It’s Father’s Day – Like It or Not


by Roxanne Tellier

In North America, Father’s Day was first celebrated in Spokane, Washington in 1910, when a young Arkansan woman named Sonora Smart Dobb organized a day of praise for people like her own father, a single parent and Civil War veteran, who raised six children. It would have remained a local issue, and faded away in time, except that Dobb, after a twenty year break, decided to revisit the idea of the celebration, and to up the volume by promoting the Day at a national level.

In the 1930s, with the help of the Father’s Day Council founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers, she and her supporters pumped up the commercial volume, and, by the mid-1980’s, had made Father’s Day into a Second Christmas for the men’s gift-oriented industries.
creative-fathers-day-gifts

Cue the cascade of cutesy Father’s Day gifts … ties, funky t shirts, things for the car and/or garage, and a slew of macho oriented bumpf. Not much chocolate, though, I have noticed. You never really find a “Day after Father’s Day Half Price CHOCOLATE”  sale, do you?

I’m not a big fan of the patriarchy. Wasn’t keen on growing up under it, really hated the ‘glass ceiling‘ and the way that women have to work two or three times as hard as a guy to get a seat at the table where men naturally choose to sit at it’s head, as though it is their due by birth. Never liked the preponderance of males in every position of power from the local cops to the clergy and prime ministers or presidents. Never liked men making decisions that would affect my day to day life, my voting rights, or my sex life. Just never liked it.

 

 

 

I spent nearly a year in an orphanage when I was five, so that my mum and sister could recover from a very difficult childbirth they’d endured. Although my parents would come and visit me when they could, a five year old is a walking hot bed of childhood diseases, so I was kept away from my sister, who was quite fragile.

Having actual parents, while living in an orphanage filled with kids who had no parents, made me the one eyed child in the land of the blind; I knew that I was incredibly lucky to actually have parents, even if my whole ‘family’ thing was currently on hold.

Not all parents are created equal. While I know that there are a lot of people out there who had good fathers, and lots of guys who believe that they themselves are good fathers, there’s also a lot of guys that didn’t do so good at the father game, for any number of reasons. Some times there are cultural issues at play – some families keep kids away from their fathers until the kids are old enough to interact semi-responsibly. Some fathers may struggle with how best to relate to their kids, because they themselves had a less than adequate father/child relationship. Some dads walk away from their responsibilities, maybe because they are unable to cope, or maybe because they don’t know how fast life – and youth – speeds by. And then there are those who can’t imagine taking responsibility for their part in the child’s birth and childhood.

 

Cleaver familyHow do we define a good father? No one seems to know exactly what constitutes the ideal dad. Sometimes we think we know what qualities we would have liked to have in a father, and some people actually did get a dad that really did fulfill our stated and unstated needs. It takes all kinds, and there are all kinds of dads.

I have mixed feelings about Father’s Day. Unlike a lot of my friends, I didn’t get the Leave It To Beaver family lifestyle of the 50s. I’m glad for those of my friends who have fond memories of their dads .. but I’m not one of those people.

 

 

Every Father’s Day I smile and nod when people write about warm, loving interactions with their dads or dad figures. That was just not my experience. And the funny thing about those people who grew up having dads whom they admired or adored is how difficult it is for them to comprehend that a lot of other kids didn’t get that kind of attention, and can’t relate to the connection other fathers and kids enjoyed. Some kids lost their dad very early, to death, divorce, or disinterest. Some kids received no attention, or, worse, received the wrong kinds of attention, the kind that landed them in psychotherapy for decades.

So there are some people who are feeling a little testy today, who will be staying off social media, and avoiding the ‘highlight reels’ that a lot of people will be sharing of their childhood memories. Some might be dreading a visit to a dad who didn’t quite cut it when it came to parenting. And, whether their dads were not so good or not so bad, there will be many, many others wishing that their dads were alive so that they could share one more moment with them.

mark twain on fathersOn Father’s Day, pretty much everyone will put a happy face on their upbringing, whether or not they had a good relationship with their dads. But a lot of time, they’re not being honest, to themselves or to others. Pretending that things are fine when they most definitely are not can make people feel like they are alone, and can even make them feel like they are bad people for not having had a good dad.

Truth is, all of us on this planet – whether we are fathers or grown up kids – are human, fallible, needy, and imperfect. Whatever you are feeling today, there are many feeling the exact same way.

So – Bless them all, bless them all. Bless the good dads, the not so good dads, the happy dads and the sad dads. Bless the dads who lifted up their kids, high enough to touch the moon, and the ones who might as well have been ON the moon themselves.

Happy Father’s Day, Dads. Enjoy your day.

 

When Is A Lamp Just A Lamp?


by Roxanne Tellier

Humans are incredibly narcissistic. At least one of the many writers of the Bible understood this when they wrote,

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
if-god-created-man-in-his-own-image

That is some kinda entitled privilege, your basic eminent domain mandate, right there. And since Genesis was telling us how much we have in common with the Supreme Being, and that we have ‘dominion’ over all of those other creatures, it was probably only natural that we would assume our own sort of godliness by conferring human traits to these creatures, and then assigning those traits that we perceive and like or dislike in them, to other humans.

It’s called anthropomorphising. We gaze into the faces of our pets, our cats and dogs, and believe that they reflect back our same emotions. But when animals behave in ways we dislike, we can find their actions ‘catty,’ and then apply that characteristic to someone who is devious or spiteful, or view the simple but steadfast hound as “dogged,” which we then use as a compliment for someone who is stubbornly single minded.

politicians before and aferWe call a fool “asinine” because we believe that donkeys are stubborn and stupid. A hawk, with it’s razor talons and sharp beak doesn’t wait around for prey, and so the bird’s tendency gave the epithet “hawkish” to warmongers, with their aggressive, attack-prone natures.

Sluggish, slothful, fishy, chicken, sheepish, squirrelly …. we see parts of ourselves in each of these creatures.

