Canada Day Eh! and All about Choice


by Roxanne Tellier

One amazing country

 

Let’s let some talented Youtubers do the talking …

 

Wishing everyone a very Happy Canada Day, Eh!

And now … for your Sunday Sermon …..

How critical is ‘choice‘ in how we live our lives? The last time we were looking for a place to live, I began to see how little I really understood both the concept, and the reality, of choice.

After over 30 years of home ownership, we were neophytes at this rental game, and discovered quickly that everything had changed since the days when the local newspapers (remember those?) listed page after page of places to let.

how to decideAnd that really got me thinking – not just about the frustration of trying to find a decent rental in these anxious teens, but about how essential available choices are to our daily life.

Buying a house is the biggest financial decision that most people will deal with in a lifetime. When you begin house hunting, your agent will ask you to narrow down what it is you’d like in a home. You are asked how much you can spend, but also, what areas of the city or suburbs interest you, and what sort of structure do you picture when you envision your future. Do you fancy a bungalow? Split Level? A MacMansion? Something with a lot of land, or maybe something with as little necessary upkeep as possible?

choosing the right houseBut there’s also another factor in that quest, and that is what is available at the time of your search. At any given time, there will be a finite amount of available homes from which to choose. And, depending on how much of a city explorer you have been, you may have defined a fairly narrow search area for your house hunt.

In the end, humans like to believe that they make decisions based on rational and carefully decided logic. But in fact, they are driven by the options before them, and the good salesmanship of the people that get them to choose. The ‘shit or get off the pot moment’ is when the agent says, “ok … this one? or this one?” It’s not so much about how ‘right’ this one piece of property is over the other, it’s about the choice you can make, based on what is available, right now.

Ichoice is scary have traveled all over the city, for business and pleasure, and I would consider myself fairly cognizant of what most Toronto neighbourhoods and local areas have to offer. But when I look for somewhere to live, I tend to stay within the same area that I have lived in since I first arrived here, in 1976. It’s not that I don’t LIKE other parts of the city, it’s that I’m more comfortable living in the East End. And so that is where I choose to look for accommodations.

And yet, given half a chance, would I live in an artist’s loft in the West End? You betcha. Or in a big house, up in Rosedale, with a view of the ravine? In a heartbeat. I’d enjoy any chance to see how others live and what other areas have to offer.

I just don’t immediately think of those areas when I’m looking for a place to live – because I’ve never lived there. The familiarity, the knowledge of the streets, the shops, the pubs, the people … I would have to learn all of those in order to best enjoy a new location.

Which is … again … a choice. I would have to choose to learn all about that new neighbourhood, and sometimes I feel like I’m just too old, tired, and lazy to go to all that trouble.

The sad truth is that we often think our choices only come in black or white, until someone introduces Technicolor into our lives.

Our love lives are also governed by limited choice. Whom we choose to fall in love with is often driven by our age, where we live, and how strong a sex drive one of the two in the couple have. Again, it may not be about Mr or Ms Right .. but Mr or Ms Right Now.

choo choo choose youMost of us will have to live a lifetime to understand that the person without whom you could not bear to live another minute in your teens, is not necessarily the person you would choose in your twenties, thirties, forties or really, at any other point in your life.

People change, and the people you love, or even like, at one point, may be the person you literally cannot tolerate in another phase. That silly certainty that drove Romeo and Juliet to their deaths over a glimpsed ankle? Very romantic. Very teenaged. Highly irrational.

I’m gonna bet that neither Romeo nor Juliet had met a lot of people by that point in their short lives, and, by the end of the tale, neither one was ever gonna get any more chances to do so. End of choices. Stuff happens.

Our access to money – ours or our families – plays a huge role in our choices. We can be born into it, we can earn it, or we can lose it, and each of those options determine everything from how and where we live, to whom we have the opportunity to meet and marry.

Where we are born, and what colour skin we wear, will also have an enormous impact on the choices and options available to us. Not everything is open to everyone. The father and daughter that died this week on the Mexican border had made choices, and sadly, those choices turned out to be deadly.

