The Butterfly Effect


I’m not sure if I’m blessed or cursed to have a fairly large amount of time in my life in which I can spend hours down the rabbit hole of the Internet, researching and following any thread that interests me.

meeting of the mindsI can spend days, even weeks, deep diving into all things esoteric and non. In an ideal world, I would live in a salon, where others of like minds would join me in this intellectual pursuit, and we would solve all of the mysteries of the universe.

Until that day arrives, the world and it’s distractions will continue to impede my potential band of mystery solving superheroes.

The imminent destruction of a small butterfly sanctuary on the American/Mexican border caught my attention recently. While this is by no means as horrific as the sadistic practices trump’s Homeland Security goons wage against refugees and immigrants, it is, nonetheless, notable. 

butterly effectCan small things, matters almost imperceptible in a larger picture, change the world? Can a tiny event, hardly noticeable on the day it happens, serve as a catalyst for a planet’s future?

“some systems … are very sensitive to their starting conditions, so that a tiny difference in the initial ‘push’ you give them causes a big difference in where they end up, and there is feedback, so that what a system does affects its own behavior.John Gribbin, Deep Simplicity

People are funny; some are hypersensitive to changes in systems, while others simply cannot understand long term consequences. For some, it’s willful blindness, but for others, it covers up a truth that might irreparably damage their psyche if faced. Better to not believe one’s own eyes than to have to admit that some small, likely unimportant act – or lack of acting! – might have long term, and horribly dangerous consequences.

for the want of a nail

If we are to believe that our actions have consequences, how do we live with ourselves when we fail to act in proactive and logical ways? if we know that eating certain foods will make us ill, how do we rationalize our actions when our food and beverage intake is reflected in damage to our bodies? If we are made aware that smoking cigarettes damages the lungs of both the smokers and the non-smokers that breathe in those fumes, how do we come to grips with the illness or death of a loved one who passively inhaled what we exhaled?

climate change is not just politicalIf we are told that 97% of climate scientists believe that our disrespect for the planet will cause untold harm to not just those living on this earth, but on the generations to come, how can we not look at the havoc we continue to inflict on the globe, and not feel sick at what our greed and selfishness has wrought?

Many of us vehemently DON’T want to believe that something tiny and barely noticeable could affect our lives … psychologically, that’s called proportionality bias: the inclination to believe that big events must have big causes.

That’s what leads so many to become conspiracy theorists. In any given year, roughly half of all Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory, according to the University of Chicago‘s political science professors Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood. Without the slightest trace of evidence, 19% of Americans believe the U.S. government planned the 9/11 attacks to start a war in the Middle East, while 24% believed in Trump’s ‘birtherism‘ theory that claimed former president Barack Obama was not born in the United States.9 11 files

Today, 61% of Americans remain convinced that the official Warren Commission report on Lee Harvey Oswald’s part in assassinating President John F. Kennedy, is incorrect – they believe that he could not have acted on his own. And since the 1963 tragedy, the number of disbelievers has never dropped below 50%; proportionality bias tells them that one man, with one bullet, could not have so dramatically changed the course of history all on his own.

“It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.”
— from Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

In 1961, chaos theory, or the butterfly effect, was brought to prominence in a work written by mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz. While running a numerical computer model to redo a weather prediction concerning the details of a tornado, he entered the initial condition 0.506 from the printout instead of entering the full precision 0.506127 value.

The tiny change brought about a completely different weather scenario result, and highlighted the sensitive interdependence on conditions that could result in very large differences in expectations, with just a small change in calculation.

The term, ‘butterfly effect‘ was actually the second name given to this phenomena. Lorenz originally used a sea gull’s wings to describe the theory.

” One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a sea gull’s wings would be enough to alter the course of the weather forever. The controversy has not yet been settled, but the most recent evidence seems to favor the sea gulls”

butterfly killerColleagues suggested that changing ‘sea gull’ to ‘butterfly’ would be more poetic, but it was not until 1972, when he was wondering how to title a talk he was giving on the subject, that colleague Philip Merilees concocted Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?  as a title.

