When Is A Lamp Just A Lamp?


by Roxanne Tellier

Humans are incredibly narcissistic. At least one of the many writers of the Bible understood this when they wrote,

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
if-god-created-man-in-his-own-image

That is some kinda entitled privilege, your basic eminent domain mandate, right there. And since Genesis was telling us how much we have in common with the Supreme Being, and that we have ‘dominion’ over all of those other creatures, it was probably only natural that we would assume our own sort of godliness by conferring human traits to these creatures, and then assigning those traits that we perceive and like or dislike in them, to other humans.

It’s called anthropomorphising. We gaze into the faces of our pets, our cats and dogs, and believe that they reflect back our same emotions. But when animals behave in ways we dislike, we can find their actions ‘catty,’ and then apply that characteristic to someone who is devious or spiteful, or view the simple but steadfast hound as “dogged,” which we then use as a compliment for someone who is stubbornly single minded.

politicians before and aferWe call a fool “asinine” because we believe that donkeys are stubborn and stupid. A hawk, with it’s razor talons and sharp beak doesn’t wait around for prey, and so the bird’s tendency gave the epithet “hawkish” to warmongers, with their aggressive, attack-prone natures.

Sluggish, slothful, fishy, chicken, sheepish, squirrelly …. we see parts of ourselves in each of these creatures.

I’m not the only gardener that talks to her plants – it’s been a ‘thing’ for as long as we’ve been hunters and gatherers.

Proving we crazy plant-talkers right, in 2019 the Royal Horticultural Society researchers discovered that talking to your plants really does help them grow. And they also found that plants prefer a female voice over a male’s, growing faster when spoken to in dulcet tones.

Even the most humble amongst us just can’t help thinking that inanimate objects have human characteristics. Remember Tom Hanks and his volley ball buddy in Castaway? That was a great deal more than just an interesting plot device – it capitalized on a desperate human need for company and some sense of feeling known and understood.

Or perhaps you recall this commercial from 2002?

Of course, the commercial mocked our need to anthropomorphize things. (It was also a paean to gross capitalistic commercialism and a throwaway society, but that’s a tale for another day.)

And – 16 years later – that lamp did indeed find a home.

Because .. again … anthropomorphization. We just love to think that every thing, living or inanimate, shares the same emotions that we do. We are wrong. But that need for connection is the way that we try to sate our craving for social connection.

Since the caveman days, we’ve had the option to either work with or against other humans. We weigh up the pluses and minuses of creating tribes, and usually decide that avoiding loneliness, and of course, enjoying the strength of numbers, is worth putting up with the foibles of other people.

We feel ‘lonely’ when our actual social relations fall short of how much social connection we want. The whole sensation of ‘feeling lonely in a crowd’ has to do with a lack of social bonds within that crowd of people.

pet rocksWe perceive human qualities in non-human beings or objects when we believe we can intuit a human quality that might apply, like when our cell phone suddenly goes on the fritz, right when we’re supposed to make a call we don’t feel like making. Or maybe our car starts making a weird noise and we want to understand what has ‘upset’ the car, and provoked the object’s behaviour.

But mostly it’s when we crave social contact. Lonely people, people with a high empathy level, or people who need a lot of stimuli in their personal space, are more likely to perceive human qualities in inanimate objects.

In psychological studies, they have found that less lonely people were less prone to anthropomorphizing.

So – does a cure for anthropomorphization lie in the flitting of a ‘social butterfly’ ? If we can assuage that social connection craving by other means, will we stop seeing humanity in inanimate objects?

clocky alarm clockIn one psychological study, participants were shown descriptions of four gadgets, inventions that purported to make their lives easier. One was an alarm clock that rolled around, so that the waker would have to chase and capture the clock to turn off the alarm. Another was a “Pillow Mate” – a pillow that could be programmed to give you a hug. Another was an air purifier for people with allergies or respiratory problems.

About half of those participating in the study were told to think about an important and meaningful relationship that they have with another person, and about how they could count on that person not abandoning them. The other half were told to think about a casual acquaintance.

They were then asked how they’d rate the items based on human-like traits, for example, if they thought the item had a ‘mind of it’s own.’

tom hanks and wilsonIt turned out that those people who had been thinking about an important and close relationship prior to being asked about the gadgets just didn’t see as many human qualities in the inventions. Their need for social connection having been met, they didn’t feel a need to have a gadget that replaced human contact.

Which means that Tom Hanks’ soccer ball would never have become his best buddy, if there’d been another human on that island. Poor old Wilson.

talking toasterA lamp cannot be sad, but people can be lonely. Loneliness is when we deny our human need for companionship, and if we can’t find another human to bond with, to care about, and to share our lives with, we’re far more likely to see a reflection of humanity in the chromed smoothness of a toaster or the sly sideways glance of a fox.

Just ask the cartoon industry.