But those that berate these sad victims for choosing to put their lives and their children’s lives in danger forget that life is only cozy and safe for some people – many others live in places filled with violence and terrorism. The two that died in that river were just two more people who made choices, based on the only choices they had – to fight or to flee.

That family were no different to my ancestors choosing a long sea journey from France, to try and start a new life in another country, free from the prejudices, crime, and politics of their own birthplace. I’m sure my maternal grandfather’s mother would rather not have given birth on a ship somewhere between Ireland and New York City, but there was that pesky famine going on back home. My gramma walked behind a covered wagon from South Dakota to Alberta, despite the many stories of those who died from that journey in the 1800s, from wild animals, disease, the rigours of crossing the Rocky Mountains, and the perils of encountering other humans who might wish them harm.

choosing healthChoices. So many choices. What to eat, and what to drink, and what happens if you eat and drink the wrong things. Deciding to smoke, in order to fit in with your peers, and, fifty years later, being the one dying of emphysema. Opting to take drugs to temporarily numb the pain, only to find your whole life fitting easily into the plastic bag that rests beside you on the sidewalk you now call home ….

Choosing to learn how to best care for yourself and others; learning how to navigate the technology of your day; opting to reach for the stars rather than plod along like so many others who are afraid of failure if they make the wrong choice …..

Choices – and consequence. Politics; elections have consequences. When we vote, not for someone good for our country, but to punish the person who didn’t fulfill all of our needs and dreams, we will face the consequences.

When old men, intent on feeling the thrill of virility again, launch a war that will be fought by young men … are the deaths of those soldiers their own choice? Or were the soldiers only offered two choices; to fight for their country, or to be deemed unpatriotic?

choose your love. jpgWe like to think that we have all the choices in the world, but of course, the only choices you have are the ones you find in front of you, and those are based on this moment in time, and your current place in the cosmos.

We may not necessarily make the right choice, and these may not be all of the choices available to us, but each of us can always try to make the right choice for right now.

And, in the end, that’s the only choice we ever really have.

life is what happens

Roxanne Tellier, choice, choosing, real estate, romance, love, elections

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.

 

 

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.

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

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.

 

Don’t Call Me Stupid, Stupid


by Roxanne Tellier

Waking up on a Sunday morning to a world without Facebook. Oh my, it must have been at least an hour before it was back on line … such a long … lonely … hour …. Where were all of my … argumentative strangers?

leave britney aloneMeh. I’ve had a bunch of minor, irritating problems with my ‘puter over the last few weeks, so it was really nothing more than just another annoyance. But a quick Google check showed that millions of people, living all around the world, were missing their Facebook and social media fix. And they were NOT happy.

Facebook is as addictive as any drug. Don’t believe me? Try walking away.

facebook-is-a-hell-of-a-drugFunny, I’d been thinking recently about leaving Facebook. If you have an addictive personality AND are political, it’s not a healthy place. Sure, I love the animal videos, it is great to see how friends and family in far flung places are doing, and I enjoy being able to quickly get in touch with my ‘connected’ friends, but I don’t know if I can take much more of the 24/7 news stream of our current divisive, angry, confrontational times. It’s all too much.

 

brazil president rain forest

Lately, what passes for ‘information’ on Facebook is a steady stream of accounts of venomous actions being perpetrated on vulnerable people by people who should never have been given access to power. Trump’s American war on refugees is just a wisp of smoke and a few barbed wire rolls short of being as horrific as the Holocaust. Across North America, the battle to extract the last of the oil, destined to enrich a smaller and smaller group of people, threatens the extinction of wild life and sea life, and tramples on the rights of the indigenous. In Brazil, a rabid right vows to eliminate the rain forests of the Amazon, and to roust the last of their native peoples.

In Canada, the machinations of people WITHIN the Liberal party are even more vile than those of their political opponents. In the 2019 budget for Ontario, our premier mentions ‘beer’ and ‘alcohol’ 46 times, in his zeal to re-brand Ontario as a hard drinking, hard gambling, land of the never closed casinos. And in England, there’s a shocking deficiency of intellect being used in the negotiation of the wrong-headed Brexit.

