The Politics of Stupid


by Roxanne Tellier

I know exactly how long I’ve been in lockdown, but what I don’t know is how long I’m gonna have to remain cooped up. 

It is weird, this faux normal. This kind of societal disruption is generally associated with tanks in the streets, burned out houses, and people running down roads while screaming and tearing out their hair. At the very least, you’d think, every one should be carrying some sort of weapon to use against marauders and zombies.

Instead, the people on my street are quiet and thoughtful. At 7:30 pm every evening, some of them open their doors and bang on pots and pans to signal their appreciation for those who are working in the stores, in transportation, and in hospitals, so that they themselves can stay at home, watch Netflix, and complain about how governments are handling an unprecedented, unique, multi-pronged attack on everything we once thought we knew and understood.

I’m guessing those workers would better appreciate a raise. Funny how those exposing themselves to danger every day, who are called ‘essential workers’ still have to beg for decent pay, or even a minimum wage with which they could pay their bills.  

Speaking of zombie apocalypses (apocalypti?) don’t those preppers seem unhappy these days? All those years of preparing for a civil war, a nuclear attack, or the aforementioned zombies, and all they get is this slow motion, invisible enemy.

Wrapping your head around our faux normal is tough, because the time line for personal harm is just too long for most of us to conceptualize. Our DNA and responses are wired to fight or flight events. We’re expecting to fight off immediate threats, things that come at us in a matter of minutes or days. Things we can punch, stab with a knife, or shoot with a gun. 

But that’s not how this particular threat operates.  It’s more like heart disease or type 2 diabetes, those things that stop you in slow motion, years after you’ve enjoyed the ingestible that would, in time, do the mortal damage.   

If I venture to the grocery store, and Covid Cathy has had her hands all over the items I want to buy, I’m not gonna know about it until days later. Maybe I’ll have a serious bout of COVID, or maybe I’ll just feel rotten for weeks. But I won’t know where or how I got the bug. That makes it hard for most of us to wrap our heads around continuing to stay at home, particularly as the warm weather nears.

Bill Maher had an interesting fellow on his RealTime show this week, a Dr. David Katz, who is a preventive medicine and public health specialist. Dr Katz lamented that this crisis was being mishandled by many governments, and said that things would be improved were there grown-ups in charge. He explained that our immune systems are revved up by a healthy lifestyle, and that we’d all be in better shape if there were daily breaks advising the nation on how to keep fit and healthy, instead of the dog’s breakfast of a briefing/Nuremburg rally we now ‘enjoy’ every day at dinner time.

 Sadly, our appetizer nightly is the senile musings of a POTUS who really needs to get more rest – specifically in the time period when specialists, scientists, and actual doctors are advising the American people on how to stay safe during COVID 19.

Exhibit A:  President Trump offered his idea for a cure in the White House briefing room Thursday after a presentation that mentioned disinfectants can kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces and in the air. 

“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.” (Washington Post)

Now, before you say that nobody … but NO BODY … could be stupid enough to act upon the president’s dangerous, and potentially fatal advice, I present

Exhibit B: “In Maryland, the Emergency Management Agency received over 100 calls inquiring about the president’s suggestion, forcing the service to issue an alert to remind citizens that “under no circumstances should any disinfectant product be administered into the body through injection, ingestion or any other route.” Washington State’s Emergency Management Division similarly issued a public statement to remind people to not “drink bleach” or “inject disinfectant.” 

More concerning, though, is the number of people who actually went ahead with the suggestion. In New York City, the Daily News reported that the Poison Control Center saw 30 cases of “exposure to Lysol, bleach and other cleaners in 18 hours after Trump’s suggestion” that cleaning products might be used to treat coronavirus. NYC Poison Control saw only 13 such cases in a similar period last year.”

In truth, 330 million Americans look to their POTUS for advice, and many of those good citizens, bless their hearts, are not very bright.  

Exhibit C: Cipolla’s five fundamental laws of stupidity:

  1. Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  2. The probability that a certain person (will) be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
  3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
  4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
  5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

(For more on this subject, I recommend https://advanced.jhu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/The-Basic-Laws-of-Human-Stupidity.pdf )

Desperate times strip away society’s veneer, and expose the truth. Our private faces may be hidden by n95 masks, but the lack of sanity, reason, or common sense in many countries will be on display, and revealed in technicolour in the annals of history. Assuming we have one.

……………………………….

