The Long Road From Normal


desktop computing 90sA long, long time ago, I used to play chess. Not very well, to be honest; I was probably a better backgammon player if anything. Or maybe I wasn’t all that great at either.

But here’s the thing .. I’ve played neither of those games in… gotta be nearly three decades. First, it was computers … when I fell under their spell, that was it for spare time. I was enthralled, seduced by DOS and data bases. I tend to get pretty intense when I dive into a new interest.

And then I got into politics – headfirst and totally submerged. It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been following politics seriously for about the last six years, but, you see .. I didn’t really need to before that. Things were ticking along pretty well – we didn’t get too far forward, but we also didn’t fall too far behind. Business as usual, really. And I was busy.

But then there was Harper. Oh, he’d been around for a while before he really started getting up my nose, but there came a point when I realized that his political trajectory was going to take Canada to places that most of those I consider friends and family, really didn’t want him to visit.

As things heated up towards the 2015 federal election, there were more and more issues in which Harper’s ultra-conservative bent seemed contrary to real growth for Canadians. Austerity measures in Canada worked against future prosperity, and his government’s penchant for secrecy and overreach of government powers of surveillance, especially in the drafting of Bill C51, felt way too much like a Big Brother usurpation of civil liberties.

Harper represented an old guard that was terrified of losing power, and determined to hold on, by force if necessary. Trudeau seemed a breath of fresh air, a loosening of your grandfather’s prohibitive rules, and a step into a better Canada.

And then along came Trump, and the world was never the same again. And probably will never be the same again, in my lifetime.

Now, the weird thing is, I knew, right away, from the day Trump swept down that escalator with Melanoma, like Boris and Natasha, that he was going to be the worst, most disturbing, and most damaging person, to ever happen to America.

trump melania escalatorFor a while I had recapped his reality show, Celebrity Apprentice, and so this cast of characters were mildly familiar to me. This crew of misfit toys believed that they were the equivalent of American royalty, and displayed the same sort of quasi lèse majesté /insanity so often found from that mix of inbreeding and narcissism. The Trump family were petty tyrants – and they hadn’t even begun to tyrant.

Once inaugurated, I knew he and his family of damaged goods were going to rape America, pillage it’s treasures, and then burn it to the ground, before salting the earth, to prevent further generations from bringing it back to life.

chosen by god to make fun of trumpBut as bad as I thought he might be – he’s worse.

For at least the first year of Trump’s tenure, myself and a very large crop of ‘resisters’ lived on high alert, watching an administration filled with the worst appointees in history, picked solely for their ability to bring down every supporting pillar of democracy and justice, set to the destruction of America in as short a time as possible.

And, oh my .. wasn’t there a lot to see!

Amy Siskind‘s The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year, compiled a list of actions taken by the Trump regime that posed a threat to our democratic norms. Under the headline “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember,” Siskind’s Weekly List began as a project she shared with friends, but soon went viral. (Amazon)

resist mugDr Stuart Shapiro, a teacher of macroenomics at Rutgers Bloustein School of Public Policy, kept a diary of his own Facebook comments, titled, Not Normal: A Progressive’s Diary of the Year After Trump’s Election

In it, he chronicled his reactions to the incidents, tweets and policy proposals instigated by the new administration in it’s first year. His palpable exhaustion as the nation lurched from surprise to surprise, and outrage to outrage is a helpful reminder that no other presidency in recorded history ever dominated the news cycles as thoroughly and unceasingly as this one has.

And then there was my favourite guilty pleasure … The Resistance by Keith Olbermann

Truthfully, within a year of Trump’s reign, the general definition of ‘normal’ was no more – crushed under the weight of executive orders and a display of greed, arrogance, and corruption so vivid and intense that it often threatened to blind me.

mr corruption

Oh, sure, the Old Guard flailed about, and those bipartisan lawmakers remaining managed to get the Robert Mueller investigation into play, but the Republican party stood firm that their Dear Leader and his demented whims were how those once United States would now be run.

Every time Trump or any of his minions were caught for wrong doing, they immediately cried victim. But really, it is Jane and Joe American and their kids who have paid the price for this poor presidential pick.

