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!

 

 

Christmas and Snowbound in the Treasured Past


My mum embodied the Spirit of Christmas. She loved everything about the holiday, and she made every one of my childhood Christmas’ as merry and bright as she could.

She’d grown up in the depression – she knew Christmas wasn’t about money. When times were tough, she’d tell us it would be a “Hoodoo McFiggin” year – that meant the only presents would be things she had to buy us anyway, just to keep us clothed and fed – underwear, socks, boots. Presents were lGrinch xmas means a little moreovely, but some years, presents could wait. Christmas was about gathering with family, and sharing what we did have, and what we had to spare was love.

She just had so damn much joy and childlike belief in the season that it all came naturally through her to us … the breathless lead up that began months before, when she’d start asking my sister and I what we were going to ask to receive from Santa, and the admonition that we must be very sure of what we’d tell the Big Man when the day came … this was serious business! We were to name only one important item we really, really wanted. If there were other gifts, they would be of Santa’s choosing. We’d spend hours arguing over what toys were best, what we really wanted, and we’d change our minds a zillion times before our visit to Santa’s Kingdom.

cindy lou whoNor were the needs of others to be forgotten. We’d be given a small amount of money, and a list of those we needed to delight with thoughtful gifts. It’s extraordinary how far $5.00 could go back in the sixties. We would have been mortified to not have a gift to give to any of the family who had brought a gift for us. Some years would find us digging through our own stash of precious things, in order to find something we could wrap quickly and present to an unexpected guest.

In the run up to the Day itself, we’d drag out the boxes of carefully packaged ornaments that Mum had collected through the years. She’d linger over the battered aluminum stars made from pie plates, reminding me that she and I had made those together, one year when I was very young, and recovering from the mumps. She’d carefully unwrap the fragile glass ornaments she’d had since she and dad first married, each colourful globe a warm memory. soap bubble ornamentAnd she’d always linger over a set of orbs, some round, some tear-shaped, so transparent they reflected rainbows, so precious and delicate, “they’re like soap bubbles , Roxanne! Aren’t they beautiful?!”   

We had to have a real tree. She felt there was no point in having a tree if it didn’t come with that delicious smell, and the scratchy feel of pine needles under foot. The tree would find a place of honour in the dining room, and strict instructions about its care and watering were delivered. After the tree was set into the metal holder, she’d draw a bright red and sparkly cloth gently around the base, and then add puffs of ‘angel hair’ to make the tree look like it was floating on a cloud.

xmas tree old timeyShe’d drape the tree’s branches with long strands of tiny glass beads, the beads a little more worn every year, but shining nonetheless. The box of tinsel was precious too; after Christmas we’d gather as many of the used strands as we could and save them for the following year. We had two special toppers for the tree – one, a paper plate collage of an angel adorned with cotton batting that I’d made in first grade, the other , a plastic doll dressed as an angel, it’s halo tipped jauntily to the left, a scratch of pen ink faintly visible on it’s cheek.

Christmas songs would be playing on the little record player, and we’d all sing along as we decorated. Jodi and I liked to make up new and naughty words to some of the classics, just to make mum laugh, before she’d chide us to “Behave! Santa hears and sees everything you do!”

Once the tree was up and decorated, we went into a two week hiatus, where the other 50 weeks of naughtiness were replaced by determined niceness. We’d wait brearankin bass productionsthlessly for the Christmas specials to appear on the TV; without video or DVD, you had to be home to see “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” or one of the other animated delights, most of which seemed to be Rankin Bass productions.

As my sister and I got older, we began to appreciate more adult offerings; Jodi loved “It’s A Wonderful Life.” My favorite was “Holiday Inn,” with the moment I waited for being when the heroine posed in silhouette against a giant red paper heart, before dancing through it … and breaking poor old Bing Crosby’s heart.

 

 

And of course no Christmas was complete without the scary, but ultimately uplifting, black and white classic … Alastair Sim in “A Christmas Carol.” God bless us, everyone!christmas-carol-1951

There was also one special box that contained nothing but photos, recipes, newspaper clippings, song lyrics, and a few very treasured books. Our favourite to read and to have read to us was Erwin L. Hess’ Christmas and Snowbound in the Treasured Past,” a large full coloured collection of holiday poems, stories, artwork and photos, from 1961.

xmas and snowbound n the treasured past

We remember our best Christmas.  A flashback appears and this favourite Christmas plays on a very special screen in a picture of color, and we see the scenes we remember so well.  Immediately our story we’ll begin to tell…It snowed early that year.  In those days the holiday spirit was in the air with the first fall of snow.  Sleigh bells jingled and that meant Christmas was near!” 

We loved that book; it epitomized an ideal Christmas, one that we’d never had, nor likely ever would. But it held a promise, so much so that the phrase, “Christmas and snowbound in the treasured past” became our family code for how we imagined paradise to be.

