Sports, Armageddon, and Quincy Jones Oh My!


 

by Roxanne Tellier

It’s Superbowl Sunday! that day when two teams of very large men in very padded outfits will try to kill each other for funzies and a huge, gawdy ring.

I don’t watch sports – it’s just not my thing – but I do enjoy the half time shows, and the award winning advertisements that sponsors save up for this special day.

What’s a ‘lunk’?

In other news, it seems like we’re living through a “Choose Your Own Armageddon” scenario.

If you’ve always wondered what it would be like to live in a post-apocalyptic world, your wish may be well on it’s way to coming true!

This week, the most informed leading lights and heads of the military and intelligence bureaus of the United States reported on the current hotspots around the globe that could cause major conflicts and bring unrest to America.

trump spoiled toddler poseThe most uninformed man in the world, who doubles as the president of the U.S., told them they were all wrong, and that only he, based on his ‘gut feelings’ and a solid and continuous scrutiny of the talking heads of the FOX Network, knew what was really going on.

So adamant was he on this point that the White House decreed that there would no longer be daily presidential briefs brought to him every morning, as these contrary ‘opinions’ were just too upsetting for the boy king.

trump tan failOh, and also that his orange facial tinge is due to ‘good genes‘ – not makeup and definitely NOT from a tanning bed.

To further demonstrate that ‘nobody’s gonna tell ME what to do!” trump then decided to end the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty, which currently prohibits the production or testing of ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles. Russia, a little miffed that the Orange Julep is pretending to bicep flex, immediately retaliated, declaring the treaty, in place since the days of Reagan, null and void.

This tiff, combined with the unstable situations in North Korea and the Middle East, now has those in the know worrying that an arms race is about to restart between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers. And it’s got me wondering where on earth I’m gonna find a school desk big enough for me to ‘duck and cover’ my big butt.

What we’re left with, after the clear warnings of the hearing, and the toddler’s subsequent tantrum, is something that will keep me and many others awake at night. Trump has been established as an ignoramus – uninformed and unwilling to learn – and the people who actually have the facts on global instability have been marginalized and belittled on the world stage by their own Commander in Chief.

This leaves precisely NO ONE in charge of what to do when the shit hits the fan. There are no leaders in which the American people can put their faith and trust. America is now ripe for a takeover by even the weakest nation on the planet, due to this gross destabilization of reality.

And if that don’t kill ya ….

Hundreds of thousands of fish have choked during Australia‘s hottest month since records began. Swathes of the United States are colder than the north pole. New ruptures have been found in one of the Antarctic’s biggest glaciers and there are growing signs the Arctic is warming so fast that it could soon be just another stretch of the Atlantic…. The US deep freeze, which has plunged temperatures in Minnesota to -50C (-58F), may appear to have little in common with the searing heatwave that cooked Marble Bar, Australia, in 49.1C (120.4F).” The Guardian, January 2019

world will end in 12 years AOC… little in common indeed … what’s a 100C degree temperature swing amongst friends, amirite?

At Davos, a feisty Swedish teen activist, Greta Thunberg, led a snowy sitdown demonstration to warn the billionaires, world leaders, business figures and celebrities gathered there that their inaction on climate change might be turning them a profit now, but didn’t bode well for their dreams of a long line of succession to their personal thrones.

“Some people say that the climate crisis is something that we all have created. But that is not true, because if everyone is guilty then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame,” 16-year-old climate crusader Greta Thunberg told the audience

Thunberg’s own strike from school every Friday for 23 weeks has inspired a wave of similar protests globally by young people who wonder what the point is of education in a world where political leaders fail to tackle climate change.

Also at Davos, and If you’d prefer your endtimes to involve guillotines, rumble carts, and a Les Miserables soundtrack, Rutger Bregman, historian and author of Utopia for Realists, gave the unclothed Davos emperors an earful, when he rightly pointed out that their prattlings on inequality and social unrest were sweet, but had little impact when divorced from the role the very wealthy play in the problem.

wealth isn't created at the topHe told his audience that people in Davos talked about participation, justice, equality and transparency, but “nobody raises the issue of tax avoidance and the rich not paying their share. It is like going to a firefighters’ conference and not talking about water.”

With all of that angst swirling around me, I am always enormously grateful when I find a little respite to the daily horror of the trump era, be it by watching videos of cats dressed in shark costumes riding Roombas, or of having the good fortune of stumbling upon a sweet documentary I didn’t know I needed to see.