I read today about a new procedural policy suggested by the Trump administration, proposing to monitor the social media accounts of veterans. If the veterans appear “too happy,” their disability pensions for PTSD will be reduced. Or if their photos or videos appear to show them enjoying physical activities, that might be grounds for cutting their disability benefits. In other words, the policy would create an environment in which first veterans, and then, possibly other groups that include disabled people, would need to self-censor what they share on social media with friends and family, lest the government decide to cut vital financial aid or medical care.

Facebook is really starting to dig a little too close to the horrors of a Black Mirror episode. Vulnerable people, those that are easily led, those than believe what they see and hear, indiscriminately, and spread disinformation to their friends, are enabling a world where ‘truth’ carries less weight than ‘opinion.’

Let me tell you about something that happened to me, just this week, because it rather shook my faith, or perhaps my assumption,  in the intelligence of people. In the aftermath of that horrific massacre in New Zealand, in which an Australian far right, home-grown terrorist murdered 50 people and injured dozens more, I received a private message from a fellow that I only knew from Facebook, but with whom I’d exchanged birthday and seasonal greetings for about six years. It contained a video of a Canadian (!) right wing, anti-immigrant, FOX styled ‘journalist,’ who was filming her interactions with the refugees and immigrants who live in the small neighbourhood of Lakemba, near Sydney, Australia.

Lauren Southern kicked outHis message exhorted me to ‘share this everywhere!!!!!!”

Henry is a Canadian who immigrated to Australia about 10 years ago. His wife is of European descent, and I believe she immigrated there shortly before Henry. Since their marriage, they’ve had a son, who is an all Australian boy in temper and manner. Henry and family, who are extremely Caucasian, have gleefully adopted most of what we would consider ‘Australianisms.’

Henry has worked very, very hard to make a place in Australian society for himself, and to support his family. Australia, at 7,692,024 km, is the world’s largest island, with a population of just 24.6 million…. much less than Canada’s population of 37 million. Yet Henry believes that allowing Muslims the same opportunity that he had, of immigrating to Australia for a better life, will lead to widespread Shariah Law and a lack of bacon in his MacDonald burgers. Henry is an entitled, hypocritical prick, and he is no longer my Facebook friend, because he is a stone cold racist, and I do not tolerate racists or racism.

trump I'm with racistsSadly, for many like Henry, a large part of the role that Facebook, Instagram, and other forms of social media play in their lives is the propagation and dissemination of racism. They are delighted to find the like-minded, tend to be tolerant and accepting of trolls and bots, and are willfully blind to any attempt to separate the truth from the lies. That’s most certainly NOT the average Facebook user, but it is a large, and extremely argumentative and vocal segment, thus, very easy to find.

There is, in fact, such a shocking lack of knowledge, wisdom, common sense and humility involved in the shriekings of the bigoted, xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, hoi polloi on social media that one can only sadly agree with British pundit, David Mitchell, who said of the willfully naif, that, “It would be a shame to trample on the fresh snow of your ignorance.”

Most of us are loathe to label the thinking of others as stupid or ignorant; it’s unkind, often misused, and certainly doesn’t lead to an equal sharing of information. However, years of austerity and tax cuts to education and health care, combined with poor diets, have actually begun to turn the clock backward on a common intelligence in first world countries. We are literally becoming dumber than our parents and grandparents.

When president John F. Kennedy decided in 1961 that America would put a man on the moon, it took them just eight years to figure out how. And that was in a time before email even existed. Humans excelled in the 20th century, achieving incredible breakthroughs in science and technology.

In Ontario, we’ve been trying to get a subway to the suburb of Scarborough for more than twenty years.

In previous decades, there was a steady climb in the average IQ scores in civilized countries, of about 3 IQ points per decade. This was called the Flynn effect — named after the work of New Zealand intelligence researcher James Flynn.

Yogi BearBut that increase topped out around 1975, with IQ’s steadily falling by an average of about seven points per generation since. The drop seems to be more about nurture than nature, and includes the impact of changes in how we teach math, science, and language.