I can’t help but wonder if those scientists might have been influenced by the 1952 story, The Sound of Thunder, written by Ray Bradbury, in which a time travelling hunter changes the future, by stepping on a butterfly, 65 million years in the past.

In the short story, set in 2055, a man named Eckels travels back in time to shoot and kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex. But he panics at the sight of the beast, and accidentally steps off the path that he has been warned that he must follow. When his hunting party returns to their present, everything has changed, right down to the language that people are speaking, and it is apparent that an evil dictator is now in control of the nation.

 

Bradbury writes: “Eckels felt himself fall into a chair. He fumbled crazily at the thick slime on his boots. He held up a clod of dirt, trembling, “No, it cannot be. Not a little thing like that. No!”

Embedded in the mud, glistening green and gold and black, was a butterfly, very beautiful and very dead.

“Not a little thing like that! Not a butterfly!” cried Eckels.

It fell to the floor, an exquisite thing, a small thing that could upset balances and knock down a line of small dominoes and then big dominoes and then gigantic dominoes, all down the years across Time. Eckels’ mind whirled. It couldn’t change things. Killing one butterfly couldn’t be that important! Could it?”

Ford as Dear LeaderAh, to speculate on all of the apparently insignificant moments that shape destinies and alter our times and history! While we may not recognize them, when they happen, or for what they portend, threads of cause and effect are created.

And in time, those moments can change the course of a human life or of a peoples’, eventually impacting  everything from our fashion to our emotions and our health, from our politics, to our economies and our very planet.

Best to have a little humility in the knowledge that our fates and futures can be sidetracked by something as fragile as a butterfly’s wings, in a time of chaos.

tags: Roxanne Tellier, Butterfly Effect, Internet, Homeland Security, John Gribbin, Barack Obama , Warren Commission , John F. Kennedy, Good Omens, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, chaos theory, Edward Lorenz., The Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury

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 ….

 

 

On Lies, Trust, and an Omelette Bar


When I first starting writing my December 2nd column on the evils of lying, I started from a stance that lying was, as a rule, relatively harmless. But by the time I was winding up my research, I had a whole new perspective.

“Lying” sounds like something we teach kids not to do, because it’s kid stuff, not all that important, little white lies from little kids to save them from a ‘whupping.’

Lying is not supposed to be something that normal adults would do with any sort of regularity, because responsible adults are expected to stand by what they say, do, and believe.

As children, we were told to expect that people in respected positions would always speak the truth. That’s the oath people take when their words are important … they swear to ‘tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

But what happens when the people we are meant to believe … our elected leaders, civic leaders, corporate leaders, religious leaders … lie to us to further their own agendas? Their words then warp the teachings and beliefs necessary for a just society, based on respect for the veracity of each other. And that is some scary stuff.

brainwashing eyes wideWhen those lies become a continuous stream, and range from nonsensical, easily disproved, contortions of actual facts to major leaps of nonsensical confabulation, the problem becomes how to control a citizenry in which a large percentage has bought into the deluge, and effectively becomes a brain washed cult, no longer able to differentiate truth from lies.

Lying dissolves our trust, and trust is the invisible ‘glue’ that makes modern society and civilization possible. A fractured trust in leaders and important organizations is a very bad thing; that trust is the glue that allows us to survive disasters, participate in community activities, address inequality of income, and share our knowledge in order to increase our general health and happiness. Trust is difficult to earn, and easily lost, and yet it is possibly the single most important ingredient necessary for improving the human experience.

trust meI read recently that only 19% of millennials think the average person can be trusted. But the weird thing is that, despite all evidence to the contrary, they DO trust the system. and they believe that they, themselves, are trustworthy They just don’t trust each other.

Back in the good old days, say, around 1967, about 56% of us believed that ‘most people can be trusted.’ Our ability to trust is actually on the decline, and has been for quite some time. And that is because we have been lied to by those in whom we had previously put our faith.

why do you lie liarIt’s hard to put your faith and your money into the hands of someone whose own hands have been caught looting the cookie jar. When social media exposes the stories of people, just like yourself, who have been lied to, or who have been cheated by those in whom we are asked to trust, our credulity becomes strained.

