Who’s A Clever Boots Then? Bueller? Anybody?


it’s always weird when you’re recovering from being really sick. I’ve just come out of two weeks of a knocked down, dragged out, coughing and snorting extravaganza that left me gasping for breath, and wishing I’d bought shares in Kleenex.

charlie brown teacher soundWhen you’re that sick, when you spend less hours ambulatory and/or awake than you do face down on the futon, you watch the swirl of madness that we call politics with a jaundiced eye;  you know it matters, very, very much who is elected to lead the country, but they all sound like Charlie Brown‘s teacher, and look more like distorted monsters from another planet than they do potential leaders.

It’s all sound and fury, indicating nothing, whether it’s on this side of the border, or the other. I am losing patience with the demands on my mind and equanimity..

It’s exhausting. And so unsatisfying. I don’t’ think anyone has ever aspired to spending their days picking the lint out of Trump’s lying navel and yet that’s where much of North America finds ourselves most days after more than two years of living under this constant demand for our attention while his government continues their assault on common decency.

The other day I was cruising around you tube and I came across a clip from the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. It was a really interesting, intriguing and complicated thought piece .. about six minutes long, and rife with those little tidbits of ideas that I so love, the ones that can be chewed over and dissected, the sort of thing that is so beloved by those who can’t wait to get their teeth into something juicily debatable.

And the piece was from two years ago. It was from a time, that now seems like ancient history, when intelligent people could actually revel in taking a moment to consider, debate, and rationally come to a conclusion on an intricate or ethically debatable issue, that was not about current events but rather something beyond this minute’s absorption, without the whole thing dissolving into a screaming, spit-drenched, fit of rage and blather. There was no screaming at all, in fact, and it felt like heaven.

trump painting

Two years ago,  before Trump was all we saw or heard, 24/7, ad nausea …  Were we really that much smarter, that much more rounded, that very much more  different? Do you remember? Because I believe I miss those days, before all of the air was sucked out of all of the rooms by the gassiest and yet most vacuous windbag in American history.

Why are we now expected to continuously give a madman’s tweets and spastic actions the same thought, consequence and weight as those from more measured actors? At what point did Fox News’ pretense of a ‘fair and balanced’ level playing field of broadcast disinformation devolve into  the madness of everyone having to attempt to understand, parse, and defend the indefensible?

If it appears that the overall intelligence quotient of North America has been dropping like a stone since Trump’s election, the good news/bad news is that the planet has, in fact, been moving in that direction for decades.

The most pessimistic explanation as to why humans seem to be becoming less intelligent is that we have effectively reached our intellectual peak. Between the 1930s and 1980s, the average IQ score in the US rose by three points and in post-war Japan and Denmark, test scores also increased significantly – a trend known as the ‘Flynn effect’. This increase in intelligence was due to improved nutrition and living conditions – as well as better education – says James Flynn of the University of Otago, after whom the effect is named.

Westerns have lost 14 IQ points on average since the Victorian age, according to a study published by the University of Amsterdam last year. Jan te Nijenhuis thinks this could be because intelligent women tend to have less children than women who are not as clever.”  (ignorant people Carlin. Jpg)

So, basically … idiocracy.

But is this what we want, brothers and sisters, is this the world we yearn for, a world where being uneducated, uninformed, and/or unintelligent is the norm rather than the exception?

It would seem to be so, or that would apparently be the opinion of our cable newcasters, because, when given the options of all things cable news could focus on this week, ten hours were dedicated to discussing Roseanne‘s racist tweets and subsequent firing, while the new info on Puerto Rico, with the report that there were 4600 more deaths than was originally determined, occupied air space for only 1/2 an hour.

Priorities.

I find the skewing of truth, and the prevalence of disinformation, to be the hardest things about living in the time of the Mad King. Well, that and the complete reluctance of the adults in the room to reign in the many tendrils of his dictatorship.

trump vulgar starter packThe extraordinary thing is that there was a time when Americans prided themselves on their intelligence. The founding of theie nation, in fact, rested upon a well-read citizenry, who could understand the foundations of democracy, and accept that their progress as a sovereign nation hinged on an understanding of how to achieve independence from the British government.

Today, less than a quarter of American students are proficient in civics and only 12 percent are proficient in U.S. history. It would seem that the American people get both the government, AND the education, they deserve.

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” – Thomas Jefferson

In 2018, America is suffering under the heavy thumb of a patently unfit US president with zero moral compass and questionable intellect. In these times we have to be careful about what we choose to accept.

idiocracy todayWe need to take his cast of crazies with a massive dose of salt, and understand that, although they seem to be winning the day with their soup of dishonesty, criminality and immorality, their adroit sidestepping of truth and reality is wickedly clever, but always disingenuous. Our appreciation of low cunning should always be from a remove.

