DBAWIS CMW, Jeopardy, and What the Heck is ASMR?


by Roxanne Tellier

cmw 2019

It’s that time again! Canadian Music Week .. CMW 2019 … starts tomorrow, and continues all week, with enough major stars and events to keep even the most jaded muso happy.

“Canadian Music Week’s 3 day Music Summit is designed for both industry executives and recording professionals focused on the business of global music. Encompassing 3 days of dedicated programming streams to Tech & Innovation, Live Touring, and Global Creators Summit, as well as keynotes, celebrity interviews, breakout sessions and workshops, it will provide you with the tools and knowledge to build your profile in the business and put you face-to-face with the forward-thinkers who shape the entertainment industries.” CMW intro

Tomorrow night’s kickoff party at the Phoenix Concert Theatre will feature Television, the punky rock band from New York City fronted by Tom Verlaine, that ruled our close n play stereos back in the late 1970s. The fun starts at 7pm.

Toronto’s CMW affiliated clubs will be chockablock with amazing line-ups of talent hailing from near and far, until Sunday, May 12th.

linda-perry cmwI’m always most interested in the conferences, and as usual, the choice of subjects and speakers means that I’ll be run ragged. I’d like to catch 4 Non Blondes Grammy Award-nominated producer and songwriter Linda Perry‘s Masterclass on Thursday the 9th, where she’ll be giving live critiques on a selection of songs by artists and producer-songwriters attending this session.

Perry is a Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductee (2015) and co-founder of WE ARE HEAR, a new company set up to empower artists and break the industry mold. Linda Perry/WE ARE HEAR is represented by peermusic worldwide.”

Tons of good stuff to see and hear, and you know the DBAWIS writers will be checking it out, and reporting back to you, throughout this week and next.

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alex trebekAh, Jeopardy … the trivia lover’s best friend. Hosted by Canadian Alex Trebek, 78, who holds a Guinness World Records™ record for Most Game Show Episodes Hosted by the Same Presenter, the show’s unique formula has kept viewers tuning in since 1984, a mind boggling 35 years of compering.

This March Trebek informed his fans that he’d been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer, with a poor prognosis, but that he intended to aggressively fight the cancer. After all, he added, his contract meant he was expected to keep working for another three years!

Enter James Holzhauer, 34, a professional sports gambler, who has been dominating the show for the last 20+ days, and racking up wins of over $1.6 million dollars. Holzhauer is a phenom, a packrat of minutiae, who has not only figured out how to most successfully play the game, but, using a data driven approach, has come very close to breaking the game by beating the system.

james-holzhauer 18 dayHolzhauer uses the odds, selecting and correctly answering, the harder, top dollar clues first, and then seeking out the “Daily Double” clues, and making huge bets. By the halfway mark of the game, he’s ahead of the other two contestants with an insurmountable lead, and the game is pretty much over, as he romps to the end and Final Answer.

I cheered him on for the first week or two – it was an amazing display of top level overall trivial knowledge. But by week three, I was tired of watching his opponents slink dejectedly out of the studio, their shot of a lifetime now little more than a memory. At around the eleven day mark, I began to search out older episodes of the show, where there was at least some chance of not knowing exactly how the game would inevitably end.

Prior to 2003, Jeopardy had a few rules that kept the game in check, including a five-show limit for returning champions. It was also an unwritten rule that contestants would generally start by selecting the easier, low-money questions first, and work their way up, while viewers played along, feeling a little more confident with their own responses as the questions got harder. The loosening of those rules changed the game by raising the stakes.

For now, Jeopardy is seeing its best ratings in years, similar to what they had some 15 years ago with 74 time winner Ken Jennings. But I have to wonder who will be interested in watching next season’s games, if every episode is essentially a foregone conclusion. I tune in both to see how many questions I can answer, but also for the fun of watching other trivia mavens strut their stuff. If there’s no real competition, I’m not sure I want to watch what is the human equivalent of the bully pulling the wings off flies.

Love you, Alex … but starting to seriously get sick of James ‘owning’ this season of Jeopardy.

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An old friend, who is also a brilliant novelist, lives in Princeton, NJ, and often hosts soirees that include guests whose names are regularly printed in bold face in the media. Sometimes those guests include one of her neighbours, the writer Chris Hedges, best known as the doom and gloom, Pulitzer Prize winning, highly political, writer, editor and founder of TruthDig.

chris hedges quoteLauren tells me that he often winds up sitting by himself in a corner, because people just can’t take his constant proclamations of political corruption, upcoming wars and the inevitable destruction of our planet through unregulated capitalism.

And I’m gonna say, being rather known as a doom and gloom type cynic myself, that I understand that people don’t always want to hear about ‘how the sausage is made.’ Sometimes you just want to talk about fun things and relax with friends. I totally get that. And I’ve even been known to actually do that.

not listeningBut here’s the thing … people are getting very, very bad at handling reality. It’s one thing to say, “not now, please – I’m enjoying this brie,” and another to simply close your mind to the facts and truth of your current political and physical environment.

Lately I’ve found myself doing the same thing – reading an article that is so filled with horrors to come, that I have to shut down the computer and go out for a breath of air. It’s like my brain can’t take any more, and a massive steel door clangs down, preventing me from absorbing any more information on yet another assault on democracy, or attempts of the right wing to suck the earth dry for profit.

trump won't leave officeTruth be told .. it’s as bad as it looks. Actually worse. It’s so bad that people are seriously asking what will happen after the next election, if/when Trump just won’t leave the office if voted out.

