Thoughts on a Wintry Day


It’s Sunday. Column day. And I’ve got …nothing. i hate writing

 

It’s not that I’m ‘blocked.’ No, I can think of a million things to say, and even good ways to say them.

No, the problem is that there’s just too much to think about, in a world gone mad, in a world that’s mutating at warp speed, that requires not only the time and sense to read a good portion of the information and opinions and news and interesting tidbits, but to put it together in some sort of reasonable and understandable form.

There’s just so much going on, so much coming at us from all directions, too many unthinkable actions and angry words, too many people we once looked up to, dying, or worse still, living, but being found to have acted in ways that taint our respect for their life’s work.

We’re living in a time when we not only have to deal with the sins of bad actions and reprehensible people, we also have to juggle the idea of impending death by climate or nuclear war. And we are powerless. We cannot stop this runaway train.

dear diaryLuckily, it is not up to me or to you to figure out the answer to every trouble that lies before us. But I firmly contend that there are solutions for every problem. If we cannot find the answer, it’s not that there is no answer, it’s that the right person has not happened along with the missing piece of the puzzle. I believe that, because I have seen far too many people give up on a struggle without understanding that they are not always the owner of the solution. In fact, that sort of stance inevitably leads to bruised egos, and nothing of any substance being done about the dilemma.

It’s like we used to say when I worked in offices, “when you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember your original intent was to drain the swamp.” (Damn! and I wasn’t gonna talk about politics this week!)

lizard brainToo much news, too many words, too many ideas. And too many people willing to tell us how we should interpret each of them. And when your brain hurts from trying to process everything going on around you, too easy to make decisions and take actions that stem from that part of our brain that never evolved past the lizard stage.

There are a couple of reasons why I, and so many others, are sometimes troubled by all of the concepts we’re asked to parse on any given day. One is our confirmation bias;  that’s “the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses.” (thanks, wiki)

That’s one of the reasons we so often pass on memes that are untrue, but that tickle our funnybone, or inflame our angry elbow, or some such nonsense. In fact, if you see a meme that resonates so strongly that your immediate impulse is to ‘share’ it with everyone you know … it’s more than likely ‘fake news,’ and the work of paid trolls.

fake news

These memes, often rife with misspellings and grammatical errors, reach into our psyches and pull out the gnarled racist, misogynistic, and biased bits that people normally tend to hide from others.

But as soon as you share that meme … we know what and who you are.

 

The other reason why we can sometimes shy away from news that bothers us is our tendency to have a blind loyalty to those we admire. Whether those people are famous, or powerful, or our relatives, we find it hard to believe that news of their committing crimes could possibly be true, not just because we feel a bond with them, but because .. what does that say about us?

With the #MeToo campaign in full swing, and the accusations of horrible sexual harassment and assaults buzzing around, not just Hollywood and Washington, but every work place imaginable, half of the planet has to look at the other half of the planet and ask:

“How did this go on for so long? Why do so many people with even the most miniscule amounts of power think it’s okay to take what they want, sexually and emotionally, from those who cannot protect themselves, physically, mentally, or financially? And why do I still love/worship/respect the perpetrator of acts that morally sicken me?”

Is this mindshift something we can work forward from, or a distraction from the ‘business as usual’ mode that has pervaded all workplaces for eons? Do we speak the truth and shame the devil(s), or will we have a spate of accusations and reprisals, and then ignore the next wave of voices that ask for retribution?

rapepreventionI don’t know. I would like to think that society has evolved  enough to realize that there is nothing equitable about having half of the planet essentially living in a chronic state of fear that their bodies will be used by anyone who wants to take it. But then again, I’d think that Americans would be smart enough to realize that gun control would protect them from being killed by mentally ill mass murderers.

But what do I know, eh?

I’d also like to believe that it is possible for men to believe women when they speak, not because they have an army of people willing to confirm that they’re speaking the truth, but because they easily swallow the most moronic bullshit that flows out of the mouths of male politicians, preachers, and right wing newscasters.

Seems like the only way a woman is believed, no matter how impeccable her character and credentials may be, is if a male corroborates her statements. And that’s just heartbreaking.

So yeah, it’s column day, and I’ve got nothing. Nothing but a stew of thoughts and sadness at the state of our world, where there’s always a war going on somewhere, but our response is to lay wreaths at the cenotaphs honouring those who died in them, while we hold our breaths as a senile old man taunts a demented young man with a twitchy bombing finger on Twitter, and at least 2300 Canadian veterans are homeless and living on the street. This world, where babies in Yemen starve to death so that trillionaires in Saudi Arabia can amass more wealth and power, and where an  accused pedophile can take a seat in the U.S. Senate. A world where some of the wealthiest people in North America are about to enact new taxation to enrich themselves and their buddies to even more obscene levels, while they cut funds to women, children, the helpless and vulnerable, and veterans.

north-korea-bomb

I got nothing.

 

 

 

Pet Sounds Revisited


“The Internet is a lot like ancient Egypt: people write on walls and worship cats.” 

kittyon-a-keyboardCats, kittens, dogs, puppies, birds, horses, hedgehogs … you name it. The supply of animal pictures seems to be limitless. And nothing can draw an “awww” out of even the most hardened grouch’s mouth quicker than the sight of a tiny, helpless, pink-mouthed baby anything. We are helpless before their innocent charms.

People love their pets. Thirty-seven percent of Canadian households own one or more cats, 32% own dogs. As of March 2017, there were a total of 89.7 million dogs and 94.2 million cats estimated to live in U.S. households as pets. Pets outnumber children four to one in the United States.

Of course, there are still way too many abused and unwanted animals, but for the most part, people take good care of their pets. The loss of a pet can be a traumatic emotional ordeal that takes as long, or longer, to recover from than losing a fellow human being.

It’s particularly difficult for those who are older, and may have lost a lot of their friends and family along the years. Many seniors have only a pet to call their friend. But many seniors also have a limited income, so when their companion animal gets ill, choices may have to be made that involve one of the two going without food or health care.

That`s why my friend Barbette Kensington, long time social worker and advocate, created the KittyPants charity six years ago, in partnership with Dundas Euclid Animal Hospital to assist their senior clients on fixed incomes with the cost of medications and grooming.

