rooftops. I can’t imagine the cost of that momentary delight. Like so much in our society and world, nothing has meaning or substance to last longer than a shooting star. What is the worth of the short-lived disposable creations of humans, of thoughts and words that evaporate into the mist of noise on a brightly lit screen?

So I went to bed last night thinking about how the neighbourhood fireworks remind me of The Star Spangled Banner:

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

(Note: This is only the first verse. There are several more.)

I could remember most of it from when I was living in the States as a kid. The parts that really stuck-out in my mind where the ‘rockets,’ ‘bombs bursting,’ ‘Gave proof… flag was still there’ and ‘…land of the free… home of the brave.’ It is a song of great strength. This is why Americans have fireworks on the Fourth of July. I suppose what fireworks could mean on Halloween is freedom from the evils celebrated on that particular night and throughout the year, along with bravery to endure and stand up against all evil.

We are in a war zone where evil seeks to encompass our lives and to eventually destroy us. We can turn the tables on evil by altering the meanings of that which seeks to creep into every aspect of our lives, spreading and celebrating evil. A good example is to consider the fireworks as a celebration of freedom and bravery over evil, just as the Americans do on the Fourth of July.

Yup, I’m coming back again


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It would appear that I have been getting back to this blog less than twice a year and I feel it is time to come back and try to be a bit more regular. II have been writing, truly I have been writing everyday and some of that writing could have gone on this blog and some on the Technojungle blog. I write a little in the morning and a little at night. I can’t explain why I have not been blogging. I hope that may change with this entry.

The last update was pretty comprehensive. I continue mostly in and same directions.


My hair is now very long, over a foot in many places. However, would you believe it, I have no photos of my hair. I have been enjoying it, although I am surprised at how much comes out when I wash and brush it. I figured recently that, if I only lost ten strands per day, and that might just be a conservative guess, I could have lost 4000 strands since I started. I tried to imagine what that many strands of hair might look like. These thoughts had me thinking that I should get on with cutting it off and donating it before I have little to give. Still, I like having my hair and tending to it. If I cut it off, I might grow it again. Someone mentioned that November is Movember for men’s health and typically means growing and then shaving off a moustache. I think I had better get some photos of my hair before the end of next month.

Writing (& Book)

My book is still in editing mode, although I have not really worked much on it for a week or so, the longest and perhaps only break I have taken since getting on a schedule of writing and then editing the book. I’m not really sure when I will be ready. I might just have to bite the bullet, as they say. Although, I’m sure I could tighten it up. I may add a glossary. The idea of an index just got squashed as I read about what is an actual profession, craft and art called indexing. It could cost over a thousand dollars for this. I’ll hold off for now.


I mentioned something about my dream cornet and that I was going to do a separate entry for this amazing event in my life. As you may have noticed, I did not get to it. I suppose what happened is that I had this cornet out to be fixed up and, in particular, have the valves redone back near where the horn was originally made during 1921 in the U.S. I did lots of before photos, but when it came back, I just got playing it and have not stopped. Well, that means that playing music and all my other projects have take priority. I am still planning to do the photos and then an exposé on the entire matter, so you can wait in deep anticipation for that.

I had mentioned that I was playing in a band to entertain seniors and that I had also started my own band, both giving me a long tiring, nevertheless exciting, blow on Mondays. The evening band, affectionately called the No Name Jazz Band, it still going along and we are improving. I am learning to lead and make-up the arrangement as I go. The Deep Cove Jazz Band was turned over to me, so now I have two bands. This band has been in need of rebuilding and I am happy to report that it looks like this is finally happening and we may, in a few weeks, be able to get back to doing gigs for seniors again.

I must say that it is certainly challenging to keep a band of volunteer musicians together. I am working on acquiring and maintaining a core group of members for each band and backups. It is also challenging to keep all the music in order. We had a long music sorting spree yesterday with the Deep Cove JB music. One other challenge that is working out well now is that I added a vocalist.

I was playing in a band and a woman came to sing. She only sang a few bars when she realized that she would not be available for the gig, so she left. However, I heard enough to form a hunch that she could be a jazz singer, so over the last few months she has been working at it and is a regular member or both bands. Yesterday she experienced what I experience on Mondays and nearly strained her voice.

