2019’s First Blizzard of a Blog Blows In


by Roxanne Tellier

Well, halloooooooo there 2019! Whatchoo got for me, honey?

lucy eating chocolateDespite one of my sorta kinda new year-y resolutions being that I would earnestly and consistently blog (at least a teensy one) on my own website every single day, in truth, I have to confess that, so far, I’ve done pretty much diddley in the first, innocent weeks of this year except eat massive amounts of fudge and chocolate.

But now that the sugar high is starting to fade, it’s back to … do we call this ‘work’?

Cuz, come on guys, “It’s a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world
Except for Lola, ” isn’t it? I remember when I used to be able to cogitate, ruminate, and generally take my own damn time trying to put into words the craziness that roils around us most days. But not any more. Now I have to compulsively refresh my social media pages while simultaneously watching CNN and MSNBC and I STILL can’t always keep up with the 24/7 news cyclone that is the insane reality of living in the last dregs of the 20 teen years.

2019 is a lot like 1999, when we thought the computers would all crash, planes would fall out of the sky, and the world would come tumbling down around us, except not as much fun.

Anyway. This week I juggled a ‘booster’ week at CAMH. (still trying to keep the senility at bay) as events, minor and major, continued to explode around me.

In Texas, a woman, fed up with the president’s antics, posted online that she hoped someone would shoot Trump between the eyes. Thinking that she lived in a First World country where free speech was her right, she was surprised when a pair of plainclothes Secret Service agents showed up at her door in an attempt to intimidate her, (because that is what you do in a world where the president is a thin skinned bully who can dish it out but not take it, even from some angry lady in a bathrobe in an apartment in Texas.) Hilarity did not ensue ….

In the online world, the buzz this week was all about the Buzzfeed 10 Year Challenge, where you were asked to put up photos showing what you looked like ten years ago, and now.

marie antoinette 10 year challengeOne particularly paranoid group took their cue from a prominent tech writer, who insinuated that the underlying intention of the challenge was to collect large amounts of data in order to clarify the effects of aging on human faces, and thus update the AI facial recognition systems that are coming into play in numerous fields, including the justice system.

white house 10 year challengeThe “10 Year Challenge” or “How Hard Did Aging Hit You” or “Glow Up Challenge” meme asked social media users to show off their very first profile photos alongside an image of what they look like today.

Whatevs. We got a couple of goodies out of the game, and no one had to eat a Tide pod.

Speaking of those crazy kids… living in Trump’s America seems to be bringing out the hardcore racism in some, including in this wannabe Brett Kavanaugh in the making, a student from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, who thought he’d harass Nathan Phillips, a Native American elder and Vietnam Vet, at the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

As one commenter noted, “It’s racism; it’s blatant racism. The point was cruelty. The point was contempt. The point was hate.”

maga hat teen smirking native elder vetKeep smirking, kid – once you’ve been outed and shamed, you’re gonna love being a social media meme. I’m sure they’ll forget about you by the time you graduate university…. do universities still consider ‘character’ an important factor when they choose whom they’ll accept as students? … and if worse comes to worse, there’ll always be a place for you in Trump’s Supreme Court.

Considering that this week was also the week that millions of male snowflakes lost their minds over the new Gillette commercial, it’s interesting to wonder just what was going through the mind of that young Catholic school boy as he attempted to stare down an elder; did he consider himself a ‘good’ guy, who was already ‘the best men can be‘?

One of my male cousins took extreme offence to this advertisement, and sent a frenetic, rather hyperbolic, message around our family group email thread that, I am embarrassed to say, elicited a fiery response from me in return. The back and forth got extremely heated. In the end, I apologized for losing my temper and for using all the swears – and my cousin decided that he no longer had a family worth talking to. (The drama runs high in this family, I’ll admit.).

snowflake gilletteI’m sure that there are people reading this right now who agree with my cousin, and others who agree with my stance. One of the best comments I’ve read on the whole kerfuffle came from an advertising agency in Australia, that noted,

What is being attacked here? Let’s forget f**king ‘continuity marketing’ for one moment and respect one of the most testosterone-fuelled brands in the world actually standing up and making a stand against horrific male behaviour. Good on them. Maybe the best gauge for where to stand is seeing who’s pro and who’s against. As far as I can see, James Woods, who allegedly propositioned underage girls to go to Las Vegas with him hates the ad. As does the far right magazine ‘The New American.’ Oh, and Piers Morgan. Those who like it include the daughter of Martin Luther King who wrote “This commercial isn’t anti-male. It’s pro-humanity.” I think I know who I’d rather stand alongside..”