 

Britney Spears Scares Pirates


by Roxanne Tellier

I originally wrote this column in April 2015.  Woke up today unable to write about the things I find so depressing in 2019, so … this retread will have to substitute for new thoughts on ‘interesting times.’

sexy-music“If music be the food of love, play on!”  Like food, music can be comforting. It can also be stimulating, annoying, or cloying. Music releases dopamine, the ‘feel good’ hormone, just like sex and actual food. Music can arouse feelings of euphoria and craving. Dopamine release is at “peak emotional arousal” during music listening, so you really ARE getting a bang for your musical buck.

Although there are exceptions – whether you consider them cursed or blessed, 5% of the population is indifferent to music, and feels nothing when they hear it.

But for the rest of us, music is much like a drug. When you’re listening to music that ‘speaks’ to you, you are completely dialled in to your brain, and that changes your brain chemistry. Music will change or augment your good or bad mood, and can cause you to slow down and relax, or jump up and dance.

brain-on-music-scienceComplex changes occur in our brains when we hear our favourite songs. We can be unconsciously manipulated through sound; studies show that listening to sad music can lead to a wide range of complex and partially positive emotions, like nostalgia.  Listening to particularly sad or happy music can change the way we perceive the world.

When you’re watching a film, you’re unconsciously processing the background/soundtrack tones and tempos which signal to our brains that what we are seeing should be experienced in the way the writer intended.

britney-scares-piratesThe sort of music we want to hear at a given moment has much to do with what we’ve heard before, the sounds that we’ve absorbed through our lives, the sounds that feel familiar, that work within the tonal range that defines what is ‘popular’ in our culture.  Which is why Britney Spears’ music has been used by the British Royal Navy to scare off Somali pirates.

Merchant naval officer Rachel Owens explained the tactics: “Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most. These guys can’t stand western culture or music, making Britney’s hits perfect. As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney, they move on as quickly as they can.   (metro.co.uk)

The inherent nature and power of music affects the animal kingdom as well. Cows produce more milk when listening to relaxing music, and 3% more milk listening to slow music over fast.  Birds and whales compose musical creations very like man’s, combining rhythm, length, patterns and pitches we can recognize, and both will sing complex songs to communicate with each other, and during courtship.

music-dogs-loveIf your pet has a tendency to overeat in stressful situations, or suffers from separation anxiety, quiet music playing on the radio may calm their anxieties, relax muscles, improve digestion and increase restful sleep. Dogs are particularly sensitive to music, with classical music having been shown to actually calm pups prone to epileptic seizures, and stimulate and release endorphins in the brain that aid in pain reduction.

Our brains love repetition. The first time we hear a song, our brains are processing the input, constantly predicting what will happen next, based on a pattern. And brains are a little lazy … we love repetitive choruses. In fact, for each repetition of a chorus, the chances of a song reaching the top of the charts rise by 14.5%

no-stairwayBut there’s a limit to how much repetition we can take. Although hearing a song again and again makes your brain happy, because it’s already done the work to figure out what comes next, after a while, overexposure to songs causes an actual irritation. Like when you can’t bear another chorus of “Jingle Bells,” or break into hives at the ten millionth rendition of “Stairway to Heaven.”

One thing that I always find hilarious is how easily we mishear lyrics. As we listen, we’re actually Interpreting and anticipating what will come next, a combination of hearing and hope. And once you’ve misheard a lyric, it becomes more difficult to process the actual lyrics, especially if a part of you is tickled by how witty you find the misheard version.

cheese-mondegreenThere’s an actual term for misheard lyrics – mondegreen. It was coined by writer Sylvia Wring, in a Harper’s piece in 1954. She admitted to mishearing a piece of ancient English poetry her mother had read to her in her youth. Instead of hearing, “They hae slain the Earl Amurray, / And laid him on the green,” she heard, “They hae slain the Earl Amurray, / And Lady Mondegreen.”

Makes sense, right? Even though it’s incorrect, it fulfills the two-step process of hearing – the physics of sound entering your ear, and the part where your brain takes the sound and interprets what you’ve heard. When communication breaks down between sound and meaning – you’ve got a mondegreen.

We take what we’ve heard and shape it to what works for us. Bohemian Rhapsody becomes Bohemian Rap City. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “bad moon on the rise,” becomes a ‘bathroom on the right.”  It makes more sense to imagine Jimi Hendrix kissing a guy than the sky.

brain-on-music-smileMondegreens work so well, in poetry, music and everyday life, that the misheard can become a new reality. “Spitting image” was originally “spit and image.” (Spit meaning likeness.)  It drives me batty when I see a writer refer to an all-intensive purpose, but they’ve come there from ‘for all intents and purposes. “.It’s not ‘tow the line, ‘ it’s ‘toe the line,’ from the early days of the British Royal Navy,(those guys again!) at a time when seamen fell in for inspection barefoot.

It’s a ‘dog eat dog world,’ not ‘a doggy dog world.’ We ‘champ,’ not ‘chomp’ at the bit, and we ‘nip it in the bud,’ not the ‘butt.’  Perhaps these misinterpretations are ‘blessings in the skies.’ No, wait, that would be a ‘blessing in disguise.’ You’ve got another ‘think’ (not ‘thing’) coming if you believe these expressions are really “one in the same,” (one and the same.)

