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/)

 

Loving The Sharing Economy


Times are tough. Wages are stagnant, but costs keep rising. It’s getting harder and harder for the average Joe or Jane to get from one pay cheque to the next, and that’s assuming they’re even lucky enough to have a job. Students skip meals to buy books.  If you’re in the arts, making ends meet is nearly impossible … and that’s before you hit your Golden Years.

everyone's brokeYep, all ages are feeling the pinch. For many, it’s the first time they’ve ever felt the bite on their bucks this savagely, so they’re under equipped to take advantage of some of the newest survival techniques out there. Time to use every trick you can find.

But how?

UberAllMarket_MainWhen Uber came along, it seemed a great way to make a couple of bucks, if you had a halfway decent vehicle. But many cities put up a good fight against ‘ride sharing,’ worried that it would cut into the taxi business, a rich tax resource, and strictly regulated.

The same thinking applied to Air BnB, and the renting out of space. Once governments realized they were losing hotel tax dollars to those entrepreneurs, regulations increased, and tourism taxes were applied.

In both cases, what seemed like a good way to make a few extra bucks, turned out to be primarily profitable for the owners of Uber and Air BnB.  They reap the big bucks, while the entrepreneur incurs all the costs and risks.

There may not be many legit or  magical ways to make extra money.

charity-fashion-collageBut there are ways to pinch a penny, if you’re open to new concepts. Charity shops are a mixed bag these days. Value Village is no longer such a value, and the Salvation Army and Goodwill are slowly increasing prices.

I do like the Kind Exchange, though items vary from location to location. (oh, and you can sell your gently used clothing to them, as well!)

But why bother, when I can pick up brand new clothing for less, and usually do, at outlets like Ardene, where prices are generally 70% off on clothing, and ridiculously low on shoes, jewellery, and other girly delights.

ardene shoesThree pair of flats for $10? Three new summer tank tops or new leggings for $15? I’m in! You can pop into one of their outlet shops, (I like the one at Woodside Square,) or even shop for their deals online at  http://www.ardene.com/en/clothing.html .

That’s just one chain – there are many more that have crazy clearances and outlets. Google ‘outlet’ and you may be surprised at how easy it is to get your cut-price shopping on.

Or let’s say you want something that’s ‘new to you,’ but the only thing you’re rich in is dreams. You might want to try a Bunz group. My grandson told me about this barter group last year, but I finally found them on Facebook a few weeks ago. These are usually private groups that you’ll have to ask to join.

keurig-bunz-appToronto’s Emily Bitze started the Bunz Trading Zone (BTZ)  (originally called Bumz) in 2013. It’s a swap/trade group that operates on a no money basis. The ‘currency’ can be anything from TTC tokens to beer cans. You offer anything from clothes to furniture, advice or services, and negotiate your own deal.

Another intriguing way to stretch a buck is with the Toronto Tool Library , also on Facebook. For $50 a year, you have access to over 4,000 tools, ranging from electronics to carpentry and everything in between. They also have a Makerspace with 3D printers, lasercutter & full wood shop. It’s a great way to start or indulge in your hobbies without a fortune in outlay.

freecycleI’ve been an avid user of Freecycle (www.freecycle.org)  since it first appeared, about a decade ago. “The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,285 groups with 9,182,159 members around the world. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free.”

You give, and you get. As a member of several groups (you can join as many as make sense to your location) and the moderator of one, I’ve seen everything from food to clothing to furniture, professional equipment, and oddities be offered. I’ve even seen cars, trailers, and once – a boat! –  be recycled. It’s a terrific way to spring clean or downsize, while giving to those who have a need, and feeling great about keeping perfectly good items out of landfills.

There are no strings attached, which instills a sense of generosity of spirit. Similar groups have sprung up as well, usually specific to geographical areas, that operate in the same manner. Google FreeTOreuse, or Trash Nothing! for instructions on how to join those groups.  trashNothing

Most of the freecycling groups will offer some basic rules and cautions. I’ve had little problem with either the items I’ve offered, or the items I’ve collected, but you want to use some basic common sense when interacting with people you don’t know. The majority of freecyclers prefer to leave or pickup items from door steps or porches.

So now that you’ve got your basic material needs covered, you need somewhere to keep your stuff.

Community living is quickly becoming an affordable way to share space and costs. Once standard amongst students and musicians, the crazy price of real estate has brought back the practice for all who cannot or will not pay sky high rents.  It’scommunity also a great way to sample an area, without committing to long term leases.  You can find Facebook groups that list sublets and temporary living spaces  in your area, or somewhere you’d like to be.

For those with champagne tastes and beer budgets, sharing a living space can mean a major lifestyle upgrade – if you can handle your roommates’ personalities. A group of twenty-somethings  with like tastes can rent a great space, if they’re pooling their cash. Shared living opens up possibilities that might not have been in the budget for a single renter.

old-bikers-bike-nursing-homeI’ve been talking about a ‘rock and roll retirement home’ for years. It only makes sense for those in similar fields and with similar backgrounds to pool resources in a way that allows freer expression than that most commonly seen in retirement homes. I’m just hoping I can get it off the ground before it’s time to move in!

It’s possible to live fairly well on a limited budget, if you are open to changing hard-wired views and beliefs. The market has spent billions convincing buyers to spend. But you don’t have to buy what they’re selling. There’s a whole new world of possibilities within the sharing economy.

 

Honouring Life


It is so very easy to get caught up in getting from day to day. There are always bills to pay, mouths to feed, people who need your attention … and then there’s the silly things, the diversions that gobble up the time we call spare.

I am a dreamer. I want love and beauty and peace and happiness around me. Cocooning in books, music and film could consume all of my time, if not for the ‘have to’s,’ and the ‘should do’s.’ Eking out moments to do the ‘want to’s’ gets harder when I’m feeling guilty that I’m not living up to other people’s expectations.

But the sad truth is that life goes on, with or without my enjoyment or participation. The clock keeps ticking, and the days on the calendar keep moving forward, even If I’m not doing the things I would rather do. Some weeks it seems like I wake up on Monday, and go to sleep on Saturday, having neither seen nor felt much in between. When I flip through my appointment books for 2013, 2014 and 2015, I can see at a glance that I’ve done very little to achieve the things I had planned. Will 2016’s calendar look any different?

