The Trappings of Fame


“Fame … makes a man take things over …. puts you there where things are hollow”

If you were a baby boomer in the sixties, you most likely never knew anyone who was ‘really really’ rich. There was a kid in my school whose dad was a famous football player, but I didn’t know her well. And there was another friend who came from Texas; they had a big house, and even had a maid, who let us make chili and mess up the kitchen.

I had relatives who had oil patch money – they didn’t come around to many family parties, though. They likely got tired of being hit up for loans that would never get repaid.

USA - 30th Anniversary of Elvis Presley's Death - GracelandWhen you think about it, one of the most famous, and presumably wealthiest, person with a high profile, back in those days, was Elvis. And by today’s standards, Graceland isn’t exactly the Taj Mahal. Not with all that shag carpeting. But for the time, it was high glam.

As a child, I knew, through reading, that there had been times in history when some people had attained obscene wealth, usually by conquering another country, and by subjecting those natives to their will. Those people were called kings, and whatever they wanted was granted to them, for their skill in warfare.queen of sheba

England had a royalty, but they wore sensible shoes.

I didn’t look up to those people; I never wanted to be ‘royal’ It seemed a pretty high price to pay for a life lived entirely in the public eye. And back then, there were a lot of people who wondered if the trade off of privacy for public adulation was a good one.

Now, of course, people will do anything to be seen, hopefully to be admired, for whatever it is they can do to be different. Tattoo a snake on your face? We’ll only be impressed if you’re the first to think to do so.

“Could it be the best, could it be? Really be, really, babe?”

I don’t know if it is a Canadian way of thinking, but I remember how most people I knew, growing up, adhered to the ‘tall poppy syndrome‘ … that meant that you didn’t want to stick your head up too high, or blow your own horn a little too loud, because you’d be sure to get cut down to size if you did. The syndrome is basically a way of sneering at those who revel in having a ton of money – which we assume is ill-gotten gains – or of seeking fame in public life.

william shatnerIn the seventies, you’d have been more likely to hear someone snigger, “geez, who does he/she think he/she is!” when a Canadian even got a mention in American media.

We did not put many Canadians on pedestals for their achievements, though we’d often get a little warm feeling when we felt like we’d snuck a Canadian through, behind America’s back. Like that William Shatner guy, with the weird way of talking. His mum had an acting school on Girouard in Montreal, so he was one of the good one’s.

We had our own awards, our Junos instead of Grammys, our Genie awards instead of Oscars, and by geez, that should be good enough for any Canadian! Just look at that Walter Ostanek fella, and all his polka Grammy wins! Does HE look happy? Now, you just go practice your accordion, and try not to get all stuck up and big headed!

“Fame …. what you like is in the limo”

And then came …. rock and roll hedonism.

“In the seventies … There was more excess, more hedonism, more drugs, more attitude, more sex, more style, more enthusiasm. Just?… more.” (The Telegraph, UK)

mudsharkI’m not saying that the days of mud sharks, Whovian displays of hotel trashing, and the deaths by overdose of nearly every icon of the day opened the door to the pedestaling of the rich and famous….

but it helped.

The austerity of the post war years, and the drive and eventual success of the lower class kids, who knew the only way to get out of soul crushing poverty was to get into sports or rock n roll, became the envy of those who wondered what it would be like to literally have the world and all of it’s glories at their feet … drugs, drink, the most beautiful women in the world … it could all be yours, if you just cracked the Top Ten Charts.

Mo’ money, mo’ problems. Some of the luckier and richer rockers listened to their dear old dads, or to the managers and accountants who flocked to help funnel some of this largesse into safer investments, like property. And sadly, some of those ‘helpful’ advisors turned out to be there with the intention of taking advantage of the silly geese now laying multiple golden eggs.

Fame and wealth are on a sliding scale, as the wiser of the nouveau riche artistes soon learned. And if those musos wanted to keep at least some of the moolah that was coming in, in order to pay for their growing entourages, they’d have to learn to manage, manipulate, and increase their funds, just like the robber barons of the last century had done.

And off they went, to the tax havens…. and began to grow their own little dynasties …

“Fame, “Nein! It’s mine! is just his line … to bind your time, it drives you to, crime .”

