Nighttime in America


The American Dream is OVER. It’s nighttime in America.

If Biden was running for the ‘soul of America,’ he was too late. It had already been sold to the Devil. And its apprentice, trump, along with his squad of overweight, wannabe SS, has now emerged, crueler, more sadistic, and more vengeful than ever, whether, in the end, he wins or loses. 

I write this, around noon on November 4th, trump and Biden are basically neck and neck in terms of votes. The Senate is about the same, so no clear winner there either. Biden has been sitting at 223 Electoral College points, and trump at 213, since I first checked in, around 5 a.m. At this point, either man could be declared the winner. But whomever wins, whether with 50.1% or 51% of the votes, it is America that is the loser. Because a country that split, that cleaved so cleanly, cannot hold. And a Senate that split, cannot pass any measures to help a country that is hurting badly.

In 2016, the world was shocked at what America chose, but we could still pretend that this was somehow a mistake. Good people looked at those who struggled economically, and, based on the violence, racism and inequity of American society,  said, “well, maybe they had to do it, had to pray there could be a different way. They put their trust in a con man, but, really — how bad could it get?”  

And then, for four years, we found out. Boy, could it be bad. So bad, that parts of the nation now look like a third world nation, as tens of millions have been plunged into poverty and homelessness; immigrants, refugees … children! … have been treated with a sadistic cruelty not seen since Hitler’s camps;  230,000 Americans are dead from what should have been a preventable public health crisis; the environmental clock has been turned back to before anyone cared about clear air or water; peaceful protestors are routinely met with pepper spray and rubber bullets, and there’s no hope in petitioning the court, because McConnell and co. loaded up every court, right up to the Supreme one, and it’s all tilted in their favour, and their favour means you are going to lose the last of your health care AND your social security.

And yet half of America, knowing this, decided they want four more .. no, it being trump… forever more years of this. And worse.

We now know the truth about that half of America; they not only chose that all of that evil continue; they ran towards it with open arms and embraced it, with all of the strength in their bodies.

It’s a travesty. Even before mail-in votes are counted, trump has racked up two million MORE votes than he got in 2016. There were more votes cast for Joe Biden as president than in any other election in American history. And yet – there still isn’t a clear winner.

The Dems wanted and needed a landslide, a total repudiation of the evil that the trump administration has perpetrated, but that didn’t happen.

But the polls! The polls! I mean, most of us were suffering from PTSD from believing the 2016 polls, but come on! How could the polls have been THIS wrong again, in 2020 …? All the experts swore that they’d gotten all the bugs out, and that this time – FOR SURE Were the polls that wrong? Were people lying to pollsters? How did the Democrat message get so garbled.

And here we are.

Trump will not concede; he will never concede. Predictably, at 2:21 a.m., in the wee hours of November 4. trump attempted to falsely claim victory, saying that it was a “fraud on the American public,” and “an embarrassment to our country” that he hasn’t been able to fully celebrate his win properly. 

Frankly, we did win this election,” Trump said, while also suggesting he would take legal action to keep further ballots from being counted, insinuating that Democrats were committing fraud as key states continued to count hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots.

“Millions and millions of people voted for us today,” he said, “and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people, and we won’t stand for it.”

As expected, trump will be petitioning the Supreme Court for a stop to the counting of the remaining ballots, again insisting that the remaining ballots, which number about 25 million from mail ins and the military, are somehow illegal.   

“We’ll be going to the US Supreme Court; we want all voting to stop, we don’t want them to find any ballots at 4 o’clock in the morning and add them to the list.”

So how to explain this mess? Racism? But Obama won twice, and with a majority, so racism might not quite be the issue. Could it be misogyny? A vote for Biden, at 78, almost guarantees that at some point, you might have a black FEMALE president. Trump spent a lot of time hinting that Biden was too fragile to survive, even claiming that Joe Biden would be “shot” within three weeks of taking office.  (While he meant ‘shot’ in the sense of exhaustion, he had no problem with the more violent connotation so many of his supporters hoped he was insinuating.) 

Trump also told his supporters that they would never have to see Kamala Harris as president in Biden’s place.  

“People don’t like her,” the president said at a rally in North Carolina, recounting her falling poll numbers on the Democratic primary trail. “Nobody likes her. She could never be the first woman president. She could never be. That would be an insult to our country.” (ABC News)

And recently, he went even further, when he told his supporters at the retirement community, The Villages, in Florida, “We’re not going to have a socialist president, especially a female socialist president.”

And here we are.

In the Senate, despite the $100 million spent in South Carolina on Jaime Harrison’s campaign against Lindsey Graham, Graham won 55% to 43.7%. Mitch McConnell beat Amy McGrath, 58.2% to 37.8%. Even Joni Ernst won her race, which no one could have envisioned. And Maine’s Susan Collins, believe it or not, will hang around to continue playing her Lucy to the Democrats Charlie Brown for another six long and dithering years.   

I’m numb. My head is splitting, and my ears are ringing. The TV is blaring CNN updates, while MSNBC keeps me informed on the computer. But the numbers are unchanging, no matter how much attention I pay to them.

Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele reminds us that, “Democratic Americans still don’t understand what Donald Trump represents, and that it’s what 50% of Americans want.”

Joy Reid (MSNBC’s AM Joy): “I just wonder what all of this says about us. I think it raises real questions about what America is, at the end of the day, and whether what trump is, is more like what the American character is, than people ever wanted to admit.”

Randy Rainbow tweeted, “Woke up with a hangover in a stranger’s bed. But the stranger was America. “

And the comments pour in. On Facebook,I feel like I was lied to my whole childhood. I was so proud to be an American, that we are the greatest country in the world. Now I see America for what it is – a bunch of horrible, selfish, stupid people who are unAmerican run the country. And the rest of us are screwed pawns.”

From Richard Kay,To all the people I talked to previously about the extent of Trump-supporting rednecks, Christian fundamentalists, gun-crazy yahoos in the USA, and those people I was talking to, who replied, “oh, they’re only a small % of the country; the majority of citizens are good people.”  Well, here’s proof you were wrong.”

From Jim Wright/Stonekettle Station, “It’s not over, of course, and Biden may indeed yet win. But even if that happens, it’s pretty obvious that at least half of our country would have been those Germans who embraced the Nazis. It’s about what I figured.”

Gary LeDrew:It is looking like about 4 years before we can open the border. Not much hope for the world and mega deaths for USA “

From Daniel C. Castellano: “After all that has happened. After all that they have seen. Still, they say, “Yup, that’s my guy.” 67 MILLION people. They are despicable. Every last one of them. If one of them is a friend or relative of yours, I’m sorry. But they are awful, awful people. Every. One. Of. Them.

Wayne Baggs: “Many believe one gets what they deserve. The beginning of the end. Goodbye health care, social security, public schools, right to choose, balanced courts. I love watching train wrecks. They wanted the GOP; they got the GOP. Let the shit show begin. The cowards were only getting started.”

David Corn, (Mother Jones): “Close to half of the American electorate voted for a man who just declared he would try to block election results and undermine American democracy to remain in power.”

Annie G. Robinson:It’s like a family in our neighbourhood was accused of committing murder. We then determined that only a few family members were guilty, and the rest were innocent. Now we’ve discovered that the guilty family members are actually serial killers, and are acting proud of it, sticking their middle fingers in our faces. And a few that we thought were innocent are guilty also. The truly innocent ones are shocked and heartbroken, and now they, too, are under threat. That’s the way I feel about the US this morning.”

Glenn Morgan: What I DON’T look forward to … is the DOUBLING DOWN of HERR TRUMP’s denigration of the Free Press… he will now try to CRUSH DISSENT of journalists such as CNN & MSNBC, and truly try to DOMINATE the airwaves and Social Media with his insane blather.”

Peter Winholt: “Whoever wins, the loser is America. They have chosen, by close to the same margin as last election, to embrace the values that Trump has shamelessly flaunted in the campaign. The only difference now will be in which direction the U.S. is facing going forward. Where they are standing is in the middle of an Idiocracy, having chosen Q-Anon over science, lies over truth, and sociopathy over empathy.”

