It’s Good News Week!


by Roxanne Tellier

Hey there! are you tired of constantly opening your browser or newspaper and finding an unending stream of reports of mayhem and horrible tragedies? Are you tired of reading about how cruel and nasty humans can be to one another? Have you asked yourself lately, ‘why does the media never have anything nice to say about anyone?’ 

Well, be morose no more, because today I have decided to divert that river of unrelenting malice and instead provide your tired eyes with a little good news.

I’ll take Good News Week Potpourri for $200, Alex …..

First up .. now come ON!  Couldn’t you watch this delightful toddler reunion forever?

Just be careful if you decide to search youtube for more videos of  ‘toddlers hugging’ or ”babies hugging babies.’ You’ll find enough sweetness there to bring on premature diabetes.

Have you ever wondered what North America would look like without the intrepid explorers who opened up the “New World.?” Raise a glass and wish a ‘happy birthday!’ to the Venetian merchant and writer, Marco Polo,  who would be 765 today, had he been gifted with eternal life. (Tell him he doesn’t look a day over 750 .. he’s a little vain)

His book, The Travels of Marco Polo, written around 1300, gave Europeans of the time a first peek at how the Eastern World, including China, India, and Japan, spent their days. Eventually, it caused people like Christopher Columbus to try and find India to see for themselves how the other half lived. Sadly, Mr Polo is today best known for a watery game children like to play in swimming pools. 

Scotland’s own J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved Harry Potter books series, is back in the news again for more of her trademark philanthropy. She’s been ‘memed’ before for having donated enough of her hard earned dosh to charity ($160 million) to fall off the Forbes billionaire list, after having been the first author to even make the cut.

Now she’s making headlines for donating another $18.8 million to the University of Edinburgh, for the further success of the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic she brought into existence in 2010 with her first generous endowment.

The clinic was named after the author’s mother, Anne Rowling, who sadly lost her fight to MS at 45 years of age.

In a Twitter post that went viral around the world, Japanese photographer Yasuto Inagaki caught the magic moment when his son – a major fan of  locomotives – was approached by a conductor of one of the bullet trains at the Nagano Station platform. The conductor gave the boy his hat to try on, and then offered the boy a salute.

Growing up, I never really had that love of trucks and trains and all things mechanical like the guys in the ‘hood did. Just not my thing.

But it would be hard not to appreciate how much joy this train conductor brought to this little fellow when he allowed the child to wear his official hat. 

“While it may have been a small gesture, Ingaki said that it meant more to his son than meeting Mickey Mouse.”

Does it sometimes seem like we just can’t stop bashing our youngun’s?  Millennials often get a bad rap for being isolated and seeming emotionally fragile. The other side of the coin is how many of these kids actually appear to be focused on improving society.

Brittany Wenger of Sarasota, Florida, coupled a love for computer science with an interest in artificial intelligence to invent an AI system that could diagnose breast cancer. In 2012 she developed a program called Cloud4Cancer that is 99.1 percent sensitive in processing fine needle aspirate tests, using AI to find patterns that are far too complex for humans to detect. 

In 2013, 15 year old Suman Mulumudi used a 3-D printer to create a smart phone app and device to optimize stethoscopes. Not only was his new product, the “Steth IO” superior to manual stethoscopes in sound, it could also create a visual graph of the heartbeat sound on the screen. Mulumudi then went on to  invent further medical improvements having to do with procedures meant to clear blocked or narrowed arteries. He again used a 3-D printer to develop his LesionSizer, which helps cardiologists measure lesions without changing or altering their technique.

3-D printers also allowed Will Wagner, principal of West Leyden High School, to create an engineering class project that designs custom prosthetics for people in need—particularly children.  Because kids grow so quickly, parents in many developing countries are unable or unwilling to pay for a succession of prosthetics. 

” Since launching the program on both of their high school campuses seven years ago, students have made more than 75 prosthetics for children in need. Not only has the program helped students to learn about design, it has helped them forge real-world connections with other children around the world. According to Fast Company, Leyden students recently got to video-chat with a Syrian boy who had lost his hand in a war-related accident—and they got to witness the moment he tried on his new prosthetic for the very first time.”

People in the United Kingdom were cheered this week when word of a strange friendship between a dachshund and a baby porcupine made the news.

A zookeeper at the Cotswold Wildlife Park in Oxfordshire, England brought home a baby porcupine she had been hand-rearing after it’s mother rejected the little one. Her little weiner dog, Fig, took an immediate liking to Diablo the porcupette, and they have been BFFs and running partners ever since.

While I’m a big animal lover, my neighbours are not as fond of the local wildlife as I. I know, because they keep telling me. Despite their  pleas, I continue to feed and water the flora and fauna, because life is hard when you’re a small creature that has been forced from it’s habitat to accommodate the huge humans who want to build houses and stores, right where your tree used to grow. The least I can do is provide them with clean water.  

When this photo of a squirrel sniffing wildflowers went viral last week, amateur photographers all over the world rushed to duplicate the photo. It’s beginning to seem like it was the squirrels who invented that whole concept of ‘stopping to smell the roses.’ 

So – are you feeling any happier now, after our trip around the world? According to the 2019 Happiness Report, Canada is the seventh happiest place to live. (Finland is the happiest country, followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The United States slouched into 18th place)

It’s said that the happiest people are the givers, not the takers. So often we forget how little it can take to bring joy into the lives of others. We’re living in ‘interesting times,’ and the days can be unsettling and stress-filled. Sometimes we just need a reminder that life is short, and that being kind is as much a choice as being unkind.

And sometimes it takes a squirrel to remind us that we too, should take a moment to stop and smell the roses while we can.

And I’m back!


by Roxanne Tellier

… with your Sunday political sermon, though it’s a day late. Time to catch up on what you may have missed over the last couple of weeks, and to get a sense of the direction we seem to be heading towards as Canadian election fever sets in.

In other words… where are we going and why am I in this hand basket?

Looking specifically to Canada, I’m getting very nervous about how Canadians feel about the parties from which they’ll choose their next leader. And one of those reasons is because of a lack of charismatic leadership.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a lifelong Liberal, and will vote for Trudeau again, because I agree with most of his stated policies. However, I’m unhappy about some election promises that were either not kept, or kept very badly … looking at YOU, new cannabis legislation… what a mess that is!

I wanted electoral reform, incontestably part of the Liberal platform in 2015, and that was off the table after the first year.