Most of the time, I don’t really blame Jane and Joe for falling under the spell of a politician. When you’re trying to raise a family and make a living, a lot gets put aside, to be dealt with sometime later .. maybe after the kids go to bed. It’s all part of a life cycle; someone’s gotta be keeping those home centres and toy companies in business. I can totally understand why the average person – say from 30 to 50 years of age – absorbs no more than the loudest or most eye-catching information that goes on around them.

It just becomes really difficult to keep on giving the Trump Cult that benefit of a doubt as the evidence piles up against their idol and his feet of clay, and still, his approval numbers stay in the mid 40s. These days, the nation is just too damn tired and jumpy to even raise much of a fuss when Trump sets fire to another couple of million dollars on a  weekend getaway, or increases the debt ceiling by another trillion dollars or so.

Most of us following the Trump debacle had just assumed that the Mueller Report would be wrapped up, by now, and that Trump’s crimes would be exposed, and another can of presidents opened in time for dinner.

But nope … apparently there’s still a lot more rabbit hole to fall down.

There is hope, though. This week has turned out to be one of the wildest chapters in the book of Donald’s really terrible, horrible, no good, weeks. As the current White House resident met for a second time with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, desperately trying to shake off some of the stink of that fake ‘national emergency’ he’d declared just before taking a long vacation weekend, former personal lawyer and broken nosed ‘fixer’ Michael Cohen testified publicly about the Trump Foundation’s many quasi legal and often very illegal business workarounds while calling Trump a “a racist,” “a con man,” and “a cheat” before Congress, right as the New York Times released a new report detailing how Jared Kushner‘s security clearance had come about .. and it wasn’t nearly as secure as either the Donald or the daughter of POTUS had promised. Nope .. not at all.

Oh yes, a very bad week indeed.

Kim Jung Un got Trump to buy him dinner, give him a place on the world stage, enable Kim’s propaganda, choose Russia/North Korea‘s words over America’s own intel, excuse horrific and ongoing human rights violations, and walk away from taking the blame for Otto Warmbier’s brutal beating death, in a country where nothing is done without Kim’s explicit permission.

In exchange, the North Korean dictator produced a “White Paper on Human Rights Violations in the U.S. in 2017,.” where the tiny tyrant accused the Trump Administration of being a billionaires’ club, that harbors a “policy of racism” while exacerbating social inequalities and denying freedom of the press and health coverage to citizens.”

trump kim big envelopeOh me oh my and ouchy! Something tells me that the days of sweet, sweet love letters in giant envelopes arriving at the White House from his loving Kim are far behind us now …

I also suspect that a lot of that ‘locker room talk’ in the 2 hour 20 minute CPAC rally rant had much to do with the POTUS feeling increasingly cornered. It’s not surprising the mask would begin to fall off, and a little bit of the crude ‘pussy grabber‘ re-emerge. Thankfully, this time, only an American flag was molested.

Strange days indeed, mama. Or, as Daniel Dale tweeted, “Folks, these are the rantings of a sundowning old man whose brains are leaking out of his ears live on stage.

Can someone please point me the way back to ‘Normal’?

 

Arlene Bishop & The Spirit of Adventure


It’s that time of year, dagnabbit! As many of my favourite network political comedy series go on hiatus until next year, and Keith Olbermann calls it quits on his Youtube Resistance series, it’s harder than ever to find the funny in the funk.

And at this point –  if it didn’t happen and get reported in the last 24 hours, it’s old news anyway.

Rather than spend hours sadly and fruitlessly seeking out something positive on the political front, I’ve decided to turn my powers to good, and bring to your attention some worthy local musical talent.

After all, Christmas is coming, and what better way is there to show your love -and incredibly good taste – than by sharing a delightful, hot off the press, musical slice of Canadiana?

December 2nd was the official release date of critically acclaimed songwriter and local delight, Arlene Bishop‘s, new project, Arlene Bishop & The Spirit of Adventure – Together Tonight

Great_Day_in_HarlemIn the Spring of 2013, a nascent concept, based on the visual memory of a 1920’s photo of a group of Harlem musicians, started to tickle Arlene’s fancy. Would it be possible to connect with others in her community, to gather a group of like minds to share ideas, music, and food, and blend those voices into something stage worthy? she wondered. But that first impulse remained undercover until late 2015.