Michael Moore: “Sadly, as to why our fellow Americans did not repudiate Trump yesterday in a massive way, as to why nearly 70 million Americans still embrace a bigot and a psychopath — well, we must have that discussion soon as to who we REALLY are. Shameful. Apologies to our Black brothers and sisters, and apologies to the rest of the world.”

Shameful indeed.

But here we are ….

To be continued ….

Surviving a Plague


Hey! Did you ‘fall back’ this morning? Remind me why we’re still doing this antiquated clock juggling in 2020. It makes no sense to me. The wild critters milling about on my lawn, without a manufactured care in the world, still wanted to be fed when the sun came up, no matter what time you wanna call it.

Germany’s Madame Tussaud Dumps Trump

I’m as full of election hysteria as a goose pre-pate – I’m about ready to burst.  We’re now three days before “the most important election of our time!” as it’s being called.

Get a grip, says I; all that’s on the line is democracy, human rights, and the fate of the planet, for pete’s sake.  

Since I was a very lone dissenter in 2016 (I actually DID foresee trump winning) I hesitate to share my gut sense of what will happen with the 2020 election. While it looks like trump and his supporters are panicking over Biden’s lead in the polls, there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, as the proverb says. I won’t release this breath I’m holding until I see Biden taking the presidential oath on the Bible in January.

So, let’s talk about the other elephant in the room – the global pandemic that has been our faithful companion since (depending on your country and inclination) February or March of 2020.  

Toronto’s Dundas Square, April 2020

What lessons have we learned, having lived through these ‘interesting times’ with which we have been cursed?

Like a divorce or a bankruptcy, it started out slow, and then happened all at once. One day you were going about your business like always – the next you were living under COVID, lining up for everything, and wondering where your next roll of toilet paper was gonna come from.

I think history will show that one of the biggest mistakes our governments made in handling the COVID-19 crisis was in making it political. Politics should never have had anything to do with how governments dealt with citizens; it is and has always been a universal public health care issue. Care and prevention have to be non-partisan, since this virus disregards our voting patterns, and is only manageable by health care experts.

With that in mind, it should never have become a left- or right-wing talking point, or something that the average citizen, bereft of scientific credentials, should have been attempting to deal with on a personal basis. A virus is not personal – it’s only purpose and goal are to infect humans. Like every other infectious disease, there are scientific ways to protect against infections, and then there are pseudo scientific, con man, weasel ways to pretend that we can magic them away.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Everett/Shutterstock (10410768a) Spanish Flu Epidemic 1918-1919 in America. TO PREVENT INFLUENZA, a Red Cross nurse is pictured with a gauze mask over her nose and mouth. Text next to the image provides tips to prevent influenza. Oct. 18, 1918. From Illustrated Current News, New Haven. Photo by Paul Thompson, NY

In truth, the few real preventative measures remain the same:  

Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face.  Stay home if you can, but if you can’t, keep your distance from others. And wear a mask.

That’s it, that’s all.

America, led by the self-proclaimed ‘stable genius,’ has been pretending that COVID-19 never happened. Or that, if it did, it’s certainly not an issue any longer. On Thursday, Donald Trump Jr even told trumpCultists that “the number (of deaths) is almost nothing.

The number of deaths for just that day alone was 1004.

And those 1,004 are now part of the 228,000-plus Americans who have succumbed to the virus since it appeared in the United States in early spring. That number isn’t “almost nothing.” It’s almost four times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It’s almost double the number of Americans killed in World War I. And it’s 228,000-plus families whose lives will never be the same.” (Cnn.com)

Trump’s new pet non-expert, Dr Scott Atlas, a radiologist, has had the president’s ear on how to deal with the Coronavirus issue. He has also usurped the place of actual experts and scientists with years of specific training and expertise of infectious diseases.   

“As a White House advisor, Dr Atlas actually appeared on Russian state media on Saturday and criticized lockdown measures aimed at tackling the virus, saying they were “killing” Americans.

Atlas, a radiologist, spoke to RT, formerly Russia Today, which is funded by the Kremlin and has been accused of being part of organized Russian propaganda, according to the Internet Institute at the University of Oxford.”  (Newsweek.com)

Some might call Dr Atlas’ unprecedented foray into Russian propaganda treason. Nonetheless, he remains one of trump’s (and presumably, Putin‘s) most trusted agents.

Dr Atlas has also been a strong proponent of Sweden’s position on Coronavirus policy.

Sweden decided to go its own way, with so called ‘herd immunity,’ and they are now, and will continue for years, to pay for that decision in Swedish deaths.

As of Oct. 13, Sweden’s per capita death rate is 58.4 per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University data, 12th highest in the world (not including tiny Andorra and San Marino). But perhaps more striking are the findings of a study published Oct. 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which pointed out that, of the countries the researchers investigated, Sweden and the U.S. essentially make up a category of two: they are the only countries with high overall mortality rates that failed to rapidly reduce those numbers as the pandemic progressed.” Time Magazine, October 2020

Based on a fair amount of research I’ve done on the concept of herd immunity; most people don’t have a clear understanding of how it works – and that includes actual scientific researchers. It seems that herd immunity is something that can be clinically observed only in hindsight; analysing the data after the fact, maybe from a historical distance of as long as ten years afterwards. That’s really the only way to see what happened, where, and to whom.

Herd immunity is not ‘magic.’  It happens when a virus can’t spread, because people are protected against infection, usually, but not always, by a vaccine. You don’t need everyone to be immune, but you need enough immune people, or people avoiding new infections, to allow the virus to peter out. The term should actually be ‘herd protection,’ because it’s not really about immunity to the virus, it’s about reducing risk to the vulnerable who might come into contact with those who have been infected.

And even in the case of high vaccination pockets, it’s still possible to have local outbreaks, despite having already sacrificed the most vulnerable in a society to the disease.

According to network scientist, Samuel Scarpino, Most of the herd-immunity calculations don’t have anything to say about behaviour at all. They assume there’s no interventions, no behavioural changes or anything like that,” This means that if a transient change in people’s behaviour (such as physical distancing) drives the Rt down, then “as soon as that behaviour goes back to normal, the herd-immunity threshold will change.”

If we accept that there’s no magic pill, no ‘herd immunity’ that will save us, sans maintaining the precautions we’ve been chafing under for the last eight months, then we must somehow learn to make peace with our anxiety. Despite the difficulties of dealing with COVID, worrying about the election, and generally trying to cope with all the chaos of winter nearing, uncertainties, even our own place in the universe, we are only in control when we accept that we are out of control, and experiencing anxiety overload. We’re not going crazy, we’re human. We need to self-soothe – no one else can do that for us.

That really is the size of it. Anxiety overload stresses out our adrenals. We want fight or flight, but who do we fight? and where can we go? When the stress builds up, we are prone to falling into a depression, or to lashing out blindly. Anti maskers, although they know logically that the virus is not to blame, will still strike out blindly, mourning the loss of their usual soft places to fall.

When fight or flight kicks in, the first thing to go is civilization. Kindness and patience become luxuries. Those gentle ministrations that help us through hard times fly out of the window, and may never return.

Another major mistake that governments made, which also plays into our anxiety and feeling of helplessness, was in downplaying the health issues that COVID sufferers went thru from the infection, as well as in not making the population aware of the horrible and lonely death that was in store for those who did not survive. 

A woman named Sonja Mally, a Torontonian tattoo artist, wrote a long description of her nearly eight-month battle with the disease on Facebook. Hundreds have now read about the hell she has gone through. The disease affects everyone differently. Her experience began mildly, and then torturously cycled through nearly every inch of her body.

The first round attacked my respiratory system. From there it worked its way into my vascular system and spread through my entire body.

This is what it the following half-year looked like….