I’m not the only gardener that talks to her plants – it’s been a ‘thing’ for as long as we’ve been hunters and gatherers.

Proving we crazy plant-talkers right, in 2019 the Royal Horticultural Society researchers discovered that talking to your plants really does help them grow. And they also found that plants prefer a female voice over a male’s, growing faster when spoken to in dulcet tones.

Even the most humble amongst us just can’t help thinking that inanimate objects have human characteristics. Remember Tom Hanks and his volley ball buddy in Castaway? That was a great deal more than just an interesting plot device – it capitalized on a desperate human need for company and some sense of feeling known and understood.

Or perhaps you recall this commercial from 2002?

Of course, the commercial mocked our need to anthropomorphize things. (It was also a paean to gross capitalistic commercialism and a throwaway society, but that’s a tale for another day.)

And – 16 years later – that lamp did indeed find a home.

Because .. again … anthropomorphization. We just love to think that every thing, living or inanimate, shares the same emotions that we do. We are wrong. But that need for connection is the way that we try to sate our craving for social connection.

Since the caveman days, we’ve had the option to either work with or against other humans. We weigh up the pluses and minuses of creating tribes, and usually decide that avoiding loneliness, and of course, enjoying the strength of numbers, is worth putting up with the foibles of other people.

We feel ‘lonely’ when our actual social relations fall short of how much social connection we want. The whole sensation of ‘feeling lonely in a crowd’ has to do with a lack of social bonds within that crowd of people.

pet rocksWe perceive human qualities in non-human beings or objects when we believe we can intuit a human quality that might apply, like when our cell phone suddenly goes on the fritz, right when we’re supposed to make a call we don’t feel like making. Or maybe our car starts making a weird noise and we want to understand what has ‘upset’ the car, and provoked the object’s behaviour.

But mostly it’s when we crave social contact. Lonely people, people with a high empathy level, or people who need a lot of stimuli in their personal space, are more likely to perceive human qualities in inanimate objects.

In psychological studies, they have found that less lonely people were less prone to anthropomorphizing.

So – does a cure for anthropomorphization lie in the flitting of a ‘social butterfly’ ? If we can assuage that social connection craving by other means, will we stop seeing humanity in inanimate objects?

clocky alarm clockIn one psychological study, participants were shown descriptions of four gadgets, inventions that purported to make their lives easier. One was an alarm clock that rolled around, so that the waker would have to chase and capture the clock to turn off the alarm. Another was a “Pillow Mate” – a pillow that could be programmed to give you a hug. Another was an air purifier for people with allergies or respiratory problems.

About half of those participating in the study were told to think about an important and meaningful relationship that they have with another person, and about how they could count on that person not abandoning them. The other half were told to think about a casual acquaintance.

They were then asked how they’d rate the items based on human-like traits, for example, if they thought the item had a ‘mind of it’s own.’

tom hanks and wilsonIt turned out that those people who had been thinking about an important and close relationship prior to being asked about the gadgets just didn’t see as many human qualities in the inventions. Their need for social connection having been met, they didn’t feel a need to have a gadget that replaced human contact.

Which means that Tom Hanks’ soccer ball would never have become his best buddy, if there’d been another human on that island. Poor old Wilson.

talking toasterA lamp cannot be sad, but people can be lonely. Loneliness is when we deny our human need for companionship, and if we can’t find another human to bond with, to care about, and to share our lives with, we’re far more likely to see a reflection of humanity in the chromed smoothness of a toaster or the sly sideways glance of a fox.

Just ask the cartoon industry.

 

No Integrity – No Confidence in Ford’s Ontario


by Roxanne Tellier

montreal driving detoursDang it. After three fun and family filled days in Montreal, with very little social or TV media contact, I’ve come home to some crazy tales of quasi legal business ‘negotiations’ that skirt ethical decency in favour of political arm-twisting and bullying, and that will have a long and lasting depressing effect on our province’s financial future.

But before I get into that – wow, Montreal! Construction season is locked and loaded, and attempting to get anywhere by car is a crazy adventure guaranteed to take at least three times the estimated travel time and distance you expected for your jaunt. We’re talking mile long detours through much of the downtown core.

tailgating car

Which really plays havoc with the favourite pastime of Montreal drivers … tailgating. It appears that every vehicle, from motorbike to taxi to city bus feels it necessary to sniff the exhaust fumes of the vehicle directly in front of them. I spent my first ten minutes on Montreal soil clutching the armrest of the taxi I was in, as my driver came perilously close to forcibly entering the trunk of the Jaguar sedan ahead of us. (tailgatin

Returning to my old hometown as a visitor is always a jolt – time almost stands still in large chunks of the city, which means I can find not only my own past residences, but those of so many others, dating back into the early 1800s. And yet, there are swaths of downtown streets – like those that greet newcomers by bus and train – that make you feel that you could be in any large metropolis in North America. It’s a sea of franchises parked in cookie cutter glass and mirror towers, and hardly representative of the romantic, historic streets and avenues that radiate outwards from the city centre.

entertainment-districtGlobalization and commerce have a huge effect on our cities, as we seek to attain certain visual standards, and to compete for the valuable rental, retail, and corporate investments that bring in and circulate the wealth necessary to pay for yet more municipal growth.

By highlighting our best commercial policies against a glittering, metropolitan backdrop, every city, province, and nation in the civilized world hopes to attract the largest corporations and investors in order to keep moving in a forward, progressive, direction.

Which is why I was gobsmacked to read that the Ford administration is determined to summarily break a ten-year contract with Ontario’s The Beer Store, in order to fulfill a promise that has always, from the beginning, sounded like the slurred, pipe dream mumblings of a hard core, gutter inhabiting, drunk. And all meant to put a buck-a-watery-beer in every corner variety store throughout the province.

ford cuts sex-ed-protest(I understand that CAMH has some amazing programs to deal with that level of addiction – unless that funding was also part of the death by a thousand cuts Ford’s been inflicting on Toronto for the last year.)