“This establishes that the large changes in average cohort intelligence reflect environmental factors and not changing composition of parents, which in turn rules out several prominent hypotheses for retrograde Flynn effects.”

We WANT to believe that we, the citizens of strong, first world, nations are intelligent, thoughtful, free of ignorance, and that our country .. and Facebook … is filled with good people who reflect our own wholesome goodness and wisdom.

However in actual fact, we’re moving steadily, and very quickly, towards an Idiocracy. (This clip is from February 2016 – there has definitely been a further huge drop in our collective IQs in the last two years, from the drip, drip, drip of 24/7 mis and disinformation.)

 

So where to from here, folks?

 

 

The Dogs of Dumbarton


by Roxanne Tellier

There is a century-old bridge in Scotland, just northwest of Glasgow, called Overtoun. For many years, dogs have felt compelled to leap from the bridge to their death on the rocks below. More than 300 canines have leaped from the ‘dog suicide bridge, ‘ with 50 or more dogs said to have died from their injuries.

dumbarton bridgeThe people of Dumbarton are very superstitious, as befits those who live near this place which the pagan Celts would have called a ‘thin place’ – a place where heaven and earth overlap. While some believe that the dogs’ lemming-like plunges are due to a limited visual perspective, others believe that the dogs are mesmerized by the appearance of a White Lady, which only the canines can see.

I see a similarity in the voting habits of many humans in the last several years. Like the dogs, they have lost all perspective, and now follow conmen whose merits are only visible to themselves. And in the choosing of those transparently bad and corrupt leaders, they plunge themselves  – and the rest of us – off a cliff, where we land, battered and bruised, without decent healthcare.

reaction to carbon tax canadaTake the carbon tax policy that went into effect this week. Premier Ford opted Ontario out of the federal government’s Canada wide restrictions. Stern Conservative leaders had themselves photographed on the last day of March, pumping into their gas guzzling SUVs what they claimed to be the last of the ‘cheap’ fuel Ontario had enjoyed under Ford.

Meanwhile, Ford’s team were putting together an almost identical program, with almost identical fees, which is currently on hold. Instead of working with the feds, Ford wants Ontario to use his own plan, and thereby keep control of the funds that will accrue.

In order to have his way, he’ll have to drag a multi million dollar lawsuit against Canada thru the courts. (I don’t think we can afford this guy – every plan he has to make the province money, costs twice the amount the province could possibly make from his flighty schemes.)

Predictably, social media went mad when the media and trolls flooded them with information, disinformation, and photos of smug politicians on both sides of the board. Also predictably, most of the unqualified and uneducated Facebook opiners had to foist their own takes on the situation into every conversation, and trumpet the virtues of Team Ford vs Team Canada. Both teams like to think that they have all of the answers, despite the question being far beyond their pay grade.

In the face of the nearly unanimous global agreement of economists and environmentalists that a price has to be set onto pollution of all kinds, to combat climate change damage some believe would be more damaging than the impact of an actual world war, Team Ford not only rejected a carbon tax, they insinuated, without any proof,  that the taxes would be fraudulently appropriated by the federal government, and never used to combat climate change.

nobel 2018 carbon taxAnd while our keyboard warriors decried Canada’s plan as being just another useless and toothless tax,  William Nordhaus and Paul Romer were accepting the 2018 Nobel Prize for Economics, for their work that proves that carbon pricing is an effective solution.

QUOTE: ” Nordhaus argues that the most sensible response to climate externalities is also straightforward: price carbon pollution.

In his recent Climate Casino  book, Nordhaus argues the pricing of carbon achieves four objectives: it sends signals to consumers about which goods and services are more carbon-intensive; it sends signals to producers about which activities are most carbon-intensive (such as coal burning) and which are less carbon-intensive (like solar or wind); it sends signals to propel innovation to find new, affordable alternatives; and finally, pricing is the best means to convey these signals within well-functioning markets.”  (International Institute for Sustainable Development, April 2019)

Now … COME ON, guys. We have got to stop being Debbie Downer about every possible attempt made at combating the most serious problem of our time, and of your children’s and grandchildren’s future – climate change.

arguing with the immature mindWe must ask ourselves why?, when we cannot see our own selfishness in refusing to help alleviate the myriad of problems we face globally, from homelessness, to inequality, and the plight of immigrants and refugees.  We need to stop giving in to a negative desire to prevent the placement of even so much as a Band-Aid on the gaping, oozing wounds of the planet’s most vulnerable.

