whats-that-up-there

Weather or Not We’re Together


I don’t want to startle anyone … but there’s been quite a lot of blue in the sky lately, and there’s this big yellowy orange ‘ball’ up there as well ….  and it’s been getting kind of warmer, too. Should I worry?

Oh lawdy .. could Spring be nearing? It’s felt like years since looking out the window promised anything but snow and a hulking grey sky crouched like a monstrous beast over the rooftops. I have seen the hazy shade of winter, and I’m well  and truly over it.

Hey … it’s true … we had a mere 48.8 hours of sunlight in January. Even the seasonal average of 85 hours for the month of January sucks, but we got almost half of that! Now that we’re sneaking up to March, these warmer and sunnier days are feeling like a trailer for what’s to come.

The weather has always had an enormous affect on our psyches. It’s why we want to run away to somewhere tropical during the winter, or why some of us develop Seasonal Affective Disorder that is helped only by artificial sunlight. It’s a real thing.  The lizard brain craves sun and warmth.

Don’t take my word for it; Terry Jacks told us years ago that to have joy and fun, we needed seasons in the sun. Were you not paying attention? Did you not believe Terry Jacks?!?!?

human_fingerprints_450Now, I’m not gonna go off on a rant here, about global warming, and whether or not it’s caused by human activity. For one thing, it’s too nice a day to argue. It was 11 degrees yesterday, and it’s nearly 10 degrees today already; seriously, not wasting my time on deniers. Mama wants to gambol where flowers will soon be.

And anyone who’s still hanging on to their denial ..well, they’re probably too far gone to reach anyway.

But you do have to wonder if part of the refutation of climate change stems from our unconscious knowledge of weather’s effect on our psyches. The uncertainty, the rapid changes that have occurred to the planet as we heat it up – all this troubles our equilibrium, that has learned, by observation and over time, what to expect at given periods of the year. If it’s January in Toronto, there should be snow and cold. If, in February, some dude shows up to a bar looking comfortable in shorts and a wife-beater tee, you’re going to do a double take.

Remember the good old days, when 2014 was the hottest year on record? Then 2015 took first spot? Well, now 2016 has that distinction. And as we get closer to the summer of 2017, it might be prudent to be worried about what heights we’ll hit this year.

Australia‘s already in summer – and it is scary down there. The temps are way out of control, reaching highs in the mid 40s (mid 110s in Fahrenheit) in some places. Australia’s DailyTelegraph.com recently did an in-depth special news feature proving how much hotter the continent has gotten, and speculating on what further heights were in the future.  Will Canada have that to look forward to as well?

I can’t think about that now; life is short, and so am I. All I know is that spring is coming, which means I can finally ditch the thermal socks and long johns. I don’t care how cute and colourful they make flannel pyjamas, those pjs are never gonna inspire anything but sneezles and wheezles. A girl .. shoot, even an old lady! … wants to feel wild and free, not bound by heavy down-stuffed coats and sensible slippers.

Bring on the sun, and crank up the tunes, baby!

No matter our age, we need that good, good sunshine to make us feel alive. I could go into all the benefits of sensible sun-seeking, with multiple annotated reminders to wear sunscreen, but .. hell no. I want me some sun, and I want it now!

I am more than ready to pack away the sweaters and boots and let t-shirts and strappy sandals back into my life. I know, I have to wait a few months more before warm becomes norm … but I’m good with that, as long as dreamy summer nights and patios are in my future. I want to sip a smart cocktail in 75 degree weather, face gently kissed by the sun, as I sit and watch the world go by. Is that so much to ask? Would you deny me that?

Spring is around the corner, and those lazy, hazy days of summer will be upon us in good time. Here’s hoping that the promise of blue skies, and hot fun in the summertime, keeps us relatively unscathed through the next few turbulent months. I’m jonesing to morph my obsession with politics into a passion for maintaining good tan lines and the taking of long walks on the beach when the moon is in the seventh house …

But for now … let the sun shine in!

 

go-away-monster-spray

Monsters Under The Bed


“They’re bad people and they’re pouring in, and it’s ISIS and San Bernadino, and Chicago, I mean, look at Chicago .. it’s hell. There are bad dudes coming in here, bad hombres, bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do …”  (SNL, Feb 11/2017)

Do we laugh or cry over Trump’s first 100 days, which he’s cunningly sandwiched into three weeks? At least that’s how it feels, as every day seems to bring some new crisis to the fore, whether by tiny finger tweets, or CNN alerts, or hysterical ‘breaking news!’ posts on social media.

bannon-as-rasputinIt’s exhausting. It’s truly exhausting and it’s designed to keep the nation and the world off kilter. In the biz – the biz of demoralizing a nation prior to establishing a dictatorship, that is  – a shock event is an order that has been designed to throw society into chaos. Any student of war and destabilization knows that these events work very well ..too well, actually.

Unless you are the person setting it up, it is in no one’s interest to play the shock event game,” Heather Cox Richardson, a Boston College historian wrote on Facebook last Sunday, “It is designed explicitly to divide people who might otherwise come together so they cannot stand against something its authors think they won’t like. Such an event is unexpected and confusing and throws a society into chaos. People scramble to react to the event, usually along some fault line that those responsible for the event can widen by claiming that they alone know how to restore order. ”

twitlerIt’s too much, this daily bludgeoning. It’s like there is no escaping his grasp .. he’s here, he’s there, he’s bloody everywhere, attacking everything in sight, rushing through executive orders that tear at the fabric of society, as though he’s Santa Claus granting every nasty request on every nasty Republican politician’s wet dream wish list.

