Baby Steps are Still Steps


“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson – 1803-1882, Essayist

Maybe – maybe not. I know that I need to get my butt into high gear, in order to meet the deadlines set by selling my house, and thus needing to relinquish the hoard.

I know it makes people around me happy when they see that I’ve actually accomplished stuff by the end of the day, when they can see boxes or bags tagged with instructions for what’s going where and when.

But the boxes and bags are symbols. They contain physical ‘stuff,’ and thus must be moved from one location to another. Stuff, eventually and inevitably, has no real value.

It is the people in the house who must prepare, mentally and emotionally, when a house is no longer a home.

Uncertainty and fear of the unknown roils the stomach, causes panic, and provokes knee jerk reactions to what would be a simple bit of movement or thought on another day, in another time.

Action needs a plan that encompasses many needs and wants. Action is a rational response to a situation. Reaction based on fear is rarely as productive as plotting the many steps involved in a large undertaking.

It may feel like the taking of action propels us forward into what we must next do – and in some instances, that action clears away obstacles that impede a forward movement. But many such actions also wipe away possibilities, and the inescapable realities of how others may be affected by the taking of actions.

Reaction is forced action. It mocks all needs except the primal, and demands response, retribution, visible forward propulsion, often based on no more than extreme emotion.

Theory – planning – outlining the steps. These are the blueprints of action. Action that follows theory is good action.

Musical Friends Are Making Me Happy


No matter how you’ve lived your life … saintly, and with a whiff of heaven in your aura, Dora, or a little naughtily, with a more checkered past than you’d care to admit … you want to be rounding third base and heading into home plate with a fine group of worthy team mates, and a cheering section that still likes you, whether because of, or despite, your resume and reputation.

I must have done something right, because I’m blessed with a lot of wonderful people in my corner. And so many of us share a musical background.

I’m writing this on Friday night, because the weekend kicks off in about an hour, with the arrival of my old friend and band mate, Sharon (Kaid) Kaczmarczyk. We go waaaay back, to the days of Lady, before Lady morphed into Performer with my addition, when she was the haughty, sexy, blonde drummer, and I was the shy and mostly innocent new ‘chick singer’ the group reluctantly admitted to their midst. Where it not for Sharon and Helen Dreyer (on keys,) both far more seasoned and experienced than I was at the time, I’d likely still be wearing my Peter Pan getaway boots with a tie-dyed tunic, and sporting a Cleo Laine ‘fro. Hey, it had worked for me in my pop/jazz quartet, Tangents! 😉

Performer 81Sharon and Helen taught me how to make up, ‘zizzed’ my hair so that it stood up in a jaunty rock helmet, maintained with a zillion cans of heavy duty hair spray, and encouraged me to experience the joys of spandex, glitter, and six inch spiked heels.

Through my connections with this group, I went on to meet so very many wonderful players, and devotees of the music we created. Sure, some were jerks, but you weed out the losers, and if you’re lucky, you get to know and love a lot of funny, talented, professionals who are experiencing life slightly differently than the average citizen. Not necessarily better lives – but usually a great deal more challenging, and thus, great candidates for long, convoluted, and very interesting tales around the campfire.

So yeah .. Sharon. She didn’t know what to make of me at the beginning. I was Little Suzy Sunshine, the Pollyanna of the group, always chipper, up with the dawn, busily scouring the thrift stores for stage clothes and shoes, doing my daily 500 leg lifts, endlessly practicing scales. I was not rock n roll at all!

(before and after shots of the first Performer band shoot. At some point, our manager said, “Say, I wonder what would happen if we got the girls high enough to take off their tops?” The topless shot went on to be banned at most of the high schools we’d been booked to play.)

Before:    Performer original poster 001

After:    Performer nude top poster 001

 

But at some point, I must have worn down her resistance to my infernal cheerfulness. Or maybe it was because in most hotels that had band accommodation, there was a minimum of band rooms, and with 2 guys and 3 girls in the band, we had to double up at times. Helen was a Tequila drinker; Sharon and I were fond of the cheap white wine,   Colli Albani .. or as we renamed it .. New York Dog. Sharon and I teamed up in many a room to kill a litre or two of the dog, gulped down between sets and daytime drug store forays. Long days and nights on the road turned into long weeks and months of bonding.

Beyond being a powerful drummer and vocalist, Sharon was also a terrific songwriter. I’d know – I vocalised and demoed a lot of her songs. “Blue Eyed Boys,” “Show Me,” “Girls on Top” .. it was the 80’s and the messages were short, sweet and to the point.

While a lot of our Toronto contemporaries were getting media exposure and getting signed to record deals, Performer spent far too much time out of town, and as far out of town and up north as you could go. Kirkland Lake, Kap, Timmins, Chapleau, Thunder Bay … for months at a time we’d be enduring Northern tours that would have crushed the spirits of younger bands. On one famous “Moose Tour,” we narrowly escaped death by Bull Moose three times in three weeks. Bullwinkle was not our friend.

But we were young, enthusiastic, hardy, and possessed – thankfully! – of a good sense of humour. Even our road crew knew enough to temper their grumblings with a heavy dose of levity.

Now, here’s the thing about just about every single female musician I’ve ever known in the last fifty years … none of us ever thought of ourselves as much more than pretty ok looking, and marginally talented. Which is odd, because of nearly every male musician I’ve met in those same five decades, the reverse is true. The guys would generally overestimate their own attractiveness, and were convinced that they were natural born leaders and stars, possessed of legendary talent and ability.

