The Luck of the Irish


If you didn’t get your chance to get your Irish on on Friday, March 17th, Torontonians will get another chance to do so today, when the annual St Patrick’s Day Parade starts at noon. The route begins on the corner of Bloor and St George, heads east on Bloor, south on Yonge, and west on Queen St, before finishing up at the parade reviewing stand at Nathan Phillips Square.

The parade is still a big deal for many of Irish descent .. and there are a lot of us! As of 2006’s census, the Irish were the 4th largest ethnic group in Canada, with 4,354,000 Canadians (or 15% of us all,) have full or partial Irish descent. And more than two million Irish Canadians are in Ontario!

st patricks day queenI haven’t been to the parade in years, though I did get to be one of the rabbit stole wearing girls waving from the back seat of a convertible many years ago as the “Miss Irish St Augustines,’ in Montreal.

When I was a teen growing up in Montreal, St Paddy’s was always a big day. My grandfather, whom I’d never met as he’d died before I was born, was literally “a man without a country.” His own parents had fled Ireland’s economic woes, and he was born, mid Atlantic, before they docked in New York‘s harbour. They stayed briefly in the United States, before moving to Montreal.

My family loved their Irish heritage. A musical lot, they were the sort to gather ’round the piano to play and sing the songs of the ‘ould country.’ I was brought up listening to a mix of classic Irish tenors, as well as the rebel songs, and of course, the  lighter ‘stage Irish’ fun songs peddled in theatre and film.

There were two sides to the Irish connection, in my world. On the one hand, I loved the singalongs, the funny accents, and the camaraderie, especially on the holiday itself, when I could be guaranteed a fine old time. On the other hand, and always present, were the realities of a divided Ireland and ‘the Troubles.’

My mother’s family were not prone to arguing over politics, which was a good thing, considering that my grandmother was British, and my uncle Dennis had married a Dubliner.  Hard-line rebel songs were strongly discouraged, but we’d always be in for a‘cead mile failte.’

There are some that look down upon the ‘stage Irish’ of the Irish Rovers, or even der Bingle’s portrayals of kindly Irish priests, but it must be remembered that the Irish faced a great deal of discrimination on their first arrival in North America.  Early Irish entertainers and newcomers could rely on getting a rise from a hostile audience by sending up their own people as friendly, ginger, alcoholics, quick with a joke and a laugh.

“Irish men and women both had a hard time finding skilled work in the U.S. due to the stigmas of being both IrishNo Irish need apply sign as well as Catholic. Prejudices ran deep in the north and could be seen in newspaper cartoons depicting Irish men as drunkards and Irish women as prostitutes. Many businesses hung signs out front of their shops that read “No Irish Need Apply“, or “NINA” for short. The initial backlash the Irish received in America lead to their self-imposed seclusion, making assimilation into society a long and painful process.”  

But the Irish played a significant role in American society, especially in teaching and policing occupations. Eight of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Irish descent. Irish Catholics have served in all layers of American government, in every capacity, from mayors to Presidents.

Ontario is rife with towns named after the places and last names of Ireland, including Donnybrook, Dundalk and Dublin, Enniskillen and Galway. and Tara and Waterford.

Canada has had our share of notable Irish-Canadians, in every field, from the arts, to sports, and politics. Writers like Morley Callaghan and W.P. Kinsella have explored the many facets of Canadian lives, as have my cousins Rita Donovan and Michael Donovan, while Stompin’ Tom Connors and Denny Doherty have shaped how we sound. Add to that list my husband, musician Shawn O’Shea, also of Irish descent, who’s even born on March 17th! (In a bizarre coincidence, two other members of the heymacs, Kid Carson and Carlyle Walpola, were also born on March 17th.)

I can’t picture Canadian comedy without the stylings of Mary Walsh, our Amazon Warrior. And what would the world of show biz be without Mack Sennett,  producer, director, writer, actor and founder of Keystone Studios?

Politically, Irish Canadians have been integral to the country since the days of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, one of the Fathers of Confederation, while Louis St. Laurent, Sir John Thompson, Paul Martin and Brian Mulroney have all served as Prime Ministers.

In world entertainment, the Irish have always had a strong presence, and there’s no shortage of musical talent exported from the Emerald Isle, with memorable stylings and poetic imagery flowing from U2, Enya, Gilbert O`Sullivan, Sinead O`Connor, the Cranberries, Van Morrison  and Thin Lizzy.

The Irish in North America have come a long way from the days when thirish_blessing_cottageey stumbled off the boats, fleeing famine and political strife. Many of those marching in St Patrick`s Day Parades today have no interest or stake in the politics of modern day Ireland, but the urge to celebrate their heritage remains strong.

And the rest of us, in our green wigs, and drinking green beer, just wish we could have a little of that fabled Irish luck and good humour, if just for one day.

 

That Was Sixteen. Going on Seventeen


2016 is gone. Moving on isn’t the slightest bit difficult. 2017 is going to be … interesting, oh yes it will. Doesn’t seem any other option than to muddle our way through whatever’s this way coming. Fingers crossed it’s not too wicked.

supermoon-imageFor me, this year has begun differently than many I’ve experienced in the past. Selling the house and moving into the city has brought a lot more freedom into my life. That light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be not an oncoming train, but rather a beautiful fat moon, always just out of reach, but wonderful to see.

Happiness doesn’t require that you have a lot of anything. In fact, I think if you have too much, you’re more concerned with keeping what you’ve got or of striving to get more, than enjoying what you have. No. “Enough” is what you want. Enough for freedom from want, enough to bMicrosoft Word - n2342-recycling.doce able to relax into your life and appreciate what you’ve got. Enough to be in control of your own life, but not so much that you seek to control others.

So in the first two weeks of this new year, I’ve seen more bands than I did in all of 2016, had several lovely brunches with good friends, and discovered that quitting smoking was the best gift I’d ever given myself. There’s been more laughter, and less tears. More singing and less coughing.

As much as I fear for what is in store for our neighbours to the South in the coming months, I also have relinquished the belief that anything I say or do will make the slightest bit of difference. It won’t. I can’t. So, although I’ll keep passing along jabs at the Orange Jayzus,  I’m handing over the burden of fear to those poor benighted Americans.

dead mans switch Outer Limits.jpgBut I do have a sneaking suspicion that many in government are not who or what they seem. Remember that Outer Limits episode, Dead Man’s Switch, where a lowly soldier mans the button  that controls activation of a final revenge weapon that will wipe out the earth should invading aliens turn out to be hostile? The final scene reveals that aliens are indeed parasites controlling the actions of those in charge, while the earth lies in ruin.

I’m not saying that TeeRump has an alien tucked under those oversized jackets, but there’s no denying that that makeup and spray tan can be seen from space.

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

Here in Toronto, it would seem that Mayor Tory’s vision of a Music City‘ is more of a pipe dream. You can’t ask the venues to supercharge the city’s revenues, while simultaneously squeezing them for more taxes, charges and rents. Petty limitations and fines will not inspire club owners to new heights.

The venerable Hugh’s Room was the most recent victim of circumstance, abruptly closing it’s doors in the midst of financial struggle.  It does seem like there’s hope for the venue re-opening though, as a committee has been formed to focus on restructuring and reopening, and changing the club’s ownership structure to a non-profit, board-run model. I do hope so .. this is a prime venue, with so much well deserved good will and respect, that it would be a pity to just let it die on the vine.

One of the acts that was displaced due to the closure is Jan Kudelka‘s one woman tribute to Janis Joplin. She is bringing her celebration of Joplin’s 74th Birthday Bash to the Tranzac instead, this Wednesday the 18th, at 8:30.