“The Special Committee on Electoral Reform was created in the spring of 2016, and it delivered its report in December. It proposed two things. The first was that Canada replace its traditional system of voting (the ­single-member plurality system known widely as the first-past-the-post model) with a proportional system of representation (where seats in the House of Commons would be allocated according to the proportion of votes each party received). Second, it recommended that the idea be put to a referendum.”  (reviewcanada.ca)

However …. On February 1, 2017, the newly appointed Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould announced that the government was no longer pursuing electoral reform and it was not listed as a priority in her mandate letter from Justin Trudeau  In the letter, Trudeau wrote that “a clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged” and that “without a clear preference or a clear question, a referendum would not be in Canada’s interest. ”  (Wikipedia)

The Liberals never wanted proportional representation, so it’s not surprising that an excuse was found not to pursue it with the people. But I’m still angry that it was taken off the table.

Still, even the National Post, notoriously right leaning, had to report that “The Universite Laval’s Centre for Public Policy Analysis’s latest reading — updated since March — shows the Liberals have entirely fulfilled 53.5 per cent of their 2015 vows, partially lived up to 38.5 per cent and broken eight per cent.”

92% of promises kept. Unfortunately, the 8% not kept are the ones I was hoping to see fulfilled. Still – I’m just one Canadian, out of 37 million. Got to be a lot of people who did have their wishlist met.

I still say, when I”m looking to the other parties that are in the race, it’s the lack of a strong, compelling leader that stands out. At least to me. Your mileage may vary.

Andrew Scheer has the look of a Howdy Doody puppet, and the wooden emotions to go along with the image. He’s 3 parts Harper and 1 part the preacher from Footloose. The dimples and simper can’t hide his lack of connection to the actual citizens, that is, those of us who haven’t been living off the taxpayer dollar for the last 15 years, which is most of his life to date. This is a guy who has not paid for his own housing or meals in so long, he couldn’t tell you the price of a kilo of sugar if you stuck a gun to his head. His idea of transportation costs entails having the taxpayer fund over $2,035,886 of luxury travel, just in the time since he became an MP. This is your guy if a Conservative plutocracy is what you want for your government.

I voted NDP in the last provincial election, but I can’t say that I’m sold on Jagmeet Singh asPrime Minister. Remember when Margaret Wente gushed over his ascension to leadership? 

Those turbans! That beard! He was just the kind of figure to make progressive folks feel good about themselves, their party and their prospects. GQ, the men’s fashion magazine, profiled him in rapturous terms, calling him “the incredibly well-dressed rising star in Canadian politics.””

Ah, but we were all so much older then – we’re younger and more racist than that now.

Elizabeth May, bless her heart, remains our Green Queen, and with climate change such an important issue top of mind right now, there are many who will put their X beside her name, just because there’s Green in the party’s title. Google the party’s platform to see what else the party has in mind for the country.

As to Maxime Bernier and his People’s Party -well, on the bright side, it’s looking like his main contribution to the election will be drawing support away from Scheer’s Conservatives.

Regardless of your preference, please remember that, unless you are a white male, someone fought for your right to vote. Someone may well have died, fighting for your right to vote, and it is important that you exercise that right. Because – your vote does count. If it didn’t, the bad guys wouldn’t be constantly trying to suppress that right.

Maybe you’ve already made up your mind, and made your choice, and are happy with it. If so, I’m glad to hear it. What worries me, honestly, is the voters who tend to vote ‘against’ rather than for; or those who vote their ‘gut’ without understanding the platforms of the party leaders. The time has long gone when you could just close your eyes and pin the tail on a prime minister, and tell yourself that it didn’t matter, because all parties are the same. They are not.

On the plus side, and whether you are into politics or not, our entire electoral race lasts only a few months, so there isn’t time to get too bogged down in nastiness and slurs. Well – unless you want to. Lots of people love to argue on social media. Have at it, if that turns your crank.

A few short months. Not like in the United States, where Trump officially filed his re-election campaign with the FEC on January 20 , 2017, the day of his inauguration. He didn’t want to miss a penny of the donations he could keep requesting, nor the adulation of his base, who could be relied upon to keep massaging his ego.  

We’re still fourteen months away from the next presidential election, and I’m already over it. Pretty sure Trump is too – after all, he called off his trip to Denmark because they laughed when he wanted to buy Greenland, and sent Pence to visit Poland  (“Congratulations, Poland! on the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion!”) so that he could stay at Camp David to ‘oversee’ Hurricane Dorian, and fit in a couple rounds of golf. And then he apparently cancelled a secret meeting that he’d planned to hold at Camp David with some Taliban leaders, to celebrate the anniversary of 9/11.  I’m beginning to think this guy just doesn’t feel like presidenting any more!

It’s a whole new world, isn’t it? I mean.. do you remember when we worried that impeaching Trump would result in a Pence presidency? Now we know that, no matter how low Trump goes, there’s always another abyss he’s programmed into his GPS. Worse =we’re all gonna get tweeted to death on the ride there.

This is the hell in which Americans now find themselves, looking down the barrel of fourteen months in which the average citizen can never really be sure that what they’re being told, by any of their leaders, or the heads of federal services, is true, or just what they’ve been told they have to say, in order not to contradict their Dear Leader.

It’s not even so much a flood of DISinformation as it is a bombardment of MISinformation, the likes of which no society can be expected to deal with gracefully. Like headless chickens, we can only bob and weave, ducking each new onslaught of lies and untruths aimed at what is left of our sanity. And even once the liars are gone, the bully pulpit power of those lies will continue to warp the minds of Americans for generations to come.

I’m hoping that Pelosi finally finds her spine and allows the Dems to begin impeachment proceedings, but I’m not holding my breath. In truth, it’s immaterial if the Senate won’t pass it; the point is to put the spotlight on all of the crimes and misdemeanours that have happened during Trump’s reign of errors and terrors, so that all Americans can see clearly what’s been going on in the halls of power since January 2017.

We have to accept that there is NO savior coming to America. We thought Mueller might be the guy to vanquish the goblin, but he didn’t, or perhaps he couldn’t, under paid lackey AG Barr’s sovereignty.

Right now it seems like the Dems are just crossing their fingers and toes, and praying that everything will be hunky dory if they can make it from here to Nov 2020 without Trump releasing a load of nuclear ejaculate in the direction of whatever country displeased him at breakfast.

I don’t believe that a lack of action is the right course to take, but I’m not running for anything, and I’m not American. I have my own Canadian election to worry about.

My bigger fear, like that of other countries around the world, is that not beginning impeachment proceedings now will lead to a second, third, fourth and for life tenure of his presidency, which, once he’s tired of playing Emperor, he’ll pass down to Ivanka. 

And that’s a fate I wouldn’t wish on my worse enemy.

What to Do in Toronto Before Going Into Labour (Day)


by Roxanne Tellier

It’s June of 1968, and Marymount High School has only recently gone co-ed. Before that, the girls wore kilts and giggled in the west end of the building, overseen by nuns, while in the east end of the building, the boys wore ties and had chalk thrown at them by priests or lay teachers whenever they acted up.

