Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep


keep calm and gobble onHappy Thanksgiving weekend! Hopefully most of us will be lucky enough to be gathered together at some point with friends and family to share the bounty of the harvest – or at least the goodies we’ve bought from our local grocers — and that most precious of commodities …. our time.

It’s crazy how fast the days and years go by. That’s not an ‘old people’ thing anymore; even kids in grade school find it hard to accommodate all of the information and entertainment they need to constantly absorb in order to successfully process their world. Those of us with much to remember don’t stand a chance, post-retirement, of guessing the day with much accuracy. (Helpful hint: Write everything down!)

Although I’m not a religious person, I consider myself blessed. I have a roof over my head, food in my fridge, and a husband, family, and friends that love me. I also have a keen awareness that I am more fortunate than a great many people, who often lack the things that a lot of us take for granted.

While I do try to do what I can to help others, this weekend I’m grateful to be enjoying the hospitality of two lovely friends, who asked us to share their respective feasts.

toronto-skyline-nightOn Saturday night, we joined long time friend and writer Ira Band for dinner at the Island Yacht Club, on Mugg’s Island. It was a beautiful night, with weather more like August’s than October’s. Earlier this summer, the island was horrendously flooded, but is now back to being it’s luxuriously landscaped self. After a delicious Thanksgiving buffet, we alternated between enjoying the fireplace inside, and the view of the Toronto skyline from the comfy lounges outside. A perfect evening!

Today, we’ll be joining fellow scribe/photographer/Energizer Bunny Pat Blythe for her amazing festive spread. That woman can cook most people under the table, and still sparkle as the hostess with the mostest. We will enjoy the company of friends, and Pat’s famous pies, and who could ask for anything more!

i-came-in-like-a-butterballMonday will be Bring On The Fat Pants Day and let it all hang out. I can live with that.

But let’s talk about Canadian Thanksgiving. I like when we celebrate the holiday. Let the Americans have theirs on the fourth Thursday of November; ours is just better positioned. We’ve got Halloween at the end of the month, which acts as a speed bump before we get on the tilt-a-whirl that is the countdown to Christmas, and that’s just fine by me.

So why aren’t our holidays celebrated simultaneously, you ask? It’s all about history.

According to wiki, “the first Canadian Thanksgiving is often traced back to 1578 and the explorer Martin Frobisher. Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean, held his Thanksgiving celebration not for harvest but in thanks for surviving the long journey from England through the perils of storms and icebergs. On his third and final voyage to the far north, Frobisher held a formal ceremony ifrobisher-thanksgivingn Frobisher Bay in Baffin Island (present-day Nunavut) to give thanks to God and in a service ministered by the preacher Robert Wolfall they celebrated Communion.”

Over the years, succeeding waves of immigrants brought their own harvest traditions and delicacies to Canada, and we gratefully blended those new foods and tastes into what we now call Canadian cuisine.

And of course, we cannot forget how new Italian/Canadians brought their own tradition of the Spaghetti Harvest to our great land.

What we think of today as a traditional Thanksgiving feast owes a lot to what American film and TV has idealized as the proper fare… the groaning board that begins with pickles, olives, and hot dinner rolls (Pillsbury Crescent Rolls are a favourite for me) and carries on with mashed potatoes , roasted vegetables, cranberry sauce, stuffing and giblet gravy, all but the preliminaries to the guest of honour, the roast turkey.

And when you’ve had your fill, and have moved your belt buckle over a notch, lo and behold, the desserts arrive – pumpkin or cherry or raspberry pie, carrot cake, ice cream …. Ahhh … yep, sounds like Thanksgiving at Pat’s!

I’m happy to have a day designated for giving thanks. We’re an entitled bunch of gits, and having to stop and actually think about what’s good in our lives is rare; we’re far more likely to be complaining about what we don’t have. This is a day – or a long weekend – on which Canadians can all agree that they are blessed to live in a country which, because of or in spite of current leadership, allows us freedom in so many ways.

thanksgiving-gratitudeI try to have an “attitude of gratitude” as the platitude goes. No matter what life brings, I try to remember that there are people on this planet who would kill to be in my shoes. Which is not to say that I don’t occasionally complain, but I do value what I have, and I thank those who make my life better, just by their presence and love.