But let’s not dwell on that right now. Instead, let’s feast our eyes, for just a moment, on the bug eyed Rudy Giuliani, who has apparently decided to abandon all hope of actual presidential innocence, and pretty much threw most of Trump’s band of merry men under the bus, one by one. This week Rudy told the world that OF COURSE there had been Russian collusion during the 2016 election. It just hadn’t been done by Trump himself.

Then for about a dozen hours, the news channels rang with the Buzzfeed story that they had absolute proof positive that Trump had told his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a Russian property deal. And that, kats and kiddles, would have indeed been that, had it been provable, since there would have been no other alternative than to impeach and possibly indict the Mango for suborning official testimony.

Oh lawdy lawdy! it sure did look like we had Trump by the short and curlies! It was a real John Oliver moment!

But in a surprising move that actually broke the silence of Robert Mueller‘s ongoing investigation into possible collusion between the Trump administration and the Russian government, a statement was released denying the incident.

BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate.” Peter Carr, Mueller spokesperson.

And just like that, we all had to let go of a dream.

On Saturday (was that really only yesterday?) the Orange Resident took to the airwaves again for one of his rally speeches. This time, his very obviously Stephen Miller written speech once again hammered away at all the nasty immigrants he’s so afraid of, the ones he just never tires of telling us are “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

(He really needs to get a new, less paranoid, writer .. this one’s already shown off all he’s got in his trick bag.)

Anyway, if I may be so bold .. yesterday’s screed was the WORST deal making I’d ever seen in my life .. and I’ve seen a lot of shitty deals.

Rather than ‘dealing,’ his proposal was to add another $1605 million to his ask, as well as adding on the cost of additional border agents, law enforcement officials and new immigration judges ON TOP OF the $5.7 billion for a border wall.

In exchange, he’d give back the protections he himself broke by executive fiat last year for the DACA kids and the TPS survivors.

trump daca and tpsAt no point did he offer one word or sympathy or empathy to the 800,000 government workers (and their families) who have not been paid in nearly a month.

In my opinion, donald j trump is the most blatant terrorist America’s ever had to deal with. The 911 terrorists threatened to ruin America by destroying what she held dear, but with every day in Trump’s America, the basic freedoms and rights she already had are being chipped away. While his ranting and raving are keeping her citizens frozen with tales of imaginary rapists, murderers and drug dealers, and everyone is looking over their shoulders for these criminals he’s invoked, he and his gang of reverse Robin Hoods are stealing from the poor to aid the rich. Like all of those who excel in putting the squeeze on others to get what they want, his speciality is in finding out what we care about, and threatening to break it, or outright breaking it, just to watch us cry.

In any other time, or in any other country, his actions and treatment of refugees fleeing real terror in their home countries would have brought world condemnation, and possibly a declaration of war. But instead, there is nothing but silence as his border patrol agents oversee the deaths of children and over 2000 adults in the last two years. Our basic empathy and disgust for this abuse of power is used against us; we are mocked for caring about children, the elderly, the ill, the veterans, because the man setting the standards for these harsh and punishing institutions is unable to care about anyone or anything except his own personal aggrandizement.

In his all encompassing narcissism, he has overwhelmed the media and ensured that no one in America could get through a single day of the past two years without being conscious of his extravagances, whims, and demands.

This year, he even stole Christmas and New Year from his citizens, refusing to allow anyone to simply quietly enjoy the holidays. Unable to bear not being the object of continual attention, he tweeted his bile nonstop, while he sulked and whined about being left ‘all alone in the White House,’ unattended by the workers he himself refused to pay.

In trump’s gerbil wheel of a mind, and in what passes for a mind in Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh … these are the actions of a ‘strong man.‘ They really believe that the future belongs to the dictators, the fascists, those that force their will on the people. What they are advocating is the antithesis of democracy, and a lack of understanding that the making of these demands are the actions of a spoiled child, not a man … a child with the perceived power of a dictator … or a terrorist.

