Can’t Touch This!


adam and eve.jpgOne of mankind’s greatest truths is one of the first things we’re told about ourselves in all of our Holy Books … if you tell us we can’t have something … we want it. We want it so badly that we’ll tear our whole world apart to get it.

We might not want it once we have it, but we want to have it anyway. Sex, riches, information  ..  gimme gimme!

And even with that truth and knowledge, we still love to tell people what they’re not allowed to do. Can’t do this, can’t do that .. and you most assuredly cannot touch THIS!

The whole concept of morality, prohibition, censorship and public censure is a movable feast. What is considered perverse in one time phase is the norm in another. History is littered with examples of faulty logic and twisted ideas held by the powerful or influential that managed to mould societies into ways of living that made sense only to them. They had the power, through brute strength, religious fervour, or political might, to force others to think and behave as they dictated.

table skirtPuritan men found table legs so damned sexy – getting a woody over wood, if you will – that they invented table skirts to hide those naughty legs from view. And yet – sixty percent of Puritan women were pregnant when they got married. So the skirts didn’t stop anyone from getting frisky, any more than hijabs or burkas do. No one seems to have asked just how or why the men of Victorian times found table legs to be too sexually arousing for public sight. Maybe I’m just missing something here. Or maybe my own turn-ons would be considered just as outré.

In 2001, a suicide bomber tried to blow up a plane with a bomb hidden in his shoe. He failed. But now hundreds of millions of us have had to take off our shoes before boarding a plane. The rules of aviation changed forever. Flying used to be fun and exciting. Now it’s all about terror and strip searches.

He FAILED. But we still have to take off our shoes, because …

monkeys might fly out of my butt.jpgThat’s it. I’m cancelling my policy with Acme’s Monkeys Might Fly Out Of My Butt Insurance Company.  It’s not as though any amount of payout would make my butt hurt less. And I have it on the best of authority .. i.e. Wayne’s World … that it’s not likely to happen. And the premiums cost far too much … I’m not prepared to trade an illusion of safety for my faith in humanity.

The rest of you can keep buying into the ‘one and done’ theory if you like, that the one crazy or pervert or fanatic is just waiting for you to slip up so that he can rob/molest/maim you, regardless of the fact that that is one possible weirdo in literally millions of perfectly sane humans.

But if it gives you comfort to believe the world is so dangerous and immoral that we must all be wrapped in cotton wool and kept away from even the whiff of danger, I’ve got to be a differ begger.

born in the 50s.jpgWe’ve all watched as modern societal norms have squeezed the joy out of childhood, making kids exterior lives so safe that they’ve given up on being kids, and prefer to sit in darkened rooms with their parentally controlled televisions and computer games. Has that generation grown up unscathed? Why no! In fact, they are likely to be oversleeping rather than facing problems, or entering their college years so dependent on feeling safe as houses that they need trigger warnings before attempting to read a Shakespearean play. And when they graduate, they want mum to accompany them on their job interviews.

Ok, not all of them .. but in that exaggeration lies some truth; children have to experience life to survive adulthood. Constantly being sheltered from potential danger only results in a child incapable of recognizing danger when it’s actually encountered.

Take sex education, for instance. The parents screaming the loudest about not wanting their children to know the reality of modern dating are dragging their own past insecurities and fears behind them. They are living in a world where tiny baby girls wear onesies that say , in girly pink lettering, “Sorry boys. Dad says I’m not allowed to date EVER!” while little baby boys of the same age are parading around in macho t-shirts that proclaim they are ‘studs’ and ‘cougar bait.’

baby t wife checkingme outWhat part of institutionalized sexual hypocrisy do these parents not get? Explain to me why it’s cute to pretend that your little darling is too precious to be touched .. EVER … while your robust 10 month old baby boy should be perceived as too sexy for his diapers? As an adult, you think you get the joke, and it’s all good and cute. But all you’re doing is continuing to encourage a time-worn sexual fantasy no longer applicable. Sex WILL happen. It’s why you’re taking up space on this planet right now.

These parents don’t want their kids to even have a hint of what they’ll be encountering, personally and up close, as early as the fourth or fifth grade, whether the parents know or approve or don’t. They think they’re protecting their offspring; instead, they’re sending lambs in to the slaughter.

Our need to protect our children and ourselves is evolutionary. It’s how we dragged ourselves out of the sea and onto the ground, and from there, into the monkey business that eventually evolved into modern man.  Now, here we are, upright, civilized for the most part, and still trying to protect our human bits from danger.  We’ve just so overloaded from all the hysterical information the media broadcasts that we can no longer think through how to react to the over-reaction that seems to be expected of us.

kids google sexBut avoiding reality, not allowing kids to hear sanitized, but at least truthful, facts on sex from actual instructors, can lead to many worse problems, not the least of which is a fear and mistrust of their own maturing bodies. And they’ll still find out everything they did or did not want to know about sex. They’ll just google it, watch porn on the ‘net, or hear about it from some misinformed classmate.

Fear, fear, fear!!!  .. of what might happen. A child might accidentally see a naughty picture .. burn all the books! There are terrorists out there and they want to get us! Quickly, take off your shoes and throw away your shampoo!

obey.jpgNext thing you know, we’re twisting ourselves into spirals, attempting to protect ourselves and our children from things we can neither anticipate nor prevent. And we justify blind obedience to stupid rules and present day morality because we can’t argue for why not following those rules makes more sense. Because .. what if there’s another guy with a shoe bomb? Hasn’t happened in 15 years, but then again, who expected those flying monkeys?

It’s a recipe for disaster. It didn’t work in the past, and it doesn’t work now.

But it does leave us all ripe for manipulation by those who are the real bad guys, those who capitalize on our fear for their own gain. Whether they are selling you insurance policies against flying monkeys (some conditions may apply,) selling you provisions for your bug out bag or bomb shelter, or subverting your civil rights and liberties while claiming they and they alone have the solution to your fears if you’ll just give them more power, these nasty people don’t really care about your fear as much as they do about their own profit off that fear.

They’re just as scared as you. But it’s of you realizing that what you’ve been buying hasn’t fixed anything. It’s only made it worse.

 

Under Construction


We are all ‘works in progress.’  Or should be.

work in progressPeople are not meant to be static entities. It’s human nature to constantly grow and change, to take in new ideas and incorporate them into a whirling dervish of a world. We watch nature’s cycles, the patterns of waxing and waning, and STILL we want our own dealings with other actual people to remain constant. Our highest praise to an old friend is that they haven’t changed.