Where did all of that time go? It went to housework and make work, appointments and meetings, cooking and cleaning up afterwards. It went on necessary trips to the grocery, and unnecessary hours of playing computer mah-jong. What it didn’t go towards were enough hours spent communicating, by phone, in person or by computer, with those I cherish.

happy birthday balloon wheelchairOne of my dearest friends died from cancer, two years ago. It was a long illness, fraught with surgery and chemo, but she always believed that she could beat the disease. Still, she made sure to spend what time she had in doing what she’d put off for years; spending time with loved ones, traveling, taking courses, and enjoying live entertainment. What she stopped doing was living up to other people’s expectations.

I never had the guts to ask her if she had any regrets. I hope she didn’t have any, by the time she finally passed. But, through my own denial and in not wanting to crush her optimism,  I missed a chance to ask a question she might have wanted to answer. And now I’ll never know.

One day I will not wake up. Like the sands in an hourglass, my time will have sifted away. Whatever I meant to accomplish in my trip from birth to death will be moot; only what I’ve actually done will be of consequence.

Since I can’t know what day or year that will be, I can only try to make each day count, in whatever way I choose to honour this brief life.

our lifes carry us along

Interesting Times


May you live in interesting times.” Not a blessing, some say, but a curse, as though only times of peace and contentment are to be appreciated and enjoyed.

Perhaps we mean it ironically, as all times, across all eras, have had interesting aspects. Specific conditions change, but people still bend or break in reaction. Those who lived through the Great Depression, World Wars, Kennedy’s assassination, the Age of Aquarius, and the onset of the Computer Age, came out the other end either subtly or grossly altered. And those who look back fondly at rosy tinted times are prisoners of nostalgia, blinded by imaginings that neatly snip out the bits that disturb the dream.

beauty in chaosSo many dread and fear changes to their lives, and yet, there can be great beauty in chaos. Certainly, coping with new information can be problematic, but without profound change, we are static and boring. We even bore ourselves when life becomes nothing more than a forced march through our days, stuck deep in a rut of habit and preconceptions. Creativity demands a spur. You cannot rage against that with which you have not grappled.

We can try to hide away when change threatens our equilibrium. Or we can rush toward change, willing to embrace whatever life throws at us. Either way, change will come. The only difference will be in how you accept the inevitable.  Will you accommodate the newness, incorporating what is different, and weaving its strands into your existence? Or will you rail impotently at what is to come, in a foolish attempt to cling to the past, to slow down what cannot be stopped?  The present doesn’t care. The present continually dances to each new reality, with or without your approval.

The refusal to embrace change has reached its zenith in American politics. Long groomed by the Religious Right and a lockstep Republican party‘s fanatical refusal and repudiation of science and actual facts, a good part of the nation now stumbles along behind the Godzilla of Gaslighting, a man so devoid of empathy for his fellow man (or woman) that he feels free to tar whole segments of humanity with his own prejudices and biases. A textbook narcissist, willing to say or do anything to stay in the spotlight, and keep a constant stream of attention upon his silly self, he manipulates his followers through their nostalgic yearning for happier times … Make America Great Again, he cries, as though only he has Willie Wonka’s golden ticket to the future. The future he’s selling, though, seems to have to first detour through the past.

He wants to return America to the “good old days,” when life was simple. Well, simple for a certain segment of society, before civil rights and equal rights. Not so good, and a giant step backwards, for women, people of colour, or immigrants, be they legal or illegal.

we hope we despairHis followers yearn for an America that never existed except on film. They are led not so much by what he says, but what they fear – reality itself. They want to stop the world, just for a while, “just until we figure out what’s going on.”  He’s going to make life all better, more understandable, and “you’re gonna love it. There will be so much winning, you’ll get sick of winning.”

Like a slimy, used car salesman , the Sultan of Slurs seduces with words of no more than three syllables, absolutely devoid of facts or actual plans, and replete with self-aggrandizement. “I will tell you this, and I can say it with certainty: I will be the greatest jobs producing President that God ever created. I love the subject, I love doing it, and I love helping people.”

TheTrumpHouse.jpgDespite zero political experience, and a chequered, peppered with bankruptcy, past, he has nonetheless captured the lazy and the selfish, those who have yet to grasp that they are being sold a bill of goods. It seems almost preordained – behold your next President, brought to you by a media that prizes sound bites over content, the election reduced to a simple transaction between a seller and a buyer. And bought by those too foolish to grasp the precept, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Meanwhile, politicians with actual platforms run smack into that same unwillingness to grasp change, or hope for the future. After declaring in Ohio that her coal plan would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” Hillary Clinton, with almost terminal foot in mouth disease, was soundly booed and condemned by coal country lawmakers.  Meanwhile, the $30 billion alternative being offered for investment in the clean-energy economy was completely dismissed. Because, yes, there will be more jobs in clean energy, but for those who’ve spent a lifetime in coal mining, it’s a leap too far, particularly for people with little confidence in current government And especially since, as former Representative Barney Frank put it, “the likelihood that 58-year-old coal miners are going to become the solar engineers of the future is nil.

That guy is more likely to be thinking, “if Black Lung and lung cancer were good enough for my dad … they’re good enough for me.”

nothing but a twigDespair. Fear.  Anger.  So much anger.  Anger that simmers just below the surface, until released in the form of the fist of a 78-year old man, sucker punching a young, black dissenter. A  mindless, impotent, unending anger against politicians, Wall Street, terrorists, immigrants snatching the few remaining jobs, governments kinder to corporations than its voting citizens. Anger against a dream denied, a life that might have been, a life ‘as seen on TV.’  An anger that is fear disguised as action and reaction.

This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen. It’s also a nightmarish time. Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both.” Rebecca Solnit

The stories that are told to us, and the stories we tell ourselves, about our pasts, our presents, and our possible futures, reflect only one aspect at a time. If the narrator chooses to emphasize the negative over the positive, our emotions can be twisted, causing us to accept or reject the narrative. It’s often very much in how you look at things that determines how the experience ends.opportunities

This same society, this same world, which can be perceived as cold and unforgiving, can also be a place of wonder and delight. Each step forward, plagued as it can be by those who resent change, represents shifts in ideas and perspectives. Social change is happening. The very framework of how we view sexuality is shifting.  There are progressive advances in the sciences that we would never have anticipated, even months ago. All of these marvels are going on in real time, minute by minute. But if your expectations are shaped by those who desperately cling to the past, you’ll be stuck back there with them. If all you are focused on is what is temporarily amusing, or that which jibes with your own, delicate, beliefs, you’ll blink and miss glimpses of your future.

