Is Halloween the New Christmas?


by Roxanne Tellier

I’m trying to remember the last time I went trick-or-treating as a child. It was in Montreal, and might have been when we lived in Park Ex, which was, back then, really not a place that was safe for a young’un to be out alone late, and especially not to be traipsing around in the dark.

But hey – free candy! Sometimes pennies! Maybe even a free razor blade! Or was that just an urban myth?

Halloween was ‘one night only.’ You might have started thinking about a costume in the last week of October, but most of us borrowed heavily from the closets of our older siblings or parents, and if all else failed, you could always grab an old sheet and go as a ghost.  

By the time my daughter was of age to panhandle from the neighbours, costumes had become a lot more sophisticated. She became increasingly creative and daring with her outfits as she grew older, and these days, she has a storeroom of fabulous costumes she created for her kids over the years, too good to part with willingly.

But something spooky started happening about six weeks ago, in my neighbourhood; people began to compete to be the house with the most awesome Halloween decorations. Around the middle of September, when the visual aperitifs of the holiday started to appear in the flyers, there were already hints of ghostly décor to come, up and down these windy streets.  

For young, comfortably middle-class, families with kids, Halloween is beginning to overtake Christmas for flash. After all, Christmas doesn’t focus quite so strongly on kids and community togetherness as do activities like trick-or-treating. And who doesn’t want to be the house with the biggest, scariest, and loudest dragon inflatable on the block?  

Some residents will spend far more time and money on elaborate Halloween decorations than they will on their Christmas or Hanukkah displays.

It’s gone a little bit crazier every year for the last decade or so. Consumers will spend about 30% more on Halloween this year than 10 years ago, about an average of $92 on Halloween food and decorations, a holiday that only lasts for a day. (I spend that on just the candy we shell out.) In comparison, the average shopper will spend around $227 for all of their winter holiday needs, which spans the two months from November 1 to December 31st.  

Around here, people start plugging in the inflatables and lighting the bat garlands just before the sun sets. A stroll down Swanwick Avenue is a walk through a haunted street of enormous, prowling, black cats, 12-foot-tall ghosts, full Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin displays, and, yes, a fire breathing, moving, purple dragon, that will cost you nearly $300, including tax.

During last year’s Covid Halloween, there was a move to completely eliminate the trick or treat aspect of the holiday, by moving candy distribution to other venues, like schools and community centres.  But that didn’t go over well with parents who wanted their kids to have the ‘full experience,’ even if that meant the kid bringing home some virus with their chocolate.

And so those who wanted to shell out despite restrictions turned to some interesting methods of candy delivery. Some just left bowls of candy out, trusting that the little ghouls and ghosties would respect an ‘honour system.’   

A few of the more hands-on participants chose to ‘suit up’ in full protective gear in order to ‘keep the dress up spirit in the holiday’, while still others invented candy catapults, horrific handouts, and zombie ziplines.

So what has caused Halloween to become the newest big thing in holidays? Retailers trace this trend to millennials, young adults who have completely embraced an opportunity to dress up in ‘sexy’ or politically incorrect costumes, to use the abundance of inexpensive décor to create Instagrammable gatherings for a night off from worry, and to decorate their homes and yards to entertain themselves and their kids.  

Social media has a lot to do with the rise of the holiday; what better way to tell your story than thru videos and photos of your creative self-expression. It’s a great time to show your Facebook and Instagram friends just how cute you are, all dressed and made up. Make them jelly when they see how much fun you’re having without them around!

If you were a big “Halloween person” as a kid, you’re very likely to want to continue being one as an adult. You’ve probably now got the money to go all out with your ideas, and showing the kids how you celebrated in your own childhood is an excuse to keep the fun going by sharing the scaring with your progeny.

Halloween merch is everywhere, from the dollar stores to Amazon, and people begin shopping early, since the stores run out of the ‘best’ goodies well before the day. Pumpkins and even hay bales begin appearing in stores at the beginning of October, and some families compete to see how many fun and unique Jack o Lantern carvings they can display. 

There’s less ‘baggage’ to Halloween, and that’s appealing to time-strapped families. From Thanksgiving through to the New Year, there’s family baggage, cultural baggage, and, for many, a sense of obligation. There’s guilt in not spending enough money and time on and with family at Christmas or Hanukkah, but all you need for Halloween sharing are some photos or a nicely shot video to include those you might not otherwise see but once a year.  

The holiday is so significant now that events begin at the start of the month, and go on through all four weeks, with kids and adults enjoying everything from costume parties to parades. For many families, a car tour of the neighbourhood to enjoy décor and light displays is now as important as their Christmas drive throughs once were.

Halloween is ‘low-obligation;’ it’s escapism. It’s a night for the normally repressed to howl, for the shy to show their sexy side, for the repressed to express what they might not have the courage to do on any other night. It’s a safe way to have fun by changing how we appear to others, and to play chicken with our fears.

And, of course, on the political side – it’s yet another opportunity for Big Business to rake in the Big Money as we gleefully spend, spend, spend …..

Ah, lighten up. It’s Halloween. Get your pumpkin on, and howl like a werewolf!

***************************

For the political … 

A few interesting costume ideas to consider for All Hallows Eve revelry ….

And here’s some wonderful creepiness to have playing in the background while you launch your candy into the maws of witches and goblins …. Listen to David Tennant read vampire stories ….

http://www.david-tennant.co.uk/2013/10/happy-halloween-listen-to-david-tennant.html?fbclid=IwAR1uwSVevNhksKTzL8MsVEmcgP6kVZ4ePUNnX2GNC1ZFYka0KM6fI-xGemU

… or enjoy this Halloween song playlist! Have a Happy Halloween!

The Long Strange Trip Continues


by Roxanne Tellier

If you had told me, twenty years ago, that this last decade would be one of the most terrifying/interesting/instructive/growth inducing periods of my entire life to date, I’d have laughed uproariously, and then kicked you out of the room. 

And yet – here we are. Whether you have been glued to media – either social or terrestrial – or have simply been putting one foot in front of the other for the last ten years, you’ve been buffeted by the winds of change like never before.  Or perhaps, like we’ve not seen since the sixties.

If you were around when the ‘youthquake’ hit in 1964, you’ll remember the ripples that spread mere hours after the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan’s Sunday night television show. Overnight, what had come before was overturned, and those that weren’t ‘hip’ to what they’d seen took out their shovels and began digging the Generation Gap that would divide the world into those that ‘got it’ and those who would try and hold back the tsunami of change.  

The Generation Gap

As Michael Nesmith put it in his terrific autobiography, Infinite Tuesday:

“It was unthinkable to everyone who had just fought World War II that the music, the fashions, the designs, the whole cultural imperative of the victorious warriors would be torn down by their kids as if it were ugly curtains in the den. Armed with originality and intention, the youth of America would take off their clothes, ties them in knots, and toss them into vats of dye with all the colours of the rainbow, then got skinny-dipping and make love while high on grass and LSD. Put any four in a room and they would start bands like the Grateful Dead. The generation gap was deep enough that one could die from falling into it.

The early rock and roll of the 1950s was subsumed and transformed by the rock and roll of the 1960s. How could this be? I asked a friend of mine at the time why he thought the Beatles had affected such a profound changed. He answered in one word: hair. It was a flip remark, but probably truer than either of us know. It shows how little anyone understood what had taken over.

Many said it was the music.  Many said it was the new drugs. Many said it was the new art. Many said it was television. Most said it was all of the above. Certainly, these forces all came together to create The Monkees.”

Something similar, though not nearly as edifying, happened in the mid 2010s. While the catalyst may have been Trump, the move towards a more militaristic society with autocratic governance in the United States had been creeping forward since Americans had had the audacity to elect a black man to the presidency, not once, but twice.

Someone was going to have to pay for that overturning of American history. Trump just came along at exactly the right time to push the already ripe for discontent, economically frustrated, closeted racists into joining a new cult revolving around his personality, that he would attempt to turn into a dictatorship within four years.

In 2016, Robert Kagan of the Washington Post, wrote:

What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger.

….              What he has tapped into is what the founders most feared when they established the democratic republic: the popular passions unleashed, the ‘mobocracy.”

Where the Beatles had had magnificent hair, trump had an orange swirled haystack, but his trademark MAGA hats would hide his, and his aging supporters, lack of hirsute elegance. The Beatles brought laughter and intelligence to their interviews; from the beginning, trump’s interviews were laden with malapropisms, garbled slogans, and word salad. The Beatles wanted everyone to love everyone; trump brought the hate, channelling all of his supporters economic and political anxiety into a burning hatred of anyone that didn’t look and think exactly like he and his fan club did.