And yet, everyone responds to a continuum of change in different ways. We may begin every one of our interactions with other humans with the best of intentions and the highest of hopes, but not being attuned to each others progress through life can only end in stagnation or regret.

One day, the world is our oyster … the next, it all seems very challenging. Sometimes we love everyone; sometimes the people in our closest circles are growing and changing in ways that no longer meet our needs, or match our core values. To be human is to recognize and respect not just our own need to evolve, but the evolution of each other.

dolly parton quoteI will never understand how some couples can hold strong, solid, passionate political leanings that are in complete opposition to their partner’s. I can admire those couples, but I just can’t imagine that they can be truly mentally intimate. Having to compromise in a relationship is to be expected, but having to suppress words and feelings to avoid pressing a partner’s hot buttons would wear me down to a nub.  Eventually, conversation would become so controlled that you’d be down to hoping that ‘pass the butter’ didn’t unleash a torrent of fury. We are drawn to the politics that mesh with our core beliefs, and that reflect our attitudes on every interaction we have with the world and each other. ‘Politics’ is just another way of defining who we are, and of displaying our team colours to those we have yet to know.

Camus quoteWe can try to alter ourselves to meet the wishes and expectations of others, but that way lies madness. The controller inevitably becomes the controllee, a slave to enforcing a status quo that’s no longer applicable, or even much fun, to either party.

Which is not to say that all of life has to be fun, or perfect, even though that is what we all think we want. A life without obstacles might seem desirable, but stumbling blocks are what strengthens our essence, and makes meaning of our existence. A month of intense heat makes us long for the chill of winter snows. Intense sadness, leavened by moments of great joy, allow us to appreciate the highs, the lows, and the calms in between.

When we try to halt that progress, try to capture a moment in time and make it our only reality, we are doomed to tainting that wonder. You can’t pin a butterfly to a board and expect it to retain its colours and movement … even if you try just to hold it for a time, you’ll likely damage it. Admire the beauty of its flight; a butterfly must be free to enjoy its brief dance in the sun.

“Stuff your eyes with wonder,” he said, “live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that,” he said, “shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.”  ― Ray Bradbury     

walk away from drama meme.jpgThroughout our lives, we will enter into relationships with many people. Some will last for as little as a conversation, others, for decades. All of our experiences, all of our past encounters, combine with who we are when we present ourselves, and how the other person presents to us, and will determine how loosely or tightly we connect in that first meeting.  The longevity will depend on mutual respect, not just for what we think we want, but for who we become in the process.

I often think that life is a dance. The choreography depends on our own internal music, and the steps we’ve invented with our needs and wants. The tempo changes with our reality and perceptions – sometimes life is a tango, other times a waltz.

If you are very lucky, your life may be a Pogo, formed of joy and enthusiasm and the sheer giddiness of really feeling alive and in the moment. And the beauty of joy is that it is always available .. you only have to choose to see it and seek it. No one can give it to you – you have to reach out and take it. From cradle to grave, joy is always just a grasp away.

The dance can be frenetic, like riding in bumper cars, crashing head to head or bouncing off of each other, all great fun in the moment. Some see the dance as a long game, like chess, and carefully plan each move far in advance. The trouble with planning those moves is that we can never assume what the other dancer might do.  All is subject to change. They are dancing their own pas de deux.

Life’s dance can be a solo turn or a chorus line; pas de deuxa Balanchine ballet, a polka or a frenetic Frug. The dancers weave in and out, entering our line of vision, participating in the exercise, enriching or detracting from the show. We can ask the other dancers to accompany us in our dance, and it is a lovely thing when we dance together in perfect harmony.

What we mustn’t do, however, is hobble the other dancers. Each one’s dance is their own, and subject to change. Each of us has a time to lead and a time when we must follow. Every dance has its own beauty and dignity. Every dance and every life is a work in progress.

 

 

(first published July 2016 – bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/07/31/roxanne-tellier-under-construction/)

 

Privilege …. is Such a Lonely Word


I already had a column drafted and ready for editing this morning, but my muse took a hard left turn and demanded a re-write.

I wanted to talk about how important it is to be true to yourself; in your own life, in the way you present to your loved ones, and the realities of pursuing the path by which you pay your bills. But all of that sounds rather pretentious, in the face of current events.

What I came to realize is that the only reason that old, white women like me can spend any time at all dreaming of improving themselves and their surroundings – never mind assuming that anyone else would be interested in reading those thoughts –  is that we have ‘privilege.

privilegeI know that’s a dirty word to many. “If I’m so privileged, why can’t I get a decent job? Why do I struggle just to make ends meet? Tell ME about privilege, when I grew up poor, with an abusive family, and no chance at a decent education!?”

And all of that is valid. You probably DID and ARE getting a raw deal on some aspects of your life. We live in troubled times of massive fiscal inequality. That you were able to fight your way through the obstacles, and are currently reading this on your cellphone/laptop/desktop/magic mirror, shows that you drew on all of your resources, and triumphed.

But what you didn’t do, if you were born white, was wake up every day, look into the mirror, and see visible proof that you were a minority, with all of the attendant prejudices that an accident of birth conferred upon you.

privilege types.pngJust by being born white, in Canada or the U.S., you won a lottery you never knew you’d entered. If you were also born male, able-bodied, straight, and into a family that was financially stable, you lucked into a super bonus.  Something you had no say in, no choice, granted certain privileges on you from the day you entered this world.

Not all privilege is exactly the same. Where we are in terms of ‘class,’ as an economic indicator, also affects what we can expect to access in higher education, and with whom we can expect to interact. justice fishcartoon.jpgOne kind of privilege doesn’t add or subtract from another – being discriminated against for having non-white skin doesn’t negate being discriminated against for being female, or non-straight, old, or disabled … all of these factors have bearing, and cannot be minimalized.

But if you woke up this morning, and a white face looked back at you from the mirror, you faced one less challenge than those who saw a face of another colour in their reflection. As rich and famous as Oprah Winfrey is, she still encounters those who think her unworthy of holding corporate power, and is not immune from discrimination in a luxury Zurich handbag store.

And you can just get off your high horse of pretending that systemic racism is only a problem in the U.S. Yes, their problem is more visible, and more violent, and yes, the spectacle of an openly racist presidential candidate whipping up the basest of armed citizens, potentially leading to Civil War II, is horrific.

But Canada’s treatment of First Nations people is despicable. Denying that it isn’t our own flavour of racism doesn’t address the very real injustices perpetrated against the people who were here before us.