 

” Let me be clear as I can be: In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real or telling it like it is. It’s not challenging political correctness… that’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.

When our leaders express a disdain for facts, when they’re not held accountable for repeating falsehoods and just making stuff up, when actual experts are dismissed as elitists, then we’ve got a problem.” Barack Obama, May 2018

 

 

 

 

 

HEY! Give Me Back My Hour!


Happy 100th birthday to a really dumb concept.

We can thank the railroad companies of the world for the entire idea of time zones, which were basically established in the late 19th century in order to get the trains to run on some sort of consistent time. Prior to that, people just looked up at the sun to know what time it was. And at night, it was dark, so they didn’t need much more than a vague idea of the time. railroad workers. jpg

First time zones, and then along came the concept of standard time, and suddenly we needed alarm clocks in order to get to school or work Oh yeah, the Industrial Age was a slave driver.

And here’s the thing – the railroads were such an enormous economic engine, all around the planet, that the replacement of sun time with standard time was enacted with no legislative backing, and very little public resistance.

daylight savingWhen it came time to mess around with the time zones we’d landed up with, proponents of a ‘daylight saving’ bank pushed those who believed moving our clocks ahead by an hour during the months with the most sunshine, would reduce energy consumption and encourage people to get out and do things outdoors.

Well, they were partly right.

Moving the clocks ahead DID influence our behaviour. When the days are longer, later sunsets dramatically increase participation in after school sports programs, and increase paid attendance at pro sports events. Golf ball sales in 1918 increased by 20 percent. In fact, the entire golf industry was well served by daylight saving, with each DST month worth mega millions in additional sales and greens fees.

But energy savings? Not so much. In fact, studies have proven that North Americans use more domestic electricity when they are in daylight saving mode than when they are out. And, yes, they’re going to the park at night, but they’re driving there, so there’s no decrease in gasoline consumption.

daylight saving NativeWe also didn’t have a lot of info, back then, on what messing around with our brain’s sense of time could do, and how changes impacting our sleep could do real harm to our society. We certainly know a lot more about that now.

It was on March 18, 1918 that American President Woodrow Wilson signed the Calder Act, requiring Americans to set their clocks to standard time. And less than two weeks later, on March 31, 1918, the nation’s first experiment with daylight saving began.

And was repealed within a year.

However, many of the larger American cities, including New York City, were setting their own daylight saving policies, apparently without requiring or asking permission of their government to do so. In 1920, it appears that it was the Chamber of Commerce that decided these matters.

How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm, after they’ve seen an increase in sales of everything from golf balls to summer fashion? By 1965, pretty much all of the states had a daylight saving program in effect. And have continued to practice that ‘savings’ ever since.

” There was a time US municipalities could choose whether or not to observe daylight saving. Then, as technology integrated different local economies, differing time changes and zones caused chaos and confusion. In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which required whole states to fully commit to daylight saving.

States have the option of opting out, so long as the whole state stays on the same time. Arizona and Hawaii, for instance, don’t observe daylight saving. Florida is doing something different, in wishing to be on DST permanently, which requires congressional approval.”

Florida lawmakers are considering a “Sunshine Protection Act,” which would make daylight saving a year round reality.

By contrast, consider an experiment done in Queensland, Australia. After a three year trial of pushing their clocks ahead one hour during the summer months, the people had a referendum on the question, “Are you in favour of daylight savings?”

While there were many who argued that later daylight hours in the summer would be beneficial for both economic and public health, in the end the voters narrowly chose to abandon the practice, 54.5% to 45.5%.

The plain truth about daylight saving is that it was never about energy savings, health, or giving farmers an extra hour of light to work the farm.

It was always about corporations lobbying to sell more stuff. There are no energy savings. But we spend more money in those long summer evenings. The big winners during daylight saving are the candy lobby, the barbecue lobby, and the golf ball lobby.

Fore!

Meanwhile, sleep deprivation experiments run on healthy people prove that less sleep leads to slower reaction times and an inability to handle tasks that require concentration.

“There’s some literature showing that there are increases in accidents, workplace, motor-vehicle accidents, and the severity of them is greater following the time change. And there research showing that even a small amount of sleep restriction, an hour or two, can have an impact on your ability to drive, and things like that. “

There’s a movement going on that wants to end the daylight saving programs all over the U.S. Lives are a lot more flexible now, and we tend to set our own schedules, morphing the hours we spend at work and play to fit what works for ourselves and our particular group of friends. We don’t do ‘event TV,’ anymore, we watch it when we feel like it. Our world is 24/7.

So, if we are no longer slaves to ‘official time,’ why change it twice a year? The Monday after the clock springs forward is notorious for having more car accidents, heart attacks, and the general grumpiness of sleepy people. Time to stop that artificial construct, and maybe save a few pedestrians lives …

 

 

 

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Being apolitical, not having the need to follow the politics of your own country and others, is a privilege. It may not seem so, but the very fact that your life and identity does not hinge on the whims and laws of those in power, is a very big privilege denied to many.

