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.

 

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.

 

 

The Long Road From Normal


desktop computing 90sA long, long time ago, I used to play chess. Not very well, to be honest; I was probably a better backgammon player if anything. Or maybe I wasn’t all that great at either.

But here’s the thing .. I’ve played neither of those games in… gotta be nearly three decades. First, it was computers … when I fell under their spell, that was it for spare time. I was enthralled, seduced by DOS and data bases. I tend to get pretty intense when I dive into a new interest.

And then I got into politics – headfirst and totally submerged. It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been following politics seriously for about the last six years, but, you see .. I didn’t really need to before that. Things were ticking along pretty well – we didn’t get too far forward, but we also didn’t fall too far behind. Business as usual, really. And I was busy.

But then there was Harper. Oh, he’d been around for a while before he really started getting up my nose, but there came a point when I realized that his political trajectory was going to take Canada to places that most of those I consider friends and family, really didn’t want him to visit.

As things heated up towards the 2015 federal election, there were more and more issues in which Harper’s ultra-conservative bent seemed contrary to real growth for Canadians. Austerity measures in Canada worked against future prosperity, and his government’s penchant for secrecy and overreach of government powers of surveillance, especially in the drafting of Bill C51, felt way too much like a Big Brother usurpation of civil liberties.

Harper represented an old guard that was terrified of losing power, and determined to hold on, by force if necessary. Trudeau seemed a breath of fresh air, a loosening of your grandfather’s prohibitive rules, and a step into a better Canada.

And then along came Trump, and the world was never the same again. And probably will never be the same again, in my lifetime.

Now, the weird thing is, I knew, right away, from the day Trump swept down that escalator with Melanoma, like Boris and Natasha, that he was going to be the worst, most disturbing, and most damaging person, to ever happen to America.

trump melania escalatorFor a while I had recapped his reality show, Celebrity Apprentice, and so this cast of characters were mildly familiar to me. This crew of misfit toys believed that they were the equivalent of American royalty, and displayed the same sort of quasi lèse majesté /insanity so often found from that mix of inbreeding and narcissism. The Trump family were petty tyrants – and they hadn’t even begun to tyrant.

Once inaugurated, I knew he and his family of damaged goods were going to rape America, pillage it’s treasures, and then burn it to the ground, before salting the earth, to prevent further generations from bringing it back to life.

chosen by god to make fun of trumpBut as bad as I thought he might be – he’s worse.

For at least the first year of Trump’s tenure, myself and a very large crop of ‘resisters’ lived on high alert, watching an administration filled with the worst appointees in history, picked solely for their ability to bring down every supporting pillar of democracy and justice, set to the destruction of America in as short a time as possible.

And, oh my .. wasn’t there a lot to see!

Amy Siskind‘s The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year, compiled a list of actions taken by the Trump regime that posed a threat to our democratic norms. Under the headline “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember,” Siskind’s Weekly List began as a project she shared with friends, but soon went viral. (Amazon)

resist mugDr Stuart Shapiro, a teacher of macroenomics at Rutgers Bloustein School of Public Policy, kept a diary of his own Facebook comments, titled, Not Normal: A Progressive’s Diary of the Year After Trump’s Election

In it, he chronicled his reactions to the incidents, tweets and policy proposals instigated by the new administration in it’s first year. His palpable exhaustion as the nation lurched from surprise to surprise, and outrage to outrage is a helpful reminder that no other presidency in recorded history ever dominated the news cycles as thoroughly and unceasingly as this one has.

And then there was my favourite guilty pleasure … The Resistance by Keith Olbermann

Truthfully, within a year of Trump’s reign, the general definition of ‘normal’ was no more – crushed under the weight of executive orders and a display of greed, arrogance, and corruption so vivid and intense that it often threatened to blind me.

mr corruption

Oh, sure, the Old Guard flailed about, and those bipartisan lawmakers remaining managed to get the Robert Mueller investigation into play, but the Republican party stood firm that their Dear Leader and his demented whims were how those once United States would now be run.