For some reason, Cat Steven’s classic, ” First Cut Is The Deepest” seems to be a mondegreen buffet, no matter who has recorded the tune.

People hear the lyrics, “First cut is the deepest.” and mishear it as ….

First time as a DJ.

The First God is a DJ

First cousin of Jesus

The first God was a teapot.

The first god is a demon.

The first guy is the deepest

The thirst god is the deepest

The first dive in the deepend.

And, ” And I’m sure going to give you a try.” as  “And I’m sure going to give you a child.”

And, ” But if you want, I’ll try to love again ” as “But if you want, I’ll try another man.”

And, ” When it comes to loving me, he’s first.” as ” When it comes to love in need he’s the worst.”

People …. enunciate!

But even the grumpiest and most contrary Grammar Nazi can get a chuckle out of misheard lyrics. This video, apparently made as a birthday gift to a friend, captures every nuance and mondegreen that listeners heard in Joe Cocker’s classic rendition.

And the folks at pleated-jeans.com have a ton of terrific videos you can enjoy on Youtube, starting with this one:

and then there’s this :

 

As a prize for getting through all of that science, here’s my  gift to you. SketchShe, the models-turned-comedy act from Australia, released a new video this week. Shae-Lee Shackleford, Lana Kington, and Madison Lloyd debuted their latest ‘Mime Through Time’ sketch – but this time they decided to go topless.  Now that I’ve got your attention … here’s a lip sync medley that romps through seven decades of music. Enjoy!

 

The Dogs of Dumbarton


by Roxanne Tellier

There is a century-old bridge in Scotland, just northwest of Glasgow, called Overtoun. For many years, dogs have felt compelled to leap from the bridge to their death on the rocks below. More than 300 canines have leaped from the ‘dog suicide bridge, ‘ with 50 or more dogs said to have died from their injuries.

dumbarton bridgeThe people of Dumbarton are very superstitious, as befits those who live near this place which the pagan Celts would have called a ‘thin place’ – a place where heaven and earth overlap. While some believe that the dogs’ lemming-like plunges are due to a limited visual perspective, others believe that the dogs are mesmerized by the appearance of a White Lady, which only the canines can see.

I see a similarity in the voting habits of many humans in the last several years. Like the dogs, they have lost all perspective, and now follow conmen whose merits are only visible to themselves. And in the choosing of those transparently bad and corrupt leaders, they plunge themselves  – and the rest of us – off a cliff, where we land, battered and bruised, without decent healthcare.

reaction to carbon tax canadaTake the carbon tax policy that went into effect this week. Premier Ford opted Ontario out of the federal government’s Canada wide restrictions. Stern Conservative leaders had themselves photographed on the last day of March, pumping into their gas guzzling SUVs what they claimed to be the last of the ‘cheap’ fuel Ontario had enjoyed under Ford.

Meanwhile, Ford’s team were putting together an almost identical program, with almost identical fees, which is currently on hold. Instead of working with the feds, Ford wants Ontario to use his own plan, and thereby keep control of the funds that will accrue.

In order to have his way, he’ll have to drag a multi million dollar lawsuit against Canada thru the courts. (I don’t think we can afford this guy – every plan he has to make the province money, costs twice the amount the province could possibly make from his flighty schemes.)

Predictably, social media went mad when the media and trolls flooded them with information, disinformation, and photos of smug politicians on both sides of the board. Also predictably, most of the unqualified and uneducated Facebook opiners had to foist their own takes on the situation into every conversation, and trumpet the virtues of Team Ford vs Team Canada. Both teams like to think that they have all of the answers, despite the question being far beyond their pay grade.

In the face of the nearly unanimous global agreement of economists and environmentalists that a price has to be set onto pollution of all kinds, to combat climate change damage some believe would be more damaging than the impact of an actual world war, Team Ford not only rejected a carbon tax, they insinuated, without any proof,  that the taxes would be fraudulently appropriated by the federal government, and never used to combat climate change.

nobel 2018 carbon taxAnd while our keyboard warriors decried Canada’s plan as being just another useless and toothless tax,  William Nordhaus and Paul Romer were accepting the 2018 Nobel Prize for Economics, for their work that proves that carbon pricing is an effective solution.

QUOTE: ” Nordhaus argues that the most sensible response to climate externalities is also straightforward: price carbon pollution.

In his recent Climate Casino  book, Nordhaus argues the pricing of carbon achieves four objectives: it sends signals to consumers about which goods and services are more carbon-intensive; it sends signals to producers about which activities are most carbon-intensive (such as coal burning) and which are less carbon-intensive (like solar or wind); it sends signals to propel innovation to find new, affordable alternatives; and finally, pricing is the best means to convey these signals within well-functioning markets.”  (International Institute for Sustainable Development, April 2019)

Now … COME ON, guys. We have got to stop being Debbie Downer about every possible attempt made at combating the most serious problem of our time, and of your children’s and grandchildren’s future – climate change.

arguing with the immature mindWe must ask ourselves why?, when we cannot see our own selfishness in refusing to help alleviate the myriad of problems we face globally, from homelessness, to inequality, and the plight of immigrants and refugees.  We need to stop giving in to a negative desire to prevent the placement of even so much as a Band-Aid on the gaping, oozing wounds of the planet’s most vulnerable.