It’s sweltering, and there’s no air conditioning. Most of us are trying to catch a whiff of summer through the huge windows that have been cracked around the room. A friend covertly palms me a lyric sheet .. it’s from the new Crosby Stills and Nash album. “Wooden ships, on the water, very free and easy!” And another “ Guinevere  had green eyes.. like yours, lady like yours.”  

My eyes are brown. My lip curls.

There’s this long haired guy in some of my classes who has a vibe midway between Jim Morrison and Charles Manson, and he’s got a ‘following’ because he’s the coolest guy in Montreal and he’s always got access to the best pot. His name is Gerry. One of the hangers on to his crue is a guy who eventually becomes a drummer for a rather famous Montreal band.

(The three of us get busted on the next April Fool’s Day for performing a half-assed attempt at a Black Mass, complete with virgin and stolen communion wafers. But that’s a story for another day.)

And Gerry hands me a poem he wrote, that is terrible even by 1968 standards, and then intones, from his perch in the back of the class … “Summer’s almost gone… “

Flash forward ….. it’s 2019, and it’s been 50 years since Woodstock and my school days. I look at the calendar and realize that summer IS indeed almost gone, and for people of my age, that means the dread of six to a hundred months of snow and ice.

But for most Torontonians, the start of the Canadian National Exhibition – aka The Ex – is the shock that tells them that another year is drawing to a close. Soon the kids will be back at school, and before you know it, we’ll be choosing costumes for Halloween, and making our Christmas lists. The funny thing about a year is how quickly the back end runs away from us.

My grandson is involved with something that has to do with watching other people play video games in one of the buildings at the Ex. I’m not sure I will go this year. I don’t like walking the miles necessary to get from one side of the site to the other, trying to find my friends who scored a nice paying gig at one of the little band shells. I don’t gamble, so the Casino is out. And I’m pretty much over the need to score a .99 cent bowl of spaghetti, if that even still is a ‘thing.’

But – you should go! If you have kids, and if going to the Ex is the way you mark the parameters of your life, you should go! Because the Ex is whatever it means to you, whatever ritual you need to do to put a comma in the summer of this year before trotting on to the Fall. Go. Shoot an air rifle at a booth manned by fast talking carnies! Play your birthday at the Birthday Game tent, or toss a ring over a glass and win a doll. Eat a corn dog or something that should never have been covered in chocolate before being fried. You’d never eat it if it wasn’t ‘just this once!’ Do it! Do it NOW.

I’ll soon be making my own little tour of places that won’t be as much fun in a month or two. I want to join some friends who regularly loll at Sugar Beach, which is down at the foot of Lower Jarvis Street adjacent to the Redpath Sugar Factory, for an afternoon of music and margaritas. I want to enjoy the park’s brightly coloured pink beach umbrellas and candy-striped rocks. It’s part of Toronto’s waterfront, and .. it’s free!

One of my fave things to do in summer is to jet down to the easternmost end of the Beach, past the Balmy Beach club, where a lot of the locals gather to exercise their dogs. I miss my dogs, and this is a nice way for me to get a little sun, and to try to steal a little affection from some of the dogs who race across the sand, and throw themselves madly into the water to fetch the sticks or balls their owners toss in for their entertainment.

I’m a water baby.. I need to be near water. But sometimes I need a little more excitement than that caused by the  passive eyeing of the hind ends of dogs and the Lake Ontario horizon. That’s how I found myself one afternoon drifting through the harbour on a one hour tour of the Islands.

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be a tourist in your own city, there’s a ton of ways to explore. I recently took to Groupon to find the cheapest tickets to a few attractions.

The boat tour I mentioned was only one of a half a dozen different ways to sail off, at any time of the day. The boat I chose was a bit low end, but at $12, was what I needed at the time. There’s also a ‘pirate’ ship you can book, a Great Lakes schooner, and lots of ‘party’ boats with music and booze. Maybe you and your main squeeze could take an evening cruise, and sail off into the sunset together!

Feeling a little more adventurous? Why not try a two hour tandem kayak down the Humber River! You can give that a try during the week for as little as $23 dollars.

Or how about indulging your inner child, with a game of mini putt golf! There’s a new  entertainment complex that just sprang up downtown that combines food, booze and nine holes out of a choice of three different courses of 27 unique themed holes. Fulfill your dream of golfing drunk!

For $43, you can sign up for 10 salsa & bachata classes at Steps Dance Studio in Rosedale. Spice it up with a little hot sauce! 

“At her studio, Jennifer aims to make Latin dance accessible to all people, even those who have no previous dance experience. Beginning with basic step patterns and technique, lessons progress through more advanced skills such as partner turns, syncopations, styling, and more complex turn pattern combinations. To add a little variation to the mix, Steps Dance Studio also runs monthly workshops and studio parties.”

Who knows? there may be a  Latin lover in your future!

When it comes to music, we Torontonians are really spoiled. Through the week there are jams at the Black Swan, Grossmans, The Tranzac, and so many other locations.

But Saturday afternoon is when you can hear some of the finest jazz, by some of the finest musicians, that I’ve ever heard  – at The Pilot, on Cumberland, just west of Bloor. From 2:30 to 5:30, you’ll be blown away by the chops of the likes of Chris Wallace, Dave Hutchinson, Steve Koven, Aaron Davis, Bernie Senensky, Nick Morgan, and Jeff King. The last time I was there, I was completely knocked out by drummer Mark  Micklethwaite. Watching him play is like auditing  a master class. Awesome sauce!

Outriggers Saturday matinee, 3:30-6pm

Or maybe you’re in the mood for a trendy Beach brunch while being serenaded by Toronto R&B and soul vocal icon, Johnnie Wright at Outriggers, on Queen at Beech, across from the venerable Garden Gate Restaurant, aka The Goof. Johnny has had a regular Saturday afternoon matinee gig there forever, accompanied by master keyboardist Michael Fonfara, and the ever-entertaining, versatile Robbie Rox on congas. Can you think of a better way to while away a summer’s day from 3:30 to 6pm?

In my east end hood, August is when the Danforth Village BIA takes over Stephenson Park (between Westlake and Main St, one street south of the Danforth) every Wednesday night, from 6 pm to 9 pm. There’s bands, food, a beer tent, and lots of run around room for the kids.

I missed the first two Wednesdays, but hope to catch at least one of the next two scheduled. On August 21,  Little Magic Sam aka Sam Taylor will hold court, and on August 28, The Stephen Stanley Band will rock the joint..

There’s only two more Kensington Market Pedestrian Sundays left as well. On the last Sunday of the summer months, the streets are given over to the people. Enjoy music, local vendors and art on streets that are closed to traffic from noon to 7 pm. Always a great place to people watch!

So now you have several ways to have fun with the last two weeks of August, beyond the venerable CNE, and at prices ranging from zero dollars to ‘the sky’s the limit!’