I am playing a lot and getting better, although, I do find that I have limitations, which I may discuss another time.


I continue to do very little in this long time hobby area of my life. I still have intentions though. Since my photography seems to be on hold, so are my photoblogs, however, they too will get some attention one day.


Turning to the area of graphics and publishing, I had an unfortunate experience. We were doing high-end flyers and then my friend decided to go another direction with his life and work. This left us, my wife and I, without this work. I had built up my workflow with the necessary software and suddenly there was no more work. I decided to take my little graphics business and hold it on the side until I am ready to publish my book. At the moment, I suppose, music and working on my book are the main priorities.


I have just come off of taking a break from baking. Our KitchenAid mixer stopped. My wife, somehow, managed to return it to Costco and then we began to wait for it to go on sale. Now it seems Costco is no longer carrying them. It may be that Costco is having KitchenAid develop a different model. In the meantime, we needed to use our Airmiles before they expire and my wife was looking on the Airmiles website for items to redeem our points on. Suddenly she said, “Is this what you are looking for?” Sure enough, it was the KitchenAid mixer and it was an even better model. It required points and money, but in the end, we came out $71 ahead. Next she found a fancy rice cooker with a natural clay removable pot. It makes yogurt and other things too. This she purchased entirely with points, so it was free. The item is back ordered, but the KitchenAid has arrived and is in use.


We keep on muddling along. My wife Patricia is still working, as am I, both of us part-time. Michelle has another job at a gym and Malcolm is in the final legs of his Mechatronics engineering degree and is currently working at a co-op job. We are all fine and living, coming and going, under one roof.

The Future

As I realized when I was considering a name for my book, the future never arrives… at least not as expected and it always brings baggage. While my book states this about how technology influences our lives, it seems to be applicable in most areas of our lives.

I have somewhat promised that I would post some photos of my hair and post the story about my cornet and some photos. Before I do that, I think I would like to wash it. I have been playing for many months and it is long overdue for a cleaning.

As for further writing, there may be less here than other years, since I have the Technojungle blogfor all the technology related posts. On the other hand, I have plenty of music going on now and that may become a source for articles here.

An update is even more overdue


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Time—that slippery conduit through which we pass—has eluded me once again; at least where this blog is concerned. I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll simply start to ramble, as usual, I suppose.


The first thing that is coming to mind is my hair. Yeah, I know, we sort of got over all that hair business way back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Well, my hair was never really that long in those days. Last summer, my hair was getting a little long, so my wife said, “If you want to have your hair a long, I’m going to take you to my hairdresser for your 60th birthday present.” I have the sort of hair that I can have shortish and longish which allows me to go a few months between haircuts. My wife likes my hair both ways.

So, off we went and had this very nice girl, Brandy, tidy-up my hair. I looked on the floor and said, “Not bad hair for 60.” Then came the reply that just simply caught me, “If you had a foot of it, you could donate it to cancer patients going through chemotherapy.”

What an idea! I could try my hair long and then do something good with it. Great! That was in mid-August and I am getting there slowly—very slowly, it seems. Perhaps it has slowed down a bit. It has been pretty unmanageable. Having long hair for a while is a neat idea, but getting there is not as easy as I thought it would be. Anyway, I am still working on it.

Writing (& book)

In case someone might actually be following my blog and might just be having some remote thoughts about my book, it is still underway. I have discovered, actually I’m sure I sort of knew, that the writing part is far easier and takes less time than editing. Most books are severely under-edited. I’m not ready to employ and professional editor to pour over my work through several versions, so I am recruiting people I know to be reader/editors.

I began by printing each of the three sections of the book and inserting them into three binders. Each reader/editor would get a coloured pen and an instruction/feedback sheet along with other information, such as target audience. The first person got section one. When they finished, I gave them section two and gave section one to the second reader/editor. It worked rather well and I got plenty of great edits and feedback. I have done this a couple of times as well as working through it with my writing coach.