Consider this commonplace incident that occurred yesterday, in Calgary. RCMP, making an arrest, entered a home on the Siksika First Nation around 6 a.m. The RCMP are alleged to have battered an Alberta First Nation man, hauling him naked from his home and bringing him to a detachment before realizing he needed an ambulance.

christian-duck-chief.jpg“Christian Duck Chief, 23, is recovering from a broken eye socket, fractured cheek bone, fracture to the back of his head and a broken nose.

Duck Chief and his wife say they were sleeping in their home on the Siksika First Nation southeast of Calgary Friday when RCMP from the Gleichen detachment entered their home around 6 a.m. to arrest him.

They acknowledge Duck Chief struggled at first, saying he was on his stomach when woken and didn’t know it was police. But they allege an RCMP officer hit him at least 20 times after he stopped struggling and shouted that he wasn’t resisting, even as he lay handcuffed on the floor.

Duck Chief — who has been charged in connection with the incident — and his lawyer said the force used by the officer was excessive.
….
(The couple) suspect the arrest occurred either because a friend had visited them the night before in a stolen vehicle or that RCMP wrongly believed Duck Chief was still under a bail condition that he not be in the home with his wife.

Duck Chief said he struggled at first because he thought someone had broken into their home and was attacking them, and initially bit the officer’s finger. He has been charged in connection to the incident.” (cbc.ca)

That scenario is almost as Kafkaesque as the spectacle of Philando Castile’s girlfriend talking calmly and calling the officer ‘Sir’, as he forced her out of the car and onto her knees after he shot her boyfriend dead in front of her and her four-year-old daughter during a routine traffic stop.

who police killed in 2015Do either of those scenarios, of the First Nations man in Alberta, or the man in Minnesota who died from a broken taillight, strike you as something that would happen to a white citizen? That this would be the subject of a discussion heavily loaded with justifications to decide if the victims deserved what happened to them? No. Privilege.

The people of colour in the U.S., and the First Nations people in Canada, are both being told that their very real fear of the police and authorities must be addressed in calm, respectful, and reverent tones.  While those who beat and kill them are not held to anywhere near the same standards.

blm-torontoThe us-against-them-against-who now?  arguments that broke out last week over the actions of BLM-TO (Black Lives Matter – Toronto) at the Pride parade exemplifies how divided even minorities have become, and how quick we are to pick a side. As emotions subside, speakers from both the BLM community and the LGBTQ community have moved to a middle ground of understanding. There have been talks, apologies, and re-commitments to values.

Except for white people. White people are still using real and imagined information about the actions of two beleaguered minorities, adding in the public attitudes on policing, finally declaring one side or the other a villain. It’s not even their battle! But that’s how privilege works … you still expect to not only have a right to an opinion on something you have not personally experienced, you believe your opinion should be heard and agreed upon.

Privilege.

Earlier this week, the executives in charge of Toronto’s CNE events made a disastrous faux pas, and announced that disabled patrons would no longer receive complimentary entry, citing a need for ‘equality.’

CNE.jpgThe CNE has posted the policy change on its website, saying it strives to respect “the dignity and independence of all of our guests, including those with disabilities.” Caregivers can still get in free.

Am I reading that right? The disabled will pay, but their (presumably non-disabled) caretakers will get in free? What an odd definition of equality!

Their publicity department insisted, self-righteously, that their decision was solely based on allowing all fair-goers equal entry, despite the reality of the thousands of free passes that are given to city councillors, employees of other attractions, anyone famous enough to be recognized at the Gates, and, ultimately, their own friends.

While the City weaseled out of the fight by fobbing off critique while they ‘discussed’ the situation, it fell to disability advocate and former Lieutenant Governor David Onley to lead a charge of harsh criticism, which forced the CNE to reverse their decision. They caved, as bullies will, when their petty actions are shown to be discriminatory, and potentially illegal. Public opinion, bolstered by social media, brought too much negative attention to the parsimony.

“The CNE had argued it simply wanted to treat people with disabilities the same as everyone else. But Onley said the decision was purely economic and if the CNE was truly concerned with equality, it should look at the number of people with disabilities it employs — a figure general manager Virginia Ludy didn’t know when asked on Wednesday.

Onley also said some 1.8 million Ontarians have some kind of disability and, of those, more than 400,000 live on Ontario Disability Support Program payments. That amounts to about $14,000 a year plus medical benefits, “meaning that you live in a state of virtual poverty … it’s not a good state,” Onley said.“

Privilege puts money above compassion and empathy. It bandies the word ‘equality’  about, while ignoring the reality of those who are physically or economically challenged.

Canada Post.pngNothing is too low for those who use blunt force to achieve their ends. Look to the actions of Canada Post CEO, Deepak Chopra, who has forced his will upon postal workers by refusing to continue talks. He’ll lock out the workers, and impose a stoppage of mail, eventually forcing the workers to take whatever he’ll decide to give them.

Some of the issues? Equal pay. In 2016, the same 2016 that Trudeau used as a banner and a reason to have a gender-even counsel, we’re dithering on whether men and women should receive equal pay for equal work. But for Canada Post, apparently equal pay is just not ‘this year’ enough.

“”Our rural and suburban mail carrier unit, which is predominately made up of women, get paid 28 per cent less than their predominantly male counterparts in the urban operations unit for doing the exact same work.””

Pensions are also on the table. “a two-tier pension system might become the reality for postal workers. Canada Post wants the union to accept a defined contribution plan for new employees. “The proposed change would alter the plan such that the contributions made by each worker would be set, but there would be no guarantee of the benefits they would receive in retirement,” wrote rabble labour reporter Teuila Fautai”

No guarantees in retirement. Well …  isn’t that comforting. Tell me how this can be justified by CEOs and government officials whose handsome pensions are locked down and guaranteed, ensuring they’ll live out their golden years in comfort.

Privilege.

Check-Your-PrivilegeIt’s all around you, and tied up in bows that dissolve in your hands, leaving those of visible and invisible minorities with nothing but slime to show for the strident claims of equality and justice for all.  Those with privilege point to laws and regulations designed to create a level playing field, and dismiss the cries of those who note that those fields are often studded with landmines, and protected from access by the high cost of pursuing justice in the courts.

No one is saying that it’s a crime to be straight, white, middle-class, able-bodied or male. There’s no need to don hair shirts or self-flagellate for the circumstances of your birth, no need to feel guilty for enjoying those privileges. In fact … please DO enjoy them! They are your birthright!