YOLO, babes. Enjoy!

Rounding It Up, Heading It Out


by Roxanne Tellier

Today’s column is a round up of ideas and issues that have zipped past us in the last few days.

Have you noticed that, the speeding up of events? In the last few years we have become accustomed to barely accommodating the horrors of a day before awakening to the new atrocities of the next. It’s exhausting, and it’s been taking a huge toll on the psyches of not only Americans, but of citizens in countries all around the world.

Apparently the Orange Warthog is officially on a two week holiday, but unfortunately, his fingers and tongue have not been disabled for the duration. And that means he’s busily doing —- well, pretty much exactly as he does every day that he’s NOT officially on holiday.

Even as he re-tweets conspiracy theories about the Clintons having murdered Jeffrey Epstein (because apparently the Clintons are magic who could somehow breach a high security prison under Attorney General Bill Barr’s protection) his head minion, Kelly Anne WrongWay is hitting the Sunday morning airwaves to confirm and abet Trump’s pell-mell race to full blown dementia.

It’s a full time job, defending the indefensible.  I hope it’s well paid, because eventually, even Kelly Anne will pay the price every other trump loyalists pays in the end; total degradation, a reputation in tatters, and a book deal.

On many days I find myself really disheartened with the thinking patterns of so many people – in America, yes, but also here in Canada, and around the world. There was a time when I wouldn’t have included Canada in that scenario, but the results of the last several provincial elections, and the prospect of what is to come after our next Federal election, has me utterly discouraged.

So many seem to be shielding themselves behind a combination of an innocent belief that the checks and balances of other decades will hold, coupled with a disbelief that what is playing out before their eyes is really happening. They are determined that “It Can’t Happen Here,” even as it actually happens here.

Exhibit A.  Was any kind of sense, common or otherwise, in play when this video pic was shot?  Witness these two lumps of flesh, who seem to believe they are Klansmen of 1819, instead of  police officers living in Texas in the year 2019, walking a handcuffed black man to the police station, as they sat astride their horses. Did no one think to check how many times these goons watched Django Unchained before assigning them horseback duty? 

It seems that what I strove to digest a day or two ago bumps right up against the poison we’re asked to swallow today. After the horror of not one, but two deadly mass murders last weekend, both seemingly instigated by Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric, there actually looked to be a glimmer of hope that these latest deaths might lead to some small attempt at gun reform in McConnell’s Senate. 

Exhibit B...Our prayers for no longer fearing death by Wal-Mart Back to School Shopping were dashed almost overnight, when we were told that the NRA’s head, Wayne LaPierre, had already left a message for Trump while POTUS was out pimping for the cameras in Dayton (or was it Toledo?), warning that Trump’s base, whipped up by LaPierre, would be angered by any kind of scenario involving America’s gun fetish. 

Exhibit C … Even as LaPierre was leaving his bile-filled message, ICE squads were putting together the largest raid against illegal immigrants in US history. They went after two poultry factories in Mississippi, where they arrested 680 workers, many of who were not only legal immigrants, but who had migrated there over the last few years from – oh! El Paso! which had just suffered the largest slaughter of Hispanics in US history.

Rather than alert the local schools and nurseries, who were welcoming the little children of these workers to their first day at school, the raid took no notice of the kids being left to find their way home alone, unknowing of when, if ever, they’d see their parents again.

Fisher Price – My First Prison Camp!

Exhibit DActing CPB Chief Mark Morgan, on being asked to defend the timing and manner of ICE’s cruel raids, brushed aside the video of a little girl crying for her dad, by saying that the girl’s father was ‘a criminal,’ which Morgan seemed to think made the family’s suffering irrelevant.  

Truth is, in the American Justice system, a person cannot be branded a criminal, without due process, just because they’ll work cheap, often at less than minimum wage, and do the jobs that even the poorest American born citizens would refuse. This is a stunning pronouncement from a government official, who has no legal right to call ‘criminal’ any human being in the United States, under their own laws.

Tellingly, the executives at these factories, who knowingly hired the illegal workers, and had been successfully sued for discrimination and poor working conditions, have not been charged for their part in the ‘crime.’  Well, they can’t be, really, can they? Because if they were, what would that mean for Trump’s many companies, that are known to also use illegal immigrants for their grunt work, in his hotels and golf resorts?   

As conditions worsen for people of colour in the United States, the Trump supporters claims that they don’t like the man, but they do like the economy are beginning to wear thin.

There is no moral distinction between those who are excited by Trump’s racism and those who plead indifference to it, and it’s consequences. All the money in the world can’t put a pretty face on the horrific cruelty behind the wealth they are reaping.

And here’s the real thing – while the hordes of Democratic representatives pursuing the presidency storm the boards in Ohio and other politically important states, Americans need to realize that they don’t just need to vote Trump out of power next November, they need to think about how they will vote this era of ‘trumpism’ out of power as well.

Since November of 2016, everything we thought we knew about politics in the US and the world has been changed forever. As populist leaders lie their way into positions of power, flush with dirty money and the support of the wealthiest people in human history, their selfishness, and desire to overturn democratic norms, have badly damaged the pillars of society we need to move civilization forward.

The irresponsibility of overturning everything previous regimes have put into place is, sadly, not coupled with an understanding or ability of how to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. 

The next POTUS will have to have a spine of steel to face down the crippling changes put into place during these four years of Trump’s incompetence. The GOP are going to fight tooth and nail to try and keep the legal and financial gains they made by executive fiat, and there are bound to be not only legal impediments brought by 45’s appointed judges, and his stooges in the Supreme Court, but from all of the other departments, offices, and agencies that vowed loyalty to Trump.

And while fighting that good fight, the 46th president is also going to have to face 45s millions of supporters, who pledged themselves to him because they thought he’d fix their lives, share his largesse, heal their addicted family members of opiate addictions, kick out all the ‘bad’ people, and maybe even cure their cancer.

Even though he accomplished none of those things, and indeed, has left the country battered and bruised at the core, these supporters are still just as filled with anger, frustration, fear,  and anxiety as they were three years ago. But they’ll be even madder that the next president couldn’t have given Trump just a little more time.. say four .. or six .. or eight .. or twelve more years to finally get them what they believe they are due.  

The inequality that faced them in 2016, still faces them now, in fact, for many, it’s worse. For the farmers, they lost $10 billion in agricultural sales in 2018, and another $20 billion in 2019. Now that China has found other places to buy wheat and soybeans, those billions are never coming back. What do you tell the farmers?

Those 50,000 coal miners who were told that ‘coal’s coming back!‘ and who therefore decided not to accept retraining in a more current field, have had to roll with the punches, as the country’s third largest mine filed for bankruptcy protection in May.  What do you tell those miners?