A broken mirror image, but with nearly the same outcome. Trump had a huge effect on society, but other factors were in play as well.

Prior to 2010, cell phones were gaining in importance, but by 2019, only about 4% of the population did not own a phone.  

Cell phones changed more than how we communicated with each other; they changed how people dated, as online dating became the primary way to meet a new partner. Apps that automated your cell phone made the remote control of your home’s lighting, media and security became common place.

The improvements made to those phones also allowed other societal changes; while MTV had first launched new musical acts, now it was YouTube and Vine that propelled the viral videos that made new stars overnight. YouTube and a profusion of specialty channels, also viewable on your phone, led many to ‘cut the cord’ and abandon their terrestrial TV and cable usage.

So much has changed, and yet we’ve barely noticed, as we have become more dependent on our social media, “Pictures, or it didn’t happen;” our new reliance on rebooted dramas or cartoon superheroes to populate our movie screens; a wide acceptance of the once verboten, but now legalized pot in our homes, and the growth of services like Uber Eats to call on when the munchies attack.  

Canada legalized same sex marriage in 2005, and the United States finally did the same in 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled that statewide bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. That lead to members of the LGBTQ+ community, along with those that identified as pansexual, transgender, and non-binary to be more comfortable and visible in society.

The rise of the gig economy, along with a relaxing of work constrictions in the white-collar world, lead to a confusing place where would be entrepreneurs learned that working from home or as a contractor for Lyft or Uber meant never actually being ‘off the clock.’ With wi fi, telecommuting, or a ‘side hustle,’ people could work after hours, on weekends, and on their holidays, at least until they finally collapsed from overwork.

And, of course, Facebook morphed into an arm of the right wing, choosing to align with the most contentious of messaging, rewarding all those treasonous ‘likes’ with more exposure, and allowing gangs advocating hate and violence to be exposed to the most viewers possible within the network.

But, saddest of all, we broke politics. Where once it was possible to hope for hands across the aisle on important, national issues, partisan divide on basic issues like race, immigration, social services, and democracy are deeper than ever before. The right thinks the left is insane; the left thinks the right are nuts. You can’t successfully run a country with that kind of animosity.

For every bit of progress gained, there’s been enormous steps back, particularly in the U.S., but also here in Canada, where so many aspire to the same sort of politicking.

To add even more angst to the trump years, the pandemic came into play in 2020 and had a chilling effect on society and the economy. There will be long term consequences to the planet from the ‘pause’, and not just in terms of overall health.

Outbreaks are like black holes; all resources and all expertises are drawn into its maw. While we deal with the problem at hand, other agendas, like education, child survival, and even basic primary healthcare services are interrupted. Kids due for their measles and mumps jabs might fall between the cracks, as might seniors, who typically see their doctors more often as diseases of the elderly progress.

How we work has been forever changed. It’s unlikely big companies will return to leasing large office spaces for their employees to do the things they can do as well, if not better, at home. That will change those large business buildings in the heart of the city; will they remain empty, or be converted to more necessary uses?

Schooling from home has been a double-edged sword. Kids thrive on communicating and getting to know other people. Many kids flee to school for some of their basic needs, like food, and sometimes psychological aid. But for many kids, working from home, at their own speed, has actually enhanced their connections with their families, and allowed the student to learn at their own pace.  

Dealing with a deadly pandemic, while trying to right the economic vehicle is tricky, and not a job for the faint of heart. Watching Biden attempt to deal with all of the current societal ‘fires’ in his nation, while also respecting that ignoring COVID and its impact could destroy all they have worked for, has been a spectacle, rather like watching a world class juggler. The more items he’s given to juggle, the likelier that some will fall. But eventually, all the agendas will be back in his hands and moving smoothly.

I contend this last decade has been the most significant since the 60s. We’ve been forcibly required to acknowledge that inequality is rampant in our societies. It has become clear that those with wealth are the most likely to survive, assuming they take advantage of the healthcare and vaccines available.

We have learned that our essential workers are those most likely to make the least money, and to be the most likely to be exposed to the virus. It’s the people who had to keep working, relying on a daily wage, or those who live in crowded housing, that paid the highest price.

A lot of those minimum wage workers have learned that the small amount of pay they received for doing a necessary work was just not enough to warrant their continued labour or loyalty. Many of those workers used the pandemic down time to gear up for a change of career. It will take a few years for there to be people needy enough to queue up for low paying jobs with little future.

Around the globe, people in third world countries often are without access to clean water and soap, or able to enforce social distancing, and those countries are even less likely to be receiving the vaccines, or care when ill. In the case of forcibly displaced populations, like the Haitians fleeing their politics, or the highly vulnerable East Africans, the pandemic is just on more incredible challenge, which they will experience in overcrowded and under-resourced refugee camps, if they’re lucky enough to find themselves there.  

We have learned that we don’t need to buy so much ‘stuff’, but that it’s often fun to do so anyway. We’ve made trillionaires out of billionaires. We’ve seen some of the world’s wealthiest people push to the head of the vaccine line, and then use their largely untaxed dollars to build rockets meant for joyriding millionaires, but ultimately turned into machinery for the delivery of arms to other nations around the world.

Some parts of the economy were killed, and will never return, just as the once ubiquitous buggy whip companies saw their day come and go.

Now, in September 2021, Kagan returns to the subject of trump, his cult, and fascism, and makes these predictions:

“The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves. The warning signs may be obscured by the distractions of politics, the pandemic, the economy and global crises, and by wishful thinking and denial…

The stage is thus being set for chaos. Imagine weeks of competing mass protests across multiple states as lawmakers from both parties claim victory and charge the other with unconstitutional efforts to take power. Partisans on both sides are likely to be better armed and more willing to inflict harm than they were in 2020. Would governors call out the National Guard? Would President Biden nationalize the Guard and place it under his control, invoke the Insurrection Act, and send troops into Pennsylvania or Texas or Wisconsin to quell violent protests?  Deploying federal power in the states would be decried as tyranny. Biden would find himself where other presidents have been — where Andrew Jackson was during the nullification crisis, or where Abraham Lincoln was after the South seceded — navigating without rules or precedents, making his own judgments about what constitutional powers he does and doesn’t have…

Most Americans — and all but a handful of politicians — have refused to take this possibility seriously enough to try to prevent it. As has so often been the case in other countries where fascist leaders arise, their would-be opponents are paralyzed in confusion and amazement at this charismatic authoritarian. They have followed the standard model of appeasement, which always begins with underestimation. The political and intellectual establishments in both parties have been underestimating Trump since he emerged on the scene in 2015. They underestimated the extent of his popularity and the strength of his hold on his followers; they underestimated his ability to take control of the Republican Party; and then they underestimated how far he was willing to go to retain power. The fact that he failed to overturn the 2020 election has reassured many that the American system remains secure, though it easily could have gone the other way — if Biden had not been safely ahead in all four states where the vote was close; if Trump had been more competent and more in control of the decision-makers in his administration, Congress and the states. As it was, Trump came close to bringing off a coup earlier this year. All that prevented it was a handful of state officials with notable courage and integrity, and the reluctance of two attorneys general and a vice president to obey orders they deemed inappropriate.”

Trump Rally, Perry, Georgia. September 25, 2021

It’s been an interesting decade … and it ain’t over yet ….

Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

A Voting We Will Go


by Roxanne Tellier

ELECTIONS! Whether we want them or not!

But first ….

FACEBOOK!  If you’ve been following my Facebook antics – or lack thereof, as I have sat banished and abandoned in Facebook solitary for the better part of the last six months – I am happy to report that I have been allowed to return to the site. Well, for the moment, anyway. I’m already getting warnings for doing really horrible things like posting links to how to determine if you might be addicted to social media.

If you’re using any social media on a daily basis, you probably are addicted, whether you realize it or not. Seeing those ‘likes’ on your posts are like hearing the cha-ching of a slot machine paying off, or the crinkle of a bag of potato chips; betchya can’t eat just one.

All that time in solitary was a very effective cold turkey method; I’m pretty much weaned off Facebook now, and intend to use it primarily for my business needs. That’s assuming the company doesn’t find some pretext for booting me off, just because they can.   

(yes, there IS a cold turkey app – getcoldturkey.com.  It bills itself as “the toughest website blocker on the internet,” designed for studying or focusing on work. It will block distractions like social media, games, apps, YouTube, or even the entire Internet. There goes your last excuse for finally writing the Great Canadian Novel/Song/App.)

Wrote this on Saturday to let the ‘FB Friends of Roxanne’ know what I’ve been up to.