“The Queen of Psychedelic Soul is back for one night only! After smashing sold-out shows in 2015 and 2016, singer and performer Jan Kudelka conjures and celebrates the beloved blues/rock trailblazer Janis Joplin with a 74th birthday bash on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at the TRANZAC CLUB backed by her stellar band! Do not miss this intimate journey into the epic voice and tender heart of the Janis Joplin legend.”

jan-kudelka-janis-joplin-tranzac-poster

The Tranzac is a fascinating place. There’s the big room, where Jan will have her show, and then a smaller lounge, just as you enter, where the music never seems to end. The range of sound and ideas is astonishing, and you’re as likely to find yourself listening to jazz as alternative, or rock, or folk, or an evening of ukulele appreciation.  Seriously. Check out their calendar of events to have your mind boggled.

Calendar

I like the idea of venues offering music at earlier hours, especially as the weekend nears. My days of starting the night at ten p.m. are long gone –  my cats are cruel masters who demand feeding at 6 a.m., so I’m usually tucked up and snoring just as most bands karang their first chord. And so are a lot of my contemporaries, and those who have to go to work or school the next day. happyhourIt seems odd to me that bars and restaurants are content to open around eight p.m. ish, or be open during the day, but empty, until some mythical magic time when bands appear out of the mist. There’s money to be made in the feeding and entertaining of people who start the day early, and are ready to rock by dinner time.

And with the plethora of talented, experienced players who are available for gigs, it would certainly be easy for many venues to fill in the gap, and keep musicians and music lovers alike happy.

This past Friday, for example, I enjoyed Don Naduriak‘s extraordinary quintet at a little restaurant on the Danforth called Hirut. This is a regular gig for them. On the second Friday of each month, beginning at 8 p.m., E = and Don Naduriak Music “explore compositions by Don Naduriak with various of Toronto’s best musicians. The compositions draw on Jazz, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian influences. don-naduriak-band-hirut-jan-2017

This month the band features Bill McBirnie/Flute, Russ Little/ Trombone, George Koller/Bass and Joaquin Hidalgo/Drums-Percussion, as well as Don Naduriak on Keyboard.”

If you’re a long-time music fan, you’ll know that Don’s group contains some of Toronto’s musical cream. The room was packed with jazz lovers, drinking and eating and making money for both the venue and the band. Which is the way it used to be, and still should be, but somewhere along the line, the train went off the rails.

There’s something going on nearly every night at Hirut, everything from comedy nights to Ernest Lee‘s classic blues,  as well as a folkie style jam on Sunday afternoons run by Nicola Vaughan, starting at 3 p.m.

Rooms that are taking advantage of earlier gig start times, and of expanding their offerings to include more than music, are reaping the benefits all over the city. As with any industry, those who give the customers what they want will always be respected and rewarded.

feed-meThere’s a lot of room at the table, and a place for everyone, regardless of what time they want to listen, or what flavour they want to feast upon. Toronto’s got the musical munchies .. feed it!

2017 can be the year we come together, despite those who’d profit from a people divided. There’s no better time to listen .. or to be heard!

 

Musical Friends Are Making Me Happy


No matter how you’ve lived your life … saintly, and with a whiff of heaven in your aura, Dora, or a little naughtily, with a more checkered past than you’d care to admit … you want to be rounding third base and heading into home plate with a fine group of worthy team mates, and a cheering section that still likes you, whether because of, or despite, your resume and reputation.

I must have done something right, because I’m blessed with a lot of wonderful people in my corner. And so many of us share a musical background.

I’m writing this on Friday night, because the weekend kicks off in about an hour, with the arrival of my old friend and band mate, Sharon (Kaid) Kaczmarczyk. We go waaaay back, to the days of Lady, before Lady morphed into Performer with my addition, when she was the haughty, sexy, blonde drummer, and I was the shy and mostly innocent new ‘chick singer’ the group reluctantly admitted to their midst. Where it not for Sharon and Helen Dreyer (on keys,) both far more seasoned and experienced than I was at the time, I’d likely still be wearing my Peter Pan getaway boots with a tie-dyed tunic, and sporting a Cleo Laine ‘fro. Hey, it had worked for me in my pop/jazz quartet, Tangents! 😉

Performer 81Sharon and Helen taught me how to make up, ‘zizzed’ my hair so that it stood up in a jaunty rock helmet, maintained with a zillion cans of heavy duty hair spray, and encouraged me to experience the joys of spandex, glitter, and six inch spiked heels.

Through my connections with this group, I went on to meet so very many wonderful players, and devotees of the music we created. Sure, some were jerks, but you weed out the losers, and if you’re lucky, you get to know and love a lot of funny, talented, professionals who are experiencing life slightly differently than the average citizen. Not necessarily better lives – but usually a great deal more challenging, and thus, great candidates for long, convoluted, and very interesting tales around the campfire.

So yeah .. Sharon. She didn’t know what to make of me at the beginning. I was Little Suzy Sunshine, the Pollyanna of the group, always chipper, up with the dawn, busily scouring the thrift stores for stage clothes and shoes, doing my daily 500 leg lifts, endlessly practicing scales. I was not rock n roll at all!

(before and after shots of the first Performer band shoot. At some point, our manager said, “Say, I wonder what would happen if we got the girls high enough to take off their tops?” The topless shot went on to be banned at most of the high schools we’d been booked to play.)

Before:    Performer original poster 001

After:    Performer nude top poster 001

 

But at some point, I must have worn down her resistance to my infernal cheerfulness. Or maybe it was because in most hotels that had band accommodation, there was a minimum of band rooms, and with 2 guys and 3 girls in the band, we had to double up at times. Helen was a Tequila drinker; Sharon and I were fond of the cheap white wine,   Colli Albani .. or as we renamed it .. New York Dog. Sharon and I teamed up in many a room to kill a litre or two of the dog, gulped down between sets and daytime drug store forays. Long days and nights on the road turned into long weeks and months of bonding.

Beyond being a powerful drummer and vocalist, Sharon was also a terrific songwriter. I’d know – I vocalised and demoed a lot of her songs. “Blue Eyed Boys,” “Show Me,” “Girls on Top” .. it was the 80’s and the messages were short, sweet and to the point.

While a lot of our Toronto contemporaries were getting media exposure and getting signed to record deals, Performer spent far too much time out of town, and as far out of town and up north as you could go. Kirkland Lake, Kap, Timmins, Chapleau, Thunder Bay … for months at a time we’d be enduring Northern tours that would have crushed the spirits of younger bands. On one famous “Moose Tour,” we narrowly escaped death by Bull Moose three times in three weeks. Bullwinkle was not our friend.

But we were young, enthusiastic, hardy, and possessed – thankfully! – of a good sense of humour. Even our road crew knew enough to temper their grumblings with a heavy dose of levity.

Now, here’s the thing about just about every single female musician I’ve ever known in the last fifty years … none of us ever thought of ourselves as much more than pretty ok looking, and marginally talented. Which is odd, because of nearly every male musician I’ve met in those same five decades, the reverse is true. The guys would generally overestimate their own attractiveness, and were convinced that they were natural born leaders and stars, possessed of legendary talent and ability.

And they had the groupies to prove it. While most female musicians had an entirely different crop of stalkers and weirdos to ward off.