While those who watch media other than Trump sanctioned FOX News have been following the collapse of these industries, and holding our collective breaths as the GOP administration threatens to remove America’s social safety net, his loyalists continue to believe that it’s just a matter of time until they are all living in a land of milk and honey.  

Which is all to say that defeating Trump at the ballot box in 2020 will be just the first step towards pulling America back to the centre, and away from the far right where it now uncomfortably dwells. That fight will involve angry Republicans tossed from fat cat, lifetime terms in office, as well as a fight against every day Americans who can’t give up the Kool-Aid.

That may seem a daunting task, but another four years under Trump would be far more horrific and devastating to the planet.

Canada is inching up to it’s own appointment in Samara this fall, and I no longer feel I can say with any confidence that Canadians will do the right thing when they saddle up to vote federally in October. I can only hope that saner heads prevail than those that voted lately in Ontario and Alberta.

And now, I’m off to enjoy what remains of summer. See you in September!

 

 

Are You Not Entertained?


by Roxanne Tellier

It was the worst terrorist attack against Hispanics in US history and the eighth-deadliest in modern US history.

Picture in your mind’s eye, a little 2-year-old, recovering from broken bones, who survived the mass shooting at an El Paso Wal-Mart after his 25-year-old mother used her body to shield him and save his life. His mother was fatally shot.

As that little boy lay in the hospital, in horrible pain, the Governor of Texas was leading off a press conference on the mass shooting in which twenty people were killed and 26 injured on Saturday. He called for people around the country who want to help – to pray.

USA shelters NRA as dead lie bleeding

“Lives were taken who should still be with us today,” said Gov. Greg Abbott. He then went on to blame a ‘mental health‘ issue for the tragedy. 

If it’s a ‘mental health issue’, then that shooter is right out of luck. Texas is the lead state currently trying to overturn the ACA, thus stripping any kind of health care away from Americans without other forms of insurance.

It’s time to stop belittling those with actual ‘mental health issues’ and call this madness what it really is…a hate crime, committed by a home grown terrorist, born of easy access to guns, and a ramping up of racism, as preached by POTUS Trump.

White supremacy is an ideology, not a mental illness. It’s a creed encouraged by the President and his acolytes, and those Republicans who fear him have no choice but to obey his commands.

Abbott’s words are more than a little hard to swallow, considering that it was just a few months ago that Texas’ legislators and governor not only turned down measures that would impose rational controls on gun owners, but loosened existing laws.

“When you get 10 pro-2nd Amendment bills to the governor and he signs them all, I would rank it up there with one of the most successful sessions we’ve had since I’ve been doing this,” the Texas NRA lobbyist, Tara Mica told the Dallas Morning News.

On June 29th, the NRA’s Texas lobbyist announced that every single bill backed by the NRA and passed by the Legislature received the signature of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Amongst the many with blood on their hands, Governor Abbott takes his place beside Trump, McConnell, and every other Republican who refuses to put into place proper gun reform laws.

trump spelled in guns

And I think we can now safely lay to bed the old trope that a good guy with a gun can always stop a bad guy with a gun; Texas is an open carry state, and many of the Wal-Mart shoppers were heavily armed.

Didn’t save a one of them, though. Guess most people just don’t go to Wal-Mart expecting to be invited to a gunfight.

When Texas loosens their gun laws, Texas residents are not the only ones affected; neighbouring states are also impacted. While in this case, the shooter was a Texan who drove over 650 miles to do his deadly duty, the semiautomatic rifle that murdered four people and injured 12 at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last week, was illegal to own in California – but was perfectly legal for the assailant to buy in Nevada, the next state over.

This is why America needs comprehensive, nation-wide, gun reform. 250 mass shootings in 216 days…

America – it is time to admit that you have a problem.

The Gilroy murders were just a week ago. Since then, there have been eleven more mass shootings. Lost in today’s new about Dayton, was a shooting at Douglas Park playground in Chicago, Illinois. Seven people were wounded.

On August 2, a man in Pomfret, Maryland shot and killed his in-laws, and wounded an 11-year-old boy sitting in a relative’s car before committing suicide. In Suffolk, Virginia, two men were killed and two women and a two year old were wounded in multiple crime scenes.

On July 31st, police responded to ‘shots fired’ at a senior living complex and found a wounded woman, along with two males and a woman murdered. In another Wal-Mart store, in Southhaven, Mississippi, a man killed two people and wounded a police officer ion July 30th.

On that same July 30th, four people were wounded during an attempted home invasion in Haskell, Oklahoma, while in Rosenberg, Texas a man shot and killed his ex-girlfriends parents, and wounded her, before committing suicide in a murder-suicide. And in Columbus, Ohio, five poeple were shot at a home they’d rented through Airbnb.

respecting other peoples rights

And if you haven’t already forgotten and moved on – as one does, when multiple slayings are an everyday occurrence, another five people were murdered in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin on July 28th, when a gunman shot six people, four fatally, before killing himself.

All of this killing isn’t about ‘mental health issues.’ It’s roots lie in incompetence and political greed, coupled with fear that the NRA, who grades politicians on their friendliness to the NRA, and punishes those that won’t tow the line, will primary those who refuse NRA’s blood money bribes, and who dare to speak to the thousands of Americans murdered every year, thanks to the laxity of America’s gun laws.

Last night, many people went to bed shaken with the viciousness of this home grown terrorism, whipped up by their president, who was actually named in the shooter’s manifesto as being the inspiration for the attack. As they tried to rest, and hoped to unsee the ugly deaths and injuries of their fellow citizens, they instead awoke this morning to the news of another deadly attack – this time in Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman killed 9 people and injured 26 outside a bar after a person was denied entry.

Today, the ‘good Christians’ of America will fill their churches to mourn the dead of Dayton and El Paso. They will beat their breasts, as they murmur how their thoughts and prayers are with the dead and injured…

and then hours later they will be on Facebook, showing off their selfies with their masses of weapons, or bullying people of colour on Twitter, or maybe they’ll even attend a white supremacist or Trump rally, (same thing, really) puffed full of white pride, chanting ‘build that wall!,” “send them back!” and invoking the same racist filth their president delights in using to incite his followers to violence.

trump feeding his racist base

Praise the Lord … and pass the ammunition. What kind of a God favours guns, bigotry, xenophobia, murder, and racist scum like Trump? Not one I recognize.

Some of the dead and injured from the El Paso attack in a Wal-Mart were probably there getting school supplies for their children. Maybe they were fingering a nearly $200 bulletproof backback for their little one when the shots rang out.

Five of the top ten deadliest shootings in U.S. history have happened since 2016, and that’s no coincidence. Trump’s open racism has inflamed his base of angry, hate-filled, white males ready to commit murder for their leader.