But no matter how badly Doug, or any Ontarian, needs a beer, one thing is very clear to most of us;  a deal is a deal. You learn that on the playground dirt, and, if you are a reputable, honest person – a straight shooter – you don’t renege on your word. Then or now.

I don’t think any Ontarian taxpayer really wants to pay The Beer Store a billion dollars in order to break their “sweetheart deal” that finally loosened the stranglehold the big brewers had had on the province for the last 90 years. When the provincial crown negotiated the changes, it allowed the addition of 450 new retail locations in large supermarkets, over a transitional ten year period that expires in 2025.

the beer store

That contract added value and convenience to the locations chosen to host these new outlets, which were additions to the current availability of beer products in the already existing 450 Beer Stores, 660 LCBO locations, and 210 agency outlets.

 

As this piece in The Toronto Star explains, ” Ford’s Tories will pass a law this month cancelling a signed contract between the crown and the Beer Store’s owners — condemned as a “sweetheart deal” with foreign-owned multinationals. His Progressive Conservative government shall pass legislation for cancellation without compensation, using its supreme powers to absolve Ontario of any liability in a court of law.

 Confiscatory legislation invites litigation, so we may yet pay the price — estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. But the revolution demands sacrifices.”

The article goes on to say that Ford’s willingness to use legislative powers, rather than to honour the carefully negotiated business deal, must be seen in the light that they will appear to the eyes of current and potential new investors – as the actions of a province drunk with power, that can no longer be trusted to keep it’s word.

ford not one job lostThat means you can kiss the possibility of luring multinational corporations, like Amazon for instance, into planning a long term investment in Ontario, when there is no certainty or surety in the integrity of the elected government. That kind of deal, only good as long as it pleases the “Emperor,” gives the big players no confidence, and no reason to invest in Ontario’s future.

Ford has no problem with playing the bully, and with cherry picking the ‘promises’ made during the campaign that he’ll choose to keep. So it should come as no surprise that his ‘promises’ all seen to only contribute to the detriment of the health, welfare, and comfort of the actual tax payers of the province. Any sort of pushback is met with a steely disregard for diplomacy, and a willingness to play as dirty as the dirtiest con men, druggies, and swindlers Ford rubbed shoulders with growing up.

hwy 407But if he’s going to remove the gloves, and expose himself to the world as someone who cannot be trusted, perhaps he can do Ontario a solid, and work on  ‘fixing’ previous bad governmental sell offs, ripping them from their official owners, and returning them to the people in a display of eminent domain. He can start with overturning the 99-year lease on Highway 407, which was sold to foreign owners by the Tories in 1999  for a mere $3.1 billion. It’s now worth $28 billion, so let’s have that back, please and thank you.

Or what about the old Ontario Hydro privatization that Harris pushed through? How’s that been working for you in the last twenty years? Or the $350 billion of foreign debt previous governments, both PC and Liberal, have left us … can’t you just wave your magic wand and make those disappear as well?

Because … here’s the thing, Dougie Boy;  when the first official thing you do after taking office involves unleashing a notwithstanding clause to meddle with the members of a city’s Council whom you wish to punish, and you follow that by creating laws that allow you to break official, crown-negotiated, provincial, ten year contracts without penalty, both the tax paying citizens and all future corporate investors can only come to one conclusion – that there is absolutely no reason or manner in which they can have confidence in the integrity of your spoken or written word.

Friday January 25, 2019The Ford Government has now shown that it cannot be trusted to deal fairly with either the citizens of Ontario, or the businesses and corporations that enrich the province. I don’t know who Ford thinks will ultimately be helped by his bumbling, bullying, and braggadocio, but I do know that Ford’s actions have been repeatedly shown to most definitely not be ‘for the people’ and certainly his ballyhooed, ham-handed attempt to rebrand Ontario as ‘open for business’ has only led to a lack of confidence in the province’s fiscal future.

Now if only his Cabinet would see that, and remove him from office with a legal motion of no confidence.

That’s the only way we’re gonna get him out of power before he bankrupts the place.

 

 

Montreal, Cemeteries, and Donovans


by Roxanne Tellier

My family has a tiny burial plot on Mount Royal, in the Cotes de Neiges cemetery, and that’s where the bones and ashes of my ancestors have been interred for over a hundred years.

It’s been two months since my aunt’s passing. The clan will gather this week to bring her ashes home.

Patricia Donovan, daughter of Freda (James) Donovan and Denis Patrick Donovan, the last of her generation, died March 29, 2019 in Ottawa. Born in Montreal, Patricia lived most of her life there. She enjoyed travel, and worked for a time in Washington, D.C. She moved to Toronto and cared for her mother until her mother’s passing. 

aunts and uncles 1970 001

Patricia was a writer, painter, and sculptor who pondered life’s big questions.
Auntie Pat had fifteen nieces and nephews and enjoyed a unique relationship with each of them. She is survived by the clan, and will be missed by them.”

My family has always had an easy relationship with death; when I was young, my mother would often take my sister and I to the mountain for a picnic in the graveyard. We’d loll on the well tended grass while we ate lunch, and then wander around the tombstones and mausoleums, looking for famous names.

Michael Donovan A shamrock_in_the_snowI believe that my cousin Michael Leo Donovan, a man who loves the city of Montreal with a fervour I’ve never seen excelled, wrote a book about one of the cemetery’s denizens, the statesman Thomas D’Arcy McGee, after repeatedly seeing his tomb on family visits.

darcy mcgeeIn 1867 he became a Father of Confederation. It was said that if Sir John A. MacDonald of Ontario and Sir George Etienne Cartier of Quebec were the architects of Canada. D’Arcy McGee was its prophet. He was murdered on April 6, 1868, in Ottawa, while returning home after a session of the House.” (A Shamrock in the Snow, 1996)

Other well known Canadians resting in peace at this, and the neighbouring cemetery, include the Reverend William Squire, the first person buried in Mount Royal Cemetery, who died of cholera in 1852, after performing a religious sick visit to a local merchant; Thomas Lee Hackett, a young Irishman shot during a fight between the Catholic and Protestant Irish on July 12, 1877, the day that the Orangeman had chosen to parade on the streets of Montreal; and Sir Arthur William Currie, Commander of Canadian Troops during World War I, and Principal of McGill University from 1920-1933, whose death in 1933 drew a funeral procession with a crowd estimated at 20,000 people, consisting of politicians, diplomats, military bands and hundreds of veterans. The Cross of Sacrifice, a military monument, marks his grave.