You are already living in a dictatorship if you live in fear of an out of control president who believes he is above the law, and will call for a civil war rather than descend the throne.

Looks like Bill Maher agrees, at least a little. Never been a fan of ASMR, but what the heck … Honestly .. this is brilliant … and Moby is a very capable foil as well!

My point – and I do have one – is that we can only hide from reality for so long. We may not like it. We may say that we have no interest in politics, but in point of fact, politics is taking an enormous interest in everything about you, by which I mean, how much they can take from you before you finally fight back.

Is there is any end to the avarice? As the stakes mount, in terms of what kind of planet we live on, and who gets to live or die, based on the up or down turned thumb of populist rulers, I have begun to believe the answer is ‘no.

The wealthy, having ‘won’ nearly all of the riches in the world, now find most of us nothing but an inconvenience to their reign. Can they not leave us one damn leaf or a bit of ground to call our own?

This avarice strikes home when I consider how much I love the greenery of the towns and cities of Ontario. Even within this bustling big city, I only have to take a short walk to find myself in a well wooded park.

I’ve never been one for camping, hunting or fishing, but I’ve known hundreds of people who love Ontario’s abundance. Our green space is not just our treasure, it’s also a huge source of provincial revenue through tourism.

And yet, our politicians want to monetize the place, open up the joint for ‘business’ – which at this point seems to involve bringing in trainloads of cheap booze, gambling, casinos, and ferris wheels with hot and cold running prostitutes.

They’ll just have to clear away your green spaces, and pollute the air and water to do so, but apparently, that’s not too big a price for YOU to pay. They’re sure you’ll be delighted with living on endless grey parking lots with a Starbucks on one corner, and a Shopper’s Drug Mart on the other.

nursery treeOne of the most recent cuts in the Ford government’s budget is to a long standing project called the 50 Million Tree Program. 

The goal of the 50 Million Tree Program is to plant 50 million trees by 2025. To date, with continued government support, we’ve helped more than 4,000 landowners get involved.

Planting trees is a practical way to get more from your property, give back to the community, and help the environment. Work with us, and you can increase the value of your land, improve the quality of your soil, increase wildlife habitat, enhance recreational opportunities, improve the overall health of the environment and leave a lasting legacy.”

The 50 Million Tree Program was started in 2008 and has planted more than half its goal to date. It cost taxpayers $4.7 million last year. The bulk of the work of planting is done by conservation authorities , and students in the summer. The end of the program will also mean job cuts to those in the field.

“Patchell described the government’s decision, announced the day after the April 11 provincial budget, as short-sighted. It will lead to more erosion in flood zones, poor air quality, warmer lakes because of the lack of shade and less habitat for wildlife.

“It’s ignoring the societal value of tree-planting and of taking care of the environment,” Patchell said. “Trees clean the air and maintain the water for all of Ontario – for everybody.” (Ottawa Citizen, May 4, 2019)

The costs for this were largely borne by the landowners, but of course, you have to get the trees from somewhere. One of those ‘somewheres’ was the Ferguson Tree Centre outside of Kemptville.

The centre will have to destroy more than three million trees, due to the cost of future maintenance, that were planted to handle the nursery’s commitment to the program over the next three years, but that will no longer be needed.

Elections have consequences, and as long as we shut our eyes and refuse to be informed, we will be bystanders to a world whose beauties are ravaged and sacrificed to the maws of big business and the corrupt politicians that serve them.

trees cut downFord’s vision ‘for the people’ of Ontario appears to be aimed at the needs of drunks and gamblers, not at the campers, hunters and fishers wanting to enjoy the splendour of our province.

You really don’t know what you had .. until it’s gone.

 

Britney Spears Scares Pirates


by Roxanne Tellier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First time as a DJ.

The First God is a DJ

First cousin of Jesus

The first God was a teapot.

The first god is a demon.

The first guy is the deepest

The thirst god is the deepest

The first dive in the deepend.

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

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

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

People …. enunciate!

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

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

and then there’s this :

 

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

 

Closing The Circle


by Roxanne Tellier

Sometimes grief will steal the words right out of you. All morning I have struggled with how I could possibly explain how devastating and final it feels to know that my aunt Pat is gone.

Patricia Donovan, December 2015For too long, I kept putting off a visit to Ottawa to see her in her nursing home. She’d been such an integral part of my early life, and yet – there was always a reason, some excuse, why I couldn’t jump on a bus or a train or a plane, and spend a few hours in her company.

She would have been 95 this December 14. That was one of the many things we had in common, our December birthdays. She was the first to gift me turquoise jewelry, our shared birthstone. Theresa, Pat , Roxanne and Jodi

Of all the people, places and things that have made me “me,” it was her guidance, especially in literature, that informed the person that I continue, daily, to become. When we lived in Alberta, it was her annual gifts of classic children’s literature that I most appreciated on Christmas morning. I would gobble up the works of A.A. Milne and Noel Streatfield. I would revel in the never-ending adventures of Edith Nesbit‘s plucky children, ignoring the snows of an Albertan winter, dreaming of the Five Children and It, and wishing that I could be one of the talented – yet never vain – Fossil sisters. Through the books she sent, I played in the Thousand Acre Woods with Christopher Robin, Pooh, Piglet, and the ever depressed Eeyore. Those books taught me to dream, and to know that there was so much more world than just what I could see around me at this moment in time.