In between relentless coughing fits I struggled to breathe as every inhalation felt like I was drawing in fluid. I was in and out of consciousness. When I was awake I studied the internal structure and function of the lungs and airways. I slept in prone position and used the postural drainage and chest PT techniques meant for coping with cystic fibrosis. I did breathing exercises. I ordered a blood pressure monitor and a pulse oximeter so I would know if I needed to call an ambulance. I followed a strict anti inflammatory diet and adjusted my supplements and fluid/electrolyte intake. My doctor ordered bloodwork and told me to continue to rest. I tried to make sure any messages from friends or clients I responded to were left off on a nice note, just in case. I waited for recovery but it didn’t come.“

She ends her long chronicle with this,

The local Canadian group I most frequent for Covid Long-Haulers had a handful of members when I first joined. Today they are over 7.6 thousand with new members pouring in daily. The focus is on sharing information to help others navigate this nightmare and conducting interviews with the media to help spread the word, so we can educate the public while we wait for the CDC and government to catch up. Like me, many of these “Covid long-haulers” were young, very active, fit and healthy with no pre-existing or underlying conditions. A notable number of them were athletes before they fell ill. As this is a virus that can travel through your entire body and affect any organ, no two cases or experiences are exactly alike. But we all share overlapping symptoms with one another. I documented 80 symptoms, from terrifying to extremely bizarre, and each one of those symptoms were reported by a significant number of other people in these groups.

Around this time last year I was running around the woods, climbing trees and making art. Now I’m trying to retrain my body to walk. I don’t know when I’ll be able to make art again. One step at a time. This is a “mild” case. I’m still one of the lucky ones.”

So many of us have had no physical interaction with anyone who has had the infection, so it’s not possible for us to imagine what it would be like, should we be one of those who are infected. Ms Mally cautions us to remember that, “There are hundreds of thousands more just like me. When I first got sick in March, nurses were already talking about having to prepare for the upcoming fall/winter/spring when the bad wave hits. We’re heading into it now. I am begging people to please be safe and do the right thing. I may lose “friends” for speaking up, but if this post manages to reach one person, helps to influence one decision, that in turn spares one life, it’s well worth it.”

The lessons are coming hard and fast now. Wear your masks, people. It’s our first, and maybe our last, best defense, in our hopes of surviving these times of plague.

I Me My Narcissism


by Roxanne Tellier

Richard Nixon gave a defiant concession speech in 1962 that ended with …. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”

The incredible narcissism and entitlement in that statement, coming from a man that was lucky not to have been tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail, still sends a frisson up my spine.

Had Nixon not heeded the potentates of his own party who advised him to resign, he would surely have been impeached by the House and removed from office by a trial in the Senate for his complicity in the Watergate burglary and ensuing coverup. As it was, 69 of his cronies were indicted, and 48 of those people were convicted and penalized.

Watergate came to encompass an array of clandestine and often illegal activities undertaken by members of the Nixon administration, including bugging the offices of political opponents and people of whom Nixon or his officials were suspicious; ordering investigations of activist groups and political figures; and using the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency,  and the Internal Revenue Service as political weapons.”  (Wikipedia)

Man – trump’s reign of terror is not just history rhyming, that’s a whole poetry slam right there.

The common denominator? An overwhelming self-entitlement, a belief that their acts and place in history should be above the law, a willingness to use the most powerful position in America like Negan used Lucille in The Walking Dead … and malignant narcissism.

To a narcissist, the absolute worst thing that they can threaten you with is their absence. They can’t imagine the horror your life would be without them in it. Their message is “How will you cope without me in your world? I am the sun of your universe, I cannot conceive of a world without me in it, and neither should you!”

The world is filled with narcissists, not just in politics, but in big business, the sciences, the entertainment world, and in our homes.

(“Although the cause of narcissistic personality disorder isn’t known, some researchers think that in biologically vulnerable children, parenting styles that are overprotective or neglectful may have an impact. Genetics and neurobiology also may play a role in development of narcissistic personality disorder.”  Mayo Clinic, 2017.)

No one can definitively say what causes someone to believe that they are more important than everyone else that they know. Nonetheless, the disorder seems to be growing exponentially.

While full-bodied narcissistic personality disorder is still a fairly unusual diagnosis, the rise of reality tv, social media, and the glorification of this type of personality has upped the ante. Modern narcissism isn’t so much about the disorder as it is about the rise in narcissistic traits.

It’s been a slippery slope for those with the tendency to self-promote. Remember when we used to laugh at those people who never saw a meal they couldn’t find a way to photograph, glorify and show their friends and followers on Facebook? When Instagram came along, narcissists were in their glory, showing off their clothing, homes, and vacations, all so that those with less would feel envious.  

The more we abandoned any pretence of humility, the more the spotlight shone on our deficiencies and perceived imperfections. By 2015 the waiting lists for cosmetic dentistry, plastic surgery, and alternative ‘enhancements’ were stretching around the block and two streets over.

Like needy children, we wanted everyone to ‘watch me, mommy!’ as we posed, sang, danced, and twirled before our imagined audiences. But that was just the beginning.

Many narcissists in the public eye choose to display a lack of caring for others, and a disdain for empathy, which neatly coexists with a glorification of one’s own talents and popularity.  Even the relevance of celebrity deaths, for instance, can only be understood in the context of their own loss.

When these people are informed of terrible tragedies – babies in cages at the border, the Charlie Hebdo attack, millions starving and dying from thirst and bombs in far flung countries – their concern is not for those in misery, but rather, in how to best spin their public reactions to switch the focus from those suffering, to themselves, as the ‘real victims.’ No matter how tragic an event, the narcissist only sees the calamity in the context of their own reactive wretchedness.

We used to be able to shrug off most garden variety narcissists as laughable, childish, needy creatures. But the tendency to believe that one is extraordinary (along with the obvious problem, which is that most people are simply and resoundingly NOT special) is increasing by the day.

The narcissist’s beliefs are unrealistic, but in a world where a financially and morally bankrupt ‘celebrity’ malignant narcissist can become president of the United States, how exactly do you define ‘unrealistic’?

I can’t swear that the rise of trump is tied to a rise in narcissism in North America, though I do see a through line in the rise of populist leaders, who tend to speak to the basest of our individual appetites. Three recent studies would seem to agree with that premise.

“A team of psychologists and political scientists from the universities of Kent (UK), Warsaw (Poland) and Maryland (USA) found in three studies that national collective narcissism was linked to support for populism. In the UK, collective narcissism predicted support for Brexit, in the US it predicted support for Donald Trump, and in Poland it predicted support for the populist Law and Justice party.

The study found that collective narcissism, i.e. an unrealistic belief in the greatness of the nation, increased in response to group feelings of being disadvantaged, especially when this was long lasting.

The researchers suggest that the narrative of relative disadvantage, fuelled by populist leaders, might reinforce a ‘defensive and destructive’ national perspective. Narcissistic beliefs about the in-group greatness are a way to compensate for feelings of being worse off than other groups.” (Science Daily.com)

I don’t even play a political scientist on TV. But what I DO know, is that, in the age of COVID-19, narcissists can be extremely dangerous to your health.  

During this pandemic, people have been asked to observe a few simple health precautions, to protect themselves and others. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay about 2 metres away from others.

That shouldn’t be that big a deal, or terribly hard to do. After all, all the wearing of a mask says is that the wearer recognizes their membership in their community.

But for some, covering their mouth and nose with cloth or other semipermeable material when near strangers in public settings inspires fear of an over-reaching government, and a denial of their ‘rights.’

Yes, this whole pandemic thing is a major pain in the butt. Yes, the mask can feel hot and itchy, and make your glasses fog up, while making those of us with lung issues feel claustrophobic and shorter of breath than usual.

But for many of us, there’s no real issue there. If wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and keeping surfaces sanitized to prevent a viral infection is necessary, then that’s what we’ll do. It’s not 1865, and we’re not Dr Joseph Lister trying to sell his discovery that washing hands could allow mothers to survive childbirth; this is 2020, and we should all be intelligent and mature enough to follow simple precepts that have been the norm for cleanliness and safety for over a century and a half.