Ai WeiWei, a Chinese artist and political activist, has lead an interesting life, most often at odds with authorities. His latest project is the documentary, Human Flow.

Human Flow, an epic film journey led by the internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei, gives a powerful visual expression to this massive human migration. The documentary elucidates both the staggering scale of the refugee crisis and its profoundly personal human impact.”

The trailer images made me weep. Even as countries harden their borders and hearts, the stream of refugees continues. This film should upset you, and make you think. It is only by the grace of your current place and status that you are not one of those fleeing,

 

 

 

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seagulls pulling my girls Wilhelm photography

And now, a delightful palate cleanser! I just discovered this wildly entertaining family, lead by John Wilhelm, an IT Director at a Swiss University.

 

pregnant mama john-wilhelm

The family – mother, father, three daughters and a son – are the subjects of Wilhelm’s surreal and imaginative photo manipulations.

 

beaver child john-wilhelm

It is a world of fantasy and imagination …

 

 

mouse trap john-wilhelm

“Due to the fact that it’s more an obsession than plain passion I call myself a photoholic.” John Wilhelm.

 

Discover more of his wonderful art on Facebook at tuasmalou.ch, or visit his website for even more amazing images!   http://www.johnwilhelm.ch/

 

The Kids Are Alright


My kids are Gen Xers, the ‘middle child’ of generations. Praise the lawd and hope the creek don’t rise, they’re safely ensconced in solid careers. They’re good people, with good hearts and a firm grasp of reality, if at times, perhaps a little jaded from growing up in this society and as our kids.

millennials who why

The grandkids – well, that’s another story, yet to be written. Caught between two larger generations, the Gen Xers and the Boomers. the Millennials are poised to officially take over as the major demographic in North America in 2019, surpassing Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation.

And I couldn’t be happier.

It is time to marvel at how capable, thoughtful, media savvy, and socially conscious most of them are. It’s also time to be aware of what kind of country and world we want to live in, as, when this generation takes the reins, they will eventually becomes ‘the boss of us’ AND of our own kids, their parents.

Too many people of my age and slightly older still direct the course our governments have followed for decades. In an allegiance to slash and burn capitalism, and an inability to cede power, we are seeing a spastic, greedy final grasping at mining the best our countries have to offer in an effort to line their own pockets. It’s as though the physical siphoning away of these riches invigorates them like an infusion of virgin blood. That group of supposed fiscal conservatives have little consideration of the current or future environmental or financial welfare of the real inheritors of our countries – the kids.

Or in the case of America, of the fate of most of their citizens. The decisions made by the current government reward the wealthiest of the people, at the expense of the social safety net.

child will burn down the villageWe can plan for our futures, and keep our fingers crossed that we get from cradle to grave without too many inconveniences, but we have to acknowledge the truth – the quo rarely stays statused.

Stuff happens. People get sick, and people get old. Some will lay down their lives for their countries, while others will never have the wherewithal to become productive members of society. No one can really plan for the catastrophic effects of extreme social or climate change, but there are towns, cities, and countries coping with it anyway. Natural disasters and human frailties take lives, and leave calamitous after-effects.

This is the core of community, the reality of a society that places it’s trust and bets it’s life that everyone in the community will work together for the common good, that the strong will lift up the weak, and that every human being has equal rights.

tax cut bybacksThat kind of thinking seems foreign and weak to those that have made their fortunes, and risen to power, with a dog eat dog attitude that screams, “ME FIRST! ME ALWAYS!”

But the Millennials have grown up watching this lascivious corporate greed and disregard for the well being of others. They have looked on as the ruling class redefines what we call ‘normal‘ – and they strongly disagree.

These Millennials simply don’t have the moral apathy of their elders. They are becoming fully fledged adults,  at a time in which the world has never appeared more off-balance, and they refuse to acquiesce to the attitudes of those that made it that way.

They’ve watched as we, their elders and supposed advisers, snidely point to the law breaking, insanity and inanities of the left and right and tear each other apart politically, and they have seen that a lack of diplomacy and the inability to negotiate, in politics or in business, endangers all citizens, not just those who will profit from posturing and aggression.

They’ve watched as political leaders plop their nuclear insecurities onto the war table, and wondered why these ammosexuals cannot see that the use of nuclear weapons would kill millions of their enemies, but also slaughter their own people.

trump crueltyThey’ve watched in disbelief as America’s president, with all of the class of a cornered rabid dog, exhibits a cruelty on a Grand Guignol scale, with no perceived opponent too big or too small to publicly crush and humiliate. He exhibits not a shred of compassion, no ability to feel or even acknowledge the pain of others, and considers his brutish, meaningless, contempt and cruelty for all of his subjects to be a feature, not a bug, of his reign.