We aging hippies, especially those of us who chose careers in the arts, might not have prioritized the acquisition of wealth, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t drool a little when these new ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’ were dangled before us, in the mid eighties.

make it rainMTV glommed onto that envy, and promoted the lifestyles of celebrities in shows like “The Fabulous Life Of … “ and “Cribs.” These quasi reality features pretended to give the plebes a glimpse into the opulent homes, glamorous lifestyles, and vacation playgrounds of those musicians who had ‘made it.’

FAME … and wealth, were now what everyone wanted to achieve, by any means possible. Oh yeah, it was all about the Benjamins …

“Fame … what you get is no tomorrow … “

And we bought it .. oh yes, those of us who looked on and envied the lifestyles of those who had cracked the money and power code, wanted in on the fun.

“Americans are accustomed to talking about fame using the heady language of the cosmos: the celebrity as a celestial truth, situated above us; the superstar as a force in the firmament, all heat and light and gravitational demands. Michael Jackson’s environmental form of fame—music that permeated people’s lives, iconography that saturated American culture—anticipated the intimate version of celebrity that is the default today. It is fitting, in that regard, that celebrity itself functions as a spectral character in Leaving Neverland. Jackson was acutely aware of the affordances of fame; he leveraged them, the documentary suggests—and, ultimately, he weaponized them. Joy Robson, Wade’s mother, recalls Jackson making a request of her; she recalls, as well, that when she refused it, he coolly informed her: “I always get what I want.”” (The Atlantic, March 2019)

This year has seen the release of several documentaries that question what the pedestaling of fame has done to our vulnerable young women and men. With the allegations in Leaving Neverland and Surviving R. Kelly, we also need to be aware of what fame does to the psyches of those who wield that much power.

camp followersThere have always been camp followers, disciples, those who believe that proximity to what they covet, for even a few moments, raises their own profile and value amongst those who have not had the same access to the royalty of their time.

When those who possess power of any potency use manipulation, a righteous fear, and their fame/perceived authority to get what they want, they are abusing that power in order to exploit vulnerable people for their own advantage or gain. And even if those people go willingly to the abuse, it’s still abuse.

Now, the funny thing is that, somewhere along the line, we all started to think that those who achieve fame and financial reward for being good at one thing, like music, or business, could translate that magic to other careers.

And strangely enough, in a culture that appears to embrace a meritocracy, those who seek fame and power somehow manage to drape the mantle of unique talents upon those whose rise to fame may well have simply come from a well placed endorsement, a reality television episode, or a sex tape featuring some very, very large buttocks.

kardashian buttWe would never expect our dentist to take out our appendix or fix our plumbing, but for some reason, we think that someone who has managed to acquire – by hook, and likely crook – a large amount of money, should be given free reign to guide a country, or should be allowed to tell us who and how to worship. The mind boggles.

The political ‘base’ of a country is as subservient to a populist politician, as a congregation is to a hyperbolic preacher, or a groupie or ‘musical prodigy’ is to a music mogul. There’s a parallel in the abuses.

rewards just aheadDangling the promises of future prosperity, they will assure their acolytes that there is a brilliant future awaiting them, if they’ll just listen to their master’s advice. The prey might wonder at what is asked of them, if they follow this path, and they may be reluctant to give their all, without the assurances, as false as they may be, that their faith will bring them enormous rewards in the end.

The followers will put that preacher, or politician, or musical ‘genius’ on a pedestal, and make that person their whole world, believing that their devotion and loyalty is as strongly returned.

But eventually, and inevitably, that faith is abused.

Our adoration of those with fame and wealth blinds us, and when those whom we’ve put on a pedestal are toppled, our beliefs in our selves is fractured.

toppling idolsWhat goes up .. must come down. At some point, the blinders fall off, and we see that those we call gods and kings are just selfish, spoiled, narcissists, and that we are the toys and pawns they use to satisfy their own whims and urges.

2011 … “A new study co-funded by the Gates Foundation, however, portrays the ultrarich as lost souls burdened by the fears, worries and family distortions of too much money.

Yeah yeah. Cry me a river.

 

 

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 ….

 

 

Sports, Armageddon, and Quincy Jones Oh My!


 

by Roxanne Tellier

It’s Superbowl Sunday! that day when two teams of very large men in very padded outfits will try to kill each other for funzies and a huge, gawdy ring.