But those pesky narcissists don’t think in terms of what is best for all, because they are emotionally immature. They believe that their ‘rights’ make them exempt from social norms, even during a pandemic, and they lack empathy, which leads them to believe that no one’s health but their own is of any concern.

Being a narcissist is to live inside a bubble of need and entitlement. Without the slightest concept of altruism, the life and death worries of others are just not a concern. Even when they are told that they will have to continue to live in a ‘new normal’ that means that they can’t get out to have fun with their friends, even as the European Union and other countries put the USA on a no entry list, and even as people continue to become infected .. and die … from a virus that other countries are able to control through sane public health regulations, they continue to believe that their own personal rights and freedoms supersede the personal rights and freedoms of others.

Entitlement. My rights over yours.  My needs being more needy and important than yours. My rights to be the victim superseding the actual hospitalization and death of the more vulnerable.  And if granny or mummy dies, it’s all about my loss, not her death, cuz poor little me is now an orphan!

It’s emotional bullying, and in many cases, physical bullying.  The armed militia groups dressed in army fatigues that stormed government offices to demand their rights were trampling ALL over the rights of everyone in their path. But narcissism … it’s a hell of a drug.

People who enjoy the rights, freedoms and privileges of our society do not have the right to refuse to acknowledge that other people have those same rights, freedoms and privileges. 

And there’s really nothing sadder than an over privileged narcissist finally discovering the very hard way that their personal world is not the centre of the universe.

PS… NEW Randy Rainbow! 😉

BONUS ROUND:

Are YOU a narcissist? Why not take this simple test and see!?

https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/NPI/

Mourning as Minnesota Burns


by Roxanne Tellier

I’m only half kidding when I say that I’m pretty sure we’ve been living in an alternate reality since 2008, created by firing up the Large Hadron Collider. What else could explain this bizarre branch of a timeline we’re currently experiencing?   

Just when you almost get a little less uncomfortable with this new normal of a global pandemic, you get word that marauding monkeys attacked a lab worker in India, before grabbing and fleeing with the blood samples of four COVID-19 patients. Now, if that is not the premise of some next level, ‘ripped from the headlines’, straight to video, Planet of the Apes sequel right there, I don’t know what is.

But apparently nothing is ever going to make sense again, at least according to the mass murderer currently occupying the White House. The guy that has spent the last four years looting America’s treasury is not fond of those who only loot as a side gig. This weekend, as protestors surrounded 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, trump’s bull roars  alternated between cries of “Get off my lawn!” with “Release the hounds!”

America, desperately in need of a true leader to guide them through a unique moment in time, is instead saddled with an incompetent and increasingly paranoid madman, who is utterly incapable of handling any of the problems he brought upon himself by dismantling the nation with the zeal of a toddler eviscerating a butterfly.

America needs someone that can listen and attempt to understand the anguish of the people of colour who, along with the rest of the world, this week watched a New York City woman willfully attempt to summon triggered police to come to her ‘rescue’ from an African American male who dared to tell her to leash her dog.   

The nation needs someone who can pour enough calming oil on the current conflagration to begin to defuse the righteous anger boiling over in the streets as yet another black man is brutally murdered in broad daylight and in high definition video. Trump offers only more gasoline for the flames.

The country needs someone to begin the process of reuniting what was once the United States of America, lest they find themselves instead reliving the horrors of the first Civil War, in a second one in which a core group of the combatants routinely carry some of the deadliest weapons on the planet for a visit to their local supermarket or restaurant.

Instead of a steady hand on the tiller of state, the US has the misfortune of having elected someone who made it his mission to frighten the nation with tales of the boogie men that ‘he alone’ could save them from. Terrified and vulnerable, Americans were putty in his snake oil salesman tiny hands, and rushed to buy the hats that assured them that trump was the one who could Make America Great Again.  Like all rubes, they then discovered the bait and switch of trump’s vision for their future, which he had led them to believe was like a Norman Rockwell painting on a Life magazine cover, but that instead more closely resembled New York City’s mean and dirty streets of the nineties. Trump’s shell game substituted Shangri La with something more resembling a scene from Escape from New York. Bullies, bad guys, corruption, porn, graft, and petty-minded spite are the Special of the Day, every day, under this fast food presidency. 

In the absence of an official Consoler in Chief, Joe Biden is leaping into the breech, and starting to make an argument that Trump is literally attempting to kill the very people that elected him to the position of POTUS. From the disastrous mishandling of everything to do with controlling the pandemic, to his irresponsible and possibly fatal medical advice, to his jeering at those wearing masks to protect themselves and others, trump daily makes the case that his primary mission is not to lead his people out of the wilderness, but instead into the Valley of Death, with each member of his cult toting a Solo Cup of Lysol bleach with a hydroxychloroquine chaser.

Trump tweets his eagerness to sic vicious dogs on protestors, while he shoots a wink and a nod to the white supremacists and vigilantes answering his calls for violence in the streets. He craves the clamour of his rallies, where the spittle infused and unmasked cultists scream out his name as if his mere presence brings them to orgasm. They are his PowerPill, his magical genies in bottles, who are there to allow him to bask in their reverence. That’s how he gains his strength, and if getting tens of thousands of his minions together in one place means widespread transmission of a deadly virus, causing the supporters or members of their family to become ill or die, why, this is the price you must be willing to pay for having your savior so very close. At least, they console themselves and each other, we’re not ‘sissies’ like those lefty liberal mask wearers.

These trumpCultists have always had the sheen of weekend warriors, like Furries or LARPers, people that like to pretend to be something other than what they really are, if just for an hour or a day. Most of them are as cowardly as their leader, but revel in feeling like naughty little ‘despicables’ while they caress their AR 15s. Dying for trump would be a ‘badge of honour’ as he called it, the stigmata of a true believer.

(Try as I might, I cannot fathom why the “Right” would want to encourage the spread of a fatal disease amongst their own supporters. Oh sure, we’re starting to get a few mayors, governors, and even Shawn Hannity, who are encouraging people to keep themselves safe, but I just can’t understand how so many city and state leaders are so spineless that they’ll fail to protect their citizens in order to keep trump from howling his displeasure. It’s like they’ll never have to worry about people voting them back into office. Hmmmmm …do they know something we don’t know?)

Last week, the Lincoln Project released an anti trump advertisement entitled “Mourning in America.“ This week they’ll have enough footage of looted and burned out businesses across America to recreate “Mississippi Burning.” 

I’m tired, dear reader, I’m so very, very tired of this president, who constantly needs more attention than a new born babe, and will just not leave us alone for even a quiet hour of reflection. Instead, we must continuously suffer the drip drip drip of his venomous tweets, until he’s called on the carpet for disregarding site regulations, and immediately vows that social media will PAY for not licking his toes correctly. He can’t legally shut down Twitter or Facebook or TikTok or any of the other social media sites yet … but you can bet your best booties that it is one of the first things he’ll get done should he get a second term.  

And if I can’t get away from his looming influence, and I’m way over here in Canada, imagine how draining it must be to live under his depressing regime in any of the states, but particularly in any of the Red States that are slavishly subservient to trump’s every whim. It must be terrifying, made all the more terrifying if you are also a person of colour, where cries for help are met with callous indifference, and quite often, a brutal slaying by those charged with serving and protecting the masses.

In trump’s America, white, heavily armed protestors have free reign to storm the state Capital in Michigan, disrupting the legislators working inside it’s walls, because the white protestors are ‘exercising their constitutional rights.”

But in Minnesota, in the minds of these same officials, black protestors are rioters and looters, fit only to be met with tear gas and rubber bullets,

For a person of colour in today’s America, even the most educated, renowned and respected can never be certain if they, or their children, will survive an encounter with their local police.

“Do you want to prevent the kind of rioting, looting and arson we saw in Minneapolis on Wednesday night? Then stop police officers and racist vigilantes from killing black men, like George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Stop treating African Americans like human trash and start treating us like citizens.   