Helen, Sharon and I spent months at a time on the road with nary a beau in sight. It’s an odd thing, being desired while on stage, but being either ignored or feared as being untouchable, off stage. Road time is tough enough; filling the hours between waking up and playing, while living on very little money and with few resources, is challenging. Moreover, it was lonely.  And rockers are generally pretty sexualized people – seems to go with the territory – so it wasn’t the best place to be companionless. That’s why you’d see so many hook-ups within bands and crews … a lot of times it was just proximity, a release from the coming down after whipping up the audience, and ourselves in the process. We’d have much preferred to be on home turf, where our own, pre-qualified letches lurked, but when in Collingwood

kaid foreign affairs great head shotSharon had it worse than Helen or I. Blonde, statuesque, with laser focused blue eyes that could burn a hole into a wannabe suitor at 20 paces, she worked her Amazonic magic from atop a drum riser.  On stage or off, she had presence. Although single and looking, few males could see through her powerful appearance to the warm, caring woman within.

And those that did have the guts to approach her tended to either be fuelled by liquid courage, or to be in possession of egos far larger than the sum of their intelligence …  I’ll never forgot one road trip that had left us exhausted and fit for nothing more than 48 hours in our own beds. At a truck stop, at about 4 a.m., and about two hours out of Toronto, the band, running on depleted adrenaline and road coffee, and still dressed in our spandex, glitter, and rock and roll hair we’d rocked hours before, ran into another band also heading home from a gig.  The male lead singer of the other band went into full peacock mode and approached Sharon. “Hey, blonde,” he said, “You need a lift?”

Sharon kept her cool, but the rest of us were falling about at the very idea that this fellow could actually think that his mere presence (and perhaps the promise of candy,) would lure a blonde rock goddess into his stinky van in the wee hours. Never happen. Trust me. We weren’t that lonely.

Performer live shot 001.jpgBut we did live in rarefied air. The images we presented of ourselves took time, money, and considerable energy. Women in rock, especially in the eighties, were expected to look a certain way, and to emphasize their sexuality. When you’re getting up on stage in front of live audiences, night after night, you can never let the mask slip. Your attention is on taking whatever raw material you’ve been given, and shaping it into something worthy of posters and album covers.

Guys in rock, on the other hand, usually had it easier .. and damned if they didn’t often look better in makeup than the women did! Depending on the musical genre they represented, they could get away with a lot less primping. And people rarely commented on them wearing the same outfit, night after night.

Despite our constant vigilance, and belief that we had to keep fine tuning how we looked, Sharon and I were both good eaters and reluctant dieters. Nothing made us happier than a Sunday night on the road that featured an all you can eat pasta buffet! We’d get out the fat pants and have at ‘er. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we diet!

If only we were as fat today as we thought we were then! We were so very hard on ourselves, firm in our beliefs that it was only by reaching an elusive physical perfection that we could catch life’s brass ring. But sometimes, the ring is elusive, and the grasp just a trick of fate.

Just as the band entity “Lady” had morphed into “Performer”, Performer eventually fell victim to road fatigue and cynicism. A reformed quartet, of Shawn O’Shea, Al Corbeil, Sharon and myself had a brief stint as Foreign Affairs, before taking one last kick at the can, showcasing at the El Mocambo as Ice Age, with the late, and very much missed, Phil Parmentier on bass.

Thirty five years later, Sharon and I remain good friends. We still giggle like teenagers, rejoice at each other’s good news, and mourn each other’s losses.  The base of friendship that was formed in proximity and happenstance has widened to include a deep love and commitment to each other that I can’t see ever ending while we can still draw breath. Perhaps for even longer than that.

Addendum:  Bilan BBQ Aug 2016On Saturday we were invited to a BBQ hosted by yet another long-time friend and his family, and attended by still more of our musical comrades-in-arms. Some of us have known each for nearly fifty years. We marveled at how we’ve navigated our lives and careers, celebrated our successes, and commiserated on our war wounds. Pictures of past glories were produced and admired, greeted with gusts of laughter at how dated our band pics, head shots, and press clippings seem today.  We’re older and wiser, and there might be a little more of us to love than there was in our heyday, but damn! We’ve made it this far and haven’t lost our sense of humour or our commitment to creating and enjoying music. I’d call that a legacy worth celebrating.

 

(first published in  bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/08/07/roxanne-tellier-musical-friends-are-making-me-happy/)

DBAWIS – Fly Me High, Ken Tobias


Ken Tobias 2016 pic.jpg“I remember being asked when I was very young what did I want to be when I grow up. I remember saying ” I want to be an artist, a singer, and a scientist.” ….well it turned out that I am a professional singer, an avid science fan, and yes an artist…painting in acrylics for 30 years.”   Ken Tobias.

 

Many years ago I was in a roots rock/new country quintet called Delta Tango.  A bunch of us, music lifers, recorded, tinkered with sounds, and recorded some more. When we had something that we thought might be marketable, we debuted and toured the CD around Ontario.

I can’t remember exactly when we met Tony Tobias – it may have been at a CMW gig, or perhaps at a showcase , but he was a lovely man, and, as we (the band) and he (Tony) showed each other our credentials, he revealed that he was the President/Executive Producer at Pangaea Media & Music Inc. – and manager and brother of the venerable Ken Tobias.

I make no attempt to conceal my folkie roots. Ken Tobias was an icon for me in the 70s. You may remember the song he wrote that put him .. and The Bells .. on the map … “Stay Awhile.”

Born and raised in New Brunswick seventy-one years ago this July 25th , Ken showed early promise as a draftsman AND a musician. In 1965, he left NB for  Halifax, Nova Scotia,  was part of CBC’s local Music Hop,Frank’s Bandstand,’ and then went on to become a regular on  Singalong Jubilee, often dueting with Anne Murray, and playing alongside of  Gene MacLellan and John Allan Cameron.

In 1968 Tobias met Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers who invited him to Los Angeles to record and write as a salaried songwriter. Under the management of Medley’s company, Tobias recorded his first single “You’re Not Even Going to the Fair” on Bell Records; like many of his early releases it was credited just to “Tobias”. The song won him his first Canadian BMI award for airplay. This was the first of many BMI, Procan and SOCAN awards.” (Wikipedia)

Ken was just getting started. In 1972 he established Glooscap Music with his brother, Tony, settling in Toronto for the next few decades, and releasing a string of hits including “Fly Me High“, and “Lady Luck“, and eventually receiving FIVE Socan Classics Awards for 100,000 airplays of the songs,  “Stay Awhile”, “I Just Want To Make Music,” “Every Bit Of Love”, “Give A Little Love” and “Dreamken tobias beauty fly #2”.

His beautifully written songs speak of love, and the joy of making and listening to music. They dare  the listener to believe in what might be. They also draw upon his artistic background, painting a mental picture that the listener can translate to their own imaginings. “I drew a picture of a pair of wings .. because I want to fly.“

 

Looking back at all that Ken Tobias has accomplished is like peering through a kaleidoscope … so many wonders to be seen! So many aspects to a lengthy and accomplished life!

His writing and producing credits are impressive, and include forays into television and film. From having his song “Good To Be Alive in the Country” in the hit TV series The Bionic Woman, to collaborating in the writing of the soundtrack for the Italian movie A Silver Saddle; writing, “Here You Are Today“, for Saint John, New Brunswick’s bicentennial as well as nabbing a CLIO Award for his Tourism New Brunswick commercial; to having his song “Friends” featured in the 2004 feature movie Chicks with Sticks; to being commissioned by Ballet Jorgen to create “Dreams of A Subtle World” for a feature segment in their ballet…

… to having several pages in Dave Bidini’s 1998 book, On A Cold Road: Tales of Adventure in Canadian Rock  dedicated to his music … and  then add to that his self-taught creative artistry that has seen over two hundred of his paintings sold throughout North America…

I don’t know how he’s done it. I’m exhausted just researching and writing about all of his accomplishments!