And they had the groupies to prove it. While most female musicians had an entirely different crop of stalkers and weirdos to ward off.

Helen, Sharon and I spent months at a time on the road with nary a beau in sight. It’s an odd thing, being desired while on stage, but being either ignored or feared as being untouchable, off stage. Road time is tough enough; filling the hours between waking up and playing, while living on very little money and with few resources, is challenging. Moreover, it was lonely.  And rockers are generally pretty sexualized people – seems to go with the territory – so it wasn’t the best place to be companionless. That’s why you’d see so many hook-ups within bands and crews … a lot of times it was just proximity, a release from the coming down after whipping up the audience, and ourselves in the process. We’d have much preferred to be on home turf, where our own, pre-qualified letches lurked, but when in Collingwood

kaid foreign affairs great head shotSharon had it worse than Helen or I. Blonde, statuesque, with laser focused blue eyes that could burn a hole into a wannabe suitor at 20 paces, she worked her Amazonic magic from atop a drum riser.  On stage or off, she had presence. Although single and looking, few males could see through her powerful appearance to the warm, caring woman within.

And those that did have the guts to approach her tended to either be fuelled by liquid courage, or to be in possession of egos far larger than the sum of their intelligence …  I’ll never forgot one road trip that had left us exhausted and fit for nothing more than 48 hours in our own beds. At a truck stop, at about 4 a.m., and about two hours out of Toronto, the band, running on depleted adrenaline and road coffee, and still dressed in our spandex, glitter, and rock and roll hair we’d rocked hours before, ran into another band also heading home from a gig.  The male lead singer of the other band went into full peacock mode and approached Sharon. “Hey, blonde,” he said, “You need a lift?”

Sharon kept her cool, but the rest of us were falling about at the very idea that this fellow could actually think that his mere presence (and perhaps the promise of candy,) would lure a blonde rock goddess into his stinky van in the wee hours. Never happen. Trust me. We weren’t that lonely.

Performer live shot 001.jpgBut we did live in rarefied air. The images we presented of ourselves took time, money, and considerable energy. Women in rock, especially in the eighties, were expected to look a certain way, and to emphasize their sexuality. When you’re getting up on stage in front of live audiences, night after night, you can never let the mask slip. Your attention is on taking whatever raw material you’ve been given, and shaping it into something worthy of posters and album covers.

Guys in rock, on the other hand, usually had it easier .. and damned if they didn’t often look better in makeup than the women did! Depending on the musical genre they represented, they could get away with a lot less primping. And people rarely commented on them wearing the same outfit, night after night.

Despite our constant vigilance, and belief that we had to keep fine tuning how we looked, Sharon and I were both good eaters and reluctant dieters. Nothing made us happier than a Sunday night on the road that featured an all you can eat pasta buffet! We’d get out the fat pants and have at ‘er. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we diet!

If only we were as fat today as we thought we were then! We were so very hard on ourselves, firm in our beliefs that it was only by reaching an elusive physical perfection that we could catch life’s brass ring. But sometimes, the ring is elusive, and the grasp just a trick of fate.

Just as the band entity “Lady” had morphed into “Performer”, Performer eventually fell victim to road fatigue and cynicism. A reformed quartet, of Shawn O’Shea, Al Corbeil, Sharon and myself had a brief stint as Foreign Affairs, before taking one last kick at the can, showcasing at the El Mocambo as Ice Age, with the late, and very much missed, Phil Parmentier on bass.

Thirty five years later, Sharon and I remain good friends. We still giggle like teenagers, rejoice at each other’s good news, and mourn each other’s losses.  The base of friendship that was formed in proximity and happenstance has widened to include a deep love and commitment to each other that I can’t see ever ending while we can still draw breath. Perhaps for even longer than that.

Addendum:  Bilan BBQ Aug 2016On Saturday we were invited to a BBQ hosted by yet another long-time friend and his family, and attended by still more of our musical comrades-in-arms. Some of us have known each for nearly fifty years. We marveled at how we’ve navigated our lives and careers, celebrated our successes, and commiserated on our war wounds. Pictures of past glories were produced and admired, greeted with gusts of laughter at how dated our band pics, head shots, and press clippings seem today.  We’re older and wiser, and there might be a little more of us to love than there was in our heyday, but damn! We’ve made it this far and haven’t lost our sense of humour or our commitment to creating and enjoying music. I’d call that a legacy worth celebrating.

 

(first published in  bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/08/07/roxanne-tellier-musical-friends-are-making-me-happy/)

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.

 

Why You Should Care About Man’splaining


I originally wrote this for Bob Segarini‘s “Don’t Believe A Word I Say” blog, way back in June 2014.  (https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/roxanne-tellier-agree-to-disagree/)

The subject of ‘man’splaining’ has come around again. So, with a little editing and updating, I’m diving back into the subject.  Enjoy! 😉

I am incredibly blessed to work with a crew of like minded, intelligent, non-biased writers at DBAWIS. We support and cross reference each other because we respect what each of us brings to the blog table, whether or not we agree. We can have spirited conversations and never once drop to the venomous level of “Jane, you ignorant slut,” as ridiculed in 70’s Saturday Night Live’s Point/Counterpoint skits.

Respectful, intelligent, informed conversation is not typical fare these days, least of all on social media, which is geared to the quick fix, knee-jerk reaction and funny cat memes. I once would have blamed the suspicious and cynical responses on Facebook on the ease of misinterpreting the written word, but find a similar pattern emerging in the spoken word world, rising from the primordial ooze of talk radio and conservative television posing as ‘news.’

