2019’s First Blizzard of a Blog Blows In


by Roxanne Tellier

Well, halloooooooo there 2019! Whatchoo got for me, honey?

lucy eating chocolateDespite one of my sorta kinda new year-y resolutions being that I would earnestly and consistently blog (at least a teensy one) on my own website every single day, in truth, I have to confess that, so far, I’ve done pretty much diddley in the first, innocent weeks of this year except eat massive amounts of fudge and chocolate.

But now that the sugar high is starting to fade, it’s back to … do we call this ‘work’?

Cuz, come on guys, “It’s a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world
Except for Lola, ” isn’t it? I remember when I used to be able to cogitate, ruminate, and generally take my own damn time trying to put into words the craziness that roils around us most days. But not any more. Now I have to compulsively refresh my social media pages while simultaneously watching CNN and MSNBC and I STILL can’t always keep up with the 24/7 news cyclone that is the insane reality of living in the last dregs of the 20 teen years.

2019 is a lot like 1999, when we thought the computers would all crash, planes would fall out of the sky, and the world would come tumbling down around us, except not as much fun.

Anyway. This week I juggled a ‘booster’ week at CAMH. (still trying to keep the senility at bay) as events, minor and major, continued to explode around me.

In Texas, a woman, fed up with the president’s antics, posted online that she hoped someone would shoot Trump between the eyes. Thinking that she lived in a First World country where free speech was her right, she was surprised when a pair of plainclothes Secret Service agents showed up at her door in an attempt to intimidate her, (because that is what you do in a world where the president is a thin skinned bully who can dish it out but not take it, even from some angry lady in a bathrobe in an apartment in Texas.) Hilarity did not ensue ….

In the online world, the buzz this week was all about the Buzzfeed 10 Year Challenge, where you were asked to put up photos showing what you looked like ten years ago, and now.

marie antoinette 10 year challengeOne particularly paranoid group took their cue from a prominent tech writer, who insinuated that the underlying intention of the challenge was to collect large amounts of data in order to clarify the effects of aging on human faces, and thus update the AI facial recognition systems that are coming into play in numerous fields, including the justice system.

white house 10 year challengeThe “10 Year Challenge” or “How Hard Did Aging Hit You” or “Glow Up Challenge” meme asked social media users to show off their very first profile photos alongside an image of what they look like today.

Whatevs. We got a couple of goodies out of the game, and no one had to eat a Tide pod.

Speaking of those crazy kids… living in Trump’s America seems to be bringing out the hardcore racism in some, including in this wannabe Brett Kavanaugh in the making, a student from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, who thought he’d harass Nathan Phillips, a Native American elder and Vietnam Vet, at the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

As one commenter noted, “It’s racism; it’s blatant racism. The point was cruelty. The point was contempt. The point was hate.”

maga hat teen smirking native elder vetKeep smirking, kid – once you’ve been outed and shamed, you’re gonna love being a social media meme. I’m sure they’ll forget about you by the time you graduate university…. do universities still consider ‘character’ an important factor when they choose whom they’ll accept as students? … and if worse comes to worse, there’ll always be a place for you in Trump’s Supreme Court.

Considering that this week was also the week that millions of male snowflakes lost their minds over the new Gillette commercial, it’s interesting to wonder just what was going through the mind of that young Catholic school boy as he attempted to stare down an elder; did he consider himself a ‘good’ guy, who was already ‘the best men can be‘?

One of my male cousins took extreme offence to this advertisement, and sent a frenetic, rather hyperbolic, message around our family group email thread that, I am embarrassed to say, elicited a fiery response from me in return. The back and forth got extremely heated. In the end, I apologized for losing my temper and for using all the swears – and my cousin decided that he no longer had a family worth talking to. (The drama runs high in this family, I’ll admit.).

snowflake gilletteI’m sure that there are people reading this right now who agree with my cousin, and others who agree with my stance. One of the best comments I’ve read on the whole kerfuffle came from an advertising agency in Australia, that noted,

What is being attacked here? Let’s forget f**king ‘continuity marketing’ for one moment and respect one of the most testosterone-fuelled brands in the world actually standing up and making a stand against horrific male behaviour. Good on them. Maybe the best gauge for where to stand is seeing who’s pro and who’s against. As far as I can see, James Woods, who allegedly propositioned underage girls to go to Las Vegas with him hates the ad. As does the far right magazine ‘The New American.’ Oh, and Piers Morgan. Those who like it include the daughter of Martin Luther King who wrote “This commercial isn’t anti-male. It’s pro-humanity.” I think I know who I’d rather stand alongside..”