And it would seem that those who have been waiting for this overreaching power can find no axe too small to grind, no neck too thin to chop.

While the major executive orders, like the Muslim ban, have galvanized the nation, he’s slipped through all sorts of ‘minor’ cuts to American life, that not even those who are in the field can keep up with. Got a pet? Enjoy it while you can – the regulations around the welfare of animals and of pet food safety are going to be scrapped. pet-food-trump

While there were eleven cases last year where a pet food was pulled from the shelves in order to prevent poisoning pets, the cost to pet food companies was apparently too high. So, bye bye Fido food integrity, hello pet poisoning and soaring stock shares!

The reach is so extensive, the bad executive orders so intent on pummelling us from every direction, that it’s hard to focus on anything but the TrumpReich. Some say that this is a way of giving us “protest fatigue, ” which will not only give beleaguered Republican politicians a break from the nation berating them, but that will eventually cause us to lose our will to continue the fight, regardless of further negative actions.

trump-in-bathrobe-white-houseI can see that. It’s all too much. The thing is, people aren’t wired to process this much change on a daily basis. We don’t want to deal with disruptions day and night; we want to have a break from the onslaught, a chance to put up our feet and relax at the end of the day.

I think Trump himself needs a break from it too. He’s completely out of his depth, trying to make his puppet masters happy by signing off on their Machiavellian demands, unread and not understood,  with the grin of a four year old desperate to please mummy, but meanwhile, at least according to White House leaks, unable to sleep, and wandering through strange rooms in his bathrobe in the middle of the night.

go-away-monster-sprayAnd sadly, all of this chaos and disruption is having the exact opposite effect to what he intended to portray. Rather than appearing a strong man and in control, his raving paranoia makes him seem in need of some ‘nightmare control spray.”

Toxic, incompetent, and weak, according to Der Spiegel Online:  “His disdain for human rights, misogyny and religious bigotry stands as a barrier with America’s traditional allies. His incompetence, ignorance, and unwillingness to learn makes him untouchable for nations in the balance. His weakness, combined with belligerent, pigheaded stubbornness, makes him both easily controlled … and easily discarded.”

I mean, when a beleaguered country says, “thanks but no thanks” to assistance .. you’ve really got to reassess what you consider as your strengths.

“Angry at the civilian casualties incurred last month in the first commando raid authorized by President Trump, Yemen has withdrawn permission for the United States to run Special Operations ground missions against suspected terrorist groups in the country, according to American officials.”  (nytimes.com, 02/07/2017)

We feel it here, in Canada, even as we are essentially helpless to prevent disastrous events. All we can do is protest, and signal our anger and disdain for this new definition of what America and Americans believe.

My cousin, Kieron Donovan, sent this clip around to members of my family this week, adding,  “When I saw this clip, it sent chills down my spine. The values and conviction of purpose our parents used in bringing us up were forged in poverty and war. We were the first ‘entitled’ generation who decided that they were all wrong and so we rebelled against everything that they stood for. But as I try to direct my son into becoming a compassionate and giving human being, it’s not the 60’s generation I look to for guidance. In the face of corrupted ideals and moral decay found all around us, I use words and concepts that are foreign to my son and his peers. Words like integrity, loyalty and discipline. Words that were rarely used but fully realized by those who had survived and sacrificed the best years of their lives. Strange, I always thought of myself as a left over hippy born 10 years too late, while coming of age in the chemically hung over 70’s. My ideals haven’t changed since I was 20 but the values I preach to my son belong to his grandparents. Judging by the way everything is today, maybe they had it right after all.”

elizabeth-warren-put-up-or-shut-upThis was the American stance in the fifties. I think, for the majority of Americans, it still is. Maybe they need to remember their own history, and discard the revisionist fantasies of Trump’s Rasputin, Steve Bannon. This is not an America made great – it’s an America brought low by greed and selfishness. Not fighting, as one might think, to serve the people, but rather racing to the bottom to suck corporate dollars, aggressively and maliciously pursuing a race to the bottom.

I take much encouragement from the pushback we’ve seen this week, as Trump has had the Muslim ban overturned by the saner judiciary (though I’ve doubt we’ve heard the last of this yet; today’s Washington Post says that he and Bannon are busily re-writing the order to squeak it past the courts.) The FEC‘s chairwoman also had harsh words concerning Trump’s repeated allegations of voter fraud, demanding evidence to prove his words.  At long last, we are not expected to accept, “I feel, ” “I hear,” or “people are saying” in lieu of hard evidence.

Reports of Trump’s cronies and Republican politicians being stood up to, by the media and citizens, is also heartening. We were all taken by surprise at the complete lack of civility or reality in the first two weeks of the TrumpReich, and that had many wondering if there was ever again going to be truth and reality in an ‘alternative facts’ world. We can only hope that Americans, whether in the media, politics, or the citizenry, continue to fight against  the dystopic world Trump’s advisors are trying so hard to put into place.

 

(first published Jan 12/2017 @bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/roxanne-tellier-monsters-under-the-bed/)

 

 

 

trump_nuclear_codes

The End of History?


I wrote this column just days after the election, but was so dispirited that I never published it on Frustrated Boomers. Two weeks into the Trump presidency, it bears repeating.

This morning, Neil Postman‘s son, Andrew, wrote something along the same lines. It is worth reading.

quote: “Our public discourse has become so trivialized, it’s astounding that we still cling to the word “debates” for what our presidential candidates do onstage when facing each other. Really? Who can be shocked by the rise of a reality TV star, a man given to loud, inflammatory statements, many of which are spectacularly untrue but virtually all of which make for what used to be called “good television”?