Rebecca Solnit, author of Men Explain Things to Me, has been all over the media this week, talking about her latest book, and explaining the frustration women experience in dealing with the sort of pompous, asshat male who half closes his eyes and leans back into his chair, preparatory to delivering his most holy and righteous words to the ignorant female before him.

The bigger truth in her words is that ‘man’splaining,’ as she calls it, does not just apply to women.

Why You Should Care About ‘Man’splaining’

If I disagree with you on an issue, it’s not because I’m a woman/less educated/a lefty liberal, it’s because I’ve thought about the issue, and come to a conclusion. That my conclusion does not match your conclusion does not make my thoughts wrong or naive. I do not need to be told that your conclusions are right and mine are in error. They are MY conclusions, based on my research.

If more information comes to light, and I change my stance, based on the new facts, that is not flip-flopping, that is having the ability to accommodate additional points, understand their bearing on the issue, and come to a new conclusion that assimilates ALL that is  currently known.

Opinions are lovely … but they  are not facts.

It’s not just women who’ve experienced being lectured on ‘the facts.’ But in this case, Ms Solnit’s original blog post touched a nerve in readers, and went viral. In her words, “Men explaining things to me had been happening my whole life. The infamous incident I described — in which a man talked over me to explain a Very Important Book he thought I should read that it turns out I wrote — happened five years earlier in 2003.

rebecca_solnit“Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.”  

“After my book Wanderlust came out in 2000, I found myself better able to resist being bullied out of my own perceptions and interpretations. On two occasions around that time, I objected to the behaviour of a man, only to be told that the incidents hadn’t happened at all as I said, that I was subjective, delusional, overwrought, dishonest — in a nutshell, female.” (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174918/)

more money than brainsWhen you have people of wealth and/or power who are used to ‘man’splaining’ to women, it’s not very long before they decide that they’re also qualified to talk to everyone about other things they haven’t a clue about, as long as they deliver the info in a deep and stentorian voice, brimming with confidence and dominance ..  about ‘legitimate rape,’ the age of the planet, or how science and scientists have it all wrong, because … The Bible.  And they are not just talking to women – these speakers do not discriminate. No, they are talking to the general public, be they male, female, young or old. Anyone, in fact, who will allow their nonsense to enter their ears and fester in their minds.

Arrogant pedants who claim to have the only and last word on subjects they haven’t any real grasp of, quoting other crackpots and faulty science, barefacedly stating their own point of view as infallible and verifiable fact. And we – those of us who find it easier to simply accept, and even to share, unverified info, rather than look for the real story – pass those ridiculous opinions along to yet more gullible readers, who simply swallow down the pap, and allow twisted thinking to grow in their guts like deadly bacteria.

Elizabeth Young in her introduction to Plain Pleasures, the collected stories of Jane Bowles. “Up until the 1970s women were discounted and despised,” she writes. “They were, en masse, classed with children in terms of capability but, unlike children, were the butt of virtually every joke in the comedian’s repertoire. They were considered trite, gossipy, vain, slow and useless. Older women were hags, battle-axes, mother-in-laws, spinsters. Women were visible in the real world, the world of men, only while they were sexually desirable. Afterwards they vanished completely, buried alive by the creepy combination of contempt, disgust and sentimentality with which they were regarded.”love stories book. jpg

It didn’t end in the 70’s. In June of 2014, the women of The Talk were cackling about the audacity of older people having sex and romance in their lives.  Do these women not have mirrors or calendars? Plastic surgery and Hollywood diets will only work for so long. They too will age, sooner rather than later. Perhaps they believe themselves immortal, but, if we are lucky, we will all eventually face our senior years. Are we doomed to be not only ignored but ridiculed for daring to continue to live and love?

It’s not just men who purvey these diatribes… there isn’t a shortage of women who like to swagger with the best of them, despite either sex’s words coming off like the ramblings of an aging Fonzie. I used to love Christie Blatchford when I first read her columns, many decades ago. I can’t read her now. Although I’m sure she occasionally writes something that I could relate to, the overall tone of her writing smacks of a belligerent street punk.

In the states, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter and many more far too pugnacious women toe the party line, siding firmly with the doctrines handed down by elderly, white, entitled, Conservative men…   hold the phone! That’s it!

get off my lawnClinging to the idea that your gender, wealth or power makes you somehow magically smarter than those around you is like sitting under a flashing neon sign that points to your head and says, “old guy.” And not a nice old guy that we can learn the mysteries of life from, but a nasty, old, half-cut, pre-civil liberties era relic that snarls, “get off my lawn!” at every passing child … or idea.

You should care about ‘man’splaining’ because those men are lecturing to us all, on the television, on the radio, and in print, in the same ignorant, self-serving manner, to anyone that will listen and swallow their bitterness. They want to educate us to their misogynistic revelations, promoting their own insecurities and doctrines as facts, and encouraging fear in those who lack their own level of confidence and privilege. But sadly, those who choose to blindly accept the gnarled half-truths and bigotry inherent in these decidedly non-empathetic screeds may one day find themselves on the wrong side of history, pawns to the sociopathic ramblings of greedy, old men.

Man’splaining dismisses  the reasoning capabilities of others. It imposes the rational of another, at the expense of the individual. The only defense is to think for yourself, and own what you think. Don’t swallow whole what some would like to spoon fed you. Don’t let yourself be ‘man’splained.’ Make your life the product of your own study and morals. The brain, like any other body part, needs to be exercised; use it or lose it.