This afternoon, Sunday November 5, I’ll be one of several musicians performing for this worthy charity. We`ll be at Lola`s, 30 Kensington Avenue, Toronto, between 3pm and 7pm. Hope to see you there!

kittypants poster 2017
Since I’ll be busy today, I’ve revived this March 2013 column, brushed off the dust, and now present its slightly altered and hopefully improved, reanimated corpse ..

I often wonder if our lifelong fascination with pets has to do with most little creatures being smaller than ourselves. Perhaps having a living being in our lives, with even less power than we feel we possess, is our own first experience of authority, of being able to boss another living creature around.

Smart parents will guide the interaction between child and animal, and hopefully teach the child that having power over another is much less satisfying than having a companionable relation where both parties needs are met.

We start our relationships with pets when we are very young, and we learn to sing along to “B-I-N-G-O…and Bingo was his name O!,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and a song that was a massive radio hit, reaching #1 for Patti Page on Billboard and Cash Box charts in 1953, “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?”

“On October 3, 1945, Elvis Presley at age ten sang “Old Shep” for his first public performance, a singing contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. Dressed as a cowboy, he stood on a chair to reach the microphone. He came in fifth place, winning $5 and a free ticket to the fair rides.” (Wikipedia)

Elvis recorded “Old Shep,” written by Red Foley and Arthur Willis about a dog Foley owned as a child, in 1956. The good ole boy loved dogs.

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Musicians have always seemed to have a special bond with animals. Pets have inspired many songs over the years. Dogs are especially memorialized. Some songs describe the human-animal relationship; some pick up on the innate characteristics of the beasts. You can dance to the “Stray Cat Strut,” mourn Tom Waits’ “Rain Dogs” wandering the wet city streets, or exult in Bowie’s post-apocalyptic future visions of “Diamond Dogs.

Nillson The PointgifSilly, happy songs like “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” (Lobo), Cat Stevens’ “I Love My Dog,” and “Me and My Arrow” (from Harry Nilsson‘s wonderful musical, The Point) celebrate the childlike wonder and friendship that sharing life with a beloved partner – who just happens to have four feet and a tail – can be. I’m constantly finding myself singing Jane Siberry’s “Everything Reminds Me of My Dog,” because I can so relate. “And if you remind me of my dog, we’ll probably get along, little doggy, get along, get along, little doggy.”

i like big muttsNo genre is immune to the call of the wild. In 1968, Johnny Cash’s historic album “At Folsom Prison” contained the novelty song “Egg Sucking Dog.” Pseudo-Spanish cats have the stubble faced “El Gato Volador” to look up to. We all dance to our pet’s tunes.

Beatles cognoscenti argued over whether Paul McCartney’s “Martha My Dear” referred to his beloved sheepdog, or to his longtime ladyfriend pre-Linda, Jane Asher. “Jet” was McCartney’s ode to a horse. For years, scuttlebutt had it that Freddie Mercury wrote “My Best Friend” about his dog, but in reality, bassist John Deacon wrote the song, and he insists it’s about his wife. The lyrics work, either way!

Henry Gross’ song “Shannon” mourned a beloved dog, apparently Beach Boy Carl Wilson’s Irish Setter. Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Get Down” isn’t about dancing, it’s a dog command, and when it was a radio staple, pooches would cower at the words “you’re a bad dog, baby.” Patty Griffin‘s “Heavenly Day” is a love song to her pup, but is frequently played at weddings. Norah JonesMan of the Hour”? Yep … her dog.

Got a taste for the surreal? Check out The Shaggs bizarre video for “My Pal Foot Foot,” which seems to be about a dog that just won’t stay at home. Kind of like the rascal Big Mama Thornton’s talking about in “(You Ain’t Nothin’ But A) Hound Dog.”

Walkin’ the Dog” written by Rufus Thomas, and recorded by acts as innocent as The Mousketeers, is actually a paean to heroin … go figure. The StoogesI Wanna Be Your Dog” is Iggy’s plea to be so caught up in the sexual moment that traditional male-female sexual roles blur. The song reeks of the desire to be dominated by a strong, controlling partner. Or so they tell me.

Led Zeppelin’s song catalogue includes “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp,” about Robert Plant’s dog, Strider, while “Black Dog” was named after a 14 year old black Labrador retriever who wandered around the grounds where the band was recording on a mobile studio.

Pink Floyd’s “Lucifer Sam” was originally called “Percy the Rat Catcher,” and yes, it’s about Syd Barrett’s cat, although many speculated that it referred to his then-girlfriend, Jenny Spires. David Gilmour’s 1987 blues “Dogs of War” sings about how money sinks its fangs into our collective necks through war profiteering.

Al Stewart could have referenced any animal when he wrote the lispy “Year of The Cat,” but the poetic lines weave a tale like a cat weaves around it’s master’s legs.

“On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime.
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolour in the rain
Don’t bother asking for explanations
She’ll just tell you that she came
In the Year of the Cat.”

I have absolutely no idea what to think about They Might Be GiantsYouth Culture Killed My Dog.” Ah, the 80’s, which also spawned the New Wave songs, “Cool for Cats” (Squeeze) and “The Love Cats” (The Cure.)

One of the most sampled songs ever is George Clinton’s raucous “Atomic Dog,” with its funkadelic groove, released in 1982.

Michael Jackson sang about his love for pet rat “Ben.” Nelly Furtado was “Like a Bird,” while in “Little Bird,” Annie Lennox envies the bird’s freedom, and wishes she “had the wings to fly away from here.” “BlackBird” sings in the dead of The Beatles’ night. Everyone, including Joe Cocker, had a crack at “Bye Bye Blackbird.”

There’s even a whole collection of tunes about horses. Michael Martin Murphey eulogized the ghost of a woman and her horse in “Wildfire.” Wild horses, running free, unencumbered by society’s rules, are wistfully and frequently referenced in every genre. The Rolling StonesWild Horses,” has lyrics that have been credited variously to Keith Richard’s attempt to deal with the loss of a child, or to the words Marianne Faithful said to him after coming out of a drug induced coma.

