Mother’s Day!


It’s Mother’s Day! All around us, people are handing over mushy cards and hopefully some not too badly dented flowers to their mother or mother surrogate, loading up the kids and other significants into the car, eager to stand in a 90 minute wait line  for brunch, or planning a visit to dear old mater at the familial manor or retirement home. Others are spending a day in maudlin pining for their dearly departed.

Ah .. Mother’s Day.

mothers day funnyNo one is born a mother.  Nor does the act of birth make you a mother, though the preparation can kill you. Nine months of physical, emotional and often financial trauma can really take it out of a woman, let me tell you, and her reward is a life sentence of blood ,sweat, tears and copious amounts of other bodily fluids, starting just moments after delivery. It takes more than those vaunted male balls to merely survive motherhood, never mind make it to an age when your progeny finally honour your effort.

There was a time when the concept of motherhood was pedestaled. Flowery accolades, songs, and soppy paintings celebrated dear old mum. A mother was a venerated and venerable icon, framed by a strict adherence to the role society had deemed appropriate. The average mothers day old fashionedwoman had swapped her youth for the chance of financial security, and she and her progeny were  essentially the property of her husband, with very few rights, and less autonomy than a free range chicken.

A hundred years ago, a woman could be married by twenty, have eight kids by thirty, and have keeled over by forty, clearing the way for daddy dearest to glom on to a younger consort to comfort him in his golden years. With little in the way of contraception apart from abstinence, motherhood was very often not a choice at all.

Despite the constraints imposed upon them by their household duties, there were women who worked tirelessly at volunteer positions. One such woman was Ann Jarvis, an American peace activist who was known for her care of wounded soldiers on both sides of the  Civil War. After her death, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, held a memorial in 1908 to honour her mother, with the intention of honouring all mothers, and of creating Mother’s Day Work Clubs that would address public health issues.

By 1914, Jarvis’ work had created enough of a buzz to convince American President Woodrow Wilson to proclaim Mother’s Day a national holiday to honour mothers. The notion of setting aside the second Sunday in May for this purpose spread rapidly, and was very soon adopted all around the world.

No one was more incensed at the commercialization of the holiday than Jarvis herself.  By 1912 she had patented both “Second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day” (always with the apostrophe signifying that each family should be honouring their own mother,)  but she loathed the bandwagoning of Hallmark Cards and other companies that were capitalizing on the holiday, and in particular the group, American War Mothers, who had tied their fundraising campaigns to the selling of pink “Mother’s Day Carnations.

A true daughter of her mother, she organized boycotts and threatened lawsuits throughout the 1920’s against those card companies, candy manufacturers, and fundraising groups, who, she felt, dishonoured the holiday by encouraging the buying of gifts over a heartfelt, handwritten declaration of love and gratitude.

For all her protests, Mother’s Day continues to be one of the most commercially successful of North American occasions, particularly for the sales of flowers, greeting cards, chocolates, and pink (for girls!) tchotchkes.  mothers day gifts

Modern women have a more ambivalent take on the day. No one’s going to turn down a thoughtful card or gift, given, however willingly or unwillingly, by the person they’ve brought into the world and raised, whether through birth or other means. But you shouldn’t be surprised if your gift is accepted with a knowing smile. After all, mothers invest decades into forming an adult, with all of the attendant duties, unpaid and largely unacknowledged, in the home or out of it. A card is the very least you can thank her with – pretty much the equivalent of the minimum wage.  (“We’d pay you less if we could, but the law’s the law!”)

Mothers are not born with an innate ability to withstand pain, and the endless tyranny of childcare. They do not spring fully formed from hours of labour, ready to bear whatever this new being throws at them, physically or emotionally. They are young women with lives and dreams of their own that put aside their own selves in the service of families and societies that place very little value on what makes the actual world turn – cooking, cleaning, planning, organizing, wiping away tears and cleaning tiny bottoms.

Perhaps a more thoughtful gift for mums might be something that recognizes those sacrifices, and puts it into perspective. Mother’s Day, possibly more than any other holiday, is your chance to really thank your maternal parent for putting aside a large portion of their life to create yours.

mothers day reminderGet it out of your head that Mumsie will be over the moon with a new pair of fuzzy slippers, and realize that she’d much prefer a gift certificate to a spa of her choice, or a year’s subscription to the Wine of the Month Club. If you’re old enough to read this, and you are lucky enough to still have a living maternal figure, remember her existence and needs more than once a year.