I now have a couple of copies of the entire book out to do the same sort of process. This takes a long time. Busy people are doing this in their spare time and so am I. As the editing moves slowly along, it is difficult to maintain momentum and keep the energy up. It is interesting when I talk to people about my book. I only have to get started and everybody has something to say regarding their own experiences with technology. I remind them that my book is about being human and that we need to focus on that in the midst of the Technojungle that is devouring us.


Here is an area of my life that has suddenly gained tremendous momentum and energy. Music was eluding me for years. I didn’t know what to do, or how to get started. Then an opportunity came up to play some Christmas carols just over a year ago now. Then I got invited to join a small band called The Deep Cove Old Time Jazz Band and play in retirement and care homes. I had done this over 25 years ago and had not played since. It was tough to get going again.

In June we played our last gig. So I asked the fellow learning to play banjo in the band if he would like to get together to play some tunes over the summer. I didn’t want to lose what I was beginning to gain. He said that he would. Then I wondered if the trombone player might like to join us. We had known each other some 35 years prior at the Hot Jazz Club. He said he would. He also said he knew of a couple of other fellows who might like to join in. Thus began an all summer long task of trying to get a group together. Everyone was going away at various times.

By mid to late August we were getting close to beginning to practice. I was amazed at how many tunes I know and can play. Soon another banjo player came who I also knew back in the Hot Jazz days. We practiced weekly until he went to play down under for a couple of months. We took Christmas off and are now having causal practices to get up to speed again.

I have some amazing news about my a cornet. I think it deserves a special entry, so look for a separate article about my cornet dream of a dream cornet.


Photography is an area that I have not done much with for a long time. I guess I am sort of waiting to see how my life goes. I do have a lot of photos I have just started to do something with and I do have two blogs about photography that I would like to work on. That is enough to keep me busy. I suppose I am concerned a bit about the age of my camera. It would be nice to get to the point where I could get or even need a new camera. I have one in mind, but it is expensive to keep up on technology.


It has been a lot of years since I did any graphics work. Actually, I worked in training people around 15 years ago. I never considered myself a designer.

Last year, my friend Glenn, said he wanted to start a newsletter business. I didn’t know what to think, since printed flyers seem to be going the way of the dinosaurs. Nevertheless, I said I would help do a pilot. I found some open source software and struggled along with it.

Suddenly one day, the newsletter gained a companion flyer for a local shopping centre. We completed both on high quality paper and hand delivered them to the community. Since then, we have done three more and two or three are in the works. I have had to switch software a few times and gained some inexpensive yet powerful software. It is amazing what is out there now since Adobe started to rent their software and many users simply don’t want to follow that model. I have had some great compliments, done some photography (getting paid for the first time in over 45 years of holding a camera) and I have been amazed at how much I enjoy the work and even have fun. I have had to do some late nights though.


I continue to do my regular baking of pizza shells for Friday night pizza night, buns, bread, pasta and a few other things. Usually, I still grind ancient grains into flour in our Vitamix blender. For New Years Eve, we had another party and Glenn and I made the decadent Sin-O-Man (cinnamon) buns. They were amazing again.


Well, my daughter, Michelle, came home from living a year in Australia and jumped right in to training to become a personal trainer. She is now working in this field everyday for long hours. Malcolm did a co-op job working on some helmet technology that can reduce the risk of concussions. It was very timely, since this sort of problems has been in the news a lot. He even made it to the news. He is now back in class studying Mechatronics Engineering. We are all living together in our home and having normal family dynamics.


That should be enough for now. I have continued to write a bit everyday, not always for an hour as I did to complete my book, but I have managed to amass a plethora of articles that I could put on this blog or my Technojungle blog. I just seem to be a bit short on time and I will be getting busier in the near future. Yet, many people do say that to get something done, one should give it to a busy person. We shall see. I have had doing this writing you are reading and a couple of other related tasks on my todo list for a couple of weeks, I think. We shall see. I still need to edit this and keyword it before I can upload it.

An update that is long overdue


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Bob in car photo

I was sitting in my car waiting for my wifey and got playing around with my iPhone camera.