And just for fun, country’s Big and Rich’s “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” asks …well, that’s fairly self-explanatory!

The clock in my house is governed by our pets. I rise far too early to tend to their needs, and we cannot be away from home for more than 7 or 8 hours at a time, lest their tiny dishes grow empty. We walk on floors that glimmer with pet hair, and try to ignore the dust bunnies. Tons of money has been spent on pet food and toys. The melting of the snow in Spring reveals a yard collection that has most certainly not been left by the Easter Bunny. The burning question is “Who Let the Dog Out?” Like alien overlords, our pets are our rulers.

And if you remind me of my dog, we’ll probably get along, little doggy.

Tom Waits, David Bowie, Harry Nilsson, Lobo, Henry Gross, Cat Stevens, Jane Siberry, The Rolling Stones, Annie Lennox, Joe Cocker, Nelly Furtado, Iggy Pop, The Stooges, Freddie Mercury, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Norah Jones, Patty Griffin, The Shaggs, Big Mama Thornton, Rufus Thomas,

 

The Madness of King Donald


To quote Crosby, Stills & Nash … “It’s getting to the point, where I’m no fun anymore.” Well, at least when it comes to debating the psychoses of our current hot topics.

But I CAN still be fun! Here’s my Halloween costume!

I remember when I spent my leisure time playing computer games and reading novels. In this ‘new normal,’ I’m continually finding myself trying to unravel the latest controversies in the face of those who will gleefully jerk a knee at whatever red meat is thrown at their feet. The Kelly Ann Conways and Sarah IdiotChild Sanders of the world have laid claim to dictating what is right or wrong, factually or morally, on every facet of our daily lives. Up is down, left is right, football players and the media need to listen to an octogenarian’s spittle-sprayed pronouncements and DO AS HE SAYS.

Stop listening to them until they have something more than spin and ‘alternative facts’ to bring to the table.

mueller lays chargesFriday night, those of us who have stuck the political IV deep into our veins were cheered to hear that Robert Mueller, the special counsel heading the Russian investigation, was ready to begin laying charges against those who have colluded with a foreign power to interfere with last year’s election.

Predictably, Trump and his administration have spent the weekend ginning up outrage over old and long refuted claims blaming Hillary Clinton for pretty much everything. I’m assuming they were practicing their chants of ‘lock her up!’ between tantrums and panicked packing.

Listen – I think they’re all crooks and con artists. But Clinton’s not president, and Trump is, to the chagrin of the majority.

And while he’s proving that his hand is quicker than your eye, he’s been ignoring the bill (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA) that hits Russia, Iran and North Korea with tough sanctions, that was passed in an overwhelming majority by 98-2 on July 27.

Trump-sanctions-memeTrump first refused to sign the bill, then did so grudgingly. “The law gave the Trump administration staggered deadlines to begin implementation — the first being Oct. 1 for the Russian portion. “

Tillerson finally signed off on the sanctions this past Thursday, nearly four weeks after the deadline, . Whether this was Trump and Tillerson flexing their muscles or outright treason, I leave to the historians to decide.

But this excerpt from Rachel Maddow‘s show on Friday night says a great deal more about where Trump’s allegiance truly lies. They just haven’t hung out the flag yet.

“The part of it that I have been a little dismayed by, is that – it’s one thing for people that are partisans of the Trump administration, who are Republicans, and see it as their job to defend the president …. to say, “you know what? this collusion thing didn’t happen. What Russia did is terrible, we as Americans are against that, but don’t try to drag Donald Trump into this … you’re saying that he was involved in this to undercut his election; he won his election fair and square. What the Russians did was something separate.”

I can understand Republicans making that case, But what has started to happen now is that the White House, in particular, is trying to get away with saying that the Russians did nothing wrong. And they’re doing that at the same time that Rex Tillerson is dissolving the Sanctions office in the State Department. That the White House is dragging it’s feet on bringing sanctions against Russia for what they did in the election. And .. when .. if .. we’re going to protect ourselves from Russia continuing to do this .. the department of Homeland Security, DoD, and lots of other organizations ought to be well down the road in protecting us, and they’re really not.

That kind of surrender, to what Russia has done .. that’s a patriotism thing, not a partisan thing. And that is the part that makes me sad.”

The fanaticism that’s laying the Republicans low is like a red hot fever, and it will take them down eventually. But in the meantime, what is the rest of the world supposed to do or think, in the face of an administration that looks and behaves more and more like the dystopian land of 1984‘s Oceania?

trump 1984Oceania is a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public manipulation. Oceania’s residents are dictated by a political regime euphemistically named English Socialism, shortened to “Ingsoc” in Newspeak . Newspeak is the government’s invented language. The superstate is under the control of the privileged, elite Inner Party. The Inner Party, or Party, persecutes individualism and independent thinking known as “thoughtcrimes” and is enforced by the “Thought Police.” The tyranny is ostensibly overseen by Big Brother, the Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality, but who may not even exist. The Party “seeks power entirely for its own sake. It is not interested in the good of others; it is interested solely in power. (wiki)

See what I mean?

That’s where the Republicans find themselves at this moment, a place where Senator Jeff Flake makes a stirring resignation speech that should be mandatory memorization material for all Americans – and particularly for aspiring politicians – and then, hours later, follows up that speech by voting with the same party, denying the American people’s right for consumer financial protection.

jeff-flake-with-reportersEven more alarming than Flake’s ‘come to Jesus’ realization of the Trumpification of the Republican party is the way that Trump’s spokespeople have been manipulating Americans into believing that Trump’s word is as infallible and immutable as a god’s.

Consider how any pushback or rebuke by the people or the press has been answered. There’s an undercurrent in the words that hints at a sort of moral bankruptcy in anyone foolish enough to question any of Trump’s or his administration’s decisions.

Spokesperson Sanders found it “highly inappropriate” that reporters had the nerve to refute ‘four star general,’ now chief of staff, John Kelly‘s memories of what a congresswoman had said at the dedication of an FBI office – despite the entire event having been videotaped and contradicting his words.