I condemn riots, destruction, property theft and all manner of senseless violence. But I understand the feeling that animates these spasms. When I watch the video of officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, choking the life out of him and ignoring his cries of distress, I want to throw something. When I see the video of Gregory and Travis McMichael accosting and shooting Arbery, I want to throw something else. I can’t help but think of my own two sons and how, for either of them, a routine encounter with police — or a run-in with self-appointed sheriffs — could be fatal. I want to scream.

I feel this way even though I have status in this society, an income that allows me to live comfortably, and a megaphone — in the form of this column and my television appearances — with which to make my complaints and opinions heard. I wonder how I’d feel if I lacked these things, if I were powerless and voiceless. I wonder where my frustration and rage would find their outlet.”   

………….. Yes, Gregory and Travis McMichael — along with William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who recorded Arbery’s killing on cellphone video — have been arrested and charged with murder. And yes, Derek Chauvin and the three other police officers who watched him kill Floyd have been fired, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has called for criminal charges to be filed against them.

But if the only result is another couple of trial-of-the-century media circuses that produce lots of drama and controversy but no justice, then nothing will change.” (Eugene Robinson, May 30,2020, Washington Post.)

Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, and a native of South Africa, has the luxury of not being from the United States, and is therefore known to have a little perspective on the treatment of people of colour in America.

I’ll leave you with his very compassionate musings on these days of conflict.

The Politics of Stupid


by Roxanne Tellier

I know exactly how long I’ve been in lockdown, but what I don’t know is how long I’m gonna have to remain cooped up. 

It is weird, this faux normal. This kind of societal disruption is generally associated with tanks in the streets, burned out houses, and people running down roads while screaming and tearing out their hair. At the very least, you’d think, every one should be carrying some sort of weapon to use against marauders and zombies.

Instead, the people on my street are quiet and thoughtful. At 7:30 pm every evening, some of them open their doors and bang on pots and pans to signal their appreciation for those who are working in the stores, in transportation, and in hospitals, so that they themselves can stay at home, watch Netflix, and complain about how governments are handling an unprecedented, unique, multi-pronged attack on everything we once thought we knew and understood.

I’m guessing those workers would better appreciate a raise. Funny how those exposing themselves to danger every day, who are called ‘essential workers’ still have to beg for decent pay, or even a minimum wage with which they could pay their bills.  

Speaking of zombie apocalypses (apocalypti?) don’t those preppers seem unhappy these days? All those years of preparing for a civil war, a nuclear attack, or the aforementioned zombies, and all they get is this slow motion, invisible enemy.

Wrapping your head around our faux normal is tough, because the time line for personal harm is just too long for most of us to conceptualize. Our DNA and responses are wired to fight or flight events. We’re expecting to fight off immediate threats, things that come at us in a matter of minutes or days. Things we can punch, stab with a knife, or shoot with a gun. 

But that’s not how this particular threat operates.  It’s more like heart disease or type 2 diabetes, those things that stop you in slow motion, years after you’ve enjoyed the ingestible that would, in time, do the mortal damage.   

If I venture to the grocery store, and Covid Cathy has had her hands all over the items I want to buy, I’m not gonna know about it until days later. Maybe I’ll have a serious bout of COVID, or maybe I’ll just feel rotten for weeks. But I won’t know where or how I got the bug. That makes it hard for most of us to wrap our heads around continuing to stay at home, particularly as the warm weather nears.

Bill Maher had an interesting fellow on his RealTime show this week, a Dr. David Katz, who is a preventive medicine and public health specialist. Dr Katz lamented that this crisis was being mishandled by many governments, and said that things would be improved were there grown-ups in charge. He explained that our immune systems are revved up by a healthy lifestyle, and that we’d all be in better shape if there were daily breaks advising the nation on how to keep fit and healthy, instead of the dog’s breakfast of a briefing/Nuremburg rally we now ‘enjoy’ every day at dinner time.

 Sadly, our appetizer nightly is the senile musings of a POTUS who really needs to get more rest – specifically in the time period when specialists, scientists, and actual doctors are advising the American people on how to stay safe during COVID 19.

Exhibit A:  President Trump offered his idea for a cure in the White House briefing room Thursday after a presentation that mentioned disinfectants can kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces and in the air. 

“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.” (Washington Post)

Now, before you say that nobody … but NO BODY … could be stupid enough to act upon the president’s dangerous, and potentially fatal advice, I present

Exhibit B: “In Maryland, the Emergency Management Agency received over 100 calls inquiring about the president’s suggestion, forcing the service to issue an alert to remind citizens that “under no circumstances should any disinfectant product be administered into the body through injection, ingestion or any other route.” Washington State’s Emergency Management Division similarly issued a public statement to remind people to not “drink bleach” or “inject disinfectant.” 

More concerning, though, is the number of people who actually went ahead with the suggestion. In New York City, the Daily News reported that the Poison Control Center saw 30 cases of “exposure to Lysol, bleach and other cleaners in 18 hours after Trump’s suggestion” that cleaning products might be used to treat coronavirus. NYC Poison Control saw only 13 such cases in a similar period last year.”

In truth, 330 million Americans look to their POTUS for advice, and many of those good citizens, bless their hearts, are not very bright.  

Exhibit C: Cipolla’s five fundamental laws of stupidity:

  1. Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  2. The probability that a certain person (will) be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
  3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
  4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
  5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

(For more on this subject, I recommend https://advanced.jhu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/The-Basic-Laws-of-Human-Stupidity.pdf )

Desperate times strip away society’s veneer, and expose the truth. Our private faces may be hidden by n95 masks, but the lack of sanity, reason, or common sense in many countries will be on display, and revealed in technicolour in the annals of history. Assuming we have one.

……………………………….

Shawn O’Shea is a talented musician, entertainer and songwriter, and is the alter ego of lead vocalist Macky of the heymacs. In the nearly 40 years that I’ve known him, he’s never been one to be kept down by circumstances beyond his control – like a global pandemic. On April 20th he woke with the structure, chords, and most of the lyrics to a song dancing in his mind, and within days, he had recorded the tune, and added my dulcet tones to the duet. 

Last week I put out a call on Facebook, asking that anyone who was interested in being involved in the recording send me a photo of themselves, holding a photo of someone or something they miss, or a photo of themselves with someone they love and are looking forward to seeing ‘when this is over.

I’m happy to say that the photos sent were awesome. And now, for your listening and dancing pleasure .. may I present the debut of this timely tune ….

When This is Over – is dedicated to all of our friends and to future days. These photos represent all of the people, places and events we are missing during these days of COVID 19. Special thanks go to Brenda Meecham Armstrong, Michael Bar, Pat Blythe, Bianca Brynda, Arlo Burgon, Paul Christopher Caldeira, Louise Boucher-Chartier, Lauren Davis, Sheila Douglas, Amanda Flaherty, Lynda Francis, Craig Hastings, Sharon Kaczmarczyk, Peter Kashur, Linda Kennedy, Barbette Kensington, Gina Letros, James McBay, Annalee Orr, Honey Novick, Elke Ramstead, Hap Roderman, Tara Scott, Scott Sutherland, Greg Simpson, Sylvia Surk, Phyllis Taylor, Sheila Horne-Teixeira, Louise Tokar, Teresa Verity and Headly Westerfield

Hang in There, Baby


by Roxanne Tellier

Argggh!!! Woke up in a ‘mood’ this morning, and the weather – grey, cold and damp – isn’t helping at all.

It’s not that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, it’s more that I’m just tired of playing pandemic. In February, I could still see a path ahead, even though it wasn’t clear how long our preparations and quarantine would last. Still, I had hopes that the light at the end of the tunnel was a bright future. Turned out it was an oncoming train. 

As the weeks, and now months, have dragged by, we’re all starting to realize that there’s not gonna be a special day, like an armistice, when we can all, globally, agree that this is all over and we can now crack open the champagne. There will never be our old ‘normal’ again. From now on, we will redefine our interactions with the world by how we all behaved BC – Before COVID and AC – After COVID.