Shawn O’Shea is a talented musician, entertainer and songwriter, and is the alter ego of lead vocalist Macky of the heymacs. In the nearly 40 years that I’ve known him, he’s never been one to be kept down by circumstances beyond his control – like a global pandemic. On April 20th he woke with the structure, chords, and most of the lyrics to a song dancing in his mind, and within days, he had recorded the tune, and added my dulcet tones to the duet. 

Last week I put out a call on Facebook, asking that anyone who was interested in being involved in the recording send me a photo of themselves, holding a photo of someone or something they miss, or a photo of themselves with someone they love and are looking forward to seeing ‘when this is over.

I’m happy to say that the photos sent were awesome. And now, for your listening and dancing pleasure .. may I present the debut of this timely tune ….

When This is Over – is dedicated to all of our friends and to future days. These photos represent all of the people, places and events we are missing during these days of COVID 19. Special thanks go to Brenda Meecham Armstrong, Michael Bar, Pat Blythe, Bianca Brynda, Arlo Burgon, Paul Christopher Caldeira, Louise Boucher-Chartier, Lauren Davis, Sheila Douglas, Amanda Flaherty, Lynda Francis, Craig Hastings, Sharon Kaczmarczyk, Peter Kashur, Linda Kennedy, Barbette Kensington, Gina Letros, James McBay, Annalee Orr, Honey Novick, Elke Ramstead, Hap Roderman, Tara Scott, Scott Sutherland, Greg Simpson, Sylvia Surk, Phyllis Taylor, Sheila Horne-Teixeira, Louise Tokar, Teresa Verity and Headly Westerfield

Making Your Own Merry Little Christmas


Calendar time between my birthday on December 4th, and Christmas Day, on December 25th, is just three weeks .. 21 days .. The calendar doesn’t lie – it’s 21 days, but somehow, it always flies by like it’s a lost long weekend, and into that time, we have to pack in all the festive frippery and chaos we can handle.

mum and gram xmas 1972Those three weeks fly by. The holidays just aren’t the same since my mum and gram died in 1992. Gram, who had hoped, but didn’t quite get the chance to celebrate her hundredth birthday, always had the gravitas and the gravy, along with the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, to guarantee that our scattered family would be gathering around her for the holidays.

Mum was the original Elf on the Shelf™.  That woman embodied the Christmas spirit. She loved Christmas like no one else I’ve ever known, and I’ve got the boxes and boxes of Christmas ornaments and detritus to prove it.

xmas 1982 last tellier xmasIn the last several years we’ve lost loved ones, downsized, moved, and had less and less space or time for frivolity. Preparing for the holidays has been less about ‘joy to the world’ and more about ‘just getting through the holidays.” And that’s sad. It’s not so much about aging, as it is about the absent friends, and the growing up and out of our kids and grandkids. The frantic lives we all lead in the pursuit of romance, careers, and the necessary amenities to keep us all in one piece don’t help either. Our non-stop gyrations may be necessary – but they are not at all conducive to keeping families as close knit as generations before us.

I wish I could find the energy and spirit to bring out my treasured knickknacks, but somehow it always seems like there’s never the time to unpack, display, and then repack those fragile memories, all for just a few days that will fly by in a flurry of appointments, dinners, and gift exchanges. And that’s really sad. When did the holidays go from being a time of anticipation and good will to a season so many look forward to with dread?

I originally thought I’d write a cheery little post today, this last column before Christmas, but darker thoughts refused to be pushed away. So instead, I’ve tried to put together some past and present reminders of what Christmas can, and should be, about. christmas snow

I found this sweet little home movie on Youtube, quite by accident, of a completely ordinary Canadian family, filmed at Christmas, 2013. Ordinary people, doing the ordinary things that will, in time, become the priceless memories of their lives. Something about this two minute film spoke to me. Ah, the traditions; the tree, the groaning table set with our best china and crystal, the new and old ornaments, the geegaws pulled from a big box in the basement, or purchased at Dollarama, tobogganing, and faces glowing from the cold and the snow … if you get the mix right, presents aren’t even necessary. Oh – who am I kidding? There’s got to be presents!

Toronto, one wintry night in 2009. It’s fun to see the different neighbourhoods dressed in their holiday finery.

Here’s what you missed if you missed the annual Cavalcade of Lights/ firework display at Nathan Phillips Square last month.