But let’s not dwell on that right now. Instead, let’s feast our eyes, for just a moment, on the bug eyed Rudy Giuliani, who has apparently decided to abandon all hope of actual presidential innocence, and pretty much threw most of Trump’s band of merry men under the bus, one by one. This week Rudy told the world that OF COURSE there had been Russian collusion during the 2016 election. It just hadn’t been done by Trump himself.

Then for about a dozen hours, the news channels rang with the Buzzfeed story that they had absolute proof positive that Trump had told his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a Russian property deal. And that, kats and kiddles, would have indeed been that, had it been provable, since there would have been no other alternative than to impeach and possibly indict the Mango for suborning official testimony.

Oh lawdy lawdy! it sure did look like we had Trump by the short and curlies! It was a real John Oliver moment!

But in a surprising move that actually broke the silence of Robert Mueller‘s ongoing investigation into possible collusion between the Trump administration and the Russian government, a statement was released denying the incident.

BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate.” Peter Carr, Mueller spokesperson.

And just like that, we all had to let go of a dream.

On Saturday (was that really only yesterday?) the Orange Resident took to the airwaves again for one of his rally speeches. This time, his very obviously Stephen Miller written speech once again hammered away at all the nasty immigrants he’s so afraid of, the ones he just never tires of telling us are “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

(He really needs to get a new, less paranoid, writer .. this one’s already shown off all he’s got in his trick bag.)

Anyway, if I may be so bold .. yesterday’s screed was the WORST deal making I’d ever seen in my life .. and I’ve seen a lot of shitty deals.

Rather than ‘dealing,’ his proposal was to add another $1605 million to his ask, as well as adding on the cost of additional border agents, law enforcement officials and new immigration judges ON TOP OF the $5.7 billion for a border wall.

In exchange, he’d give back the protections he himself broke by executive fiat last year for the DACA kids and the TPS survivors.

trump daca and tpsAt no point did he offer one word or sympathy or empathy to the 800,000 government workers (and their families) who have not been paid in nearly a month.

In my opinion, donald j trump is the most blatant terrorist America’s ever had to deal with. The 911 terrorists threatened to ruin America by destroying what she held dear, but with every day in Trump’s America, the basic freedoms and rights she already had are being chipped away. While his ranting and raving are keeping her citizens frozen with tales of imaginary rapists, murderers and drug dealers, and everyone is looking over their shoulders for these criminals he’s invoked, he and his gang of reverse Robin Hoods are stealing from the poor to aid the rich. Like all of those who excel in putting the squeeze on others to get what they want, his speciality is in finding out what we care about, and threatening to break it, or outright breaking it, just to watch us cry.

In any other time, or in any other country, his actions and treatment of refugees fleeing real terror in their home countries would have brought world condemnation, and possibly a declaration of war. But instead, there is nothing but silence as his border patrol agents oversee the deaths of children and over 2000 adults in the last two years. Our basic empathy and disgust for this abuse of power is used against us; we are mocked for caring about children, the elderly, the ill, the veterans, because the man setting the standards for these harsh and punishing institutions is unable to care about anyone or anything except his own personal aggrandizement.

In his all encompassing narcissism, he has overwhelmed the media and ensured that no one in America could get through a single day of the past two years without being conscious of his extravagances, whims, and demands.