Every time Trump or any of his minions were caught for wrong doing, they immediately cried victim. But really, it is Jane and Joe American and their kids who have paid the price for this poor presidential pick.

Most of the time, I don’t really blame Jane and Joe for falling under the spell of a politician. When you’re trying to raise a family and make a living, a lot gets put aside, to be dealt with sometime later .. maybe after the kids go to bed. It’s all part of a life cycle; someone’s gotta be keeping those home centres and toy companies in business. I can totally understand why the average person – say from 30 to 50 years of age – absorbs no more than the loudest or most eye-catching information that goes on around them.

It just becomes really difficult to keep on giving the Trump Cult that benefit of a doubt as the evidence piles up against their idol and his feet of clay, and still, his approval numbers stay in the mid 40s. These days, the nation is just too damn tired and jumpy to even raise much of a fuss when Trump sets fire to another couple of million dollars on a  weekend getaway, or increases the debt ceiling by another trillion dollars or so.

Most of us following the Trump debacle had just assumed that the Mueller Report would be wrapped up, by now, and that Trump’s crimes would be exposed, and another can of presidents opened in time for dinner.

But nope … apparently there’s still a lot more rabbit hole to fall down.

There is hope, though. This week has turned out to be one of the wildest chapters in the book of Donald’s really terrible, horrible, no good, weeks. As the current White House resident met for a second time with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, desperately trying to shake off some of the stink of that fake ‘national emergency’ he’d declared just before taking a long vacation weekend, former personal lawyer and broken nosed ‘fixer’ Michael Cohen testified publicly about the Trump Foundation’s many quasi legal and often very illegal business workarounds while calling Trump a “a racist,” “a con man,” and “a cheat” before Congress, right as the New York Times released a new report detailing how Jared Kushner‘s security clearance had come about .. and it wasn’t nearly as secure as either the Donald or the daughter of POTUS had promised. Nope .. not at all.

Oh yes, a very bad week indeed.

Kim Jung Un got Trump to buy him dinner, give him a place on the world stage, enable Kim’s propaganda, choose Russia/North Korea‘s words over America’s own intel, excuse horrific and ongoing human rights violations, and walk away from taking the blame for Otto Warmbier’s brutal beating death, in a country where nothing is done without Kim’s explicit permission.

In exchange, the North Korean dictator produced a “White Paper on Human Rights Violations in the U.S. in 2017,.” where the tiny tyrant accused the Trump Administration of being a billionaires’ club, that harbors a “policy of racism” while exacerbating social inequalities and denying freedom of the press and health coverage to citizens.”

trump kim big envelopeOh me oh my and ouchy! Something tells me that the days of sweet, sweet love letters in giant envelopes arriving at the White House from his loving Kim are far behind us now …

I also suspect that a lot of that ‘locker room talk’ in the 2 hour 20 minute CPAC rally rant had much to do with the POTUS feeling increasingly cornered. It’s not surprising the mask would begin to fall off, and a little bit of the crude ‘pussy grabber‘ re-emerge. Thankfully, this time, only an American flag was molested.

Strange days indeed, mama. Or, as Daniel Dale tweeted, “Folks, these are the rantings of a sundowning old man whose brains are leaking out of his ears live on stage.

Can someone please point me the way back to ‘Normal’?

 

Cabin Fever Smells Like Cold Turkey


A few weeks ago we had some snow that didn’t really stick. A few days later I saw a young father pushing his kid in a baby carriage. “Are the sidewalks clear?” I asked and he said … “yes .. FINALLY!”

In January.

He was a very young man.

toronto winter streetcarAnd then of course, along came February and THERE you are, you stinky Canadian winter, with your cold and your snow, and your ice hiding under the snow, and that wind chill. There you are, with the dark days and the early nights, and the winds that howl down alleys. I see you, there, with your mittens glossy from rubbing the snot from your runny nose. There you are, with the old peoples’ fear that one false step might be the one that breaks their hip. There you are with the isolation, and the inconvenience and the broken promises to get together.