“Help feed the refugees of Syria!”

“Oh no, you don’t! We have our own hungry and homeless to worry about!”

This sort of rebuttal sounds reasonable on the surface – after all, we DO have vulnerable people in Canada! The argument seems to be that if there are two groups of people suffering, we are only capable of saving one, and we’re ok with letting the other group die.

In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, that should not be our response. Nor should the person requesting help for one segment of the population be made to feel that it is down to her, personally, to tend to ALL segments of the population before being allowed to brighten the corner where she lives. Her contribution, no matter how small, should be acknowledged and lauded.

climate change how concernedWhat actually happens when we demand perfection before we will attempt to aid, is that we shut down ALL aid being given. And by demanding that we wait until there is a free, politically correct, universal remedy for climate change and the control of carbon, we doom our country and our planet to doing absolutely nothing to help ourselves, leaving our kids and grandkids to a future with neither clean air nor water.

I can’t watch that and not protest inaction.

The average human attention span has declined from about 12 seconds, in the year 2000, to the average span of a mere eight seconds in 2018.  That’s one second less than the attention span of a goldfish.

We are not concentrating. We are distracted, by loud noises, by bright lights, by the person who plays on our darkest fears, and feeds us with gluten free bread and circuses.

We are so very easily swayed.

jussie smollettRemember when we were all livid over the attack on actor Jussie Smollette, a few weeks ago? Remember how we all leapt to his defence, instantly believing his version of the story, and how we were furious that the police were not taking it as seriously as we thought they should because … well  … this looked very like a racist attack, triggered by Trump supporters?

Remember how it felt when it turned out it was all an act, a lie? Remember how some of us didn’t want to believe that it was a lie, and how some insisted that Smollette was telling the truth, and that the police were just racist? Remember  seeing the actual props that the attackers, who turned out to be his athletic advisors, purchased with the money he had given them? And remember how many people refused to give up on Smollette’s lie, despite all of the verifiable evidence proving his guilt?

Yeah, We’re doing that again with our national over-reaction to Jody Wilson-Rayboult, and the SNC-Lavalin ‘scandal.’

All is not as white or black – or red, as some have declared.

I’m not going to get into my opinion on this tempest in a Philpot – it’s my opinion, and you probably have your own. And each of us has the right to that opinion. But neither of our opinions are hard fact – they are just our reactions and interpretations of the stimuli we’ve chosen to embrace and accept as OUR truth.

As humans pretending to be socialized and civilized, we should be horrified at how we now react to those who disagree with what we ourselves believe.

fake news how to stopOnce upon a time, people would read a newspaper, or watch a news program on television, and then discuss the events of the day. Not everyone would agree, but that just meant that each side would attempt to sway the other side by showing facts, statistics, photographs, or charts from reputable sources, to support their beliefs.

Now, it is rare that we even reach a consensus upon which newspaper is the most honest, or which news station actually shows us what is really going on in our towns, cities, or nations. When two sides disagree, neither side has a lot of faith in the other side’s argument. If side one’s reliable source is not accepted by side two as reputable, and the same is true from the other side, how do you reach an equitable conclusion?

The definition of ‘fake news’ cannot be simply any thing, photo, or fact that disagrees with the opinions you hold dear. That way lies madness. That way can only create a Tower of Babel, where nothing can progress, because no one can communicate clearly the things that need to be done to ensure that all people have a future, be it ever so humble.

We have to understand, as we carve our families, societies, and nations into smaller and smaller warring factions unable to hear each other’s cries, that our inability to concentrate, communicate, and work together for progress, has left us as helpless and suicidal as the dogs of Dumbarton.

we borrow the earth from our children

 

 

The Trappings of Fame


“Fame … makes a man take things over …. puts you there where things are hollow”

If you were a baby boomer in the sixties, you most likely never knew anyone who was ‘really really’ rich. There was a kid in my school whose dad was a famous football player, but I didn’t know her well. And there was another friend who came from Texas; they had a big house, and even had a maid, who let us make chili and mess up the kitchen.