“An audience member at a Donald Trump rally in Florida yelled ‘shoot them’ in reference to migrants at the border. Trump had asked the crowd: ‘How do you stop these people?’ After laughing at the response, he added: ‘Only in the panhandle can you get away with that statement'” The Guardian, May 2019

Since Trump first blew his racist dog whistle in Charlottesville in the summer of 2017, there’s been a persistent increase in incidents of racial violence. His enthusiastic support has led white supremacists to believe that they have permission from their leader in the White House to instigate racial violence, and a directive, if not a licence, to kill, without repercussion, based on his rhetoric.

trump's murderers

The murders won’t end in El Paso; his minions took his ‘very fine people’ as a compliment. They are free to carry out his xenophobic mandate with his approval…

“Nineteen minutes before the first 911 call alerted the authorities to a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Tex., a hate-filled, anti-immigrant manifesto appeared online.

It spoke of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” It detailed a plan to separate America into territories by race. It warned that white people were being replaced by foreigners.

The manifesto that may be linked to Mr. Crusius described an imminent attack and railed against immigrants, saying, “if we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable.” (The New York Times)

manson didn't kill anyone either

These are Trump’s words, Trump’s mandate, Trump’s orders to which they are marching.

According to Facebook’s ad archive, Trump has run around 2,200 FB ads since May 2018 mentioning the word “invasion.” Scrolling through, all of them seem to be about immigration.” Twitter user Holly Lee.

As families in El Paso gathered at a school to regroup and count their dead and/or injured, ICE agents rolled up to check citizenship papers.

trump el paso hate machine

In Trump’s America, the mandate is clear. Even as he tweets for god to bless the victims of El Paso and Dayton, he fires back at those who dare to blame him for egging these killers on, saying that those who blame him or other conservatives should be ashamed of themselves.

“Hate crimes increased 226% in places Trump held a campaign rally in 2016, a University of North Texas study claims.”

As another twitter user, Raging Canadian Granny, noted, ” Obama would go on TV and address the nation. He would hug the families and give eulogies. He tried to make gun changes but the grim reaper stopped him.”

american flag in blood and bullets

From Trump? Two sentences, squeezed out between golf rounds.

God bless the people of El Paso Texas. God bless the people of Dayton, Ohio.”

and then a whine about how unfair everyone is for noting that it was he himself that got these murderers to do his bidding.

Nothing but weak sauce, as ineffective as thoughts and prayers.

America deserves better. I hope she survives long enough to finally learn that truth

Protesting in the Era of Trump


by Roxanne Tellier

guthrie old man trump

A reaction to America’s president telling four Congresswoman of colour to “go back to where they came from?”

No, these are the words Woody Guthrie wrote in 1954, about the discriminatory rental policies of the POTUS’s dad, Fred. Fred did not want to rent to black people, and made sure that his rental agents were diligent in keeping people of colour from the cluster of sixteen residential buildings he owned in Gravesend, Brooklyn.

Guthrie had moved into an apartment at Beach Haven, near Coney Island, in 1950. It would be nearly twenty years later, in the 1970s, before Trump Elder was accused and charged with creating a “substantial impediment to the full enjoyment of equal opportunity” at Beach Haven, under the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department. (The case was eventually settled.)

woody guthrieSeveral handwritten drafts of the lyrics—sometimes titled “Beach Haven Race Hate,” “Beach Haven Ain’t My Home,” and “Old Man Trump”—are presently on display at the Woody Guthrie Center, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

In 2016, Beach Haven Apartments Associates, now owned by Fred’s son Donald, was hit with the largest fine that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has ever levied against an apartment building for the mishandling of human waste, in this case, two hundred thousand gallons of untreated sewage being dumped into Coney Island Creek each day.

Later that year, Trump would become President of the United States of America. There’s a symmetry there.

So it would seem that Trump comes by his racism and bigotry honestly… he learned it at his father’s knee. I wonder if that drives a lot of his cruelty; is he sad that his father cannot see how successful the son has been in turning the hands of the clock back to the days before the rights of women, and people of colour in America, were legally protected? Is that anger at the Environmental Conservation Department one of the reasons he is hell-bent on tearing away all protections from America’s lands and waters?

Lately I’ve heard idle talk about the lack of protest songs for this frightening era of government supported violence, xenophobia and racism. There ARE songs out there, but it’s not like the sixties, where the transistors and family radios kept songs like Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth, or Barry McGuire‘s Eve of Destruction front and center thru the long hot summer days and nights.

Where are the songs that not only skewer the wrong doings of the government, but become the ear worm of a time? Where’s the Ohio, that warned that the tin soldiers and Nixon were coming to kill your college kids? Where’s the Black Day in July, written by Gordon Lightfoot, that cautioned that race wars like those in Detroit could take down cities and governments?

Maybe the closest we’ve come to a real response to Trump’s overt racism occurred way back, in April 2016, when YG and Nipsey Hussle released ‘FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)’ a song so angry that YG says the Secret Service contacted Def Jam records to see what was in the rest of his album.

YG and Nipsey shout out to Trump’s “racist ass”, includes calling him a “cancer”, declaring “I like white people but I don’t like you”, and admitting, “He got me appreciating Obama way more.”

But these are interesting times, my friend. In the beginning of Trump’s campaign, and the early months of his presidency, most artists chose to mock his hands, or his words captured on the infamous Access Hollywood clip.

will.i.am ft Apl.de.ap and Liane V – GRAB’m by the PU$$Y

“When I’m president I won’t be like be Obama
If anyone talks sh** about me, I’ll bomb em
I’m grabbin’ that (hey) like there’s no tomorrow
And if we have problems with Russia I’ll bomb em”

Franz FerdinandDemagogue

“It feels so good to be dumb,” From the Wall/Straight to La Cuenta, those pussy-grabbing fingers won’t let go of me now.”

Rocky Mountain Mike‘s Hey Mr Tangerine Man is more silly than salient. But that’s okay. In a democracy, you’re allowed to make fun of the most powerful man in the world. Well  – it used to be okay. We may be moving closer to a time when it’s punishable by death.

Censorship

“Hey, Mr. Tangerine man, build a wall for me
I’m not that bright and don’t know that you’re not going to
Hey, Mr. Tangerine man, keep Muslims away from me
With my jingoistic world view, I’ll come following you

Fake me out with this, I’ll be your newest apprentice
My sister thinks you’re a trip All my friends say “Get a grip”
And my skull’s too numb to think
Waiting only for the bullshit you’ve been pedaling”

Gorillaz featuring Benjamin ClementineHallelujah Money

Band member Murdoc wrote on his Facebook page ‘In these dark times, we all need someone to look up to. Me, that’s why I’m giving you this new Gorillaz song, a lightning bolt of truth in the black night’. Gorillaz leader, Damon Albarn, is known for not backing away from a political fight, and this track, with it’s references to walls and the political narrative of politics in 2016/2017 takes aim squarely at Donald Trump.