I always admired her exquisite taste in all things, be it jewelry, clothing, or art – she had an innate flair and sensibility that made her every surroundings special. Her talents were many – she could write poetry, fiction, or non-fiction with equal flair and ease. She painted as well, usually monochromatic and faintly geometric figures. There was one painting – a symphony in shades of blue – that she told me she’d created in an homage to the novel, Don Quixote. I would stare at it for hours.

But she could not sing – oh my lawdy, lawdy, she could not sing, and yet she did .. often, and enthusiastically! Sadly, in a family as musical as ours, she was the only one completely unblessed with a musical ‘ear.’ She loved music, even as she murdered it in it’s cradle of song.

auntie pat young 001In her youth, she’d worked as an executive secretary in several companies, with her longest and final stint being with British Petroleum. At one point in the sixties, she worked in Washington, DC, where a chance invitation to a party got her hauled in before the FBI, to explain why she had briefly visited a home where there were posters of Che and Lenin on the walls.

But by the time we’d returned to Montreal from Alberta, my aunt was living with my grandmother. From then on, and wherever we landed, in Park Ex, NDG, or Westmount, we always lived very close to my aunt and gram. For a very long time we actually lived in adjoining buildings, with second floor balconies that were literally a stone’s throw from each other.

When I moved to Toronto in 1976, my family weren’t far behind me, and soon, first my sister, then my mother, and finally, my aunt and grandmother, had all taken up residence in two buildings in the Yonge/Eglinton area, literally across the parking lot from each other. There was comfort in the proximity.

In 1986, my sister died, and in 1992, my grandmother went into the hospital, for the last time, in the last week of March. She’d had heart issues for decades. But she hung in, as was her style, right up until April 1st. Such a joker, my gram … it was like she wanted to have one last laugh with us, and pass on April Fools Day, at the age of 95. My mother died eight days later.

And now my aunt is gone, on Friday, March 29.

There is the feeling of a circle closing in my aunt dying almost exactly 27 years after her mother and sister. They had always done everything together, as much as they possibly could, and she must have been very lonely. living nearly another thirty years without them. I know how lonely I have been, without my mum and sister, and despite having had the love and support of husbands, children and grandchildren. There are some rifts of the heart that can never be mended.

Gram and her five kids 001Patricia Donovan was very much loved by her family, and the many nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and great-nephews that knew her. She gave so much to us, and I would like to think that we gave back a little bit of what she needed in return.

You know, you get to be a certain age, and it’s harder to cry, harder to justify the tears when you rationally knew that death was always to be expected at some point. And so on Friday night, I hid in my bedroom and watched the film, Christopher Robin, the recent follow up to the films about Winnie the Pooh .. and I remembered. And I wept.

There was so much more to my aunt than these few stories, but I have lost my words. In late spring or early summer we will gather in Montreal to inter Pat’s ashes, and then, I think, this very talkative family will share our memories, and laugh at the crazy antics of this passionate, talented, wonderful family.

My cousin Rita was the family’s bridge to Pat, visiting her, keeping her up on the family’s adventures, and keeping us informed on her health. Rita was the one who notified us of my aunt’s decline, and then death. In her email, she included a few photos, and this poem. I hope you will enjoy it.

FALL ON ME

Pale pink petals
Dropping from a tree
Fall on me
Fall on me

A minute ago
You were the tree
And now you’re
Part of me

From your branches
Showering tree
Rain on me
Rain on me

A week ago
You wouldn’t let go
And now you rain
On me

Pale pink petals
Waiting on the tree
Fall all over
Me.

Patricia Donovan

Pat early 80s Broadway apt 001Patricia Donovan   (1924-2019)

 

The Butterfly Effect


I’m not sure if I’m blessed or cursed to have a fairly large amount of time in my life in which I can spend hours down the rabbit hole of the Internet, researching and following any thread that interests me.

meeting of the mindsI can spend days, even weeks, deep diving into all things esoteric and non. In an ideal world, I would live in a salon, where others of like minds would join me in this intellectual pursuit, and we would solve all of the mysteries of the universe.

Until that day arrives, the world and it’s distractions will continue to impede my potential band of mystery solving superheroes.

The imminent destruction of a small butterfly sanctuary on the American/Mexican border caught my attention recently. While this is by no means as horrific as the sadistic practices trump’s Homeland Security goons wage against refugees and immigrants, it is, nonetheless, notable. 

butterly effectCan small things, matters almost imperceptible in a larger picture, change the world? Can a tiny event, hardly noticeable on the day it happens, serve as a catalyst for a planet’s future?