Here you will also find David Thompson, surveyor and explorer, who died very poor with no grave marker. The grave languished for seventy years, until, in 1926, the Canadian Historical Association erected a monument to him with the epitaph, “To the memory of the greatest of geographers who for 34 years explored and mapped the main travel routes between the St Lawrence and the Pacific.”

joe beef tavernMontreal’s revered Joe Beef has a place of honour. “His real Irish name was Charles McKieman. He owned the famous “Joe Beef’s Canteen,” located near the port. His 3-storey building held a tavern, a restaurant with free food for the homeless, a dorm of 100 beds and a basement full of strange menagerie. He died in 1889 aged 54. His six sons and his wife organized a very impressive funeral for him. Every office in the business district closed for the afternoon, and there were representatives of workers from all classes in the procession.”

Several more souls were added to the site in 1912, when six victims of the Titanic‘s sinking were buried there, including Charles Melville Hays, once the president of the Grand Trunk Railway. (A further five lie in the Notre Dame de Neiges Cemetery, and one in the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery. Montreal was, sadly, well represented in the tragedy.)

laurier palace fireThere is also a section dedicated to some of the 76 small children who died in the Laurier Palace Theatre fire in 1927, an event so horrific to Montrealers that a law was summarily passed forbidding the entry of children under 16 to any theatre or cinema screenings. That law remained in effect until 1961

Calixa Lavallée, the man who, in 1880 wrote our national anthem, “Oh Canada,” was born in Verchères, Quebec in 1842, but enlisted as a musician with the 4th Rhode Island Infantry at the outbreak of the American Civil War. He died a respected composer and conductor in 1891, from tubercular laryngitis, in Boston, Massachusetts, where he was buried until 1933, when his body was brought to Montreal for reburial.

More recent interments include Celine Dion‘s husband, René Angélil; journalist and politician, Nick Auf der Maur; Gratien Gelinas, actor; hockey players Doug Harvey and Maurice ‘The Rocket’ Richard; Pierre Laporte, politician, who was murdered by the FLQ in 1970; Robert Bourassa, 22nd premier of Quebec; and Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau, who truly made the city world class, by organizing Expo 67, along with playing host to the 1976 Olympic Games, and giving it an amazing Metro service.

Small wonder the place is considered one of the most haunted spots in Montreal. Often described as a “City of the Dead overlooking a City of the Living“, ghostly spirits are believed to roam the grounds after sundown.

Not to be forgotten, other mortal remains lie outside the cemetery boundaries. Most famously, the tomb of Simon McTavish is located in the dark forest above Peel Street. The angry Scottish fur baron died unexpectedly in 1804 while overseeing the construction of a magnificent castle on the slopes. Stories of his ghost tobogganing down Mount Royal in his own coffin terrified Montrealers during the 1800s. To make people forget, city officials demolished his abandoned castle and used the rubble to literally bury his mausoleum. Archaeological work a few years ago disturbed his tomb and now rumour has it he is haunting Mount Royal again.”

The silhouette of a warrior woman with storm clouds in the background.But the most common ghost spotted on the mountain where First Nation peoples were also known to bury their dead is that of an Algonquin warrior.

I’ll keep an eye open for that lonely fellow when I’m there.

I always look forward to visiting Montreal, the city of my youth. These are the grounds I stomped, my neighbourhoods, my restaurants, my mountain, my Canada Life Weather Beacon, first lit up in 1956, that let the city know what weather was on the way. It is and ever will be the city of my heart, no matter where I roam.

I miss my city, but it is inevitably, my family ties that pull me back when I have been too long gone. You can’t stay away from Donovans for very long.

Oh, ‘céad mile fáilte’ they’ll greet you down at Donovan’s
As cheery as the springtime, as Irish as the conovan
The wish of my heart is if ever I had anyone
That ev’ry luck that lightens life …. may light upon the Donovans”

the uncles 001Growing up, I think I always took my family a little for granted. Maybe I just assumed that all families were graced with so much talent, in so many fields. We grew up with my uncle Dennis , co-creator and writer of The Beachcombers; my uncle Leo, whose majestic land and seascapes graced our homes; my uncle John, who was possessed not only of great writing skill, but also of a deep, radio friendly baritone speaking and singing voice; my aunt Pat, a writer, painter, and woman of enormous intelligence; and my own mother, who was a superb dancer, writer, and editor.

cousins 001With that sort of heritage, it is almost a forgone conclusion that the 15 children they brought into the world also possessed many talents, not only in the arts, but in social and computing skills. We just never thought that we wouldn’t be able to do whatever we wanted to do with our lives.

daisy circusMany of us write. I mentioned Michael, above, but there’s also Kieran, the poet and singer-songwriter; and Rita, who has won multiple awards for her nine books, short stories and essays.

Michael also wrote and produced a fine video series on the origin of Montreal street names, now available on youtube. (And yes, those are his kids getting in on the act as Ms Kayleigh and Complete Stranger. )

 

 

dianne donovan beat divasWe all sing. Dianne toured with a Harry James tribute for years before settling down in Austin, Texas with her husband, where she also hosts Classical Austin on KMFA radio, produces a weekly vocal jazz show, “Voices in Jazz” for CKUA Radio in Edmonton, and has a new CD release, “A Musing,” featuring mostly original compositions. She also teaches a cooking class with her jazz trio, The Beat Divas. (dianne donovan beat divas.jpg)

aileen paintingSome of us draw, sculpt and paint. My cousin Aileen took her dad’s painting skill and crafted it into a long career as a well known animal portraitist during her years living in the North West Territories with the Inuit peoples. She now focuses mainly on past life regressions for both pets and people.