Incompetent, ignorant, and unable to comprehend his own ineptitude, he and his equally vile henchmen have begun the normalization of social instability, as psychological distress, along with housing, medical, and food insecurity, ramps up to a fever pitch.

And the kids have been watching.

They have watched as their natural inheritance has been squandered and poisoned in service to those too married to greed to acknowledge their own incompetence and complete abdication of sanity, morality and ethics.

They have watched as we have asked them to consider it ‘normal‘ that a president of the United States would advocate the death penalty for those who produce or sell opioids. A president who casually dismisses countries with a largely black population as ‘shitholes, and who believes that the police system should violate due process whenever due process is inconvenient. A president who tells police officers to unleash their own brutality on prisoners, guilty or not.

They have watched as the president of the United States demands complete fealty, as he makes sweeping decisions of national consequence that he later upends and denies ever having said, all the while assuring his citizens that he never lies and must be trusted unconditionally.

A president who, despite already exhibiting signs of dementia with a little over a year in office under his belt, muses aloud about the possibility of extending his term in office to ‘unlimited.’

sessions justiceThey’ve watched as this normalization of the abnormal extends to what would appear to be treason – an allegiance to a foreign power – even as mounting and incontrovertible evidence proves that Russia is attacking American democracy. His refusal to impose sanctions nearly unanimously agreed upon by the House and Senate – hell, his refusal to so much as mildly rebuke the Russian intrusions – point to a president that is severely compromised, and should be removed from power.

They have watched as everything that we claimed to believe and to pledge allegiance to is overturned… and they have judged us, and found us wanting. And they are right. We seem to have caved to those who seek loopholes that would pervert the rules of law, and unbalance the scales in the hands of Justice. They cannot, and will not, live in that world. We didn’t raise them to live in that world. And now they’re holding us to what we promised them.

More than any previous generation, the Millennials have been taught to not see colour, religion or gender. They clearly see through the hysteria and misinformation the bigots and misogynists bray, and are politically engaged beyond the standards of our own youth. We led them to believe that they were capable, and nurtured their interests and abilities. They are doing what we taught them to do on the playground, in their class rooms; they are paying attention, and talking and listening to each other.

And ‘dying at the hands of a psychologically wounded fellow student ‘ was not on any to-do list that we gave them.

millenials voteIn the last election, 35% of Americans were willfully blind to the lack of ethics and morality, never mind good business practices, that were so evident, and they gleefully placed their X next to Trump’s name.

But this year, millions of Millennials will be eligible to vote.

And they’ve been watching us.

 

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a late addition .. I do love Randy Rainbow! 😉

 

Gene-y In A Bottle


astrology chartHow gullible are consumers? Good marketing seems able to sell us anything, up to and including a president. So, I’d say we’re pretty darn gullible.

The first time I saw commercials for companies that would test people’s DNA … for a hefty price, of course … I laughed out loud. It was clear from the start that this testing was essentially the 21st century equivalent of having your astrological chart done; fun, something to giggle about with friends, a fad that would come and go with varying success over the decades.

I grew up knowing that I’m French and American on my dad’s side, and Irish and British on my mum’s side. My sense of who I am, and who my people are, came from learning the language, foods and customs of these groups, and I have a certain allegiance to all of them. If a DNA test were to show that I’m actually 98% Italian, I’d eat a little more pasta – as if that’s possible! – but it’s not going to change who I am, where I came from, or how I feel about my family. Nurture over nature if you will. I’m gonna dance with the one that brung me.

I’m not saying that DNA testing is a game .. it has it’s place in science, in research, and in the courts. However, attempting to define your place in the world by discovering where your DNA may have been at different moments in time? that’s where the science falls down.

FamilyTreeDNA, 23and Me, Ancestry, MyHeritage… even National Geographic is getting into the act. The trouble is, every company is dependent on the data sets they’re already decided upon, and the algorithms which change based on new information prioritized by the company.

Think of this testing as akin to the blood tests your doctor orders; he decides that the lab will check for certain substances or changes in your blood by asking them to look for those subsets. If he has not asked, for instance, that your blood be checked for anemia, it’s not likely that they’ll either test for that, or find it.

Same with these DNA kits. The companies are looking for certain data subsets of which they are already aware. They are basing what they find on what they have previously found.

So, for instance, if a lot of their customers have a set of genetic markers indicating that their ancestors came from Scandinavian countries, then a lot of the incoming tests will miraculously find a whole lot of distant cousins arriving in the next week’s mail. The companies may be using as few as 115 data sets to define the genetic markers they’re searching for in new samples.

There is no one specific gene that denotes your ancestors exact heritage. It’s all subsets, billions of sets of genetic markers that might indicate where your ancestors were at some point in time. And even within your own biological family, not everyone will have inherited the exact same markers .. which is why testing of identical twins, triplets, etc with identical DNA, may still show different results.