Who can be appalled when the coin of the realm in public discourse is not experience, thoughtfulness or diplomacy but the ability to amuse – no matter how maddening or revolting the amusement?

…. For all the ways one can define fascism (and there are many), one essential trait is its allegiance to no idea of right but its own: it is, in short, ideological narcissism. It creates a myth that is irrefutable (much in the way that an image’s “truth” cannot be disproved), in perpetuity, because of its authoritarian, unrestrained nature.

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/feb/02/amusing-ourselves-to-death-neil-postman-trump-orwell-huxley?CMP=share_btn_fb

And here is my column, originally published on November 27th, on Bob Segarini‘s wonderful site, “Don’t Believe A Word I Say.”

.***********.

When we’re confused by where we are, it’s important to look at where we’ve been.

Confusion, uncertainty, masked as fear, pride, or hubris, reigns in all of us in these last days of 2016. What a year! I’m tempted to ride out the last bit hiding under my bed with my cats.

I don’t think Trump could have been elected in any other year but 2016. Not only has it been a year where we’ve lost so many of those whom we respected and loved, but a year where the horrific has become commonplace, whats-aleppowhere democracy is shoved aside as unfriendly to business,  where opinion (literally) trumped logic,  and the slaughter of millions of innocents barely raises an eyebrow.

“What is Aleppo?”  Gary Johnson asked “What is Aleppo,” while seeking the office of President of the United States. America … you have much to answer for.

We have to understand that we would never have come to this moment in history without a lot of groundwork being laid. George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, amongst others, foretold days like these; it’s been in the works for quite some time. huxley-vs-orwellPerhaps Huxley, in Brave New World, understood our impressionability more than Orwell did in 1984 … it’s not that we are being denied books or access to information, it’s that we prefer entertainment to knowledge.

From the foreword to Neil Postman‘s Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1986, Penguin edition:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distraction.” In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”

It’s not being a conspiracy theorist to understand that there are market forces, globally, that need certain conditions to occur, in order to sustain capitalism, and that those forces will do whatever is necessary to create and sustain those conditions. However capitalism, of necessity, must eventually eat itself, since it is based on continual growth.

Before we move into the next era, post capitalism, we have to deal with the mess that capitalism has made, not just to the planet, but to our thinking. We have to understand that we have been willing lambs to the slaughter of intelligence and sober thought, distracted by shiny things that hold our limited attention for seconds before our constant craving for the next sensation propels us on to the next shiny thing.

north-korea-bomb“The world’s nuclear clock  sits at one second to midnight .. but first, a word from our sponsor.”    

We have to come to grips with a constant rage that bubbles beneath the surface of our collective consciousness, a rage that has no real focus, but seizes on whatever temporarily irritates or annoys us, that compels an acting out far beyond what the situation warrants.

We have to accept that we have been lied to, in the name of business, as our resources have been seized and ruined for future generations, as species become extinct due to their habitats being stolen from them. Human greed and human need have made the chances of your great-grandchildren ever seeing a real live elephant, slim.

politicians-before-and-afterAnd, in what I consider truly tragic, we still have to somehow find a sense of trust in those we elect to lead us into this uncertain future, and I don’t know if we can suspend that much disbelief any more.  There comes a point at which we simply can’t deny that each successive political  ‘saviour’ is just a new mask on an old face of treachery, bought and paid for by market forces.

Billions of our hard earned tax dollars have been frittered away on projects benefiting commerce, not the people. In Ontario alone, before privatization of Hydro One,  it was run by one president, one vice-president, one department head, and so on. The president’s annual salary was around $420,000. Today, in Ontario ‘s Hydro (between the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), Hydro One and the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) (all three Public Sector Agencies)), the president reportedly earns around $4million annually, and there are 11,879 employees who make more than $100,000/year. These top earners draw combined annual earnings of over 1.6 billion dollars. 626 in management positions are making more than $200,000/year…

… while many Ontarions are having to decide whether they can afford heating or eating this winter, because they can’t come up with the money for both.

And yet, this week we’ve heard that our Prime Minister has been making the rounds, intent on privatizing yet more of the country’s assets, despite economical and historical data proving that privatization of assets can add a minimum of a third of the costs to taxpayers, when internal positions are outsourced.

Canadians on a government pension of $12 to $14K a year can only pretend for so long that the enormous government wages and pensions of civil servants and politicians make any sort of logical or humane sense.

well-dressed-lobstersDespite no recent Prime Minister having been elected with a clear majority or mandate, sweeping changes that will affect Canadians for generations have been put into place over the last few decades, with barely a whimper.  Or, if a whimper was murmured, it was simply ignored. At best, we changed lobsters and continued the dance.

And we can only look on from afar and pray for American’s who are, like it or not, about to have their historical clock turned back to the ‘good ol’ days’ of segregation, back alley abortions, internment camps, and increasing civil unrest.

Many think we’re at a pivotal moment in time, although  the events of 2016 may pale in light of other ‘really terrible years,’ like 1347-50, when the Black Death took a third of Europe’s population;  1492, when the indigenous people of America invited the wrong people to dinner;  Ireland’s Potato Famine of 1845; or  Europe in 1943, when the Holocaust deaths were at their height. Certainly, Syrians will name 2016th as their country’s nadir.

franz-ferdinand-1914From History Today, ” If I was forced to name the worst year, it would probably be 1914. In July of that year, a European order that had brought peace, prosperity and extraordinary artistic and scientific progress, began to unravel. The vast conflict that followed led directly to the Russian Revolution, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, the atomic bomb, the Cold War and the mess that is the modern Middle East. Only in 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, did we enter a relatively stable period – the ‘End of History’ – before it came crashing down on September 11th, 2001. ”

So – we’ve been here before. However I don’t think there’s precedent for this year of Syria and Iraq; unparalleled devastation creating a flood of refugees fleeing for their lives; Europe’s epidemic of terrorism, Brexit,  the Zika outbreak, horrific civil unrest in Turkey, growing racial tension in the United States; famine in northern Nigeria,  American peaceful protests being met with aggressive military engagement; and possibly worst of all, the unholy alliance of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin … these are this year’s trials. homeless-world-cup-2016

What comes after the “End of History?” Whatever happens next, it is certainly a time when the decisions and actions we – as a people – take now, will determine where we go from here, and will define not just North America’s future, but the entire planet’s.