I could literally go on and on, listing the accomplishments of this talented group. I’m extremely proud of my family, with good reason.

cousins 003And I’ll get to see some, though not all of them, this week. While the occasion is solemn, visits to my city and my family are never terribly formal for more than a few minutes. We are a group that cannot be repressed for long – laughter, good humour, and our love for each other guarantees a boisterous reunion.

The passing of the last of our parent’s generation seems so final, and yet there’s a part of me that can’t believe that my cousins and I – even as we develop deeper ‘laugh lines’ and grey hair – will ever really age enough to become the ‘grumps’ of the family.

cousins 002I’ll bring that up with the clan at the wake next week, and see if anyone’s pencilled in a date for when we can get to the ‘growing up‘ part of life. With any luck, we can keep putting it off forever.

So far, so good.

 

 

Building Tiny Bomb Shelters for Fun and Profit


by Roxanne Tellier

wrong week to stop huffing glueEver have the feeling that you picked the wrong decade to try to get and stay healthy, focused, connected and relatively substance free? 

I’m telling you – I wish they’d narrow down the date of the Apocalypse, because I am totally prepared to return to smoking and drinking if it’s in the relatively near future. Heck, I’d probably be up for heroin or crack, if I knew I wouldn’t be around to pay the physical price for indulging.

grumpy cat RIP

Even Grumpy Cat couldn’t take this world any more. Oh, sure, they said the poor kitty had complications from an infection, but I’m gonna bet the tiny feline just couldn’t take another day of Trump.

And who could blame him?  Constant distractions, disruptions, lying, and a continual, unending chaos at the highest levels of government are what we wake up to every morning. Settled law has become unsettled. The relatively established ground of how our nearest and dearest will react to the next political landmine has turned to quicksand.

Just when you thought politics had hit rock bottom, you read that the sales of shovels and pick-axes continue to rise. And is that the sound of digging you hear?

These times are just too … interesting.

We read the gloomy predictions of climate catastrophe, follow the bouncing stock market ball, and wonder if there’s still time to build a tiny bomb shelter (because .. property rates are INSANE!) before a nuclear war erupts in a country near us.

When the rules by which you’ve been playing the game of Life are suddenly changed, for whatever reason, it can feel like a chasm has opened beneath your feet, exposing a yawning maw of emotional lava. And it can really mess you up. It’s exhausting, pretending to be a functioning adult.

types of depression

When I recently posted on Face book that I was too depressed to spend as much time on social media as I had in the past, I was surprised at how many people responded to the post, saying that they were feeling the same way.  Social media, which started as a nice way to pass the time with friends, has, in some cases, become a hive of pandemonium, where even the simplest statement can escalate in a heartbeat into a challenge to pistols at dawn.

some men just want to watch the world burnWe are angry and disillusioned with our fellow humans. We wonder how people whom we have known for decades could find it in themselves to vote for the Trumps and Fords of the world.

I have been in this place before, this dark corridor of tears and fear. I had a terrible, deep, and long lasting depression nearly two decades ago. It was soon after the events of 9/11 in the United States, and coincided with several personal events that caused within me a perfect storm of melancholy.

I spent months hiding in the basement, lying on a folding lounge chair, drinking myself into oblivion, trying to come to terms with a world that no longer made sense to me. I finally confessed my inability to cope to my doctor, and he sent me off to a psychiatrist, who was of very little help. The prevailing attitude was that depression was caused by a chemical imbalance, and thus should be easily curable if/when the right combination of chemicals were applied to the problem. In my case, his chemicals could not fix me – ultimately, I had to fix myself, unaided.

I am strong but tired fibroWe know now that a chemical imbalance is just one small segment of any study of depression disorder and mental illness; not every problem can be cured by pills. Some sufferers will need time, some will need counselling, and some will simply wake up one morning to discover that their pain has grown a hard callus over their broken heart.

What often drives a deep depression is a reaction to our present reality, and a feeling of being helpless to control our own lives in relation to that reality. It is, some say, a sense of loss, of grieving the person you once were, because you are now dealing with a very different present, and in so doing, have become a very different person, one whom you may occasionally find unrecognizable, or even unlovable.

Some, who live relatively unexamined lives, are better equipped than others to deal with extreme changes to their personal landscapes; with minor changes to their own belief systems, they can readily adjust to the ‘new rules’ that are imposed upon them by those who make and enforce the laws of their country.

one third will watch one third killHistory is filled with stories of people who stood by and watched horrific – but legal – acts be committed by those who created and enforced the laws of the land. It wasn’t that they were born to be bad people, per se .. it was that they were capable of ‘going along to get along’ … to watch without interfering, and to keep silent so that they themselves were not the next to be persecuted.

 

It is simply a truth that for many, self-preservation will overrule empathy if there’s anything at stake. Like those who cannot understand how others can be anything but regular, old heterosexual until they realize that someone close to them follows a different sexual lifestyle, it’s easiest to name and dismiss others as ‘not our sort’ when you’ve never known what it is that ‘their sort’ believe or practice.

abortion only protects fetusThe draconian new anti abortion laws emanating from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky and even Ohio, this week, ripe with a stench tinged with the sulphurs of Hell, have left many of us shaken, angry, and defiant in a way I haven’t seen in many months. These almost comically villainous, and decidedly unconstitutional, attacks on the civil rights of 51.8% of the American population were purposely designed to attract a backlash by the ACLU and other groups, in order that the Religious Right might attempt to overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark court case allowing abortions to be performed in the United States.

chastity belts for menRepublicans feel that the time is right to take this battle to the Supreme Court, now that Trump has stacked the Court with his handpicked lackeys.