This year, he even stole Christmas and New Year from his citizens, refusing to allow anyone to simply quietly enjoy the holidays. Unable to bear not being the object of continual attention, he tweeted his bile nonstop, while he sulked and whined about being left ‘all alone in the White House,’ unattended by the workers he himself refused to pay.

In trump’s gerbil wheel of a mind, and in what passes for a mind in Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh … these are the actions of a ‘strong man.‘ They really believe that the future belongs to the dictators, the fascists, those that force their will on the people. What they are advocating is the antithesis of democracy, and a lack of understanding that the making of these demands are the actions of a spoiled child, not a man … a child with the perceived power of a dictator … or a terrorist.

While they may think that his not backing down on his demands for a wall that is nothing but a ridiculous, extravagant, monument to a bloated autocrat is a ‘strong’ and macho posture, the majority of Americans know that the standard for a strong leader was set years ago when most Western countries decided, and agreed, that they could not, would not, and must not, negotiate with terrorists.

us does not negotiate with terrorists“The policy of non-negotiation is meant to remove the incentive for taking hostages. For as long as this policy is applied on a no-exceptions basis, terrorists can anticipate that there will be no reward for trading hostages” (wiki)

 

Nancy Pelosi has responded quite clearly and quite rightly, with a “that’s a big NO, big guy,‘ because what he’s asking for is nothing but a bunch of previously rejected and unacceptable initiatives. And no one believes that he is negotiating in good faith; he’s pulled too many rugs out from under too many feet to be trusted any more.

trump can have his wallTune in tomorrow for another exciting episode of America’s “As the World Turns.”
…………………………

Here’s a palate cleanser for you – someone’s getting the band back together!
And THAT is a band I’d pay to see! …

stephen king ridley pearson greg iles dave barry band shot

(Stephen King, Ridley Pearson, Greg Iles, Dave Barry aka The Rock Bottom Remainders)

As for me ….

i came i saw i forgot what i was doing

 

Touring Murmuration Nation with Emily Saliers


If you came of age in the 90s, you’ll likely remember Amy Ray and Emily Saliers as the Indigo Girls. Their music was the background music of the indie lifestyle, and indeed, they seemed to be everywhere, racking up Gold and Platinum records, receiving a Grammy in 1990 for Best Contemporary Folk Album, and becoming part of our mass consciousness, referenced in such diverse environs as Stephen King‘s Rose Madder, and the television series, Will and Grace, South Park, and The Big Bang Theory.

With their first major hit, Closer to Fine, a collaboration with Irish band Hothouse Flowers, the Girls secured a place in the hearts of their followers. The first album was followed by a dozen more.

Flash forward thirty years, and Amy and Emily still keep the Indigo Girls flame alight, but both have also dabbled in other enterprises, including solo albums that allow each to follow their personal musical paths. While Amy’s on her seventh solo album, Emily has just released her first, Murmuration Nation.

Emily’s been involved in many non-musical ventures, including the co-ownership of Watershed, a restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, and the co-writing of a book called A Song to Sing, a Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice with her father, Don Saliers , a retired theology professor at Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

With so many diverse interests and abilities, touring the Indigo Girls was enough to keep Salier’s  musical itch in neutral, until about two years ago, when she began to ponder the source of her musical inspiration. Born in Connecticut, but raised in Georgia, her ‘white girl in a folk singer’s body’ is still infused with her first musical loves; rhythm and blues, soul music, funk and hip hop, the sounds that are at the core of her rhythmic centre.

The new album, produced by Lyris Hung, a classically trained violinist who has worked with the Girls for years, was conceived when Emily sent Lyris some musical bits and pieces that Lyris cobbled together, just for fun, into something wonderful in her home studio.

Inspired by the directions Lyris had taken the ideas, a project was born, and grew into Murmuration Nation. Recorded with an all-star band—including bassist Tim LeFebvre (David Bowie, Tedeschi Trucks Band), keyboardist Rachel Eckroth (KT Tunstall), and drummers Robert “Sput” Searight (Snarky Puppy) and Will Calhoun (Living Colour)—and featuring guest appearances from fellow luminaries like Lucy Wainwright Roche, Jonatha Brooke, and Jennifer Nettles, the CD is an always moving aural river of sounds, ideas and rhythms.