I had relatives who had oil patch money – they didn’t come around to many family parties, though. They likely got tired of being hit up for loans that would never get repaid.

USA - 30th Anniversary of Elvis Presley's Death - GracelandWhen you think about it, one of the most famous, and presumably wealthiest, person with a high profile, back in those days, was Elvis. And by today’s standards, Graceland isn’t exactly the Taj Mahal. Not with all that shag carpeting. But for the time, it was high glam.

As a child, I knew, through reading, that there had been times in history when some people had attained obscene wealth, usually by conquering another country, and by subjecting those natives to their will. Those people were called kings, and whatever they wanted was granted to them, for their skill in warfare.queen of sheba

England had a royalty, but they wore sensible shoes.

I didn’t look up to those people; I never wanted to be ‘royal’ It seemed a pretty high price to pay for a life lived entirely in the public eye. And back then, there were a lot of people who wondered if the trade off of privacy for public adulation was a good one.

Now, of course, people will do anything to be seen, hopefully to be admired, for whatever it is they can do to be different. Tattoo a snake on your face? We’ll only be impressed if you’re the first to think to do so.

“Could it be the best, could it be? Really be, really, babe?”

I don’t know if it is a Canadian way of thinking, but I remember how most people I knew, growing up, adhered to the ‘tall poppy syndrome‘ … that meant that you didn’t want to stick your head up too high, or blow your own horn a little too loud, because you’d be sure to get cut down to size if you did. The syndrome is basically a way of sneering at those who revel in having a ton of money – which we assume is ill-gotten gains – or of seeking fame in public life.

william shatnerIn the seventies, you’d have been more likely to hear someone snigger, “geez, who does he/she think he/she is!” when a Canadian even got a mention in American media.

We did not put many Canadians on pedestals for their achievements, though we’d often get a little warm feeling when we felt like we’d snuck a Canadian through, behind America’s back. Like that William Shatner guy, with the weird way of talking. His mum had an acting school on Girouard in Montreal, so he was one of the good one’s.

We had our own awards, our Junos instead of Grammys, our Genie awards instead of Oscars, and by geez, that should be good enough for any Canadian! Just look at that Walter Ostanek fella, and all his polka Grammy wins! Does HE look happy? Now, you just go practice your accordion, and try not to get all stuck up and big headed!

“Fame …. what you like is in the limo”

And then came …. rock and roll hedonism.

“In the seventies … There was more excess, more hedonism, more drugs, more attitude, more sex, more style, more enthusiasm. Just?… more.” (The Telegraph, UK)

mudsharkI’m not saying that the days of mud sharks, Whovian displays of hotel trashing, and the deaths by overdose of nearly every icon of the day opened the door to the pedestaling of the rich and famous….

but it helped.

The austerity of the post war years, and the drive and eventual success of the lower class kids, who knew the only way to get out of soul crushing poverty was to get into sports or rock n roll, became the envy of those who wondered what it would be like to literally have the world and all of it’s glories at their feet … drugs, drink, the most beautiful women in the world … it could all be yours, if you just cracked the Top Ten Charts.

Mo’ money, mo’ problems. Some of the luckier and richer rockers listened to their dear old dads, or to the managers and accountants who flocked to help funnel some of this largesse into safer investments, like property. And sadly, some of those ‘helpful’ advisors turned out to be there with the intention of taking advantage of the silly geese now laying multiple golden eggs.

Fame and wealth are on a sliding scale, as the wiser of the nouveau riche artistes soon learned. And if those musos wanted to keep at least some of the moolah that was coming in, in order to pay for their growing entourages, they’d have to learn to manage, manipulate, and increase their funds, just like the robber barons of the last century had done.

And off they went, to the tax havens…. and began to grow their own little dynasties …

“Fame, “Nein! It’s mine! is just his line … to bind your time, it drives you to, crime .”