 

Governing bodies, big and small, have asked us to trust that they had our best interests at heart. Unfortunately, too many of those officials have later been found unworthy of having their words believed. And it doesn’t matter if they had very, very, VERY good reasons to lie to the people; our rational brains may forgive them, but our gut never will.

trust me I'm from the govtToday, only 1 in 3 Americans believe that most people are trustworthy. Less than 1 in 3 trust that other drivers are competent, or would trust a clerk or website with their credit card. 1 in 4 people trust their employers, and less than 1 in 5 adults trust the government.

But here’s the interesting thing – when you ask people how much they trust people who are their neighbours, the numbers go up; 39 percent of millennials trust their neighbours, as do 73 percent of seniors.

Proximity and personal experiences with others tend to encourage trust; it is difficult to distrust someone with whom you have much in common. If you have a solid education, with a lot of exposure to different classes of people, you are more likely to trust a wider range of individuals than someone with an inadequate field of reference.

It’s interesting that those who are mentally, physically, or emotionally isolated have a harder time trusting individuals of varying colours, interests or abilities. ; These individuals will easily take as gospel, information that shows people unlike themselves to be untrustworthy.

Perhaps it is from this group that Trump draws his base; certainly, their blind faith in him, and loyalty to his campaign of fear and hatred of non-American humans is mystifying.

There was certainly a suspension of disbelief visible when Trump’s blatant gaslighting of America was in full display during his State of the Union speech. The president falsely claimed that fencing along El Paso‘s border with Mexico had directly reduced violent crime, despite FBI data that said otherwise.

el paso border crossingStatistics show that violent crime in El Paso has been falling steadily over the last 25 years. There was a little uptick, just for a bit, after border fencing was installed in 2008, but other than that, the statistics are clear.

Despite being shown that his information was false, Trump doubled down on his lies at an El Paso rally, asking his rapt supporters to accept as true his assertions over what had been gleaned from federal government data.

And it seems like his faithful are happy to believe whatever they are told.

He continued his bluster when he declared his fake ‘national emergency’ on Friday, telling the assembled dignitaries and journalists that he just didn’t believe the statistics that came from his own administration, that showed record low border crossing, that less crime was committed by undocumented immigrants than by native-born Americans, and where exactly the flow of illegal drugs was happening at the border.

He chose instead to believe statistics he’d been given that came from less reputable sources.  ” On Jan. 27, he tweeted that the cost of illegal immigration so far this year was $18,959,495,168. We traced that number to a report on the right-leaning One America News Network. The figure appears to be based on an estimate from an outside group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), though the OAN figure was considerably higher.” (Washington Post)

snake oil salesmanHey!  let’s not let facts get in the way when we’re selling to the rubes! Somebody’s gotta buy this snake oil!

Trump’s willingness to flat-out deny reality when it doesn’t suit his purposes highlights one of the dangers of his presidency: He is shameless about not just contradicting the findings of his own government agencies but constructing a fact-free alternate reality where immigrants are violent criminals, drugs and tied-up women are pouring across the southern border, and the number of people making a dangerous trek through remote regions to enter the United States presents an existential threat. (VOX)

 Immediately following the declaration of emergency, Trump fled to his retirement home lair in Florida. While ‘chillin’ like a villain,’ it seems that El Presidente was caught “in flagrante delicto” at the omelette bar.

trump omelette bar Feb 2019 post national emergency

(well… caught red-handed with a plateful of bacon, that is … _

 Impeach this guy? More like im-poach.

I’ve gotta wonder if this really is him – after all, this guy looks like any generic, unhealthy old grandpa who has just wandered up to the ‘all you can eat’ cart at a cheap Best Western or Holiday Inn.

What is with the open garbage can? The multiple bottles of ketchup? The general slovenliness of the place, and the caption missing from the photo that should be saying, ‘With cheese, Mr President?” “Yeah… let’s make America .. grate again…”

If that is indeed the ‘luxury’ resort that costs it’s members $200K a year to enter, the decor is surprisingly outdated and cheap looking, like it was bought from the Wayfair returned items outlet.