“Help feed the refugees of Syria!”

“Oh no, you don’t! We have our own hungry and homeless to worry about!”

This sort of rebuttal sounds reasonable on the surface – after all, we DO have vulnerable people in Canada! The argument seems to be that if there are two groups of people suffering, we are only capable of saving one, and we’re ok with letting the other group die.

In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, that should not be our response. Nor should the person requesting help for one segment of the population be made to feel that it is down to her, personally, to tend to ALL segments of the population before being allowed to brighten the corner where she lives. Her contribution, no matter how small, should be acknowledged and lauded.

climate change how concernedWhat actually happens when we demand perfection before we will attempt to aid, is that we shut down ALL aid being given. And by demanding that we wait until there is a free, politically correct, universal remedy for climate change and the control of carbon, we doom our country and our planet to doing absolutely nothing to help ourselves, leaving our kids and grandkids to a future with neither clean air nor water.

I can’t watch that and not protest inaction.

The average human attention span has declined from about 12 seconds, in the year 2000, to the average span of a mere eight seconds in 2018.  That’s one second less than the attention span of a goldfish.

We are not concentrating. We are distracted, by loud noises, by bright lights, by the person who plays on our darkest fears, and feeds us with gluten free bread and circuses.

We are so very easily swayed.

jussie smollettRemember when we were all livid over the attack on actor Jussie Smollette, a few weeks ago? Remember how we all leapt to his defence, instantly believing his version of the story, and how we were furious that the police were not taking it as seriously as we thought they should because … well  … this looked very like a racist attack, triggered by Trump supporters?

Remember how it felt when it turned out it was all an act, a lie? Remember how some of us didn’t want to believe that it was a lie, and how some insisted that Smollette was telling the truth, and that the police were just racist? Remember  seeing the actual props that the attackers, who turned out to be his athletic advisors, purchased with the money he had given them? And remember how many people refused to give up on Smollette’s lie, despite all of the verifiable evidence proving his guilt?

Yeah, We’re doing that again with our national over-reaction to Jody Wilson-Rayboult, and the SNC-Lavalin ‘scandal.’

All is not as white or black – or red, as some have declared.

I’m not going to get into my opinion on this tempest in a Philpot – it’s my opinion, and you probably have your own. And each of us has the right to that opinion. But neither of our opinions are hard fact – they are just our reactions and interpretations of the stimuli we’ve chosen to embrace and accept as OUR truth.

As humans pretending to be socialized and civilized, we should be horrified at how we now react to those who disagree with what we ourselves believe.

fake news how to stopOnce upon a time, people would read a newspaper, or watch a news program on television, and then discuss the events of the day. Not everyone would agree, but that just meant that each side would attempt to sway the other side by showing facts, statistics, photographs, or charts from reputable sources, to support their beliefs.

Now, it is rare that we even reach a consensus upon which newspaper is the most honest, or which news station actually shows us what is really going on in our towns, cities, or nations. When two sides disagree, neither side has a lot of faith in the other side’s argument. If side one’s reliable source is not accepted by side two as reputable, and the same is true from the other side, how do you reach an equitable conclusion?

The definition of ‘fake news’ cannot be simply any thing, photo, or fact that disagrees with the opinions you hold dear. That way lies madness. That way can only create a Tower of Babel, where nothing can progress, because no one can communicate clearly the things that need to be done to ensure that all people have a future, be it ever so humble.

We have to understand, as we carve our families, societies, and nations into smaller and smaller warring factions unable to hear each other’s cries, that our inability to concentrate, communicate, and work together for progress, has left us as helpless and suicidal as the dogs of Dumbarton.

we borrow the earth from our children

 

 

Pot Pourri


It’s a cold one this morning. When I went outside to feed the critters, the chill in the air felt positively Novemberish! Time to haul out the long underwear and the cuddly woolies!

blackandwhite catIt’s been an interesting week all around. On Thursday, I heard an unearthly yowl coming from the front yard, and raced out to see that the psycho kitty I call BlackAndWhiteCat had pinned Lord Farlsworth against the fence. The Lord is a big boy, a twenty-pounder, but he’s a lover, not a fighter.

I came to the rescue, stomping and yelling, but, instead of backing off, BlackAndWhiteCat began slowly walking towards me, moving his mouth as though he was cussing me out. I’ve never seen anything like it.

It looked something like this .. but way scarier. This is a cat that could easily face down a coyote.

In the end, I threw water in the cat’s general direction, and he ran away. It’s always something.

Speaking of cats, today is the big day for Barbette Kensington! It’s time for her Sixth Annual KittyPants Fundraiser!

kittypants 2018

“The Kensington Kittypants Fund was established in partnership with Dundas Euclid Animal Hospital to support senior citizens on fixed income within their practice to access healthcare for their pet companions.”