We aging hippies, especially those of us who chose careers in the arts, might not have prioritized the acquisition of wealth, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t drool a little when these new ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’ were dangled before us, in the mid eighties.

make it rainMTV glommed onto that envy, and promoted the lifestyles of celebrities in shows like “The Fabulous Life Of … “ and “Cribs.” These quasi reality features pretended to give the plebes a glimpse into the opulent homes, glamorous lifestyles, and vacation playgrounds of those musicians who had ‘made it.’

FAME … and wealth, were now what everyone wanted to achieve, by any means possible. Oh yeah, it was all about the Benjamins …

“Fame … what you get is no tomorrow … “

And we bought it .. oh yes, those of us who looked on and envied the lifestyles of those who had cracked the money and power code, wanted in on the fun.

“Americans are accustomed to talking about fame using the heady language of the cosmos: the celebrity as a celestial truth, situated above us; the superstar as a force in the firmament, all heat and light and gravitational demands. Michael Jackson’s environmental form of fame—music that permeated people’s lives, iconography that saturated American culture—anticipated the intimate version of celebrity that is the default today. It is fitting, in that regard, that celebrity itself functions as a spectral character in Leaving Neverland. Jackson was acutely aware of the affordances of fame; he leveraged them, the documentary suggests—and, ultimately, he weaponized them. Joy Robson, Wade’s mother, recalls Jackson making a request of her; she recalls, as well, that when she refused it, he coolly informed her: “I always get what I want.”” (The Atlantic, March 2019)

This year has seen the release of several documentaries that question what the pedestaling of fame has done to our vulnerable young women and men. With the allegations in Leaving Neverland and Surviving R. Kelly, we also need to be aware of what fame does to the psyches of those who wield that much power.

camp followersThere have always been camp followers, disciples, those who believe that proximity to what they covet, for even a few moments, raises their own profile and value amongst those who have not had the same access to the royalty of their time.

When those who possess power of any potency use manipulation, a righteous fear, and their fame/perceived authority to get what they want, they are abusing that power in order to exploit vulnerable people for their own advantage or gain. And even if those people go willingly to the abuse, it’s still abuse.

Now, the funny thing is that, somewhere along the line, we all started to think that those who achieve fame and financial reward for being good at one thing, like music, or business, could translate that magic to other careers.

And strangely enough, in a culture that appears to embrace a meritocracy, those who seek fame and power somehow manage to drape the mantle of unique talents upon those whose rise to fame may well have simply come from a well placed endorsement, a reality television episode, or a sex tape featuring some very, very large buttocks.

kardashian buttWe would never expect our dentist to take out our appendix or fix our plumbing, but for some reason, we think that someone who has managed to acquire – by hook, and likely crook – a large amount of money, should be given free reign to guide a country, or should be allowed to tell us who and how to worship. The mind boggles.

The political ‘base’ of a country is as subservient to a populist politician, as a congregation is to a hyperbolic preacher, or a groupie or ‘musical prodigy’ is to a music mogul. There’s a parallel in the abuses.

rewards just aheadDangling the promises of future prosperity, they will assure their acolytes that there is a brilliant future awaiting them, if they’ll just listen to their master’s advice. The prey might wonder at what is asked of them, if they follow this path, and they may be reluctant to give their all, without the assurances, as false as they may be, that their faith will bring them enormous rewards in the end.

The followers will put that preacher, or politician, or musical ‘genius’ on a pedestal, and make that person their whole world, believing that their devotion and loyalty is as strongly returned.

But eventually, and inevitably, that faith is abused.

Our adoration of those with fame and wealth blinds us, and when those whom we’ve put on a pedestal are toppled, our beliefs in our selves is fractured.

toppling idolsWhat goes up .. must come down. At some point, the blinders fall off, and we see that those we call gods and kings are just selfish, spoiled, narcissists, and that we are the toys and pawns they use to satisfy their own whims and urges.

2011 … “A new study co-funded by the Gates Foundation, however, portrays the ultrarich as lost souls burdened by the fears, worries and family distortions of too much money.

Yeah yeah. Cry me a river.