“I’m poking my nose up to say ‘hi’ and to thank those of you who’ve posted messages of encouragement during my last 30 days in FB solitary. I missed you too. But, quite honestly, don’t expect me to be around here much. I can’t live in a gulag, and that’s what FB has become, sadly, for some of those voices that don’t just talk about the weather and post pics of their dinner and/or pets. I can’t tolerate that anymore. My every word is being scrutinized by either an out of control and unsupervised algorithm or malicious observers who get joy in reporting people with whom they disagree. That ain’t what I call fun. I’m too old and tired to fight anymore. You win, Facebook. I’ll shut up. At least when I’m on here.

Little by little, Facebook has moved the needle to the right, suspending and banning liberal voices, while encouraging and profiting from those who seek to overturn laws like Roe v Wade in the U.S., and to gather supporters for ‘protests’ that seek to overturn democracy.   

But most people who still call FB ‘home’ are boomers. The kids left long ago, for Instagram, TikTok, or any one of a dozen newer and more social social media sites.   

Boomers, on the other hand, are a little nervous about picking up and moving to another social media site; it’s just too much work. It’s a bit like trying to find a new place to live when you’re in your sixties – what you’re really trying to find is a place where people will leave you alone until you die. You can put up with a lot, if they’ll just leave you alone, and not make you confront your hoard, and heaven forbid, make you pack up all your baggage and move it to some other location.

While Facebook’s move to encourage and abet the spread of right-wing misinformation hasn’t gone unnoticed, nothing’s been done. Congress, old and out of touch with tech, simply pretends they understand Zuckerberg’s explanations, excuses, and promises to change and improve.

And like the sad victims of any kind of abuse, they swallow his words, and really believe that he’ll change. THIS time.

But, here’s the thing – he won’t. With all the money in the world, he’s simply too greedy to stop doing what buys him one more mansion or airplane. He’ll keep doing what he’s doing until the next time a Republican party gets into power, at which point, they’ll shut him (and Twitter) down aggressively and with malice, for denying their beloved leader a platform.

Until then, Facebook will continue along their merry way, warping the minds of kids, and supporting acts of domestic terrorism and violence.

Same as it ever was.”

Now about that election ….

VOTERS!  They would like us to believe that they are intelligent, well read, and rational. I so wish that were true.  

Most are not. They’re just not. They rail against System A until they get System B, at which point they whine and complain about System B until, inevitably, System A is returned to power, and we start the whole mess all over again. In the unlikely event that System C should win, proponents of both Systems A and B will make the leader’s life a living hell, and prevent System C from actually accomplishing anything worthwhile during their time in power, with the result that System C’s party will likely be shut out from getting another whack at governing for several decades.

And the losers are never any of the Systems; it’s always the voters. The ones that would like us to believe that they are intelligent, well read, and rational. Even when they’re not.

With that said – here we go again. It’s the election no one wanted, at a time when the precautions necessary to protect voters from COVID-19 are guaranteed to make the process as uncomfortable, maddening, and irritating as possible.  

I’m working this one as a Poll Supervisor. Which means that for about 16 hours tomorrow I will be supervising and filling in for Information Officers, Registration Officers, and Deputy Returning Officers, all of whom will also be working through a very long 16 hour or more day.

Most of the people working will have had about four hours of training. Many will have never worked at a polling station before. Few will be ‘political junkies,’ and none will be allowed to wax political during the day. In fact, they’d be booted out of the station were they to do so.

People working at polling stations must maintain neutrality; we’re not allowed to wear any clothing in the colours that the political parties claim. That means no red, blue, green, orange or purple is to be seen (although blue jeans are okay.) No political buttons, no banners, or posters for any party are allowed in the room.

Elections Canada sets out certain standards that have to be maintained throughout the course of an election. The voter’s privacy, and the secrecy of the vote are time honoured precepts. Accessibility needs must be met, and all voters have the right to interact with poll officers in either of our official languages. 

Health and Safety has always been a major concern, but this year, it’s changed the way a lot of things are done. For one thing, every polling station has to have a separate entrance and exit. Social distancing will be maintained, and there’s a strict, “No Mask, No Vote” rule in place. There will be no exemptions. Contact tracing will also be in play. I am really, really hoping that this does not prompt fanatics to add to what will undoubtedly be a challenge for many voters with protests or arguments with polling officers.

I’ve read complaints levelled against the slowness of the voting process during advanced voting days. I wish I could assure voters that this won’t happen on Monday, but I can’t. COVID-19 safety regulations have to be followed, and that’s slowing things down, but also, there’s been a change to what happens when you’re finally in front of the deputy returning officer, and ready to vote. In the past, there would have been two people at that desk, one doing the paperwork, and the other preparing your ballot. Under COVID laws, there is just one person doing both of those jobs. So please be patient.

There’s a lot of protocols in place for a safe and secure election. I consider Canada a beacon of sanity compared to the chaos that we see of voting in the United States. Our nationwide protocols are secure. We use the same electoral protocols right across the board, coast to coast, and, thru years of trial and error, we have created a system in which every Canadian can be assured that procedures are being properly followed, and that, at the end of the day, a winner is legally declared.

This Monday, September 20th is the day when Canadians all across the nation are asked to do their civic duty and vote for representatives and political parties that we hope will have the intelligence, strength, compassion, and leadership ability to guide us through what is hopefully the end of the pandemic, and into the economic recovery that will emerge after this healthcare crisis.

It’s not a time to hold on to petty grudges, or to ‘stick it’ to the people who, just like you, are fallible and capable of making mistakes. Voting is not just a civic duty, it’s a gift we give our children and our future – if we do it right.

Let’s be the example of how well a strong democracy works when the people actually want everyone in their entire country to succeed, now, and in the future.

ANOTHER 30 Days in the Hole


By Roxanne Tellier

Apparently I learned nothing from my last thirty-day time out from Facebook, since it only took a few months for me to land up in solitary yet again.

I’m Facebook’s Cool Hand Luke, defiant and unrepentant.  

After my first 30 days in Zuckerberg’s version of Nuremburg, I felt a little reluctant to return to my usual activities of curating and opining on the site. After all, like Pavlov’s dogs, I’d learned that there was a sociopath running the place, who claimed to love us, but liked to ‘train’ us by burning our paws whenever we stepped out of line.

Facebook might have kept on ringing that bell, but I no longer salivated on cue.

So, what offense did I commit this time?

In a reply to a Facebook post in the first week of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, I said that it seemed that Russian and Chinese interests were rushing in to fill a political void, sensing a chink in America’s armor. And BOOM!   Facebook’s algorithm kicked in, and decided that I was being politically incorrect, and thus must be ejected from the platform.  (The previous time I was incarcerated was for the sin of quoting Shakespeare during the impeachment trials – “first, kill all the lawyers“.)

(Apparently there was a kerfuffle in 2012 when the sports channel ESPN used the phrase “a chink in the armour,” to refer to a basketball game loss which they blamed on Jeremy Lin, an Asian player for the Knicks. Although the phrase had been used on the channel 3000 times previously, one of the employees responsible for writing the offensive headline was fired in a fluster of political correctness gone mad.)

The expression has been used idiomatically since around 1400 AD to mean ‘a crack or gap,’ but now, PC scholars have rushed to deem the term racist. And Facebook, bless its pointy little head, has decided that their site is too pure a place for racists, since they need all the elbow room they can find to accommodate their domestic terrorists and anti-vaxxers.  

There’s no appeal process on the site. You can say that you disagree with their decision, but all you’ll get in return is a sad face and a request that you honour their unhappy inability to hire enough staff to both censor AND arbitrate, due to COVID-19.  

Desolee, cheri – smell you around. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

A lot of Facebook’s glitter and gloss has rubbed off over the last five or six years. It started with the news that Zuckerberg played footsie with Cambridge Analytica, the data firm that Trump’s 2016 campaign used. Zuckerberg allowed CA, and thus the Donald, to use the private information of about 87 million Facebook profiles without the owners’ permission. Some believe that social media, and most especially Facebook, was the secret to trump’s success in 2016.

Once in power, it seems that Zuck liked trump’s politics, because FB continued to allow his administration and his followers to have free reign on the platform, even as dissenting views were hidden from view, or squashed completely.

Things have gone from bad to worse on the platform. Zuck throws his hands in the air and pretends that the people that he hires to police the site are just not capable of finding every little terrorist, anti-vaxxers, or seditionists looking to hook up with other seditionists to overthrow governments, but they’re right on top of anyone using a politically incorrect word or phrase.

Strangely, that’s not how others see the problem.