Trump GodKingShe has been repeatedly ‘stunned’ that the media and the public choose to believe their own eyes rather than the soup of lies, false premises and promises the administration foists upon the American people.

In fact, I’d venture to say that this position of spokesperson, and the apparently repeated shocks she is subjected to in her role, might be just be a little too upsetting for her precious, pearl clutching, southern sensibilities. Lawd sakes! It’s just all too much for a fragile, shrinking violet such as she!

Leaving aside the delicate nature of this administration’s spokespeople, I have to quibble with the deification of Trump, in which any words spoken against him are blasphemy.

If a president’s words are to be held as infallible as a pope’s, then what does that say about Trump overturning every decision and law made by his predecessor ?

Even going so far as to ask the two Alaskan senators if they thought the name change from Mount McKinley to Denali should be reversed. Cuz … Obama.

woman in flamesIt’s such a stunning hypocrisy that I’m amazed that IdiotChild Sanders, who professes deep religiosity, doesn’t burst into flame with her lies, or at least turn into a pillar of salt.

Now THAT’S entertainment!

It is NOT sacrilegious to question or even mock Kelly, any of the current administration, or even the man in the highest office in the land. They, and he, are only there for a short time. They, and he, owe their loyalty to the people, not vice versa. It is the position that commands respect. The person performing that role needs to live up to the position.

Leave us the right to laugh at the Madness of King Donald, as he’s left us little else to laugh about.

 

Thinking About Thinking


Ain’t I a wonder, and ain’t you a wonder too!

cheese_and_internet_memesOr so we’ve been led to believe, by all of our ‘likes’ and ‘loves’ on social media, which is where we go to show off our funny, pretty, and intelligent sides. It’s where we go to get our ‘strokes’ of approval, to find out who’s doing what, and it’s where some of us go to air our opinions and beliefs, and to challenge the opinions and beliefs of others.

“(As of August 2017) For the first time in the Pew Research Center’s surveys, more than half (55%) of Americans ages 50 or older report getting news on social media sites. That is 10 percentage points higher than the 45% who said so in 2016. Those under 50, meanwhile, remain more likely than their elders to get news from these sites (78% do, unchanged from 2016).”

There really isn’t anyone moderating what we say on Facebook. Oh, the book of face would have you believe that, like McDonalds, “we do it all for you,” but anyone who’s been slapped with a three day suspension for uploading a picture of a woman breastfeeding would disagree. No one seems to really know what FB will decide is pornographic or unseemly. Even Facebook itself is unable to provide a hard and fast policy, since it changes with whatever the loudest voices declare to be currently correct.

And Facebook’s acceptance of Russian payment for the placement of ads that ultimately swayed voters in the last election – well, that’s for the courts to decide, but I’d say that might be considered a Russky Bridge too far.

grown ups on the internetWhat is indisputably true, in the world of social media where reputations can be made or destroyed in the space of a tweet, is that there aren’t many grown ups in the room.

And the barrier that might have once existed between terrestrial media and internet social media is gossamer fine.

Because it’s that kind of world, now, where the highest rated radio and TV shows are filled with loud, opinionated, and often grossly under informed ranters who toss the red meat of controversy to the most rabid of listeners who will wait, slavishly, by their phones, in order to add their own voice to the cacophony, and be part of the fun. It’s a world where a reality TV host gets to be president. It’s Idiocracy.

How did we get here? Well, I’d say the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) played a very large role in this slide into mis and disinformation. Created in 1939 to license and renew the license of broadcast stations, the FCC did not originally have the power to censor what was aired. Until the 1950’s, most people got the bulk of their information from radio, and news was sold strictly as news, not entertainment. However, then as now, radio stations needed advertisers to keep in business, and the Commission worried that station owners would be influenced by their advertisers, and by what the conservative owners might decide to pass off as truth.

And so, the Mayflower Doctrine was put into place by then FCC chairman Larry Fly, “fearing a further commercialized, conservative-biased and corporate dominated medium.” The Doctrine declared that broadcasters have “an obligation to allot a reasonable amount of time to treatment of controversial issues and that they have an affirmative duty to seek, to provide representative expression of all responsible shades of opinion.”

The Mayflower Doctrine gave way to the Fairness Doctrine in 1949.
fairness doctrine Reagan“It established two forms of regulation on broadcasters: to provide adequate coverage of public issues, and to ensure that coverage fairly represented opposing views.  The second rule required broadcasters to provide reply time to issue-oriented citizens. Broadcasters could therefore trigger Fairness Doctrine complaints without editorializing. The commission required neither of the Fairness Doctrine’s obligations before 1949.” (wiki)

But even that modicum of control was removed in 1989, ushering in a whole new way of presenting information. No longer did radio or TV have to be held to truth – instead, it became permissible for broadcasters to present, higgledy piggledy, views that directly benefited their paid advertisers and corporate owners. it was the beginning of ‘fake news,’ paving the way for owners like Rupert Murdoch to found stations based upon the rantings of radio and TV shock jocks, those highly emotional if often low informed and biased talk show hosts ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

fox-news-hostWhile this sort of blathering can be very entertaining, and kickstart the hearts of those who either lack their own opinions or love to air their ideas and conspiracy beliefs, it really didn’t do much good for those people who are easily led to often ill informed and hard right theories.

The thing about life is that most of us come to our ideas through our very limited experiences. And yet somehow we believe that our conclusions on goings on outside of our own personal spheres are as valid as those of the people who have dedicated their lives to understanding those events.

Thinking like that is naive, and is what led to America electing one of the most incompetent presidents of their history. Believing that success in business equates to success in government is an enormous lie of epic proportions and horrifically sad consequences. The very qualities that comprise ruthless thinking and lead to success in business are the direct antitheses of the qualities necessary for a wise, compassionate, and humane leader able to put the needs of the Nation before his own.

know it all diploma

Why is it so hard for most of us to realize that we don’t have all the answers? To understand that there are people out there who are smarter than us, or who have more information about a topic, or maybe just have that intuitive flash of brilliance that allows them to weigh up an issue, thoughtfully and with ALL of the data considered, and then come up with a solution that actually works for all involved, something that we’ve somehow missed, no matter how long and hard we’ve worried the question?

genius does what it mustWhy is it so hard to understand that there are very few of us capable of holding every aspect of a quandary in perfect balance for long enough to solve the equation?