I don’t watch sports – it’s just not my thing – but I do enjoy the half time shows, and the award winning advertisements that sponsors save up for this special day.

What’s a ‘lunk’?

In other news, it seems like we’re living through a “Choose Your Own Armageddon” scenario.

If you’ve always wondered what it would be like to live in a post-apocalyptic world, your wish may be well on it’s way to coming true!

This week, the most informed leading lights and heads of the military and intelligence bureaus of the United States reported on the current hotspots around the globe that could cause major conflicts and bring unrest to America.

trump spoiled toddler poseThe most uninformed man in the world, who doubles as the president of the U.S., told them they were all wrong, and that only he, based on his ‘gut feelings’ and a solid and continuous scrutiny of the talking heads of the FOX Network, knew what was really going on.

So adamant was he on this point that the White House decreed that there would no longer be daily presidential briefs brought to him every morning, as these contrary ‘opinions’ were just too upsetting for the boy king.

trump tan failOh, and also that his orange facial tinge is due to ‘good genes‘ – not makeup and definitely NOT from a tanning bed.

To further demonstrate that ‘nobody’s gonna tell ME what to do!” trump then decided to end the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty, which currently prohibits the production or testing of ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles. Russia, a little miffed that the Orange Julep is pretending to bicep flex, immediately retaliated, declaring the treaty, in place since the days of Reagan, null and void.

This tiff, combined with the unstable situations in North Korea and the Middle East, now has those in the know worrying that an arms race is about to restart between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers. And it’s got me wondering where on earth I’m gonna find a school desk big enough for me to ‘duck and cover’ my big butt.

What we’re left with, after the clear warnings of the hearing, and the toddler’s subsequent tantrum, is something that will keep me and many others awake at night. Trump has been established as an ignoramus – uninformed and unwilling to learn – and the people who actually have the facts on global instability have been marginalized and belittled on the world stage by their own Commander in Chief.

This leaves precisely NO ONE in charge of what to do when the shit hits the fan. There are no leaders in which the American people can put their faith and trust. America is now ripe for a takeover by even the weakest nation on the planet, due to this gross destabilization of reality.

And if that don’t kill ya ….

Hundreds of thousands of fish have choked during Australia‘s hottest month since records began. Swathes of the United States are colder than the north pole. New ruptures have been found in one of the Antarctic’s biggest glaciers and there are growing signs the Arctic is warming so fast that it could soon be just another stretch of the Atlantic…. The US deep freeze, which has plunged temperatures in Minnesota to -50C (-58F), may appear to have little in common with the searing heatwave that cooked Marble Bar, Australia, in 49.1C (120.4F).” The Guardian, January 2019

world will end in 12 years AOC… little in common indeed … what’s a 100C degree temperature swing amongst friends, amirite?

At Davos, a feisty Swedish teen activist, Greta Thunberg, led a snowy sitdown demonstration to warn the billionaires, world leaders, business figures and celebrities gathered there that their inaction on climate change might be turning them a profit now, but didn’t bode well for their dreams of a long line of succession to their personal thrones.

“Some people say that the climate crisis is something that we all have created. But that is not true, because if everyone is guilty then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame,” 16-year-old climate crusader Greta Thunberg told the audience

Thunberg’s own strike from school every Friday for 23 weeks has inspired a wave of similar protests globally by young people who wonder what the point is of education in a world where political leaders fail to tackle climate change.

Also at Davos, and If you’d prefer your endtimes to involve guillotines, rumble carts, and a Les Miserables soundtrack, Rutger Bregman, historian and author of Utopia for Realists, gave the unclothed Davos emperors an earful, when he rightly pointed out that their prattlings on inequality and social unrest were sweet, but had little impact when divorced from the role the very wealthy play in the problem.

wealth isn't created at the topHe told his audience that people in Davos talked about participation, justice, equality and transparency, but “nobody raises the issue of tax avoidance and the rich not paying their share. It is like going to a firefighters’ conference and not talking about water.”

With all of that angst swirling around me, I am always enormously grateful when I find a little respite to the daily horror of the trump era, be it by watching videos of cats dressed in shark costumes riding Roombas, or of having the good fortune of stumbling upon a sweet documentary I didn’t know I needed to see.