Casino Nova Scotia Music Hall of FameBut there’s one more honour on its way, and a very worthy one indeed. Ken Tobias is about to be inducted into the 2016 Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame, representing the province of New Brunswick.

From Tony’s recent press release:  “KEN TOBIAS joins three other celebrated Atlantic Canadian music artists being inducted: Natalie MacMaster (Nova Scotia); Harry Hibbs (Newfoundland); Gene MacLellan (Prince Edward Island). Last year’s inaugural music inductees were: Rita MacNeil, John Allen Cameron, Portia White and Anne Murray. Ken comments about the news of his induction: “I am honoured and humbled to be inducted into the Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame and representing my province of New Brunswick. I am especially moved to be in the company of my old friend Gene MacLellan. Gene and I were fellow cast members on the CBC show Singalong Jubilee and we both wrote songs for Anne Murray. And it is a great honour to be sharing the spotlight with the wonderful Natalie MacMaster and Harry Hibbs. Many thanks to Casino Nova Scotia, Music Nova Scotia, Music New Brunswick and all those who cKen Tobias painting far off worlds.jpgontinue to support my music and art.””

Ken Tobias’ story continues to unfold in front of us, as unending as the galaxies he captures in his paintings.

Cheers, Ken Tobias! And thanks for inspiring so many Canadian writers, players, and artists to pursue their dreams.

Here’s a catchy summer tune from his latest CD, “From a Distance.”

 

 

 

May Day! May Day!


It’s May the first – a day when most of the northern hemisphere officially decides, “that’s it. Done with winter. Bring on the sun and the fun!”

I’ve always thought that May 1st would be a better start to the year then January 1st.No one feels much like kick-starting anything more than the snow blower in winter. May, on the other hand, is when you can shed the many layers you’ve bundled yourself into over the darkest months, like a snake sloughing off its outgrown skin.

naked gardeningEven the armchairiest of armchair gardeners eyes the sprouts of green peeking out of the earth, and tells themselves lies about the magic they’ll coax from the soil this year. Dreams of successful planting and transplanting, and visions of exotic fruits fresh plucked from your own trees, dance through your head like the sugarplums of Christmas. Garden paths that never overgrow! Bushels of perfectly formed, organic vegetables! Idyllic afternoons whiled away in draped pergolas, desultorily conversing with like-minded friends.

All of which lasts for about a week or ten days, before the great outdoors is abandoned in favour of a good book and a comfy couch safely indoors, where there are no midges or crawly things.

No one is immune from May’s siren call. Even Led Zeppelin couldn’t help but reference the occasion. “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now, It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.”

Ai eee! Spring cleaning! Washing your winter-stained windows in order to let the bright spring sun illuminate the dust bunnies you’ve cultivated whilst cocooning. Many gallons of cleaning goop will be purchased and used in the next few days, in a frenzy of scouring away the winter blues. Followed by many doctors being consulted for pain killers to numb the injuries stemming from long unused muscles strained during that frenzy.

vulcan and maiaI would much prefer to just dance around a flagpole, dressed in a long gown and draped with flowers, vying to be crowned the Queen of May, as they do in Europe. I mean, the month of May was named for the Greek goddess Maia, who was identified with the earlier Roman goddess of fertility, Bona Dea, whose festival was held in May. I’ll even take the pre-Christian Roman celebrations that revolved around Flora, the goddess of flowers, or celebrate Walpurgis Night or Beltane with the witches. In any case, my first act upon being crowned Queen would be to dispense with ritual house cleaning, in favour of far more civilized communal celebrations, rejoicing at the promise of another sun-filled summer.  Vote for me!

The pagan holidays were sacrificed as Europe became Christianised, mores the pity. Traditionally, May Day was associated with fertility; the earth is reborn,  the cattle get frisky, and, with less clothing to get in the way, people tend to get a little friskier themselves. The church frowned on frisky.

But still, traditions remain. And some should be revived! In some part of the United States, early American settlers made small May Day baskets, filled with flowers or treats, and left them at the doorstep of someone they fancied. “The giver rings the bell and runs away. The person receiving the basket tries to catch the fleeing giver; if caught, a kiss is exchanged.” (Wikipedia) flaming dog poop

That sounds a lot more fun than leaving flaming bags of poop on the doorsteps of unfriendly neighbours.

If you were up very early this morning, you might have heeded the call sent by the Facebook group, Toronto Morris Men. “Sunrise in Toronto on 1st May 2016 is at 06:09. We’ll be at High Park, will you join us?”

Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy
Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

It’s an old custom still celebrated in Ontario.  “In Toronto, on the morning of May 1, various Morris Dancing troops from Toronto and Hamilton gather on the road by Grenadier Cafe, in High Park to “dance in the May”. The dancers and crowd then gather together and sing traditional May Day songs such as Hal-An-Tow and Padstow.” (Wikipedia)

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the last century, and thanks to social democrats and unions, May 1 has become much less fanciful. Here’s a “did you know?” for you … What trade unions and labour movements now celebrate as the May 1st International Workers Day, started as a response to the annual holiday that stemmed from a union strike in Toronto. In December 1872, the Toronto Typographical Union staged a parade in support of the strike for a 58-hour work-week that had been going on since March of that year. George Brown (yes, he of George Brown College) was editor of the Toronto Globe at the time, and he called for the police to charge the union with “conspiracy,” which resulted in 24 leaders of the union being arrested. (Laws criminalising union activities had already been abolished in England, but were still on the books in Canada.)

It was the seven trade unions that marched in Ottawa in protest that finally pushed then Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, to repeal the anti-union laws, and pass the Trade Union Act in 1873. We have been celebrating the occasion on the first Monday in September ever since.

In 1882, trade unionists in the United States, inspired by the Toronto unions’ bravery and success, proposed a similar holiday. But the Labour Day holiday did not become official until 1894, and still did not quite address the spirit of the movement.may day solidarity

The May 1st International Workers Day evolved from the 1904 International Socialist Conference in Amsterdam, when the Sixth Conference of the Second International, called on “all Social Democratic Party organisations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.”

May 1st was chosen to commemorate the May 1886 Haymarket incident in Chicago, where a bomb was thrown at police attempting to disperse a public assembly calling for an eight-hour workday. In response, the police fired on the workers, and killed four demonstrators.

It might then be logical to assume that the term chosen to indicate a state of emergency (Mayday!) would have come from the Chicago incident as well. But it actually originated in 1923, when a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, England, was asked to decide on a word easily understood by pilots and ground staff in an emeFrederick Stanley Mockfordrgency.

“Since much of the traffic at the time was between Croydon and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, Frederick Stanley Mockford proposed the word “Mayday” from the French “m’aider”, a shortened version of “venez m’aider” (meaning “come and help me”). (Wikipedia)

The term, always said three times in repetition, replaced the Morse code SOS. Calling Mayday!is now taken so seriously in the United States that it is a federal crime to make a false distress call, and will get you up to six years in jail, and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

may day 2016At the moment, it’s a gray, chilly morning in Toronto. I missed the Morris Dancers, (rats!) but if I hustle, I can get down to the square at Yonge and Dundas, where a rally and march will begin at 1:00 pm. This year’s theme highlights the struggles of resistance to anti-black racism, police brutality, and issues deeply affecting black communities, along with Indigenous sovereignty, gender justice, anti-poverty and anti-austerity organizations.