 

 

MARY TYLER MOORE OPENING CREDITS

Where is Mary Tyler Moore When We Need Her?


In 1970, Mary Richards and The Mary Tyler Moore Show debuted to a changing world. Women like my mum, who had left school in grade 9 during the Great Depression, were watching the rise of feminism, and wondering how the heck they were supposed to react and behave.  Men, like my dad, felt incredibly threatened by this new role of women in the workforce – where would that leave them? Would women take all the jobs? And how were they supposed to treat this ‘new woman’ in the workplace?

I had already been in the workforce for a few years, and was standing by to see what the world would throw at me. I’d seen offices where only men had any power, and where women, and especially older women, were taken advantage of economically, regardless of ability or seniority. I’d applied for jobs where the only criteria was attractiveness, and the dress code required a specific model of push up bra.

I had been raised to believe I could do anything – as long as ‘anything’ involved being a nurse, teacher, secretary, stewardess, waitress, or housewife. And as long as my husband approved. But now a larger world was opening up, and the Mary character gave viewers a chance to  watch, from the comfort of their own homes, how this might play out for themselves.

My mum completely identified with Mary, the vulnerable, good girl, who wanted to appease everyone, even at the expense of her own feelings. Mary was single, female, over 30, professional, independent, smart, and funny. Mary faced issues an older generation had never before confronted, like equal pay, birth control, and sexual independence – sex without the blessing of marriage.

Mary’s superpower was her friendships, both those with other women, like Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper); Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman); Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel); and Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White), and with the men she interacted with at the TV station where she worked.

At work,  Mary was a sisterly presence. She was smart, did her job well, and could laugh with the guys. Although she hated confrontation, she could still muster up the courage to talk back to the irascible Lou Grant, her boss and editor. Eventually, even he had to admit how good a co-worker she was, despite her ‘spunk.’

As the series grew more popular, repeated viewing made anxieties about women in the work force seem silly .. after all, Mary was an Every Woman. They could relai-hate-spunkte to Mary. The normalization calmed their fears, and made people realize that they could relate to a drastic social change.

When Mary Tyler Moore died last week, I thought a lot about the contrast between how we are dealing with the vast social and economic changes of today, as opposed to then.

It’s frightening to those who want to cling to the world as it was. And yet at the same time, we don’t want to give up our ability to access pretty much anything we want online, order it with a click, and have it delivered to our door within a few days.  What we don’t see is that we’ve stopped shopping in stores .. and so those jobs and stores no longer exist.

global-gdpWe want to pay as little as possible for any given thing.  Corporations heard us; they outsourced manual labour to countries where they could pay lower salaries. And so those jobs, which we used to do here, no longer exist.

The reality of climate change, and the shifting of energy resources are, of necessity, pulling focus away from oil and coal, and putting the spotlight on renewable energy. Sure, there are more jobs available now in renewables, but what do you do if you’re a career coal miner? The mine’s been shut down, and those jobs are never going to come back.

Widespread automation is in our future; Oxford University predicted that 47% of all jobs – of every kind – will disappear in the next 25 years.

“The Trump campaign ran on bringing jobs back to American shores, although mechanization has been the biggest reason for manufacturing jobs’ disappearance. Similar losses have led to populist movements in several other countries. But instead of a pro-job growth future, economists across the board predict further losses as AI, robotics, and other technologies continue to be ushered in. What is up for debate is how quickly this is likely to occur.

Now, an expert at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania is ringing the alarm bells. According to Art Bilger, venture capitalist and board member at the business school, all the developed nations on earth will see job loss rates of up to 47% within the next 25 years, according to a recent Oxford study. “No government is prepared,” The Economist reports. These include blue and white collar jobs. So far, the loss has been restricted to the blue collar variety, particularly in manufacturing.

Robot ironing clothes

Unemployment today is significant in most developed nations and it’s only going to get worse. By 2034, just a few decades, mid-level jobs will be by and large obsolete. So far the benefits have only gone to the ultra-wealthy, the top 1%. This coming technological revolution is set to wipe out what looks to be the entire middle class. Not only will computers be able to perform tasks more cheaply than people, they’ll be more efficient too.

Accountants, doctors, lawyers, teachers, bureaucrats, and financial analysts beware: your jobs are not safe. According to The Economist, computers will be able to analyze and compare reams of data to make financial decisions or medical ones. There will be less of a chance of fraud or misdiagnosis, and the process will be more efficient. Not only are these folks in trouble, such a trend is likely to freeze salaries for those who remain employed, while income gaps only increase in size. You can imagine what this will do to politics and social stability. “   (http://bigthink.com/philip-perry/47-of-jobs-in-the-next-25-years-will-disappear-according-to-oxford-university)

Now, the thing is, good leadership would have been following up on this inevitable trend and coming class shake-up. And some countries have been following the curve, and are placing more emphasis on careers outside of the previous generation’s scope.