I shall take a moment to explain why I have not been posting much on my blogs for quite some time. I use a program on my Mac called MacJournal to do writing every morning—actually four days a week. It is just free writing to keep the writing juices flowing. When I was trying to write my book and not finding the time to move it along, I found that an hour a day of just writing at the same time of day in the same place got the book done. I would sit down and write. Sometimes I would look at my book chapters and get into working on one. I found that I could comfortably write between 700 and 1300 words in one hour. If I did not finish it, I would do it the next day. It made for good short chapters in the book. I also gained a lot of writing that I want to eventually get on my blogs and in another book. I take portions of my free writing and repurpose them for articles that can be put on my blogs.

So what happened? One day realized that I needed to make sure all my blog material has tags. Tags are used to make searching for topics easier and for search engines to find articles. I had not been diligent in tagging everything. I began to go through all my WordPress entries on myBobLog to fill in all the tags. I am still working on that in my spare time. I have posts on myBobLog that I want to transfer to my Technojungle Project blog. I will get to that one day. What really caused a halt to my posting on the blogs is that, for some reason, the tags I was entering in MacJournal were no longer transferring to my WordPress blogs. I tried to copy and paste them manually to the Tags field in WordPress, but that did not work.

So began a long and arduous trek working with the folks at WordPress and particularly with Dan the developer of MacJournal. He has me on his beta testing program and we have been working on my issue for months. Then Jeremey at WordPress posted a screencast of how he was doing his tags. Dan also asked a couple of key questions. Last night, I tried something that I noticed in the screencast and something that Dan’s questions twigged in my mind. I actually tried clicking or tabbing or hitting return to exit the Tags field in MacJournal. I discovered that all three of those tiny steps will make the tags transfer successful. Now I am ready to go again and have plenty of material already written or ready to write about. The problem now is that, many other projects in my life are also on the move, so my time is limited. I’ll get to it all in good time. There is no rush. It is nice to know that a huge problem was solved with a tiny solution. Now isn’t that an amazing thought.

Sometimes our huge problems and issues in life can be resolved with a tiny solution that may well be right under our nose. It’s that tiny thing that has the huge impact. This is important to keep in mind when we start to fret, get anxious, or become frustrated over an obstacle in our life. It might just take a tiny action to resolve. So calm down and look around, you just might find a tiny action that might have a huge and significant impact on your issue or problem.

In the coming weeks and months, watch for new content on my blogs. I will also have more regular news about my upcoming book that is now going through rigorous editing processes; more photography (as I find time to get better organized); news about my new writing, photography, graphics and publishing business called inFocus; and I’ll share about my musical adventures. Whew, that is a lot going on. Right now, I must move on to editing my book today, that is, as soon as I enter tags for this initially short bit of writing.

Wow! Nothing since Easter? Re-test


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Wow! Nothing since Easter? That is again a long blank space. If anyone out there is reading, you already know I have absent periods from time to time.

So just what have I been up to, you may be asking? My book, I shall answer. I finished my book and have been organizing people to be reader/editors. I have had some other projects on the go, including getting myself set up to do graphics and publishing again. That took plenty of time.

I am still testing to determine why when I write a blog post in MacJournal and add tags, the tags do not get transferred to my WordPress blogs. This project has also been on hold and I am going to figure it out so I can get on with adding many articles that I have been writing over the past months.

Is it sexy or music

Is it sexy or music? That is the question. I was sidetracked from working on taxes and ended up looking at some music related images. Some were quite humorous. Suddenly there was a beautiful blond woman in a black dress (I think) with a trumpet. “Oh common!” I thought to myself. Then I read the caption that said she is a superstar. OK, I had better have a listen. Wow! What a discovery! Close your eyes, listen and never mind the beautiful blond part, that is not what it is about. With a tone that matches her looks and a seemingly delightful British personality Alison Balsom is truly one great classical trumpet player.