We have little control over the times in which we live. Indeed, no one has total control of anything, or anyone, other than themselves, and even that doesn’t always run smooth. So you may as well surrender to uncertainty. When we are willing to step into the unknown, free from all preconceptions, those ‘interesting times’ become the opening notes to a symphony of possibilities.

 

(first pubished March 20/16: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/roxanne-tellier-interesting-times/)

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/)

But I don’t want to ‘spring forward!’


On Sunday, many of us will “spring forward,” where we will stay until the first Sunday of November, when we will “fall back.” That’s an awful lot of springing and falling, if you ask me, especially in a leap year.

I grew up with the concept of Daylight Saving Time, but I’ve never truly understood the idea. I remember being told some sort of story about farmers and crops andcrabby alarm clock what sort of monster was I to think that my urban sense of time was more important than agriculture, and where do you think you’re going in that short skirt, young lady … oh, that might have been another conversation….

Anyway, yeah – saving daylight. Maybe it’s a war thing, like Saving Private Ryan. I’m sure I heard some story about munitions factories wanting to save on electricity during the war years, and I guess that makes a bit of sense, but really – aren’t most factories closed shops? Dependent on artificial light to see by, regardless of the time of day? So hang on – both of the reasons I remember being told for Daylight Saving hinge on some vague memory of what farms and factories looked like a hundred years ago?

This is all starting to seem rather silly and ‘make worky.’

daylight saving petI do enjoy a little more sun at the end of a long summer’s day, but I can’t really justify that odd bit of enjoyment while I deal with feeding pets that are notoriously bad at telling time. Their little tummies want to be fed on a schedule, and asking them to wait patiently for another hour ensures that it is ME who will be groggily trying to find my slippers, and then banging off the hallway walls trying to find the kitchen, an hour earlier.

And I fail to see how my running from room to room resetting clocks, thermostats, recording devices, microwaves, and stove clocks saves me any time at all.

Proponents say that the extra light prevents automobile accidents, but school bus accidents occur more frequently in the morning during DST. And in fact, there’s a huge spike in accidents of all kinds on the first Monday after the clocks move forward. It actually takes about five days for our brains to settle down after a time shift. There’s also a huge spike in heart attacks in the first week after the clocks go forward. Human bodies like schedules, and having schedules disrupted for no apparent reason is very stressful. boycott_dst

The whole thing’s a crock, first brought up in a Ben Franklin joke in 1770. People stopped laughing when an English builder named William Willet lobbied for the idea in 1907. In 1915, Germany adopted daylight saving, in an attempt to save energy, and in 1916, Britain followed suit. There was a war going on, so most of the allies, including Canada and the United States, jumped on the bandwagon as well.

And we’ve been tinkering with time ever since. In Canada, it’s a provincial decision, and hardly worth thinking about until the morning you wake up at 6 a.m. only to discover it’s now 7 a.m. Most of Saskatchewan, however, has a real muddle. The province is nominally on Central Standard Time , even though it is in the Mountain Zone, which means it’s effectively on DST all year –round. What?

funny-daylight-savings-time-cartoonAll I know is that all of this backwarding and forwarding of the clocks is annoying, and is really just a nostalgic reminder of how businesses ran a century ago. Today’s businesses operate around the clock, like it or not, and syncing time with the United States is as silly as attempting to synch to Australia or China – if you need to do business there, you’ll figure out how. The idea that we all need to work at exactly the same time and in exactly the same way is controlling and paternalistic, and about as useful as a vestigial tail.

Getting rid of Daylight Saving would be as simple as beginning it – just stop. It seems that no one’s bothered to address the issue recently, because it IS such a simple thing.

But it is a silly idea that’s run its course. It is confusing, annoying, and doesn’t save time or energy, so why bother? Down with Daylight Saving! I’ll remember to change my smoke alarm battery some other way!

daylight saving blanket

 

Music City My Ass


Every time I see an article lauding Mayor John Tory’s ‘inspired’ idea of turning Toronto into a ‘Music City,’ I get queasy. You see, I came to Toronto in 1976, when it really WAS one, and have watched succeeding local governments and well-heeled blue noses, waving the banners of political correctness and money over art, stomp the culture to death.

Being a great deal older now than I was then (it happens,) I understand, at least in part, why the city had to change from what – to me – was a cornucopia of musical delights, as dirty and scary as it was,, into what it is today … a staid dowager in corsets trying desperately to seem hip.

IYorkville disco 70sn ’76, the Yorkville of the sixties was already undergoing gentrification, with trendy shops springing up where head shops once ruled, and the few hippie hold outs clinging to their properties out of loyalty or desperation. Disco fevered platformed shoes trod the sacred ground in front of the Riverboat as  I’d wander through on the way to The Morrissey at Yonge and Davenport.

The scene had already moved on to other areas, with Yonge Street the main rock drive, and club after club rocking exceptional talent, with rarely a cover charge, six nights a week, cheek by jowl with strip clubs, massage parlours, peep shows, and sex shops. Sleazy, garish, lewd and loud, the Strip was very much like New York’s Time Square of the period, ugly and yet so seductive. And everybody smoked like chimneys – inyonge st pedestrians the clubs, the patios and the streets.

Gay men and women flocked to the Church and Wellesley area, where they could feel safer than on the butchier Strip. Although this year’s Pride Week and Parade celebrating sexual and gender identity will have sponsors as diverse as TD Canada Trust, Bud Light, Via Rail, and Google+, back then, openly gay people were widely marginalized, shunned, and attacked in the mainstream media and politics. bathhouse raids rageIn 1975, “tiny perfect” mayor David Crombie sent his best wishes to Pride’s organizers, but refused to officially recognize Pride, while City Council declined permission for a Yonge Street march .

And in 1981, Metro Toronto police made the second largest mass arrest in Canadian history when 306 people where busted in the infamous bathhouse raids. It was safer hanging out at `the steps` in front of the Second Cup on Church and Wellesley.

However heteros were in luck in 1975, when the city legalized full nudity for strippers. It became zanzibar1.jpgpretty common for the bigger bars to have strippers by day, and live bands at night.

Black American R&B and soul stars, sick to death of segregation and persecution in their own country, flocked to play the BlueNote, the Edison, and the Colonial Tavern, where they were enthusiastically received. the colonial

Prior to new hate-speech laws of 2007, the biggest reggae acts out of Jamaica would visit Toronto at least twice a year. Anti-gay language in many of their songs, while common in their country, was not welcome here.