However, several countries have instead taken the opposite approach – the one known as sticking your fingers in your ears, closing your eyes, and chanting ‘la la la la la’ in the hopes that this will all go back to the way it used to be, when you reopen your eyes.

Sadly – that’s not in the cards. The genie is not going back into the bottle. Long term solutions need to broached immediately, if we are not to find ourselves in a Soylent Green world.

The economy will expect middle aged, middle class, workers to retrain or be left behind. There will be resistance to that idea, especially amongst those who have laboured under student debt from their previous career.

self-driving-truckAnd what role will self-driving vehicles play in a future economy? Long haul truckers, cab drivers and couriers will find themselves out of work – not tomorrow, but within the next decade. And that’s a whole lot of drivers.

These are real, valid concerns that must be addressed. A guaranteed basic income might be the only solution possible for as many as half of all country’s populations. We could be on the verge of a complete societal breakdown – or a future Utopia, a world in which people are free to pursue their interests, instead of working at jobs that just pay the bills.

Be that as it may, one thing that will NOT help to move countries or the economy forward is isolationism or pathetic jingoism. Time and again, this type of “America First” pseudo patriotism has proved a failure.

donald-trump-america-firstWhen Trump said,  “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries” while depleting our own. And,: “The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world, ” he was outlining ” a world in which foreign relations are collapsed into a zero-sum game. They gain, we lose. ” (http://www.nationalreview.com/article/444321/trump-foreign-policy-isolationsim-america-first-allies-nato-trans-pacific-partnership)

He is wrong. He is appealing to the petty, the un/ and under-educated, the greedy,  and the small minded who can’t understand why they can’t have all of the goodies of 2017, while living in a rosy coloured Disneyland complete with talking animals, and perfectly behaved women and children. A world where America does whatever the hell it wants, any time and anywhere.

A perfect example of that kind of mentality was shown on the weekend as Trump’s knee-jerk executive order targeted citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries, forbidding them entry to U.S. soil – AND also targeted U.S. legal residents from the named countries — green-card holders — who were abroad when it was signed.

trump-protest-noban-jan-2017The order was signed as many were on planes, en route to America.

When those enforcing these bans, as dictated by the Department of Homeland Security, were asked by citizens or their lawyers to whom they must address their concerns, they were sneeringly told to  “Speak to President Trump.”

This should make Americans frightened. These actions throw out not only the Constitution, but democracy itself, with Trump as the ultimate arbiter for all charged with any offence he makes up on the spot.

The thing is … it’s not just Trump’s fault. It’s the fault of all of the governments and political parties all over the civilized world that have ignored the economic reality that has been creeping up on us for decades. Political parties that stirred up fear, painting a picture of a dystopic land, as Trump did when he described America as akin to a Hieronymus Bosch painting of ” American carnage,” with “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

That is not a true picture of America, though it may well be the carnage he leaves behind after his time as President is over.

Americans were not being told, “you’re gonna make it after all.” Instead, they were being told that the only way to make it is to take it from others.

passing-the-buckPolitical parties that relied upon cutting taxes rather than shoring up their infrastructures and their citizens needs, just to get re-elected, are to be blamed. Every party, every country, big and small, passed that big buck along to their successors, enriching corporations and themselves in the process, while ignoring and angering their constituents, who had trusted them to explain what they needed to know and understand about their future.

They COULD have worked with the education system to update what is offered in order to live in a modern, automated society. They COULD have worked with scientists warning of the dangerous effects of climate change, and put into place safeguards that would have saved lives. They COULD have told corporations that they would not be allowed to hold consumers or governments hostage in order to raise corporate profit, but instead would be taxed at a rate that allowed the country to replace what was being taken from them.

But that would not have gotten them re-elected.

walking-dead-castAnd so, there were no television series like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, that allowed citizens to normalize a changing present and a very different future. Instead, there was a rise in conspiratorial, dystopic, dramas, and a rush to fairytale land, that deified cartoon superheroes, and fantasy characters. Reality shows, that weren’t really reality, appealed to the minority and the niche groups. And an entire genre of television catered to the needs of ‘preppers,‘ those that would stand alone and defend what little they had when the inevitable (to them) collapse of society occurred.

This is a tearing apart of society, a sorting process that places each individual into smaller and smaller groups, separating and dividing. Rather than a coming together of people to work with, rather than against, change, to accept globalization and automation as a positive advance, ‘disrupters‘ have chosen to tear nations apart, to pit citizen against citizen, for power, for wealth, and for their own self-aggrandizement.

I don’t miss the past; I’ve been there, and it wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But I will miss the days when politicians worked with and for the people, rather than for their own self-interests, and on the backs of the people they have forgotten, to whom they owe their jobs.

 

 

(originally published at bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2017/01/29/roxanne-tellier-where-is-mary-tyler-moore-when-we-need-her/)

 

This is an Oct. 1970 photo of rock singer Janis Joplin.  (AP Photo)

Time Travelling 101 with Janis and Jan


Some people think it would be great fun to be able to travel back in time to their youth, where they could relive the golden days of radio, nickel bags, and mega concerts where tickets ran you less than the cost of a TTC token today.

hippiesAnd certainly, there were good times to be had in the 60’s and 70’s, and I have tons of fond fuzzy memories of elephant pants and go-go boots, Sassoon haircuts, and Mary Quant and Twiggy makeup tips.

But for all of the good recollections … Let me just say that, if you ever do get a chance to go back – make sure you’ve got a way to return to the present. Especially if you’re a woman, or a person of colour. Trust me on that.