 

“When we neglect to require our children to say `thank you’ when someone gives them a gift or does something for them, we raise ungrateful children who are highly unlikely to be content. Without gratitude, happiness is rare. With gratitude, the odds for happiness go up dramatically. The more you recognize and express gratitude for the things you have, the more things you will have to express gratitude for.” Zig Ziglar

grateful-for-everythingSo, what are you grateful for in your life? I’m grateful for my husband, my children and grandchildren, and my family and friends, who continue to love me despite my many, many quirks and odd behaviour. I’m grateful for the food in our pantry and the roof over our heads. I’m grateful that I’m getting older, because the alternative sucks. I’m grateful that I get to write this column every Sunday, and some of you actually read it and even discuss ideas with me, whether you agree or disagree with my points. I’m grateful that I’ve never lived in a country ravaged by war or pestilence or famine, and probably never will.

Little girl asleep in bed.I’m grateful when I lay my head down on the pillow at night, and know that the odds are good I’ll be waking up in the morning to another day filled with possibilities. I’m grateful for every bit of my life so far, and the wonders that still await my discovery. For as long as I am on this planet, I want to be cognizant of the beauty that is all around me, and never take for granted the gift that is existence.

Even when the going gets rough and it seems like there’s nowhere to go but down, it’s best to consider the good you have in your life, and be thankful. That small shift in thinking can put things into perspective.

Never underestimate how important it is to have people in your life who are kind and loving and thoughtful. When all else fades away, love and kindness are the greatest gifts you can give or receive.

There’s a reason why this song has over 52 million hits … the simple lyrics, and the joyful delivery remind us of the things that are most important in our lives.

Have a wonderfilled Thanksgiving weekend, everyone, however you choose to celebrate.

 

 

Last One Out, Turn Off the Lights


The Canadian relationship with winter and snow is a lot like marriage; some love it, and look forward to their time together. Others tolerate winter, but spend a lot of time apart during cold spells. Still others grumble, but it’s a loving martyrdom that takes the good (skiing) right along with the bad (shovelling.)

winter bench no snowBut one thing is certain – this winter, so mild and light on snow, is having an effect on the Canadian psyche. It’s as though we’re all a little off-kilter, a little crankier, testier, because we know something’s missing, but we’re not sure what it is.

The media’s always more than happy to give us something to talk about, but this year, even the media is freezing over. After Postmedia gobbled up all but four of the daily papers across Canada, it found it had actually bitten off more than it could chew. Godfrey looking like House of CardsWith advertising and circulation plummeting, there was only time to quickly give CEO Paul Godfrey his salary of $1.6 million (which included a special $400,000 bonus for being so … special?) before it started hacking away at those menial, blood suckers (like journalists) who were destroying the company. Still, Postmedia’s annual net loss for the financial year more than doubled to $263.4 million. Who knew journalists got paid so much!

Journalism is one of our primary democratic institutions, playing a major role in how Canadians learn about each other, and how to do stuff … like vote. During the Harper years, Godfrey worked a sweetheart deal that allowed him to bend regulations and sell 35% of Postmedia to the New York hedge fund , Golden Tree Asset Management.

“For generations, Canadian law has forbidden foreign ownership or control of Canadian cultural assets. But after permitting the sale to non-Canadians of practically the entire Canadian-owned steel and mining industries, then PM Stephen Harper’s government signed off on Postmedia’s creation as well. The Americans put a Canadian face on the deal by selecting Paul Godfrey, 77, as Postmedia’s CEO. Not by coincidence, Harper and Godfrey, a diehard Tory, are kindred spirits.

Though it was a thinly disguised foreign takeover, Ottawa didn’t object that Postmedia’s advent showed no sign of complying with Investment Canada’s one basic demand of foreign takeovers — that they be of “net benefit” to Canada.

Five years later, no one can credibly argue that Postmedia has been of net benefit to Canada. The most Godfrey can do, as he did recently, is insist that Canada is lucky that someone plucked the National Post, the Edmonton Journal and the Regina Leader-Post from the Canwest ruins, since no Canadian bidders stepped forward to do so.

That is a lie. There were at least two credible bids by Canadian interests, as Godfrey well knows. And the Canwest papers would not have perished in any case. They would have been auctioned, individually and as regional groups. That would have served readers better than the monstrosity of Postmedia. It’s Postmedia that is in financial extremis, not Postmedia’s papers…..

Postmedia is said to be lobbying Ottawa for a relaxation of Canadian ownership rules on cultural assets, since some of the deepest-pocketed bidders on a bankrupt Postmedia’s assets are likely to be foreigners.”

(http://www.thestar.com/business/2016/01/30/the-problem-with-postmedia-olive.html)

As it stands, industry insiders say that it looks like Postmedia will be forced to seek creditor protection, which means the company could be broken up and sold off to U.S. hedge fund creditors in a debt- for- equity swap. That would open bidding to the U.S. and other foreign interests.

canada-v-usAnd that move would put all but four of Canada`s daily newspapers, the supposed cultural and democratic voice of Canada, under foreign ownership. Writers, get ready to jettison your keyboard’s ‘u’ key, and learn the words to “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Just to give you some idea of how damaging losing control over our daily papers would be, think back to October 2015, when Godfrey imposed support for Stephen Harper on all of the major papers in the chain. Wasn’t the first time … Postmedia did the same thing during Alberta’s provincial election, forcing its papers there to back Jim Prentice’s Tories.