“some systems … are very sensitive to their starting conditions, so that a tiny difference in the initial ‘push’ you give them causes a big difference in where they end up, and there is feedback, so that what a system does affects its own behavior.John Gribbin, Deep Simplicity

People are funny; some are hypersensitive to changes in systems, while others simply cannot understand long term consequences. For some, it’s willful blindness, but for others, it covers up a truth that might irreparably damage their psyche if faced. Better to not believe one’s own eyes than to have to admit that some small, likely unimportant act – or lack of acting! – might have long term, and horribly dangerous consequences.

for the want of a nail

If we are to believe that our actions have consequences, how do we live with ourselves when we fail to act in proactive and logical ways? if we know that eating certain foods will make us ill, how do we rationalize our actions when our food and beverage intake is reflected in damage to our bodies? If we are made aware that smoking cigarettes damages the lungs of both the smokers and the non-smokers that breathe in those fumes, how do we come to grips with the illness or death of a loved one who passively inhaled what we exhaled?

climate change is not just politicalIf we are told that 97% of climate scientists believe that our disrespect for the planet will cause untold harm to not just those living on this earth, but on the generations to come, how can we not look at the havoc we continue to inflict on the globe, and not feel sick at what our greed and selfishness has wrought?

Many of us vehemently DON’T want to believe that something tiny and barely noticeable could affect our lives … psychologically, that’s called proportionality bias: the inclination to believe that big events must have big causes.

That’s what leads so many to become conspiracy theorists. In any given year, roughly half of all Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory, according to the University of Chicago‘s political science professors Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood. Without the slightest trace of evidence, 19% of Americans believe the U.S. government planned the 9/11 attacks to start a war in the Middle East, while 24% believed in Trump’s ‘birtherism‘ theory that claimed former president Barack Obama was not born in the United States.9 11 files

Today, 61% of Americans remain convinced that the official Warren Commission report on Lee Harvey Oswald’s part in assassinating President John F. Kennedy, is incorrect – they believe that he could not have acted on his own. And since the 1963 tragedy, the number of disbelievers has never dropped below 50%; proportionality bias tells them that one man, with one bullet, could not have so dramatically changed the course of history all on his own.

“It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.”
— from Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

In 1961, chaos theory, or the butterfly effect, was brought to prominence in a work written by mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz. While running a numerical computer model to redo a weather prediction concerning the details of a tornado, he entered the initial condition 0.506 from the printout instead of entering the full precision 0.506127 value.

The tiny change brought about a completely different weather scenario result, and highlighted the sensitive interdependence on conditions that could result in very large differences in expectations, with just a small change in calculation.

The term, ‘butterfly effect‘ was actually the second name given to this phenomena. Lorenz originally used a sea gull’s wings to describe the theory.

” One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a sea gull’s wings would be enough to alter the course of the weather forever. The controversy has not yet been settled, but the most recent evidence seems to favor the sea gulls”

butterfly killerColleagues suggested that changing ‘sea gull’ to ‘butterfly’ would be more poetic, but it was not until 1972, when he was wondering how to title a talk he was giving on the subject, that colleague Philip Merilees concocted Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?  as a title.

I can’t help but wonder if those scientists might have been influenced by the 1952 story, The Sound of Thunder, written by Ray Bradbury, in which a time travelling hunter changes the future, by stepping on a butterfly, 65 million years in the past.

In the short story, set in 2055, a man named Eckels travels back in time to shoot and kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex. But he panics at the sight of the beast, and accidentally steps off the path that he has been warned that he must follow. When his hunting party returns to their present, everything has changed, right down to the language that people are speaking, and it is apparent that an evil dictator is now in control of the nation.

 

Bradbury writes: “Eckels felt himself fall into a chair. He fumbled crazily at the thick slime on his boots. He held up a clod of dirt, trembling, “No, it cannot be. Not a little thing like that. No!”

Embedded in the mud, glistening green and gold and black, was a butterfly, very beautiful and very dead.

“Not a little thing like that! Not a butterfly!” cried Eckels.

It fell to the floor, an exquisite thing, a small thing that could upset balances and knock down a line of small dominoes and then big dominoes and then gigantic dominoes, all down the years across Time. Eckels’ mind whirled. It couldn’t change things. Killing one butterfly couldn’t be that important! Could it?”

Ford as Dear LeaderAh, to speculate on all of the apparently insignificant moments that shape destinies and alter our times and history! While we may not recognize them, when they happen, or for what they portend, threads of cause and effect are created.

And in time, those moments can change the course of a human life or of a peoples’, eventually impacting  everything from our fashion to our emotions and our health, from our politics, to our economies and our very planet.

Best to have a little humility in the knowledge that our fates and futures can be sidetracked by something as fragile as a butterfly’s wings, in a time of chaos.

tags: Roxanne Tellier, Butterfly Effect, Internet, Homeland Security, John Gribbin, Barack Obama , Warren Commission , John F. Kennedy, Good Omens, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, chaos theory, Edward Lorenz., The Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury

Cabin Fever Smells Like Cold Turkey


A few weeks ago we had some snow that didn’t really stick. A few days later I saw a young father pushing his kid in a baby carriage. “Are the sidewalks clear?” I asked and he said … “yes .. FINALLY!”

In January.

He was a very young man.

toronto winter streetcarAnd then of course, along came February and THERE you are, you stinky Canadian winter, with your cold and your snow, and your ice hiding under the snow, and that wind chill. There you are, with the dark days and the early nights, and the winds that howl down alleys. I see you, there, with your mittens glossy from rubbing the snot from your runny nose. There you are, with the old peoples’ fear that one false step might be the one that breaks their hip. There you are with the isolation, and the inconvenience and the broken promises to get together.