The cats and I have Cabin Fever. We’ve had too much winter and not enough sun. We are all cranky, we are sniping at each other, and we are all a little depressed and taking it out on everyone else.

Every year I swear that I’ll go south, oh yes I will, and when I get there, there will be sand between my toes, and sea shells stinking up the balcony, and I’ll be warm and I will float in turquoise waters. Instead, I once again add ‘get a new passport’ to the endless ‘to do’ list, and pretend I’m not jealous when my friends post pictures of their adventures in sunnier climes.

And yet, this is also the time of year when Canadians can indulge in cuddles, all curled up under the covers or on top of the mound of blankets, as we watch crappy television for hours. Too much to do in summer. Winter is for snuggles.

These are the days when it is easy to embrace your inner caveperson, and feel that our lives and our world are stuck in a dark spiral, and that the warmth and light of summer will never return, thereby necessitating the sacrifice of some poor creature whose steaming entrails might appease the sungods.

But we are not cavepeople; we have Netflix.

toronto winter view from IslandI like to pretend that I will use those indoor winter months to organize my life, sort out the detritus of my life, do my taxes, and write something so incredibly precise and on the money that its wisdom and sense will reverberate through the ages ….

.. but that never happens. I’m more inclined to stare fixedly at a wall lined with items that need to be sorted, filed, categorized, discarded or at least moved to another room, and say .. ‘blue.. that wall would look so much nicer in blue …

This year I’ve made a special effort to take breaks from media of any kind. Our civilization seems to be rapidly unwinding, and as the end draws near, it’s best to take frequent respites from reports from the Front. So I’ll often hide away for a day or more, just to give my overtaxed brain and heart a rest. That, and a steady supply of edibles seems to help.

There is an unending stream of political, psychological, and philosophical nonsense constantly coming down the pike. We can debate endlessly, but sometimes in winter, you’ve just got to slow it all down and let the Muppets decide the subject of your column.

Cabin Fever is a real thing. I can’t even imagine how difficult life must have been for people back in the days before electricity, ski resorts, and hot chocolate. I’m gonna guess a lot of winters didn’t turn out so great for some of those little houses on the prairies.

Cabin fever themes have featured in Charlie Chaplin‘s 1925 film, The Gold Rush, Stefan Zweig‘s 1948 novella, The Royal Game, Stephen King‘s horror novel and film, The Shining,’ and a Simpsons‘ episode called “Mountain of Madness.”

In 1984, The Journal of Social Psychology published a study called “The Meaning of Cabin Fever,” based on interviews carried out with a sample of 35 Minnesota men and women, ages 17 to 84.
cabin fever yay snowThe researchers wanted to know how Minnesotans, prone to being forcibly confined to their homes by bad weather for days at a time, survived with at least some salvation of sanity. While four of the respondents thought that ‘cabin fever’ might actually be a mania having to do with wanting to buy a forest getaway, most of the people surveyed were very clear that cabin fever was a condition they had experienced, created by confinement, bad weather, and a lack of stimulation.

Being physically unable to get away from the house and the people inside it made most people prone to depression, boredom, dissatisfaction, irritability, and moodiness.

Having to deal with a bunch of bored children also made the wintertime even more difficult for many respondents. On a ‘snow day,’ parents juggling the needs of the children often found it even more difficult to deal with their own feelings of isolation.

There are coping mechanisms that can help with the winter blues, including activities that can be done inside or close to the home. Some suggestions included resetting your expectations of yourself and others, by tossing out the alarm clock, playing quieter music, or making slow-cooked food. Dig out those board games or playing cards. This too shall pass.