What those who have been denied access to the same privileges simply ask for is an acknowledgment of those differences. They ask that we be aware of how much more difficult it can be to compete in a world where others will never comprehend what it’s like to have to work twice as hard, just to be considered almost equal to a peer who has never known the same adversities or discriminations.

tolerating-intoleranceb.jpgUntil then, it seems we’ll live in a world where ‘tolerance’ is defined as not immediately killing those who don’t look like you.

 

(first published July 10/16 … bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/roxanne-tellier-privilege-is-such-a-lonely-word/)

 

Time Loves a Hero


Every now and then, we have to lift our eyes from the path we’ve trod, and reassess. You can’t have perspective on where you’re going if you never looked at where you’ve been.  Taking a good, long, eyes-wide-open look at not just what you’ve done, but why,   can be terrifically painful, but so is living an unexamined and millennial-tkounfulfilled life.

It’s a truism that life seems to speed up as we age. It does, but my grandson will tell you that he feels like his life has been flashing before his eyes since he started high school. Yep, even the millennials are feeling the time crunch. And that ain’t good.

It has a lot to do with the constant bombardment of information we receive – even when we leave our homes, we’re still shackled to our cell phones. We are always accessible, always as ‘on call’ as a brain surgeon, even if we’re just fast food wranglers at the local MickeyD’s. We can only squeeze a little solitude out of the tube by becoming signal free, literally out of range.

We feel under ‘time pressure’ when there’s too much to do or be done, and not enough time or ability to juggle it all. That’s consistent right across the civilized world, and in all age groups, but I suspect a little less wearying to those with the financial ability to spread some of the stress around.

There’s always a price to be paid for deferring – on purpose or with genuine remorse – the things we want to do, and the people we want to see, because time gets away from us. When you are young, missing a party or failing to meet up with a visiting friend has little impact. As you age, the special moments missed can quickly become sources of deep regret.

(There’s a reason why this song has more than 16 million hits, 43 years after its debut.)

This constant ‘running to keep in place’ can also conceal something far more sinister … all that ‘busyness’ often conceals truths we can’t bear to face. That job you hate, but keep reporting to every miserable day,  dreaming of, but never getting more education or training that might free you, until one day you wake up and realize it’s time to retire. That face you make as you try on clothes and vow once again to exercise regularly and rein in the calories; the disgust you feel as you light up another ciggy and watch your money and health smoulder into ashes; those brilliant ideas, that plan to try a different lifestyle, or to revive or leave a stale relationship  … all back-burnered with what seems to be logical reasons on the surface, but are really a mental resistance to facing what our minds know is the reality of our lives, and changing those circumstances.

alarm clock_.GIFThe snooze button on your alarm clock is a perfect metaphor for the putting off of what we desire. With all good intentions, you set the alarm for half an hour earlier; today you’ll start that exercise program/clean your room/start that novel you’ve been mentally outlining.

The next morning, you hear the bzz bzz bzz, but reach out a sleepy arm and hit ‘pause’ on what you’d planned to do.  Just a few minutes more, you mumble, and then, when the alarm goes off again, you grumble a bit as you stop the annoying sound that’s harshing the mellow of your dreams. By the third sound of the alarm, you’re angry and resentful, and you SLAM that snooze button down; how dare this world demand so much of me? Can’t I get just a little bit of peace, a few moments more of this hypnotic dreamland in which I’ve already conquered all my demons and can just live happily ever after?

And that’s how your day starts. Rather than being filled with determination, energy and positivity, you now have a culprit on which to blame your cranky mood, and inability to actually begin to change what you dislike about your situation. Your bedhead, all the wrongs of the world, all the things left undone … all the fault of that bloody alarm clock!

And in a sense, that’s true. Because in smacking down the snooze button, you’ve surrendered your power to an inanimate object, your every bright hope defeated by an innocuous plastic square.

When we’re unsure if we have it in us to do something new or different, no matter how humble the goal, we surrender to the fear of being rejected, or mocked or humiliated. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” turns to “better safe than sorry.”

We’ll defend our paralysis to the death, citing a myriad of reasons why we can’t possibly be expected to break out of our self-imposed prisons. Being clever is no hindrance; the smarter we are, the more convoluted and seemingly reasonable our exFrustrationcuses will be. The mere thought of change is so frightening that we freeze in place, scrambling to justify our stasis to ourselves and others.  It’s a trap we set and spring, usually off our own bat, but sometimes with the collusion of others who might be affected by change – our families, our bosses, and our friends can not only impede change, but bolster our own insecurities by adding their own needs and fears to the mix.

Why is that a problem, you ask? If we’re doing it to ourselves, who’s the victim? Well, society for one. Each of us impacts many others in our lifetime. The frustration and inner rage felt by those who can’t achieve their goals touches us all in both violent and non-violent ways.

Eventually our inertia leads to learned helplessness …. “in psychology, a mental state in which an organism forced to bear aversive stimuli, or stimuli that are painful or otherwise unpleasant, becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are “escapable,” presumably because it has learned that it cannot control the situation….

learned-helplessnessThis may explain why individuals may accept and remain passive in negative situations despite their clear ability to change them. In his book Helplessness (1975), Martin E.P. Seligman argued that, as a result of these negative expectations, other consequences may accompany the inability or unwillingness to act, including low self-esteem, chronic failure, sadness, and physical illness. The theory of learned helplessness also has been applied to many conditions and behaviours, including clinical depression, aging, domestic violence, poverty, discrimination, parenting, academic achievement, drug abuse, and alcoholism.” (Wikipedia)

rat raceBut in the end, the true enemy is time. There’s only so much of it, and none of us know when our clock will run out, or even when the gears will wear so badly that physical limitations will make decisions for us. We’re fragile creatures, we humans, both physically and mentally. We spend our time searching for happiness and fulfillment, believing it is our right, believing that life is fair, and that our own good intentions are a moral authority that will make us winners – or at least, respectable ‘also-rans.’

In reality – life isn’t fair, and spending all of our short time on the planet hitting the snooze button, and indulging in wishful thinking without actually working towards our betterment is a terrible waste. Better to have tried and failed, scraped knees and bruised feelings be damned, than to get to the end of our brief  lives unscathed, unchallenged, and unchanged from the raw material we were handed at birth.