The cats and I have Cabin Fever. We’ve had too much winter and not enough sun. We are all cranky, we are sniping at each other, and we are all a little depressed and taking it out on everyone else.

Every year I swear that I’ll go south, oh yes I will, and when I get there, there will be sand between my toes, and sea shells stinking up the balcony, and I’ll be warm and I will float in turquoise waters. Instead, I once again add ‘get a new passport’ to the endless ‘to do’ list, and pretend I’m not jealous when my friends post pictures of their adventures in sunnier climes.

And yet, this is also the time of year when Canadians can indulge in cuddles, all curled up under the covers or on top of the mound of blankets, as we watch crappy television for hours. Too much to do in summer. Winter is for snuggles.

These are the days when it is easy to embrace your inner caveperson, and feel that our lives and our world are stuck in a dark spiral, and that the warmth and light of summer will never return, thereby necessitating the sacrifice of some poor creature whose steaming entrails might appease the sungods.

But we are not cavepeople; we have Netflix.

toronto winter view from IslandI like to pretend that I will use those indoor winter months to organize my life, sort out the detritus of my life, do my taxes, and write something so incredibly precise and on the money that its wisdom and sense will reverberate through the ages ….

.. but that never happens. I’m more inclined to stare fixedly at a wall lined with items that need to be sorted, filed, categorized, discarded or at least moved to another room, and say .. ‘blue.. that wall would look so much nicer in blue …

This year I’ve made a special effort to take breaks from media of any kind. Our civilization seems to be rapidly unwinding, and as the end draws near, it’s best to take frequent respites from reports from the Front. So I’ll often hide away for a day or more, just to give my overtaxed brain and heart a rest. That, and a steady supply of edibles seems to help.

There is an unending stream of political, psychological, and philosophical nonsense constantly coming down the pike. We can debate endlessly, but sometimes in winter, you’ve just got to slow it all down and let the Muppets decide the subject of your column.

Cabin Fever is a real thing. I can’t even imagine how difficult life must have been for people back in the days before electricity, ski resorts, and hot chocolate. I’m gonna guess a lot of winters didn’t turn out so great for some of those little houses on the prairies.

Cabin fever themes have featured in Charlie Chaplin‘s 1925 film, The Gold Rush, Stefan Zweig‘s 1948 novella, The Royal Game, Stephen King‘s horror novel and film, The Shining,’ and a Simpsons‘ episode called “Mountain of Madness.”

In 1984, The Journal of Social Psychology published a study called “The Meaning of Cabin Fever,” based on interviews carried out with a sample of 35 Minnesota men and women, ages 17 to 84.
cabin fever yay snowThe researchers wanted to know how Minnesotans, prone to being forcibly confined to their homes by bad weather for days at a time, survived with at least some salvation of sanity. While four of the respondents thought that ‘cabin fever’ might actually be a mania having to do with wanting to buy a forest getaway, most of the people surveyed were very clear that cabin fever was a condition they had experienced, created by confinement, bad weather, and a lack of stimulation.

Being physically unable to get away from the house and the people inside it made most people prone to depression, boredom, dissatisfaction, irritability, and moodiness.

Having to deal with a bunch of bored children also made the wintertime even more difficult for many respondents. On a ‘snow day,’ parents juggling the needs of the children often found it even more difficult to deal with their own feelings of isolation.

There are coping mechanisms that can help with the winter blues, including activities that can be done inside or close to the home. Some suggestions included resetting your expectations of yourself and others, by tossing out the alarm clock, playing quieter music, or making slow-cooked food. Dig out those board games or playing cards. This too shall pass.

Now, if you happen to live in Toronto, we’ve actually got some stimulation in the form of a bar that is – for reals! – called Cabin Fever. It’s at 1669 Bloor West, near Keele.

cabin fever bloor westSounds like a good hang. One of the reviewers who opined on yelp said, ” what’s not to love about quality vinyl, pinball machines, and tall boy beers for seven bucks, all packed into a little hole-in-the-wall spot??”

I’ve never been to the place, but it’s open today from four p.m. until two a.m. Locals swear by the ‘pinball, beer and music’ mantra. Might be worth a look see.

I’m just glad that February is almost gone, because my stash of chocolate, fudge, and almonds is at a very low ebb. Thankfully my coffee supply is holding up; I’m always grateful for small mercies.

There’s a pothole in front of my house large enough to swallow a large dog or a small car, and the bird feeder is tilting at a jaunty angle. I’ve had enough of winter, thanks. You can bring on the spring any day now … any day now ….

 

 

On Lies, Trust, and an Omelette Bar


When I first starting writing my December 2nd column on the evils of lying, I started from a stance that lying was, as a rule, relatively harmless. But by the time I was winding up my research, I had a whole new perspective.

“Lying” sounds like something we teach kids not to do, because it’s kid stuff, not all that important, little white lies from little kids to save them from a ‘whupping.’

Lying is not supposed to be something that normal adults would do with any sort of regularity, because responsible adults are expected to stand by what they say, do, and believe.