QUINCY … this film alone is worth my monthly Netflix payment. The 2018 American documentary about ‘Q,’ the record producer, singer and film producer, is two hours I consider very well spent.

Quincy Jones – one of only 18 EGOTs (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner) … over 2000 songs and 300 albums recorded … 51 film and television scores … over 1000 original compositions … 79 Grammy nominations and 27 Grammy wins …. producer of both the best selling single AND the best selling album of all time.

Now that’s what I’m talking about.

Quincy’s life was never easy, right from the days of his rough upbringing on the south side of Chicago. His mother was diagnosed schizophrenic and roughly dragged away in a straitjacket when he was just seven years old. He didn’t see her again until he was a successful young man.

His determination and grit saw him survive the Great Depression and go on to perform with Lionel Hampton as a teenaged trumpeter, and then put his head down and conquer every form of music that interested him, despite the barriers erected by the colour of his skin.

quincy and ray

He worked hard, and he loved hard, but the work had a habit of getting in the way. All three of his wives eventually had to leave because the music and the work was taking up all the air in the marriage.

His talent and genuine love for music propelled him to places few others could have gone. When the record companies said he was too young and inexperienced to be a producer, Dinah Washington insisted it was Quincy’s production or no one’s.

Mercury Records said, ‘Nope, we want a name.’ Dinah said, ‘Here’s a name for your ass: Dinah Washington with Quincy Jones as an arranger.’ ”

In the late fifties, Quincy’s work with Frank Sinatra was instrumental in the singer’s push for racial equality for Las Vegas entertainers, eventually playing an integral role in an agreement between Vegas hotel and casino owners that effectively desegregated the city in March 1960.

He knew everyone in the biz, and he worked with most of them. In one portion of the film, set in 2016, Jones inspects the new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History & Culture exhibits, where the personal effects of so many of his old ‘homies’ –Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Dinah Washington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis – are on display. In a few hours, the grand opening ceremony that he has guided into place and produced will begin, but for a few moments, he is black musical history personified, both past and present.

The man never seems to stop, despite having had several serious health scares, including a nervous breakdown, blood clots, a stroke, diabetes, and not one, but two brain aneurysms.

And yet, the overwhelming passion that seems to guide his life is his incredible gratitude and appreciation for his family and friends. This is a loving man, a man who cannot get enough of his family, and a man who, despite having done so much in his lifetime, is still capable of finding joy and surprise in the music and the young musicians he continues to mentor, even as he edges ever closer to 90.

There were many moments in this film that touched my heart, and nearly brought me to tears. It is the existence and continuing presence of a rare genius in our midst that gives me hope for both music, and an America that could produce such a man.

 

Surviving A Blue Christmas


by Roxanne Tellier

Man, I cannot stand Elvis‘ song, “Blue Christmas.” And I’ll bet you have a couple of holiday tunes you could gladly live without for the rest of your life … enough’s enough on the “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” amirite?

And no … we’re not discussing the ‘controversy’ over “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” No, we are not.

But.

But seriously … it’s that time of year, when people can get a little – or a lot – down about what seems to be an incessant and annoying full frontal campaign insisting that we all be ‘merry and bright’ and ‘ho ho ho’ ourselves into stupors.

A surfeit of merriment. Bah humbug. What to do, what to do, when you just feel blue?

csarn salons
That was the question being asked at a recent seminar I attended, that was hosted by the good people of C-SARN (Canadian Senior Artists’ Resource Network – find more info at csarn.ca.)

Facilitated by Matt Eldridge, from the Artists’ Health Centre, the session included curated info on dealing with holiday stress, and included much lively input from the attendees.

We touched briefly on the very real problem of Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD.) SAD is a type of depression that occurs during the change of seasons. Symptoms of SAD include fatigue, lethargy, anxiety, weight gain and sleep disorders. About 2-3% of the general population of Ontario have SAD and another 15% have a less severe experience. It is believed that SAD is caused by changes in the level of exposure to sunlight. At this point, the main treatment for SAD is light therapy.

Seasonal-Affective-Disorder-SAD

There are special light therapy lamps, designed to mimic spring and summer light levels, that can really help relieve some of the depression of SAD, but the lamps are quite expensive.