The science is not inherently bad, it’s inherently imperfect. We want to see the testing as a sort of magic, that will tell us where our ancestors came from, and what that means to us in the present. But unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely to bear much resemblance to reality.

My husband thought it would be fun to buy me a kit for my birthday, since I had commented on the commercials that were ubiquitous last year in the months leading up to the holidays. I received it in December, and got my sample result this week.

In order to believe the results they’ve sent me, I’d have to accept that my dad’s mum had a “Bridges of Madison County” encounter prior to his birth, because it seems that the Tellier family’s five hundred year stint in France didn’t make the subset marker cut.

But the data markers used in this testing found that I am 53.5% Irish, Scottish and Welsh, 34.7% Scandinavian, 10.6% Sardinian, and 1.2% Nigerian.

swedish chefThis might explain why I hanker to sing the Swedish Chef blues. Bork Bork Bork!

It’s immaterial, anyway. It’s a fun pastime, something to make you smile, and maybe marvel at the way we’re all interconnected, at least on a genetic level. There was a viral video going around a year or so ago, that showed people of all ages, creeds and colours having their DNA tested, and discovering that they had things in common with people they would never have encountered were it not for the making of the video. Finding out that we have more in common with each other than we know … seems a little sad that some people have to see a DNA test’s results before they can ‘get’ that.

dna testing a racist. jpg

It’s life. It’s all of us being busy spreading our genes all over the planet, every where and all the time. And all of us being, despite how it may appear at the outside, very much the same as each other on the inside.

But there is a good use for DNA testing. DNA tests can be used for testing if you carry certain diseases, especially those that you might not want to unwittingly pass on to your own children.

genetic testingCaveat here, though, is that having a gene marker for a disease does not 100% confirm that you will get that disease, only that you are more likely to do so than others without that marker. You are at risk, but other factors – age, diet, exercise, medications, lifestyle choices – may have a stronger impact on whether or not you’ll succumb to the disease.

I’d feel a lot better if the DNA testing kits on the market which claim to reveal your heritage were labelled truthfully – as entertainment. While they might occasionally hit on a set of data subsets that matches with a customer’s, overall, their ‘science’ is about as scientific as predicting the weather by chicken entrails.

I’m filing my test results with the astrological chart my mum bought for me when I was 12, and my books on numerology and tarot. It’s all fun stuff, but I’m not taking any of it to the bank.

 

Touring Murmuration Nation with Emily Saliers


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

When Babies and Bath Water Fly


And once again, we’re having to dodge the flying babies and bathwater. Oh my, dear readers, when will we learn to take a collective deep breath before opining on the veracity and morality of what we read on social media?

The cause célèbre of the last several weeks has been the rash of sexual harassment/attack accusations being launched at some very powerful people. This is not a new thing, but it is a good thing, in how it is being conducted. For too long, pretty much every accusation put forward by a woman against a powerful man has simply been met with denial.

Anita Hill Clarence Thomas TIMEEven in the cases that were adjudicated in the courts, the female accuser would most often be slandered and humiliated, and the powerful male would walk away, legally unimpeded.

Not true, you say? Well golly gosh gee, why don’t you ask Anita Hill how she thinks the 1991 Clarence Thomas trial turned out? Pretty sure he wound up on the Supreme Court, and she wound up being condemned as a liar, despite there being four other female witnesses ready to testify, but never called.

jian ghomeshiOr cast your mind back to the 2016 Jian Ghomeshi trial. Like Miramax‘s Harvey Weinstein, Ghomeshi’s penchant for sexual harassment was legendary, an ‘open secret’ to most women in the Toronto media biz. Still, Ghomeshi walked, although his reputation was badly smeared.

But now, in the final months of 2017, a flood of accusations against bad actors in the entertainment, corporate and political world has been unleashed. It would be business as usual, except that this time around, we’re not waiting for the accusers to have their day in court. Instead, we’re actually believing the women who’ve come forward.

Since the first explosive charges against Weinstein, the hits have kept coming against other powerful men … this is, without a doubt, the biggest national conversation on sexual harassment since the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas battle of the early ’90s.

Kevin Spacey, James Toback, Ben Affleck, Chris Sovino, Roy Price and then NO! not Mark Halperin! No! Not Matt Lauer! NO!!  Not Louis CK! Oh it’s just all too much!

What’s a liberal to do?

And then, the lowest blow of all … Senator Al Franken. Not Al Franken! This one had to be the worst accusation of all. Franken has been the only bright light worth watching or rooting for in the congressional vetting of Trump’s horrible string of nominees, each more disgusting, unqualified, and oblivious than the next.