And in Ontario last week, a very young and barely post-pubescent Conservative member casually shook the same red cape in support of a pro life protest on the grounds of Queen’s Park, where he made the pronouncement that he hoped to make abortion unthinkable in his lifetime.  By so doing, this home schooled and very religious young man unleashed a storm of estrogen-fueled fury unlike anything he could ever have dreamed of provoking.

What most of us, in both the U.S. and Canada, have recently learned is that the right to abortion isn’t actually settled law in the U.S. And in Canada, with 7 out of 10 provinces now ruled by Conservatives, and with a federal election looming that might turn the entire country back to the Right (and somewhere around the 1950s) our own abortion rights might be on the table sooner rather than later.abortion dont' tell me what to do

It is an irony of Alanis Morissette sized proportions that Canada, that ruled in 1967 that ‘there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,‘ thereby decriminalizing homosexuality, would now appear to be saying, in 2019, that the state DOES have the right to assert dominance over the uteruses (uteri?) of it’s women.

I won’t lie .. I am pissed. I am really, really REALLY pissed that a battle that so many of us fought for – and won! – back in the 60s is being brought back to life like some stinking, rotting zombie, purely for the tiny percentage of North Americans who, like ISIS, believe that their religious beliefs trump those of the rest of the nation.

I take great comfort in how women and their allies are fighting back this time around. We are not about to be manipulated by guilt as we have been in the past, and we no longer believe that the burden of contraception is completely our responsibility- it takes two to tango, and a lot of not so woke men are about to learn how to dance.

 

Walking-Dead

My only hope is that this desperate attempt by the Religious Right to pull the world back into the Dark Ages only succeeds in demonstrating indelibly and for all time that religion must never, ever, be allowed to trump science and democracy. That way lies dragons.

trump separation of church and state

 

DBAWIS CMW, Jeopardy, and What the Heck is ASMR?


by Roxanne Tellier

cmw 2019

It’s that time again! Canadian Music Week .. CMW 2019 … starts tomorrow, and continues all week, with enough major stars and events to keep even the most jaded muso happy.

“Canadian Music Week’s 3 day Music Summit is designed for both industry executives and recording professionals focused on the business of global music. Encompassing 3 days of dedicated programming streams to Tech & Innovation, Live Touring, and Global Creators Summit, as well as keynotes, celebrity interviews, breakout sessions and workshops, it will provide you with the tools and knowledge to build your profile in the business and put you face-to-face with the forward-thinkers who shape the entertainment industries.” CMW intro

Tomorrow night’s kickoff party at the Phoenix Concert Theatre will feature Television, the punky rock band from New York City fronted by Tom Verlaine, that ruled our close n play stereos back in the late 1970s. The fun starts at 7pm.

Toronto’s CMW affiliated clubs will be chockablock with amazing line-ups of talent hailing from near and far, until Sunday, May 12th.

linda-perry cmwI’m always most interested in the conferences, and as usual, the choice of subjects and speakers means that I’ll be run ragged. I’d like to catch 4 Non Blondes Grammy Award-nominated producer and songwriter Linda Perry‘s Masterclass on Thursday the 9th, where she’ll be giving live critiques on a selection of songs by artists and producer-songwriters attending this session.

Perry is a Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductee (2015) and co-founder of WE ARE HEAR, a new company set up to empower artists and break the industry mold. Linda Perry/WE ARE HEAR is represented by peermusic worldwide.”

Tons of good stuff to see and hear, and you know the DBAWIS writers will be checking it out, and reporting back to you, throughout this week and next.

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alex trebekAh, Jeopardy … the trivia lover’s best friend. Hosted by Canadian Alex Trebek, 78, who holds a Guinness World Records™ record for Most Game Show Episodes Hosted by the Same Presenter, the show’s unique formula has kept viewers tuning in since 1984, a mind boggling 35 years of compering.

This March Trebek informed his fans that he’d been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer, with a poor prognosis, but that he intended to aggressively fight the cancer. After all, he added, his contract meant he was expected to keep working for another three years!

Enter James Holzhauer, 34, a professional sports gambler, who has been dominating the show for the last 20+ days, and racking up wins of over $1.6 million dollars. Holzhauer is a phenom, a packrat of minutiae, who has not only figured out how to most successfully play the game, but, using a data driven approach, has come very close to breaking the game by beating the system.

james-holzhauer 18 dayHolzhauer uses the odds, selecting and correctly answering, the harder, top dollar clues first, and then seeking out the “Daily Double” clues, and making huge bets. By the halfway mark of the game, he’s ahead of the other two contestants with an insurmountable lead, and the game is pretty much over, as he romps to the end and Final Answer.

I cheered him on for the first week or two – it was an amazing display of top level overall trivial knowledge. But by week three, I was tired of watching his opponents slink dejectedly out of the studio, their shot of a lifetime now little more than a memory. At around the eleven day mark, I began to search out older episodes of the show, where there was at least some chance of not knowing exactly how the game would inevitably end.

Prior to 2003, Jeopardy had a few rules that kept the game in check, including a five-show limit for returning champions. It was also an unwritten rule that contestants would generally start by selecting the easier, low-money questions first, and work their way up, while viewers played along, feeling a little more confident with their own responses as the questions got harder. The loosening of those rules changed the game by raising the stakes.

For now, Jeopardy is seeing its best ratings in years, similar to what they had some 15 years ago with 74 time winner Ken Jennings. But I have to wonder who will be interested in watching next season’s games, if every episode is essentially a foregone conclusion. I tune in both to see how many questions I can answer, but also for the fun of watching other trivia mavens strut their stuff. If there’s no real competition, I’m not sure I want to watch what is the human equivalent of the bully pulling the wings off flies.

Love you, Alex … but starting to seriously get sick of James ‘owning’ this season of Jeopardy.