“Research shows that older adults have lower scores on a measure called “self-discipline.” By the time they reach their later years, individuals feel better able to express themselves rather than being hemmed in by society’s proscriptions.”

How very sad, when the freedom to finally speak your truth is considered a lack of self-discipline … kind of makes you wonder whose judgments are being weighed and on whose scale

einstein no socks quote

 

Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City


Bruce Springsteen’s refusal to play North Carolina because of new, drastic LGBT laws might have shocked some people, but it didn’t surprise me at all.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band cancelled their Greensboro, NC concert because of the state’s new law blocking anti-discrimination rules for the LGBTQ community. The so called “bathroom law” clause in the bill forbids transgender people from using the restroom that matches the gender they identify with, and that’s a real problem for transgendered people.

missippi bathroom lawsSo far, North Carolina is just the latest state to go this route, following in the footsteps of Mississippi and those looking to do something similar: Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Tennessee and Wisconsin.   As of last Tuesday, the National Center for Transgender Equality was tracking 49 bills across America, 32 of which dealt with bathroom access. More than a third (12) of those bathroom bills are still actively being considered.

From Funny or Die …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqASSN5S2CI

Also tucked inside North Carolina’s HB2 act is a sneaky little Trojan horse that strips workers in the state of the ability to sue under a state anti-discrimination law, a right that has been upheld in court since 1985. “If you were fired because of your race, fired because of your gender, fired because of your religion, you no longer have a basic remedy,” said Allan Freyer, head of the Workers’ Rights Project at the N.C. Justice Center in Raleigh.

Conservative media and internet pundits sprang to attention at Springsteen’s decision. Most postings were sad admissions of the lack of truly ‘conservative ‘artists, and the pain it caused them to  have to be exposed to thoughts unlike their own, all in the name of entertainment. Like this poor fellow …

 “if I refused to watch any movie or show, listen to any music or laugh at any jokes by people who are flaming liberals, entertainment options would probably come down to a choice between Ron White or watching paint dry.”

States-transgender-lawRepublican Mark Walker unwisely weighed in on the controversy. “I consider this a bully tactic. It’s like when a kid gets upset and says he’s going to take his ball and go home.”

No, sir – it’s the state that’s doing the bullying. Springsteen is reacting to discrimination, and the loss of civil rights, levied by the state. And so is PayPal, recently cancelling its plans to open a new global operations center in Charlotte, that would have employed 400 people, following the passage of the law. Add to that basketball great Charles Barkley, who has urged the National Basketball Association to move its All-Star Game next year away from Charlotte, N.C., unless the law is repealed.

Springsteen’s been down this road before – remember Sun City?

sun city artists againstSpringsteen, Steve Van Zandt, producer Arthur Baker and journalist Danny Schechter gathered  together what rock critic Dave Marsh called  “the most diverse line up of popular musicians ever assembled for a single session,” in 1985 to record an album, and video, protesting apartheid in South Africa. The artists also pledged to never perform at Sun City, as long as apartheid was an issue. The group were dubbed Artists United Against Apartheid.

The Sun City video, described by Schecter as “a song about change not charity, freedom not famine,” featured  Miles Davis , Kool DJ Herc, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Ruben Blades, Bob Dylan, Pat Benatar, Herbie Hancock, Ringo Starr and his son Zak Starkey, Lou Reed, Run–D.M.C., Peter Gabriel, Bob Geldof, Clarence Clemons, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Darlene Love, Bobby Womack, Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys, Jackson Browne, Daryl Hannah, Bono, Peter Wolf, U2, George Clinton, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Bonnie Raitt, Hall & Oates, Jimmy Cliff, Big Youth, Michael Monroe, Stiv Bators, Peter Garrett, Ron Carter, Ray Barretto, Gil Scott-Heron, Nona Hendryx, Lotti Golden, Lakshminarayana Shankar and Joey Ramone, with the signature background vocal sound created by Lotti Golden, B.J.Nelson and Tina B.

From Wikipedia: “The song “Sun City” was only a modest success in the US, reaching #38 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in December 1985. Only about half of American radio stations played “Sun City,” with some objecting to the lyrics’ explicit criticism of President Ronald Reagan’s policy of “constructive engagement.” Meanwhile, “Sun City” was a major success in countries where there was little or no radio station resistance to the record or its messages, reaching #4 in Australia, #10 in Canada and #21 in the UK. The song was banned in South Africa.”

Said Jackson Browne at the time, “Sun City’s become a symbol of a society which is very oppressive and denies basic rights to the majority of its citizens. In a sense, Sun City is also a symbol of that society’s ‘right’ to entertain itself in any way that it wants to, to basically try to buy us off and to buy off world opinion.”

Could the Boss have seen North Carolina’s new law as anything other than “very oppressive and a denial of basic rights?”  Of course not.

The apartheid regime in South Africa finally ended in 1994.But injustice and discrimination flourish around the world.

Almost unknown, and virtually invisible, is a newer group against apartheid, this time in artists against apartheidthe Middle East. (ArtistsAgainstApartheid.org). No matter which side of the political fence you or your country are on, this group has the right to organize and protest.

“Artists Against Apartheid Declaration of 2010: Artists Against Apartheid is an international alliance committed to Equal Rights and Justice, and the elimination of apartheid in our world. While crimes of apartheid are ongoing in Palestine-Israel, we will stand in solidarity with the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS,) and the cultural boycott of Israel.”