Time and again I have seen businesses and governments weigh up a problem with all of their combined brainpower .. and still come up empty. It’s truly infuriating for all of us – the entity trying and failing to find a solution, and those impacted by their lack of a properly considered conclusion in which all of the players needs are considered.

Fr’instance. In British Columbia, homelessness and drug addiction are a crushing burden to those who suffer from these issues. Trying to help and control the realities of how these problems impact upon not just those who suffer, but those who live within a society that bears the financial and legal brunt of these issues, is something that the BC government and policing agencies have to deal with. At this point, a tangle of laws, rights, and ugly reality have created an impasse. There’ seems to be no answer to this question. The result is an uneasy standoff, that benefits and pleases no one.

I don’t have the answer. But somewhere out there, someone does. He or she just hasn’t been asked the right question.

smug gifCorporate and political entities are not the only ones that often have a smug belief that they are the only ones with the answers.

Take the subject of phasing out oil powered vehicles vs electrically powered vehicles. Pretty much every driver who is of a certain age has little belief that the demise of fuel will happen any time soon. And yet, the Chinese government is following in the footsteps of countries like India, France, Britain, and Norway, which have already announced plans to ditch gas and diesel cars in favour of cleaner vehicles in the coming years.

I’ve heard all of the arguments, and the cries that trucks and other heavy vehicles will never be able to be replaced by electric or electrified vehicles, for at least the next fifty years.

electric-vehicles-2016But it IS gonna happen, and much sooner than those who picture electric vehicles being powered by a trunk full of double AA batteries can conceive. Barring a nuclear holocaust, which would put paid to pretty much all of civilization, electric vehicles will be the only new vehicles manufactured in many countries, as soon as 2021.

When the Fairness Doctrine was tossed aside as though the citizens of 1989 were far more intelligent and civilized than the yokels who’d laboured under these doctrines for the previous fifty years, we ushered in a time when any fool with a platform and a theory could control large groups of people, without any constraints, be they of decency or truth, covering their speech.

The internet and the ubiquitous social media furthered the range of those loud voices, and multiplied the numbers of potential followers their words could reach.

But without any control, or any way to establish rules of argument and debate, the loudest voices tend to be the ones most likely to resort to schoolyard bullying tactics, like name calling, the distortion of truth, and outright lies being repeated until the lies themselves are woven into the fabric of society.

bully pulpit trumpDespite the miracle of the internet allowing each of us to research, in real time, any questionable information presented to us by even the loudest and most authoritative voices, the demand that truth be spoken is often overridden by the Bully Pulpit of those in power.

I’m pretty sure that this is not where the inventors of broadcast media hoped that we’d arrive.

But it is the situation in which we now find ourselves drowning.

Power Corrupts


Not feeling quite myself these days – it’s like there’s a flu going round. Some sort of energy-sapping, soul-sucking, misery-laden, bone-crushing, muscle-rending miasma, that’s keeping a lot of us from feeling our best, or even very good.

Oh that’s right; Trump is still president. There’s your trouble. Or at least, one steaming pile of it.

It’s almost beyond comprehension that the orange shit gibbon continues to rampage thru the White House halls, especially considering how dangerous his demented ravings are to the planet. Not content with merely twitter goosing the perpetually paranoid North Korean dictator, he thought he’d start another pissing match with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Way to honour your presidential oath to protect and defend mushroom cloudthe constitution .. or the people. The Nuclear Clock edges closer to midnight, and what we’re hoping is dawn’s early light might just be the glare off a pyrocumulus mushroom shaped cloud.

This TrumpPlague is virulent, and it’s debilitating effects are immediate. You see it’s incapacitating effects most evident amongst those people that feel a strong empathy for people in need, regardless of their race, sex, creed, colour, or age. But even those who like to pick and choose just who gets to receive help and support are starting to notice a pattern in TrumpLand; there’s only one entity that is worthy and/or deserving, and that is the Hairy Sunburnt Marshmallow in control, he who manages to be simultaneously all powerful and yet the only victim in any situation or crisis.

the buck stops anywhere but hereIt is a stunning example of someone who could do so much good for the deluded populace who eagerly put he and the Republican Party into power, consistently managing to stop short of ever benefiting or enriching anyone but himself. His specialty is senseless destruction in the pursuit of profit, and the ripping away of any semblance of a social safety net or security that the people may have enjoyed. His belief is that the people he rules over – no matter how young, old, vulnerable or infirm – deserve nothing unearned.

Which is pretty rich, coming from someone who’s never wanted for anything since the day of his birth.

The plain truth is that any idiot can destroy – raise their foot and demolish what others worked so hard to build, or fire a gun and kill a human it took months and years to bring into existence. It’s easy. What’s not easy is creation, and the protection and nurturing of human beings and the good that they are capable of doing.

boot on a human faceWe’ve seen evil morons force their will upon the vulnerable before. Trump’s
abuse of absolute power is nothing new .. it’s just new to those who refuse to see a pattern of abuse of power in their society.

Abuse against people of colour; immigrants, and the DACA children who have never known any other home than America; mothers who were forced to give birth to children they cannot afford to raise; women and children who have had any sort of medical aid stripped from them in a fit of pique and carelessness; football players who dare to protest racial inequality; journalists who seek to provide information and truth while government agencies conspire to spread disinformation and outright lies, and conspire to conceal their plans to manipulate gullible citizens; Puerto Rican and US Virgin Islands citizens who have the nerve to expect to be treated with the same respect as other U.S. citizens in their time of need…. it’s a constant stream of abuse against anyone who is not HIM.

The TrumpPlague is nothing new. The current wannabe dictator is not an anomaly; he conforms to a pattern of political abuse of power that has been ignored or treated as a quotidian part of North American society since the first American elite signed off on the constitution.