And I’m not being a whining Negative Nelly when I say that. It’s just the truth. COVID 19 will go on as long as it has to, and then gradually taper off over months or even years. We’ll develop a vaccine, and many will opt out of being vaccinated, which will mean the virus will stay dormant, bubbling underneath, for a good long while. But eventually the most vulnerable will die, the majority will be vaccinated or immune, and life will go on … until the next time. 

I’m not sure if this wonderfully mild winter has helped or hindered any kind of seasonal distress. Usually I write at least one column over this time period, talking about cabin fever and ‘hygge’ but somehow, that kind of distress never really crossed my mind, what with … well, worrying about dying and all.  As we come out of the winter months and edge into Spring, my thoughts are on what sort of plants I might bring home, for décor or culinary purposes, or whether I should consider germinating the seedlings I want to be ready by the end of May.

One thing I suddenly realized this morning was how little I’ve done that I thought I might do, in this time of lockdown. I really thought I had it made, with my hundreds of fiction and nonfiction books stacked around me, and dozens of DVDs I’ve stockpiled for that day when I actually find myself with time on my hands and nothing to do. Didn’t happen.

Instead, like so many, I’ve been more active than ever on social media. Both Shawn and I are on Facebook far more than I’d usually consider healthy in normal times. But of course, these times definitely fall under the ‘abnormal’ umbrella.

And even though, as a couple of retirees, our social calendars are not positively bursting with exciting events, we’ve always had places to go, people to see, birthdays, weddings, funerals, and yes, the odd musical jam to look forward to, not to mention doctor and dentist appointments to keep. Not any more. Now every day on the calendar remains resolutely blank.

Humans are social creatures. No matter how introverted one may be, we generally can count on getting out of our little shells now and again, if only for a trip up to the mall or the grocers. To have absolutely no where to go is daunting, even if you are lucky enough to never actually need to buy something for yourself or someone else.

Beyond that, we are living in a time when we are bombarded with negative messaging. Every day, multiple times a day, and always around dinner, we have bombastic, self-obsessed, needy trump horning in on what should be a simple ten- or fifteen-minute briefing on the virus’ progress. Instead, for hours, he mumbles through a teleprompter reading, horns in on what the specialists have to say, lies and spews misinformation (the Spanish flu began in January 1918, I want to scream at the television. STOP saying it started in 1917!) and then harangues and verbally attacks the few reporters still allowed to attend these putative press briefings which are really nothing more than a sop to his ego since he can no long hold his Nuremburg styled rallies for his party faithful. 

You know how we used to joke about all the happy happy schlock load of ‘affirmations’ epitomized by Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley? It was out there, but it worked -it energizes, it keeps us moving forward.

Negative messaging is really hard on our psyches. Negative messaging leaves us tired, worried, and feeling like we’re struggling under burdens far too heavy to carry. It makes us crave some sort of relief, and when we are locked down and unable to find comfort, it can actually damage our health.

The more you think and speak positively, the more positive you feel about yourself and your surroundings. Conversely, the more negative messaging you receive during the day, the worse you’ll feel about yourself and the world.

When I spend my day on social media, with CNN or MSNBC or a Canadian news source, that is constantly updating the numbers of the sick, dying and dead, while hysterically describing the precautions necessary for a simple trip to the grocers, well – I’m not gonna be a very happy camper. Instead, I’ll constantly feel anxious and scared.

In health terms, that nonstop deluge of fearmongering provokes a flight or fight instinct, which ratchets up the adrenaline produced, and eventually leaves one exhausted. It also can lead to serious mental health problems and cardio vascular disease.

That’s the reason why we’re all feeling so tired and out of energy, and why that small walk you took just to get out of the house leaves you feeling like you just ran a 10K.. We really do underestimate how much energy it takes to get through our days and our lives until we are tested this severely.

These hard times bring out the best in some people, and the worst in others. As if we weren’t all feeling stressed and out of sorts, there are factions of people who’ve decided that their own needs and whims outweigh the health and safety of others. 

”So, what are you guys gonna do during the pandemic?

“Well, a bunch of us are gonna go protest the lock down, try and disrupt the sitting government while they try to figure out how to use what few medical supplies they have. Maybe barricade the ambulance lane so that the vehicles can’t get in.”

“Are you going to wear protective gear?” 

“Yeah. But only ironically.” 

And this too, we must live with. The sad truth is that we are all living in survival mode, on high alert, and scared. This is not an easy time to be a human. We’re drawing on reserves of energy deeper than we knew we had, and the fuel we need to top up those reserves – hitting Starbucks to share a cappuccino with a friend, or getting out to a bar for a brewski and some fresh tuneage – isn’t gonna happen. The best we can hope for is to reach out by phone, text, or messaging, while constantly feeling that we might be missing out on those important moments we hoped to share with our loved ones and community.

It’s exhausting. It’s lonely. And it can make you feel a little bit crazy. But it is what it is, and it’s okay to feel like things are just too hard and that you wish this was all a dream and that you’ll wake up to the world you used to know.

That’s not gonna happen. But eventually, this too shall pass. And then we’ll deal with what’s next. Just like we’ve always done, and our parents did, and our grandparents and ancestors did. 

Because we are humans. We are resilient, right up until the day we’re not. But that’s not today.

Hang in there, babe.

……………………………

Life in BizarroWorld …..

Whatever Happened to the Artsy Fartsy BBS?


by Roxanne Tellier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

You just had to be there.

Building Tiny Bomb Shelters for Fun and Profit


by Roxanne Tellier

wrong week to stop huffing glueEver have the feeling that you picked the wrong decade to try to get and stay healthy, focused, connected and relatively substance free? 

I’m telling you – I wish they’d narrow down the date of the Apocalypse, because I am totally prepared to return to smoking and drinking if it’s in the relatively near future. Heck, I’d probably be up for heroin or crack, if I knew I wouldn’t be around to pay the physical price for indulging.

grumpy cat RIP

Even Grumpy Cat couldn’t take this world any more. Oh, sure, they said the poor kitty had complications from an infection, but I’m gonna bet the tiny feline just couldn’t take another day of Trump.

And who could blame him?  Constant distractions, disruptions, lying, and a continual, unending chaos at the highest levels of government are what we wake up to every morning. Settled law has become unsettled. The relatively established ground of how our nearest and dearest will react to the next political landmine has turned to quicksand.

Just when you thought politics had hit rock bottom, you read that the sales of shovels and pick-axes continue to rise. And is that the sound of digging you hear?

These times are just too … interesting.

We read the gloomy predictions of climate catastrophe, follow the bouncing stock market ball, and wonder if there’s still time to build a tiny bomb shelter (because .. property rates are INSANE!) before a nuclear war erupts in a country near us.

When the rules by which you’ve been playing the game of Life are suddenly changed, for whatever reason, it can feel like a chasm has opened beneath your feet, exposing a yawning maw of emotional lava. And it can really mess you up. It’s exhausting, pretending to be a functioning adult.

types of depression

When I recently posted on Face book that I was too depressed to spend as much time on social media as I had in the past, I was surprised at how many people responded to the post, saying that they were feeling the same way.  Social media, which started as a nice way to pass the time with friends, has, in some cases, become a hive of pandemonium, where even the simplest statement can escalate in a heartbeat into a challenge to pistols at dawn.

some men just want to watch the world burnWe are angry and disillusioned with our fellow humans. We wonder how people whom we have known for decades could find it in themselves to vote for the Trumps and Fords of the world.

I have been in this place before, this dark corridor of tears and fear. I had a terrible, deep, and long lasting depression nearly two decades ago. It was soon after the events of 9/11 in the United States, and coincided with several personal events that caused within me a perfect storm of melancholy.

I spent months hiding in the basement, lying on a folding lounge chair, drinking myself into oblivion, trying to come to terms with a world that no longer made sense to me. I finally confessed my inability to cope to my doctor, and he sent me off to a psychiatrist, who was of very little help. The prevailing attitude was that depression was caused by a chemical imbalance, and thus should be easily curable if/when the right combination of chemicals were applied to the problem. In my case, his chemicals could not fix me – ultimately, I had to fix myself, unaided.