With dollops of social commentary, a hard nod to social justice, and an eagle eye to environmental issues, the songs flow naturally, commenting wryly on our past, present and future, the personal, and the impersonal. Deep thoughts, yes, but also gentle musings on the fascination of relationships, and always with a beat you can dance to.

Spider” kicks off the album in an explosion of pop/art rock, before settling into a hypnotic groove, setting the pace for the songs to come.

Growing up in Georgia meant being influenced by a myriad of musical styles, and rubbing shoulders with other musicians, including the members of country vocal group, Sugarland. A vocal romp with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles dazzles on the most commercial tune on the CD, “Long Haul.”

OK Corral is specifically about our mental illness with our relationship with guns. Even as kids we knew about gunslingers. But the wool has been pulled over some people’s eyes because of a very powerful group like the NRA. Those of us who want sane gun legislation are not saying ‘take ALL the guns away,’ we’re saying that when you have a country of people, many of them ill, and they have access to multiple weapons all of the time … something sets them off, and in a moment of impulsivity, lives are lost. We have to deal with that, on a legislative effort, and we have to start talking to each other about what sane gun legislation means.”

murmurationFly” was written right after the presidential election. “‘Fly’ is kind of at the crux of the album, ” Saliers explains. “A murmuration of birds is practically inexplicable to scientists, but it’s a very powerful thing to watch, and I see it happening in our country in an amazing way right now. From Black Lives Matter to the Women’s March to Standing Rock, there are all these grassroots movements starting to coalesce, and I take great comfort in the way people are instinctually moving together to fight injustice and hate.”

“I’m High I’m On High” looks to the roots of violent religious zealotry.

“Go find someone who’s got nothing left to lose
Brand him a hero, make him think he gets to choose
Between an earthly life of filth and apostates
Or a martyr’s lair where God and virgins wait”

This current tour takes Emily from Maine to Rhode Island, Connecticut and North Carolina, with a stop here in Toronto’s Mod Club on Tuesday, November 21. Expect an organic, audio/visual presentation, featuring stalwart player and producer Lyris Hung in a powerful five piece unit.

Saliers is looking forward to the Toronto visit, as she’s no stranger to the city. Her wife, former Indigo Girls tour manager Tristin Chipman, is an Albertan native who spent most of her adult life in Toronto, has also worked for CARAS, and was the Tragically Hip’s tour manager for their final tour.

“There are a lot of heavy, serious topics on this album,” says Saliers, “but there’s also a lot of whimsical groove and pop to it. That mix is important to me because it’s like the ebb-and-flow, peak-and-valley journey of life. I think this record is very reflective of my personality. I need fast and I need slow; I need grooves and I need a little bit of edge.”

Tickets are still available for Tuesday’s show, and doors open at 7 p.m. Saliers will be signing after the show, and hopes to see you there!

 

(addendum: This post was written prior to the Toronto show on November 21, and a terrible, no fun cold, prevented me from posting it in a timely manner, or getting to see the concert. However – the CD is terrific, and a worthy purchase. )

 

Books, Music and Stuff


Tolkien if-more-of-us-valued-food-and-cheer-and-song
The skies are grey, it’s been raining for days. What better time to turn my attention to the accumulated office mess and scan through the wee bits of paper on which I’ve written a germ of an idea, usually accompanied by an *asterisk* and several exclamation points!!!? I just have to haul them out from under the weight of the newspaper clippings, flyers, magazines, library books and paper backs they’ve landed under, over and in between.

I’m an idea junkie, a bibliomaniac and a collector of all things relevant to my incessant research on anything that tickles my imagination’s fancy. Don’t tell me to go digital – my computer’s ‘bookmarks’ are too numerous to be manageable. No, the printed word is my vice, which is why I live in fear that, at any time, a laden shelf will collapse under its own weight and crush all in its path.

george_carlin_house stuff1It has been ever so. Even as a kid, I would escape into a world of books. My temple of choice was the local library, where I could devour books of all kinds … for free! … and float home on a cloud of new fantasies. When I left Montreal for Toronto in my twenties, I had to have several car loads of boxed books and files moved to my new city. It’s madness, a mania, and despite my current need to downsize, an almost impossible task and a literary Sophie’s Choice.