Even with the Cheeto Jesus now in possession of the nuclear launch codes, this time in history is actually one of the best of all ages. And hopefully, the positive changes will not come to a screeching halt, despite the Republicans’ best efforts.

When someone opines wistfully on the `good ol`days,` and how much better life was then, they always have one corollary – they’d like to be able to go back to their early life, but as a healthy youth, and with the wisdom they’ve acquired since those callow days. Otherwise, they’d just make the some mistakes over again.

But that’s how being young works. Yes, you get the hair, and the energy, and hopefully, a nice fit body that can see and hear pretty darn well … but you also get the `stupids.`  That’s the deal.

janis-joplinOne of my favorite memories of my own misspent youth is of the first and only time I saw Janis Joplin perform live. The Montreal Forum, November 4, 1969. It was every thing I had hoped for – and more.  I was first struck dumb by her presence and energy, and when that had passed, I rushed, like the thousands of others in the audience, to the stage front, to try and capture just a hint of that glorious essence by being closer to her.

She wailed, she flailed, she spun like a dervish, laughing hysterically between songs, chugging from the ever present 26er of Southern Comfort. She held us all, willingly, in the palm of her hand.

 

I had played her album Cheap Thrills, released in  ’68 with Big Brother and the Holding Company, until the grooves wore white. I not only knew her every word and inflection, I could even whistle the solos. I was a bona fide, dyed in the wool, Janis freak.

A piece of my heart died when she did, on October 4, 1970. Just 27, she had crammed so much life into just a few years, left an indelible impression, and then … she was gone. Although many have tried to imitate her trademark sound, few have come close. That voice was powered by a wild soul that nothing could tame, and no amount of stage magic can reproduce.

Just as with all of the other wonderful artists we’ve lost, you can’t help but wonder if they would have become even more remarkable as they aged, and as time and experience tempered their spirits. What would Janis be like, were she alive today?jan-kudelka-janis-tranzac-4-jan-18-17

Jan Kudelka, another lifelong Janis fan, wondered the same thing. But her ponderings went further, launching a series of performance art pieces over the years, including last week’s Janis Joplin’s 74th Birthday Bash.

The Tranzac‘s theatre was transformed into the perfect setting for Joplin’s return, as the ever faithful fans gathered.  Musicians Michelle Willis (keys), Tyler Wagler (bass), Martin Worthy (drums) and David Gray (guitar), ably laid down the groove to “Combination of the Two,” working the beat while Kudelka worked the audience, before swanning onto the stage.

For the next two forty minute sets, the audience sang along, hummed along, and happily lost themselves in Kudelka’s heartfelt interpretations of Joplin’s greatest hits, interspersed with thoughts, memories, and poesies on the singer’s short but incandescent life.

jan-kudelka-janis-tranzac-2-jan-18-17And in that time, we who were actually young when Janis was young, who first heard these songs on our radios or our portable record players or were in the audience when she toured, bottle firmly in hand, and wailed her way into our hearts, were able once more to revisit a time when everything seemed possible.

 

We – and the world – were young, wild, and free. Janis Joplin was the female embodiment of the wild woman spirit of the sixties. And we’d like to think that we had just a little of that wildness back then too. That’s what we want to time travel back to – and why it’s not possible. The world changed, and so did we. We can only move forward in time. If we are given the gift of aging, we must accept it as is, even when it comes with the baggage of becoming old.

jan-kudelka-janis-joplinBut the gift that  Kudelka gave us, by channelling Joplin’s spirit and music, was a chance to go back to our adolescence in our minds, to forget momentarily that, while we may be wiser, we are also greyer, stiffer, and a lot less supple than we once were. This Janis, then, a Janis Joplin that survived, and was celebrating a 74th birthday by once again sharing her talent .. this Janis relit the candle that aging, politics, and a general societal malaise seeks to extinguish in our hearts.

And damned if all of us in the audience didn’t leave the experience walking a little taller, feeling a little lighter, with a spring in our steps and a song on our lips.

A generous gift indeed, Ms Kudelka. I look forward to next January, and Joplin’s 75th birthday bash.

 

(first published @https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2017/01/22/roxanne-tellier-time-travelling-101-with-janis-and-jan/ )

 

happy-sleepy-baby

That Was Sixteen. Going on Seventeen


2016 is gone. Moving on isn’t the slightest bit difficult. 2017 is going to be … interesting, oh yes it will. Doesn’t seem any other option than to muddle our way through whatever’s this way coming. Fingers crossed it’s not too wicked.

supermoon-imageFor me, this year has begun differently than many I’ve experienced in the past. Selling the house and moving into the city has brought a lot more freedom into my life. That light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be not an oncoming train, but rather a beautiful fat moon, always just out of reach, but wonderful to see.

Happiness doesn’t require that you have a lot of anything. In fact, I think if you have too much, you’re more concerned with keeping what you’ve got or of striving to get more, than enjoying what you have. No. “Enough” is what you want. Enough for freedom from want, enough to bMicrosoft Word - n2342-recycling.doce able to relax into your life and appreciate what you’ve got. Enough to be in control of your own life, but not so much that you seek to control others.

So in the first two weeks of this new year, I’ve seen more bands than I did in all of 2016, had several lovely brunches with good friends, and discovered that quitting smoking was the best gift I’d ever given myself. There’s been more laughter, and less tears. More singing and less coughing.