The city was dirty, and exciting, and counter culture was hiding in neighbourhoods that were being redefined to suit their residents’ tastes.   Queen West was where you went to find head shops and record stores, and check out the Sally Ann for vintage clothing stores. Later, it was Toronto’s punk centre, as the kids from OCA made their own music. And later still you’d find Chris Sheppard spinning at Club Domino before heading up the long thin stairs to the Voodoo Club.

You could have shot a cannon along King West any time after business hours, and never hit a soul,in the late 70s. In the 80s and 90s, street kids and skin heads hung out at the Evergreen Centre, which, though nominally a drop in, support centre for kids, was actually where you went to score drugs. You could get a whole tray of draft beer at the Gasworks for about $5.00 if you bought it before the bands started, and cheap quarts fuelled a lot of rockers through the hot nights.

the-knobby-1.jpgOut in Scarborough, clubs like the Knob Hill boasted top local talent while the waiters, legends themselves, sold watery draft for a quarter a glass. In Richmond Hill, anyone who was anyone hung at the Black Hawk Motor Inn.

 

 

There really were so many amazing clubs in diverse areas, reflecting the different interests and sounds Toronto wanted to hear. And yes, there was a “Toronto Sound,” and you knew it when you heard it.

So what killed that diverse, energetic culture? Couple of things – and most involved the corporatization of the city. In a quest to bring in funds for the city, ridiculous and arcane licensing regulations picked the pockets of bar owners. It was only last year that the city issued a memo stating that music venues would no longer be ticketed for posters – usually posted by the bands desperate to market a rare gig – advertising their shows.

Yorkville fell to gentrification, and soon, anywhere that the kids flocked began to look like prime real estate. Watching Queen West change from funky to glitz was painful enough for those who’d loved its grunge, but harder still on the residents and business owners who’d made it what it was. Rents soared until a club was walking such a thin profit margin that an off winter could bury them. These days, a shop or bar owner in Kensington Market is looking at paying from $3500 to $9000 a month for basic rent, with virtually no owner maintenance applied. Riverdale , Parkdale, Dufferin Grove, the Junction – all fallen to gentrification that brings more big bucks to those who already have the big bucks, and leaves previous residents out of luck for a reasonable price on a place to live or play.

No one is FOR drunk driving, but the founders of MADD went a little mad themselves as they ground down and down to get to the current laws. Drivers under 21 cannot have ANY alcohol in their blood when driving. Over 21, you have to have a blood alcohol level that is lower than .05%, essentially what you’ll get from a non-alcoholic beverage. You don’t even have to be in a moving car to get an impaired driving violation. If you are sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle, moving or not, and have too much alcohol in your system you can get a fine, lose your license and face other penalties.

 And for all the fuss over drinking and driving, I’m trying to remember the last time I saw a club that gave free non-alcoholic beverages to a “Designated Driver”.

no smoking anywhere If you smoke in Toronto, good luck. It’s getting harder and harder to find a place, inside or out, where you can light up. When the new law of not smoking on patios took effect, I knew they’d gone too far. Can’t drink, can’t smoke … what do you do? Why go to a bar at all? May as well stay home – assuming your apartment or condo allows smoking – and drink without the hassle.

The whole corporate model of making money at the expense of art just doesn’t work long term, There’s less investment in the arts – last year, ScotiaBank pulled funding for Nuit Blanche, Caribana, BuskerFest and the CHIN International Picnic. Responding to the dog whistles of stockholders that must have their profits leads to the death of corporate sponsorship of the arts. And good luck with sponsorship of counterculture art. The Big Bop gets torn down to become an upscale furniture store. Liberty Entertainment closes alt-rock venue the Velvet Underground at 510 Queen West to focus on growing its portfolio of wine bars.toronto_opera2.jpg

While donating multiple millions of dollars’ worth of land and funds to conventional arts palaces like the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto City Council quibbles over what constitutes sound restrictions applied to bars. Thou shalt have no music louder than 45 db after 11 pm. A library clocks in at 50-70, a restaurant with no live band at about 90-100. This is progress?

Municipal licensing issues debate over whether a venue is a restaurant with a bar attached, or an entertainment venue. Despite a 2012 report by lobby group Music Canada that outlined ridiculous restrictions to entertainment venues that give ample room for official interpretation (and fines,) the City still loves its condo owners a lot more than it does its club owners. You can read the full report here (http://musiccanada.com/resources/research/toronto-music-city/)

The ‘idea’ of making Toronto a “Music City” is great. In practice, there needs to be a great deal more cooperation on the part of the City in how it deals with current and future venues. What’s been forgotten in a lust for overall incoming revenue from ticket sales, corporate sponsorship and enhanced tourism is that you don’t just add water and stir up a musical culture … it’s made by musicians who fall far outside of the strictures imposed by those who can afford to attend the venues government has deigned to sponsor. It’s made in alleyways and smoky bars, it includes over indulgence in both legal and illegal substances, and it’s a cry AGAINST what Mayor Tory and his Council represent.

Music-City-panel.jpgIf Toronto is serious about doing more than endlessly discussing what they`d do for the city if they could, but apparently can`t, they`ll have to do better than the recent WaveLength panel on The Toronto Music Moment. The latest meeting, held on January 31st saw Jonny Dovercourt and moderator Emily Scherzinger along with Amy Terrill (Music Canada, 4479 Toronto), Daniel Silver (U of T Sociology, Chicago Music City researcher), Rolf Klausener (The Acorn, Arboretum Festival) and Ayo Leilani (Witch Prophet, Above Top Secret, 88 Days of Fortune) hash through basically the same points they did on previous gatherings, and presumably will rehash again at next year`s meeting.

Oh, sure, there are pockets of musical fun to be had in Toronto, and certainly, when the music fests start rolling out in a few months, there will be whole weeks where it seems like the city comes alive in technicolor.

But the following week, the smiles will drop from the faces of the law, the controls will snap back into place with a vengeance, and you’ll once more be unable to get ready public transit from point A to point B. The RIDE programs will stop a lot of entertainment seekers from having more than one beverage, and smokers will try desperately to find somewhere they can still indulge their (legal) vice.

You don’t get to have a clean, politically correct, easily controlled society and still call yourself a ‘Music City.’

(originally published Feb 2016 – bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/roxanne-tellier-music-city-my-ass/)

 

Last One Out, Turn Off the Lights


The Canadian relationship with winter and snow is a lot like marriage; some love it, and look forward to their time together. Others tolerate winter, but spend a lot of time apart during cold spells. Still others grumble, but it’s a loving martyrdom that takes the good (skiing) right along with the bad (shovelling.)

winter bench no snowBut one thing is certain – this winter, so mild and light on snow, is having an effect on the Canadian psyche. It’s as though we’re all a little off-kilter, a little crankier, testier, because we know something’s missing, but we’re not sure what it is.