I watched several videos and she can certainly squeeze pure expression through the most technical and masterfully executed classical pieces. In a giant, lavish auditorium, possibly the Royal Albert Hall, she enters, not from the side of the stage as most soloists might, but joyfully jaunts down the centre isle of the audience with her trumpet in hand, smiling and greeting the audience in a friendly manner. She takes her place next to the conductor and in front of the massive symphony orchestra. She is wearing an expensive looking dress that one might see an opera singer wear. The orchestra begins, she empties her spit valve and begins to play. I could hardly believe my ears. After a particularly difficult passage, her hand leaps off the valves and into the air as if to indicate the masterfully executed passage as finished with verve.




I was reminded of local girl jazz trumpeter Bria Skonberg who I first heard about from local bandleader—possibly the oldest living and working bandleader from the 1930s in the world—Dal Richards (97). Originally from Chilliwack, BC, she now lives in New York and travels the world as a trumpet superstar in the classic jazz genre. She began playing traditional jazz in high school and then sang and played trumpet in the Dal Richard orchestra. I know she is well trained, having studied at Capilano University. Initially, she was perhaps taken as a bit of a cute trumpet playing blond girl novelty. I’m not sure about that, but one could see it happening. Today she is accepted as a great player.


I listened to some videos of her several years ago and found a developing talent that would certainly top the Vancouver scene very soon. Well, she has certainly passed that finish line and is soaring. Revisiting I found a seasoning jazz musician, with emerging soul and deep expression in both her trumpet playing and singing. While a serious musician, she seems to also be a lot of fun. Joy is at the heart of liberating jazz.




I studied trumpet in my youth and have just returned to playing after decades of absence. I played in a youth band and then in a small group for a few years that played in retirement homes. I spent many years as a vintage jazz and swing record collector and listened purely to this music. Today I am happy squeaking out a few notes playing along with a choir and with a jazz band, once again for the retired folk, whom I shall someday be joining. I may do more one day, I don’t know.

I am having fun, yet have always known I lack what it takes to head to the top. Allison and Bria are the genuine articles; the full package of talent, skill, style and charisma that makes them top calibre musicians, superstars and a joy to listen to—never mind pleasant to look at too. Is it sexy? I say beautiful music.

Alison Balsom
Bria Skongerg

Happy Easter 2015


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Here we go with Easter. On Good Friday, we went to church and I played my cornet again with the choir and Patti sang. Today we were up early and had friends over to share eggs, fruit salad and my Easter buns made with my home ground spelt flour. It was a great breakfast. It is a warm sunny day so Malcolm went for a hike and the rest of us headed off to church where, once again, I played my cornet and Patti sang. That was a great way to do Easter church.

We hung around for a while and now are home and have put a nice turkey on the BBQ rotisserie. I get to write stuff, edit my book and work away on things as I check the turkey.

This is turning out to be a relaxing day.

Leaving Las Vegas (too)


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In the days following my viewing the movie Leaving Las Vegas and the writing of the article post for this blog, the movie continues to stir my mind. I see Las Vegas as a place that actually condones and even supports those who might wish to throw themselves into the vortex of human self-plunder. I don’t know for sure; I have never been there and have never wished to go. It seems a place I might lose control. Sure I would love to see all the wonderful entertainment, yet I know that Vegas is designed to entice one into what can easily become a black hole for some.

Somethings have peaked my interest in this movie. Almost daily I hear of those tragic human situations where someone is out of control. I hear talk about those dark notions that seem to lurk in us all and surface in some manifesting in disturbing behaviour. Only yesterday was a discussion on the radio about a woman who mutilated and dismembered pets and is now out of jail living somewhere in the community. It is known that her treatment has not worked and that she will likely re-offend. She was banned from using the Internet, yet managed to post some remarks on social media sparking alarming replies from others who have dark fantasies that they would love to experience, but are also afraid of acting on those desires.

I just watched a portion of a news magazine segment about a boy who simply could not control himself or be controlled. There seemed to be no way to keep him from some dangerous behaviour.

What is it about some people that drives them to destruction? Why do some people seem to be incurable and must live with certain conditions somehow contained, but never eliminated?

What seldom seems to be considered as a primary way out is to treat the human spirit—the only place within a human where true hope may be found. In 1934, two desperate alcoholics met, found recovery and discovered: a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our lives; b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism; c) That God could and would if He were sought. —From Alcoholics Anonymous (Third Edition) (The Big Book) page 60.