Or, in the spirit of my ancestors, I could find me a May Pole to dance around, and a hedgerow with a bustle looking for a May queen. I always did fancy being royalty for a day …

(first published at bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/roxanne-tellier-may-day-may-day/)

 

Loving The Sharing Economy


Times are tough. Wages are stagnant, but costs keep rising. It’s getting harder and harder for the average Joe or Jane to get from one pay cheque to the next, and that’s assuming they’re even lucky enough to have a job. Students skip meals to buy books.  If you’re in the arts, making ends meet is nearly impossible … and that’s before you hit your Golden Years.

everyone's brokeYep, all ages are feeling the pinch. For many, it’s the first time they’ve ever felt the bite on their bucks this savagely, so they’re under equipped to take advantage of some of the newest survival techniques out there. Time to use every trick you can find.

But how?

UberAllMarket_MainWhen Uber came along, it seemed a great way to make a couple of bucks, if you had a halfway decent vehicle. But many cities put up a good fight against ‘ride sharing,’ worried that it would cut into the taxi business, a rich tax resource, and strictly regulated.

The same thinking applied to Air BnB, and the renting out of space. Once governments realized they were losing hotel tax dollars to those entrepreneurs, regulations increased, and tourism taxes were applied.

In both cases, what seemed like a good way to make a few extra bucks, turned out to be primarily profitable for the owners of Uber and Air BnB.  They reap the big bucks, while the entrepreneur incurs all the costs and risks.

There may not be many legit or  magical ways to make extra money.

charity-fashion-collageBut there are ways to pinch a penny, if you’re open to new concepts. Charity shops are a mixed bag these days. Value Village is no longer such a value, and the Salvation Army and Goodwill are slowly increasing prices.

I do like the Kind Exchange, though items vary from location to location. (oh, and you can sell your gently used clothing to them, as well!)

But why bother, when I can pick up brand new clothing for less, and usually do, at outlets like Ardene, where prices are generally 70% off on clothing, and ridiculously low on shoes, jewellery, and other girly delights.

ardene shoesThree pair of flats for $10? Three new summer tank tops or new leggings for $15? I’m in! You can pop into one of their outlet shops, (I like the one at Woodside Square,) or even shop for their deals online at  http://www.ardene.com/en/clothing.html .

That’s just one chain – there are many more that have crazy clearances and outlets. Google ‘outlet’ and you may be surprised at how easy it is to get your cut-price shopping on.

Or let’s say you want something that’s ‘new to you,’ but the only thing you’re rich in is dreams. You might want to try a Bunz group. My grandson told me about this barter group last year, but I finally found them on Facebook a few weeks ago. These are usually private groups that you’ll have to ask to join.

keurig-bunz-appToronto’s Emily Bitze started the Bunz Trading Zone (BTZ)  (originally called Bumz) in 2013. It’s a swap/trade group that operates on a no money basis. The ‘currency’ can be anything from TTC tokens to beer cans. You offer anything from clothes to furniture, advice or services, and negotiate your own deal.

Another intriguing way to stretch a buck is with the Toronto Tool Library , also on Facebook. For $50 a year, you have access to over 4,000 tools, ranging from electronics to carpentry and everything in between. They also have a Makerspace with 3D printers, lasercutter & full wood shop. It’s a great way to start or indulge in your hobbies without a fortune in outlay.

freecycleI’ve been an avid user of Freecycle (www.freecycle.org)  since it first appeared, about a decade ago. “The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,285 groups with 9,182,159 members around the world. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free.”

You give, and you get. As a member of several groups (you can join as many as make sense to your location) and the moderator of one, I’ve seen everything from food to clothing to furniture, professional equipment, and oddities be offered. I’ve even seen cars, trailers, and once – a boat! –  be recycled. It’s a terrific way to spring clean or downsize, while giving to those who have a need, and feeling great about keeping perfectly good items out of landfills.

There are no strings attached, which instills a sense of generosity of spirit. Similar groups have sprung up as well, usually specific to geographical areas, that operate in the same manner. Google FreeTOreuse, or Trash Nothing! for instructions on how to join those groups.  trashNothing

Most of the freecycling groups will offer some basic rules and cautions. I’ve had little problem with either the items I’ve offered, or the items I’ve collected, but you want to use some basic common sense when interacting with people you don’t know. The majority of freecyclers prefer to leave or pickup items from door steps or porches.

So now that you’ve got your basic material needs covered, you need somewhere to keep your stuff.

Community living is quickly becoming an affordable way to share space and costs. Once standard amongst students and musicians, the crazy price of real estate has brought back the practice for all who cannot or will not pay sky high rents.  It’scommunity also a great way to sample an area, without committing to long term leases.  You can find Facebook groups that list sublets and temporary living spaces  in your area, or somewhere you’d like to be.

For those with champagne tastes and beer budgets, sharing a living space can mean a major lifestyle upgrade – if you can handle your roommates’ personalities. A group of twenty-somethings  with like tastes can rent a great space, if they’re pooling their cash. Shared living opens up possibilities that might not have been in the budget for a single renter.

old-bikers-bike-nursing-homeI’ve been talking about a ‘rock and roll retirement home’ for years. It only makes sense for those in similar fields and with similar backgrounds to pool resources in a way that allows freer expression than that most commonly seen in retirement homes. I’m just hoping I can get it off the ground before it’s time to move in!

It’s possible to live fairly well on a limited budget, if you are open to changing hard-wired views and beliefs. The market has spent billions convincing buyers to spend. But you don’t have to buy what they’re selling. There’s a whole new world of possibilities within the sharing economy.

 

Peter Cottontail Has Left the Building


cute bunnyThis week, leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, has always been considered the Holiest of Holy weeks to Catholics. As a child, I looked forward to new shoes and a showy hat (women still had to wear them in church, back then) and a basketful of goodies – maybe even a chocolate bunny!

But that was then, and this is now, and it’s been a long time since anyone’s hunted for coloured eggs at my house. Peter Cottontail has left the building, and this week was a horror show all around, with bombings in Brussels, the ramping up of panic in America over both terrorism and Trump’s continued putsch to glory, interspersed with freezing rain, a dismal outcome (for many)  to the Jian Ghomeshi  trial, a Liberal budget that projects a $30 billion deficit, and a surprisingly negative response to the new Batman vs Superman movie. Oh, and the beer and liquor stores were closed for two days.

And you can add to that the shock accompanying hearing of the death of comedian Gary Shandling.  At 66, he was far too young, and we were not ready for his genius to leave us.

You will forgive me if this has been a week I’d prefer to forget.

The loss of another celebrity, former Mayor Rob Ford, also captured attention. I’ve written about him before, and my feelings about his tenure remain unchanged. So do the feelings of those who admired him. However, Torontonians who dared to pen anything more than a non-committal noting of his passing were soundly excoriated by their fellow citizens for not prostrating at his bier with enough respect.

rob ford dead headlinesThe world press had no such strictures.

Some people will try to convince you that their way to mourn is the only and correct way. I disagree. There is no ‘right way” to mourn, and demanding fealty at the point of a disapproving moral gun does not change the past. You would think that the unprecedented two day period of lying in state at City Hall (at the request of the family) would appease the bereaved, but apparently, that is not enough. Those who revered his blustering, bumbling ways would have us re-write history, in an effort to whitewash his misdeeds, and beatify him as Toronto’s savior.