First_Snow Jay MaiselWere winters colder then? Not always … one memorable Montreal Christmas Eve, the family toddled off to church in summer dresses and sandals, only to emerge into a starlit night made brighter by soft, fat flakes of snow gently falling onto the sidewalks. But that was an aberration; most Christmas Eves were ‘see your breath’ cold, brightened by our new knit hats and mittens that Gram had made to keep us warm.

Cold, colder and coldest was more often the weather on Christmas day. During my teen years, the habit was to gather at one of the uncles’ house to carve the roast beast. The best parties were at Uncle John’s big house in Chambly, as there was plenty of room for the kids to play, and even a special room where we could have our own holiday meal, manners and decorum cast aside, while the adults ate, smoked, clinked glasses and laughed about adult matters. We felt a little sorry for them – they didn’t even get to watch TV while they ate!  50s kids watcing tv

No matter where the party was held, in time the celebrations would wind down, and we’d gather our outdoor clothing, say goodbye to the umpteen cousins, and kiss all the ‘grumps,’ (grown ups) before piling into the car for the long ride home, across snowy roads and an ice-laced Pont Cartier, and then along Sherbrooke Street for miles, our bellies full and heads nodding, and inevitably slipping into sleep just before the car drew into the driveway. If we were small enough, we’d even get carried to our beds, where our new pjs and slippers awaited us.

It was a very different time, and, as with every generation that comes along, we were creating our own version of what Christmas should look and feel like. My mother’s memories were precious, but no more precious than the one’s she created for my sister and me.

Times change, and families are usually smaller than they used to be, and often times, a great deal more complicated. The name we give to that wonderful time of year when we get together to eat and sing and laugh and pray may be Christmas, or Hanukkah, Kwanza, Ramadan, or even Festivus. Heck, call it “Christmahanakwanzika“ if you want to.

What we call the holiday doesn’t matter – what matters is that we take the time to find that small, still place in our hearts, where peace and goodwill live. We gather with our families and friends to join our hearts and hands, to share what we have, and to give thanks that we … together … made it through another year, and are ready to enter another year, whatever it may bring … together.

coexist xmas

 

 

Hoodoo McFiggin’s Christmas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZm0WoTl1wU

 

(first published Dec, 2015: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/roxanne-tellier-christmas-and-snowbound-in-the-treasured-past/)

 

Is It Foolish To Be Positive In A Cynical World?


I haven’t written much lately, and there’s a reason for that; I’m deeply saddened and disappointed by much of recent human behaviour, and I’m fighting against becoming cynical.

To be inspired to write, to communicate your thoughts and beliefs, is to be aware of the world around you. Everything is grist for the writing mill, whether good or bad. You “write what you know.”

main stream media owned by 6 corpsWhat are the messages we are receiving, from mainstream media, from social media, from our friends? What are we processing and regurgitating, aloud, in print or digitally? Are we absorbing the constant bombardment of information, filtering it through our own belief systems, and coming up with something that makes sense, or are we just letting it wash over us, as all too much to contend with?

In the face of injustice, as in blatant racism, or as in how those with money and power are treated differently to those without, many rush to justify what is clearly morally wrong. Unable or unwilling to actually parse the injustice, they make excuses, pushing aside their own moral concerns to side with the abuser rather than the abused. In time, that constant re-working of what goes against their own inner morality leaves them unable to clearly delineate right from wrong – every issue becomes subject to exceptions. Actual scientific facts become ‘unproven.’ “War is peace. Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength.” (1984, George Orwell)

Our cultural heroes are no longer men and women of strong moral character, willing to sacrifice for causes to improve mankind. Rather, we put pop stars and billionaires on pedestals, and worship their most banal efforts as triumphs. And, befitting this shallow mindset, we first build up these ordinary people, and then we tear them down, mercilessly.

candycrowleyfatshamingThe ‘mean girl’ caricature, once parodied and satirized, is now considered normal behaviour for many with little themselves to offer, beyond snide disapproval or belligerent tirades. Those who, through luck or machinations, are in positions where they could actually improve the lives of their fellow man, instead choose to belittle those who already have very little.

“Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet.”

99 want peaceLately this rush to demolish what took centuries of effort and sacrifice to create – a modern civilization with dreams of equality and peace – seems to have accelerated beyond all control. It’s difficult to remain positive and to continue to believe in the fundamental goodness of the human race.

And the irony of those attempting to pull down the pillars of society lies in the truth that they have no concrete plan for a new form of society beyond their only motivation; power, and to impose absolute control over everyone else’s lives.

I do believe in mankind. I also believe that we are at a turning point, a time when it’s still possible to turn the ship around, and get back on the right course. For civilization to move forward, we need to stop believing that social, political and religious differences should be met with intolerance. And we must demand of the people we have put into power that they work for the people, not against the people.  radical belief