However, help is on the way if you live in Toronto! Several branches of the Toronto Public Library now have light therapy lamps available in-library on a first-come, first served basis, as a way to treat the “winter blues.

All you need to do is sit, read or work about 2 feet away from a lamp for 20-30 minutes, without looking directly into the lamp, but allowing the light to shine on your face. It may be hard to believe, but that’s all it can take to really help.

You can give it a try at the Agincourt, Brentwood, Don Mills, Fairview, Humber Bay, Malvern, Maria A Shchuka, Parkdale or Parliament branches, or on the 5th floor and basement Toronto Star Newspaper Room of the Toronto Reference Library.

So that’s SAD dealt with – but what if you are just generally bummed out by the holiday season?

Me, I hate the ‘heaviness’ of winter … the weighty coats, the accumulation of hats, earmuffs, scarves and mitts, and the big, sturdy, non-slip boots that contrive to make me feel like a Clydesdale negotiating a steep slope. I can literally feel myself getting shorter as I assume the mantle of wintry clothing. Literally. I will probably have lost another inch in height by January.

Some determinedly, doggedly, cheery people love to tell you that “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” My mission is to hunt those people down, and skin them for their magic coats.

But until I find them, I’m going to have to deal with not enjoying anything about surviving the coldest months of the year in Canada.

Perhaps it is time to embrace the Scandinavian concept of hygge (pronounced hooga.) This is a word that Danes use to express a mental strategy for coping with the winter months, describing an emotional coziness and togetherness. It is a time they spend indoors with friends and family, embracing the colder season as wholeheartedly as they do the summer months, and seeing both extremes as opportunities to cultivate the different sides of themselves.

danish hyggeHey … as long as it doesn’t include sports … I’ve never liked sports, either to play or to watch, so that leaves me out of a lot of the typical Canadian leisure time diversions and debates. About the most I can handle in terms of physical exertion in the winter is a lope to the nearest Tim Hortons for a toasty cup of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and a cinnamon dusting. I simply lack a sports gene, and find it unlikely I’ll develop one during my ‘golden years.’

winter wildlifeWhat I can always find time to do, though, is to spend a few hours with friends, to share a meal and indulge in lively discussions. Or to walk in a park, where some of our wild critters, who don’t migrate or hibernate, can benefit from a gift of the appropriate seed, treat, or suet.

I’m not a religious person, but I sometimes like to enter a house of worship, to partake, for a moment, of the peace that comes from the gathering of those who enjoy a committed faith.

Some people take great joy in volunteering, and of helping others by giving a little bit of their time or largesse to benefit those who have less than ourselves. Others look forward to participating in regular or seasonal religious ceremonies.

christmas eyebrowsI’m more of an indoor person, and can find tons of ways to amuse myself, whether it’s on the internet, or in communing with my pets. I love to search out old holiday songs, programs, and stories from other times and other countries, and to admire or laugh at how our sense of fashion has morphed over time.

Couple of things to avoid – if you are not feeling particularly cheery, go easy on the physical stressors: sugar, caffeine, alcohol and empty carbohydrates will just make you feel more jangled, and pack on the pounds. Be vigilant about eating properly, and taking the meds and supplements that keep you ticking along smoothly. Also, try not to spend a lot of time on social media; many friends and acquaintances like to take the season as an opportunity to put up their annual “highlight” reels … no, neither they nor their kids look that good all year round, and the dog is rented. Nuff said.

try something new SeussYou might be able to turn around some of your blues by making a small attitude adjustment; nobody’s perfect, but we all get a chance every new day to tweak what we’ve got. Why not try looking at your holiday challenges with an eye to a more realistic expectation of how your sister in law will behave after her third glass of wine? Is it possible that even Drunk Uncle will be a little easier to take if you practice a bit of radical acceptance of his all too human foibles? Some people just can’t help people-ing.

And the next time someone invites you to an event, or a meal, why not try saying an enthusiastic YES! to a new experience? The worse that can happen is that you spend a few hours discovering that you like or dislike this new person or food or thing.

Conversely, if you’ve spent most of your adult life hating one of your holiday traditions – this may be the year you finally say a resounding NO! to doing it any more. Walk away from petty squabbles, refuse to eat foods that you dislike, and don’t invite trolls to be part of your celebrations. While the holidays are a time of giving, they shouldn’t also be a time of unending and painful sacrifice in the pursuit of someone else’s happiness.