Sun 2015 Harper supportBut this time they also permitted the Conservative Party to buy yellow ads that covered the entire front pages of most of the company’s major daily newspapers. The ads were designed to appear as official electoral information, and gave ranting warnings about the folly of voting Liberal.

While not technically illegal, the endorsement was a shocking insight into who really controls a newspaper’s editorial voice, as staff across the country hurried to distance their own views from the ‘yellow journalism.’

Godfrey’s support of the Conservatives has been unwavering since before his days at the Toronto Sun, where he allowed only favourable stories or photos about then mayoral candidate, Mel Lastman to be printed. Reporter Don Wanagas was removed as a municipal columnist for the sin of writing unflattering pieces about Lastman.

godfrey lastman rogers.jpgNewly minted Mayor Lastman went on to preside over one of the most corrupt regimes in Toronto’s history. And as David Miller, elected mayor in 2003 on a platform of cleaning up Toronto’s city hall after Lastman, has said “There’s no question he was very influential with Mayor Lastman. I certainly knew as a city councillor that Lastman’s office was in touch with Mr. Godfrey all the time.”

Godfrey’s political machinations aside, his business reputation was cemented on iron-fist management and slash-and-burn job cutting practices. newspapers-dyingPrior to the purchase of Sun Media, Postmedia’s workforce had shrunk to 2,500 employees – from 5,400 five years before. Today, 2,826 people do all the heavy lifting cross Canada, from sales, to writing, to printing.

“NDP industry critic Brian Masse noted that the easing of ownership rules designed to guard cultural industries is a “fair discussion to have” in light of the emergence of digital news alternatives, but warned that foreign control could lead to an infiltration of offshore biases into Canadian editorial content.” 

No shit, Sherlock.

online-journalism-then-versus-nowGodfrey’s control of the press is by no means novel in these times of corporate greed gone mad. In the United States, 94% of the media is controlled by just 5 companies; Disney, ViaCom, CBS, News Corp, Time-Warner and Comcast. And that’s what they call the ‘liberal’ media; 94% of all your information and entertainment, owned and controlled by the 1%.

Can someone tell me when and how the voice of the people will be heard? It certainly has been, and will continue to be, drowned out by the voices of those with the money and power to impose their own visions onto an unsuspecting nation.

Democracy begins with freedom of speech in and of the press. It ends with corporate monopoly, and foreign ownership.

Bits and Pieces ….

lemeowI’ve mentioned this soul-jazz duo from Ottawa before. leMeow, comprised of Gin Bourgeois and James Rooke, and filled out with Jansen Richard on drums, Brent Hultquist on keys and Karolyne LaFortune on fiddle. released this YouTube delight recently. That’s My Man is the debut single from leMeow’s upcoming album, due in June 2016.

leMeow new single ….

sam taylor the sound cdSam Taylor has the musical honesty and enthusiasm of a young Jeff Healey, with a band (The East End Love ) that kicks out a bottom end reminiscent of Cream and the stop-on-a- dime dynamics of early Who. These up and comers are not to be missed.
And so it was that on Friday night, I found myself at the Only Café with Pat Blythe, meeting Sam and enjoying some hot blues on a cold night. Pat’s written at length about the band, which consists of drummer Jace Traz, bass player David MacMichael, and rhythm guitarist Will Meadows.

I found this fan video on YouTube that captures some of their ‘live’ excitement. From last spring, at a gig at Relish, on the Danforth.

Funny … back in the 80’s, Jeff Healey would occasionally play a Sunday night gig at Quinns, the old bar on the Danforth bar, where I then bartended. He’d often ask me up to join him for a tune or two. History repeated itself on Friday, when I got to share the stage with Sam and the band. Thanks, guys!

 

(first published Feb/2016-https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/roxanne-tellier-last-one-out-turn-off-the-lights/)

 

Put On Your Dancing Shoes!


jennieJennie is a party. Jennie will brook no voyeurs on the voyage. You must be involved, you must eat, you must drink, you must dance! You must participate, because “fun doesn’t just happen! You have to make it happen!“ Jennie turns the world on with her smile.

I love Jennie. I met her last night at the Rally, where Pat Blythe and I had gone to see the sold out Beatles’ tribute, “Yeah Yeah Yeah.” The place was packed, the dance floor jammed. Everyone sang along to the timeless songs at the top of their lungs.