 

DBAWIS – Fly Me High, Ken Tobias


Ken Tobias 2016 pic.jpg“I remember being asked when I was very young what did I want to be when I grow up. I remember saying ” I want to be an artist, a singer, and a scientist.” ….well it turned out that I am a professional singer, an avid science fan, and yes an artist…painting in acrylics for 30 years.”   Ken Tobias.

 

Many years ago I was in a roots rock/new country quintet called Delta Tango.  A bunch of us, music lifers, recorded, tinkered with sounds, and recorded some more. When we had something that we thought might be marketable, we debuted and toured the CD around Ontario.

I can’t remember exactly when we met Tony Tobias – it may have been at a CMW gig, or perhaps at a showcase , but he was a lovely man, and, as we (the band) and he (Tony) showed each other our credentials, he revealed that he was the President/Executive Producer at Pangaea Media & Music Inc. – and manager and brother of the venerable Ken Tobias.

I make no attempt to conceal my folkie roots. Ken Tobias was an icon for me in the 70s. You may remember the song he wrote that put him .. and The Bells .. on the map … “Stay Awhile.”

Born and raised in New Brunswick seventy-one years ago this July 25th , Ken showed early promise as a draftsman AND a musician. In 1965, he left NB for  Halifax, Nova Scotia,  was part of CBC’s local Music Hop,Frank’s Bandstand,’ and then went on to become a regular on  Singalong Jubilee, often dueting with Anne Murray, and playing alongside of  Gene MacLellan and John Allan Cameron.

In 1968 Tobias met Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers who invited him to Los Angeles to record and write as a salaried songwriter. Under the management of Medley’s company, Tobias recorded his first single “You’re Not Even Going to the Fair” on Bell Records; like many of his early releases it was credited just to “Tobias”. The song won him his first Canadian BMI award for airplay. This was the first of many BMI, Procan and SOCAN awards.” (Wikipedia)

Ken was just getting started. In 1972 he established Glooscap Music with his brother, Tony, settling in Toronto for the next few decades, and releasing a string of hits including “Fly Me High“, and “Lady Luck“, and eventually receiving FIVE Socan Classics Awards for 100,000 airplays of the songs,  “Stay Awhile”, “I Just Want To Make Music,” “Every Bit Of Love”, “Give A Little Love” and “Dreamken tobias beauty fly #2”.

His beautifully written songs speak of love, and the joy of making and listening to music. They dare  the listener to believe in what might be. They also draw upon his artistic background, painting a mental picture that the listener can translate to their own imaginings. “I drew a picture of a pair of wings .. because I want to fly.“

 

Looking back at all that Ken Tobias has accomplished is like peering through a kaleidoscope … so many wonders to be seen! So many aspects to a lengthy and accomplished life!

His writing and producing credits are impressive, and include forays into television and film. From having his song “Good To Be Alive in the Country” in the hit TV series The Bionic Woman, to collaborating in the writing of the soundtrack for the Italian movie A Silver Saddle; writing, “Here You Are Today“, for Saint John, New Brunswick’s bicentennial as well as nabbing a CLIO Award for his Tourism New Brunswick commercial; to having his song “Friends” featured in the 2004 feature movie Chicks with Sticks; to being commissioned by Ballet Jorgen to create “Dreams of A Subtle World” for a feature segment in their ballet…

… to having several pages in Dave Bidini’s 1998 book, On A Cold Road: Tales of Adventure in Canadian Rock  dedicated to his music … and  then add to that his self-taught creative artistry that has seen over two hundred of his paintings sold throughout North America…

I don’t know how he’s done it. I’m exhausted just researching and writing about all of his accomplishments!

Casino Nova Scotia Music Hall of FameBut there’s one more honour on its way, and a very worthy one indeed. Ken Tobias is about to be inducted into the 2016 Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame, representing the province of New Brunswick.

From Tony’s recent press release:  “KEN TOBIAS joins three other celebrated Atlantic Canadian music artists being inducted: Natalie MacMaster (Nova Scotia); Harry Hibbs (Newfoundland); Gene MacLellan (Prince Edward Island). Last year’s inaugural music inductees were: Rita MacNeil, John Allen Cameron, Portia White and Anne Murray. Ken comments about the news of his induction: “I am honoured and humbled to be inducted into the Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame and representing my province of New Brunswick. I am especially moved to be in the company of my old friend Gene MacLellan. Gene and I were fellow cast members on the CBC show Singalong Jubilee and we both wrote songs for Anne Murray. And it is a great honour to be sharing the spotlight with the wonderful Natalie MacMaster and Harry Hibbs. Many thanks to Casino Nova Scotia, Music Nova Scotia, Music New Brunswick and all those who cKen Tobias painting far off worlds.jpgontinue to support my music and art.””

Ken Tobias’ story continues to unfold in front of us, as unending as the galaxies he captures in his paintings.

Cheers, Ken Tobias! And thanks for inspiring so many Canadian writers, players, and artists to pursue their dreams.

Here’s a catchy summer tune from his latest CD, “From a Distance.”

 

 

 

When Celebrities Attack


Ronan Farrow, son of film maker Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow, recently published a strongly worded defense of his sister, Dylan’s, accusations of juvenile sexual abuse, and re-stated his belief that Allen’s celebrity and wealth have effectively whitewashed the director.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/my-father-woody-allen-danger-892572

judge jury executionerHaving read a wealth of copy, pro and con, on the subject, I have my own opinion, as do most of those who dabble in the world of social media. There’s no lack of outrage from either side of the debate.  We will likely never know what really happened, so we tend to base our conclusion on our own ethical and moral biases, and, sadly, on which side recently presented the best defense for our review.

In a week in which Jian Ghomeshi, once a rising media star in Canada, now largely vilified despite a brilliant defense lawyer who shielded him from most of the consequences of his deeds, has once again skated ably and legally away from more dire penalties, it’s tempting to pick a side.

Throw in the sixty allegations of sexual abuse now pending against comedian Bill Cosby, the postmortem accusations against British radio and TV personality Sir Jimmy Savile, and decades of rumours and confessions from women who claim to have lain – whether in thrall or in fear – with famous musicians, actors, comedians, religious leaders of all faiths, politicians, and those with even a modicum of power, and it all starts to seem like   a world in which anyone – and I include males as well – can be blithely used as nothing more than an inanimate object fit only to be a sperm receptacle, for the pleasure of anyone who can afford the price.

Take away the celebrity angle, and it’s just another story of objectification and abuse.  Money and power can purchase, or simply take without compensation,any commodity, including the bodies of human beings. When challenged, money can certainly be used to cover up or play down criminal acts. Justice should not be blind, and especially should not be blinded by those who can intimidate, whether financially or through abuse of power.