Everyone experiences the holidays and winter differently, but there are some tried and true ways to increase your own enjoyment of the season. Indulge your senses with the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and tactile sensations that fill you with pleasure.

10-tips-for-enjoying-a-long-winter-indoorsIf you are keen on Christmas carols, fill your home with the sound! Put on your favourite play list while you tidy up your environment and enjoy the scent of seasonal candles, fruits and foliage. Open up your curtains and throw a little light on the situation. indulge yourself with a special treat, because you deserve it.

Be gentle with yourself, and let your inner dialogue express the same tenderness to yourself that you’d show towards someone you love or care about, who’s dealing with a tough time. You are just as deserving.

Above all … pace yourself! This demanding round of lunches, dinners and soirees will soon fade and become last year’s memories, but we Canadians will still have a further three or four months of cold, snow, and ice to deal with. It’s gonna take a toll on you. So try to have enough fun with your loved ones during the holidays to make yourself, if not more tolerant, than at least a little more accepting of our country’s wintry gifts.

And however you spend this holiday season, I wish you the best and most joyous one ever!

happy holidays to all

 

Pot Pourri


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

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

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

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

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

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

kittypants 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dance like everyone is watching

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

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

hempfest Sept 15 16 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O tempora! o mores!

 

 

Stuff Is Hard


scott shelson teddy boysI didn’t have the best week, to be honest. On Tuesday, I learned that a very dear friend had passed away after a series of health setbacks. Scott Shelson was a good man; look up ‘mensch’ in the dictionary – his photo should be there.

Scott was not only a fabulous musician, he was movie star handsome, smart, funny, athletic, a great husband, and an amazing dad. He ran a courier company for years, and many a musician found a temporary or long term job there when they needed it.

scott shelson sexy shirtAt the family’s ‘Celebration of Life,” the scores of those who had come to honour Scott praised his commitment to his family and friends, saying that he was a man who had never been heard to raise his voice in anger, or have a bad word to say about anyone – even those who might have sinned against him in the past.

A good man – a big loss for those of us who loved and respected him.

Two days later, the world mourned the loss of another irreplaceable human being, when Aretha Franklin succumbed to pancreatic cancer. I can’t remember a world in which she was not a force to be reckoned with, not only in music, but in civil rights, and in her position as senior female spokesperson. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. baby…

aretha franklin youngEvery musical entity on the planet .. and many non-musical entities … have written glowing tributes to the Queen of Soul. So, of course, the Orange Mango waved away the importance of her life and works when he dismissively referred to her as someone who once worked for him. Sigh. Money can’t buy class.

I do know that she was asked to perform at Dead Clown Walking’s inauguration, and vehemently refused to do so. Maybe in the fantasy carnival ride of his mind, he thinks she accepted. Who knows? Or cares?

“Though she largely refrained from publicly criticizing Trump during or after the 2016 campaign, two individuals with direct knowledge of her political opinions said she was repelled by the Republican standard-bearer, his policy prescriptions, and his rhetoric. One source close to Franklin told The Daily Beast that after the election, she confided to associates that “no amount of money” could convince her to perform at the inauguration.”

Orange Condom represents the worst America has to offer, but Miss Franklin showed the world the heights an American could achieve with a real love of her art and her country.

Rest in well deserved peace, Queen … we are richer for having had you in our lives.

While I’m not all that into astrology, August 16 is a very interesting and auspicious day for comings and goings. We lost Elvis Presley, the King of Rock n Roll, on that day, as well as Aretha, seminal blues guitarist, Robert Johnson, and baseball giant, Babe Ruth, while Madonna, Steve Carell, James Cameron, Angela Bassett and Kathie Lee Gifford were born on that day. And … August 16 is also National Bratwurst Day, National Roller Coaster Day, National Rum Day, and National Tell A Joke Day.

Things that make you go .. hmmm … and then pour a large rum and coke to go with your bratwurst, while you tell a joke about roller coasters.

In other news – the world just keeps getting more chaotic, and honest to pete, guys … can we just stop with the getting all up in our own selves, cherry picking facts, and doing a lemming-like march to every available cliff?