“(President) Joe Biden said social media platforms like Facebook are “killing people” because of (the spread of COVID disinformation.) The White House has also zeroed in on a clutch of accounts dubbed the “disinformation dozen” – Facebook accounts that have been shown to be responsible for the bulk of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms.

Thursday’s developments came as the Federal Trade Commission filed an amended complaint in federal court to continue pursuing its claims against Facebook, saying the online platform maintains monopoly power. The complaint filed is a partially redacted version, which the FTC has requested must be under seal for 10 days.” 

(The Guardian, August 2021)

It would seem that everyone in any position of social media authority and/or the government knows exactly which people and groups are spreading disinformation, calls for violence against dissenters, and calls to overthrow the government – they just somehow can’t stop them from doing what they wish on social media.

Meanwhile, people like myself, my buddy Michael Scrivener, the American culture writer Jef Rouner, and even long-time social activist Michael Moore, continually find ourselves being sanctioned and banned for less and less worthy reasons.

Gotcha. We’re on “the List.” Just check out my permanent record. 

After spending the last couple of months biting my tongue and looking over my shoulder, commiserating with friends who’ve been banned for days, weeks, or months, I’ve had enough of this nonsense. I am not going to sit in the corner wearing a dunce hat. I’m not a bad person because I’m intelligent, well-read, and can write in full sentences and paragraphs. And I’m sick of fearing Big Brother, or his collaborators, who are always watching and waiting for one’s guard to drop. I can’t keep on hoping that my next comment on someone’s status or comment won’t find me once again condemned to another 30 days of modern-day shunning.

While I’m grateful for the ability to interact with my family and some interesting people I’ve connected with over the years, I’ve finally realized something that Facebook’s executive have not – their version of the site encourages a narrower and narrower segment of the population, and coincidentally, that’s a segment I generally try to avoid having to have contact with. FB doesn’t want smart people or intellectuals .. they want the (m)asses.

And the (m)asses are the people that Facebook loves, because, just like regular media loved trump and his band of cuckoos, the crazies are the drivers of the controversy and anger that makes people come back for more. Rile ‘em up, head ‘em out.

In truth, there’s something kind of creepy and Twilight Zone-ish about frequenting a place “where everybody knows your name,” and where everything you say and do is judged and talked about by other people, many of whom you may not know, nor want to know.

I don’t WANT to spend all of my time angry at the posts put up by people who are, if not clinically insane, certainly chemically adjacent. I don’t want to argue about politics, religion, or today’s news with the sort of loon that is addicted to the dopamine hit they get from the chaos that their misspelt and badly worded opinions cause. I have learned the hard way that there are crazy people out there, and I don’t want them in my home, nor do I want their rantings on my computer monitor.   

It does seem that nearly every Devil’s Advocate and wannabe intellectual on the planet has recently decided that their own versions of reality trump fact and/or science, and I’m done arguing with them. I am OVER it. Unlike Graham Chapman, I didn’t ‘come here for an argument”

Speaking of Monty Python, John Cleese is currently working on a television series that will explore “why a new ‘woke’ generation is trying to rewrite the rules on what can and can’t be said.”

John Cleese: Cancel Me will see the British comedian and actor meet various subjects who claim to have been “cancelled” for their actions or statements, and activists who have led opposition to various public figures.

In a statement, Cleese said: “I’m delighted to have a chance to find out, on camera, about all the aspects of so-called political correctness. There’s so much I really don’t understand, like: how the impeccable idea of ‘Let’s all be kind to people’ has been developed in some cases ad absurdum.”

“[Political correctness] stuff started out as a good idea, which is, ‘Let’s not be mean to people’, and I’m in favour of that despite my age. The main thing is to try to be kind. But that then becomes a sort of indulgence of the most over-sensitive people in your culture, the people who are most easily upset … I don’t think we should organise a society around the sensibilities of the most easily upset people because then you have a very neurotic society.

“From the point of creativity, if you have to keep thinking which words you can use and which you can’t, then that will stifle creativity. The main thing is to realise that words depend on their context. Very literal-minded people think a word is a word but it isn’t.”

 “I want to bring the various reasonings right out in the open so that people can be clearer in their minds what they agree with, what they don’t agree with, and what they still can’t make their mind up about.”  

(The Guardian, August 2021.)

It’ll be another two weeks before Facebook lets me back on to it’s whited sepulchre, but I’m not so sure I’m gonna return. I don’t mind having access to Messenger, to be able to quickly contact the few people left on the site that I actually like, but overall, living in the 1984/Big Brother version of Facebook in 2021 is just not to my taste.

Here’s the thing; Facebook has been around for nearly two decades, since 2004, and that’s forever in social media time. With more than a billion users since February 2012, when Facebook filed to become a public company, Zuckerberg is a billionaire many times over, and he doesn’t need my two cents.

I think it ‘s safe to say that the guy who dropped out of Harvard in his sophomore year is doing more than alright for himself these days

Sooner than later, Facebook will go the way of MySpace and all such fads. The kids left for sexier venues long ago. Most FB users are the middle-aged, and boomers happy to have a free way of keeping in touch with their friends and family.      

Time for a little break, and a step right off that social media treadmill. There’s a whole other world out there, but you’ll only see it if you lift your eyes off the screen.

Smile Damnit. Smile!


by Roxanne Tellier  

To be honest, I haven’t much enjoyed the last five years or so. I’m not just talking about politics, though, if there was ever a time in which it became apparent how much politics affects every aspect of our every day lives, this was that time. 

I’ll bet even your grandmother learned how to use the “block” function on her Facebook page.

Almost imperceptibly, the world sustained a seismic fracture, dividing families, communities and nations into camps. On one side, those who believe in equality, and that everyone has human and civil rights. On the other side, those that SAY they sort of agree with those precepts, in theory – but have their reasons for why they really don’t. And, like door-to-door proselytizers, they’d be happy to bend your ear for hours on end, to let you know exactly why they don’t agree with what you’re saying. In progressively louder sentences.

I think the last eighteen months of COVID just did me in. It was the final straw. Eighteen months of fear, uncertainty, deprivation, and doubt. Eighteen months of never being sure what day or month it is. Eighteen months of not being able to come together to celebrate birthdays, weddings or anniversaries. No parties, no musical events, no theatre. And, perhaps the cruelest of all, no chance of gathering to bid a final goodbye to the loved ones we lost.

How could so many people that we love have died, and been buried, with so little recognition or fanfare? Some days, an old friend’s birthday circled on my calendar fills me with anxiety, as I wonder – did they make it through this year? Or were they one of the many who left our ranks with little to no fanfare?

Mustn’t grumble, we’re told. Yes, it’s all hard, but complaining won’t do any good. No, it won’t. Complaining won’t change a thing. It won’t bring back our dead, or our equilibrium.

But.

I’m sick of being expected to simply assimilate this decade’s horrors, compounded by all the crap that the Powers That Be rain down upon the masses, and just smile, smile, smile.

Smile as climate change burns one half of the planet to a cinder, while the other half drowns in torrential rains and melted ice caps.

Smile while our rich cities become unaffordable to the middle class, and smile as the city’s elected officials send hordes of police to evacuate and destroy the homeless camps that are filled with their fellow citizens, citizens who are financially unable to live in the cities they built with their toil and taxes.

Smile while the rich get richer at the expense of the poor, because only the wealthy can afford to run for leadership roles, get elected into power, and once in place, be relied upon to act to shore up laws and regulations that benefit the wealthy at the expense of the common people. 

Smile while federal and provincial leadership is so badly handled throughout a once in a lifetime global pandemic that, while half the city goes mad struggling to figure out how and where to get vaccinated, the other half holds anti-mask, anti-vax, super spreader rallies in the downtown core, unimpeded.

Smile as an orange madman’s most important legacy seems to have been his ability to teach his followers (in the US and Canada) two new commandments:

  1. call anything you don’t like or want to believe ‘fake news’, and,
  2. should anyone expect any accountability or ‘adulting’ from you, double and triple down on your ‘rights’ while denying any responsibility for your acts.  

It feels like there’s no one and no thing making much effort any more. Thanks to the internet, we live in a world where we’ve never been so aware of evil people and deeds, of corruption, of fraud, of social media voyeurs with a sadistic bent, of sickness, death and horror – present or impending – occurring on a global scale.

And yet, for the bulk of the population, rather than act, it’s a time to double down on escaping into the soothing waters of social media, where one can bathe in an uninterrupted stream of whatever turns your crank, until the day the grid topples.    