As children, we were told to expect that people in respected positions would always speak the truth. That’s the oath people take when their words are important … they swear to ‘tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

But what happens when the people we are meant to believe … our elected leaders, civic leaders, corporate leaders, religious leaders … lie to us to further their own agendas? Their words then warp the teachings and beliefs necessary for a just society, based on respect for the veracity of each other. And that is some scary stuff.

brainwashing eyes wideWhen those lies become a continuous stream, and range from nonsensical, easily disproved, contortions of actual facts to major leaps of nonsensical confabulation, the problem becomes how to control a citizenry in which a large percentage has bought into the deluge, and effectively becomes a brain washed cult, no longer able to differentiate truth from lies.

Lying dissolves our trust, and trust is the invisible ‘glue’ that makes modern society and civilization possible. A fractured trust in leaders and important organizations is a very bad thing; that trust is the glue that allows us to survive disasters, participate in community activities, address inequality of income, and share our knowledge in order to increase our general health and happiness. Trust is difficult to earn, and easily lost, and yet it is possibly the single most important ingredient necessary for improving the human experience.

trust meI read recently that only 19% of millennials think the average person can be trusted. But the weird thing is that, despite all evidence to the contrary, they DO trust the system. and they believe that they, themselves, are trustworthy They just don’t trust each other.

Back in the good old days, say, around 1967, about 56% of us believed that ‘most people can be trusted.’ Our ability to trust is actually on the decline, and has been for quite some time. And that is because we have been lied to by those in whom we had previously put our faith.

why do you lie liarIt’s hard to put your faith and your money into the hands of someone whose own hands have been caught looting the cookie jar. When social media exposes the stories of people, just like yourself, who have been lied to, or who have been cheated by those in whom we are asked to trust, our credulity becomes strained.

 

Governing bodies, big and small, have asked us to trust that they had our best interests at heart. Unfortunately, too many of those officials have later been found unworthy of having their words believed. And it doesn’t matter if they had very, very, VERY good reasons to lie to the people; our rational brains may forgive them, but our gut never will.

trust me I'm from the govtToday, only 1 in 3 Americans believe that most people are trustworthy. Less than 1 in 3 trust that other drivers are competent, or would trust a clerk or website with their credit card. 1 in 4 people trust their employers, and less than 1 in 5 adults trust the government.

But here’s the interesting thing – when you ask people how much they trust people who are their neighbours, the numbers go up; 39 percent of millennials trust their neighbours, as do 73 percent of seniors.

Proximity and personal experiences with others tend to encourage trust; it is difficult to distrust someone with whom you have much in common. If you have a solid education, with a lot of exposure to different classes of people, you are more likely to trust a wider range of individuals than someone with an inadequate field of reference.

It’s interesting that those who are mentally, physically, or emotionally isolated have a harder time trusting individuals of varying colours, interests or abilities. ; These individuals will easily take as gospel, information that shows people unlike themselves to be untrustworthy.

Perhaps it is from this group that Trump draws his base; certainly, their blind faith in him, and loyalty to his campaign of fear and hatred of non-American humans is mystifying.

There was certainly a suspension of disbelief visible when Trump’s blatant gaslighting of America was in full display during his State of the Union speech. The president falsely claimed that fencing along El Paso‘s border with Mexico had directly reduced violent crime, despite FBI data that said otherwise.

el paso border crossingStatistics show that violent crime in El Paso has been falling steadily over the last 25 years. There was a little uptick, just for a bit, after border fencing was installed in 2008, but other than that, the statistics are clear.

Despite being shown that his information was false, Trump doubled down on his lies at an El Paso rally, asking his rapt supporters to accept as true his assertions over what had been gleaned from federal government data.

And it seems like his faithful are happy to believe whatever they are told.

He continued his bluster when he declared his fake ‘national emergency’ on Friday, telling the assembled dignitaries and journalists that he just didn’t believe the statistics that came from his own administration, that showed record low border crossing, that less crime was committed by undocumented immigrants than by native-born Americans, and where exactly the flow of illegal drugs was happening at the border.

He chose instead to believe statistics he’d been given that came from less reputable sources.  ” On Jan. 27, he tweeted that the cost of illegal immigration so far this year was $18,959,495,168. We traced that number to a report on the right-leaning One America News Network. The figure appears to be based on an estimate from an outside group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), though the OAN figure was considerably higher.” (Washington Post)

snake oil salesmanHey!  let’s not let facts get in the way when we’re selling to the rubes! Somebody’s gotta buy this snake oil!

Trump’s willingness to flat-out deny reality when it doesn’t suit his purposes highlights one of the dangers of his presidency: He is shameless about not just contradicting the findings of his own government agencies but constructing a fact-free alternate reality where immigrants are violent criminals, drugs and tied-up women are pouring across the southern border, and the number of people making a dangerous trek through remote regions to enter the United States presents an existential threat. (VOX)

 Immediately following the declaration of emergency, Trump fled to his retirement home lair in Florida. While ‘chillin’ like a villain,’ it seems that El Presidente was caught “in flagrante delicto” at the omelette bar.

trump omelette bar Feb 2019 post national emergency

(well… caught red-handed with a plateful of bacon, that is … _

 Impeach this guy? More like im-poach.

I’ve gotta wonder if this really is him – after all, this guy looks like any generic, unhealthy old grandpa who has just wandered up to the ‘all you can eat’ cart at a cheap Best Western or Holiday Inn.