As much as I fear for what is in store for our neighbours to the South in the coming months, I also have relinquished the belief that anything I say or do will make the slightest bit of difference. It won’t. I can’t. So, although I’ll keep passing along jabs at the Orange Jayzus,  I’m handing over the burden of fear to those poor benighted Americans.

dead mans switch Outer Limits.jpgBut I do have a sneaking suspicion that many in government are not who or what they seem. Remember that Outer Limits episode, Dead Man’s Switch, where a lowly soldier mans the button  that controls activation of a final revenge weapon that will wipe out the earth should invading aliens turn out to be hostile? The final scene reveals that aliens are indeed parasites controlling the actions of those in charge, while the earth lies in ruin.

I’m not saying that TeeRump has an alien tucked under those oversized jackets, but there’s no denying that that makeup and spray tan can be seen from space.

******************

Here in Toronto, it would seem that Mayor Tory’s vision of a Music City‘ is more of a pipe dream. You can’t ask the venues to supercharge the city’s revenues, while simultaneously squeezing them for more taxes, charges and rents. Petty limitations and fines will not inspire club owners to new heights.

The venerable Hugh’s Room was the most recent victim of circumstance, abruptly closing it’s doors in the midst of financial struggle.  It does seem like there’s hope for the venue re-opening though, as a committee has been formed to focus on restructuring and reopening, and changing the club’s ownership structure to a non-profit, board-run model. I do hope so .. this is a prime venue, with so much well deserved good will and respect, that it would be a pity to just let it die on the vine.

One of the acts that was displaced due to the closure is Jan Kudelka‘s one woman tribute to Janis Joplin. She is bringing her celebration of Joplin’s 74th Birthday Bash to the Tranzac instead, this Wednesday the 18th, at 8:30.

“The Queen of Psychedelic Soul is back for one night only! After smashing sold-out shows in 2015 and 2016, singer and performer Jan Kudelka conjures and celebrates the beloved blues/rock trailblazer Janis Joplin with a 74th birthday bash on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at the TRANZAC CLUB backed by her stellar band! Do not miss this intimate journey into the epic voice and tender heart of the Janis Joplin legend.”

jan-kudelka-janis-joplin-tranzac-poster

The Tranzac is a fascinating place. There’s the big room, where Jan will have her show, and then a smaller lounge, just as you enter, where the music never seems to end. The range of sound and ideas is astonishing, and you’re as likely to find yourself listening to jazz as alternative, or rock, or folk, or an evening of ukulele appreciation.  Seriously. Check out their calendar of events to have your mind boggled.

http://www.tranzac.org/simplecalendar/

I like the idea of venues offering music at earlier hours, especially as the weekend nears. My days of starting the night at ten p.m. are long gone –  my cats are cruel masters who demand feeding at 6 a.m., so I’m usually tucked up and snoring just as most bands karang their first chord. And so are a lot of my contemporaries, and those who have to go to work or school the next day. happyhourIt seems odd to me that bars and restaurants are content to open around eight p.m. ish, or be open during the day, but empty, until some mythical magic time when bands appear out of the mist. There’s money to be made in the feeding and entertaining of people who start the day early, and are ready to rock by dinner time.

And with the plethora of talented, experienced players who are available for gigs, it would certainly be easy for many venues to fill in the gap, and keep musicians and music lovers alike happy.

This past Friday, for example, I enjoyed Don Naduriak‘s extraordinary quintet at a little restaurant on the Danforth called Hirut. This is a regular gig for them. On the second Friday of each month, beginning at 8 p.m., E = and Don Naduriak Music “explore compositions by Don Naduriak with various of Toronto’s best musicians. The compositions draw on Jazz, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian influences. don-naduriak-band-hirut-jan-2017

This month the band features Bill McBirnie/Flute, Russ Little/ Trombone, George Koller/Bass and Joaquin Hidalgo/Drums-Percussion, as well as Don Naduriak on Keyboard.”

If you’re a long-time music fan, you’ll know that Don’s group contains some of Toronto’s musical cream. The room was packed with jazz lovers, drinking and eating and making money for both the venue and the band. Which is the way it used to be, and still should be, but somewhere along the line, the train went off the rails.

There’s something going on nearly every night at Hirut, everything from comedy nights to Ernest Lee‘s classic blues,  as well as a folkie style jam on Sunday afternoons run by Nicola Vaughan, starting at 3 p.m.

Rooms that are taking advantage of earlier gig start times, and of expanding their offerings to include more than music, are reaping the benefits all over the city. As with any industry, those who give the customers what they want will always be respected and rewarded.

feed-meThere’s a lot of room at the table, and a place for everyone, regardless of what time they want to listen, or what flavour they want to feast upon. Toronto’s got the musical munchies .. feed it!

2017 can be the year we come together, despite those who’d profit from a people divided. There’s no better time to listen .. or to be heard!

 

the_scream_1910

So Long 2016


yes .. it’s been a while … but the rants have just been biding their time .. 😉

Your Sunday Sermon …

So long 2016 .. adios, hasta la vista. You took a lot out of us, and a lot from us, and what you’ve left behind isn’t all that comforting, but you’ve been and you’re gone. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

The thing about the sixth year of a decade is that it tends to be a culmination of the previous years. The beginning of a decade still clings to the decade before, and baby steps to change begin in the first few years, but by the sixth, the decade has rather defined itself. This six was a doozy. And it likely portends much of what will define the teen years of this century.

Were we more shaped by the losses we sustained, or by the gains we achieved? To me, the year was more reactive than proactive, although certainly, there were advances in most fields.

As for the arts …  nothing much captured and kept our attention, either visually or musically, for very long. The lack of gatekeepers allowed the flood of creativity, but it’s hard to distinguish one drop of water from another in an ocean.