“America, the Empire, … imagined itself as it wanted to be, as it had claimed to be in its infancy against a cruel and despotic king in the late eighteenth century.
It reshaped itself into the rebels, not the imperial overlords.
It shaped itself as oppressed, fighting for freedom.
But America, like every nation, has its ages of psychosis. It has fits of indecision and periods of self-delusion.
Consider how presidents spoke movingly of ‘freedom from tyranny’ while personally holding hundreds of men, women and children in slavery.
Or imagine Jefferson, the Sage of Monticello, who was the father of half-Black children, at the same moment as he wrote, in his only book, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” that Black people were essentially nonhuman, a species related to the orangutan. (Does this mean that he saw himself as being into bestiality? Or did this mean he really thought his children were, well, half monkey?)
Americans, like any people, are subject to delusions.        america vietnam
….
In the grisly aftermath of a war that tore millions from the face of Asia, all to cover for the corporate exploitation of Vietnam’s bauxite and other natural resources, the imperial shock trooper, the imperial metallic death’s hand, was father to the rebel.
The were, in fact, more than related.
In truth, they were one.”

(Star Wars and the American Imagination; Mumia Abu-Jamal, 2015.)

But here’s what’s interesting: while we are attempting to make some sense of this current overriding entitlement that abuses everyone who fails to bow down to the Trump throne and proclaim undying loyalty and fealty, our attentions have been caught by something we feel we CAN have a say on, something society likes to pretend that they DO care about and always HAVE cared about, but really only gave lip service to …
the abuse of power over women.

Although we may be powerless to remove Trump from the presidency, at least we can all get behind getting incensed and excited about those who’ve been accused and tried in the public eye for sexual abuse. Right?

Oh, you’ve always been against those with any kind of power forcing themselves on women and children? You mean, while 60 women came forward to accuse Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them, but were ignored and reviled until a male journalist actually had Cosby admit in print that he’d done so? Or when you cheered on the (female) lawyer who got Jian Ghomeshi off the rape hook with her clever manipulation of his weeping victims? Or maybe it’s when serial pedophiles, like former U.S. House speaker Dennis Hastert, served just 13 months for a bank fraud conviction linked to his effort to buy off the accusations of a former student he sexually abused during his days as a high school wrestling coach. Like Al Capone, they just couldn’t get him on his real crimes.

Jeffrey-Epstein-sex-offenderOr billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, the child molesting ringleader of a sexual human trafficking ring, who was allowed to freely leave jail during the day and only come back to overnight at his Palm Beach Country jail for the mere thirteen months he served of an eighteen month sentence in 2008. Two felony counts of soliciting underage victims for sex would get the average person twenty years in federal prison. But not if you have money and power.

These instances, and many others, are why I welcome those, who now call themselves allies, entering into the discussion. Sadly, though, I can already see the future, when the charges are downgraded, the sentence is a wrist slap or commuted, and it all goes back to where it was before this small moment of ‘enlightenment.’  What has gone before tells us that somehow there will always be some devious, quasi legal, way of placing the blame not on the monster that abuses power, but on the helpless victims of the predator.

Why is that?

Women and children do not hold some mysterious power over the male penis. The real power is not inherent in the one allowing or denying open and unasked access to his or her genitals .. it is in the one doing the hiring and the firing, making decisions, controlling our work environment, and deciding how much to pay women, or even whether to treat women like humans or adversaries. It is in those who would rather take what they want, by trick if possible, by force or coercion if necessary, and then deny any culpability in the abuse.

Where’s the power, once the predator has ejaculated into whatever tunnel of love or potted plant they’ve chosen to empty their sperm within, when all they need to do is turn over and sleep, a good sleep, despite now needing to spend the rest of their lives concealing what they’ve done, from those who would make them accountable?

Is it with the ‘powerful’ victims, who then get to clean up the mess, do the ‘walk of shame’ home afterwards, and try to live with the reality that they have been treated as no more than a convenient receptacle for the lust of a powerful person who has neither the need nor desire to control their own sexual drives?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m really glad that there are many powerful people, both men and women, who are now willing to stand by the victims. But hopefully you can forgive those of us who fail to believe that the uncloaking of predators like Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, and yes … the Dear Leader Trump … will change how society will go forth from their current days of reckonings. We know how this game is played – you will forget, and they will rise again, somehow, somewhere. They are merely the figureheads, the most powerful in their fields, the ones who got caught … this time. This abuse of power goes on every day, and in every sphere of human life, from the homes where children have to be wary of their own lust driven parents or step-parents, to your local MacDonalds. It’s happening in small and large business, and in places of government … anywhere where some creep with a modicum of power uses that power to take what they are not willingly offered.

trump grabs ivankas assAnd, lord help me, I don’t see it ending anytime soon.

“Incest and other forms of prolonged sexual abuse are such profound violations that they provoke a different form of disbelief than the kind that women often face when they talk about sexual violence they have experienced; when you tell your mother you’re being raped by your father, as the author of The Incest Diary does multiple times in her adolescence, you are disbelieved not because your mother is casually misogynistic, in keeping with her culture, but because she can’t believe you and uphold her understanding of the world. Incest is a violation so profound that it breaks knowledge. In these cases we disbelieve not because we’re so inured to a world where men take sexual advantage of women that such abuse seems normal, but because we can’t conceive of a world in which what we believe is normal could be so defiled.”
(https://electricliterature.com/who-gets-to-write-about-sexual-abuse-and-what-do-we-let-them-say-928dfbd184d6)

For many, the exposure of the Cosbys, the Weinsteins and the Ailes comes as a surprise. The knee jerk reaction is to disbelieve the victims, as if this sort of abuse is an aberration, a gross accusal of wrongdoing that is impossible to fathom, given the position, power and wealth of the accused. Such disbelief speaks to a naiveté and privilege that belies the reality of what we call first world civilization.

Power, fame and wealth do not bestow intelligence, empathy or humanity. In many cases, in fact, they are diametrically opposed.

We so often hear of those that can only believe an accusation of abuse from a women if it has happened to one of their own .. their daughter, their sister, their wife. Then, and only then, is sexual assault scary and disgusting. Consider how comforting that is to those of us whom you don’t consider your ‘own’ in some fashion.