What is with the open garbage can? The multiple bottles of ketchup? The general slovenliness of the place, and the caption missing from the photo that should be saying, ‘With cheese, Mr President?” “Yeah… let’s make America .. grate again…”

If that is indeed the ‘luxury’ resort that costs it’s members $200K a year to enter, the decor is surprisingly outdated and cheap looking, like it was bought from the Wayfair returned items outlet.

The ten year old Walgreens poster, showing Trump as a younger and fitter man (remember when he really WAS 6 ft 3?) has got to be a cruel reminder to his wife and kids that daddy’s ability to ‘walk the walk’ has degenerated into “daddy needs to ride in the golf cart or we’re not gonna make it to the corner for ice creams!”

Is it really him? He looks dazed, like he hasn’t had his Adderall yet.  is this photo shopped, because enquiring minds want to know …where’s his hair? His ‘tan’? Those dozens of chins? His enormous behind?  Is that a chemical peel on his cheeks or vitilago? And did he raid Kim Jong Un‘s daddy’s closet for that outfit?

trump obama who wore it betterIf it turns out that this is, in fact, the emperor unclothed, then this photo has done a real service, at least to some of us. His base will likely never believe that the Trump that regularly throws a news hand grenade into our living rooms and then wanders off to play golf is not the pompous, pompadoured autocrat usually seen swanning around in his black ‘fat coat.’

His base will scream that the photo is ‘fake news,’ and that the libtards are once again continuing on their persecution of their anointed one’s preordained reign.

But for the rest of us, photographic proof that this harbinger of the apocalypse is nothing more than an old, frail man, with no real friends or any cultural significance beyond what the GOP have draped around the wizard’s image, is a moment to be savoured like a fine wine.

Trump’s followers want to wallow in Trump’s fantasy world, even if that world is filled with criminals and horrors. They don’t want to accept a reality that doesn’t include their Orange Emperor promising his loyal followers untold riches trickling down upon them.

baldwin trump 2019Thankfully, we still have access to alternate points of view. Saturday Night Live no longer allows it’s skits to be streamed on YouTube, so I can’t embed the fun Alec Baldwin had with his impersonation of Trump’s rantalogue last night. But it went something like this ….

” “This is a big one, so I don’t want to waste any time,” Baldwin, in full faux tan and blond wig regalia, said to open the show. He then claimed to be over six feet tall and “shredded,” adding that he looked forward to the visiting Hanoi with Chairman Kim who “is a very cool, misunderstood guy.”

 “There’s a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country — from the southern border, or the ‘brown line’ as many people have asked me not to call it.” Wall works. Wall make safe. You don’t have to be smart to understand that, and in fact it’s even easier to understand if you’re not that smart.”

Elsewhere in the speech, Baldwin‘s Trump confessed that he had to “fake” the national emergency and said he’d mulled over enacting the death penalty for non-violent crimes. He then said that he knew signing the declaration would lead to “immediately [being] sued.”

I’ll immediately be sued and the ruling will not go in my favor and then it will end up in the Supreme Court and then I’ll call my buddy Kavanaugh and I’ll say ‘it’s time to repay the Donny,’ and he’ll say, ‘new phone, who dis?’ And by then the Mueller report will be released, crumbling my house of cards and I can plead insanity and do a few months in the puzzle factory and my personal hell of playing president will finally be over..” (FOX News)

Thanks, SNL.  I needed that.

 

Duct Taped Women And Orange Men


by Roxanne Tellier

I started writing this column days ago, and then it suddenly made a “left or a right turn into the United States, with a cargo of duct taped women tied up in the back of the car ” … january has 973 days

oh no, hang on – sorry!  .. that was Trump’s porno fantasy from Friday when he finally set the government workers free from their 35 day enslavement.

But I digress ….

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2019

Apparently we have learned very little, in these 74 years since the end of a war that showed us exactly what happens to humanity when racism becomes the approved government policy. (Spoiler alert: those in charge abandon their own humanity and blame it on sadism being a work requirement.)

moment of silence holocaust

Apparently we can’t see the similarities between the vilification of millions of human beings that occurred in Germany under Hitler, and the vilification of millions of human beings that is occurring right now, in America under Trump.

 

Too harsh? Consider what went down during the shutdown, as the Dems and Republicans wrangled over what ‘sop’ Herr Trump would have to receive before rescinding what was essentially a temporary enslavement (forced work without pay) of 800,000 government workers.

While he continued to demand the arbitrary hostage payment of $5.7 Billion for his magic wall, he also wanted to make it clear that there would be no amnesty on the table, no path to citizenship, for either the DACA kids, or the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have become valuable taxpaying residents of America since receiving Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

In fact, in his rebuttals to the FOX network talking heads who thought his offerings of a temporary respite meant that he was going soft, he made it quite clear that, whatever security he might extend to either the DACA kids or the TPS refugees, it would only be short-term – three years tops – and that he would pull back that protection whenever it suited his whim. trump wall kidnapped children

Say – after the next election, should he remain in power.

That whimsy also extended to about eleven million people who live in America illegally –  your neighbours and friends, who will likely eventually wind up as passengers on a bus, sent back to who knows where, on your tax dollar. He’s got plans to round them all up and deport them at some point. You are gonna miss them – they’ve been members of your community. Maybe you miss them already.