She spent far more years indulging your wants and needs than you have left to thank her for her generosity.

And while I’m in a fever dream of possibilities, address your own attitudes to women of all ages, for every one of them is a mother or a potential mother. While it’s lovely  to honour your own mother, remember that many of the women you see every day, of child bearing age or beyond, are also someone else’s honoured mum, and that there is likely someone out there who would  take a lot of offense to anyone who treated her with disrespect. The ability to divorce the love of one’s mother from respect for all women, their bodies, and their work, is simply astounding, especially as seen amongst those with the power or clout to affect change.

Ah, Mother’s Day. In theory, adorable. In practice, a day when women – the wives, teachers, chefs, chief bottle washers, multi-taskers, and keeper of the family brain – are granted ‘permission’ to relax  for a short while, and enjoy a chocolate, before they get on with  the work of making the domestic world go ‘round. Not much of a trade-off, really.

 

(first published on    bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/05/08/roxanne-tellier-spotlight-on-mama/)

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It Is To Laugh!


samantha bee trevor noah.jpgIn a Salon.com article last week, Steve Almond accused Comedy Central of having “squandered Jon Stewart’s legacy” by appointing South African comedian Trevor Noah as host, over the then-incumbent Samantha Bee.

The author points to the success of Bee’s new show “Full Frontal” as proof that Noah’s lower key, outsider’s perspective, has damaged the credibility and political power of The Daily Show.

There’s so much wrong with that attitude that I barely know where to begin. Full disclosure: my conversion to political junkie is relatively recent, and as with most converts, I just can’t get enough of meaningful discussion on my new passion. I’m also an entertainer who studied comedy and acting for long enough to have a dispassionate overview of what I see on the screen – I’m not buying the physical over the intellectual. I watch for knowledge and to hear something clever that I hadn’t thought of myself.

That being said – there’s lots of leg room in the television/Internet world for a wide spectrum of opinions, and lawdy, lawdy, there’s a fan for every fanatical opinion. I dislike certain types of discourse; insightful commentary has no need to use scatology or childish insults unless justified in context. Those that shriek their thoughts are right off my list of viewing. So, that certainly leaves out the FOX News Network, and all Republican debates, no matter how ‘entertaining.’

But let’s just cut to the chase on why Samantha Bee declined the chance to succeed Jon Stewart.titans of late night 2016

I like how Vanity Fair leaned into the 50’s sexism of late night by making the photo Mad Men-themed’.

The ‘titans of late night’ sausagefest included Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon, and token light skinned Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore. Not exactly a cultural mosaic going on there.

vanity-fair-cover2

“What’s conspicuously missing from late-night, still, is women,’ wrote David Kamp.’How gobsmackingly insane is it that no TV network has had the common sense — and that’s all we’re talking about in 2015, not courage, bravery, or even decency — to hand over the reins of an existing late-night comedy program to a female person?

(You could also add “people of colour” there, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)

While I can appreciate the work of Conan O’Brien, James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and Jimmy Fallon, I’ve never really taken to them. I’m just ‘over’ the late night formula, with its emphasis on rising or fading stars, and middle of the road, slightly risqué, rarely challenging patter. That was always the domain of older, white males, and still largely is. That’s more ” falling asleep in front of the TV” stuff, to me.

colbert thumbs upStephen Colbert’s defection to The Tonight Show, despite his best efforts, still landed him in that traditional format. While the move made great career sense overall and I do love his joyful, melodica playing, bandleader, Jon Batiste, Colbert’s brilliance is still best viewed in his political snipes, and thankfully, the cream of his wit usually wind up getting spun off into Internet clips and memes.

Trevor Noah only has to step on stage for the conservative dog whistles to start – he’s a young, black, South African, and an immigrant who’s taken an American’s job! A gentle, soft spoken and thoughtful soul, he is able to laugh at his own foibles and to marvel at American customs and culture. I find his often wide-eyed wonder refreshing – I too sometimes feel the same gulf between how Canadians and Americans think. Sometimes it’s just too wide a mental leap to span.

The contrast between the often brash, broad humoured and ultra-white Stewart and Noah’s more restrained presence can be jarring, if all you are looking for is what you’ve already seen. But Stewart himself knew that it was time to go – he’d accomplished what he’d set out to do. He saw that it was time to move on and let the next wave of young comedians have their shot. He subsequently signed a four year production contract with HBO, while continuing as executive producer of …larry wilmore

The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore – an Afrocentric look at America’s politics. Maybe it’s the humour of the damned and the resigned, but it’s also intelligent, truthful, often wise, and empathic.