I would like to think that this depressing interval in history can be a time of revelation, a time when the abused and oppressed can tell their stories and be believed, when the realization that women are people as valuable and respected as men – indeed as equal – is accepted as fact, even if just from this day forward.

But I’m not holding my breath.

” My friend was so ready to excuse the actions of this man as normal—he was a relatively new acquaintance, I might add—that he waved me off and acted as if my extreme discomfort was negligible.

Never mind the fact that he was already doing harm, by ignoring my wishes to be left alone and making me feel vaguely unsafe during an otherwise pleasant evening. Never mind that I wasn’t asking for my friend to beat his ass (a show of magnanimity, I thought!), or that I wasn’t going so far as to scream rape or otherwise suggest that I was in danger of him sexually assaulting me right then and there (even though my spidey senses told me he certainly might, if given the chance, since “no” clearly wasn’t in this guy’s vocabulary)..”

(https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com/i-have-been-raped-by-far-nicer-men-than-you-1819412131)

i-did-try-and-f-ck-her-she-was-married-i-12715251One of the saddest things I’ve read in recent days was on my own Facebook page, in a thread where the discussion of Weinstein’s abuse of power was inevitably compared to Trump’s, with a meme that quoted Trump’s own words, spoken on that Hollywood Access tape, before … BEFORE .. the election that saw him crowned King of America.

The (American) woman who commented on the post was incensed. She could not believe that Trump had said those words – in public, on video tape, irrefutably – and had still been elected as President of the United States.

He did. He was. And he is.

Not feeling quite myself these days – it’s like there’s a flu going round. Some sort of energy-sapping, soul-sucking, misery-laden, bone-crushing, muscle-rending miasma, that’s keeping a lot of us from feeling our best, or even very good.

We’ve all got the TrumpPlague. And it may be the death of us.

 

Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep


keep calm and gobble onHappy Thanksgiving weekend! Hopefully most of us will be lucky enough to be gathered together at some point with friends and family to share the bounty of the harvest – or at least the goodies we’ve bought from our local grocers — and that most precious of commodities …. our time.

It’s crazy how fast the days and years go by. That’s not an ‘old people’ thing anymore; even kids in grade school find it hard to accommodate all of the information and entertainment they need to constantly absorb in order to successfully process their world. Those of us with much to remember don’t stand a chance, post-retirement, of guessing the day with much accuracy. (Helpful hint: Write everything down!)

Although I’m not a religious person, I consider myself blessed. I have a roof over my head, food in my fridge, and a husband, family, and friends that love me. I also have a keen awareness that I am more fortunate than a great many people, who often lack the things that a lot of us take for granted.

While I do try to do what I can to help others, this weekend I’m grateful to be enjoying the hospitality of two lovely friends, who asked us to share their respective feasts.

toronto-skyline-nightOn Saturday night, we joined long time friend and writer Ira Band for dinner at the Island Yacht Club, on Mugg’s Island. It was a beautiful night, with weather more like August’s than October’s. Earlier this summer, the island was horrendously flooded, but is now back to being it’s luxuriously landscaped self. After a delicious Thanksgiving buffet, we alternated between enjoying the fireplace inside, and the view of the Toronto skyline from the comfy lounges outside. A perfect evening!

Today, we’ll be joining fellow scribe/photographer/Energizer Bunny Pat Blythe for her amazing festive spread. That woman can cook most people under the table, and still sparkle as the hostess with the mostest. We will enjoy the company of friends, and Pat’s famous pies, and who could ask for anything more!

i-came-in-like-a-butterballMonday will be Bring On The Fat Pants Day and let it all hang out. I can live with that.

But let’s talk about Canadian Thanksgiving. I like when we celebrate the holiday. Let the Americans have theirs on the fourth Thursday of November; ours is just better positioned. We’ve got Halloween at the end of the month, which acts as a speed bump before we get on the tilt-a-whirl that is the countdown to Christmas, and that’s just fine by me.

So why aren’t our holidays celebrated simultaneously, you ask? It’s all about history.

According to wiki, “the first Canadian Thanksgiving is often traced back to 1578 and the explorer Martin Frobisher. Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean, held his Thanksgiving celebration not for harvest but in thanks for surviving the long journey from England through the perils of storms and icebergs. On his third and final voyage to the far north, Frobisher held a formal ceremony ifrobisher-thanksgivingn Frobisher Bay in Baffin Island (present-day Nunavut) to give thanks to God and in a service ministered by the preacher Robert Wolfall they celebrated Communion.”

Over the years, succeeding waves of immigrants brought their own harvest traditions and delicacies to Canada, and we gratefully blended those new foods and tastes into what we now call Canadian cuisine.

And of course, we cannot forget how new Italian/Canadians brought their own tradition of the Spaghetti Harvest to our great land.

What we think of today as a traditional Thanksgiving feast owes a lot to what American film and TV has idealized as the proper fare… the groaning board that begins with pickles, olives, and hot dinner rolls (Pillsbury Crescent Rolls are a favourite for me) and carries on with mashed potatoes , roasted vegetables, cranberry sauce, stuffing and giblet gravy, all but the preliminaries to the guest of honour, the roast turkey.

And when you’ve had your fill, and have moved your belt buckle over a notch, lo and behold, the desserts arrive – pumpkin or cherry or raspberry pie, carrot cake, ice cream …. Ahhh … yep, sounds like Thanksgiving at Pat’s!

I’m happy to have a day designated for giving thanks. We’re an entitled bunch of gits, and having to stop and actually think about what’s good in our lives is rare; we’re far more likely to be complaining about what we don’t have. This is a day – or a long weekend – on which Canadians can all agree that they are blessed to live in a country which, because of or in spite of current leadership, allows us freedom in so many ways.

thanksgiving-gratitudeI try to have an “attitude of gratitude” as the platitude goes. No matter what life brings, I try to remember that there are people on this planet who would kill to be in my shoes. Which is not to say that I don’t occasionally complain, but I do value what I have, and I thank those who make my life better, just by their presence and love.