Apparently, it’s never the time to fight to change what seems an inevitable slide into the abyss. There’s something good on television, it’s too hot/cold/rainy out there, and what does it matter anyway? It’s not like anything I do can change the world, right? No, I’ll just stay home. And maybe sign this petition. It’ll be fine.

There is little to no response to any suggestion that our actions might have brought about the mess we are leaving to our heirs. The ability to feel remorse and/or shame seems to have been genetically modified out of our systems. Or have we just passed the buck for so long that we no longer remember what happens when we’re the last one’s holding it?

Our legacy of little horrors only begins with the hoards of useless and unrecyclable junk that broods in our basements and attics. Our children will live with their memories of a better planet. Our grandchildren will never know the world that baby boomers took for granted.

And I say to myself …. Where’s THEIR Wonderful World?

I will be honest; I don’t know where we go from here. The bus is on fire, and we may have missed our last chance to turn it around.

But I’m tired of smiling, and pretending that what we see happening around us, isn’t happening. That way madness lies.

All that’s left is to prepare in the way Maya Angelou advised, “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”

Up With Pride!


by Roxanne Tellier

In the 50s and 60s, most of the gendered role models for kids were caricatures, physical and psychological distortions of what a ‘real man’ or a ‘real woman’ should look like, and how they should behave.  

There were manly men and voluptuous women, who conformed to rigid bodily descriptions. Then there was the supporting cast, the rebels and the roues, who could also be considered acceptable gender models.

Early television played a large part in what we came to view as acceptable romantic and sexual behavior of the very strictly defined genders. Strangely, there are still huge swaths of North Americans who retain the same parameters on how we should behave, even as fewer and fewer of us can actually live up to those physical or mental objectives.

And into that morass, we, who would become the Baby Boomers, waded, without so much as an armband floatie.

We’d like to think that we’ve changed since then, become more liberal and less rigid, but in truth, we’re still playing gender games, right from birth, when we begin to naturalize our newborn’s sexual orientation. With the right onesie, even a three-month-old can be a misogynist!

We oversexualize our kids, allowing little girls as young as four to climb on to the sexual bandwagon, caked in makeup and hairspray as they toddle down beauty pageant runways, styled like mini hookers. Their mothers cheer on the tiny sex objects from the sidelines, whispering to each other about how they despise the criminals who sex traffic minors.   

By grade school, most kids have already absorbed a definition of physical ‘perfection’ based on what they’ve seen on TV and social media. What they wish they could look like may well be unobtainable for their body types, but that perceived ideal, through societal pressure, will set some on a path that will have them trying to reach unrealistic goals for the rest of their lives.

Males and females alike develop eating disorders. Some children feel so objectified that they simply give up trying to be accepted, and self-harm to take themselves out of the ‘game.’  

Sex sells everything, from candy to cars. Good looking people who meet current standards of beauty dominate our screens, begging us to join them for a coffee, a date, or a cruise.  

We may not like it, but we take all of this for granted as being simply part of our heterosexual culture. And we almost never wonder what it might be like if we weren’t oriented that way. 

Our straight kids never have to worry about coming out to their parents or their school mates – it’s just expected that sexually compatible mates will be available when the time is right.  

Kids who don’t gender conform have to spend a great deal of their lives explaining and justifying their needs and why they feel the way they do, first to their parents, then to the world.

Straight people are not asked, over and over, if maybe they’ve just never found the right person to change their sexual orientation, or if the attraction they feel to a partner might just be a ‘phase they’re going through.’  

And when a straight person is asked about their weekend or vacation plans, they rarely have to police their speech to ensure that they don’t let slip that their spouse is their same-sex partner.

Remember The Imitation Game, the film about cryptologist and father of the modern computer, Alan Turing? Despite his work helping to win the war for Great Britain, his homosexuality lead to his being convicted of gross indecency, and being sentenced to chemical castration. (After a year of government- mandated hormonal therapy, Turing committed suicide.)             

Same-sex sexual activity is a crime in 70 countries. In 13 countries of the world, including six nations that are members of the United Nations, being gay is punishable by death. In 26 other countries, the maximum penalty for being gay is prison, with terms varying from a few years to life imprisonment.

Same sex marriage is legal in 29 countries in the world, including the United States. However, individual American state laws have interfered in some celebrations when those opposing the unions have refused to make wedding cakes, or to process their marriage licences. 

You can’t lose your job for being gay in Canada. But in the United States, LGBTQ workplace protections depend a lot upon where you live. Since a Supreme Court ruling on June 15, 2020, it has been unlawful under federal law for employers to discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

But that didn’t stop then President trump from slapping a blanket ban on all transgender people from serving and enlisting in the United States military. (A reversal of this policy was one of the first executive orders President Biden signed in January 2021, post-inauguration.)

Straight couples can do all the public displays of affection they want. Gay couples have to fear scrutiny, ridicule, retaliation, or even death, often for just holding their loved one’s hand.

We’ve known for decades that the lack of media representation of positive aspects of people of colour has had a numbing effect on the psychological and economical progress of that group.  

Recently there has been a movement towards a more accurate media representation of North American families.  I’ve been noticing a lot more advertisements, especially during the daytime hours of television, that feature a better kaleidoscope of the colour and flavour of our nations. I’ve even already heard a few complaints from people about how there’s not a lot of straight, white couples hawking laundry soap anymore. Deal with it, sistah.

But one stain removal commercial featuring a lesbian married couple does not a societal sea change make. There is far to go before it is equally acceptable for LGBTQ people to exhibit the same sort of sexuality that heterosexuals ‘shove down our throats’ day in, year out.

We happily cheer on straight people who, whether on screen or on the street, flirt, have awkward coming of age stories, who romance, marry, and stay together or divorce. We recognize the humanity of our straight brethren, but often attempt to minimize or deny the right of the LGBTQ community to enjoy the same pleasures.  

There’s a lot of decent straight people out there who like and support differently gendered people, but who continue to have a problem with what they view as inappropriate public displays of affection. You’ll often hear them say that they have no problem with the LGBTQ community, as long as their sexuality is not “shoved down people’s throats.”

But that’s such a strange thing to say, because of the questions it begs. Who’s doing the shoving? Do you mean you are literally being forced, against your will, to engage in sex or romance with someone of the same gender? Are you being forced to watch gay porn? Attend a gay wedding? Is someone forcing you to marry someone of your own gender?

And of course, none of that is what you mean. What you mean is that you don’t want to have to see gay couples doing the things that straight couples do – like hold hands. Like grocery shop. Like sleep in the same bed and even (gasp!) kiss. 

Can you tell me where you get to see those couples doing those things? Because it’s not on the tv channels I’m aware of. Although Netflix sure does have a lot of rom coms and dramas showing straight couples partnering up to their heart’s content.

Our culture, our society, allows heterosexual couples to indulge in all sorts of bizarre couple activity, with little more than a tsk tsk, if that. For North Americans, ‘opposite sex’ sexuality is the norm – we’re soaking in it, to the point were we hardly even notice it any more, unless the offense is so overt and grievous that we cannot ignore the sight.

There’d be a lot more truth in it if we were saying that it’s heterosexuality that is being crammed down our throats, since that is our cultural norm, our societal default, and literally inescapable.

No one is forcing anything down your throat at all. All we’re doing is beginning to treat the people of the LGBTQ community like the human beings they are, because they’re just as human as the rest of us.

Other people’s private lives are none of anyone else’s business. Happy Pride Month!

Straight Outta Facebook Jail


by Roxanne Tellier

I’m happy to report that the rumours of my death were greatly exaggerated.  I’ve only been dead to the social media world for the last 30 days. 

But, let me tell you – if you’ve ever wondered if people would miss you after you’re gone, take a long Facebook break. The majority will most certainly not even notice your absence. It’s a fast-paced world, and either you’re in the fast lane, or you’re eating everyone else’s dust.

this is great – never knew there were two versions of this Canadian Classic!

Facebook has really been cracking down on its users over every little thing since the last time Zuckerberg had to explain Facebook’s ways to Congress.  Zuck’s been able to rely on Section 230, which allows social media companies to self-regulate. It shields the platforms from liability, shunting any blame to individual users, who can be sued for posted content, while granting legal immunity for good faith efforts to remove content that violates their policies.

The key part of the provision reads: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

While there have been small inroads into Section 230 protections, lawmakers have only been able to do so much. In 2018, a law was passed making it easier to sue internet platforms that knowingly aid sex trafficking, but there’s the rub again … define and prove ‘knowingly’ when a cadre of well-paid lawyers are claiming ignorance. Federal crimes and intellectual property claims are further exceptions, but again, there’s a rallying cry of ‘prove it!’ whenever the platform is charged.

Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey of Twitter claim that their platforms could not exist without the protections provided under Section 230, but at the end of the day, what stays or goes on these platforms remains solely under their jurisdiction.

Which is perhaps why we’re hearing more and more horror stories from Facebook users who are being penalized unfairly, without recourse, and lately, even for offences committed four to seven years ago.

Musician/radio personality Bill King noted today that there doesn’t seem to be an actual court of appeal for unfair charges.

“I was there (FB jail) recently for a humorous post of which I challenged, won, and still got a week. I’m serving a 60-day sentence for something from 2020. This is crazy.”

The most famous North American repeat offender is, of course, Donald Trump. The former president was banned ‘indefinitely’ from all Facebook platforms after the Capitol riot of January 6th, when his supporters ransacked the hallowed halls in an attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win.

The ban was a disaster for Trump, since social media played a huge part in his campaign and subsequent presidential term. He appealed, which resulted in his claim being kicked upstairs to Facebook’s Oversight Board. There, the suspension was upheld, but the board chastised the company for not having a clear policy, and for imposing an indefinite time period.

Facebook’s principals responded by creating new enforcement penalties that deemed Trump’s ‘severe violation of our rules’ to merit the highest penalty available – a two-year suspension, effective from January 7th. This would keep his account suspended until January 7th 2023, when it was determined that he would only get his accounts back if “the risk to public safety has receded.”

Naturally, Trump’s furious over being held accountable for his sins. Although he was a supporter in the good times, now, like a belligerent husband furious that the wife is refusing to iron his underpants, he’s determined to break Facebook and Twitter, by any means possible.

Trump’s response:  “What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country. Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before. The People of our Country will not stand for it! These corrupt social media companies must pay a political price, and must never again be allowed to destroy and decimate our Electoral Process.”

And then, in a separate statement, Trump again claimed fraud in the 2020 election, because of course he did.

Meanwhile, there’s a pretty solid front of both Dems and Republicans who believe that all of social media’s big companies have become too powerful, and need tougher regulations to hold them more accountable for policing content.

Democrats, led by Biden, want Congress to revise Section 230, considering the lack of liability a big gift to Big Tech. They want social media to be compelled to remove hate speech, proven falsehoods, extremism, and election interference.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans, led by Trump, are more concerned about the Orange One being banned, conservatives being censored, and a limit to political reach on social media platforms. Florida’s Ron DeSantis recently passed a law that cracks down on the Big Tech platforms, claiming that they are conspiring against conservatives, and their free speech.

This law would make it illegal for Big Tech to remove political candidates from their platforms in the runup to an election, while also making it easier for Florida’s attorney general and individuals to sue these companies if they felt discriminated against.

(But DeSantis DID exempt ‘companies that own a theme park’ – such as Walt Disney Co, which runs Disney+, a streaming service. He knows which side of the Floridian bread is buttered by the Mouse.)

There are so many holes in this law that I imagine there are ACL lawyers across America wetting their pants over who will be the first to challenge this snowflake fest. Firstly, it’s unconstitutional. The bill is a violation of the First Amendment’s ban on government controlling the free speech of private companies.

Corbin Barthold, internet policy counsel for the Washington, D.C., nonprofit group TechFreedom, wrote, “The bill is extreme. It’s a brazen assault on the First Amendment. DeSantis wants to compel websites to speak. He can’t. He wants consumer-protection law to erase free-speech rights. It won’t. DeSantis is attacking the very constitutional principles Republicans just spent four years putting conservatives on the courts to protect.”  

Beyond that, it would seem yet one more example of DeSantis currying favour with Trump and his acolytes, by standing by his man. The snowflakes are thick on the ground down in Florida, it would seem.

There’s a lot of other factors going on here as well, since, no matter how you look at it, Facebook is near to keeling over from ‘death by demographics.’ 10% of Facebook’s advertising audience are 55 and older, while Facebook remains the most popular social network for seniors. 62% of Americans 65 and older use Facebook. And – fun fact! Guess who shares the most fake news on ANY social platform? Seniors! We’re Number 1! We’re Number 1!

As is the case in Japan, people over 65 make up the brunt of Facebook’s population, and that number is rising. Meanwhile, the ‘kool kids’ bolted years ago, to the hipper pastures of TikTok and Instagram.

So why do so many stay on Facebook, despite the arbitrary updates of it’s interface, unreasonable banning, lack of customer support, or recourse for common errors? Basically, it’s all about sunk costs.

It’s a lot like changing jobs or moving house; when you’re younger, there’s always a greener pasture to be found. But the older you get, the less you want to gather up all the energy you’ll need to get up and out of that comfy chair. So we stay, year after year, and simply take whatever the social media platform gods dish out.

There aren’t a lot of platforms that ring the same bells as Facebook. The current ‘next best option’ is Liker.com, which bills itself as the ‘kinder, smarter, social network’. Liker has recently gone through a serious overhaul and revamp, further to being hacked in March of 2021 by ‘politically motivated trumpers’, and allegedly in retaliation for the Gab data breach and scraping of data from Parler.  

I have re-upped with Liker, and hope to be setting up a new home over there as soon as it’s back up and running. With Facebook now so hair-triggered, it can’t hurt to have somewhere else to go, especially for those days when you get kicked off the platform for the despicable crime of quoting Shakespeare.

So, a month without Facebook. It was fine, really. After the first few days of withdrawal, I started to realize how much free time I had, when I wasn’t constantly monitoring the freeform thoughts of the masses. In a way, it was sort of like those first few days after Trump was originally banned from Facebook – at first, you can’t put your finger on what’s not bothering you anymore. Then you realize – it’s the absence of the white noise that was constantly permeating your environment, keeping you slightly off balance at all times.

I’ve been reading all the books on tech and social media and current social issues that I can carry home from the library. I’ve spent a lot of time on YouTube, scarfing down educational programs, TedTalks, documentaries, music specials, and watching the antics of The Sorry Girls. I’ve redecorated the front porch, started working on sorting out the back deck and the shed, and have a couple of document files I’m about to rework into eBooks to see if I can make a few bucks off that tech writing certificate I aced decades ago.

And the funniest thing is, once you get off the Facebook treadmill, you soon start to realize how little ‘new’ there’s been for the average person to marvel over, since around 2015. It’s as though the world was so fixated on trump and politics that actual societal progress halted, while the right gloated over the one bill they passed in four years, that being the one that made the rich even richer, while doing nothing for the other 99.9%.

We’re still fighting old wars. We’ve gone through a global pandemic, serious incursions upon our democracy, and we are making tentative forays into re-entering this post-pandemic world, without many people even noticing that nearly six years have passed, but very little has changed.

Thirty days away also gave me perspective on how seriously too many people take their Facebook presence. For the average user, any social media platform should be either an escape, or a legitimate business outlet.  But many people get so addicted to the place that they have to share every minor moment and experience of their lives, along with what they ate for lunch. It’s almost as though they believe that nothing is real unless it’s seen by an audience.  

Then there’s the huge segment of people who seem to think that the expression of their thoughts and opinions is tantamount to a ‘job.’ Facebook isn’t paying anyone I know to tell them ‘What’s on your mind?’ No one pays me to curate news items, or to be first with a link to the latest Randy Rainbow video. The water cooler we gather around is virtual, as are most of our friends, and if there was a break room, your sandwich would already have been stolen by a troll.

And, let’s face it – Facebook is also where you go to ask random strangers whether or not you should bring a baby to a ‘no kids allowed’ wedding. Or to seek the seal of approval on your not wanting to get vaccinated before getting on an airplane and going to said wedding.

So, yeah, back again, sadder and wiser. Thinking I’ll use Facebook for my business social media purposes, maybe keep another account for private convos.

But there are still reasons – which have nothing to do with how FB is run – to be on Facebook.

One, is finding the little precious nuggets hidden on the internet … I’d never have found this video, or seen these incredible, sensual contortions, had I not been pointed in their direction by photographer Anne J Gibson ….

(The 13th Floor Elevators – Roller Coaster – Footage by exotic dancers Janik and Arnaut, 1954.)

And of course, I’ve got a lot of people I really enjoy seeing and interacting with on Facebook.

But let’s face it, the odds of me being a recidivist are pretty high. I’m a terror, you know, a wild one, a granny with a grudge, a troublemaker that just doesn’t learn. Odds are good it won’t be long until they’ve sent me back to the pokey.

It’s just the way I roll. Unrepentant. A Facebook Felon. You’ll never take me alive, copper!