A typical, if bowdlerized, user’s comment on the show: “they have almost no white people on their show at any point, and often just disrespect that person. It’s always a black panel, it’s always the same guys opinion, who is him? I’ve never seen or heard of him. He presents rather, off humor, if any of this is humor, which it’s not, it’s just a group of people acting out raged constantly”

people care about pets over poor blacksThe main take-away being, at least on the commentator’s part, not to see a chance to explore and try to understand a different perspective on the very real problem of racism in America, and how it’s dealt with, legally and individually, but instead a demand for more white faces to rehash white opinions on a series focused on black lives. And there you have your #allLifeMatters in a nutshell.

Stewart was also instrumental in launching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, a satirical look at news, politics and current events. Funny-sausage-principle-by-John-OliverOliver had the distinction of guest-hosting The Daily Show in the summer of 2013, when Stewart took a working sabbatical to direct his film, Rosewater. Oliver’s sardonic and exaggerated comedic ‘voice,’ was immediately acceptable to American viewers familiar with the work of British comedians in the Monty Python vein. Although his series airs only once a week, each episode is a little gem, with the bulk of the airtime focusing with laser beam intensity on a well-researched and timely item deserving of closer examination.

 

hollywood_reporter_bill_maher_coverStill a force to be reckoned with, is Bill Maher, of Real Time, and the late, lamented Politically Incorrect. The granddaddy of political satire and discussion, Maher is definitely polarizing. He’s a “love him or hate him” kinda guy. Perhaps that’s the attraction. At any rate, I’ve followed his career since the nineties, and even once seized the opportunity to be in the Politically Incorrect audience, just a week or two after 9/11. Though I can’t remember if that was the episode that got his multi –award winning show cancelled.

ABC decided against renewing Maher’s contract for Politically Incorrect in 2002, after he made a controversial on-air remark six days after the September 11 attacks. He agreed with his guest, conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, that the 9/11 terrorists did not act in a cowardly manner (in rebuttal to President Bush’s statement calling them cowards). Maher said, “We have been the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building. Say what you want about it. Not cowardly. You’re right.””

Maher barely skipped a beat, moving from ABC to HBO in 2003, where his hour-long political comedy talk show, Real Time with Bill Maher, has flourished ever since.

Bill and I have been aging disgracefully – a world apart, but akin in spirit – for decades. We’re both still lippy, lefty, liberals – though I disagree with his pro-gun stance – with a sarcastic attitude, and a hate-on for bad politics, bought off politicians and mass media, inane bureaucracy, and rabid religionists of any stripe. What’s not to love? I’m positively dejected when I miss my Friday night fix of Real Time .

samantha bee on ScaliaBut circling back to Full Frontal with Samantha Bee… this new series airs only once a week. Like John Oliver, Bee touches briefly on current events, before diving deep into the murky waters of American politics. She’s funny, strong, relevant, courageous … even the show’s theme song, PeachesThe Boys Wanna Be Her,” asserts that “the boys want to be her, the girls want to be her.”

And I think that rings true to a young, engaged, non gender discriminating audience. Bee is cocky, unafraid to confront the staid establishment. Her interview with Texas Republican representative Dan Flynn, about writing the anti-abortion restrictions despite knowing little about the procedure, is typical of her style. “I speak with the authority of one who has a uterus,” Bee tells him, “and I guess that’s why I think that you’re the wrongiest, wrongheadedest wrong person.”

She’s exciting, she’s brave – and she’s Canadian! All of which allows her to comment and opine on wrongheadedness from the perspective of a country more known for acceptance than intellectual resistance. But we’re only four episodes in so far. It may seem longer, since that has encompassed four weeks, but we’re talking baby steps here.

By contrast, Trevor Noah’s been at The Daily Show since September 28, 2015, appearing four nights a week most weeks. Viewers have had time to decide on whether they like his shtick or not. Or have they? trevor noah w de Blasio

I recently watched an episode of Noah speaking with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. But this time, the episode that I watched was not the regular, clipped for time, segment normally shown in the time spot, but rather, included the ‘extended’ interview that is available only to those who seek out the episode on Comedy Central. There was an entirely different tone between the televised and the ‘only available on the Internet’ conversation.