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An old friend, who is also a brilliant novelist, lives in Princeton, NJ, and often hosts soirees that include guests whose names are regularly printed in bold face in the media. Sometimes those guests include one of her neighbours, the writer Chris Hedges, best known as the doom and gloom, Pulitzer Prize winning, highly political, writer, editor and founder of TruthDig.

chris hedges quoteLauren tells me that he often winds up sitting by himself in a corner, because people just can’t take his constant proclamations of political corruption, upcoming wars and the inevitable destruction of our planet through unregulated capitalism.

And I’m gonna say, being rather known as a doom and gloom type cynic myself, that I understand that people don’t always want to hear about ‘how the sausage is made.’ Sometimes you just want to talk about fun things and relax with friends. I totally get that. And I’ve even been known to actually do that.

not listeningBut here’s the thing … people are getting very, very bad at handling reality. It’s one thing to say, “not now, please – I’m enjoying this brie,” and another to simply close your mind to the facts and truth of your current political and physical environment.

Lately I’ve found myself doing the same thing – reading an article that is so filled with horrors to come, that I have to shut down the computer and go out for a breath of air. It’s like my brain can’t take any more, and a massive steel door clangs down, preventing me from absorbing any more information on yet another assault on democracy, or attempts of the right wing to suck the earth dry for profit.

trump won't leave officeTruth be told .. it’s as bad as it looks. Actually worse. It’s so bad that people are seriously asking what will happen after the next election, if/when Trump just won’t leave the office if voted out.

You are already living in a dictatorship if you live in fear of an out of control president who believes he is above the law, and will call for a civil war rather than descend the throne.

Looks like Bill Maher agrees, at least a little. Never been a fan of ASMR, but what the heck … Honestly .. this is brilliant … and Moby is a very capable foil as well!

My point – and I do have one – is that we can only hide from reality for so long. We may not like it. We may say that we have no interest in politics, but in point of fact, politics is taking an enormous interest in everything about you, by which I mean, how much they can take from you before you finally fight back.

Is there is any end to the avarice? As the stakes mount, in terms of what kind of planet we live on, and who gets to live or die, based on the up or down turned thumb of populist rulers, I have begun to believe the answer is ‘no.

The wealthy, having ‘won’ nearly all of the riches in the world, now find most of us nothing but an inconvenience to their reign. Can they not leave us one damn leaf or a bit of ground to call our own?

This avarice strikes home when I consider how much I love the greenery of the towns and cities of Ontario. Even within this bustling big city, I only have to take a short walk to find myself in a well wooded park.

I’ve never been one for camping, hunting or fishing, but I’ve known hundreds of people who love Ontario’s abundance. Our green space is not just our treasure, it’s also a huge source of provincial revenue through tourism.

And yet, our politicians want to monetize the place, open up the joint for ‘business’ – which at this point seems to involve bringing in trainloads of cheap booze, gambling, casinos, and ferris wheels with hot and cold running prostitutes.

They’ll just have to clear away your green spaces, and pollute the air and water to do so, but apparently, that’s not too big a price for YOU to pay. They’re sure you’ll be delighted with living on endless grey parking lots with a Starbucks on one corner, and a Shopper’s Drug Mart on the other.

nursery treeOne of the most recent cuts in the Ford government’s budget is to a long standing project called the 50 Million Tree Program. 

The goal of the 50 Million Tree Program is to plant 50 million trees by 2025. To date, with continued government support, we’ve helped more than 4,000 landowners get involved.

Planting trees is a practical way to get more from your property, give back to the community, and help the environment. Work with us, and you can increase the value of your land, improve the quality of your soil, increase wildlife habitat, enhance recreational opportunities, improve the overall health of the environment and leave a lasting legacy.”

The 50 Million Tree Program was started in 2008 and has planted more than half its goal to date. It cost taxpayers $4.7 million last year. The bulk of the work of planting is done by conservation authorities , and students in the summer. The end of the program will also mean job cuts to those in the field.

“Patchell described the government’s decision, announced the day after the April 11 provincial budget, as short-sighted. It will lead to more erosion in flood zones, poor air quality, warmer lakes because of the lack of shade and less habitat for wildlife.

“It’s ignoring the societal value of tree-planting and of taking care of the environment,” Patchell said. “Trees clean the air and maintain the water for all of Ontario – for everybody.” (Ottawa Citizen, May 4, 2019)

The costs for this were largely borne by the landowners, but of course, you have to get the trees from somewhere. One of those ‘somewheres’ was the Ferguson Tree Centre outside of Kemptville.

The centre will have to destroy more than three million trees, due to the cost of future maintenance, that were planted to handle the nursery’s commitment to the program over the next three years, but that will no longer be needed.

Elections have consequences, and as long as we shut our eyes and refuse to be informed, we will be bystanders to a world whose beauties are ravaged and sacrificed to the maws of big business and the corrupt politicians that serve them.

trees cut downFord’s vision ‘for the people’ of Ontario appears to be aimed at the needs of drunks and gamblers, not at the campers, hunters and fishers wanting to enjoy the splendour of our province.

You really don’t know what you had .. until it’s gone.

 

Britney Spears Scares Pirates


by Roxanne Tellier

I originally wrote this column in April 2015.  Woke up today unable to write about the things I find so depressing in 2019, so … this retread will have to substitute for new thoughts on ‘interesting times.’

sexy-music“If music be the food of love, play on!”  Like food, music can be comforting. It can also be stimulating, annoying, or cloying. Music releases dopamine, the ‘feel good’ hormone, just like sex and actual food. Music can arouse feelings of euphoria and craving. Dopamine release is at “peak emotional arousal” during music listening, so you really ARE getting a bang for your musical buck.

Although there are exceptions – whether you consider them cursed or blessed, 5% of the population is indifferent to music, and feels nothing when they hear it.