Aging and Changing


by Roxanne Tellier

Teenaged me wasn’t very smart.  “Hope I die before I get old.”Never trust anyone over 30.” I’d not yet heard of the 27 Club, but if I had, I might have aspired to joining it, thus avoiding becoming untrustworthy.   

I was an idiot, as we all are when we are young, dumb, and believe we are the first creatures to experience the banquet of life. I was certain that no one had ever understood fashion, been in love, or known the glories of sex, before my existence.

Yet, by 30 I was having the time of my life! When I think about how much I’ve learned, and how much I’ve accomplished since the days of my ignorant youth, I am so very glad that I survived long enough to find out how very wrong I was about just about everything I thought I knew when I was legit dumber than a box of rocks.  

The fifties and sixties were very different times from present day. Older people got older faster – my grandmother seemed much older than her years when she was in her mid 50s, and bowed down by grief and loss. Older women were expected to be very fragile, and older men were best left to their spooky lairs. (Come to think of it, why did I live amongst all these very odd people?)

But in reality, the seniors of the 50s and 60s were often true survivors. They had lived through the Spanish Flu, two world wars and a bunch of smaller skirmishes, and the Great Depression. They’d seen the world change from being largely agricultural to a more technological economy, might themselves have been child labourers, had seen the onset of unions and labour laws, and had had to change how they worked right along with it. They’d paid some heavy dues, and it showed, especially in their health.

Today’s seniors, on the other hand, are very different. We’ve had a lot of advantages, and few of us were involved in any wars except peripherally. In Canada, we’ve had access to pretty good health care across the board since 1984, when the Canada Health Act was passed. In the heady days when every halfway decent job came with ‘benefits,’ we could count on our teeth being cared for, and often even other small mercies were covered, like massages and rehab.   

Many of us segued from mullets to middleclass, and worked decent jobs with the possibility of retiring with a little financial cushion to enjoy in our ‘golden years.’ And many, many of us bought houses, which exploded in value over the decades, and provided us with either a roof over our heads, or a nice nest egg, post-sale.

Whether we invested wisely or not, we are still guaranteed a small pension on which we can live, if not like kings, then not like paupers either. Before 1965, that didn’t exist. The Canada Pension Plan was passed to replace the original old age pensions for those who lacked pension plans from their pre-retirement days. Older, single, women often suffered the most on those plans, since they generally were paid significantly less than men during their prime working years. While I believe there needs to be a rethinking of how the Plan is currently administered, I am aware of how many are blessed to have this financial security in their lives.

As a rule, boomers have much better educations than their parents had. My parents both left school around the 8th or 9th grade, to help support their families.

Beyond the benefits of having more education, money, and security than our grandparents could have dreamt of, boomers were also a generation that could let their minds fly free in dreams of a progressive future. In the late 50s, the sci fi magazines and even the kiddie cartoons promised us a future in the stars. Flying cars! Robot maids!

Radical ideas were being approved at government levels, and marvels like underground trains, the wonders of Expo 67 and it’s manmade islands, McLuhan’s Geodesic Dome, and Ontario Place rose around us, in a brave new world.

The world, including what we could watch on our new tv sets, themselves a huge jump from the world of radio, went from black and white to colour, almost overnight.

Our world got much smaller, even as we got bigger. Our trips overseas went from being week long journeys on steamers, to eight-hour plane rides, to a zippy 2 hours, 53 minute jaunt, New York to London, via the Concorde.

Our reach got longer, as we began to embrace the foods, customs, and musics of far away places.

So much progress, of unimaginable proportions, happened between 1940 and 1980. There’s a meme going around that says, “2020 is now as far from 1980 as 1980 was from 1940″ and I just can’t stop thinking about that. I mean, the 60s made the 40’s unthinkable. Just a few decades later, the North American world we lived in was virtually unrecognizable.

(What happened from the 80s to today, I cannot explain. We seem to have entered a  cultural void reeking of political correctness that prevents forward movement. I’m hoping we’ll eventually emerge from this costly stasis.)    

While there are stories of sadness, despair and deprivation from those who lived then, as there are in nearly every other time in history, I would still love to be able to spend a few days back then, when we all seemed to be younger, fitter, healthier and sexier. Those were good times for most of us, on many levels.

Nevertheless, life can only be lived forward; looking back might occasionally be pleasant, but living in the past would impoverish my present.

If you have the luxury of aging, there is an opportunity for mental and emotional growth. Personalities don’t really change with the years, but our traits tend to become more pronounced and entrenched. If you were a miserable middle-aged person, you may not ever be happy. But assuming no drastic and/or damaging mental or physical changes come along, you’ll really be pretty much the same person you always were, only more so.   

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks; studies have shown that older people tend to be more responsible overall, more empathic, and more caring of their work and the people around them. Those prone to social fears tend to become less willing to socialize, but more engaged in others when they choose to do so. Quality over quantity becomes the rule.

In some cases, getting older means getting better. Most research shows that as people get older, they are not more agreeable — they just don’t care as much what others think. We develop a higher sense of personal identity as we age, a better understanding of who we are, and what we stand for.

Our personalities are always changing, right along with the calendar, but the change is very subtle, and unlikely to be noticed in the short term. Our reactions to emotional situations tend to become calmer over the years, as we develop self-confidence, leadership abilities, and social sensitivity.

The internet and social media have had a lot of impact on those who are easily persuaded by those they admire. Especially politically, sadly. But there’s also a real positive aspect to social media, when it’s used to connect with friends and loved ones, allowing those that have less physical interaction with others to become engaged in constructive activities and self education. The Internet – it giveth and it taketh away.

Getting older is not for sissies. There’s a lot of entropy involved, for one thing, and most of us swear that we’d have taken better care of our teeth and backs, had we known we were going to have to use them for so long.

But aging is a luxury not all will enjoy. Aging gracefully means accepting your age, living your best life, and hopefully, having the physical and mental health to enjoy it. It means loving yourself enough to be kind to your body and mind, in hopes of having many enjoyable years to spend with family and friends.

Aging well means keeping your mind sharp, and your attitude positive. It’s time to do the things that bring you joy, and to spend time with people of like minds. Mindfulness, and living in the moment by focusing on the present has many proven health benefits that will lower stress and increase immune functions.

For myself, I hope to continue being creative, and to never stop learning. The world is full of wonders, if we are open to seeing them.

Because, as they say, getting older is inevitable. But aging poorly is optional.

Perspective


by Roxanne Tellier

I blame social media and reality TV.

I blame reality TV because the flood of singing, dancing, housewifing and endurancing series that became ubiquitous during the early 2000s were the catalyst for too many narcissists to believe that their big fish in a small local pond anonymity was only an audition and a bunch of ‘likes and shares’ away from stardom. And that belief, that, in the past, would have been knocked out of them by cruel reality, has gone right to our collective heads.   

I blame social media because it gave us a forum, a place where we could not only display our new found talents, but that also laid down a platform from which some of the worst ‘thinkers’ and ‘philosophers’ imaginable could find the like minded, and share their convoluted and wrong headed ‘theories.

Having seen people who seem ‘just like us!’ achieve a little traction, if not actual fame, on the television, and on social media, many seized on the idea that this gives everyone not just the right, but the obligation, to get our own talents and ideas out there.

We really want to have our say on things. We insist, in fact, on others hearing our every opinion, on every subject, regardless of our relative knowledge or ignorance of a given subject. And we not only want you to hear what we think – we insist you agree. And we’ll hound you to the ends of the earth, if that’s what it takes, to pound our truth into your skull. (Just LIKE them .. maybe then they’ll go away.)

The belief that, despite lacking education, training, or experience, any of us is capable of being anyone from a Kardashian sibling to a POTUS – couldn’t have come at a more chaotic moment in time.

We are living in an exceptional period, when external pressures – a global pandemic, that brought about an economic freefall, that then coincided with an onslaught of videotaped police overstepping and brutality, which has drawn worldwide attention to systemic racism – has rocked the planet. It’s a powder keg.

There are some huge issues being discussed. The status quo, economic and social inequality, and the sense that injustice and poor governance were simply the way things are and would never change, has been challenged.

And that’s hard to get our head’s around, on some days, because in the bigger picture, life might feel off kilter, and like we’re living in BizarroWorld, but we don’t see all that much difference in our day to day circumstances. I adjust. You adjust. We all adjust, and the changes slowly become the new normal.

On my street, there’s little difference between this June and last. It’s not like every second house has someone who is ill or has died. Can’t remember the last time I’ve seen anyone walking up the street that wasn’t white. Most of the vehicles on my street are of current vintage, and the guy that comes around to root through the recycling bins for empties always finds a treasure trove, because people in this neighbourhood can afford to be generous with what they discard.  