In the first, commercially aired segment, there was a lot of polite banter and civility. But just as the conversation got started, it was cut short.

De Blasio: And look, a lot of people don’t feel the government’s treating them fairly. For years and years, a lot of – and this is especially why, as you know, I’m very involved in the issue of addressing income inequality. And, you know, it’s amazing, you see the national discussion – like, why are people angry? Why are they frustrated? Because they’ve been screwed. Because for decades they’ve seen their incomes go down. They’ve seen their economic reality decline, and they wonder if their kids are going to have anywhere near as good a life as they had. Would you be content? The anger and frustration are the natural way people should feel when they go through that, and then they take that frustration out on a government that they feel has let them down. 

Noah: That has let them down, especially when it comes to income inequality. It’s funny you bring that up, because you are big on income inequality, which seems like a Bernie Sanders supporter, and, yet, you’ve endorsed Hillary, which we’ll talk more about. TV time is up – we’ll be talking more on the web and on the app.

(the extended interview) http://www.thecomedynetwork.ca/Shows/TheDailyShow?vid=821779

Now, I can’t say that I’ve watched many of the extended interviews. However – a different Noah, a more confident, knowledgeable and willing to confront, Noah, appeared during the extended segment. And, in my opinion, that’s the Noah that viewers would prefer to the polished, safe, non-threatening, Noah they’ve been sold since his debut.

sense of humourBut really, in the end, our appreciation of comedy is personal, and only our opinion, as is our sense of humour. Everyone’s taste is different, and that’s a good thing – it speaks to our individuality. There’s room for all at the inn – pitting comedian against comedian is sophomoric and limiting. Let’s keep any nonsense austerity principles as far away from the distribution of art as we can.

Having a wide range of voices available for regular viewing is the essence of our freedom to choose, a real gift to viewers, and a paean to the right of free speech.

 

(first published Match 6/2015: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/03/06/roxanne-tellier-it-is-to-laugh/)

Introducing the heymacs


With this week’s release of their 7th video adventure, more is becoming known about that mythical group,  the heymacs. Those in the know have sensed from the beginning that there’s more to this shambling group of itinerant musicians than meets the eye.

heymacs alley shot.jpgWhen the Toronto group was first conceived, the five musical veterans weren’t interested in regular gigs, but they did want to share their story. One video led to the next, each offering a little more backstory and insight into the guys and their pragmatic ‘means to an end’ way of life.

When we first met Macky, Doc, Skid, Cowboy and Carlyle, they were pawing through the discarded instruments in the bin behind Ms Laurie’s music store. But there was a sense that the guys might not quite be as they first appeared. As Macky’s graveled voice led the ragtag team in a song of hope and faith, the band proved to be more than proficient on their cobbled together instruments.

Jul 2013 the heymacs – You’ll Never Walk Alone

When the second video appeared six months later,the boys, with a small change in personnel, had found a warmer space where they could relax and work on original material … between dice games.

Dec 2013 – the heymacs – Life is Tough

True to form, this cover of a classic Bob Dylan song appeared after another six month break. It seems the boys had managed to finagle their way into an unlocked recording studio, where they took the opportunity to lay down a few tracks. In the descriptive notes below the video, another pattern emerged – a request to be kind to the homeless was always included.

 Jun 2014 the heymacs – Like A Rolling Stone

Recorded on the same night, but released – yes, six months later – Macky finds himself waxing philosophically on growing older, while the rest of the band catch up on some badly needed sleep.

Nov 2014- the heymacs – If I Were Young Again

With the pattern firmly set, fans were surprised to see another heymacs tune emerge only two months later – and this time, Macky’s poor attempts at maintaining normalcy in his love life have lost himheymacs hit the road w girls his latest lady friend and a crash pad. Undeterred, the band continue rehearsing for an upcoming audition, while Ms Laurie and her friends Lee and Roxie rub it in that Macky’s gonna have to “Hit The Road.”

Jan 2015 the heymacs – Hit The Road, Jack

There’s a lot riding on the big music contest Great North Ski and Skate has sponsored – gear, recording time and a little taste of fame could be within the heymacs grasp. All they have to do is impress the jury, with their musicianship, style, and ‘vintage’ equipment.