MargaretThatcher 1992It’s all so very reminiscent of the post-death canonization of Margaret Thatcher. Reviled during her tenure for her hawkish policies, key role in bringing about the first Gulf War, and advocating  for the 2003 attack on Iraq, along with her ushering in of a period where the rich got richer at the expense of the poor, her influence negatively affected millions around the world. And yet, her canonization began just nanoseconds after word of her death hit the airwaves; she was lionized worldwide in the press, her state funeral cost Britain  £3.1 million pounds, and Iron Lady statues made of actual iron were erected in places as diverse as the Falkland Islands , despite Argentina’s fury.

Meanwhile, the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” raced to the top of the British charts.

There’s a price to be paid for assuming a position of power – the admission includes having your life and history scrutinized and deemed worthy or unworthy, both by those who liked you and by those who didn’t, who still had to live with the impact of political actions. It is ‘misapplied death etiquette,’ as journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote, to be expected to apply the same moral high ground  we do to the deaths of private individuals as we do when considering the entirety of the life of an influential public figure.

There’s something distinctively creepy – in a Roman sort of way – about this mandated ritual that our political leaders must be heralded and consecrated as saints upon death. This is accomplished by this baseless moral precept that it is gauche or worse to balance the gushing praise for them upon death with valid criticisms. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loathing Margaret Thatcher or any other person with political influence and power based upon perceived bad acts, and that doesn’t change simply because they die. If anything, it becomes more compelling to commemorate those bad acts upon death as the only antidote against a society erecting a false and jingoistically self-serving history.”

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/08/margaret-thatcher-death-etiquettefacebook judges and lawyers.jpg

Ah, but the self-anointed social media judges and lawyers would disagree.

A video capturing an incident involving a young woman, confronted with parking in a handicapped space, went viral this week. Shot here in Toronto, in front of a Tim Hortons, the video showed her reaction to being caught – privileged outrage, threats, and the throwing of two cups of coffee at the videographer.

Surprisingly, many were more incensed by the videographer’s capture and sharing of the incident, than at the belligerent aggression of the scofflaw. Despite assaulting the photographer, and driving off in a huff, aiming her vehicle at the cameraman before swerving away, these commentators believed  she should not have been confronted, but rather, that the photographer should have ‘minded his own business.’

As the video went viral, international viewers were stunned to see her rudeness … aren’t all Canadians pretty much nice and polite people, they asked?  No, some, with possibly the best of intentions, are bullies.

Bullying in an attempt to force your morality, or personal and world views, onto others, is still bullying. I have one ex-Facebook friend who blocked my posts because her nephews follow her page, and she censors what they can see. Another Facebooker resented my questioning the morality of the actions of Israel towards Palestine, despite my information having come from a Jewish peace activist living in Israel.

And the culmination of the trial of Jian Ghomeshi unleashed some of the vilest comments I’ve ever seen directed at alleged victims of assault. The women were ‘liars,’ ‘manipulative,’ ‘shameful fame seekers,’ ‘femitards,’ ‘toxic bitches,’ and worse. Despite the fact that a total of 21 women had originally come forward to complain, with identical accusations, about Ghomeshi’s weird ideas on sex play, only three were brave enough to appear in court, and all three were pummeled with relentless demands to answer questions about, not just the attack, but trivial events of a decade past – what lawyers like to call ‘whacking’ – while Ghomeshi sat silent.  (ghomeshi cosby.jpg)

The judge’s decision acquitted Ghomeshi, but also noted that his verdict did not mean these events ‘never happened.’ The judge simply didn’t believe the women’s testimony, flawed as it was by misremembered events, private messages between two of the accusers, and contact with the accused after the fact.

For women of every political stripe, the decision was flawed, and the system biased. At City Hall, one naked protester was unnecessarily and roughly tackled to the ground, her nipples scraping the pavement as she was dragged away by the police. Despite nudity being legal in Canada, the uptight citizens must not be discomfited by the sight of a woman’s breasts.

From a story released by the CBC: “While former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi’s acquittal has sparked protests, many within the legal community are praising the decision, agreeing with the judge that the complainants’ credibility issues raised reasonable doubt in the case.”

By implication, stating that “many within the legal community” support the decision, dismisses by extension those who found the decision as to be  ill-informed. In actual fact, many of those who have criticized the decision are academic and legal scholars.

Am I biased? Perhaps. Or is the system itself flawed? At the beginning of the month, a report filed by the Criminal Lawyer’s Association found that women were leaving the field of criminal law in dramatically high numbers, due to systemic discrimination.

 “It found low pay, lack of financial support for maternity leave and being treated differently than male peers by judges and court staff as some of the reasons so many women are leaving private practice of criminal law,” reported Maureen Brosnahan for the CBC. “Many women also reported a lack of respect and being treated differently than male lawyers by court officers, police, crown attorneys and judges. One reported being called “little lady” repeatedly. Others said they were chastised for asking judges for time to pick up children from school whereas their male counterparts who made similar requests were not rebuked.”

Whether or not it is possible to change how sensitive cases are handled in an atmosphere where women are routinely marginalized, it’s still time for an honest reappraisal of how sexual assault cases are conducted in Canada, especially in the face of the numbers.

“In Canada, the low rates of conviction for sexual assault are an indictment of the system itself. As a 2014 Toronto Star article revealed using Statscan data from 2004 and 2006, 460,000 women self-reported sexual assault: 15,200 reported to the police, 5,544 charges were laid, with 2,824 prosecutions and 1,519 convictions. Again, that’s almost a half million self-reported assaults, and 1,519 convictions. Something is deeply wrong.”

 Understandably – and not because we are stupid or legally naive, but because 1 in 4 women has experienced a sexual assault in her lifetime, and has a strong personal stake in how this case concluded – many women were incensed at the Ghomeshi decision.

Enter ‘mansplaining.’

Either unable or unwilling to see how angry and hurt many women are by the Ghomeshi decision, mansplainers flocked to the posts women made about their feelings on the ruling. “Read the decision,” they intoned, as though we were either too stupid to understand, or blind to the many gloatings of those who’d ‘called it’ from the beginning, and who were dancing in joy at both the decision and having been proved right.

Hey! Your side won! Now could you take your foot off my neck so that I can sympathize and empathize with women who feel as I do, stunned at the inevitability of once again, being re-victimized  post-assault?

Are you so utterly deaf to the agony of people in pain that your only recourse is to repeat incessantly that ‘justice has been done?’  willful blindness

Or as one woman keened in her blog, “How can you be so blind? How can you insert yourself into a woman pouring her grief out, to tell her that legally, she has no case? That what happened to her, didn’t factually happen. To throw a smothering blanket on the fire igniting in her. She has no reality. The law is the reality. It is the neutral, the official record. It is gas lighting on a massive scale.

So I know perhaps the evidence wasn’t there, or that the burden of proof wasn’t met. And I don’t fucking care. This isn’t about this one case. This case was inevitable, like watching a lemming marching to its doom.

It’s every fucking time. Every time. The mundanity of the oppression, the predictability of the reaction, the backlash that follows. “      (https://afateofpossibilities.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/this-isnt-about-the-ghomeshi-case/)

It is indeed gaslighting. It’s telling people that their emotions are invalid, that what they see and feel has no wegaslighting2ight. It’s a way to keep those who disagree with you off balance, wondering if perhaps what they perceive isn’t real, casting doubt on their mental stability, pointing to others that agree with YOUR beliefs as proof that THEY are in the wrong. It is psychological abuse. And it’s an ugly way to treat anyone.

The overwhelming miasma of this week – at least for me – has been one of outraged, self-righteous, phony, morality gone mad, and overwhelmingly imposed upon all in its path. Think as I think, believe as I believe, abandon your own truths and take on mine.