The media’s always more than happy to give us something to talk about, but this year, even the media is freezing over. After Postmedia gobbled up all but four of the daily papers across Canada, it found it had actually bitten off more than it could chew. Godfrey looking like House of CardsWith advertising and circulation plummeting, there was only time to quickly give CEO Paul Godfrey his salary of $1.6 million (which included a special $400,000 bonus for being so … special?) before it started hacking away at those menial, blood suckers (like journalists) who were destroying the company. Still, Postmedia’s annual net loss for the financial year more than doubled to $263.4 million. Who knew journalists got paid so much!

Journalism is one of our primary democratic institutions, playing a major role in how Canadians learn about each other, and how to do stuff … like vote. During the Harper years, Godfrey worked a sweetheart deal that allowed him to bend regulations and sell 35% of Postmedia to the New York hedge fund , Golden Tree Asset Management.

“For generations, Canadian law has forbidden foreign ownership or control of Canadian cultural assets. But after permitting the sale to non-Canadians of practically the entire Canadian-owned steel and mining industries, then PM Stephen Harper’s government signed off on Postmedia’s creation as well. The Americans put a Canadian face on the deal by selecting Paul Godfrey, 77, as Postmedia’s CEO. Not by coincidence, Harper and Godfrey, a diehard Tory, are kindred spirits.

Though it was a thinly disguised foreign takeover, Ottawa didn’t object that Postmedia’s advent showed no sign of complying with Investment Canada’s one basic demand of foreign takeovers — that they be of “net benefit” to Canada.

Five years later, no one can credibly argue that Postmedia has been of net benefit to Canada. The most Godfrey can do, as he did recently, is insist that Canada is lucky that someone plucked the National Post, the Edmonton Journal and the Regina Leader-Post from the Canwest ruins, since no Canadian bidders stepped forward to do so.

That is a lie. There were at least two credible bids by Canadian interests, as Godfrey well knows. And the Canwest papers would not have perished in any case. They would have been auctioned, individually and as regional groups. That would have served readers better than the monstrosity of Postmedia. It’s Postmedia that is in financial extremis, not Postmedia’s papers…..

Postmedia is said to be lobbying Ottawa for a relaxation of Canadian ownership rules on cultural assets, since some of the deepest-pocketed bidders on a bankrupt Postmedia’s assets are likely to be foreigners.”

(http://www.thestar.com/business/2016/01/30/the-problem-with-postmedia-olive.html)

As it stands, industry insiders say that it looks like Postmedia will be forced to seek creditor protection, which means the company could be broken up and sold off to U.S. hedge fund creditors in a debt- for- equity swap. That would open bidding to the U.S. and other foreign interests.

canada-v-usAnd that move would put all but four of Canada`s daily newspapers, the supposed cultural and democratic voice of Canada, under foreign ownership. Writers, get ready to jettison your keyboard’s ‘u’ key, and learn the words to “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Just to give you some idea of how damaging losing control over our daily papers would be, think back to October 2015, when Godfrey imposed support for Stephen Harper on all of the major papers in the chain. Wasn’t the first time … Postmedia did the same thing during Alberta’s provincial election, forcing its papers there to back Jim Prentice’s Tories.

Sun 2015 Harper supportBut this time they also permitted the Conservative Party to buy yellow ads that covered the entire front pages of most of the company’s major daily newspapers. The ads were designed to appear as official electoral information, and gave ranting warnings about the folly of voting Liberal.

While not technically illegal, the endorsement was a shocking insight into who really controls a newspaper’s editorial voice, as staff across the country hurried to distance their own views from the ‘yellow journalism.’

Godfrey’s support of the Conservatives has been unwavering since before his days at the Toronto Sun, where he allowed only favourable stories or photos about then mayoral candidate, Mel Lastman to be printed. Reporter Don Wanagas was removed as a municipal columnist for the sin of writing unflattering pieces about Lastman.

godfrey lastman rogers.jpgNewly minted Mayor Lastman went on to preside over one of the most corrupt regimes in Toronto’s history. And as David Miller, elected mayor in 2003 on a platform of cleaning up Toronto’s city hall after Lastman, has said “There’s no question he was very influential with Mayor Lastman. I certainly knew as a city councillor that Lastman’s office was in touch with Mr. Godfrey all the time.”

Godfrey’s political machinations aside, his business reputation was cemented on iron-fist management and slash-and-burn job cutting practices. newspapers-dyingPrior to the purchase of Sun Media, Postmedia’s workforce had shrunk to 2,500 employees – from 5,400 five years before. Today, 2,826 people do all the heavy lifting cross Canada, from sales, to writing, to printing.

“NDP industry critic Brian Masse noted that the easing of ownership rules designed to guard cultural industries is a “fair discussion to have” in light of the emergence of digital news alternatives, but warned that foreign control could lead to an infiltration of offshore biases into Canadian editorial content.” 

No shit, Sherlock.

online-journalism-then-versus-nowGodfrey’s control of the press is by no means novel in these times of corporate greed gone mad. In the United States, 94% of the media is controlled by just 5 companies; Disney, ViaCom, CBS, News Corp, Time-Warner and Comcast. And that’s what they call the ‘liberal’ media; 94% of all your information and entertainment, owned and controlled by the 1%.

Can someone tell me when and how the voice of the people will be heard? It certainly has been, and will continue to be, drowned out by the voices of those with the money and power to impose their own visions onto an unsuspecting nation.

Democracy begins with freedom of speech in and of the press. It ends with corporate monopoly, and foreign ownership.

Bits and Pieces ….

lemeowI’ve mentioned this soul-jazz duo from Ottawa before. leMeow, comprised of Gin Bourgeois and James Rooke, and filled out with Jansen Richard on drums, Brent Hultquist on keys and Karolyne LaFortune on fiddle. released this YouTube delight recently. That’s My Man is the debut single from leMeow’s upcoming album, due in June 2016.

leMeow new single ….

sam taylor the sound cdSam Taylor has the musical honesty and enthusiasm of a young Jeff Healey, with a band (The East End Love ) that kicks out a bottom end reminiscent of Cream and the stop-on-a- dime dynamics of early Who. These up and comers are not to be missed.
And so it was that on Friday night, I found myself at the Only Café with Pat Blythe, meeting Sam and enjoying some hot blues on a cold night. Pat’s written at length about the band, which consists of drummer Jace Traz, bass player David MacMichael, and rhythm guitarist Will Meadows.