Take away the celebrity angle, and our need to pedestalize the wealthy and powerful, and consider the reality of sexual abuse.

(all statistics have been obtained from this governmental report:  http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/csj-sjc/ccs-ajc/rr06_vic2/p3_4.html)

sexual assaults in CanadaAccording to  Canada’s own Justice Department, sexual assault is the crime least likely to be reported to police. 78% of victims never come forward, either afraid of further repercussions from their attacker, or in the belief that, even as they confide intimate and embarrassing details to authorities, justice will not be served. In those who do ask for police assistance, the request often comes long after the offence has occurred.

Women account for 85% of all victims of sexual offences, with 69% of women who reported having been sexually assaulted in childhood, being far more likely to be assaulted again after the age of 16. The male victims were also more likely to be children.

“83% of women with disabilities will be assaulted, sexually assaulted, or abused in their lifetimes.”

Those most vulnerable to predatory assault are children, children and adults with disabilities, the unemployed or those with low incomes, the single, separated or divorced, those who have been institutionalized, and Aboriginal women. In other words, people who are already disenfranchised and largely defenceless are deemed of such little value that their assault is as seemingly inevitable as sunrise.

Over the course of their lives, victims of sexual assault are more likely to require therapeutic treatment after the assault, due to psychological and/or physical consequence of these crimes. ‘Nervous breakdowns,’ suicidal ideation and attempts (1/5th of rape victims have attempted suicide,) and post-traumatic stress disorders lead many individuals to seek professional treatment. And of course, once a diagnosis of psychiatric distress is on record, the victim’s recollections become less likely to be taken seriously by authorities.

There are so many disturbing factors in our interest in the misconduct of celebrities. Sex sells, so the media takes advantage of our desire to revel in prurient fascination with the sexuality of the rich and famous, secretly wondering how our own pedestrian genitals would compare. There’s a whiff of self-abasement and forelock tugging in our willingness to self-righteously defend the celebrity’s honour ,while dismissing allegations of misconduct as ‘preposterous,’  and the stench of envious defiance and schadenfreude in the opposite reaction,  of taking pleasure in their comeuppance. A breathless focus on the celebrity’s well-being, present or future, refuses to recognize the basic rights and dignity, much less truthfulness, of the apparent victim.

And all of these elements distort a larger, uglier fact – the systemic abuse of the vulnerable by those who believe themselves above the law when it comes to the pursuit of their own mindless pleasure.

When celebrities are exposed as base humans, capable of denying the humanity of their victims, our own true feelings about the rights of our fellow beings are laid bare, and the deficiencies of a legal system still rooted in laws largely forged in times when women were considered second class citizens is revealed. The tender underbelly of misogyny shows itself in comments that claim the victim ‘loved’ the abuse, or begged for more , implying that the superior penises of those with money or power carries with it delights beyond our wildest dreams. Very often, the victims are reproached as vile seekers of fame by association, or derided as greedy gold diggers, only out to strip the beleaguered celebrity of his hard earned wealth. Certainly, the large majority of those who come forward begging for legal recourse are generally dismissed out of hand as liars, eager for personal gain, until either the weight of multiple accusations or the approbation of a male interpreter of the details of the assault enters the mix.

Meanwhile, the after effect on the bodies and minds of those who have been abused is dismissed as irrelevant.

Dylan Farrow’s plight should be an opportunity for meaningful discourse on societal values, and should serve to focus attention on a justice system woefully in need of fine tuning in respect to the rights of all citizens, not simply those owners of property or of the male gender.

Instead, in Ms Farrow’s case, as in so many others in which the alleged victim has been left without a satisfactory conclusion, the healing never begins, and the pain never ends.

May Day! May Day!


It’s May the first – a day when most of the northern hemisphere officially decides, “that’s it. Done with winter. Bring on the sun and the fun!”

I’ve always thought that May 1st would be a better start to the year then January 1st.No one feels much like kick-starting anything more than the snow blower in winter. May, on the other hand, is when you can shed the many layers you’ve bundled yourself into over the darkest months, like a snake sloughing off its outgrown skin.

naked gardeningEven the armchairiest of armchair gardeners eyes the sprouts of green peeking out of the earth, and tells themselves lies about the magic they’ll coax from the soil this year. Dreams of successful planting and transplanting, and visions of exotic fruits fresh plucked from your own trees, dance through your head like the sugarplums of Christmas. Garden paths that never overgrow! Bushels of perfectly formed, organic vegetables! Idyllic afternoons whiled away in draped pergolas, desultorily conversing with like-minded friends.

All of which lasts for about a week or ten days, before the great outdoors is abandoned in favour of a good book and a comfy couch safely indoors, where there are no midges or crawly things.

No one is immune from May’s siren call. Even Led Zeppelin couldn’t help but reference the occasion. “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now, It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.”

Ai eee! Spring cleaning! Washing your winter-stained windows in order to let the bright spring sun illuminate the dust bunnies you’ve cultivated whilst cocooning. Many gallons of cleaning goop will be purchased and used in the next few days, in a frenzy of scouring away the winter blues. Followed by many doctors being consulted for pain killers to numb the injuries stemming from long unused muscles strained during that frenzy.

vulcan and maiaI would much prefer to just dance around a flagpole, dressed in a long gown and draped with flowers, vying to be crowned the Queen of May, as they do in Europe. I mean, the month of May was named for the Greek goddess Maia, who was identified with the earlier Roman goddess of fertility, Bona Dea, whose festival was held in May. I’ll even take the pre-Christian Roman celebrations that revolved around Flora, the goddess of flowers, or celebrate Walpurgis Night or Beltane with the witches. In any case, my first act upon being crowned Queen would be to dispense with ritual house cleaning, in favour of far more civilized communal celebrations, rejoicing at the promise of another sun-filled summer.  Vote for me!

The pagan holidays were sacrificed as Europe became Christianised, mores the pity. Traditionally, May Day was associated with fertility; the earth is reborn,  the cattle get frisky, and, with less clothing to get in the way, people tend to get a little friskier themselves. The church frowned on frisky.

But still, traditions remain. And some should be revived! In some part of the United States, early American settlers made small May Day baskets, filled with flowers or treats, and left them at the doorstep of someone they fancied. “The giver rings the bell and runs away. The person receiving the basket tries to catch the fleeing giver; if caught, a kiss is exchanged.” (Wikipedia) flaming dog poop

That sounds a lot more fun than leaving flaming bags of poop on the doorsteps of unfriendly neighbours.