Whether it be Trump calling the beleaguered city of Brussels ‘a hellhole,’ or Cruz demanding strict policing of American Muslims in their own neighbourhoods; police manhandling protestors, or judges calling women deceitful and self-serving, it’s not been a good week to have a high Emotional I.Q., and a low tolerance for sanctimonious public principles forced upon the social order by the court of public opinion.

Speak-your-truth Ghandi

 

(first published  March  27/16 (bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/roxanne-tellier-peter-cottontail-has-left-the-building)

Music City My Ass


Every time I see an article lauding Mayor John Tory’s ‘inspired’ idea of turning Toronto into a ‘Music City,’ I get queasy. You see, I came to Toronto in 1976, when it really WAS one, and have watched succeeding local governments and well-heeled blue noses, waving the banners of political correctness and money over art, stomp the culture to death.

Being a great deal older now than I was then (it happens,) I understand, at least in part, why the city had to change from what – to me – was a cornucopia of musical delights, as dirty and scary as it was,, into what it is today … a staid dowager in corsets trying desperately to seem hip.

IYorkville disco 70sn ’76, the Yorkville of the sixties was already undergoing gentrification, with trendy shops springing up where head shops once ruled, and the few hippie hold outs clinging to their properties out of loyalty or desperation. Disco fevered platformed shoes trod the sacred ground in front of the Riverboat as  I’d wander through on the way to The Morrissey at Yonge and Davenport.

The scene had already moved on to other areas, with Yonge Street the main rock drive, and club after club rocking exceptional talent, with rarely a cover charge, six nights a week, cheek by jowl with strip clubs, massage parlours, peep shows, and sex shops. Sleazy, garish, lewd and loud, the Strip was very much like New York’s Time Square of the period, ugly and yet so seductive. And everybody smoked like chimneys – inyonge st pedestrians the clubs, the patios and the streets.

Gay men and women flocked to the Church and Wellesley area, where they could feel safer than on the butchier Strip. Although this year’s Pride Week and Parade celebrating sexual and gender identity will have sponsors as diverse as TD Canada Trust, Bud Light, Via Rail, and Google+, back then, openly gay people were widely marginalized, shunned, and attacked in the mainstream media and politics. bathhouse raids rageIn 1975, “tiny perfect” mayor David Crombie sent his best wishes to Pride’s organizers, but refused to officially recognize Pride, while City Council declined permission for a Yonge Street march .

And in 1981, Metro Toronto police made the second largest mass arrest in Canadian history when 306 people where busted in the infamous bathhouse raids. It was safer hanging out at `the steps` in front of the Second Cup on Church and Wellesley.

However heteros were in luck in 1975, when the city legalized full nudity for strippers. It became zanzibar1.jpgpretty common for the bigger bars to have strippers by day, and live bands at night.

Black American R&B and soul stars, sick to death of segregation and persecution in their own country, flocked to play the BlueNote, the Edison, and the Colonial Tavern, where they were enthusiastically received. the colonial

Prior to new hate-speech laws of 2007, the biggest reggae acts out of Jamaica would visit Toronto at least twice a year. Anti-gay language in many of their songs, while common in their country, was not welcome here.

The city was dirty, and exciting, and counter culture was hiding in neighbourhoods that were being redefined to suit their residents’ tastes.   Queen West was where you went to find head shops and record stores, and check out the Sally Ann for vintage clothing stores. Later, it was Toronto’s punk centre, as the kids from OCA made their own music. And later still you’d find Chris Sheppard spinning at Club Domino before heading up the long thin stairs to the Voodoo Club.

You could have shot a cannon along King West any time after business hours, and never hit a soul,in the late 70s. In the 80s and 90s, street kids and skin heads hung out at the Evergreen Centre, which, though nominally a drop in, support centre for kids, was actually where you went to score drugs. You could get a whole tray of draft beer at the Gasworks for about $5.00 if you bought it before the bands started, and cheap quarts fuelled a lot of rockers through the hot nights.

the-knobby-1.jpgOut in Scarborough, clubs like the Knob Hill boasted top local talent while the waiters, legends themselves, sold watery draft for a quarter a glass. In Richmond Hill, anyone who was anyone hung at the Black Hawk Motor Inn.

 

 

There really were so many amazing clubs in diverse areas, reflecting the different interests and sounds Toronto wanted to hear. And yes, there was a “Toronto Sound,” and you knew it when you heard it.

So what killed that diverse, energetic culture? Couple of things – and most involved the corporatization of the city. In a quest to bring in funds for the city, ridiculous and arcane licensing regulations picked the pockets of bar owners. It was only last year that the city issued a memo stating that music venues would no longer be ticketed for posters – usually posted by the bands desperate to market a rare gig – advertising their shows.

Yorkville fell to gentrification, and soon, anywhere that the kids flocked began to look like prime real estate. Watching Queen West change from funky to glitz was painful enough for those who’d loved its grunge, but harder still on the residents and business owners who’d made it what it was. Rents soared until a club was walking such a thin profit margin that an off winter could bury them. These days, a shop or bar owner in Kensington Market is looking at paying from $3500 to $9000 a month for basic rent, with virtually no owner maintenance applied. Riverdale , Parkdale, Dufferin Grove, the Junction – all fallen to gentrification that brings more big bucks to those who already have the big bucks, and leaves previous residents out of luck for a reasonable price on a place to live or play.

No one is FOR drunk driving, but the founders of MADD went a little mad themselves as they ground down and down to get to the current laws. Drivers under 21 cannot have ANY alcohol in their blood when driving. Over 21, you have to have a blood alcohol level that is lower than .05%, essentially what you’ll get from a non-alcoholic beverage. You don’t even have to be in a moving car to get an impaired driving violation. If you are sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle, moving or not, and have too much alcohol in your system you can get a fine, lose your license and face other penalties.

 And for all the fuss over drinking and driving, I’m trying to remember the last time I saw a club that gave free non-alcoholic beverages to a “Designated Driver”.

no smoking anywhere If you smoke in Toronto, good luck. It’s getting harder and harder to find a place, inside or out, where you can light up. When the new law of not smoking on patios took effect, I knew they’d gone too far. Can’t drink, can’t smoke … what do you do? Why go to a bar at all? May as well stay home – assuming your apartment or condo allows smoking – and drink without the hassle.

The whole corporate model of making money at the expense of art just doesn’t work long term, There’s less investment in the arts – last year, ScotiaBank pulled funding for Nuit Blanche, Caribana, BuskerFest and the CHIN International Picnic. Responding to the dog whistles of stockholders that must have their profits leads to the death of corporate sponsorship of the arts. And good luck with sponsorship of counterculture art. The Big Bop gets torn down to become an upscale furniture store. Liberty Entertainment closes alt-rock venue the Velvet Underground at 510 Queen West to focus on growing its portfolio of wine bars.toronto_opera2.jpg

While donating multiple millions of dollars’ worth of land and funds to conventional arts palaces like the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto City Council quibbles over what constitutes sound restrictions applied to bars. Thou shalt have no music louder than 45 db after 11 pm. A library clocks in at 50-70, a restaurant with no live band at about 90-100. This is progress?