Politically inclined musicians have always channeled their outrage into song. Once the Trump reign of errors had fully come into play, many stars, past and present, began to serve up a piece of their mind.

Billy Bragg completely nailed the racism arc to come in his rewrite of Bob Dylan‘s protest classic, “The Times They Are A-Changing.” In The Times They Are A-Changing Back, Bragg skewers Trump’s policies, and warns vulnerable Americans not to get too comfortable.

“Come Mexicans, Muslims, LGBT, and Jews
Keep your eyes wide open for what’s on the news.
For President Trump is expressing his views,
And I fear the mob he’s inciting
Will soon break your windows and burn down your schools
Cuz the times, they are a changin’… back.”

Not all of the protest songs come from conventional musicians. This clip, from Late Night with Seth Meyers, features Amber Ruffin and the Go Back to Your Country Girls, performing their song about people telling them to go back to their country.

So, where we at now? In June, Madonna dropped this political bomb on gun control, with the song, God Control, and an entreaty that we take her pleas seriously. “This is your wake up call. Gun violence disproportionately affects children, teenagers and the marginalized in our communities. Honor the victims and demand GUN CONTROL. NOW. Volunteer, stand up, donate, reach out. Wake up and insist on common-sense gun safety legislation. Innocent lives depend on it.”

For my money, the reluctance of the Democrats currently holding the House to move for Trump’s impeachment is a huge mistake. That’s something with which most of the protest songwriters out there would seem to agree to be the case.

Parody ProjectImpeachment?

The Parody Project, founded in August, 2017, has a slew of political song parodies online. It’s originator, film-maker/composer Don Caron, creates these parodies as a means of “surviving the current political and social mire by laughing and helping others to do the same.”

I always get a kick out of his videos. Took me ages before I realized that no matter how many ‘performers’ he had on a song, it was always just Don in a different Hawaiian shirt and a bad wig. Mr Caron is a one of a kind politically savvy, musical caricaturist for our times.

Randy RainbowJust Impeach Him

Randy Rainbow is the most commercial of the parodists and satirists out there, with a huge fan following both on Youtube, and on tour – I’m still bummed I missed his show last March at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. I’m waiting with baited breath for his next release, but it seems he’s on an endless tour of the United States these days. Lucky you if he’s coming to a theatre near you!

Meanwhile, Randy and I are on the same page about POTUS …. Just Impeach Him.

What I realized as I searched for new protest songs is that, in truth, there are songs out there. They are just not rising to the top of the social media consciousness.

I also think that many with a yen for current events are beginning to feel that nothing that can be said or sung can stop Trump’s rush to an abolishment of democracy, and a rush to convert America to White Sovereignty. It really does seem like Trump is able to grab every flaming arrow aimed at his corrupt government and turn it back on the person that sent it.

Despite daily revelations of his corruption, lack of morals or ethics, and even as he lights the fuse of a race war, no one can lay a finger on him.

No matter how we try, we never do get him. He wriggles away, aided and abetted by equally corrupt courtiers. He doubles and triples down on disgustingly un-American rhetoric, and despite credible accusations that would have had any other president impeached and imprisoned a dozen times over, he stands proudly on the White House lawn, spewing yet more lies and bile.

Elizabeth Warren, who Trump taunted with the name ‘Pocahontas’ for years, may be the poster child for Trump’s puzzling ability.. When she finally released the findings of a DNA test proving her native ancestry, her rebuttal was turned back on her and used as evidence that she is a flakey, insecure female, and likely unfit for public office. Still – she persisted, and is now a plausible candidate to replace the Moron in Chief.

How did that happen? It’s a kind of black magic that anyone who’s gone up against Trump has felt – the president feels no need to show empathy, openness to the opinions of others, or any sense of a presidential demeanour. He just wants to hit back harder and more viciously at those defending their own existence in his world. His appetite for revenge is voracious, and he never forgets a slur.

trump saluteHe is a bully with awesome presidential powers, and a taste for the abuse of those powers.

Only look to the cowed and cowardly Ted Cruz or Lindsey Graham, who rush to carry the president’s water, despite being the targets for some of his cruelest and crudest slurs.

Trump’s a world class bully, in a world where he holds all the instruments necessary for the carrying out of his own perverted justice.

As we edge toward the next election, and the possibility that it may only be the beginnings of a long reign comprising multiple terms in office, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that we will ever be able to vote the narcissist in chief out of office – or that we’ll even be able to oust him from the White House, should he not be re-elected next November – no matter how well-written or relevant our protest songs may be.

 

and.. last minute.. new Randy Rainbow! 😉

Whatever Happened to the Artsy Fartsy BBS?


by Roxanne Tellier

In the nineties, I ran the Artsy Fartsy Bulletin Board System out of my home for several years. Those were the days of 2400 baud modems and the scree scraw weeeeeeeeeekkkk!!! sound of the connection soon became a part of my every waking and sleeping moment.

In those days, tens of thousands of hobbyists around the globe ran primarily text-based boards, where users could exchange messages, upload and download files, (often pirated) play games, and generally hang out with other computer geeks.

leisure suit larryThese boards were in someone’s home, and that system operator (sysop) could see what the incoming caller was doing, since their actions scrolled by on the sysop’s own monitor. Sometimes a sysop would break into your session for a one-on-one chat, which was always a little bit of a fanboy experience. The sysop controlled entry – they could disallow your admission, or give you access to the ‘secret’ files you craved, like the latest version of FileMaker Pro or the naughty Leisure Suit Larry video games. And all you knew about this person was that they were probably as cuckoo for computers as you were.

Roxanne Online We ComputeThe boards were personal, they were usually rather unprofessional, messy, and run by teenage boys, and the boards were often geared to special interests. For about three years I wrote a bbs column, Roxanne Online!, for We Compute!, a monthly paper I helped launch, describing local boards, how to access them, and how to find boards that catered to your personal needs.

(I still have all of the clippings of those columns, and someday I intend to scan them, and upload the texts to a website. Patience, padawan.)

Only the cognoscenti, the nerds like myself who used local bbs boards, could foresee that this ability to communicate, pretty much for free, with likeminded people around the world, was the future. I loved being a bbs user, and when my old friend, Iain Grant, offered to set me up a board on my own PC, I jumped at the opportunity.

I became friends with many of Toronto’s FidoNet Region 12 Net 250 sysops along the way, getting to know people like Craig Hastings, Paul Chvostek, Don O’Shaughnessy, Luke Kolin, James Korolas, and Loralie Freeman, many of whom I remain in contact with today.