Now, if you happen to live in Toronto, we’ve actually got some stimulation in the form of a bar that is – for reals! – called Cabin Fever. It’s at 1669 Bloor West, near Keele.

cabin fever bloor westSounds like a good hang. One of the reviewers who opined on yelp said, ” what’s not to love about quality vinyl, pinball machines, and tall boy beers for seven bucks, all packed into a little hole-in-the-wall spot??”

I’ve never been to the place, but it’s open today from four p.m. until two a.m. Locals swear by the ‘pinball, beer and music’ mantra. Might be worth a look see.

I’m just glad that February is almost gone, because my stash of chocolate, fudge, and almonds is at a very low ebb. Thankfully my coffee supply is holding up; I’m always grateful for small mercies.

There’s a pothole in front of my house large enough to swallow a large dog or a small car, and the bird feeder is tilting at a jaunty angle. I’ve had enough of winter, thanks. You can bring on the spring any day now … any day now ….

 

 

Surviving A Blue Christmas


by Roxanne Tellier

Man, I cannot stand Elvis‘ song, “Blue Christmas.” And I’ll bet you have a couple of holiday tunes you could gladly live without for the rest of your life … enough’s enough on the “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” amirite?

And no … we’re not discussing the ‘controversy’ over “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” No, we are not.

But.

But seriously … it’s that time of year, when people can get a little – or a lot – down about what seems to be an incessant and annoying full frontal campaign insisting that we all be ‘merry and bright’ and ‘ho ho ho’ ourselves into stupors.

A surfeit of merriment. Bah humbug. What to do, what to do, when you just feel blue?

csarn salons
That was the question being asked at a recent seminar I attended, that was hosted by the good people of C-SARN (Canadian Senior Artists’ Resource Network – find more info at csarn.ca.)

Facilitated by Matt Eldridge, from the Artists’ Health Centre, the session included curated info on dealing with holiday stress, and included much lively input from the attendees.

We touched briefly on the very real problem of Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD.) SAD is a type of depression that occurs during the change of seasons. Symptoms of SAD include fatigue, lethargy, anxiety, weight gain and sleep disorders. About 2-3% of the general population of Ontario have SAD and another 15% have a less severe experience. It is believed that SAD is caused by changes in the level of exposure to sunlight. At this point, the main treatment for SAD is light therapy.

Seasonal-Affective-Disorder-SAD

There are special light therapy lamps, designed to mimic spring and summer light levels, that can really help relieve some of the depression of SAD, but the lamps are quite expensive.

However, help is on the way if you live in Toronto! Several branches of the Toronto Public Library now have light therapy lamps available in-library on a first-come, first served basis, as a way to treat the “winter blues.

All you need to do is sit, read or work about 2 feet away from a lamp for 20-30 minutes, without looking directly into the lamp, but allowing the light to shine on your face. It may be hard to believe, but that’s all it can take to really help.

You can give it a try at the Agincourt, Brentwood, Don Mills, Fairview, Humber Bay, Malvern, Maria A Shchuka, Parkdale or Parliament branches, or on the 5th floor and basement Toronto Star Newspaper Room of the Toronto Reference Library.

So that’s SAD dealt with – but what if you are just generally bummed out by the holiday season?

Me, I hate the ‘heaviness’ of winter … the weighty coats, the accumulation of hats, earmuffs, scarves and mitts, and the big, sturdy, non-slip boots that contrive to make me feel like a Clydesdale negotiating a steep slope. I can literally feel myself getting shorter as I assume the mantle of wintry clothing. Literally. I will probably have lost another inch in height by January.

Some determinedly, doggedly, cheery people love to tell you that “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” My mission is to hunt those people down, and skin them for their magic coats.

But until I find them, I’m going to have to deal with not enjoying anything about surviving the coldest months of the year in Canada.