“I had a mission statement that was clear to me: I wanted to sing with nice people.  I knew I wanted to bring good people together.  I didn’t realize that I was lonely and felt disconnected from my community.  I’ve always battled depression.  In the past when I was comfortable in bars it was easier to deal with.  When I changed some habits I stopped going out very much.  Money was a challenge, crowds were uncomfortable, dramas were unbearable, so I ended up isolating myself.  I had a small circle of friends I would socialize with but the rest of the world was in social media.  I connected from a distance.   Except at Christmas time when I hosted a casual non-traditional carolling party at home and chums would come over and we’d sing together.  I loved it.  I loved singing in a different way.  I loved all the voices.  The carolling inspired me.”

The project she was considering was of a voice orchestra .. a vorchestra. In a bold move, Bishop reached out on social media to anyone who might be interested in joining her steadily growing group of potential vocal ‘instruments,’ and even prepared a video, a sort of home tour, to give the volunteers an idea of what they could expect to encounter at rehearsals.

I was intrigued when the list of worthy vocalists who’d signed up began to unfurl; some of the best known and unknown vocalists in the city were clamouring to join Arlene’s ambitious project.

Names like John Alcorn, Allyson Morris, Bunny Brown, Meryn Cadell, Tory Cassis, John Copping, Scott Dibble, Hotcha! (Howard Druckman, Beverly Kreller,) Heather Morgan, Adam Faux, Fergus Hambleton, Terra Hazelton, Jane Harbury, Caroly Lawson, Debbie Lillico, Jen Long, Katharine Gray, Marc Merilainen, Michelle Gold, Nanci Jandrisils, Rosanne Baker Thornly, Blair Packham, Sue and Dwight Peters, Joanne Ingrassia, ,  Robert Priest, David Sereda, Jennifer Schaffer, and Julian Taylor.

Lotsa good names, there.

I will confess that I was dying to be part of her movable feast. However, I was a little shy, and living in Scarborough. The travel time alone would have been horrendous.

Still wish I’d done it, though. Sometimes I can be a real wuss.

Anyway, back to the CD. Like Topsy, her modest idea grew and grew, until it had outgrown the original parameters she’d thought it would encompass, and it became necessary to outsource some of the roles – administrator, videographer, arranger, fundraiser, planner, web designer, ticket seller – that she couldn’t personally fulfill while still being the ‘lead singer’ and conceptual artist.

Miss John Copping was enlisted to be the conductrix, while photographer Scott Murdoch thought he’d like to try his hand as chief videographer. Scott Dibble offered to help execute Bishop’s vision on stage , Lauren Atmore was brought in to help with executing the concerts, and display artist Sheila Wolicky worked on dressing the venue. And last but not least, Arlene’s mum chipped in money for a little pre-performance pampering.

Owen Walker jumped in as a runner.  James Paul took technical considerations of recording off my shoulders. Yawd Sylvester, my partner and keyboard player, was preparing food for the rehearsals.  My son Owen was shooting video and carrying gear. “

Once the players were in place, it became necessary to find funding to pay for all of the elements to be put into place.

“…  I set out a personal goal to not have anyone work on the project for free.  I’m tired of musos being undervalued and underpaid and I wanted to fix that in my little world. “

No stone was left unturned. Through Patreon, donations were triggered whenever a new video was posted … and since part of the process involved  making a video documentary, new videos were posted regularly. Private sponsors chipped in to feed and water the singers, while IndieGoGo was the crowdfunding choice for the manufacturing and presales of the CDs.

After months of hard work, all of the preparation led to an incredible evening at Toronto’s Hugh’s Room, on Nov. 14, 2017, when Arlene and her collection of 30 guest singers and band, collectively dubbed The Spirit of Adventure, gathered to record the performance, live, in front of an appreciative audience.

Which brings us to December 2nd, and the official release date of Arlene Bishop & The Spirit of Adventure – Together Tonight.

The CD, complete with audience reaction, and Arlene Bishop’s trademark quirky humour, is available on BandCamp http://arlenebishop.bandcamp.com/album/together-tonight

CD Baby https://store.cdbaby.com/Artist/ArleneBishop

iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/arlene-bishop/id14082633

And for more information, be sure to check out her page at https://www.arlenebishop.com

The CD is a terrific listen. Treat yourself to a truly Canadian musical feast – you deserve it!