Jul 2015 the heymacs – Freeskatin’

In the 7th and most current video, the band has been keeping a low profile, but contest judge Mr. B tracks Macky down to their favourite bar to let them know that they’ve won the contest and the goodies. In fact, he’s so impressed with the boys that he’s brought along his squeezebox, and hopes to have a chance to sit in with the band.

Through “a guy who knows a guy,” Macky and Skid later haveheymacs w Murray McLachlan a chance to play their video take on a Murray McLauchlan Canadian classic for the writer himself, who offers to put in a good word for the band with the ‘new kid’ now running the country.

Feb 2016 the heymacs – Down By The Henry Moore

With seven well-received videos under their belt, it was time to track down band leader Macky O for an update on what was next for the heymacs. Who were these scruffy lads, seemingly unencumbered by families, homes or jobs? And how had the motley crew recognized in each other the musical talent needed to bring the group together?

Macky7I cornered the gruff voiced Macky at his favourite bar. As Skid had revealed in their “FreeSkatin’” video, you can just about always find one of the band at Dangerous Dave’s around dinner time. Macky’s a man of few words, but here’s what he had to say to my questions.

How did the group find each other?

“Well, all of the guys dabbled in music to one extent or another over the years, and we’d organize card games in the alley behind the local music store on some of those nice summer nights. That was Ms. Laurie’s place, called High Note Music. When it started getting cold out, she was kind enough to let us move the game into the receiving shed behind the store. Sometimes she’d throw out damaged gear that we’d fix up as best we could … next thing ya know, we’re jamming instead of playing poker sometimes.”

the heymacsHow did you choose the band name? Does it have some sort of meaning?

“Well, it’s a phrase we’ve heard a lot when exploring dumpsters  ( as in “Hey, Mac! What’cha doin’ in there?!)”

What can the heymacs fans look forward to next?

“Workin’ on a tune called ‘The Old Man Blues’ … a subject with which we have the inside scoop.”

Are there any plans for upcoming gigs where the heymacs can be seen live? What are the band’s long term goals?

“I dunno … maybe do some charity gigs to help out some less fortunates.”

Why do you always mention the homeless in your video descriptions?

“None of us are strangers to being one pay check from disaster, and lots of guys and gals on the street have a backstory of events that simply got outta their control… hey, we’re all human, folks. Every little bit helps …”

How will the band’s sound change with new gear?

“Don’t know if it’ll change that much… but, at least, better equipment is dependable, and guitars will have all 6 strings (and, as Skid often reminds us, drumsticks don’t grow on trees, eh!)”

Anything else you’d like to add, for those new to the heymacs and their music?

“By way of a plug, it’s not easy to find any heymacs stuff that you can buy, and we’re not coming to your town anytime soon. So feel free to visit us on the YouTubes as often as you’d like… just remember … while we don’t want to bash anyone over the head, we’re all about trying to raise awareness to the plight of the homeless.”

To find out more about the heymacs, their music and their ‘private lives,’ hop on over to their website, http://heymacs.shawnoshea.com or visit their Facebook page. (The heymacs.)

 

(first published Feb 14/2016 – bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/roxanne-tellier-introducing-the-heymacs/)

Goodbye, 2015. Hello 2016!


It must be the new year, because I’ve officially lost all track of time. The flurry of December activities, the shopping, the gatherings – they’ve all left me a little dizzy. Time to close the books on 2015, the year that Marty McFly visited in Back To The Future 2.

ed sheeran lion tattooAlso the hottest year on record, no doubt due to our fascination with movies like Fifty Shades of Grey, Justin Bieber’s naked sunbathing pictures, and Ed Sheeran’s new lion tattoo, which is not a tribute to Cecil, the lion gunned down by the disgraced American dentist, but rather a nod to England’s national emblem, and Sheeran’s own triumph of three sold out nights at Wembley stadium.

Yes, it was a wild year for musicians and their fans. The war between man and machine was launched in May, when Enrique Iglesias had his hand sliced open by a drone shooting live video at a crowded concert in Tijuana. left-sharkTeeny boppers around the world mourned when Zayn Malik quit One Direction; I myself was more intriqued with the antics of #leftshark during Katy Perry’s gig at the SuperBowl.