The ten year old Walgreens poster, showing Trump as a younger and fitter man (remember when he really WAS 6 ft 3?) has got to be a cruel reminder to his wife and kids that daddy’s ability to ‘walk the walk’ has degenerated into “daddy needs to ride in the golf cart or we’re not gonna make it to the corner for ice creams!”

Is it really him? He looks dazed, like he hasn’t had his Adderall yet.  is this photo shopped, because enquiring minds want to know …where’s his hair? His ‘tan’? Those dozens of chins? His enormous behind?  Is that a chemical peel on his cheeks or vitilago? And did he raid Kim Jong Un‘s daddy’s closet for that outfit?

trump obama who wore it betterIf it turns out that this is, in fact, the emperor unclothed, then this photo has done a real service, at least to some of us. His base will likely never believe that the Trump that regularly throws a news hand grenade into our living rooms and then wanders off to play golf is not the pompous, pompadoured autocrat usually seen swanning around in his black ‘fat coat.’

His base will scream that the photo is ‘fake news,’ and that the libtards are once again continuing on their persecution of their anointed one’s preordained reign.

But for the rest of us, photographic proof that this harbinger of the apocalypse is nothing more than an old, frail man, with no real friends or any cultural significance beyond what the GOP have draped around the wizard’s image, is a moment to be savoured like a fine wine.

Trump’s followers want to wallow in Trump’s fantasy world, even if that world is filled with criminals and horrors. They don’t want to accept a reality that doesn’t include their Orange Emperor promising his loyal followers untold riches trickling down upon them.

baldwin trump 2019Thankfully, we still have access to alternate points of view. Saturday Night Live no longer allows it’s skits to be streamed on YouTube, so I can’t embed the fun Alec Baldwin had with his impersonation of Trump’s rantalogue last night. But it went something like this ….

” “This is a big one, so I don’t want to waste any time,” Baldwin, in full faux tan and blond wig regalia, said to open the show. He then claimed to be over six feet tall and “shredded,” adding that he looked forward to the visiting Hanoi with Chairman Kim who “is a very cool, misunderstood guy.”

 “There’s a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country — from the southern border, or the ‘brown line’ as many people have asked me not to call it.” Wall works. Wall make safe. You don’t have to be smart to understand that, and in fact it’s even easier to understand if you’re not that smart.”

Elsewhere in the speech, Baldwin‘s Trump confessed that he had to “fake” the national emergency and said he’d mulled over enacting the death penalty for non-violent crimes. He then said that he knew signing the declaration would lead to “immediately [being] sued.”

I’ll immediately be sued and the ruling will not go in my favor and then it will end up in the Supreme Court and then I’ll call my buddy Kavanaugh and I’ll say ‘it’s time to repay the Donny,’ and he’ll say, ‘new phone, who dis?’ And by then the Mueller report will be released, crumbling my house of cards and I can plead insanity and do a few months in the puzzle factory and my personal hell of playing president will finally be over..” (FOX News)

Thanks, SNL.  I needed that.

 

That’s Enough Winning, Thanks


by Roxanne Tellier

A summer, probably around 1982. A small town – might have been Guelph – and a touring rock band from Toronto with time on their hands …..

performer banned posterI think Performer was booked in for the back end of the week, the Thursday Friday Saturday, at a local bar. I just remember looking out into the crowd and spotting a bunch of dusty, hard-drinking, guys and gals who were loudly enjoying the show, whooping it up like a bunch of sailors on shore leave.

The guys in the band were the first to find out that the ‘circus’ was in town; a Conklin‘s offshoot, complete with rides, a midway filled with games of chance, and all the vomit-inducing festive fair fare you could dream of.

conklin show logo

With an invitation for the whole band and roadies to come and enjoy the entertainment gratis, we assembled at the crack of two p.m. in our best spandex and leathers to brave the sun and the crowds.

It was hot and sunny that day, so the corndogs and cotton candy weren’t sitting quite as well as hoped. That’s when the fatal decision was made – four of us would share a ride on the tea cup carousel.