A quick search on ‘artists against discrimination’ nets hundreds of thousands of results, from all over the globe, from Australia, to France, and to Mexico, with all stops in between and around.

We don’t hear much about the Guerrilla Girls, a protest group launched in 1985, that call themselves “the conscience of the art world.”  And as they admit, after 30 years of protest, there’s been very little change.

ageism after sexismNor do we hear about the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission receiving more than 19,000 age discrimination complaints in each of the past two years.

That’s why it’s important when artists of Springsteen’s stature take a stance on injustice. As he said, he could have confined himself to making a political statement from the stage during the concert, but cancelling the concert, which officials have told the media will cost the Greensboro Coliseum a loss of about $100,000, “ is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.”

Most of us can’t make a big dent on injustice. The old saw about ‘voting with your wallet’ can certainly help turn the tide in some commercial issues,  but when governments pass laws that cause companies to decide against investing in your state, and artists to refuse to entertain you, the dilemma that the Religious Right and many Republican states must face becomes clear … as much as you may want and need jobs and entertainment, you’re gonna have to decide which is more important –  your fiscal duties or your need to control other peoples’ genitalia.

The Last Taboo


The latest round of celebrity deaths has shaken Baby Boomers to the core. Even if they hadn’t thought of the artist, or listened to their music in decades, the sudden realisation that another part of our youth is irretrievably gone, resonates. deaths 2016

It’s not the physical body of the artist themselves we’re mourning, though. It’s how the music made us feel, what it was like to be young and dumb and possessed of hopes and dreams and aspirations, along with a strong and energetic body that could propel us to our heart’s desires. The music spoke to us and for us; it knew what we were going through, and how that made us feel. That’s what dies when a beloved artist passes … the feeling of being known and understood, and the belief that anything is possible.

old age not for sissiesIf those we grew up admiring are dying, can we be far behind? Does this mean we’re … old? No man, we’re not old, we’re vintage. Classic. Retro. Seasoned.

“Old.” There’s your last taboo, the last epithet used to put you in the corner with the other discarded toys. After a lifetime of experience, the shaming of the circumstance of age is meant to strip you of dignity.

We did it ourselves, back in the day. “Don’t trust anyone over 30!” “Hope I die before I get old!” “Better to burn out than to fade away!” oh yeah. That kid stuff felt good to roar. The oldies had the money and power, but we had what really mattered – sex, drugs, frenetic energy and amps that went to eleven.

is there life after youthOur disdain for those we saw as stodgy was justified. Politicians were rigid and pedantic. Businesses were run by old, white, men in suits. Boomers’ parents had lived through a depression that depleted them physically, and often emotionally. Many had been in service in WWII or Korea – they’d lost a lot of youth’s gloss by the time they procreated. And for so many of our parental units, the prevailing mores of the time, the sharp division between what males and females were allowed to do, prohibited them from just plain having fun, once they had kids. Grownups weren’t supposed to be silly, after all.

Sadly, many of those parents also didn’t make it to their golden years. A lot of really good dads (and moms) got that gold watch at 65 from the job they’d had since they were kids, and didn’t make it to 66. Their worlds, long circumscribed by the 9 to 5 workday, and how decent people supposedly lived, left them worn out and unable to handle retirement.

Still others, now in their 80’s, 90’s and older, are hanging in, but with failing physical and mental health. Many of us belong to the ‘sandwich generation,’ with kids still trying to find themselves, while we try to help our elderly parents. That’s a tough gig.

mature woman judi denchI had a few rollicking debates this week with people just as committed to their opinions as I am to mine, and – predictably – those who couldn’t actually back up their opinions with facts were quick to anger. The insults flew fast and thick … I was a libtard, a fascist, ignorant, naïve. And then, that insult that they thought would be the killing blow … I was just too old to understand.

The trouble with having that ‘weapon’ in your arsenal is that I don’t consider my age to be an impediment. In fact, it’s an enormous asset in understanding the world. When I was in grade school, we actually had to learn, memorize, and study to get to the next grade. There was no pushing along of those who failed to achieve – I knew one guy who stayed in grade 9 for the entire length of my stay in high school! For four long years, he ruled grade 9. He just couldn’t graduate from it.

And spitting “old” at me as though it were a curse doesn’t work for the same reason that I’m not frightened of being told that I’m going to hell when I die. I don’t believe in hell or religion, and haven’t since I was 21. I see age rather like I see religion: some bow down to it and obey its rules. Me, I ignore and abhor the concept of living my life by rules put into place by those who are interpreting the stories that they heard from a friend of a friend who knew this guy… You can keep it. I live by one rule; Do unto others as you would have them do to you. That about covers it.

when I was your ageThe idea of aging, as we know it now, is so far out of whack with reality that I find it laughable. I know 80 year olds that could run intellectual rings around much younger, eminent scholars. I also know 35 year olds so enmeshed in living by society’s strictures, that they look and act like crones, bent down with the weight of the world. Baby – life’s what you make it.

I wish to hell that the white and grey peppering my black hair looked as distinguished as those men in the media who’ve aged so very gracefully that they’ve blossomed into sex symbols in their 60’s, but apparently that is not to be. I refuse to let nature take over, so I’ll keep colouring it and wearing it long as long as I can get away with it. I will never, ever, EVER succumb to the current septuagenarian style of severely short back and sides for both men and women, not for fear of looking ‘old,’ but for fear of appearing like just another clone in an asexual crowd.

aging sophia lorenSo, spit your invectives, call me “old,” as though that will shut me up or close me down. You’ll find you’re wasting your time. Aging is now, more than ever, perspective. It’s a gift, denied to many. It’s only a curse to those who feel they’ve put in their time and would like to go, now, please. For those who’ve cultivated a good attitude, solid friendships, a sense of wonder, and a trust in today’s youth, it’s a world where we finally have time to slow down and see without blinders, a world full of endless possibilities, a world we can watch unfold without being expected to take responsibility for what happens next.