And here’s how you can have some fun in Nathan Phillips Square this year!
“Back for its 2nd amazing year, Holiday Fair in Nathan Phillips Square celebrates the season with an enchanting artisan market, delicious food, festive drinks at the Jackson Triggs Polar Point Bar, live entertainment, and a winter midway, bringing excitement and charm to the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto, all in support of Epilepsy Toronto.”

December 1st to 23rd. Tuesday to Friday, 4-10. Saturday & Sunday, 12-10. Closing at 6:00pm on December 23rd. Closed Mondays.

If you’re still trying to find a few last minute gifts .. and your errant Christmas spirit … perhaps a visit to the Toronto Christmas Market is in order.

“Inspired by the Old World and influenced by the New, this is month-long event celebrates the sounds, sights and scents of Christmas. Set in the Victorian-era, cobblestone-lined Distillery Historic District, the Christmas Market brings together local craftspeople, musicians and artisanal food-makers for a truly festive experience. Sip on mulled wine and European Christmas cocktails as you peruse the selection of hand-made ornaments, wood carvings and crafts. Then cozy up by the fire or take in carollers, brass bands and authentic European dancers.”

Free admission Tuesday to Friday; $6.00 admission Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday.

TubaFest-2017-300x300Yay! It’s Tuba Fest! I couldn’t find which schools were participating this year, but just knowing that somewhere out there, someone’s tuning up a tuba, just made me smile.

“Celebrate Christmas by joining in the Holiday Tuba Festival. A jolly gathering of musicians creating some holiday cheer. In December of each year. tuba, baritone and euphonium players decked out in tinsel and Santa hats from local schools play alongside professional musicians at spectacular outdoor concerts to celebrate the holiday season. This year, we’ll be celebrating Tuba Fest on December 16, 2017.

Recordings courtesy of the Manitoba Band Association and Rob Monson, band director at Glenlawn Collegiate in Winnipeg. Arrangements are provided by Scott Irvine. Download your favourite holiday songs arranged especially for tuba here:”

https://www.musicmakesus.ca/celebrate/tubafest/

Man, there are a lot of Toronto musicians who’ve recorded holiday songs. Gordon Lightfoot first recorded this song for his 1967 album, The Way I Feel. It’s a tune that all faiths can enjoy.

From 2015, Walk Off The Earth‘s Feliz Navidad. I have a friend who has a very hard time at the holidays. It’s only by hearing this song that he keeps a smile on his face.

We all need to have some song, some film, some event that has that affect on our spirits. My Christmas never officially begins until I watch “Holiday Inn,” starring Bing Crosby, with some fancy footwork from Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds.

Be careful! It’s not my watch you’re holding – it’s my heart.”

Years after the break-up of the pop group Eye Eye, former front man/songwriter, Bill Wood resurrected his career as a singer/songwriter, recording and performing as Bill Wood and The Woodies. I met Bill at Graffiti’s last year, where he had a duo gig with that sharp dressed man, Chris Bennett, as well as a regular gig with The Woodies. This song was their 2012 Christmas single. Written by Bill Wood and Mark Shannon and performed by the Woodies, including Chris Bennett, Dino Naccarato and Mary Wood, with special guests Sean O’Connor – flutes and whistles, and Donna O’Connor – celtic voices.

For fans of the heymacs:

“Some solo Xmas tunage from Macky a few years back (Macky’s monkey soloing on the bells) and thanks to Roxy for putting together the slideshow . . ( she also made an appearance in the heymacs flick for ‘Hit The Road, Jack’ with Ms. Laurie and Lee von Blonde)”

Toronto’s Ron Sexsmith‘s performing “Maybe This Christmas” filmed by Virpi Kettu & Colleen Hixenbaugh.

And, last but not least, the 2014 release, IN2 The Spirit, an instrumental jazz,blues & rock Christmas CD from guitarist John Findlay, ably abetted by Bill Payne, Will Lee, Keither Carlock, Robi Botos, Gordon Sheard, George Whitty, Joel Rosenblatt, Ric Fierabracci and many others.

xmas 2016 at Relish Shawn Barb hapAh, the holidays … the holidaze. However you celebrate the season, I wish you peace, joy, somewhere warm to cuddle with loved ones, and sweet dreams for the new year. If you haven’t a family, it’s never too late to make a new one, with like-minded, good-hearted people. And we’re lucky to live in a city so rife with choice.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Merry Ho Ho’s to All! 😉

coexist-xmas