Australia got it’s knickers in a twist in May when Johnny Depp and wife Amber Heard smuggled their two little dogs, Pistol and Boo, into the country on his private plane, without proper permits. Things got pretty tense, as Australians take the illegal importation of animals rather seriously. Amber is to appear in Australian court and face a possible 10-johnny depp australia memeyear jail term and/or a hefty fine for illegally importing the dogs into Australia and of producing a false document. Depp wasn’t bothered – movie stars don’t need no steenkin’ laws – as he told late night show host Jimmy Kimmel in September:

“As Kimmel laughed, Depp continued: ”This sort of weird, sweaty-pated gut man who decided that two five-, six-inch Teacup Yorkshire Terriers would harm the country in some way. He’s got a point. Especially when you consider that Australia has the most poisonous creatures on earth. Everything will kill you in minutes.’

Lightening it up in the land down under, one young Australian boy’s rendition of the Australian anthem went viral as he persevered through an attack of the hiccups. The show must go on!

Kanye West ended the year on a high note, with the birth of son, Saint, to he and wife Kim Kardashian. But things weren’t going quite as swimmingly during his June appearance at Glastonbury. After calling himself “the greatest living rock star on the planet,” Kanye broke into song, or something vaguely reminiscent, wrestling Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the ground. The Rhapsody won. If he was going to pick a Queen tune to murder for his wife, I’m thinking “Fat Bottomed Girls” would have been more appropriate.

Of course, the Bruce-to-Caitlyn Jenner story has been pretty much THE story of the year, despite Kylie Jenner’s attempt to capture top place with her “lip challenge.” kylie-jenner-challenge-fail.jpgmost of the participants are using shot glasses. After placing their lips into the shot glass, they suck the air out of the glass, creating a vacuum. However, because the glass isn’t flexible like the CandyLipz device, the shot glass can break under all the pressure, causing serious injuries that require stitches to repair. “ (PopSugar.com)

Jeez, we used to lick red Smarties tm for fake lipstick when I was a kid. Thank heavens for the Internet!

And no one could figure out what was going on with that dress.white gold blue black dress

“Neuroscientists Bevil Conway and Jay Neitz believe that the differences in opinions are a result of how the human brain perceives colour, and chromatic adaptation. Similar theories have been expounded by the University of Liverpool’s Paul Knox. Conway believes that it has a connection to how the brain processes the various hues of a daylight sky, noting that “your visual system is looking at this thing, and you’re trying to discount the chromatic bias of the daylight axis”, and that “people either discount the blue side, in which case they end up seeing white and gold, or discount the gold side, in which case they end up with blue and black.” Neitz remarked that

Our visual system is supposed to throw away information about the illuminant and extract information about the actual reflectance… but I’ve studied individual differences in colour vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen.” (Wikipedia)

This viral video was a terrific distraction from reality. “Epic Strut” was an ad for England’s MoneySuperMarket.

2015 also saw the rise of the ‘dad bod.” What’s that, you say?

“On March 30, 2015, a sophomore at Clemson University named Mackenzie Pearson published a post on college-centric site The Odyssey titled “Why Girls Love the Dad Bod.” This post gave us perhaps the most complete definition of the phrase that we have: Wrote Pearson, “The dad bod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.’ It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs, either.””

Sadly, women don’t get the same props for sporting a mom bod, in fact, they’re usually shamed for it, on the front pages of tabloids,

Celebs with dad bods include John Mayer, Jon Hamm, Jason Segal, Kanye West, Will Ferrell, Jay-Z … and a Canadian who gave us the first dad bod video – Drake.

Although the new Star Wars film is getting all the attention now, it was Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, and Trainwreck that were the ‘must sees’ earlier this year. Well, when we weren’t Netflix binging, or crying over the season end of Game of Thrones.

hello kitty websiteIn August, the extramarital affair website, Ashley Madison, was hacked, and cheaters everywhere quaked in their BVDs. More worrisome, the Hello Kitty website was hacked in December. So far, so good.

In sports… Sorry. I don’t watch and I don’t care. I missed it all, and when anyone tried to tell me about it, I stuck my fingers in my ears and went “lalalalala” until they stopped. Except for #leftshark. I liked #leftshark.

I’m always surprised at how much happens during a year, and how little I remember by the end of it. We focus on what’s in front of us, as a rule, and even the most important events tend to blur as months go by. As hard as it is to believe, all of the energy and angst involved in the longest election in Canadian history is now in the past, where it should stay. We can’t keep dragging our wounds and wounded behind us like Jacob Marley’s chests and chains.