While they may think that his not backing down on his demands for a wall that is nothing but a ridiculous, extravagant, monument to a bloated autocrat is a ‘strong’ and macho posture, the majority of Americans know that the standard for a strong leader was set years ago when most Western countries decided, and agreed, that they could not, would not, and must not, negotiate with terrorists.

us does not negotiate with terrorists“The policy of non-negotiation is meant to remove the incentive for taking hostages. For as long as this policy is applied on a no-exceptions basis, terrorists can anticipate that there will be no reward for trading hostages” (wiki)

 

Nancy Pelosi has responded quite clearly and quite rightly, with a “that’s a big NO, big guy,‘ because what he’s asking for is nothing but a bunch of previously rejected and unacceptable initiatives. And no one believes that he is negotiating in good faith; he’s pulled too many rugs out from under too many feet to be trusted any more.

trump can have his wallTune in tomorrow for another exciting episode of America’s “As the World Turns.”
…………………………

Here’s a palate cleanser for you – someone’s getting the band back together!
And THAT is a band I’d pay to see! …

stephen king ridley pearson greg iles dave barry band shot

(Stephen King, Ridley Pearson, Greg Iles, Dave Barry aka The Rock Bottom Remainders)

As for me ….

i came i saw i forgot what i was doing

 

It Is To Laugh!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

vanity-fair-cover2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Philip Morris International Is A Big Fat Bully


The sixties and seventies were great times to be young and sure of your thoughts and beliefs. I protested everything back then; it was fun, and in my arrogant, know-it-all way, it appealed to my sense of theatre. And I smokedrolly rollies, which I lit with a wooden match struck against my jean zip.

Then Life (with a capital L) intervened. Marriage, a baby, and the pursuit of a career (or two or ten) kept me sidelined from the news and politics. It was all too much trouble. I’d let my husband and his friends yammer on about the world; my girlfriends and I had fun things to talk about, and politics was not fun.

I adapted a philosophy based on something I’d heard along the way: “if little children won’t die from it, then don’t worry about it.” It made sense to me.

As a Canadian, my life had not been touched much by wars around the globe. I lived in a free and democratic society, and was free to speak my mind, and vote for whomever I thought might do a good stuff of governance.

But a few years ago, I began to realize that a lot of the things that I hadn’t worried about had gone from minor annoyances to global issues. Worse still, it seemed like my freedom, along with many other people’s, to speak their mind had become not a freedom, but a privilege, able to be snatched away at any time, by anyone who questioned my words.

And that ain’t right. And little children ARE dying from it.

Our not speaking up, our having ‘better things to do,’ is catching up with us. There are a lot of bullies out there, bullies with money and power, and there’s no limit to what they feel they must shove into their greedy maws.greedy desire

So it’s time to speak up. BUT – now it’s scary.

How scary? Well, I realized just how scary it’s become to speak up when I watched John Oliver deliver a show that focused on how Big Tobacco wages war against the laws of small countries, even going so far as to threaten to sue countries if they can’t have their way. I actually worried for John Oliver.

And that ain’t right.

So my little part of speaking out today, is sharing John Oliver’s investigative report. And I urge you to pass it on.

Big Dreams and Lotteries


schrodinger-1325709458I love that moment just before I check an old lottery ticket. For as long as I can avoid checking the numbers, it’s like Schrodinger’s cat – the dream is both dead and alive simultaneously. I can continue to muse upon what I’d do with a big win, because until the numbers are checked … I just might be a winner!

I never am, though.

But still I keep buying the tickets. Not all the time, just now and again, and when I really feel like a lotto win is the only way out of my life, that’s there’s no other way I can break free of my personal cage.

gilded_cage_by_kirschsalvator-d45ti8mWe all have cages. Some have gilded cages, others cages of straw. Some perpetuate a cage they’ve known since childhood. But they’re all cages, and we’ve usually built them for ourselves. It’s much more fun to dream about a magical lucky event than to challenge the cage.

I like to tell myself about all of the altruistic things I’d do with a lotto win. … I have a lot of plans. I could do a lot of good, I argue with some imaginary deity who must hear millions, if not billions, of such pleas daily. I, of all of the past winners, would make that money work for so many … just put it into my hands, and I’ll show you …

lottery_winnerSurveys show that many baby boomers – especially those free spirits like me, who thought we’d “die before we got old,” – are hoping for either a lotto win or a good inheritance to retire comfortably. Certainly, we can’t depend on the government to cushion our aging bones.

I read stories about people who’ve won large lotteries. It seems like many of those people don’t end up as happy as they’d thought. Winners in Canada tend to fare better, and invest their winnings more wisely, although we have our share of sad stories. And certainly, a big lotto win will bring out all of those lost friends and relations!

another jackpotThere does seem to be a method to some of the winners’ strategies. I can never figure it out myself. But I had an email the other day that said that someone had worked out a scientific way to ensure multiple wins. I just had to send them some money, and I’d be set for life. And I mustn’t tell anyone about this secret, because the government would stop the loophole.

I didn’t send them money either. Sounds like just another lottery to me.

Comedian John Oliver on why American state lotteries are a ‘stupid’ tax.