Within hours of the Franken Fracas, the liberals on social media had staked out their martyr’s place, and had decided that Franken would have to take up residence on the cross, post haste.

Wisely, the Senator has expressed concern for how these events have been remembered and described, and he has demanded that a full Senate Ethics Committee investigation be launched .. upon himself.

What does the Senator know that his critics do not?

franken and tweeden USOI will not take a side on the LeeAnn Tweeden/Al Franken situation; there are simply too many reports, photos and timelines around the event to consider it anything but suspect.

I will say this, though – if it turns out that Tweeden’s accusations were more politically motivated than deeply felt, she will have done an incredible disservice to the brave women who are actually coming forward, at great emotional cost to themselves, against powerful people who have been abusing their power.

And there is absolutely no moral equivalency between Franken’s actions, and the criminal intent and pedophilia of Roy Moore. Franken’s crimes seem to have been a taste for low comedy and an over-abundance of Midwestern bonhomie. A prank, faked “boob grab” photo simply does not rise to the level of assault. Let’s not whinge on about slut-shaming and victim blaming if the reality is that the accusers are actually hard-core political operatives. The investigation will tell us which way that wind actually blows.

salem witch trialsI don’t care how ‘woke’ you are, it’s time to take it down a notch, because right now, this is all starting to look and sound a lot like the Salem Witch trials .. a whole lot of hysteria, self-flagellation, and possibly politically motivated accusations. And when it’s over .. just a lot of red, shamed faces, and the dead bodies of the innocent to show for it all.

Yes, we need to believe women. No, all offenses are not equal. You don’t get to be more offended than a victim. I get it .. we’re all giggly because wow .. finally! The bad guys are getting outed! But be careful what you wish for – the furor will die down, and Trump will still be president. That should tell you more than any other thing you read.

Here’s the thing, though …

trump grab em by the pussyThere have always been bad people accused of bad actions who simply chose to deny the claims. Trump did it last year during his run for President. Roy Moore is doing it now. Men like those are the sort that will continue to deny what they have done, even in the face of audio and video evidence.

(this just in … President Donald Trump now claims that the Access Hollywood tape on which he boasted of sexually assaulting women may not be genuine, according to a report in The New York Times. According to the Times, the president told a senator earlier this year that the tape was not genuine and repeated the claim to an adviser recently.)

The rich and powerful will always try to keep their victims powerless. Trump is in the process of attempting to rewrite history, and to rig the legal system in his, and other abusers, favour.

” The clearest example came in March. It received little coverage at the time. President Donald Trump reversed an Obama-era order that forbid federal contractors from keeping secret sexual harassment and discrimination cases.

The 2014 rule prohibited these companies, which employ about 26 million people, from forcing workers to resolve complaints through arbitration, an increasingly common method businesses use to settle disputes out of the public eye.” Huffington Post

So we’re in an interesting position, we liberal thinkers. On the one hand, we need to keep the pressure on, believing the courageous women who come forward with statements of abuse, and demanding justice; on the other hand, we have to beware of those who will subvert these times, and force us to throw our own best people under the bus.

We cannot play into the Republican playbook of deflect, deflect, deny, deflect. We have to be better than that. Right now, Roy Moore could be found with a dead 14 year old’s body in his trunk and he’d deny it. Not us liberals … we’d lead the blood hounds right to the trunk.

torches_and_pitchforksIt ain’t a level playing field. Don’t pretend that it is.

 

It’s asking a lot of us, emotionally. Perhaps this might be the time when we take a deep breath, and wait for a little more information before we take to the ‘streets’ of social media with our torches and pitchforks.

 

Thoughts on a Wintry Day


It’s Sunday. Column day. And I’ve got …nothing. i hate writing

 

It’s not that I’m ‘blocked.’ No, I can think of a million things to say, and even good ways to say them.

No, the problem is that there’s just too much to think about, in a world gone mad, in a world that’s mutating at warp speed, that requires not only the time and sense to read a good portion of the information and opinions and news and interesting tidbits, but to put it together in some sort of reasonable and understandable form.

There’s just so much going on, so much coming at us from all directions, too many unthinkable actions and angry words, too many people we once looked up to, dying, or worse still, living, but being found to have acted in ways that taint our respect for their life’s work.

We’re living in a time when we not only have to deal with the sins of bad actions and reprehensible people, we also have to juggle the idea of impending death by climate or nuclear war. And we are powerless. We cannot stop this runaway train.

dear diaryLuckily, it is not up to me or to you to figure out the answer to every trouble that lies before us. But I firmly contend that there are solutions for every problem. If we cannot find the answer, it’s not that there is no answer, it’s that the right person has not happened along with the missing piece of the puzzle. I believe that, because I have seen far too many people give up on a struggle without understanding that they are not always the owner of the solution. In fact, that sort of stance inevitably leads to bruised egos, and nothing of any substance being done about the dilemma.