TrudeauVogue_SpreadCanadians chose Justin Trudeau’s youth and charisma over Stephen Harper’s doom and gloom, and a new era began for Canada. In the first few months of Trudeau’s mandate, he’s brought a breath of fresh air and hope to the country, sweeping away the rigidity and largely male-heavy parliament often associated with traditional government by bringing a more balanced group in to help him lead the country. When asked why he went with gender equality in his cabinet, Justin Trudeau said: “Because it’s 2015.” And not just gender was considered; Trudeau’s cabinet is the first in Canadian history with the first ever Muslim minister, the first aboriginal justice minister, and the first northern fisheries minister, an Inuit who wore a sealskin tie to take his oath.

In the United States, however, another battle over who would make the best President is underway, and it’s a hideous clown car of buffoons who’ve grabbed most of the attention. Americans seem to like trump pointingTrump, who is loud and has a lot of money. Sadly, many Americans equate wealth with intelligence, loud voices with knowledge, and the ability to do one thing well with an ability to do all things well. Trump has attacked minorities, women, the disabled, and anyone who dares to criticize him. Give him props, though; he epitomizes the old cliché of “dressing for the job you want.” Unfortunately, that job is fascist dictator.

He says things that aren’t true, and are regularly proven false, but his loudest followers are generally distrustful of the media, so they take his bleating as gospel. He can basically create any sort of fantasy, a nation run like a reality TV show, and his fans blindly agree with him. That’s a pretty frightening scenario.

If his madness seems familiar, perhaps it’s because you remember this scene:

alex jones tinhatYes, it was a good year for conspiracy theorists and wackadoodles. Normally it’s only fans of head paranoids Glenn Beck and Alex Jones whipping up the crazy, but this year, crazy went mainstream. Remember Jade Helm in July? Texans sure do; as on January 1st, open-carrying is now legal in the state. Sales of guns have never been higher in the U.S., even though Obama’s almost out the door and he STILL hasn’t come for their guns.

The British election even caught comedian/activist Russell Brand’s attention, and he used his Youtube journal “The Trews,” to let his followers know he’d just realized that choosing not to vote wasn’t quite as clever as he’d previously thought. Throwing his support to Milliband and his MilliFans, however, seemed to sap him of further public politicism, as the Trew News was quietly shut down when David Cameron rode back into power once more. cameron and pig(Cameron didn’t escape scandal this year either, as he sought to defend himself against a book alleging that he’d once stuck his “private part” into a dead pig’s mouth in an initiation stunt.)

 

Before we get weasel on woodpeckerto the Syrian refugee crisis and other heavy stuff, here’s a photo that went viral of a weasel riding a woodpecker, to clear your palette.

In January, the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine based in Paris, were invaded by two armed terrorists, who identified themselves as belonging to the Islamist terrorist group Al-Qaeda‘s branch in Yemen. They murdered 11 people, and injured 11 more, before leaving for the Île-de-France region, where a further five were killed and 11 wounded, as the world watched in horror.

“On 11 January, about two million people, including more than 40 world leaders, met in Paris for a rally of national unity, and 3.7 million people joined demonstrations across France. Je Suis CharlieThe phrase Je suis Charlie has become a common slogan of support at the rallies and in social media. The staff of Charlie Hebdo continued with the publication, and the following issue print ran 7.95 million copies in six languages, in contrast to its typical print run of 60,000 in only French.” (Wikipedia.com)

And then we all went about our businesses, and moved on to other matters. Sure, we knew there was unrest in the Middle East, and we’d heard something about Syria and civil war, and wasn’t there something in the press about the British being annoyed by refugees arriving on their beaches and spoiling their summer holidays?

But that was all just part of what we glanced at in the papers or on social media. We psychologically portioned off what wasn’t affecting us personally as something bad happening somewhere else. Over there, not over here. To them, not to us.

Until that photo in September.dead syrian boy on beach The Independent

The images of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi, washed ashore on a Turkish beach, tore the hearts out of people everywhere. Suddenly the Syrian refugee crisis had become real, which could only have come as a shock to those who had been suffering and dying for the last three years.

More than a million refugees and migrants crossed into Europe in 2015. Many thousands didn’t survive the journey. Some fled barren lands, others, like the Syrians, were caught in a crossfire between a bloodthirsty death cult and an amoral military regime.