I found this fan video on YouTube that captures some of their ‘live’ excitement. From last spring, at a gig at Relish, on the Danforth.

Funny … back in the 80’s, Jeff Healey would occasionally play a Sunday night gig at Quinns, the old bar on the Danforth bar, where I then bartended. He’d often ask me up to join him for a tune or two. History repeated itself on Friday, when I got to share the stage with Sam and the band. Thanks, guys!

 

(first published Feb/2016-https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/roxanne-tellier-last-one-out-turn-off-the-lights/)

 

Are You For Real?


We’re in ‘the teens’ of the 2000s, but let’s not wait for 2020 to get some hindsight. We’re getting weirder, folks, weirder and less able to distinguish truth from lies, and fact from fiction. Could a Donald Trump, 100% fact free, have ever gotten a toe hold on an American presidential race in any other way or time?trump would own carson

Selective narrative, anecdotal evidence, weasel words, temporizing, fatuous politispeak, points that are true out of context or cunningly reframed to suit the narrative, the pedestaling of personal opinion over scientific fact … you’re soaking in it.

Exhibit A: THAT dress. A woman posted a washed-out photograph of a dress on Tumblr, sparking a flurry of 10 million tweets within one week. The picture and argument made its way around the world – was the dress blue and black, or was it white and gold? Why could we not believe our own eyes? white gold blue black dress

A 2015 scientific study with 1,400 respondents found that 57% saw the dress as blue and black, 30% as white and gold and about 10% as blue and brown, while approximately 10% could switch between any of the colour combinations. A small number saw it as blue and gold. Women and older people disproportionately saw the dress as white and gold. The scientists further found that if the dress was shown in artificial yellow-coloured lighting almost all respondents saw the dress as blue and black, while they saw it as white and gold if the simulated lighting had a blue bias.” (Wikipedia.com)

2015 was a year where people would fight to the death over matters big and small. In a time when it is possible to discover nearly anything about anyone, misinformation ruled and our minds reeled. brian williams ratpack.jpg

Respected NBC news anchor Brian Williams admitted to lying about an event he claimed to have been a part of during the Iraq War, and was suspended without pay from Nightly News for “misrepresenting.” Fair enough – who hasn’t beefed up an old story to make yourself look better? We tsk-tsked, but really … we didn’t care.

rachel-dolezalBut when Rachel Dolezal was outed for “misrepresenting” herself as a person of colour – boy did we care, even if we couldn’t really understand why she would choose to do so. Most confused were those who have actually spent their lives dealing with being born black in America. For them, there was no possibility of simply claiming to be white, for whatever reason. And yet, Dolezal, born white, lived as though born black, and became a leader of her local chapter of the NAACP. Was this cultural appropriation or a woman dealing with a severe mental issue? We cared, and we argued.

bruce caitlyn jennerBruce Jenner transitioned into Caitlyn Jenner, and became a cover girl and representative for an entire group of people many weren’t even aware existed. What was going on, we wondered? Was nothing as it appeared?

In the summer, pro-life activists claimed to have a video that showed a Planned Parenthood executive negotiating a price for fetal tissue, The footage was recorded secretly during a lunch meeting on July 25, 2014, between Deborah Nucatola, the senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood, and two people posing as employees of a company looking to procure fetal tissue for research purposes. The video, as released, was heavily edited to cut out Nucatola repeatedly saying its clinics wanted to cover their costs, not make money, when donating fetal tissue from abortions for scientific research.

The full video shows that after Nucatola mentions the $30 to $100, she describes how those amounts would be reimbursement for expenses related to handling and transportation of the tissues. Nucatola talks about “space issues” and whether shipping would be involved.” (http://www.factcheck.org/2015/07/unspinning-the-planned-parenthood-video/)

planned parenthood health stats.jpgAt least three presidential candidates chose to misunderstand the issue, and to pander to their religious right bases. Despite the facts being “misrepresented,” Rand Paul claimed a video showing [Planned Parenthood]’s top doctor describing how she performs late-term abortions to sell body parts for profit!” and Carly Fiorina spat,This isn’t about “choice.” It’s about profiting on the death of the unborn while telling women it’s about empowerment.” Carly doubled down further, claiming to have watched a video, which exists only in her own inflamed mind, of a Planned Parenthood doctor saying they must harvest the brain of a fully formed fetus.

And that all led to a confrontation in September as Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a pro-life supporter seeking to defund Planned Parenthood, produced an ‘official’ chart indicating that Planned Parenthood performed more abortions than “life-saving procedures” in 2013. In actuality, the chart was created by Americans United for Life, which is an anti-abortion group. Congress was willing to shut down the government rather than continue to fund Planned Parenthood, with little in the way of facts, but much in the way of righteous indignation.

trump piece of assPolitiFact, who has been documenting Donald Trump’s statements on their Truth-O-Meter, had little difficulty in bestowing the Politifact Lie of The Year award upon him. 76 percent of his pronunciations were Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire – a record no other politician could match. And yet his followers believe he’s authentic, a straight-talker, more truthful, and less scripted than traditional politicians.

Really? Like when Trump said that there were 6 million people over the age of 112, and that’s what was dragging down America’s social security?

Even Bill O’Reilly of Fox News – no stranger to “misrepresenting” himself, challenged Trump’s tweet of inaccurate murder rates. “Whites killed by whites — 16%. Whites killed by blacks — 81%,” said an image he shared on Twitter. FACT: Most people are killed by someone they know, and someone of the same race. The correct number for whites killed by whites was 82 percent in 2014, while the number of whites killed by blacks was 15 percent.”

donald trump carson solid pyramidsBut Trump responded by admitting that being accurate wasn’t the point: “Hey, Bill, Bill, am I gonna check every statistic? I get millions and millions of people … @RealDonaldTrump, by the way.”

Trump’s level of crazy has let other presidential candidates craziness slip by almost unnoticed. Well, except for Ben Carson, who, as a rabid Seventh Day Adventist, has theories that go completely against accepted scientific fact. Despite the mummies found within the pyramids of Egypt, Ben thinks the structures were actually large temples of grain. “I think that’s a plausible explanation to how they got built…I happen to believe a lot of things that you might not believe because I believe in the Bible.”ben carson and jesus

And you should believe him, because apparently he and Jesus have regular spa days together.