Doors open at 3pm. There’s a $15 donation for entry, which includes a raffle ticket. (You can buy more tickets, and you should … 24 local businesses have donated gift certificates, and the prizes are always generous.) There are six acts performing, with Steve Goof, of the BFGs, hosting. Leslie’s Kitchen is catering, highlighting authentic First Nations cuisine. It’s always a fun day, and a sort of a Market LoveFest. Please join us to support this great cause!

Here’s your chance to try moose meat, served with bannock! Oh I love bannock… a good bannock is like eating cake. I’m gonna have to get over to the PowWow Cafe soon, now that the cooler weather is creeping in. Their meals really stick to your ribs!

I’ve been lucky, in my life, to have known a lot of indigenous people. My own grandson is half First Nations. But, like most Canadians, I was raised with some ideas and prejudices about those from whom we leased this land hundreds of years ago. As a child living in Alberta, many of my thoughts and opinions were passed down to me from largely uninformed and bigoted minds.

But if you’d like to know a little more about our First Nations people, you’re in luck; on Tuesday, September 11, there’s an interesting series called First Contact, that that will premiere on APTN at 7 p.m. (PT)

The series “will follow the experiences of six non-Indigenous Canadians as they visit Indigenous communities across Canada over a period of 28 days.

The six chosen participants are all outspoken in their prejudices against Indigenous people. While many have never visited a reservation, they will visit Indigenous communities from coastal B.C. to northern Ontario and Nunavut.”

I’m looking forward to the program. ” The series, narrated by George Stroumboulopoulos, runs from September 11 to 13, consisting of three episodes plus a two-part reunion special. The series will become available online at the APTN website starting on September 17. More information about the show is available at the First Contact Canada (.ca) website.

dance like everyone is watching

Now to put the ‘pot’ into the ‘pot pourri’ … we’re edging ever closer to our moment of Canadian Reefer Madness .. and it hasn’t escaped the attention of our southern neighbours.

I’ve written extensively on my belief that the legalization of cannabis will be the best thing that’s happened to Canada in a hundred years. I’ve got my fingers crossed that those in government will see past their own fears and biases, and realize that we have an incredible opportunity to expand and grow a profitable tax base in nearly every trade and business field.

hempfest Sept 15 16 2018

For those who don’t realize how extensive the scope is for this new economic boon … have I got a show for you!

You’ll find me cruising the aisles of HempFest at the CNE grounds next Saturday and Sunday. It’s the place to be, if you want to have a good time with like-minded people, and it’s a terrific chance to see the latest in goodies and paraphernalia. Mama’s gonna be bringing home the swag!

Where you will NOT find me, is anywhere near the United States, where the American Attorney General Jeff Sessions is furiously trying to enact a major prohibition of anything marijuana-based in the States. He’s frothing at the mouth over the states that have used their state legislation to legalize the sales, and wants the full strength of the federal drug enforcement agency to crush them underfoot.

You know .. in the same way America imposed the prohibition of alcohol in 1926. Didn’t work out so well then, either. Along the way, fanatics like Sessions, who were part of the federal government, poisoned alcohol to curb consumption. By the time Prohibition ended in 1933, an estimated 10,000 people had been murdered by legislators allowing this poisoning, as hell-bent as Sessions on enforcing their own will on other Americans.

Sessions, an ardent anti-drug crusader, has already mandated that there will be much stricter controls at the US/Canada border, post October’s legalization, that will cause longer wait times due to enhanced, secondary screening of Canadians. He has also said that he is reopening greater federal enforcement against the possession of marijuana.

Canadians should be aware that they can be denied entry to the U.S., or barred from visiting the United States for life, if they admit to a border agent that they have smoked cannabis, according to a warning from U.S. immigration lawyers.

Well, I’m not headed for the U.S. any time soon, or maybe ever – I’ve never had a yen to visit a fascist dictatorship in the making.

The whole mess going on in Washington, at the hearing to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court judge, is enough to whiten the face of any person with even the least comprehension of the principles of democracy. The Republican party is bound and determined to force through this candidate, despite not having providing hundreds of thousands of documents that are informative of Kavanaugh’s views on civil rights, employment law, and women’s rights. Supreme Court justices are appointed with ”the advice and consent of the Senate,” but the Democrats believe they have not been given enough information to properly do so. kavanaugh hidden records

More importantly, Kavanaugh holds some rather interesting ideas on the rights of a sitting president. In a nutshell, he believes a president is above the law. And that’s not going to be a good thing for either side, in the long run.

And we also have to understand that, regardless of what happens in November or in the next election cycle, the Supreme Court is going to be dominated by the Right, no matter how Left the country becomes, for perhaps the next fifty years. Pretty daunting stuff.

In this same week, portions of the new Bob Woodward book, Fear: Trump in the White House, were leaked to the press, and spoke of a White House in such chaos that those closest to the president admitted to having to thwart Trump’s worst, and sometime murderous, instincts.

When Trump demanded a plan for assassinating Assad – “Let’s f**king kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f**king lot of them!” – Mattis said he would look into it before telling a senior aide to disregard the request. To stop Trump from breaking a trade deal with South Korea, Cohn removed the executive order in question from the president’s desk. Trump didn’t notice. He advised another aide, Rob Porter, to do the same when the president wanted to withdraw from NAFTA.”