But for the rest of us, music is much like a drug. When you’re listening to music that ‘speaks’ to you, you are completely dialled in to your brain, and that changes your brain chemistry. Music will change or augment your good or bad mood, and can cause you to slow down and relax, or jump up and dance.

brain-on-music-scienceComplex changes occur in our brains when we hear our favourite songs. We can be unconsciously manipulated through sound; studies show that listening to sad music can lead to a wide range of complex and partially positive emotions, like nostalgia.  Listening to particularly sad or happy music can change the way we perceive the world.

When you’re watching a film, you’re unconsciously processing the background/soundtrack tones and tempos which signal to our brains that what we are seeing should be experienced in the way the writer intended.

britney-scares-piratesThe sort of music we want to hear at a given moment has much to do with what we’ve heard before, the sounds that we’ve absorbed through our lives, the sounds that feel familiar, that work within the tonal range that defines what is ‘popular’ in our culture.  Which is why Britney Spears’ music has been used by the British Royal Navy to scare off Somali pirates.

Merchant naval officer Rachel Owens explained the tactics: “Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most. These guys can’t stand western culture or music, making Britney’s hits perfect. As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney, they move on as quickly as they can.   (metro.co.uk)

The inherent nature and power of music affects the animal kingdom as well. Cows produce more milk when listening to relaxing music, and 3% more milk listening to slow music over fast.  Birds and whales compose musical creations very like man’s, combining rhythm, length, patterns and pitches we can recognize, and both will sing complex songs to communicate with each other, and during courtship.

music-dogs-loveIf your pet has a tendency to overeat in stressful situations, or suffers from separation anxiety, quiet music playing on the radio may calm their anxieties, relax muscles, improve digestion and increase restful sleep. Dogs are particularly sensitive to music, with classical music having been shown to actually calm pups prone to epileptic seizures, and stimulate and release endorphins in the brain that aid in pain reduction.

Our brains love repetition. The first time we hear a song, our brains are processing the input, constantly predicting what will happen next, based on a pattern. And brains are a little lazy … we love repetitive choruses. In fact, for each repetition of a chorus, the chances of a song reaching the top of the charts rise by 14.5%

no-stairwayBut there’s a limit to how much repetition we can take. Although hearing a song again and again makes your brain happy, because it’s already done the work to figure out what comes next, after a while, overexposure to songs causes an actual irritation. Like when you can’t bear another chorus of “Jingle Bells,” or break into hives at the ten millionth rendition of “Stairway to Heaven.”

One thing that I always find hilarious is how easily we mishear lyrics. As we listen, we’re actually Interpreting and anticipating what will come next, a combination of hearing and hope. And once you’ve misheard a lyric, it becomes more difficult to process the actual lyrics, especially if a part of you is tickled by how witty you find the misheard version.

cheese-mondegreenThere’s an actual term for misheard lyrics – mondegreen. It was coined by writer Sylvia Wring, in a Harper’s piece in 1954. She admitted to mishearing a piece of ancient English poetry her mother had read to her in her youth. Instead of hearing, “They hae slain the Earl Amurray, / And laid him on the green,” she heard, “They hae slain the Earl Amurray, / And Lady Mondegreen.”

Makes sense, right? Even though it’s incorrect, it fulfills the two-step process of hearing – the physics of sound entering your ear, and the part where your brain takes the sound and interprets what you’ve heard. When communication breaks down between sound and meaning – you’ve got a mondegreen.

We take what we’ve heard and shape it to what works for us. Bohemian Rhapsody becomes Bohemian Rap City. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “bad moon on the rise,” becomes a ‘bathroom on the right.”  It makes more sense to imagine Jimi Hendrix kissing a guy than the sky.

brain-on-music-smileMondegreens work so well, in poetry, music and everyday life, that the misheard can become a new reality. “Spitting image” was originally “spit and image.” (Spit meaning likeness.)  It drives me batty when I see a writer refer to an all-intensive purpose, but they’ve come there from ‘for all intents and purposes. “.It’s not ‘tow the line, ‘ it’s ‘toe the line,’ from the early days of the British Royal Navy,(those guys again!) at a time when seamen fell in for inspection barefoot.

It’s a ‘dog eat dog world,’ not ‘a doggy dog world.’ We ‘champ,’ not ‘chomp’ at the bit, and we ‘nip it in the bud,’ not the ‘butt.’  Perhaps these misinterpretations are ‘blessings in the skies.’ No, wait, that would be a ‘blessing in disguise.’ You’ve got another ‘think’ (not ‘thing’) coming if you believe these expressions are really “one in the same,” (one and the same.)

For some reason, Cat Steven’s classic, ” First Cut Is The Deepest” seems to be a mondegreen buffet, no matter who has recorded the tune.

People hear the lyrics, “First cut is the deepest.” and mishear it as ….

First time as a DJ.

The First God is a DJ

First cousin of Jesus

The first God was a teapot.

The first god is a demon.

The first guy is the deepest

The thirst god is the deepest

The first dive in the deepend.

And, ” And I’m sure going to give you a try.” as  “And I’m sure going to give you a child.”

And, ” But if you want, I’ll try to love again ” as “But if you want, I’ll try another man.”

And, ” When it comes to loving me, he’s first.” as ” When it comes to love in need he’s the worst.”

People …. enunciate!

But even the grumpiest and most contrary Grammar Nazi can get a chuckle out of misheard lyrics. This video, apparently made as a birthday gift to a friend, captures every nuance and mondegreen that listeners heard in Joe Cocker’s classic rendition.

And the folks at pleated-jeans.com have a ton of terrific videos you can enjoy on Youtube, starting with this one:

and then there’s this :

 

As a prize for getting through all of that science, here’s my  gift to you. SketchShe, the models-turned-comedy act from Australia, released a new video this week. Shae-Lee Shackleford, Lana Kington, and Madison Lloyd debuted their latest ‘Mime Through Time’ sketch – but this time they decided to go topless.  Now that I’ve got your attention … here’s a lip sync medley that romps through seven decades of music. Enjoy!