QUINCY … this film alone is worth my monthly Netflix payment. The 2018 American documentary about ‘Q,’ the record producer, singer and film producer, is two hours I consider very well spent.

Quincy Jones – one of only 18 EGOTs (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner) … over 2000 songs and 300 albums recorded … 51 film and television scores … over 1000 original compositions … 79 Grammy nominations and 27 Grammy wins …. producer of both the best selling single AND the best selling album of all time.

Now that’s what I’m talking about.

Quincy’s life was never easy, right from the days of his rough upbringing on the south side of Chicago. His mother was diagnosed schizophrenic and roughly dragged away in a straitjacket when he was just seven years old. He didn’t see her again until he was a successful young man.

His determination and grit saw him survive the Great Depression and go on to perform with Lionel Hampton as a teenaged trumpeter, and then put his head down and conquer every form of music that interested him, despite the barriers erected by the colour of his skin.

quincy and ray

He worked hard, and he loved hard, but the work had a habit of getting in the way. All three of his wives eventually had to leave because the music and the work was taking up all the air in the marriage.

His talent and genuine love for music propelled him to places few others could have gone. When the record companies said he was too young and inexperienced to be a producer, Dinah Washington insisted it was Quincy’s production or no one’s.

Mercury Records said, ‘Nope, we want a name.’ Dinah said, ‘Here’s a name for your ass: Dinah Washington with Quincy Jones as an arranger.’ ”

In the late fifties, Quincy’s work with Frank Sinatra was instrumental in the singer’s push for racial equality for Las Vegas entertainers, eventually playing an integral role in an agreement between Vegas hotel and casino owners that effectively desegregated the city in March 1960.

He knew everyone in the biz, and he worked with most of them. In one portion of the film, set in 2016, Jones inspects the new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History & Culture exhibits, where the personal effects of so many of his old ‘homies’ –Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Dinah Washington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis – are on display. In a few hours, the grand opening ceremony that he has guided into place and produced will begin, but for a few moments, he is black musical history personified, both past and present.

The man never seems to stop, despite having had several serious health scares, including a nervous breakdown, blood clots, a stroke, diabetes, and not one, but two brain aneurysms.

And yet, the overwhelming passion that seems to guide his life is his incredible gratitude and appreciation for his family and friends. This is a loving man, a man who cannot get enough of his family, and a man who, despite having done so much in his lifetime, is still capable of finding joy and surprise in the music and the young musicians he continues to mentor, even as he edges ever closer to 90.

There were many moments in this film that touched my heart, and nearly brought me to tears. It is the existence and continuing presence of a rare genius in our midst that gives me hope for both music, and an America that could produce such a man.

 

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.

 

 

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!

 

An Attitude of Gratitude


I am not a religious woman. I see some that take great comfort in their faiths, and I am happy that it makes them happy. To gather together with others of like views and beliefs, to share song and nourishment, is the essence of community.

I also see some who insist that everyone must follow the same faiths and paths that they have chosen, even if it must be enforced by law or violence.  That is an abuse of the same spirit that causes people to want to come together in joy and a common pursuit. A forced faith, brought about by societal or legal pressure, is not a true faith, and is quickly discarded when the pressure to comply is lifted.

taking-for-grantedMy faith, if that is what it is, lies in gratitude. I’m thankful for so much around me, most of which is unearned except by having been born the person I am, in the society I live within. There is nothing remarkable about me. Some parts of my life have been very difficult, but, at other times, life has been very good. The me that lived through all the parts of my life is always grateful, whether it is for a little or a lot, of whatever I’ve got.

In a consumer society, all of the world’s riches are still never enough. We are constantly bombarded with urgings to buy more and more physical goods. This one is new and therefore better! This one is improved!  Buy this makeup/clothing/car and you’ll be prettier/sexier/more acceptable/maybe even loved! And for heaven’s sakes – discard what once was exactly what you thought you needed to achieve happiness. Make room for more stuff that you’ll faintly resent moments after purchase. Because  …

happy-people-are-thankfulStuff doesn’t create happiness.  Happiness cannot be bought. The feelings of comfort, joy, and community rise from not just an acceptance of who and what you are, but from thankfulness for the people you’ve chosen to surround yourself with, who accept you for who and what you are, wherever you are, whatever the conditions.

We are easily distracted. Something shiny will always come along that entices us to look at what we have, and find it wanting. There is no joy or happiness in envy or greed. The need to acquire hides our truest desire – to truly see what we have,  with loving and compassionate eyes, and be thankful, no matter the circumstances.