The day after we heard of Woodward’s portrayal of an administration that holds Trump in contempt, considering him dangerously uninformed and irresponsible, the New York Times printed an op ed in their paper, written by ‘Anonymous,’ someone whom the NYT described as being “a senior administration official” within the White House.

Anonymous painted yet another picture of a Trump presidency melting down in real time. The writer seems to believe that it is only through their actions, and the actions of a few other ‘grownups in the room‘ that a whole scale destruction of the administration and the United States has been prevented.

trump paintingBut I’ve got to question the Messiah complex of the person who thinks that their presence is somehow slowing down the worst possible horrors Trump would unleash on the world without these guard rails.

And I’d like to know where Anonymous was in January 2018 when the Muslim ban came into effect, throwing the entire world into chaos. Where did Anonymous stand when Trump threw paper towels, rather than adequate aid, at the American citizens in Puerto Rico? Maybe he can tell us if he thought that the Comey firing was a good idea, or if he’s got any second thoughts about packing the courts with right wing judges that will impact America’s progress – or lack thereof – for decades to come.

Was his joy at the tax giveaway to the rich, that was essentially a multi-billion-dollar giveaway with almost no macroeconomic rationale, enough to stop him from impeding the decision to tear refugee babies from their mothers’ breasts at the border, and imprison children in cages? Does his ‘courage’ consider that having Kavanaugh shoved thru to a lifetime Supreme Court justice appointment, despite valid perjury claims, might lead to the impeachment of Kavanaugh when the Democrats regain power?

Anonymous is no ‘profile in courage‘ – he’s just another partisan thrall attempting to find excuses for his actions and inactions during this administration for his defence at some future Mar A Lago/Nuremburg trial.

That being said, it would still be a further horrible idea and yet another major step down the line to dictatorship if the Trump administration were to use the Department of Justice to force the New York Times to reveal the identity of Anonymous.

O tempora! o mores!

 

 

Pet Sounds Revisited


“The Internet is a lot like ancient Egypt: people write on walls and worship cats.” 

kittyon-a-keyboardCats, kittens, dogs, puppies, birds, horses, hedgehogs … you name it. The supply of animal pictures seems to be limitless. And nothing can draw an “awww” out of even the most hardened grouch’s mouth quicker than the sight of a tiny, helpless, pink-mouthed baby anything. We are helpless before their innocent charms.

People love their pets. Thirty-seven percent of Canadian households own one or more cats, 32% own dogs. As of March 2017, there were a total of 89.7 million dogs and 94.2 million cats estimated to live in U.S. households as pets. Pets outnumber children four to one in the United States.

Of course, there are still way too many abused and unwanted animals, but for the most part, people take good care of their pets. The loss of a pet can be a traumatic emotional ordeal that takes as long, or longer, to recover from than losing a fellow human being.

It’s particularly difficult for those who are older, and may have lost a lot of their friends and family along the years. Many seniors have only a pet to call their friend. But many seniors also have a limited income, so when their companion animal gets ill, choices may have to be made that involve one of the two going without food or health care.

That`s why my friend Barbette Kensington, long time social worker and advocate, created the KittyPants charity six years ago, in partnership with Dundas Euclid Animal Hospital to assist their senior clients on fixed incomes with the cost of medications and grooming.

This afternoon, Sunday November 5, I’ll be one of several musicians performing for this worthy charity. We`ll be at Lola`s, 30 Kensington Avenue, Toronto, between 3pm and 7pm. Hope to see you there!

kittypants poster 2017
Since I’ll be busy today, I’ve revived this March 2013 column, brushed off the dust, and now present its slightly altered and hopefully improved, reanimated corpse ..

I often wonder if our lifelong fascination with pets has to do with most little creatures being smaller than ourselves. Perhaps having a living being in our lives, with even less power than we feel we possess, is our own first experience of authority, of being able to boss another living creature around.

Smart parents will guide the interaction between child and animal, and hopefully teach the child that having power over another is much less satisfying than having a companionable relation where both parties needs are met.

We start our relationships with pets when we are very young, and we learn to sing along to “B-I-N-G-O…and Bingo was his name O!,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and a song that was a massive radio hit, reaching #1 for Patti Page on Billboard and Cash Box charts in 1953, “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?”

“On October 3, 1945, Elvis Presley at age ten sang “Old Shep” for his first public performance, a singing contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. Dressed as a cowboy, he stood on a chair to reach the microphone. He came in fifth place, winning $5 and a free ticket to the fair rides.” (Wikipedia)

Elvis recorded “Old Shep,” written by Red Foley and Arthur Willis about a dog Foley owned as a child, in 1956. The good ole boy loved dogs.

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Musicians have always seemed to have a special bond with animals. Pets have inspired many songs over the years. Dogs are especially memorialized. Some songs describe the human-animal relationship; some pick up on the innate characteristics of the beasts. You can dance to the “Stray Cat Strut,” mourn Tom Waits’ “Rain Dogs” wandering the wet city streets, or exult in Bowie’s post-apocalyptic future visions of “Diamond Dogs.