Perhaps it is time to embrace the Scandinavian concept of hygge (pronounced hooga.) This is a word that Danes use to express a mental strategy for coping with the winter months, describing an emotional coziness and togetherness. It is a time they spend indoors with friends and family, embracing the colder season as wholeheartedly as they do the summer months, and seeing both extremes as opportunities to cultivate the different sides of themselves.

danish hyggeHey … as long as it doesn’t include sports … I’ve never liked sports, either to play or to watch, so that leaves me out of a lot of the typical Canadian leisure time diversions and debates. About the most I can handle in terms of physical exertion in the winter is a lope to the nearest Tim Hortons for a toasty cup of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and a cinnamon dusting. I simply lack a sports gene, and find it unlikely I’ll develop one during my ‘golden years.’

winter wildlifeWhat I can always find time to do, though, is to spend a few hours with friends, to share a meal and indulge in lively discussions. Or to walk in a park, where some of our wild critters, who don’t migrate or hibernate, can benefit from a gift of the appropriate seed, treat, or suet.

I’m not a religious person, but I sometimes like to enter a house of worship, to partake, for a moment, of the peace that comes from the gathering of those who enjoy a committed faith.

Some people take great joy in volunteering, and of helping others by giving a little bit of their time or largesse to benefit those who have less than ourselves. Others look forward to participating in regular or seasonal religious ceremonies.

christmas eyebrowsI’m more of an indoor person, and can find tons of ways to amuse myself, whether it’s on the internet, or in communing with my pets. I love to search out old holiday songs, programs, and stories from other times and other countries, and to admire or laugh at how our sense of fashion has morphed over time.

Couple of things to avoid – if you are not feeling particularly cheery, go easy on the physical stressors: sugar, caffeine, alcohol and empty carbohydrates will just make you feel more jangled, and pack on the pounds. Be vigilant about eating properly, and taking the meds and supplements that keep you ticking along smoothly. Also, try not to spend a lot of time on social media; many friends and acquaintances like to take the season as an opportunity to put up their annual “highlight” reels … no, neither they nor their kids look that good all year round, and the dog is rented. Nuff said.

try something new SeussYou might be able to turn around some of your blues by making a small attitude adjustment; nobody’s perfect, but we all get a chance every new day to tweak what we’ve got. Why not try looking at your holiday challenges with an eye to a more realistic expectation of how your sister in law will behave after her third glass of wine? Is it possible that even Drunk Uncle will be a little easier to take if you practice a bit of radical acceptance of his all too human foibles? Some people just can’t help people-ing.

And the next time someone invites you to an event, or a meal, why not try saying an enthusiastic YES! to a new experience? The worse that can happen is that you spend a few hours discovering that you like or dislike this new person or food or thing.

Conversely, if you’ve spent most of your adult life hating one of your holiday traditions – this may be the year you finally say a resounding NO! to doing it any more. Walk away from petty squabbles, refuse to eat foods that you dislike, and don’t invite trolls to be part of your celebrations. While the holidays are a time of giving, they shouldn’t also be a time of unending and painful sacrifice in the pursuit of someone else’s happiness.

Everyone experiences the holidays and winter differently, but there are some tried and true ways to increase your own enjoyment of the season. Indulge your senses with the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and tactile sensations that fill you with pleasure.

10-tips-for-enjoying-a-long-winter-indoorsIf you are keen on Christmas carols, fill your home with the sound! Put on your favourite play list while you tidy up your environment and enjoy the scent of seasonal candles, fruits and foliage. Open up your curtains and throw a little light on the situation. indulge yourself with a special treat, because you deserve it.

Be gentle with yourself, and let your inner dialogue express the same tenderness to yourself that you’d show towards someone you love or care about, who’s dealing with a tough time. You are just as deserving.

Above all … pace yourself! This demanding round of lunches, dinners and soirees will soon fade and become last year’s memories, but we Canadians will still have a further three or four months of cold, snow, and ice to deal with. It’s gonna take a toll on you. So try to have enough fun with your loved ones during the holidays to make yourself, if not more tolerant, than at least a little more accepting of our country’s wintry gifts.

And however you spend this holiday season, I wish you the best and most joyous one ever!

happy holidays to all