They came from Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, Albania, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Serbia and the Ukraine. They arrived virtually penniless, often with just the clothes on their back. The lucky ones have family in Europe, or America or Canada, and hope to receive asylum. Many will go through a formal refugee/asylum seeking quarantine, which can last three or more years, in makeshift camps.syria_refugees_snow_01a

And if they do make it through the process, and somehow get to be accepted into a new country, there is no guarantee that they’ll be greeted with a welcome. In fact, as Muslims in the ‘civilized’ countries are well aware, fear of ISIS has translated into aggression against all Muslims, and those who may look Muslim. Aren’t we a charming lot? Immigrants ourselves, who claim Christian/Judean traditions, and still so many of us more terrified of the possibility of a terrorist sneaking in with the downtrodden, then of the state of our hearts and souls when we choose to deny those in need of a helping hand.

ISIS/ISIL continues to be synonymous with terror, helped along by periodically released videos of horrifying torture and murder, and fanned by the inflammatory voices of politicians well aware that fear is a wonderful way to capture the attention of voters. No one wants to see a repeat of the November attacks in Paris, where ISIS claimed responsibility for the deaths of 130 people, and the wounding of 368 people, 80–99 of them seriously.

isis airstrikesAnd yet it’s hard to be convinced that governments have the ISIS situation under control, as the current military air strikes – by the United States, France, Russia, the United Kingdom — along with several Arab nations and the Kurds, who are fighting them in northern Iraq and Syria – all seem to be at odds with each other. Many triumphant reports emerge of fighters claiming to have destroyed training centers, camps, and ammunition depots, but the civilian death toll continues to rise, with no end in sight.

To end on a brighter note, December’s climate conference in Paris, attended by far too many dignitaries traveling on far too many gas guzzling jets, would seem to be taking seriously the spectre of global climate change. It’s good to know that being a ‘denier’ of the impact humans have had on the planet is now a mark of self-centered shame rather than a badge of misinformed honour. We’ve closed our eyes to the countries hardest hit by climate change for too long, and are now reaping the rewards in the form of refugees, migrants, animal extinction, and innocents killed in the name of corporate greed and civilian disinterest.

Hope springs eternal in humans; it’s why the race has lasted this long. positivityI have faith in the good people, the people who aren’t internet famous or fabulously wealthy, but who struggle along day by day, living life with dignity and respect for themselves and others. Those who keep positive in the face of the events that challenge us should be applauded for their courage and humour. I strive every day to be more like them.

Happy New Year, frustrated boomers!

 

 

Big Dreams and Lotteries


schrodinger-1325709458I love that moment just before I check an old lottery ticket. For as long as I can avoid checking the numbers, it’s like Schrodinger’s cat – the dream is both dead and alive simultaneously. I can continue to muse upon what I’d do with a big win, because until the numbers are checked … I just might be a winner!

I never am, though.

But still I keep buying the tickets. Not all the time, just now and again, and when I really feel like a lotto win is the only way out of my life, that’s there’s no other way I can break free of my personal cage.

gilded_cage_by_kirschsalvator-d45ti8mWe all have cages. Some have gilded cages, others cages of straw. Some perpetuate a cage they’ve known since childhood. But they’re all cages, and we’ve usually built them for ourselves. It’s much more fun to dream about a magical lucky event than to challenge the cage.

I like to tell myself about all of the altruistic things I’d do with a lotto win. … I have a lot of plans. I could do a lot of good, I argue with some imaginary deity who must hear millions, if not billions, of such pleas daily. I, of all of the past winners, would make that money work for so many … just put it into my hands, and I’ll show you …

lottery_winnerSurveys show that many baby boomers – especially those free spirits like me, who thought we’d “die before we got old,” – are hoping for either a lotto win or a good inheritance to retire comfortably. Certainly, we can’t depend on the government to cushion our aging bones.

I read stories about people who’ve won large lotteries. It seems like many of those people don’t end up as happy as they’d thought. Winners in Canada tend to fare better, and invest their winnings more wisely, although we have our share of sad stories. And certainly, a big lotto win will bring out all of those lost friends and relations!

another jackpotThere does seem to be a method to some of the winners’ strategies. I can never figure it out myself. But I had an email the other day that said that someone had worked out a scientific way to ensure multiple wins. I just had to send them some money, and I’d be set for life. And I mustn’t tell anyone about this secret, because the government would stop the loophole.

I didn’t send them money either. Sounds like just another lottery to me.

Comedian John Oliver on why American state lotteries are a ‘stupid’ tax.