Alcoholism has devastated lives throughout human history and still does. It is an example of a human condition to which there seems no cure. Even alcoholics in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) refer to themselves as ‘recovering.’ There are other human conditions that seem to evade the human cure.

What the founders of AA discovered is that, where human efforts and science fail, God can prevail. For Ben in Leaving Las Vegas, the desire to live and the willingness to step onto a spiritual road were completely lacking. How could this be? Isn’t it a basic instinct for any life form to survive? It seems that it would be very difficult for any living being to endure a self-inflicted slow death and not have some sort of survival response. How does a human lose all hope and become dedicated to a path of self-destruction?

The seed of human life is corrupted. There is a part of each and every one of us that has the capacity to lead us into self-destruction, whether we realize it or not. Examine your life and you will spot instances of actions that might be less than the best choice. How many people go on a diet and never cheat? Who can claim to have never said anything harsh or in anger? It is impossible. For some people the fight for the soul where one makes the decisions about their actions is a struggle that can sometimes overwhelm. All it take is a certain situation that can trigger an uncontrollable response. For one person, it might bring a harsh word; for another, it might cause them to pick up a drink. If they are an alcoholic, this could kill them.

Obviously, Ben snapped when he lost his family. He snapped and lost control. His mind changed direction 180 degrees. When he was let go from his job, he was told that they sure liked having him around. Instead of involving some sort of reconsideration response and a subsequent change in his behaviour; this only poured gas on the fire. In one of the next scenes, he has cleaned out his house and is pouring gas on garbage bags of personal belongings, reminders of his family. It is then that he heads to Las Vegas—down the road of destruction. Where was the hope he could continue to live without his family?

It is said that love conquers all. 1 Corinthians 13 states, “Love never fails.” So what happened to Ben? Sera loved him and he loved her. He called her his angel. His body, soul and spirit were so damaged that there was little left to save him. Death and a way of drinking, as Ben called his mission, must have been difficult and painful. The body becomes very sick. That he accomplished his mission in weeks probably means, rather than a slow deterioration of his body, mind and soul, that he poisoned himself and his relatively healthy body with the alcohol numbing him.


Where were those who might intervene? Would it even be possible to intervene? These are tough questions for a situation such as Ben’s. Whether short-termed or long-termed alcoholism is baffling. Still one never knows when a spiritual awakening might occur, so one must always be there for those who struggle and never give up. That the one there for Ben was Sera who was also in a struggle should not have mattered. Often two who are suffering can paradoxically help each other. Bill W. and Dr. Bob are perfect examples and the result not only saved themselves, but countless others through AA.—a true spiritual awakening.

Leaving Las Vegas


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Leaving Las Vegas is a powerful, yet tasteful portrayal of alcoholism and love. Nicholas Cage plays a businessman who, through the overuse of alcohol, loses his family and his job. As a self-confessing drunk, he becomes brash and obnoxious. With no friends he heads off to hurl himself into the grandest human-made pit in the world—Las Vegas.

Amide the splendour of bright lights and a soundtrack of music including Sting and including My One and Only Love, we travel with Ben as he discovers a world where he can let go and fall into the pit of gambling, prostitution, drugs and, of course, alcohol. He takes a room in a seedy hotel and wanders his way into a stupor.

Elizabeth Shue plays a prostitute who befriends Ben and she eventually takes him in. Sera and Ben have an unexplainable bond and an unlikely non-sexual relationship. She is beautiful, yet showing wear from her life in prostitution; he is middle-aged with thinning wiry hair and gaining a growing gaunt look from not caring for himself and too much alcohol. Drawn closer by love, Sera spends her nights working the streets while Ben travels down his road of destruction. During the day they enjoy short bursts of being together.

While Ben is entirely out of control throughout the movie, Sera is also trapped by her life of prostitution. They accept each other, yet seem to long for each to find their own way out. Ben had instructed Sera, “You can never, ever, ask me to stop drinking.” She replies in agreement “I know.” Yet later she says, “I want you to see a doctor.” “No, no doctor,” replies Ben.