How bad could that be, you ask? Well, when the ride wrangler realized he had ‘show biz royalty’ in his care, he prepared to show us exactly what his ride could do in the hands of a ‘professional.’

VAC-L-MAYFAIRPREVIEW-0507-004It was the longest and most horrible ride I’ve ever experienced. At first it was fun, but soon enough, the speed, and the herky jerky movement of the ‘cups’ had us all regretting everything we’d eaten, not just that day, but that week. Maybe that month.

We held on for dear life and prayed for the ride to stop.

That’s sort of like America these days.

trump laughingWhen Trump warned Americans that a vote for him would soon have them begging for all of the ‘winning’ to stop, I flashed back on that sunny, but ultimately nauseating, day in carnie hell, and knew exactly what was in store for the citizens of the Ew Ess of Eh.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to be, you know. The cynical like to tell you that all politicians are the same, that ‘the left wing and the right wing still come from the same bird,‘ but that’s a lot of fancy mouth dancing to cover up the fact that we’ve somehow corrupted our politics to the point where too many are no longer aware that politics is the circus, and we are the rubes they’re here to fleece.

America is not so greatWas it always like this? Were all previous politicians just as crooked as the group we now have to choose from? I can’t believe that is true – if all previous governments had been as rapacious as this lot, there wouldn’t be a country left with resources so rich that it’s treasury was a lure to these shysters.

This kind of political deception is the end product of years of trickery, of sneaky, backroom deals, and the selective reading of scholarly documents that prove that the devil really IS in the details.

And that the right wing is very often not at all right.

 

Show me one election of the last decade or so, where you sincerely held a strong belief that the election of this person and this person in particular, would benefit the lives of you and most of the citizens of your country. It’s far more likely that your past votes were actually cast against another politician – that’s what we did when Harper lost and Trudeau was installed. That’s what it seems an awful lot of people did when they chose Ford over Wynne or even Horwath in the last Ontario provincial election.

And how’s that buck a beer thing working out for you so far, FordNation?

ford pig throne beer

In America, a large quantity of citizens who felt that they had been used, abused and forgotten in capitalism’s race to the finish, voted for a conman who embodied the complete antithesis of everything they claimed to have loved and believed in, as a nation, since 1776.

And an even larger quantity of citizens decided they’d just sit this ride out.

These elections bear no relationship to those halcyon days when we actually believed our chosen leaders would .. well.. lead. Instead, they have all the charm of a loveless marriage entered into just to show an ex-lover, in the cruelest way possible, that you never really loved or needed them in the first place.

That’s not winning either.

Do you wonder why the general tenor of political thinking ranges from the white hot rage of the pundits, to the stupor of the larger group of potential voters who just want to be left alone with their belief that their vote has no effect on how their country is run?

Are you sick of ‘winning’ yet?

Those people whom we are meant to respect and obey have asked us to believe so very many lies. And for the most part, the majority of us were happy to do so, and to defend the right of those with money and power to tell us those lies, and to tell us how to think.

alex jonesThe world changed a couple of decades ago, when computers became ubiquitous, and for better or worse, our ability to confirm or deny what we’ve been told has led to some pretty interesting confrontations. What exactly IS fake news, and will you know it when you see it?

This could be a time when, with access to all of the world’s combined information, we could aspire to become a race of super intelligent people, capable of quickly seeing through the flimflam artists and cutting through the jibber jabber of the fast talking cons peddling high tech snake oil.

Instead, there are still far too many people rushing to throw their money, hearts and minds into the gaping maws of these stealers of dreams.

But Spring is coming to America, and with it, another opportunity for people to see their world with fresh eyes. Those midterm winds blew a lot of brand new Democrats into Congress, and with a little luck, the Republican party may soon find out that, what goes around, comes around.

Sadly, it may be many more years before we see the extent of all the ‘winning’ that Doug Ford has planned for the province of Ontario.

And it looks like we don’t get to get off of this ride until he’s done.

doug ford

 

Sports, Armageddon, and Quincy Jones Oh My!


 

by Roxanne Tellier

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

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

What’s a ‘lunk’?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And if that don’t kill ya ….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now that’s what I’m talking about.

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

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

quincy and ray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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