And in one of the most Machiavellian misuses of economic austerity, Gov Rick Snyder of Michigan poisoned an entire community in an effort to save money. By switching the Flint water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River without adequately treating the water, the water pipes began to shed lead into the drinking water. Within months, the proportion of infants and children with above-average levels of lead doubled, prompting the state to declare a State of Emergency. From filmmaker Michael Moore: “To poison all the children in an historic American city is no small feat. Even international terrorist organizations haven’t figured out yet how to do something on a magnitude like this.”MichaelMooreGov Snyder

So it probably shouldn’t come as such a surprise that people are battling each other, on social and mass media, and defending their own strong opinions, even if their opinions would seem to be contrary to accepted fact, or actually just pulled out of the ether of their own confused rage and fear. “Fact” has been played with so fast and loose that what we believe today might be shoved under the bus tomorrow.

As John Lennon wrote, when you’ve stopped being able to believe in anything … “I just believe in me.”

—–

Motorhead’s Lemmy – the man, the myth, the legend. One of the very few metal frontmen iconic enough to be known by only one name. Gone December 28, 2015, at the age of 70.

“Who’d win in a wrestling match, Lemmy or God? Trick question – Lemmy IS God.” (Airheads

Here are two videos that bookend his musical life. Waaaaay back in 1964, Lemmy played guitar for Rev Black and The Rockin’ Vicars, a name then abbreviated to The Rockin’ Vicars, but in order to have a chance to get more gigs or even a record contract, they changed their name to “Rockin’ Vickers.”

This cover of Ray Davies’Dandy,” a song made popular by Herman’s Hermits, was released in 1966.

And this Finnish milk commercial, shot just a month before his death at the age of 70, was released this week. As the ad company said, “This is offered in celebration of the life of a lovely, exceptional man – a man who celebrated life so vibrantly himself. We were first shooting a remake of an iconic Finnish milk ad. The tone of this ad that was shot a month ago was changed to make it a heartfelt tribute, however modest. A take that came late in the shoot was selected – one of Lemmy’s brilliant improv moments that was never in the script. This was our magical encounter with a great man – and we’re honoured to share it with the world. Thank you, Lemmy.”

 

originally published as   bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/roxanne-tellier-are-you-for-real/

Who’s Sorry Now?


act first apologize laterPaying attention to the tsunami of news lately is exhausting; trying to make sense of the escalating madness involves dancing between skepticism and honest disbelief at what our fellow man is capable of in the pursuit of power, fame, and wealth.

Not all of those who wish to impose their will or image upon us actually care about what we think about them, but those that do tend to live by the adage, “Act first and apologize later.”

The impact of their apologies rests not so much upon what they’ve done, as it’s often a fairly silly infraction, but on the real and/or perceived understanding of the impact of their words or deeds.

pedestals2And many times, the public apology has little to do with the person or persons they’ve actually harmed; if a married celebrity is screwing around on his or her partner, what difference should it make to anyone but the couple involved? Are we so bound up in our perception of celebrities as representing ‘the best of us’ that we forget they are actually just like us, with all our feelings and failings? Do we depend on those we pedestaled to reflect only the beauty of our souls?

Are public apologies becoming their own art form?

In 2009, David Letterman publicly apologized to his wife and “Late Show” staffers for having affairs with female staff members, and revealed that he was the victim of an extortion plot regarding the extramarital flings. He admitted he had done wrong, saying that his wife was deeply hurt by his behaviour, but he hoped to make it up to her.

kobe_bryantLakers star Kobe Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a female hotel employee in Colorado in 2003. The charge was ultimately dropped (and a separate civil suit was settled out of court,) Bryant made a public apology to the woman, and he bought wife Vanessa, a $4million ring.

Actress Kristen Stewart got caught messing around with her married director, and then said she was really in love with then-boyfriend Robert Pattison. Result? Both the director’s and Kristen’s relationships were finished.

tiger-apologies-webWhen the former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, finally fessed up about his love child with a long-time staff member, his then-wife of 25 years Maria Shriver filed for divorce. Tiger Woods had a harem of more than a dozen women when he got caught. His marriage was destroyed, and his career has never again reached the same momentum.

And we know all of this because the media told us, and the stars felt they had to apologize to the fans.

“For an individual or a society, that capacity (to apologize) is a sign of life, of vitality, of a soul that can still be moved. There is a wisdom beyond sentimentality in the authentic apology. It has a purpose,” (Charles Krauthammer, Time Magazine, 1983.) We yearn to believe that those who’ve attained fame or fortune on our goodwill and fandom have souls that can still be moved.

i'm the bestThat’s a lot to expect of individuals whose living is made by a fanatical devotion to a talent or ability, or of skillfully pretending to be other people. Or from people who live in a completely different world where they’ve come to believe that what they think is of world-shaking importance, and that they are somehow above the strictures the plebes live under.

We may love swimming in a pool of schadenfreude at the mighty made humble, if only for a fleeting moment. The bigger picture is that what we’re seeing is what happens to anyone when everything we do, say, type, text or sexpic is scrutinized and studied.

The scrutiny ramps up daily under near constant celebrity surveillance; during the week of June 2, 2014 alone, four different stars were pilloried, and scurried to assure the public that it was all just an honest mistake. Pharrell Williams appeared on the cover of Elle magazine wearing a Native American headdress, and immediately responded through his publicist: “I respect and honour every kind of race, background and culture. I am genuinely sorry.”

jonah hillActor Jonah Hill, meanwhile, frustrated by being constantly hounded by paparazzi, was recorded yelling a homophobic slur. Hill apologized while a guest on the Tonight Show, saying that “I said the most hurtful word that I could think of at that moment. I didn’t mean this in the sense of the word. I didn’t mean it in a homophobic way… Words have weight and meaning. The word I chose was grotesque and no one deserves to say or hear words like that…I’m sorry and I don’t deserve or expect your forgiveness, but what I ask is at home, if you’re watching this and you’re a young person especially, if someone says something that hurts you or angers you, use me as an example of what not to do.”

That same week, Liam Payne of One Direction apologized for a video of some of his band mates smoking a joint, and Justin Bieber (more on him later) apologized for being racist … again. Even American Idol’s Chris Daughtry caught fire for declining to sing during a televised D-Day event.