I am strong but tired fibroWe know now that a chemical imbalance is just one small segment of any study of depression disorder and mental illness; not every problem can be cured by pills. Some sufferers will need time, some will need counselling, and some will simply wake up one morning to discover that their pain has grown a hard callus over their broken heart.

What often drives a deep depression is a reaction to our present reality, and a feeling of being helpless to control our own lives in relation to that reality. It is, some say, a sense of loss, of grieving the person you once were, because you are now dealing with a very different present, and in so doing, have become a very different person, one whom you may occasionally find unrecognizable, or even unlovable.

Some, who live relatively unexamined lives, are better equipped than others to deal with extreme changes to their personal landscapes; with minor changes to their own belief systems, they can readily adjust to the ‘new rules’ that are imposed upon them by those who make and enforce the laws of their country.

one third will watch one third killHistory is filled with stories of people who stood by and watched horrific – but legal – acts be committed by those who created and enforced the laws of the land. It wasn’t that they were born to be bad people, per se .. it was that they were capable of ‘going along to get along’ … to watch without interfering, and to keep silent so that they themselves were not the next to be persecuted.

 

It is simply a truth that for many, self-preservation will overrule empathy if there’s anything at stake. Like those who cannot understand how others can be anything but regular, old heterosexual until they realize that someone close to them follows a different sexual lifestyle, it’s easiest to name and dismiss others as ‘not our sort’ when you’ve never known what it is that ‘their sort’ believe or practice.

abortion only protects fetusThe draconian new anti abortion laws emanating from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky and even Ohio, this week, ripe with a stench tinged with the sulphurs of Hell, have left many of us shaken, angry, and defiant in a way I haven’t seen in many months. These almost comically villainous, and decidedly unconstitutional, attacks on the civil rights of 51.8% of the American population were purposely designed to attract a backlash by the ACLU and other groups, in order that the Religious Right might attempt to overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark court case allowing abortions to be performed in the United States.

chastity belts for menRepublicans feel that the time is right to take this battle to the Supreme Court, now that Trump has stacked the Court with his handpicked lackeys.

And in Ontario last week, a very young and barely post-pubescent Conservative member casually shook the same red cape in support of a pro life protest on the grounds of Queen’s Park, where he made the pronouncement that he hoped to make abortion unthinkable in his lifetime.  By so doing, this home schooled and very religious young man unleashed a storm of estrogen-fueled fury unlike anything he could ever have dreamed of provoking.

What most of us, in both the U.S. and Canada, have recently learned is that the right to abortion isn’t actually settled law in the U.S. And in Canada, with 7 out of 10 provinces now ruled by Conservatives, and with a federal election looming that might turn the entire country back to the Right (and somewhere around the 1950s) our own abortion rights might be on the table sooner rather than later.abortion dont' tell me what to do

It is an irony of Alanis Morissette sized proportions that Canada, that ruled in 1967 that ‘there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,‘ thereby decriminalizing homosexuality, would now appear to be saying, in 2019, that the state DOES have the right to assert dominance over the uteruses (uteri?) of it’s women.

I won’t lie .. I am pissed. I am really, really REALLY pissed that a battle that so many of us fought for – and won! – back in the 60s is being brought back to life like some stinking, rotting zombie, purely for the tiny percentage of North Americans who, like ISIS, believe that their religious beliefs trump those of the rest of the nation.

I take great comfort in how women and their allies are fighting back this time around. We are not about to be manipulated by guilt as we have been in the past, and we no longer believe that the burden of contraception is completely our responsibility- it takes two to tango, and a lot of not so woke men are about to learn how to dance.

 

Walking-Dead

My only hope is that this desperate attempt by the Religious Right to pull the world back into the Dark Ages only succeeds in demonstrating indelibly and for all time that religion must never, ever, be allowed to trump science and democracy. That way lies dragons.

trump separation of church and state

 

Don’t Call Me Stupid, Stupid


by Roxanne Tellier

Waking up on a Sunday morning to a world without Facebook. Oh my, it must have been at least an hour before it was back on line … such a long … lonely … hour …. Where were all of my … argumentative strangers?

leave britney aloneMeh. I’ve had a bunch of minor, irritating problems with my ‘puter over the last few weeks, so it was really nothing more than just another annoyance. But a quick Google check showed that millions of people, living all around the world, were missing their Facebook and social media fix. And they were NOT happy.

Facebook is as addictive as any drug. Don’t believe me? Try walking away.

facebook-is-a-hell-of-a-drugFunny, I’d been thinking recently about leaving Facebook. If you have an addictive personality AND are political, it’s not a healthy place. Sure, I love the animal videos, it is great to see how friends and family in far flung places are doing, and I enjoy being able to quickly get in touch with my ‘connected’ friends, but I don’t know if I can take much more of the 24/7 news stream of our current divisive, angry, confrontational times. It’s all too much.

 

brazil president rain forest

Lately, what passes for ‘information’ on Facebook is a steady stream of accounts of venomous actions being perpetrated on vulnerable people by people who should never have been given access to power. Trump’s American war on refugees is just a wisp of smoke and a few barbed wire rolls short of being as horrific as the Holocaust. Across North America, the battle to extract the last of the oil, destined to enrich a smaller and smaller group of people, threatens the extinction of wild life and sea life, and tramples on the rights of the indigenous. In Brazil, a rabid right vows to eliminate the rain forests of the Amazon, and to roust the last of their native peoples.

In Canada, the machinations of people WITHIN the Liberal party are even more vile than those of their political opponents. In the 2019 budget for Ontario, our premier mentions ‘beer’ and ‘alcohol’ 46 times, in his zeal to re-brand Ontario as a hard drinking, hard gambling, land of the never closed casinos. And in England, there’s a shocking deficiency of intellect being used in the negotiation of the wrong-headed Brexit.

I read today about a new procedural policy suggested by the Trump administration, proposing to monitor the social media accounts of veterans. If the veterans appear “too happy,” their disability pensions for PTSD will be reduced. Or if their photos or videos appear to show them enjoying physical activities, that might be grounds for cutting their disability benefits. In other words, the policy would create an environment in which first veterans, and then, possibly other groups that include disabled people, would need to self-censor what they share on social media with friends and family, lest the government decide to cut vital financial aid or medical care.

Facebook is really starting to dig a little too close to the horrors of a Black Mirror episode. Vulnerable people, those that are easily led, those than believe what they see and hear, indiscriminately, and spread disinformation to their friends, are enabling a world where ‘truth’ carries less weight than ‘opinion.’

Let me tell you about something that happened to me, just this week, because it rather shook my faith, or perhaps my assumption,  in the intelligence of people. In the aftermath of that horrific massacre in New Zealand, in which an Australian far right, home-grown terrorist murdered 50 people and injured dozens more, I received a private message from a fellow that I only knew from Facebook, but with whom I’d exchanged birthday and seasonal greetings for about six years. It contained a video of a Canadian (!) right wing, anti-immigrant, FOX styled ‘journalist,’ who was filming her interactions with the refugees and immigrants who live in the small neighbourhood of Lakemba, near Sydney, Australia.

Lauren Southern kicked outHis message exhorted me to ‘share this everywhere!!!!!!”

Henry is a Canadian who immigrated to Australia about 10 years ago. His wife is of European descent, and I believe she immigrated there shortly before Henry. Since their marriage, they’ve had a son, who is an all Australian boy in temper and manner. Henry and family, who are extremely Caucasian, have gleefully adopted most of what we would consider ‘Australianisms.’