Being ‘woke’ is great when we’re in progressive mode. But when a huge slice of the electorate is obsessed with real and made up reasons to be frightened and angry, it’s time to get back to the middle-right, not the Middle Ages. People care a great deal about jobs, the economy, health care, education … and why their kids can’t make enough money to move the hell out of their basement.

Trying to get them to be more interested in deep states, conspiracy theories, and fiery deaths from either an apocalypse or a nuclear war is just asking too much from us on an every day basis. Especially in the summer. Especially this summer.

titanic sinkingIn a time when populist leaders like Trump and Ford are being voted in with self-proclaimed mandates to do whatever evil their warped little cerebral cortices coax them to do, we’ve got to pull way back from the sinking side of the Titanic.

There are days when I wonder if the ascent of these fools was engineered to wipe out the last of the intelligent baby boomers by having them stroke out, thus diminishing the costs of elder health care costs. But then I remember .. thee and me are still here.

There are other days when I look at America’s underbelly supporting the 72 Year Old Toddler, with their cries of “lock her up!” replacing, “She’s a witch!” and wonder just how very different things are today from how they were in the Dark Ages.

After all – it was the time between the fall of one Empire and the beginning of a renaissance. It was also another time of rejecting science and truth, and of painting bothersome women as witches or animals, with no rights.

Fake News? Oh.. the medieval scribes had an excuse for that!

TitivillusTitivillus the Error Demon: Some in the Dark Ages believed that the blame for any scribe’s error—big or small—fell squarely on the shoulders of this Muppet-lookin’ monster. The Titivillus ran with a bad crowd (aka Satan), so it made sense he’d do such devilish work.

And how very different are the most rabid anti-abortionists beliefs from preformationism; the belief that “sperm carried homunculi, tiny versions of a fully-grown human. It had organs, eyes, a brain—everything a baby had when it was born. In the womb, this little thing just grew from microscopic to baby-sized.” (boredomtherapy.com)

You wanna know what brought about the end of the Dark Ages? It was the black plague, the development of the printing press and the decline of the Catholic church.

So … I guess we’re just waiting on that plague now?

History doesn’t repeat itself .. but sometimes it rhymes … or ..

gbs quote on history reepeating

 

A Disney World


The cats and I love spring and summer .. and even some of fall. Winter is too snowy and cold, and we’re not too keen on rain; cold rain is particularly nasty.

front porch july 2018But having so much lovely, balmy sunshine to enjoy in the warmer months … ahhh! that’s the best! By 6:30 a.m. most mornings, Lord Farlsworth, Lady Jade, and I are on the front porch, where I sip a coffee, and they survey their kingdom.

It’s a time when the world is calm and quiet. You might hear the odd dog bark off in the distance, or listen to an old clunker trying to make it up Vic Park before the muffler falls off, but overall, it is a peaceful time.

squirrel beggingAt the beginning of this summer, I began feeding a squirrel. She’s a bit of a celebrity on the street. They call her “Mama,” and you can recognize her by the fur she’s missing on her sides. Mama squirrels pull out their own fur to line their babies’ nests.

Anyway, it was probably inevitable that some of the other squirrels would want in on the peanut action. Who could blame them? Free food! And sure, they can be a pain in the butt, when they dig up my flowers to hide the nuts for leaner days, but I like to watch them enjoy their treats.

And they’re so damn cute, with their little paws and interpretive dance poses.

And a whole bag of peanuts is only .99 cents, so what the heck.

squirrel buddy closeupThe cats don’t mind too much; they’re old. Sometimes the Lord will snarl a little, if they get too close to him. But it’s all good.

I was kind of surprised the other day, though, when something new was added to our morning.

As I tossed peanuts to my adoring fans, I noticed a few tiny sparrows, heads cocked to the side, watching the action.

And then, to my enormous surprise, the little birds began to imitate the way that the squirrels moved and behaved.

The birds were mimicking the actions of the squirrels, in hopes of getting a handout. It was something to see.

cat filing nailsI had no seeds to give them, and wasn’t sure how to respond. So I went into the kitchen and found some fresh raspberries, which I washed and dissected into bird-sized pieces. And then I scattered the pieces in areas where the little ones congregate. Not too near the house, because … Lady Jade may be blind, but she’s still a cat.

So now I guess I’m gonna be feeding the birds as well.