How do you win the Tour de France seven times? Doping! Lance Armstrong’s reputation as a world-class athlete was shattered after he publicly admitted to doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

lance armstrong oprah“I view this situation as one big lie I repeated a lot of times. I made those decisions, they were my mistakes and I’m here to say sorry.” Armstrong also apologized to the staff of the Livestrong Foundation and stepped down as chairman of the organization. He has since been stripped of all his medals.

Update: in January 2015, Armstrong said on a BBC website that if he was faced with the same decisions again as back in 1995, that he would likely dope but would have treated people differently.

paula deen racismAnd then there’s celebrity chef Paula Deen, the target of a lawsuit alleging racial and sexual discrimination. In the time between the filing of the suit and the suit being dismissed, the Food network cancelled her cooking shows, publishing deals, and numerous endorsement contracts. Appearing on the Today show, the teary Georgia native apologized for using the N word, and said, “But that’s just not a word that we use as time has gone on. Things have changed since the 60’s in the south.” 

But for the biggest and best displays of arrogance, bravado, and “sorry, not sorry’ non-apologetic apologies, you really have to look to musicians.

2004 – Nipplegate. Janet Jackson has an infamous wardrobe malfunction while dueting with Justin Timberlake at the MTV produced Super Bowl halftime. CBS and MTV’s parent company Viacom essentially blacklist her, keeping her music videnipplegateos off their properties MTV, VH1, and radio stations. Eventually the blacklist spreads to include non-Viacom media entities as well. Partially acting upon that ban, a young software programmer at PayPal named Jawed Karim and some of his friends create a venue where people can easily upload and share video, and YouTube is born in 2005.

Timberlake’s response to the controversy: “Listen, I know it’s been a rough week on everybody. What occurred was unintentional and completely regrettable, and I apologize if you guys were offended.”

As Taylor Swift accepted her 2009 MTV Video Music Award, Kanye West leaped on to the stage, grabbed the mic from her and said, “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!”

He’s publicly apologized several times since, to the singer, her mother, and her fans, and then apologized twice more on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, saying “I’m not crazy y’all, I’m just real. Sorry for that!!! I really feel bad for Taylor and I’m sincerely sorry!!! Much respect!!!”

John Mayer’s 2010 interview in Playboy Magazine was ripe for commentary, as the arrogant sod shot off his mouth about his penis, Jessica Simpson and black women. He’s since plastered social media with mea culpae, and even apologized onstage to his band for being such a naughty fellow.

madonna twitsMadonna (who?) started 2014 by instagraming a photo of 13 year old son Rocco holding a gin bottle while vacationing in the Swiss Alps. The drinking age in Switzerland is 16. This was shortly after she’d posted a pic of Rocco boxing, with the message, “No one messes with Dirty Soap! Mama said knock you out!” along with the hashtag “#disni–a.”

As the story spread through the internet, she upped the ante by posting, “Ok let me start this again. #get off of my d–k haters!”

Finally the meds must have kicked in. She deleted the photo as the comments rolled in, and daintily said, “I am sorry if I offended anyone with my use of the N-word on Instagram, It was not meant as a racial slur…I am not a racist.”

And now .. for the most non-apologies by a musician … drum roll please .. the winner is … Justin Beiber!

bieber roastCanadians are famous for saying “I’m sorry,” and Bieber, at just 21, and rumoured to be worth $200 million USD, wants to take that to the tippy top. He begged Comedy Central to ‘roast’ him for years, and a roast he did get. There was no lack of material, even though most of the events that need to be atoned for happened in just the last two years.

I don’t want to be accused of picking on the kid. So I’ll just do one paragraph about some of his adventures in 2013 and 2014.

He’s been arrested numerous times, and in numerous places; he’s been videoed peeing in a nightclub’s mop bucket; he attacked an L.A. photographer trying to snap then girlfriend Selena Gomez’s pic; he stormed through at least one airport with his shirt off despite freezing temperatures; he abandoned his pet monkey Molly in Germany; was arrested in Miami accused of road racing and driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs; he angered British fans by turning up onstage almost two hours late; he suggested in a guestbook at the Anne Frank Museum that the Holocaust victim might have been “a Belieber“; he’s been flamed over illegal grafbieber harperfiti in Brazil, and was called to clean up more graffiti from a hotel wall in Australia; he disrespected the Argentine flag after he used a microphone to mop the floor with it during a concert in Buenos Aires; he allegedly egged his neighbour’s house in Los Angeles, causing extensive damage and almost injuring a 13-year-old girl; a police search of his home led to a member of his entourage being arrested for alleged cocaine possession; he nearly got himself beat up by Orlando Bloom, of all people; he posed for a Calvin Klein ad that some say has been mightily photoshopped; an infamous Scottsdale spewing became known as “Heave It To Bieber“; he was videoed spraying cleaning fluid onto a picture of former president Bill Clinton while saying “F–k Bill Clinton,”; ( he later spoke to the former U.S. president and apologized for his actions,) he met Prime Minister Stephen Harper wearing dirty farmer john jeans and a wife beater; he angered Chicago Blackhawks fans after both standing on the team’s logo in the Blackhawks locker room and getting a little too cozy with the Stanley Cup for their taste while posing for pics with the NHL‘s highest honor; at the last Grey Cup, Canadians soundly booed his image on the Jumbotron. I may have missed a few other incidents, but then, I’m not in his demographic.

bieber sorryBut – he’s posted so many videos telling us how sorry he is! And he looks so sombre and serious! “I think I was nervous because I was afraid of what people are thinking about me … I didn’t want to come off arrogant or conceited, basically how I’ve been acting the past year and a half. I’m not who I was pretending to be.”

I think this is the tenth or fiftieth time he’s said this, so it must be true! His latest video is even called “Sorry!”

But here’s the thing – apart from his enormous fan following of rabid teens, likely more titillated than shocked, no one has really been affected by the Beeb’s theatrics except himself. Some Canadians have certainly been embarrassed – check the Urban Dictionary for Justin Bieber. “7. National disgrace to Canada “ – but we lived through Rob Ford, we can live thru Bieber.

There are times when we need our public figures to own up to their faults, and publicly apologize for actions that were wrong or cruel; times when whole groups of people can be gently shown that it is neither right nor ‘cool’ to slur others beliefs, genders or colour.

And there are other times when apologies are little more than words designed to keep the public’s attention, just lip service, with no indication that the immaturity, selfishness or bigotry has actually been acknowledged as wrong, or that the individual has any real intention of changing his or her behaviour.

trust-quotes-john-harold-623

(edited copy, originally published  2015/02/08, DBAWIS)