It is difficult to identify what takes a person down particular destructive roads. Ben can’t understand why Sera can care for him and calls her his angel. Someone tells him that drinking is a way of killing himself, to which he with a smile replies to the man, “Killing myself is a way of drinking.”

I found the movie to be tasteful in showing the deep extensive darkness of a world where most of our society thankfully never venture. In a scene, where Sera is tragically beaten and raped by some young college men out for a thrill in Vegas, we see only enough to understand the painfulness of such an experience. Yet it is not enough pain for Sera to get away from her slavery to that world.

In depicting alcoholism, there are no stops. Cage plays the battle with stark and shocking realism. I awoke in the morning realizing that, as we came to believe and understand, ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’

We all live trapped lives to some extent and the deeper pits are always waiting just around the corner for us to fall into. It happens to so many in our society and world. On the merry-go-round and downward spiral, it is difficult to get off. We may reach the point where we think, ‘Stop the world, I want to get off.’

Speaking of pits, my favourite jazz musician is cornet player Bix Beiderbecke who lived in the 1920s amide the early days of jazz and bathtub gin. His life was one of spiralling into the pit of alcoholism from which he never returned. His music is always clear, inspired, full of energy and life. It stands in striking contrast to his life, never hinting to the true pain he lived with.

Yesterday, I played my cornet in church with the choir. I had never done this before and never played that type of music. It was a challenge and exhausting both physically, mentally and musically. It was exhausting musically because of the key signatures and the variety of sheet music, or lack of for some songs, ranging from choral arrangements to lyrics and chords, from the seventeenth century to the present.

I think it was physically and mentally challenging because I have not really played much since I was young as a kid. I was a record collector of vintage jazz and swing from the 20s, 30s and 40s. I spent a lot of my time buying records and hanging around jazz.

While living in the US going to college, I met many musicians; some in the pits of human existence. I once took in a fellow who I found in a jazz joint; he had been kicked out of his house and with no place to go. As a child prodigy trumpet player, he had ended up playing in Las Vegas. Because of dentures, he had switched to flugelhorn. As a regular sitting-in with the band he then became a bartender there. When I would walk in, a drink would immediately land in my hand. Sadly he died before his time.


I bought my cornet from a fellow whom I was listening to regularly. He was leaving town for a new opportunity and sold it to me for $100, including a new hard case. It was the top professional cornet from the manufacturer. Thankfully he is still alive and playing today. He informed me that the other owners I also knew well. Two of them have passed before their time.

The history of human existence is littered with the stories of those who fell into a pit and were unable to crawl out. They struggle, become numb, lose traction in life and succumb. They become lost; there is only one way out for them. I fell into that pit. Over thirty years ago, I was lifted out. I know with all surety that the pit is just one step away. The movie Leaving Las Vegas is a realistic and shocking reminder.


Special Note:

After writing this, I did some reading about the movie. Some remarks from reviewers indicated the movie had far more explicit content than what I had seen on TV. Perhaps I was so taken by Cage’s incredible performance that I simply missed it. However, my wife would have insisted it be turned off. One remark stated that the DVD version had scenes not in the theatre cut of the film. Someone confirmed this by obtaining a copy from the library.

The movie was very compelling to me and when I discovered that there is some very explicit content absent from the version I saw, I was somewhat creeped-out and felt cheated and betrayed. I had said here that the movie was tasteful, yet it seems to have an explicit twin that is so much more like the trashy sex obsessed material that Hollywood puts out minus the happy ending. I had thought that Hollywood had finally been able to deal with some very disturbing subject matter, take it to the edge and yet not cross the line into having to show the filth.

The movie was disturbing enough in the way it portrayed alcoholism and the death wish driven addiction that goes to the heart of humanity. I want to point out and state to Hollywood that a movie can be amazingly compelling without going over the edge. I feel it is a far greater accomplishment to get the message across, be entirely artful, without crossing the line. Please Hollywood, think about this. The human mind is powerful and can get the message without being bombed.


See Leaving Las Vegas (too)