 

“When we neglect to require our children to say `thank you’ when someone gives them a gift or does something for them, we raise ungrateful children who are highly unlikely to be content. Without gratitude, happiness is rare. With gratitude, the odds for happiness go up dramatically. The more you recognize and express gratitude for the things you have, the more things you will have to express gratitude for.” Zig Ziglar

grateful-for-everythingSo, what are you grateful for in your life? I’m grateful for my husband, my children and grandchildren, and my family and friends, who continue to love me despite my many, many quirks and odd behaviour. I’m grateful for the food in our pantry and the roof over our heads. I’m grateful that I’m getting older, because the alternative sucks. I’m grateful that I get to write this column every Sunday, and some of you actually read it and even discuss ideas with me, whether you agree or disagree with my points. I’m grateful that I’ve never lived in a country ravaged by war or pestilence or famine, and probably never will.

Little girl asleep in bed.I’m grateful when I lay my head down on the pillow at night, and know that the odds are good I’ll be waking up in the morning to another day filled with possibilities. I’m grateful for every bit of my life so far, and the wonders that still await my discovery. For as long as I am on this planet, I want to be cognizant of the beauty that is all around me, and never take for granted the gift that is existence.

Even when the going gets rough and it seems like there’s nowhere to go but down, it’s best to consider the good you have in your life, and be thankful. That small shift in thinking can put things into perspective.

Never underestimate how important it is to have people in your life who are kind and loving and thoughtful. When all else fades away, love and kindness are the greatest gifts you can give or receive.

There’s a reason why this song has over 52 million hits … the simple lyrics, and the joyful delivery remind us of the things that are most important in our lives.

Have a wonderfilled Thanksgiving weekend, everyone, however you choose to celebrate.

 

 

Everything is Everywhere


Since I have a fear of flying, and a flight to B.C. tomorrow morning, I’ve been in a constant state of panic for the last week or so. When I finally fall into a restless sleep, I have non-stop nightmares of arriving at the wrong terminal, without a ticket or some vital bit of identification, and wearing all the wrong clothes, if I’m wearing clothes at all. Even when there’s no reason to panic – and I can always find a reason to panic – I’m in a simmering pre-panic mode. My house looks like an exploded suitcase. Everything is everywhere. mickey suitcase

I’m reeling like an enraged Tasmanian Devil, with piles of lists that disappear under yet more piles of lists, of things that I need to buy or do, or do bee doo bee doo, before I hit Pearson International in the a.m., legs trembling, and a nervous smile flitting spasmodically over my lips.

So I’m going to keep it short, and just tell you about a few musical events happening today that will make this hot and sunny September Sunday a day to remember.

The timing of this trip meant that I wasn’t able to volunteer at the Kensington Market Jazz Festival this year (September 15-16-17) as I had last year. With over 200 Canadian musicians playing over 150 shows at very cool venues up and down the Market streets, it’s a weekend that’s chock full of great music.

Tory on phone jazzfest Sept 2017Trip and jitters aside, I still found the time on Friday afternoon to drop in on Greg Godovitz at El Mocambo‘s pop up shop, Prohibition (66 Kensington Avenue,) where I bought a couple of rocking t-shirts for my western family. Then it was off to the media launch at Tom’s Place, (190 Baldwin) where local luminaries, including a texting Mayor John Tory, the dashing Richard Flohill, and chanteuses Molly Johnson and Genevieve Marentette, along with Celine Peterson (daughter of Oscar) and a host of others, gathered to celebrate the beginning of the fest.

The ever effervescent Joanne Smale greeted me as I entered. She’s handling the media around handsome young santur player, Sina Bathaie, and his latest production.

From the artist: “This album, Rays of Hope, is dedicated to all those who have pursued; who have suffered while the world waits for us to remember this perennial first wisdom that love ignores all boundaries. What we hope for in the end is that remembrance with which we can hurdle every fence, tear down every wall and arrive at that place where hope greets us in warm welcome. Each text in the cover is a verse of a poem which celebrates our timeless elusive pursuit for peace, hope, and the most important of all these, love. “

santurTo my hippie ears, his new CD has a sort of new age-y updated feel of Mike Oldfield‘s Tubular Bells, played on this fascinating Persian instrument.

The album release concert will be on Friday, October 13, at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, Lyric Theatre. Or you can catch him this afternoon, from 3:00-4:00 pm at Handlebar, 159 Augusta. ($12. at the door,)

If you can find your way down to the Market today, there’s still a lot of great music to be heard, starting at noon with the Sidewalk Crusaders Street March, and including a slew of free concerts at the Yamaha Grand Piano Room in Tom’s Place, by some of Toronto’s most respected players, including Brian Dickinson, Carl Bray, Don Thompson, Joe Sealy, Mark Eisenman and Robi Botos.

Danny-MarksToronto’s favourite son and perennial Energizer bunny, Danny Marks, will be playing at the Hotbox Cafe (204 Augusta) from 1:00-2:00 pm, ($12. at the door) and then at Prohibition from 4:00-6:00 pm (Pay what you can.)

Bertie & The Gents, with the wonderful Manfred Koch on trombone, will be holding court from 6:00-7:00 pm at El Gordo’s Backyard (214 Augusta) ($17. at the door.)

Hit Amadeus’ Restaurant, (184 Augusta Ave) at 6:00 pm to get your jazz on for free, courtesy of Rick Donaldson & The Jazz Cats with Jim Heineman. amadeus resto

And at the kitschy, eclectic Lola, (40 Kensington Ave.) there’s Donne Roberts from 4:00-5:00 pm (($12. at the door,) Anh Phung & Alan Mackie playing from 6:00-7:00 pm ($12. at the door,) the Selcuk Suna Trio featuring DIA from 8:00-9:00 pm ($12. at the door,), ending with Eric St-Laurent ($12. at the door,) from 10:00-11:00 pm.

For more info, maps and schedules, head on over to the fest’s web site.

http://www.kensingtonjazz.com/mobile-phone-schedule-a-z

As for me, hopefully I’ll get to hear some fine jazz this afternoon , and still be at the right airport terminal tomorrow morning, with the right paperwork in hand, and without having forgotten something deathly important. Like clothing. I’ve got this! Head’s up, British Columbia! I’m on my way!

Sorta kinda.