Municipal licensing issues debate over whether a venue is a restaurant with a bar attached, or an entertainment venue. Despite a 2012 report by lobby group Music Canada that outlined ridiculous restrictions to entertainment venues that give ample room for official interpretation (and fines,) the City still loves its condo owners a lot more than it does its club owners. You can read the full report here (http://musiccanada.com/resources/research/toronto-music-city/)

The ‘idea’ of making Toronto a “Music City” is great. In practice, there needs to be a great deal more cooperation on the part of the City in how it deals with current and future venues. What’s been forgotten in a lust for overall incoming revenue from ticket sales, corporate sponsorship and enhanced tourism is that you don’t just add water and stir up a musical culture … it’s made by musicians who fall far outside of the strictures imposed by those who can afford to attend the venues government has deigned to sponsor. It’s made in alleyways and smoky bars, it includes over indulgence in both legal and illegal substances, and it’s a cry AGAINST what Mayor Tory and his Council represent.

Music-City-panel.jpgIf Toronto is serious about doing more than endlessly discussing what they`d do for the city if they could, but apparently can`t, they`ll have to do better than the recent WaveLength panel on The Toronto Music Moment. The latest meeting, held on January 31st saw Jonny Dovercourt and moderator Emily Scherzinger along with Amy Terrill (Music Canada, 4479 Toronto), Daniel Silver (U of T Sociology, Chicago Music City researcher), Rolf Klausener (The Acorn, Arboretum Festival) and Ayo Leilani (Witch Prophet, Above Top Secret, 88 Days of Fortune) hash through basically the same points they did on previous gatherings, and presumably will rehash again at next year`s meeting.

Oh, sure, there are pockets of musical fun to be had in Toronto, and certainly, when the music fests start rolling out in a few months, there will be whole weeks where it seems like the city comes alive in technicolor.

But the following week, the smiles will drop from the faces of the law, the controls will snap back into place with a vengeance, and you’ll once more be unable to get ready public transit from point A to point B. The RIDE programs will stop a lot of entertainment seekers from having more than one beverage, and smokers will try desperately to find somewhere they can still indulge their (legal) vice.

You don’t get to have a clean, politically correct, easily controlled society and still call yourself a ‘Music City.’

(originally published Feb 2016 – bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/roxanne-tellier-music-city-my-ass/)

 

Last One Out, Turn Off the Lights


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No shit, Sherlock.

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

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

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

Bits and Pieces ….

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

leMeow new single ….

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

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

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

 

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

 

Canadian ThanksGiving 2015


Canadian thanksgivingI love that our Canadian Thanksgiving is in October, a cold, clear breathing space before the run up to winter and it’s festivities.

I hate that companies like Sears try to ramp up their sales by aping America, calling upon a “Canadian Black Friday” to stimulate shoppers, and oh, by the way … Christmas is coming! Start spending now!

My stars … I haven’t even ignored Halloween yet!

Speaking of scary stuff, this holiday weekend marks the beginning of advanced voting for our October 19th election. The turnout has been fantastic; Friday’s advanced polls were up 26% over normal. It took a lot for Canadians to get off their duffs and care about who will steer Canada through the next four years. But it’s happened, and no matter which party is chosen, it’s great to see our nation galvanized.

I’m grateful for a lot of things, including those people who have raised their voices, be it in song or print, to help everyone understand the issues our country is facing. Not all voices or writers are equal in talent, but everyone who’s spoken their mind speaks from the heart.

(I also find it a little odd that no songs seem to have emerged savaging Trudeau or Mulcair. Hmmmm …)

http://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/nsfw-more-anti-harper-songs-from-canadian-musicians

i want a CanadaI hate that I’ve seen and heard, on Facebook and in person, some of the most vicious and racist rhetoric I’ve ever encountered, during discussions on the niqab, and its apparent potential to obliterate Canadian democracy. I’m not gonna insult anyone by pretending that we’re afraid of that little bit of cloth. Of course, it’s the fear that, under that cloth, there is an ISIS warrior with a gun or a bomb, or some way to hurt our fragile flesh. But it’s never happened here. And it sure as hell is happening over there, which is why the refugees are running to safety. Making it all about the niqab has given the government license to sweep our compassion under the rug, and made it permissible for us to cast aside that image of 3 year old Alan, the little boy whose crumpled body washed up on a beach, in favour of demonizing those fleeing bombs and torture.

family reunion aug 2015I’m grateful for my family, all of ‘em, even the crazy ones (and we have our share, thank heavens!) I like that we encourage each other, touch base for no reason, and somehow manage to stay connected, despite the miles that separate us. I’m grateful for the many ways we can keep in touch, be it by phone, post, or internet.

I hate that miles separate us. Growing up in Montreal, my extended family would gather each week at one of the family’s homes, and we’d share a meal and good times together. Today, we’re all scattered across this great land, and seem to only physically reconvene in times of stress. But our loyalty, formed by years of forced conviviality … I’m kidding! I love you all!

crazy minion friendsI’m grateful for my friends, all of ‘em, even the crazy ones … maybe especially the crazy ones. Some I’ve known for decades, some I’ve met only recently, but with each encounter, my capacity to know and love the goodness that lies within people grows.

I hate that I’ve lost family and friends along the way, some to death, but many more to differing views on life. I’ve always believed that we don’t really change as we age – we just become more adamant about our beliefs. What we’ve lived through shapes us, for good or ill. Some maintain the child in their heart, others let her die.

its okay to change your opinionI am grateful that I’m still able to appreciate art, both new and old. I hope I never close my mind to ‘what the kids are up to,’ in any sphere, be it artistic, technical or social. Getting older causes some people to fear youth … something about their energy and vigor can feel threatening and dangerous. But the kids are our future.

I hate that so many in business, politics, and yes, the arts, cling to out-dated, outmoded, and obsolete business practices and theories, despite advances made and being made in every field. I’m not saying, “jump on every bandwagon,” but I am saying that continuing to sell buggy whips long after the horse is gone says more about you than your customers/voters.

I am grateful for the growing number of commercial, big buck comedy/news shows available. There are those who say, “I’d never get my news from a comedy show.” But you are, dear .. it’s called FOX News. Meanwhile, the Daily Show continues with new host Trevor Noah, I’m becoming increasingly respectful of Larry Wilmore’s work on The Nightly, and the best reason to watch the Tonight Show is the rapier wit of Stephen Colbert. And if you are not watching the incredibly well researched and up to the minute investigative journalism cut fine by humour of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which is available free of charge every Monday on YouTube … shame on you.

I hate that the conservative mind seems unable to understand humour, or at least seems unable to express humour in a way that lacks pomposity. There’s no self-awareness. Oh, you’ve got your Larry the Cable Guy, and Jeff Foxworthy, but guys like that tend to poke fun at people like themselves, not social issues or politics. Their humour begins and ends in easy targets. Maybe the answer lies in the reality that choosing any artistic pursuit puts you squarely against the principles most conservatives hold dear; you’ll probably work harder and yet make less money than your friends who chose a more conventional life course. Who knows? I just know that a preponderance of fart, racist, and sexist jokes, with an emphasis on crudeness and personal entitlement, doesn’t turn my or most liberal’s crank.

free speech conditions applyI am grateful that I can speak my mind, in person or on social media, and, at least for now, do so freely.

I hate that our world grows ever more fearful, causing those who DO know what’s going on, to be silenced by commercial interests.

(please note: the clip below is definitely not safe for work (NSFW.)

http://anonhq.com/british-reporter-absolutely-loses-his-temper-and-tells-us-the-real-news/

stupid famous peopleBut most of all, I am so grateful I’m not a Kardasian, even an honorary one, despite my long, black hair.

And I hate that we’ve put a lot of unworthy people on social pedestals for very little reason.

Get your turkey on, fellow babies! Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian peeps!

canadian-thanksgiving-meme-2

first published Oct 11/2015: https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/10/11/roxanne-tellier-love-ithate-it-thanks-giving-2015/