Albert_Einstein_age-quoteOlder people know that how you look doesn’t matter as much as how much you make others laugh. We see through shallow people, and gravitate to those who enrich our lives through kindred spirits. We dress for comfort, not fashion. We know there’ll always be another Saturday night, so missing a party is no big deal. We don’t have to be up on every musical or artistic flash in the pan … if they’re that good, and we’re both still around, we’ll hear about them eventually. We can say “no,” without worrying if it bothers others, and without explanation.

Aging a curse? Au contraire, mon frère … without all of society’s rules bogging me down and harshing my mellow, getting older looks far more like a blessing. Something tells me I’m gonna love my second childhood even more than my first.

12 steps to self care

 

(first published Jan 31/16 – bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/roxanne-tellier-the-last-taboo/)

It’s Time To Take Back Our Canada


To those of us who are .. let’s say, pushing sixty or older. It’s a bitch. Every day, another wheel falls off, we need another new ‘script, and our everything hurts. So why are we still here, eh?

older canadians2It’s because we are needed. We have education, information, insight, perspective. We’ve seen history. We have assimilated what’s gone before, and we aren’t easily fooled.

We have the opportunity to change the direction that our current government has pursued. Canadians are a proud people, and we should be; the list of accomplishments in our history is lengthy and laudable. And yet we’ve remained modest and true to our values.

But, as Ralph Nader, a man who has seen Canada from both the inside and the outside, recently noted,

“When you’re modest, as a culture, you begin taking it for granted, and when the counter-attack comes, when the corporatists come in, and the militarists come in, you’re not ready. And I think that’s what’s happened to Canada in the last decade or so.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YB7ZvVEm5XU

Canada needs us now, not to be cynical or to brush aside the value and power of our voice or vote. It’s OUR time to rally the troops, to cast a jaundiced eye on the last decade, and to say, “Enough’s enough. This is not the Canada I love. This is not the Canada I want to leave to my heirs.

I’ve felt for some time that this is the most important election of my lifetime. Canada is at a crossroads. It could go either way. We’ve jumped into a war with the Middle East that’s done little but bring us to the attention of extremists, putting our country in jeopardy for the sake of an egotist’s photo ops.

tarsands before afterOur beautiful land has been raped and pillaged, sold to the highest bidder, and left ravaged. Our First Nations people, from whom we essentially rent the land, have been threatened and silenced as they have striven to honour the Earth, and keep the land and water safe for all of us.

The Trans Pacific Partnership, which the Harper Government has been so eager to sign, “effectively subverts and substitutes commerce over democracy, in all the signatory countries. It’s not about tariffs or quotas; It is a trans national autocratic system of government, a subordination of environment, labour and consumer rights to the supremacy of commercial trade. And they call consumer protection, and environmental protection, non-tariff trade barriers, that can be reversed by secret tribunals – not Canadian courts, not U.S. courts, special secret tribunals, whose judges are really corporate lawyers. “

It’s time – right now – to call a halt to corporate interests taking precedent over the rights of citizens and tax payers. We’ve enjoyed the best this country could give us. It’s time to show our politicians what made the Baby Boomers a force to reckon with. It’s time to take back our country.

We weren’t afraid when we stuck those flowers in the muzzles of soldier’s guns. We weren’t afraid when we grew our hair long, smoked pot, went to booze cans, and stood up to the cops. We can’t be afraid now, either.

young_vote_infographicWe need to inspire our kids and our grandkids, and show them that fear, prejudice, racism, xenophobia, austerity, and inaction are NOT what we stand for. We stand for a Canada –

strong and free, and unafraid.

We, who were privileged to shared in all the benefits past prime ministers have secured for us; the social safety nets for the vulnerable, the freedom to unionize without corporate interference , a respect for the land and each other, a health system once the envy of the world, now threatened by proposed cuts … we took all of that for granted. We can’t do that anymore. We need to stand up for our country and the values that made Canada the peacekeepers, the forward thinkers, and the envy of the world.

Let’s show the kids that their world doesn’t have to look like the Hunger Games, Canadian pitted against Canadian  ..  it can look like a Canada that values every citizen, and that looks to the future, without shrinking from what’s to come.

oh canada song

Moving The Goal Posts


malena arpeAs we get older, we move the goal posts of what we think we can accomplish. When I heard that Toronto writer/humourist Malena Arpe had died this week, I was gutted. “But she was so young! Only 50!” I said to friends.

2001 vhsOnly 50. When you’re a kid, 30 seems ancient. When you’re 30, you can’t imagine being 60. I remember a time when I wondered if I’d be around to see the turn of the century; the year 2000 was so far away, and 2001 was just a sci-fi notion.

The year I turned 40, and we released the eponymous Delta Tango CD, we were told that the music was good, but we were just too old for anyone to get excited about.delta tango frt bck 002-001 It was hard to get that CD together, at our own expense, and while we all raised families and worked demanding day jobs. We promoted the music, played showcase gigs, and had airplay across Canada and in Europe. But even with some success, the words of that A&R idiot echoed in our heads, whispering “too old,” whenever the going got tough. And eventually, we caved to that nasty voice, and gave up trying.