If you were up very early this morning, you might have heeded the call sent by the Facebook group, Toronto Morris Men. “Sunrise in Toronto on 1st May 2016 is at 06:09. We’ll be at High Park, will you join us?”

Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

It’s an old custom still celebrated in Ontario.  “In Toronto, on the morning of May 1, various Morris Dancing troops from Toronto and Hamilton gather on the road by Grenadier Cafe, in High Park to “dance in the May”. The dancers and crowd then gather together and sing traditional May Day songs such as Hal-An-Tow and Padstow.” (Wikipedia)

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the last century, and thanks to social democrats and unions, May 1 has become much less fanciful. Here’s a “did you know?” for you … What trade unions and labour movements now celebrate as the May 1st International Workers Day, started as a response to the annual holiday that stemmed from a union strike in Toronto. In December 1872, the Toronto Typographical Union staged a parade in support of the strike for a 58-hour work-week that had been going on since March of that year. George Brown (yes, he of George Brown College) was editor of the Toronto Globe at the time, and he called for the police to charge the union with “conspiracy,” which resulted in 24 leaders of the union being arrested. (Laws criminalising union activities had already been abolished in England, but were still on the books in Canada.)

It was the seven trade unions that marched in Ottawa in protest that finally pushed then Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, to repeal the anti-union laws, and pass the Trade Union Act in 1873. We have been celebrating the occasion on the first Monday in September ever since.

In 1882, trade unionists in the United States, inspired by the Toronto unions’ bravery and success, proposed a similar holiday. But the Labour Day holiday did not become official until 1894, and still did not quite address the spirit of the movement.may day solidarity

The May 1st International Workers Day evolved from the 1904 International Socialist Conference in Amsterdam, when the Sixth Conference of the Second International, called on “all Social Democratic Party organisations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.”

May 1st was chosen to commemorate the May 1886 Haymarket incident in Chicago, where a bomb was thrown at police attempting to disperse a public assembly calling for an eight-hour workday. In response, the police fired on the workers, and killed four demonstrators.

It might then be logical to assume that the term chosen to indicate a state of emergency (Mayday!) would have come from the Chicago incident as well. But it actually originated in 1923, when a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, England, was asked to decide on a word easily understood by pilots and ground staff in an emeFrederick Stanley Mockfordrgency.

“Since much of the traffic at the time was between Croydon and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, Frederick Stanley Mockford proposed the word “Mayday” from the French “m’aider”, a shortened version of “venez m’aider” (meaning “come and help me”). (Wikipedia)

The term, always said three times in repetition, replaced the Morse code SOS. Calling Mayday!is now taken so seriously in the United States that it is a federal crime to make a false distress call, and will get you up to six years in jail, and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

may day 2016At the moment, it’s a gray, chilly morning in Toronto. I missed the Morris Dancers, (rats!) but if I hustle, I can get down to the square at Yonge and Dundas, where a rally and march will begin at 1:00 pm. This year’s theme highlights the struggles of resistance to anti-black racism, police brutality, and issues deeply affecting black communities, along with Indigenous sovereignty, gender justice, anti-poverty and anti-austerity organizations.

Or, in the spirit of my ancestors, I could find me a May Pole to dance around, and a hedgerow with a bustle looking for a May queen. I always did fancy being royalty for a day …

(first published at bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/roxanne-tellier-may-day-may-day/)

 

You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!


Remember when newspapers had actual content writers, copy editors and proper headlines?  Spell checkers? You do?

fold-newspaper-step-2_300Me too.  And I miss those days. I used to amuse myself at times trying to find the odd misspell or grammatical error, because I was a nerdlinger, and errors were rare enough to make the game worth the while. Overall, I really appreciated a cleverly turned phrase, an apt summation, a seductive call to ‘read all about it!’ and I relished the tiny print request to (continue reading on page …. ). I’d even suffer the frustration and indignity of wrestling a broadsheet into submission, when my interest had been piqued.

Tabloids took all the fun out of both of those exercises.

weekly world news batboyNow you can feast your eyes on the clickbait genre; titles that are designed to manipulate or coerce readers into entering their site. Today’s online version of the Weekly World News. 

With the death of old school journalism in recent years, and the plethora of online sites vying for your ‘click’ to entice advertiser dollars, clickbait titles have become the go-to tactic to attract curious – yet oddly  intellectually lazy – eyes.

Why bother researching social inequity, when you’ve just clicked on the cutest video of homeless people?  Or examining the difference between available political parties when this snappy cartoon lays it all out for you? Have you flexed your ethical and moral values because you watched a video of a kid standing up to bullies? Surely you’ve done your part, and now our faith in humanity can be restored.

whoopass sodaAnd in a philosophical sense, isn’t society always in doubt as to the state of humanity? It can be a Sisyphean task, keeping the faith.  ”You won’t Believe what happens next” challenges our cynicism and belief systems, and dares us to dream, one more time, that there are wonders and miracles to be found. All you have to do is click this link ….

I know there are a lot of intelligent people out there. I’ve met some, and, based on the spectrum, there must be many more in the general population. But, sadly, in any large group, there are those who somehow managed to fail upward through the education system and most of their formative years, neatly bypassing all attempts to be enlightened. It happens. Read the comments on nearly every article, post or blog on any site and subject deemed controversial – politics, sex, climate change, equal rights. You’ll be stunned at how many very uninformed and uneducated commentators feel the need to add their poorly digested bile to a discussion and set the LiBtArDs straight.

Your_brain_on_clickbaitIt would be sooo easy to write off clickbait as the natural habitat of those easily manipulated and gullible people. But they are not the only ones to fall into the trap; clickbait appeals to our sense of disbelief. It asks – dare you read this? How strong are your views? – while simultaneously appealing to our innate desire to know what is in the future. What happens next? Ah, wouldn’t we all like to have a heads up on that!

But clickbait is no crystal ball. If anything, the majority of Upworthy’s maudlin videos fall into the need to hear a little good news for a change.  Buzzfeed’s listicles and how-to’s attempt to find meaning in meaningless exercises attempting to smooth the way through meaningless everyday tasks. Celebrity websites exist to glorify celebrities and those who wish to attain celebrity through sensationalism and sexy side boob glimpses  … making the mundane into rumour-worthy chatter you can share on social media, whether the material has basis in reality or not.