The truth is, illegal immigrants actually pay a lot of money in taxes;  the $11.2 billion in taxes paid by illegal immigrants in 2010 included $8.4 billion in sales taxes, $1.6 billion in property taxes and $1.2 billion in state personal income taxes.

Rich people pay next to nothing in taxes. Between tax shelters, trump’s new tax laws that only benefit the wealthy, and accountants that have never found a taxable dollar they couldn’t dress up as an expense, the wealthy pay a great deal less than pretty much anybody. Oh … and when the IRS or the Canadian equivalent go after tax dodgers, they’re far more likely to go after people with a middle class income than a millionaire’s income. (What they lose in quantity, they make up for in volume .. there’s just so many of us to shake down!)

Rich white people are not used to being held accountable; justice wears a different face for them.

maga hat wearers racistAnd, despite the argument that immigrants bring crime, the truth is that immigrants are, in fact, less likely to commit crimes, if only to bring less attention to themselves and their families.

The rudimentary camps and tent cities that have been erected at the southern border are not concentration camps, at least, not yet. But there are just too many similarities in tone and in the mistreatment of human beings for the camps not to be considered fraternal if not identical twins.

Racism is like mother’s milk to many Americans – they imbibe it from birth, and it’s very hard to go cold turkey as you age, even when common sense, facts and science keep telling you that the milk has gone sour.

trayvon martin and killerThinking back to some of the ugliest of quasi Jim Crow laws still plaguing America in the twenty first century … Stand Your Ground, anyone? … there’s an irony in a George Zimmerman, ecstatic to have fulfilled his cop fantasy by killing a 17 year old boy whose only crime was wearing a hoodie and of bringing home some snacks to eat while he did his homework, quite possibly being someone whose looks get him ‘accidentally’ rounded up and deported for looking like someone they’d grab in an ICE sting..

President Obama once said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” and a whole lot of ‘not me! I’m no racist!’ types lost their minds. Because American audiences have been conditioned to see young black guys as bad guys – no matter what situation those kids might be in. They’ve been taught that black people are, as a group or individually, and of any age, creatures of whom you could honestly claim to see as being dangerous under even the most innocuous situations or in the most innocuous of places. Which then makes it logical that you might ‘fear for your life‘ of such a creature, even if it’s just a little twelve year old boy, playing with a toy gun, all by himself in a snowy park. That’s enough for someone to call 911, and suddenly, there’s a police car driving by, and a police gun that has a bullet with your name on it. And the cop doesn’t even have to get out of his car to kill you.

white people don't expect to be treated like black people‘Teenagers are teenagers, and they do stupid stuff’ only applies to white kids, apparently. Try to imagine if all of those 15, 16,and 17 year old ‘nice young men’ who terrorized their schools with AR-15s had been black.

Which reminds me … how old is Smirkboy, er .. I mean Nick Sandmann? Smirkboy, whose up close and personal encounter with a Native elder has kept him in the news for yet another week, is sixteen. He looked a little older when he was up in the elder’s face, but oh my how he’d changed in appearance by the time a good PR firm had taken him in hand.

This is what 16 looks like when you are being racist

maga hat teen smirking native elder vet

 

And this is what 16 looks like when you’ve been coached in how to make excuses for being racist. I can almost smell the peach fuzz. nick sandmann interview

 

 

 

 

 

 

politicians before and aferIt reminded me of nothing so much as how politicians present themselves before and after elections.

 

 

 

Yes, he was pretty young, just sweet sixteen, and yet, his Catholic school sent him off with his all boy school group to protest abortions at a Right to Life event. These kids were sent to be political actors. Rumour has it, the school actually provided them with the MAGA hats, which, if true, would be a pretty good reason to pull the school’s religious tax exemption.

The MAGA hats also show a genuine lack of logical thinking on the part of all who thought it appropriate gear when declaring the right to decide who has a ‘right to life’ … the hat supports a president who denigrates immigrants and refugees, and celebrates taking children from their parents and separating families.

Can you show me where the ‘right to life’ hurt you, on this doll? I mean .. MAGA hat?

The racism seems pretty much baked into the American cake, overall, despite Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court declaring the end of racism in America in 2013, largely based on one half black man becoming president of the United States.

trump would have torn down an obama wall

Well, it’s just over six years later, and the orange man is spending all of his time overturning everything the black man accomplished in his two terms.

 

 

So I’m gonna say Justice Roberts kinda jumped the gun there.

The orange man really can’t stand people of colour. Perhaps he is unaware that orange is a colour as well.

ms45 trump and mcconnell in prison

And with any luck, and based on his many crimes against a different colour of humanity, time will prove that orange IS the new black …

 

………………………….

 

while I think of it.. it’s that time of year again! The 2019 Overgrow Canada campaign has begun, and it’s time to sign up for your 100 free cannabis seeds! These are a low-THC, high-CBD strain called Freedom Dream

The goal of this campaign is to get these plants growing in public places. Sprout them at home and get them started, then put the seedlings in traffic circles, community parks, city hall gardens, and anywhere else where they can be seen and enjoyed by everyone.

Many people have been growing these plants at home, to produce a source of CBD. That’s fine too!”

Clink the link to get started!

https://sensiblebc.nationbuilder.com/free_cannabis_seeds?utm_campaign=on_og_with_poppies