It’s like we used to say when I worked in offices, “when you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember your original intent was to drain the swamp.” (Damn! and I wasn’t gonna talk about politics this week!)

lizard brainToo much news, too many words, too many ideas. And too many people willing to tell us how we should interpret each of them. And when your brain hurts from trying to process everything going on around you, too easy to make decisions and take actions that stem from that part of our brain that never evolved past the lizard stage.

There are a couple of reasons why I, and so many others, are sometimes troubled by all of the concepts we’re asked to parse on any given day. One is our confirmation bias;  that’s “the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses.” (thanks, wiki)

That’s one of the reasons we so often pass on memes that are untrue, but that tickle our funnybone, or inflame our angry elbow, or some such nonsense. In fact, if you see a meme that resonates so strongly that your immediate impulse is to ‘share’ it with everyone you know … it’s more than likely ‘fake news,’ and the work of paid trolls.

fake news

These memes, often rife with misspellings and grammatical errors, reach into our psyches and pull out the gnarled racist, misogynistic, and biased bits that people normally tend to hide from others.

But as soon as you share that meme … we know what and who you are.

 

The other reason why we can sometimes shy away from news that bothers us is our tendency to have a blind loyalty to those we admire. Whether those people are famous, or powerful, or our relatives, we find it hard to believe that news of their committing crimes could possibly be true, not just because we feel a bond with them, but because .. what does that say about us?

With the #MeToo campaign in full swing, and the accusations of horrible sexual harassment and assaults buzzing around, not just Hollywood and Washington, but every work place imaginable, half of the planet has to look at the other half of the planet and ask:

“How did this go on for so long? Why do so many people with even the most miniscule amounts of power think it’s okay to take what they want, sexually and emotionally, from those who cannot protect themselves, physically, mentally, or financially? And why do I still love/worship/respect the perpetrator of acts that morally sicken me?”

Is this mindshift something we can work forward from, or a distraction from the ‘business as usual’ mode that has pervaded all workplaces for eons? Do we speak the truth and shame the devil(s), or will we have a spate of accusations and reprisals, and then ignore the next wave of voices that ask for retribution?

rapepreventionI don’t know. I would like to think that society has evolved  enough to realize that there is nothing equitable about having half of the planet essentially living in a chronic state of fear that their bodies will be used by anyone who wants to take it. But then again, I’d think that Americans would be smart enough to realize that gun control would protect them from being killed by mentally ill mass murderers.

But what do I know, eh?

I’d also like to believe that it is possible for men to believe women when they speak, not because they have an army of people willing to confirm that they’re speaking the truth, but because they easily swallow the most moronic bullshit that flows out of the mouths of male politicians, preachers, and right wing newscasters.

Seems like the only way a woman is believed, no matter how impeccable her character and credentials may be, is if a male corroborates her statements. And that’s just heartbreaking.

So yeah, it’s column day, and I’ve got nothing. Nothing but a stew of thoughts and sadness at the state of our world, where there’s always a war going on somewhere, but our response is to lay wreaths at the cenotaphs honouring those who died in them, while we hold our breaths as a senile old man taunts a demented young man with a twitchy bombing finger on Twitter, and at least 2300 Canadian veterans are homeless and living on the street. This world, where babies in Yemen starve to death so that trillionaires in Saudi Arabia can amass more wealth and power, and where an  accused pedophile can take a seat in the U.S. Senate. A world where some of the wealthiest people in North America are about to enact new taxation to enrich themselves and their buddies to even more obscene levels, while they cut funds to women, children, the helpless and vulnerable, and veterans.

north-korea-bomb

I got nothing.

 

 

 

Power Corrupts


Not feeling quite myself these days – it’s like there’s a flu going round. Some sort of energy-sapping, soul-sucking, misery-laden, bone-crushing, muscle-rending miasma, that’s keeping a lot of us from feeling our best, or even very good.

Oh that’s right; Trump is still president. There’s your trouble. Or at least, one steaming pile of it.

It’s almost beyond comprehension that the orange shit gibbon continues to rampage thru the White House halls, especially considering how dangerous his demented ravings are to the planet. Not content with merely twitter goosing the perpetually paranoid North Korean dictator, he thought he’d start another pissing match with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Way to honour your presidential oath to protect and defend mushroom cloudthe constitution .. or the people. The Nuclear Clock edges closer to midnight, and what we’re hoping is dawn’s early light might just be the glare off a pyrocumulus mushroom shaped cloud.