And it works. Most people are busy enough trying to get through their day without too much distress, hanging on to whatever brings in the money necessary for them to make it through yet another day, while being bombarded with doom and gloom on every side. People are not meant to be flooded with a constant stream of new data; our brains prefer to be fed chunks of necessary information, with just the odd spike of spicy novelty to keep things interesting.

weekly world news sneezeI’m not saying that clickbait is an insult to our collective intelligence. No, I’m saying it’s a necessary evil, designed to ease the pressure off an already strained valve. Without clickbait, cat videos, games, listicles and recipes, the strain of modern life would likely blow the top off of our heads.

I’m just saying that it’s a bit much to ask readers to take a publication seriously that depends solely on clickbait headlines. And why would you even try?  It’s akin to walking through the midway at the Ex, in the days when the carnival barkers used to pull in the rubes with promises of the “Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla GURL!” or LobsterBoy.  Escapist fun in limited quantity – nauseating as a steady diet.

Shock tactics and clickbait achieve the immediate measurable goal – quantifiable clicks of attention, attracting advertisers to invest. Long term respect and dignity come from actual, informative, content, which entertains on a higher level than titillation.

For many publications, the clicks are enough.

 

No Sleep Til Brooklyn …


When I mentioned that I was going for a sleep apnea test a while back, I was surprised at how many people I knew that had already undergone the polysomnogram. Was this an aging thing, something that happens as our bodies rebel against all the indignities we’ve put them through?

Time for a PSA! Here’s what you need to know …

sleep-apnea-riskSleep apnea is a disorder that anyone can experience, even little kids. But it’s more likely to happen if you’re male, over 40, overweight, and have a family history. It’s also common in those who suffer from gastric reflux, or who have a history of allergies, sinus problems, a deviated septum, large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone. Having a larger neck (17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women) may indicate problems as well.

Basically, apnea is when you stop breathing, or have difficulty breathing. Naturally, this can create problems, since your brain would prefer you breathe at all times. And there are two kinds of sleep apnea – one involves a blockage of the airway, when the soft tissue (that big tongue or tonsils) collapses at the back while you sleep, and the other kind, which is when your brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe, due to instability in the respiratory control center. If you snore, you may have experienced the same sort of temporary breathing cessation.

Beyond that pesky “needing to breathe to live” thing, problems with sleep of any kind can lead to everything from headaches, and being distracted at work and school, to depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart failure. Oh yeah, and to top it off, poor sleep makes you more likely to be overweight. So really, this is something you don’t want to ignore.

On the day that I was to take the test, I was told to abstain from caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, but to otherwise eat as normal, and report to the clinic for 8pm machine that goes pingwith my jammies. And so, one cold and snowy night, me and my footie pyjamas were ushered into what looked like a budget motel room, where I filled in numerous forms and was then weighed and measured, before being hooked up to the machine that doesn’t go ‘ping!’

 

Here’s what happens next: “About two dozen sensors are applied to the skin of your head and body with a mild adhesive. These small metal discs are called electrodes. They are connected to a computer and record the vital signs of your sleep. The wires are long enough to let you move around and turn over in bed. Flexible elastic belts around your chest and abdomen measure your breathing. A clip on your fingersleep study or earlobe monitors your heart rate and the level of oxygen in your blood. None of these devices are painful. They are all designed to be as comfortable as possible. The sensors may feel strange on your skin at first. But most people get used to them very quickly. They should not be an obstacle that keeps you from falling asleep. After everything is hooked up, you will do a test to make sure it is all in working order. You will be asked to move your eyes, clench your teeth and move your legs. Once it is all ready, you are free to read or watch TV until your normal bedtime. Then the lights are turned out and it is time for you to go to sleep.

Yes, it’s a tad intrusive. But I’m game. So in a fairly short time, I fell asleep. Between the electrodes, the strangeness of the room, and the howling winter winds bouncing off the building like sonic booms, I’d guesstimate I got about 4 hours sleep total. I’ve never been so glad to get up and go home at 6 a.m. in my life.

And then, you wait. The analysis of a sleep study is a complex and time-consuming process. A typical sleep study produces about 1,000 pages of data. This information includes things such as brain waves, eye movements, and breathing patterns. It requires hours of work from a trained professional to accurately analyze the results. A sleep technologist processes or “scores” all of this data.  A sleep study is not somethisleep-clinicGlobeMailng that you pass or fail. The scored results are simply given to a doctor for further evaluation. At an accredited center, this doctor must be a board-certified sleep specialist. The doctor will review the study to find out what kind of sleep problem you may have. Because of the detail and amount of time involved, it usually takes about two weeks for you to get the results. The doctor who ordered the study will discuss the results with you. If your primary care doctor ordered it, then the results are sent to him or her. If you met with a doctor in the sleep center, then he or she will tell you the results.”

So it was about a month later that I heard from the sleep centre. Both my husband and I were fairly certain that I hadn’t a problem, but since we lack those twelve plus years of actual med school, thought we’d defer to a professional’s better judgment.

As it turns out, I do have a mild case, along with some moderate snoring. It could easily be relieved by stopping smoking, dropping ten pounds, and getting some exercise now and again. However, if I chose not to clean up my act, or if my particular apnea had been more severe, I would have been advised to first test drive, and then purchase, a machine called a CPAP.

CPAP six CPAPsThis is a mask that will either cover your nose or your nose and mouth. Another version has soft silicone tubes, called nasal pillows, which fit directly in your nostrils, and provide a steady stream of air that gently blows into the back of your throat. This treatment is called positive airway pressure (PAP). While there are three kinds of PAP, the most common uses a level of pressure that remains continuous (CPAP.) In Canada, Health Insurance subsidizes a percentage of the cost, but, depending on the model you choose to buy, you’re looking at shelling out somewhere between $200 and $1000.

(Apparently there’s a thriving ‘black market’ for ‘gently used’ CPAP masks on Craigslist and Kijiji as well … though some might find it a little spooky to buy grandma’s old hand-me-down contraption.)

Bottom line, sleep is important for everyone. Getting older often means accepting certain health problems, but sleep disturbance should not be one of them – the brain and body simply cannot function properly and efficiently without being refreshed nightly.

So if your doctor wants you to have a sleep study, go for it. Worse than can happen is that you’ll lose a few hours of rest in your own lumpy bed. Bpsaest case scenario might mean a vast improvement in your health and overall enjoyment of life.

And that concludes our Public Service Announcement.

At the sound of the tone, you may go back to your regularly scheduled activities … ping!

 

It Is To Laugh!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

vanity-fair-cover2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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