I think of those days when I hear about kids who found a cause and stuck to it, despite peer pressure, and despite being teenagers with raging hormones. There are multiple turning points in our lives, and how we react to them says a great deal, not only about ourselves, but about those people around us, who likely have no idea how much impact they have upon our successes and failures. Those people can be the good or bad little voices we hear when it’s hard to carry on. We can’t do it all by ourselves. And there’s strength in numbers. thumbs up successThat’s why the best way to succeed in any walk of live is to surround yourself with positive people who believe that you, and they, have the right, the voice, and the ability to make positive changes in your worlds.

Malala Yousafzai’s family ran a chain of schools in the Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northwest Pakistan. malalaWhen she was about 11 ½, she began to write a blog for the BBC (under a pseudonym,) detailing her life under Taliban occupation. The next year, a New York Times journalist made a documentary about her life, which brought Malala to prominence, but unfortunately, also brought attention to her determination to make schooling available for Pakistani females, as it was illegal under Taliban rule.

At 15, as she boarded her school bus, a gunman shot her three times in the head. She was unconscious for three days before being airlifted to England, where she was treated, and began intensive rehabilitation. The attempted assassination caught the media’s attention, worldwide, with one German newspaper dubbing her “the most famous teenager in the world.”

Malala-YousafzaiUpon recovering, she continued her fight for women’s and children’s rights. In 2013, she spoke at the United Nations headquarters to call for worldwide access to education, In 2014, at 17, she received the Nobel Peace Prize, and is the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate.

But you needn’t look to the world stage to find young activists who seek to bring information and change to the planet. We have several kids right here in Canada who aren’t afraid to speak up. Kids with good parents who support their children’s need to raise their voices against what those young, clear eyes see is wrong in our civilization.

At yesterday’s March Against Monsanto, I spoke to Rachel Parent, 16, who was a featured speaker. Rachel Parent 2At 11, Rachel was plagued by allergies that interfered with her life, and rather than whine, she tried to find the cause. After reading that organic foods might help with the symptoms, she changed her diet and saw an improvement. More study on the subject made her realize that the advent of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in food coincided with a massive increase in allergies, especially in children.

Rachel began to speak on the subject of GMOs, first in her school, then in ever widening circles. At 14, she challenged Kevin O’Leary, of The Lang and O’Leary Exchange , to a debate, after he’d accused her of being a “shill” for environmentalists. As you can see, the man did not fare well in this particular exchange.

rachel parent not science experimentAs her reputation grew, so did her access to politicians, and her frustration with their vague protestations that they could do little to require companies to label GMO foods. (The U.S. and Canada are the only two world powers who will not label.) She calls this “corporate wealth over human health.” The clip below is of an interview from two days ago. To keep up with Rachel, follow her blog at KidsRightToKnow.com.

Hannah AlperAnother young activist currently making waves is Hannah Alper. At the age of 12, Hannah addresses topics like eco-friendly living, anti-bullying, wildlife conservation, and fair trade on her blog and through various initiatives. She began her blog, CallMeHannah.ca, at age nine to ”share her growing knowledge and concern for the environment.”  http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/hannah-alper/

Proud papa Eric Alper (Director of Media Relations at eOne Music Canada, and an enthusiastic blogger himself) told me about Hannah’s latest writing venture with The Huffington Post when I ran into him at an eOne event during CMW. I’m very surprised he didn’t mention this wonderful and inspiring speech she made at the TEDxDistilleryDistrictWomen event last year, on “How to find your spark.”

Both Rachel and Hannah can point to Craig Kielburger as a role model. In 1995, when he was 12 years old, he began researching child labour after reading a newspaper article about forced child labour in Pakistan. craig kielburgerHe was so angered by what he read that he took the article to his Thornhill school, and eventually gathered a group of friends of his own age to found a group he called the “Twelve-Twelve-Year-Olds.” This group evolved into “Free the Children“, an international organization that has 45 countries participating in helping the world become a better place. In 2007, he was named a Member of the Order of Canada. (Wikipedia)

At the age of 9, Severn Cullis-Suzuki (yes, the daughter of Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki) “founded the Environmental Children’s Organization (ECO), a group of children dedicated to learning and teaching other youngsters about environmental issues. severn cullis suzukiIn 1992, at age 12, Cullis-Suzuki raised money with members of ECO to attend the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Along with group members Michelle Quigg, Vanessa Suttie, and Morgan Geisler, Cullis-Suzuki presented environmental issues from a youth perspective at the summit, where she was applauded for a speech to the delegates.” 

“Today she is a Canadian environmental activist, speaker, television host and author. She has spoken around the world about environmental issues, urging listeners to define their values, act with the future in mind, and take individual responsibility.” (wikipedia)

What drove those kids to pursue their dreams of making the world a better place? What support was in place for them, and how did the people around them – their parents, their friends, their teachers – keep the spark of their passions alive?

passion MandelaWell, for starters, these young activists didn’t listen to those who told them to “just be grateful you don’t live in (insert third world country/war torn area here).” They didn’t just get mad and rant, they got off their butts and put themselves on the line. If you want change, you can’t just kick back just because no one’s bombed your house lately. We have the opportunity to improve upon what we have already, if we make enough noise. Too many people think we should just shut up and take whatever we get – from our families, our friends, and our government.