Henry has worked very, very hard to make a place in Australian society for himself, and to support his family. Australia, at 7,692,024 km, is the world’s largest island, with a population of just 24.6 million…. much less than Canada’s population of 37 million. Yet Henry believes that allowing Muslims the same opportunity that he had, of immigrating to Australia for a better life, will lead to widespread Shariah Law and a lack of bacon in his MacDonald burgers. Henry is an entitled, hypocritical prick, and he is no longer my Facebook friend, because he is a stone cold racist, and I do not tolerate racists or racism.

trump I'm with racistsSadly, for many like Henry, a large part of the role that Facebook, Instagram, and other forms of social media play in their lives is the propagation and dissemination of racism. They are delighted to find the like-minded, tend to be tolerant and accepting of trolls and bots, and are willfully blind to any attempt to separate the truth from the lies. That’s most certainly NOT the average Facebook user, but it is a large, and extremely argumentative and vocal segment, thus, very easy to find.

There is, in fact, such a shocking lack of knowledge, wisdom, common sense and humility involved in the shriekings of the bigoted, xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, hoi polloi on social media that one can only sadly agree with British pundit, David Mitchell, who said of the willfully naif, that, “It would be a shame to trample on the fresh snow of your ignorance.”

Most of us are loathe to label the thinking of others as stupid or ignorant; it’s unkind, often misused, and certainly doesn’t lead to an equal sharing of information. However, years of austerity and tax cuts to education and health care, combined with poor diets, have actually begun to turn the clock backward on a common intelligence in first world countries. We are literally becoming dumber than our parents and grandparents.

When president John F. Kennedy decided in 1961 that America would put a man on the moon, it took them just eight years to figure out how. And that was in a time before email even existed. Humans excelled in the 20th century, achieving incredible breakthroughs in science and technology.

In Ontario, we’ve been trying to get a subway to the suburb of Scarborough for more than twenty years.

In previous decades, there was a steady climb in the average IQ scores in civilized countries, of about 3 IQ points per decade. This was called the Flynn effect — named after the work of New Zealand intelligence researcher James Flynn.

Yogi BearBut that increase topped out around 1975, with IQ’s steadily falling by an average of about seven points per generation since. The drop seems to be more about nurture than nature, and includes the impact of changes in how we teach math, science, and language.

“This establishes that the large changes in average cohort intelligence reflect environmental factors and not changing composition of parents, which in turn rules out several prominent hypotheses for retrograde Flynn effects.”

We WANT to believe that we, the citizens of strong, first world, nations are intelligent, thoughtful, free of ignorance, and that our country .. and Facebook … is filled with good people who reflect our own wholesome goodness and wisdom.

However in actual fact, we’re moving steadily, and very quickly, towards an Idiocracy. (This clip is from February 2016 – there has definitely been a further huge drop in our collective IQs in the last two years, from the drip, drip, drip of 24/7 mis and disinformation.)

 

So where to from here, folks?

 

 

Exit the Idiot Whisperer


Ever have, oh, I don’t know… about 6 or 700 of ‘those days,’ where you start to wonder if it’s actually possible that you just might have woken up on another, identical, but much stupider, planet?

thanks god none of you peole are realI have spent far too many hours attempting to reason with those who adamantly refuse to see logic or sense. The sad truth is that they are happy in their interpretation of the world. And I suppose I should be happy that they are happy. It’s all working out for them.

In the past .. well, up to about a week ago .. I would have spent a great deal of time and energy attempting to change someone’s mind. But the thing is, I’m not getting any younger, and the kind of gymnastics needed to argue with a firmly committed Trump cultist is something that no longer feels like fun.

It’s more akin to wrestling a pig. The pig likes it, but I just wind up feeling dirty.

10 commandments of logicThe few diehard Trumpists that get through my anti-Trump wall tend to be friends of friends. Again, in the past, I might have opted to be gracious, rather than potentially offend someone. Now, I’m more inclined to block the one, and unfriend the other. Tiptoeing around crazy people just feels too much like work, and baby.. I’m retired.

I’m tired of being the Idiot Whisperer. I quit. Research your own damn questions yourself. Use your Google fingers to do what every other inquiring mind has to do .. look it up. Find a decent source, and if what you’re reading actually agrees TOO much with what you personally feel about a subject, check with Snopes to ensure that you’re not buying into a hoax.

How hard can that be, people? Don’t repeat stuff that’s stupid. If you are unsure if it’s true, look for another source before you pass on that article, that meme, or that obituary. And if the only reason that you’re gonna forward something is because you know it’s going to rile up people – don’t share it. Life’s hard enough without people going out of their way to be ornery.

face tat failAnd for those people who might be job hunting, it’s best to keep in mind that those checking out your resume will probably also have a gander at what you share on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, along with checking your references. You might want to go easy on the kind of uploads that get a person sent repeatedly to Facebook Jail. What you’re saying and sharing online is a pretty good measurement of how you’ll conduct yourself offline, on a social level, whether for business or pleasure. Social media is not the place to let it all ‘hang out,’ or to boast that you fooled that personnel interviewer by temporarily concealing your skin head and rad tats.

Here’s another thing we all have to stop doing ….. taking the bait of every professional AND non-professional journalist that hosts a webpage. Most stories, even those that are put up by highly reputable sources, still fall within the realm of ‘entertainment.’ It’s all about the clicks.

Yes, we agree with the 97% of climate change scientists who assure us that what we’re seeing is real. Yes, we agree with the majority of psychologists pointing out Trump’s massive mental issues and how difficult it is to deal with his deficiencies. Yes, his choices for important roles in his administration are tearing the fabric of America apart, and it may never be able to be repaired …

BUT…

Have any of our complaints and demands for change been heard or acted upon in a timely manner? Yes, Whitaker is likely an illegal, unconstitutional appointment to the role of United States Attorney General, but have any of our heated debates or stern warnings on the subject got him fired from the gig?

No, they have not. The U.S. is essentially an autocracy where things happen as decided by the autocrats, and no matter how cogent our carefully thought out arguments may sound, or of how angry we may become, our words and emotions have about as much chance of making a dent as a Nerf bat.

And our ruminations are about as important to the world as those of the Thirty Helens Who Agree on Coleslaw.

So, you may as well let a lot of those clickbait articles, and columns asking rhetorical questions, to just sail on by. The last thing any of us needs is to have a stroke over the very idea that raking up the over one million square feet of California forest would have prevented all that destruction.  (Spoiler alert: It wouldn’t have.)

Better to spend that time answering questions that may help you to figure out what historical figure you were in a past life, and if it’s true that you are a fire horse in Chinese astrology. .

Remember when going on Facebook used to be fun, and we’d connect with old friends and relatives and share cat videos and terrible jokes?

Yeah .. that all changed ’round about 2015. Now it’s more like negotiating an armistice or surviving a Civil War. No thanks, Zuckerberg. Most of us have one foot out the door, and we’re taking our advertising dollars with us when we find our next social media platform.

Now, I am not saying that I am going to turn over a new leaf, stop commenting and forwarding political columns and memes, and devote myself to some new hobby, like fly fishing. Far from it. I will definitely continue to attempt to make some sense of the political machinations exhibited daily, from both sides of the border. Someone has to keep an eye on these bastards.

novelty tea cut toiletI’m just saying that not all of us have to be on guard, all of the time. The holiday season is nearing, and a lot of the people whom we care about, really don’t care about politics. In fact, they would prefer it if your holiday gift to them this year would be a promise to not discuss politics at the dinner table. They’d rather have that than pretty much any of the novelty gifts you’ve been thinking of getting them this year … even more than that tea cup you thought would be a hoot.

I’m just saying that it might be time for us to do what the mass media and social media refuse to do – take a few days mental and physical break from the constant bombardment of stupidity, greed, corruption, whipped up paranoia, and hysteria that has become our daily diet.

idiot whispererI’m just saying that maybe it’s time to deny oxygen to the people and things that can’t survive without our steady attention. Maybe letting ‘the cheese stand alone,’ bereft of the attentiveness and arguments that are used to make him appear relevant, will help some of his most stalwart supporters to see what most of us already know – that the trump presidency and administration is a gasbag of noxious farts meant to keep us all looking in the other direction, so that the pickpockets can fleece us without our noticing.

Or maybe I really did wake up on an identical, but much stupider, planet. It’s as good a theory as any other out there.