Television might be the last bastion of creative possibilities, at least that which is available from the independent channels. I still prefer British television to American overall, but keep on the lookout for nuggets of gold in North American teevee.

walking-deadThis was the year I finally gave up on The Walking Dead .. Season Seven, filmed as even more brutal than the graphic novel from whence it sprang, just took it too far for me to stomach. After episode one, I gave episode two a cursory glance, but the emphasis on a demagogue bullying and  humiliating his ‘people’ felt too much like what I imagine Americans will experience under their new alien overlord.

But on the plus side, two new series – one from the U.S., and one from Britain – explored something I expect to see in a nearer future – artificial intelligence and a robot workforce Both were brilliantly written, acted and filmed. WestWorld postulated a future amusement park where humans could interact in any way they chose with realistic, synthetic humans, and wrapped the drama around a story line that encompassed decades.  The cast were amazing. My only quibble was with an unspoken assumption that, given the choice, most humans would choose to indulge their basest and most despicable impulses without fear of reprisal. Perhaps that is the sad truth.

humans-cast-tv-show   Humans, a British series, took another tack; a future as mundane as our own, where ‘synths’ took over all the tasks people no longer wanted to do – in effect, a new slavery. The flaw in that ‘dream’ was a computer code able to bring consciousness to the synths.

Consciousness, however, and in both series, drew attention to the new slavery AND the enormous range of needs and emotions, as applicable to both humans and synths. Just as a ‘human’ could be damaged by experience and become evil, so could a synth.

future-of-robotsI don’t think we’re close to the sort of realistic, humanistic synthetic beings either series portrayed, but automation and robotics – computers taking over most of the jobs humans currently do – is projected to be an issue affecting the planet within the next two decades.

“instead of a pro-job growth future, economists across the board predict further losses as AI, robotics, and other technologies continue to be ushered in. What is up for debate is how quickly this is likely to occur.

By 2034, just a few decades, mid-level jobs will be by and large obsolete. So far the benefits have only gone to the ultra-wealthy, the top 1%. This coming technological revolution is set to wipe out what looks to be the entire middle class. Not only will computers be able to perform tasks more cheaply than people, they’ll be more efficient too.

Accountants, doctors, lawyers, teachers, bureaucrats, and financial analysts beware: your jobs are not safe. According to The Economist, computers will be able to analyze and compare reams of data to make financial decisions or medical ones. There will be less of a chance of fraud or misdiagnosis, and the process will be more efficient. Not only are these folks in trouble, such a trend is likely to freeze salaries for those who remain employed, while income gaps only increase in size. You can imagine what this will do to politics and social stability. ”  

(http://bigthink.com/philip-perry/47-of-jobs-in-the-next-25-years-will-disappear-according-to-oxford-university)

For many, that shift to robotics will come when they are unwilling or unable to pivot to another occupation. What happens to all of those workers, who trained for positions that no longer exist?

cognitive-dissonance1We are already in a frightening economic time, when the wealthy are pedestalled for no more reason than their wealth, and where those who cannot find work are despised. We’ve been conditioned for centuries to believe that our work defines us, and that hard work builds character. We’ve been trained to believe that those with wealth, no matter how it was gained, are our superiors, and that  their wealth somehow magically imbues their character with all of the traits we claim to respect; charity, kindness, empathy, intelligence and the like.

Cognitive dissonance allows us to look at a venal, bigoted, racist, misogynistic, narcissist, and somehow believe that the attributes that created his great wealth – the ability to lie, cheat, steal, and steamroll over others, expecting nothing but the finest for himself, but comfortable with others having very little – make that person qualified for the leadership of 319 million citizens.

If writer and political commentator Andrew Sullivan is correct that, “in terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order … [Trump] is an extinction-level event, it may well be that his campaign and election are the paths to a new world rising from the ashes of the old.

ai-driven-automationMassive unemployment caused by automation must be met with new, thoughtful, empathic intelligence. If it is instead met by rampant greed, coupled with a loathing for any criticism or accountability, the clay feet of the rich and powerful will finally be exposed.

True leadership does not seek to enrich only the leader, or seek to rape the land and it’s people for profit. Every nation on the planet is in dire need of the sort of leadership that is bi-partisan and respects every nation and every citizen for not only what they have to offer, but for their very existence.

There can be no leaders without followers.

gpi-gdpImagine if, instead of  defining the wealth of a nation by it’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP,)   it was instead known by it’s Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI.)   The GDP has no conscience; it cannot tell if a dollar is spent on progress or destruction, and it neither knows nor cares about a future impact on the people. As Paul Hawken, an American entrepreneur, environmentalist and author, once said, “We are stealing from the future, selling it to the present, and calling it Gross Domestic Product.”    

The GPI, on the other hand, takes into account not just goods and services produced, but also the social and environmental impact of that production. When every citizen has more money to spend, more leisure time, and better health, the GPI rises. But when rates of crime, imprisonment, pollution and environmental damage increase, the GPI falls accordingly.

True leadership takes a long range look, sees the changes coming, and seeks to steer the citizens to a safer future. That kind of vision is antithetical to the current crop of wouldbe leaders, who are little more than politicians prepared to pander, lie, and allow corruption in the name of short term gain, and an unethical win.

Combining what needs to be done to enrich the citizens socially needs to take into account the upcoming redefinition of employment, and the climate changes we are experiencing.

If nations want true leadership, they need to reject those politicians who display an ignorance of scientific facts and a predisposition for encouraging divisiveness amongst their citizens. Citizens need to accept that they are responsible for the politicians they ignore or elevate, and understand  that with citizenship comes not only rights, but accountability. police-state-dictatorship

Otherwise, the government truly does become “what the people deserve.” No more, and no less.