It’s hard to get rid of “stuff.” George Carlin nailed it when he said, “Have you noticed that their stuff is shit, and your shit is stuff? And you say, ‘get that shit off of there and let me put my stuff down!’”

Carlin accumulating possessionsWe love our stuff; we’re emotionally attached to our stuff, especially if the stuff has the added sentimentality of having coming from a loved one. Having our stuff around us makes us feel secure. We’ve got our house stuff, our office stuff, our gym stuff and our car stuff. I have a purse so prepared for any eventuality that it could double as an overnight bag. Except – no, I’ll need that too, cuz for overnight I’ll need even more stuff.

BOOK-HOARDERSome people like stuff more than others. We call those people ‘pack rats,’ or in extreme cases, ‘hoarders,’ the distinction being that the pack rat has a messier house than you, and the hoarder is in imminent danger of being crushed under a shelf that might collapse under its own weight and … oh my god I’m a hoarder!

Fact is, it’s easier to hoard than to be an organized person. You just never sort the stuff, or throw anything away. You find great deals on something you must have, or you sell off less significant items to finance your obsession, and you scour Craigslist or freecycle, where those without your particular kink actually give away what you’re jonesing over… and the collection grows …

ant-and-grasshopperI am the Ant, with a need to amass that trumps the flightiness of the Grasshopper. I shore up my perceived literary needs, present or future, with a stockpile that will protect me from a cold winter.

But even within my collection, there are prejudices and disunions. Books about music and the entertainment world live happily side by side with dictionaries and reference books. Those are the ‘honourables,’ the undisputed Lords of the Shelves. Books written by or about friends come next, with first, special and signed editions following.

treasured-booksLowliest of the low are the mass market paperbacks and hardcovers, although I have a few authors whom I adore, and will never unfriend. And then there are the hundreds of books that piqued my interest, but have yet to see their spines cracked. Whether fiction or non-, they taunt me with their promise and possibility.

book monsterI’m working on dismantling my book monster. Every day I sort through another category, refining my choices to what I MIGHT write about, as opposed to subjects I’ll never really pursue. I’m streamlining what remains, in the hopes of becoming a more selective reader, and of being better able to actually locate that particular reference that I need while writing a column or proving a debate point.

-it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-nightAlthough I can see a day when I’ll rely more on electronic media, the internet and e-books than I currently do, I still crave the physical sensation of holding a book in my hands, opening the cover, and reading the first sentence of a new tale, one which the writer laboured over incessantly until he or she thought they’d found the exact right words to capture a reader’s imagination.

But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to walk indifferently past a bookstore, especially one with shelves that groan under titles I’ve never read. Books – displayed, sold, and treasured – these are the gold I seek. A man who can write, and who can passionately discuss a favourite book, attains a special status in my heart and mind.

And music … I must have music. A man who can slip a literary reference into a song … that’s a delight beyond words. I quivered when Sting mentioned Nabokov’s Lolita in “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” I grinned when Smoky Robinson referenced opera’s Pagliacci in “Tears of A Clown.”

Books and music are not such strange bedfellows. The Strokes, The Smashing Pumpkins and deadmau5 have all written about soma, the drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album had three songs that mused upon George Orwell’s1984.” Bowie actually planned to do an entire rock musical based on the novel, but Orwell’s widow objected to the idea, so the project was shelved.

The Ramones wrote “Pet Sematary” for the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. It was later covered by Rammstein. And of course, Elton John’sRocket Man” is Bernie Taupin’s condensation of Ray Bradbury’s short story.

Books and music are my hoarded gold. Toss in a beer and a sandwich and we’re golden.

(originally published Feb /2015 @ bobsegarini.wordpress.com)