No one that we’ve spoken to, in this area, has lost anyone to COVID. They might know someone who had a winter flu/cold that just wouldn’t go away, but few know of anyone affected personally.

Contrast that with the people who work in the health care industry, who have had to face the ugly reality of illness and death by this virus. Those who are living in the belly of the beast reach out to us, on the television, on the radio, on social media, warning us of the horrors possible during our 2020 plague.  

And since those two realities – one in which one is unaffected, and the other in which one is soaking in misery – are so very different, many just don’t know what to believe. How does the reality of millions infected, and that hundreds of thousands are dead, equate with the lack of concern we see in our every day lives?

This is a time when, instead of ‘sorry’ being the hardest word, actually saying ‘I don’t know’ has become anathema. And yet, it’s also a time when literally NO BODY, despite not knowing what is going to happen next, can stop talking about what they think might happen. We know that we would like our lives to go back to pre-COVID normalcy, we know that there are going to be some hard economic times ahead, and we really wish that police in Canada would stop mistreating and killing indigenous people, and that police in the US would stop torturing and murdering people of colour.

But not a single one of us – and that includes all of those people who have spent their lives studying disease, economics, politics and racial issues – knows for certain what tomorrow is going to look like.  

Which still doesn’t stop many of us from weighing in on what we believe is happening, what we would personally like to happen, rather than admitting that we just don’t know what is happening.

There’s a meme going around on social media that suggests that everyone should just do whatever they want to do, and leave everyone else alone to do what ever those other people want to do. Which is the kind of thing that kids say before they’ve spent much time out in society and learned that there are rules and laws in every civilization that are put into place to protect us from well-meaning idiots.

Despite all of that, social and mass media are afloat in the uninformed spouting their theories on how best to tackle COVID, the economic crisis, racism, and what should be done in the event that we fall into either a second wave of COVID or another global Depression.  

As America confronts it’s racial injustice and systemic racism, under a president that seems to revel in his own racism and bigotry, Canada has to look to its own self to see what can be done within our own country to root out the sins and crimes that allowed our nation to grow and thrive, often at the expense of our original people.

There’s never been a time when we’ve been more in need of generous, empathic, and wise leaders. Sadly, leaders of such calibre are rare.

But there sure are a lot of ‘experts’ on social media that think that they alone have all the answers. Say – isn’t that how trump got the POTUS gig? How’s that working out for you so far, kiddies?

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Comedian Dave Chappelle released this short, heartbreaking commentary on American racism on Friday night. By Saturday afternoon it had been viewed over 13 million times. I may watch it 13 million more times.

Hang in There, Baby


by Roxanne Tellier

Argggh!!! Woke up in a ‘mood’ this morning, and the weather – grey, cold and damp – isn’t helping at all.

It’s not that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, it’s more that I’m just tired of playing pandemic. In February, I could still see a path ahead, even though it wasn’t clear how long our preparations and quarantine would last. Still, I had hopes that the light at the end of the tunnel was a bright future. Turned out it was an oncoming train. 

As the weeks, and now months, have dragged by, we’re all starting to realize that there’s not gonna be a special day, like an armistice, when we can all, globally, agree that this is all over and we can now crack open the champagne. There will never be our old ‘normal’ again. From now on, we will redefine our interactions with the world by how we all behaved BC – Before COVID and AC – After COVID.

And I’m not being a whining Negative Nelly when I say that. It’s just the truth. COVID 19 will go on as long as it has to, and then gradually taper off over months or even years. We’ll develop a vaccine, and many will opt out of being vaccinated, which will mean the virus will stay dormant, bubbling underneath, for a good long while. But eventually the most vulnerable will die, the majority will be vaccinated or immune, and life will go on … until the next time. 

I’m not sure if this wonderfully mild winter has helped or hindered any kind of seasonal distress. Usually I write at least one column over this time period, talking about cabin fever and ‘hygge’ but somehow, that kind of distress never really crossed my mind, what with … well, worrying about dying and all.  As we come out of the winter months and edge into Spring, my thoughts are on what sort of plants I might bring home, for décor or culinary purposes, or whether I should consider germinating the seedlings I want to be ready by the end of May.

One thing I suddenly realized this morning was how little I’ve done that I thought I might do, in this time of lockdown. I really thought I had it made, with my hundreds of fiction and nonfiction books stacked around me, and dozens of DVDs I’ve stockpiled for that day when I actually find myself with time on my hands and nothing to do. Didn’t happen.

Instead, like so many, I’ve been more active than ever on social media. Both Shawn and I are on Facebook far more than I’d usually consider healthy in normal times. But of course, these times definitely fall under the ‘abnormal’ umbrella.

And even though, as a couple of retirees, our social calendars are not positively bursting with exciting events, we’ve always had places to go, people to see, birthdays, weddings, funerals, and yes, the odd musical jam to look forward to, not to mention doctor and dentist appointments to keep. Not any more. Now every day on the calendar remains resolutely blank.

Humans are social creatures. No matter how introverted one may be, we generally can count on getting out of our little shells now and again, if only for a trip up to the mall or the grocers. To have absolutely no where to go is daunting, even if you are lucky enough to never actually need to buy something for yourself or someone else.

Beyond that, we are living in a time when we are bombarded with negative messaging. Every day, multiple times a day, and always around dinner, we have bombastic, self-obsessed, needy trump horning in on what should be a simple ten- or fifteen-minute briefing on the virus’ progress. Instead, for hours, he mumbles through a teleprompter reading, horns in on what the specialists have to say, lies and spews misinformation (the Spanish flu began in January 1918, I want to scream at the television. STOP saying it started in 1917!) and then harangues and verbally attacks the few reporters still allowed to attend these putative press briefings which are really nothing more than a sop to his ego since he can no long hold his Nuremburg styled rallies for his party faithful. 

You know how we used to joke about all the happy happy schlock load of ‘affirmations’ epitomized by Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley? It was out there, but it worked -it energizes, it keeps us moving forward.

Negative messaging is really hard on our psyches. Negative messaging leaves us tired, worried, and feeling like we’re struggling under burdens far too heavy to carry. It makes us crave some sort of relief, and when we are locked down and unable to find comfort, it can actually damage our health.

The more you think and speak positively, the more positive you feel about yourself and your surroundings. Conversely, the more negative messaging you receive during the day, the worse you’ll feel about yourself and the world.

When I spend my day on social media, with CNN or MSNBC or a Canadian news source, that is constantly updating the numbers of the sick, dying and dead, while hysterically describing the precautions necessary for a simple trip to the grocers, well – I’m not gonna be a very happy camper. Instead, I’ll constantly feel anxious and scared.

In health terms, that nonstop deluge of fearmongering provokes a flight or fight instinct, which ratchets up the adrenaline produced, and eventually leaves one exhausted. It also can lead to serious mental health problems and cardio vascular disease.

That’s the reason why we’re all feeling so tired and out of energy, and why that small walk you took just to get out of the house leaves you feeling like you just ran a 10K.. We really do underestimate how much energy it takes to get through our days and our lives until we are tested this severely.

These hard times bring out the best in some people, and the worst in others. As if we weren’t all feeling stressed and out of sorts, there are factions of people who’ve decided that their own needs and whims outweigh the health and safety of others. 

”So, what are you guys gonna do during the pandemic?

“Well, a bunch of us are gonna go protest the lock down, try and disrupt the sitting government while they try to figure out how to use what few medical supplies they have. Maybe barricade the ambulance lane so that the vehicles can’t get in.”

“Are you going to wear protective gear?” 

“Yeah. But only ironically.” 

And this too, we must live with. The sad truth is that we are all living in survival mode, on high alert, and scared. This is not an easy time to be a human. We’re drawing on reserves of energy deeper than we knew we had, and the fuel we need to top up those reserves – hitting Starbucks to share a cappuccino with a friend, or getting out to a bar for a brewski and some fresh tuneage – isn’t gonna happen. The best we can hope for is to reach out by phone, text, or messaging, while constantly feeling that we might be missing out on those important moments we hoped to share with our loved ones and community.

It’s exhausting. It’s lonely. And it can make you feel a little bit crazy. But it is what it is, and it’s okay to feel like things are just too hard and that you wish this was all a dream and that you’ll wake up to the world you used to know.

That’s not gonna happen. But eventually, this too shall pass. And then we’ll deal with what’s next. Just like we’ve always done, and our parents did, and our grandparents and ancestors did. 

Because we are humans. We are resilient, right up until the day we’re not. But that’s not today.

Hang in there, babe.

……………………………

Life in BizarroWorld …..