On the plus side, I’m hoping there will soon be lots of help with the household chores!

But then again, after all these years, my cats still won’t so much as clean their own litter, the ungrateful buggers.

Dressed Cats Cleaning HouseSee, this is what happens to those of us whose early childhoods were shaped by Disney cartoons; we are very comfortable with the idea of animals deserving to be treated with respect, and being part of the family.

We whistle while we work, and know that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. We believe in magic, and of an enchanted land that can be found by travelling to the ‘second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.’

We are always ready for an adventure, and would be quite happy to follow a rabbit wearing specs and a vest down a hole, or to open a tiny door at the base of a tree to see what’s inside.

door in treeWe are, it would seem, the last of the dreamers. In a cold world where it is everyone for themselves, and “I got mine, Jack,” replaces, “how can I help you?,” those of us who can’t shake off that Disney spell are ill-equipped to live in a world ruled by vengeful, egomaniacal, bigots.

We grew up when ‘men were men,’ and manly men like John Wayne were our heroes, stand up guys, who did what they said they’d do, and kept their promises. At least – that’s what we saw in the movies.

It might not all have been real, and maybe we kids of the 40s and 50s were naive and innocent of the real ways of the world.

But we did know right from wrong, and as we grew up, we learned to call out wrong when we saw it. We expected people to act honourably, even if it cost them, financially or emotionally. We took a person’s word as their vow, and believed them when they told us what they intended to do.

fool me onceWe called a liar, a liar, and blamed ourselves if we kept on believing anyone who continually lied to us. We expected consequences for misdeeds.

We kids of the 40s and 50s grew up to be the hippies of the 60s, and again, we may have been naive, and innocent of the ways of the world, but there was something beautiful and pure about that innocence.

Those days were good days. Perhaps it was inevitable that they would end, killed, as all beautiful things seem to be, by those who put money and their own desires and egos over the good of the many. Some of us even enjoyed being exploited. We really were very young, and not very wise.

woodstockBut for many of us, we will always be those Disney kids, the ones that are a little bit off kilter, and a little too blind to ugliness. The ones with good hearts, that still ‘pay it forward,’ even when they might not have enough for themselves. The ones that see an animal in the wild, and gasp in appreciation of that natural beauty, rather than reach for a gun to kill it. The ones that will still take the time to pick up after those who would mindlessly despoil the planet, unaware of their own place in the cosmos.

It was the beliefs and the strength of people like the Disney kids that pushed forward every good thing that ever happened in our lifetimes, from the programs of the New Deal, to the establishment of civil rights, and the beginnings of universal health care. Our beliefs and marches ended a war. Progress comes from those who were nurtured to BELIEVE .. to believe in the goodness of the world, and the right of all of us – human or beast – to exist harmoniously on this planet.

There will always be the bad guys, the despoilers, the ones who want to bully and control, the ones who believe that strength is power over the weak. Always have been, always will be. What they can never understand is that their power is only temporary, and as nebulous as a dandelion seed; there is always someone with a more powerful weapon, ready to take it all away from them.

Dandelion seeds blowing away in the wind.The truth is that It takes wisdom and what is called “ego strength” to actually be powerful. The part of our brain that processes threats commands us to ‘flight or fight,’ and for many, our sense of control ends there. Ego strength allows the person to tolerate feeling uncomfortable emotions for long enough to process the fear or rejection, without having to ‘discharge’ the emotions in a knee-jerk compulsion to ‘fight back. ‘

Aggressive reactivity is not strength, it’s a lack of impulse control. It is the behaviour of those who cannot see a bigger picture that is based on building alliances. They cannot recognize complexity.

darwin theoryIn a populist world, politicians who use diplomacy are often seen as weak and indecisive. However, assuming that only brute strength can protect our lands can have grave consequences, especially in a world where nuclear weapons are ubiquitous.

These days, we’re hearing that a lot of people are having second thoughts about the vote they cast for Trump. Turns out that his repressive, regressive, and bigoted ways are having actual consequences on them, and that’s not what they voted for .. they voted for bad things to happen to ‘other’ people.

They voted for bad things to happen to ‘other’ people. And then they were shocked when it turned out that THEY were the ‘other’ people upon whom they had wished bad things.

Karma’s a bitch.

I’ll stick with my ‘naive’ Disney ways.