My cat will yowl at me until I give her what she wants. All I, as the stupid human, have to do is figure out what that is. She’ll sit beside my chair for ages, letting out that piercing Siamese meowl, breaking my concentration as I’m tippy typing away. What is it, Lady Jade? Food? Out? Brush? Water? Door? Until finally, I hit upon what it is that she’s requesting. “I want a treat. Now now now wow ow!”

Sweet Black CatShe doesn’t stop because she’s determined to get what she wants, and she knows that she will, if she just yells long and loud enough. Persistence comes naturally to a small black cat that is loved and respected, and thus fearless.

A lot of us get that determination beaten out of us by life, and at an early age. if you want to go fastWe can always find a reason why our dreams are just too hard to achieve. We know what it is we want to accomplish, but the barriers seem insurmountable, the couch is so comfy, and that funny show is on the telly. That’s when you most need people around you who’ll help you climb those barriers. The difference between those who fail and those who succeed is the people around us, who make us fearless, and encourage us on our journey.

be ashamed to die

(originally published May 24, 2015 at bobsegarini.wordpress.com)

The Journeys of Grace and Frankie


Grace and Frankie is brilliant. Imagine! A series based on the real life, non-medical, issues that 60-70 year olds deal with! Who’d have thought we’d ever get that open minded?

Grace and Frankie NetflixThe Netflix offering stars Jane Fonda (Grace) and Lily Tomlin (Frankie) as the wives of husbands, Sam Waterston (Sol) and Martin Sheen (Robert) who have recently come out to their wives as long time lovers … of each other. Legal business partners for four decades, they’ve been concealing their affection for each other for twenty years, in an attempt to shield their families from pain and scandal.

What happens when a 40 year marriage collapses? How do you face the rest of your live? Will you be alone until you die? The series looks at the reality of women suddenly divorced against their wills and expectations.

So many issues are ‘outed’ in these thirteen perfect episodes, so many suppositions tested. Right off the top, we’re somehow supposed to be kinder to the two men who break up their long time marriages because of how they have suffered, hiding their love for each other. Because, you know, socially enlightened.

But what if the hidden love had been between the couples? If Frankie had fancied Robert, and Grace, Sol, would society look on as approvingly when the split occurred? If either of the men had broken up their marriages over a twenty year affair with a woman, we would be incensed. The fact that they have hidden their affair with each other from their spouses should be just as reprehensible. But we can’t say that, because “gay is the new black.”

So the men, two very successful lawyers, essentially walk away with their lives intact, even improved. The wives, however, receive no sympathy, although thGrace and Frankie on beachey do receive their share of the marital finances. The fact remains that the two women are discarded, left behind with no warning, to begin new lives at the age of 70.

Speaking of finances, one episode revolves around the two men, who are divorce lawyers, beginning the usual tactics advised in a break up; they cancel their wives credit cards without notice. It is left to the Grace character to remind her husband that he is behaving as though she is his opponent, rather than acknowledging their long, and supposedly loving, history.

Grace and Frankie w SolWhich is another factor, a continuing plot line; Frankie and Sol were best friends for forty years. They were genuinely in love, and created a life together that encompassed their hobbies and habits. That longevity was a comfort that both have trouble leaving behind.

Frankie, an aging hippie, is not much interested in finding another partner. But Grace, an uptight and upright retired business woman, who is accustomed to success and male admiration, needs someone to be with, in part sexually, but also because she feels more comfortable being in a relationship.

Grace and Frankie no braHang on, did I just say sexually? Why yes, I did. These two women are sexually interested and active, despite being at an age long past being considered viable. Regardless of age and aging bodies, they continue to have normal sex drives, and have no intention of contenting themselves with cats or crocheting.

Grace does have a problem, though, with continuing a lifetime habit of acquiescing to her partner’s needs. She hates golf, hated it throughout her marriage, but golfed because her husband enjoyed the game. With her new partner, she continues the charade until Frankie forces Grace to realize that she’s not being honest to herself or her new man, and in the long run, neither will be happy if they’re living a lie that favours one partner’s happiness over the other’s.

The grown children of both families are well-developed characters as well. Frankie’s two sons are adopted; one is African American, the other a recovering addict. Grace’s two daughters are upper middle class blondes, with outwardly perfect lives, but inward torment. The children are not comfortable with their fathers’ change of partners, but can’t really say what they feel in a society that is desperately pretending to embrace alternate lifestyles.

This is a wonderful series. I binge watched it over a day and a half. Like potato chips, I couldn’t eat just one episode.

There are truths to be found in every half hour. Women have it worse than men after a divorce, and aging women have even more to deal with post-marriage. We assume a great deal when we are in a privileged situation. To be married and comfortable financially are the goals many people have. What happens when the goal posts are moved is what makes this series so new and refreshing.

Grace and Frankie w costarsThe twist in the tale: it was recently revealed that Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, the titular Grace and Frankie, discovered that they were being paid the same as their supporting cast, Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen. Apparently Hollywood has as big of a gender pay gap as the rest of the working world.

http://www.themarysue.com/grace-and-frankie-pay-gap-wtf-netflix/

At a Nexflix press event, Fonda admitted that she and Tomlin are not happy with the pay scale. Tomlin added, “No. The show is not ‘Sol and Robert’—it’s Grace and Frankie.”

So, on the one hand, Netflix produced a show starring two interesting older women, a rarity indeed, but on the other hand, didn’t see fit to compensate them beyond an even level of pay to their male co-stars. That’s a sad commentary indeed on pay equity.

I sincerely hope that the pay issue is settled, because I loved the adventures of Frankie and Grace, and the final episode left me hanging. I want more!