Nillson The PointgifSilly, happy songs like “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” (Lobo), Cat Stevens’ “I Love My Dog,” and “Me and My Arrow” (from Harry Nilsson‘s wonderful musical, The Point) celebrate the childlike wonder and friendship that sharing life with a beloved partner – who just happens to have four feet and a tail – can be. I’m constantly finding myself singing Jane Siberry’s “Everything Reminds Me of My Dog,” because I can so relate. “And if you remind me of my dog, we’ll probably get along, little doggy, get along, get along, little doggy.”

i like big muttsNo genre is immune to the call of the wild. In 1968, Johnny Cash’s historic album “At Folsom Prison” contained the novelty song “Egg Sucking Dog.” Pseudo-Spanish cats have the stubble faced “El Gato Volador” to look up to. We all dance to our pet’s tunes.

Beatles cognoscenti argued over whether Paul McCartney’s “Martha My Dear” referred to his beloved sheepdog, or to his longtime ladyfriend pre-Linda, Jane Asher. “Jet” was McCartney’s ode to a horse. For years, scuttlebutt had it that Freddie Mercury wrote “My Best Friend” about his dog, but in reality, bassist John Deacon wrote the song, and he insists it’s about his wife. The lyrics work, either way!

Henry Gross’ song “Shannon” mourned a beloved dog, apparently Beach Boy Carl Wilson’s Irish Setter. Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Get Down” isn’t about dancing, it’s a dog command, and when it was a radio staple, pooches would cower at the words “you’re a bad dog, baby.” Patty Griffin‘s “Heavenly Day” is a love song to her pup, but is frequently played at weddings. Norah JonesMan of the Hour”? Yep … her dog.

Got a taste for the surreal? Check out The Shaggs bizarre video for “My Pal Foot Foot,” which seems to be about a dog that just won’t stay at home. Kind of like the rascal Big Mama Thornton’s talking about in “(You Ain’t Nothin’ But A) Hound Dog.”

Walkin’ the Dog” written by Rufus Thomas, and recorded by acts as innocent as The Mousketeers, is actually a paean to heroin … go figure. The StoogesI Wanna Be Your Dog” is Iggy’s plea to be so caught up in the sexual moment that traditional male-female sexual roles blur. The song reeks of the desire to be dominated by a strong, controlling partner. Or so they tell me.

Led Zeppelin’s song catalogue includes “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp,” about Robert Plant’s dog, Strider, while “Black Dog” was named after a 14 year old black Labrador retriever who wandered around the grounds where the band was recording on a mobile studio.

Pink Floyd’s “Lucifer Sam” was originally called “Percy the Rat Catcher,” and yes, it’s about Syd Barrett’s cat, although many speculated that it referred to his then-girlfriend, Jenny Spires. David Gilmour’s 1987 blues “Dogs of War” sings about how money sinks its fangs into our collective necks through war profiteering.

Al Stewart could have referenced any animal when he wrote the lispy “Year of The Cat,” but the poetic lines weave a tale like a cat weaves around it’s master’s legs.

“On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime.
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolour in the rain
Don’t bother asking for explanations
She’ll just tell you that she came
In the Year of the Cat.”

I have absolutely no idea what to think about They Might Be GiantsYouth Culture Killed My Dog.” Ah, the 80’s, which also spawned the New Wave songs, “Cool for Cats” (Squeeze) and “The Love Cats” (The Cure.)

One of the most sampled songs ever is George Clinton’s raucous “Atomic Dog,” with its funkadelic groove, released in 1982.

Michael Jackson sang about his love for pet rat “Ben.” Nelly Furtado was “Like a Bird,” while in “Little Bird,” Annie Lennox envies the bird’s freedom, and wishes she “had the wings to fly away from here.” “BlackBird” sings in the dead of The Beatles’ night. Everyone, including Joe Cocker, had a crack at “Bye Bye Blackbird.”

There’s even a whole collection of tunes about horses. Michael Martin Murphey eulogized the ghost of a woman and her horse in “Wildfire.” Wild horses, running free, unencumbered by society’s rules, are wistfully and frequently referenced in every genre. The Rolling StonesWild Horses,” has lyrics that have been credited variously to Keith Richard’s attempt to deal with the loss of a child, or to the words Marianne Faithful said to him after coming out of a drug induced coma.

And just for fun, country’s Big and Rich’s “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” asks …well, that’s fairly self-explanatory!

The clock in my house is governed by our pets. I rise far too early to tend to their needs, and we cannot be away from home for more than 7 or 8 hours at a time, lest their tiny dishes grow empty. We walk on floors that glimmer with pet hair, and try to ignore the dust bunnies. Tons of money has been spent on pet food and toys. The melting of the snow in Spring reveals a yard collection that has most certainly not been left by the Easter Bunny. The burning question is “Who Let the Dog Out?” Like alien overlords, our pets are our rulers.

And if you remind me of my dog, we’ll probably get along, little doggy.