Like Jennie, everyone was there to make fun happen. And much fun did indeed ensue, as we danced the Swim, the Frug, and countless other dance variations until our feet ached.

yeah yeah yeah the bandThe Yeah Yeah Yeahs are Frank Russel on drums, Kevin Rolston on bass, Bruce Nasmith on keys and guitar, and Don Maclean and Frank Zirone, also on guitar. Everyone sings. Everyone is a top-notch, well respected musician. And clearly, every one of them loves classic Beatles music.

Their tribute, complete with screen presentations, appeals to a wide age range, but skews mainly to the boomer base. Although the group has performed only infrequently in the past year, every outing is a sold out success. And at each event they gather more fans who can be counted on to spread the word, and anticipate their next appearance.

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davidceliaFive years after releasing his third CD, “I Tried,” David Celia is back with another eclectic mix of country folk, pop pedal steel, and reggae infused whimsy. The new CD “Double Mind” is a wander through a poet’s thoughts; by turns gleeful, introspective, determined or questioning, but always with Celia’s patented quip in the tale.

Following a successful European tour, David kept a low profile, with limited exposure, prior to Thursday’s CD release at the Great Hall. What a beautiful venue! The room lives up to it’s name, with a soaring ceiling ringed by a second story walk around balcony.

The musicians for this showcase gig were the venerable Cleave Anderson on drums, Tim Jackson on bass, Jay Swinnerton on keys/vocals and Burke Carrol on pedal steel. Ariana Gillis joined the group briefly, contributing vocals to the title track, as on the album.

I’ll be honest; I prefer hearing David’s songs in a more intimate room. His songs are thoughtful and intelligent, and beg to be front and center, not background music. Listen to the whole CD at http://exclaim.ca/music/article/david_celia-double_mind_album_stream

The Grind, from “Double Mind.”

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xprime-pm-coverI’d been looking forward to Xprime’s CD release gig for months, particularly after the sneak preview we’d had just before CMW. And as always, the boys didn’t let me down.

I can hardly believe how far the group’s writing has come in just a year or two. The new songs on PM reflect a maturity and craftsmanship that is both of the moment, and yet timeless. You’ll wonder where you heard earworms like “All to Myself,” or “I Can’t Take No More” before, but it’s all new baby, and it’s infectious pop at it’s best.

Don’t take it from me – stream the whole CD at http://xprime.ca/

Rube GoldbergGab Sid, Neil Carson, Steph Mercier, and Phil Taylor are all lead singers, but skilfully work together to create distinctive harmonies within each song. Live, you can’t take your eyes off the stage, as they bounce and pogo and careen in a controlled frenzy. An Xprime gig is not just a concert, it’s a well-oiled Rube Goldberg impossibility machine.

So I was already smiling before even arriving at the Rivoli, where we ran into Neil and Phil on the patio pre-show. They were heading off to grab a bite … hey, they’re growing boys! … whilst Pat, Bob Segarini and I were in pursuit of adult beverages.

xprimeRivoli Jun 2015We’d barely had a chance to grab a bevvy and snag a place to park our gear before the guys bounded on stage, and hit their marks in an explosion of energy and aural goodness. They pounded the maddened crowd into submission with great tuneage and an inexorable visual onslaught. I couldn’t stop grinning and singing along as Pat slunk through the crowd, taking photos of the group in action. (She’ll have those photos for you on Wednesday.)

And, inevitably, Pat and I braved the standing crowd to bust some moves. I’ll never understand why Toronto audiences refuse to dance. You’ll see the toes tapping, and the hips swaying, but apparently actually dancing to your favourite band strikes fear into the hearts of those too frightened to blow their cool by giving in to the beat.

xprime runningIt’s like Jennie said. “fun doesn’t just happen! You have to make it happen!“ Xprime opened the fun door and laid down the boogie, and a few brave souls followed that funky music. Toronto, you’ve got nothing to lose but your dignity and a little shoe leather. It will be worth it.

By set’s end, I was a little breathless, but exhilarated and clutching an Xprime tee shirt. The boys will be criss-crossing Ontario through the next month, with stops in Kingston, Peterborough, Sarnia, Windsor and London. Grab any chance you get to see them. Catch them at your local venue before they’re a big ticket experience. This is a band on the move, ripe for the plucking by some impresario who can pair them up with a major headlining act. It would be criminal not to get Xprime’s music and energy in front of international audiences.

And when you do go to see them … dance, for gawd’s sake!

(originally published http://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/06/07/roxanne-tellier-put-on-your-dancing-shoes-toronto/