Over time, and as I trawled the Net Echos for fun, I came to know and eventually spend a lot of quality online time with, some of the denizens of the FidoNet Writing Echo. Each of the writers, whether their writing was yet in print or not, had interesting details to share about their work, and publishing. Pakki Chipps, Laurie Campbell, Rocky Frisco, Dennis Havens, George Willard, Jack Lynch, Billie Sue Mosiman, Shalanna Collins, Lisa Peppan, Carl Thames, Pamela Dean Dyer-Bennet, Diane Lamoureaux, Kevin R. Tipple, Karen Rhodes, Jack Ruttan, Douglas Rhodes, Rich/Rachel Veraa, Michael Nellis, Patrick Goodman, Rebecca Bohner were just a few of the people I would never have encountered, had I not discovered this wonderful online world.

And it was a very egalitarian world. When you chatted with people, you only knew as much as they’d decide to tell you. Anyone could present as any gender, race, or sexual preference. No one was ‘The Boss.’ the horseman

While most of us used our real names, there were a few who preferred to be known by a pseudonym. George Willard, aka Mark Matthews, was an ‘animal lover’ in the carnal sense, and his book, “The Horseman,” got him and his ‘bride,’ Pixel the Pony, as guests on a Jerry Springer TV episode that was the one episode Springer never aired. It was a very long time until the episode became available at all, and then, only on some rather shady video tapes.

I met Pakki Chipps ‘in real life’ soon after my mother died. I had mentioned in an online post that I needed to go somewhere and heal, and she immediately messaged me to say she was preparing a room in which I could stay, and that her daughter Weyla was already out picking flowers for the room.

sooke bcAnd that’s how I came to stay on a reserve in Sooke, BC, where I spent a week doing nothing but relaxing on verdant hills and exploring rain forests with someone whom I had previously only known online.

Many of us were musicians as well as writers. Rocky Frisco was a true Oklahoman character, adept at many fields. He’d been a race car drive, a disc jockey, a writer, an actor, and JJ Cale’s goto keyboardist from 1957 until Cale’s death in 2013. Rocky’s Wikipedia entry is a study in just how much one man can pack into a life. I was honoured to finally meet him when he played The Phoenix with Cale in 2002.

I would often feel that this entree into the online world was slightly unreal. I’ll never forget the time we were on vacation in Florida. We drove up to a Miami medical treatment centre, where we had arranged to have coffee with Rich Veraa, a writer who was a resident there. As we pulled up to the centre, I saw two men in wheelchairs – one white and one black – and realized that I had no idea what this long time friend actually looked like. It was an ‘aha!’ moment for me; in the future, I realized, people could be whomever they wanted to be online, unconstrained by any reality. For good OR ill.

rachel veraaSomewhere along the line, Rich Veraa became Rachel Veraa, but not many of us gave it a lot of thought. People lived their lives as they pleased, and most of us didn’t care what you got up to, as long as you had something interesting to share in your writing.

Not having met most of these writers in person was no impediment to very long, very strong friendships. Although the Writing Echo is long gone, I still stay in touch with many of it’s denizens, on Facebook, and thru the Writing Tavern Google group. I get to read the exploits of Laurie Campbell, as she and her husband prepare to return to New Zealand in retirement, and Dennis Havens can be counted on to keep me in the loop of what he’s been up to in his writing, and in the music world, where his past as a life long Vegas musician and composer of many a Sousa flavoured march makes him a delightful raconteur.

billie sueThe first time I encountered one of Billie Sue Mosiman‘s horror tales (she wrote over a hundred novels, and was also a well-respected editor of horror anthologies) I was a little bit in awe of actually having this talented woman as a ‘pen pal.’ I often think about how she would describe accompanying her beloved husband Lyle, a long distance trucker, while she sat in the cab and wrote to the rhythm of the road. Billie Sue loved her man, her little dogs, and her life, all with equal passion.

wiremanTo look at her, Billie Sue looks like a typical Southern belle (born someplace like Mobile, Alabama, I think) with no more concerns than the cotillion and whether there’s enough Spanish Moss on the oak trees adorning the plantation house… okay, I’m being silly again—I know those sorts of Southern belles went out about the time the carpetbaggers invaded the Deep South after the War of Northern Aggression, as some call it. Although she lives in Texas (or Alabama, I’m never quite sure) with her husband Lyle, I don’t think they can afford a plantation or would want one if they could. And probably the cotillion would be the last thing on her mind—unless as a setting for a massacre; she’s been a full-time writer for years, and her favourite genres are (surprise!) thrillers and horror/fantasy, at least judging by what she’s been publishing lately. The first book of hers I read was called Wireman, about a singular serial killer who used piano wire to garrote his victims. And she looks so normal!” (from AmazingStories.Com/2015)

pamela dean tam linEvery time I pick up one of Pamela Dean‘s wonderful science fiction or fantasy novels, I marvel again at how lucky I’ve been to have had access to her generous sharing of writing and publishing knowledge over the last three decades.

Times were very different, pre the sort of Internet connectivity we now take for granted. You probably didn’t know what a BBS was unless someone you knew was a hobbyist. Most people were actually a little afraid of computers in general; when I applied to be the executive secretary of the CN Tower‘s food and beverage director, the job involved working on one of the only five computers in total that were in use in the executive offices at that time.

first IBM PCTimes changed pretty quickly, though. We went from, “computers! too scary!” to “How does this thing work, and why do I have a steamer trunk full of AOL starter discs?” almost overnight. Prodigy and CompuServe also got into the game, and soon the internet was so intertwined with the corporate world that any sense of the intimacy or personality of the bbs days was gone. When the internet went viral in the late nineties, it was the computer equivalent of the dinosaurs being wiped out by comets – one day BBSes were there, and the next … poof! Gone.

Though – in the beginning, none of the majors really sounded much different than they had back in the 2400 baud modem days.

 

It was right around that time that we were moving from our home in the east end of Toronto to a bungalow in Scarborough, and that seemed like a good time to shut down the Artsy Fartsy, and put the home pc to better use, making a living, working from home (which was ALSO considered an impossible ‘ask’ for the average office worker in the mid nineties. Old school bosses just didn’t believe they’d get an honest day’s work out of anyone whom they couldn’t see by a quick glance around the workplace.)

BBSes were the gateway drug that allowed many computer geeks to get involved with the Internet, well before the hordes arrived. There’d have been no eBay, PayPal, or Youtube without the hobbyists who were the first to see the potential of a worldwide connectivity.

These days, what with our dependence on smart phones, and the ubiquitous
hyper-connectedness of the internet, most of the social media sites tend to feel more like corporate-sponsored trips to the mall.

Our interactions with friends and family (and Russian trolls) are interspersed with cute animal videos and products tailored to the information big data firms glean from our conversations, enabling big corporations to better target what they’ve decided we need in our lives, all for a pretty price.

It’s slick, and professional, and very corporate, impersonal to a fault. And it’s not anywhere near as fun as the bulletin board systems of the nineties.

You just had to be there.