Tom Waits, David Bowie, Harry Nilsson, Lobo, Henry Gross, Cat Stevens, Jane Siberry, The Rolling Stones, Annie Lennox, Joe Cocker, Nelly Furtado, Iggy Pop, The Stooges, Freddie Mercury, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Norah Jones, Patty Griffin, The Shaggs, Big Mama Thornton, Rufus Thomas,

 

Mourning Gizmo


I first wrote this column four years ago today … still missing the little geezer … some pups take your heart with them when they go …

………………………………

I freely admit that I am a crazy pet person. I love animals, respect them, honour them, and hope I understand a little of what they are unable to tell me in words. Their eyes, their little furry faces, their body language; these are the ways we humans commune with animals.

Our sweet friend, Gizmo, lost his battle with heart failure this week. A little dog, with a heart so big, his passing continues to impact on all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance.

Gizmo 2012My half Siamese cat is really having trouble mourning the loss of her pet dog. We all had to say goodbye to Gizmo on Tuesday, but Jade, for some reason, had the hardest time of us all. She sat near him, even before we went for that final appointment, staring at him, seeming to beg him to rally, one more time … Jade has never known a life without Gizmo. He was her dog. She was devastated.

After we returned from the vet, with that empty pet carrycase, Jade wound herself around my ankles, and kept close to me, demanding an explanation for the lack of ‘dog’ in her house. I cooked liver for her, a special treat. I opened a fresh tin of tuna and put it in her bowl. But nothing would assuage her pain.

I made a cup of coffee, and headed outside. She followed me, talking to me in that strange Siamese language, demanding to know … where was her friend?  And all I had was the scent of the vet’s office on my clothing; I had no comfort for her.

She found a perch in the back yard, and stayed there, for hours. Shawn and I both went out, and talked to her, trying to get her to come in, but she was inconsolable. She was sad, angry, frustrated, and possibly even more bereft than Shawn and I. She’d never known a day without that crazy dog in her life. Suddenly, for all of his interruptions into her life, he was gone. And she was not happy

People tend to fall into two camps; the ones that believe that animals have feelings, souls and interior lives, and those who think that pets are just a convenient way to pass the time, impress friends, and to show their children the “miracle of birth.”

To my mind, they are companions, in a life that will have ups and downs, but will always end with you and that pet, furry or otherwise, going nose to nose and shoulder to shoulder.  My pets know me, and love me. We communicate, even if it’s not in a way that others can understand. They share my joys, my sadness’s, and are always just a few inches away from me when I need them. Have you many friends about whom you could say the same? I’ve never thought that any sacrifices we’ve made for these wonderful creatures is too much … it’s always been such a win/win situation.

Cat-Holding-HandsWhen we take on an animal, we do so, hopefully, with a clear picture that we will not only love them when they’re cute and cuddly, but also through the awkward teens, through their middle age paunch, and slow descent into old age. It’s a lot like taking on another human being. Sadly, many pet owners don’t feel that way; they coo over the baby and toddler animal, but can’t abide the inevitable decline. Pets age so very much faster than we do, and we, as a species that venerates youth and abhors the spectre of age, have to face our own mortality, when we look into the grey beard of that sweetie pet that has now transitioned, sooner than we expected, into an older dog or cat.

We took on a dog, many years ago, that enriched out lives to the point that we could open our hearts to other needy creatures. All of my pets have been rescued from situations that were not kind to them. There are so many animals that need to be loved and respected, so many creatures that were taken on as an amusement, and later shucked aside like an old boot, like a toy that’s lost it’s charm. I can’t, in my heart, condone anyone who takes on a pet as an ornament to be displayed only until it loses its gloss. Pets and humans, if lucky, inevitably settle into the golden years, bearing the scars and stretch marks of time, lovable only to those who shared the living, or those who can see past the years, into the heart within.

Like humans, cats and dogs are born adorable, ready and eager to love and be loved by those who’ve chosen to take care of them. The horror is that so many people make a full stop in their minds when the pets become older, less cute, and a burden.

Eventually, I had to bring Jade in to the house. Although she didn’t want to come in, I’m a lot bigger than her, and I could pick her up, and put her in front of a dish of tuna. She wasn’t happy, but I knew that she had to eat, to find the strength inside her. Her mourning will go on, I’m sure, but I don’t want her to fade away while she misses her dog; I want her to understand that I’d never hurt her, never do anything to her that would harm her in her life, but that I, as the person who can see when the time has come to end her pain, will have the wisdom, and the compassion, to do so in the kindest way possible.

But tonight, all that Jade knows is that her dog is gone. She can still smell the scent of the vet on my clothing, and she can’t forgive us for taking away her friend. All I can hope for is that she, like we must do for ourselves, will eventually forgive us for ending the life of a loveable dog who only ever candlelightwanted to love us, protect us, and bring joy to our lives. Because that’s really what it’s all about. When you bring a pet into your life, you make a pact – and breaking that pact for any reason other than compassion, empathy, and love is a sick abdication of your humanity.

 

 

first published July 14/2013 at https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/roxanne-tellier-mourning-gizmo/