This TrumpPlague is virulent, and it’s debilitating effects are immediate. You see it’s incapacitating effects most evident amongst those people that feel a strong empathy for people in need, regardless of their race, sex, creed, colour, or age. But even those who like to pick and choose just who gets to receive help and support are starting to notice a pattern in TrumpLand; there’s only one entity that is worthy and/or deserving, and that is the Hairy Sunburnt Marshmallow in control, he who manages to be simultaneously all powerful and yet the only victim in any situation or crisis.

the buck stops anywhere but hereIt is a stunning example of someone who could do so much good for the deluded populace who eagerly put he and the Republican Party into power, consistently managing to stop short of ever benefiting or enriching anyone but himself. His specialty is senseless destruction in the pursuit of profit, and the ripping away of any semblance of a social safety net or security that the people may have enjoyed. His belief is that the people he rules over – no matter how young, old, vulnerable or infirm – deserve nothing unearned.

Which is pretty rich, coming from someone who’s never wanted for anything since the day of his birth.

The plain truth is that any idiot can destroy – raise their foot and demolish what others worked so hard to build, or fire a gun and kill a human it took months and years to bring into existence. It’s easy. What’s not easy is creation, and the protection and nurturing of human beings and the good that they are capable of doing.

boot on a human faceWe’ve seen evil morons force their will upon the vulnerable before. Trump’s
abuse of absolute power is nothing new .. it’s just new to those who refuse to see a pattern of abuse of power in their society.

Abuse against people of colour; immigrants, and the DACA children who have never known any other home than America; mothers who were forced to give birth to children they cannot afford to raise; women and children who have had any sort of medical aid stripped from them in a fit of pique and carelessness; football players who dare to protest racial inequality; journalists who seek to provide information and truth while government agencies conspire to spread disinformation and outright lies, and conspire to conceal their plans to manipulate gullible citizens; Puerto Rican and US Virgin Islands citizens who have the nerve to expect to be treated with the same respect as other U.S. citizens in their time of need…. it’s a constant stream of abuse against anyone who is not HIM.

The TrumpPlague is nothing new. The current wannabe dictator is not an anomaly; he conforms to a pattern of political abuse of power that has been ignored or treated as a quotidian part of North American society since the first American elite signed off on the constitution.

“America, the Empire, … imagined itself as it wanted to be, as it had claimed to be in its infancy against a cruel and despotic king in the late eighteenth century.
It reshaped itself into the rebels, not the imperial overlords.
It shaped itself as oppressed, fighting for freedom.
But America, like every nation, has its ages of psychosis. It has fits of indecision and periods of self-delusion.
Consider how presidents spoke movingly of ‘freedom from tyranny’ while personally holding hundreds of men, women and children in slavery.
Or imagine Jefferson, the Sage of Monticello, who was the father of half-Black children, at the same moment as he wrote, in his only book, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” that Black people were essentially nonhuman, a species related to the orangutan. (Does this mean that he saw himself as being into bestiality? Or did this mean he really thought his children were, well, half monkey?)
Americans, like any people, are subject to delusions.        america vietnam
….
In the grisly aftermath of a war that tore millions from the face of Asia, all to cover for the corporate exploitation of Vietnam’s bauxite and other natural resources, the imperial shock trooper, the imperial metallic death’s hand, was father to the rebel.
The were, in fact, more than related.
In truth, they were one.”

(Star Wars and the American Imagination; Mumia Abu-Jamal, 2015.)

But here’s what’s interesting: while we are attempting to make some sense of this current overriding entitlement that abuses everyone who fails to bow down to the Trump throne and proclaim undying loyalty and fealty, our attentions have been caught by something we feel we CAN have a say on, something society likes to pretend that they DO care about and always HAVE cared about, but really only gave lip service to …
the abuse of power over women.

Although we may be powerless to remove Trump from the presidency, at least we can all get behind getting incensed and excited about those who’ve been accused and tried in the public eye for sexual abuse. Right?

Oh, you’ve always been against those with any kind of power forcing themselves on women and children? You mean, while 60 women came forward to accuse Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them, but were ignored and reviled until a male journalist actually had Cosby admit in print that he’d done so? Or when you cheered on the (female) lawyer who got Jian Ghomeshi off the rape hook with her clever manipulation of his weeping victims? Or maybe it’s when serial pedophiles, like former U.S. House speaker Dennis Hastert, served just 13 months for a bank fraud conviction linked to his effort to buy off the accusations of a former student he sexually abused during his days as a high school wrestling coach. Like Al Capone, they just couldn’t get him on his real crimes.

Jeffrey-Epstein-sex-offenderOr billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, the child molesting ringleader of a sexual human trafficking ring, who was allowed to freely leave jail during the day and only come back to overnight at his Palm Beach Country jail for the mere thirteen months he served of an eighteen month sentence in 2008. Two felony counts of soliciting underage victims for sex would get the average person twenty years in federal prison. But not if you have money and power.

These instances, and many others, are why I welcome those, who now call themselves allies, entering into the discussion. Sadly, though, I can already see the future, when the charges are downgraded, the sentence is a wrist slap or commuted, and it all goes back to where it was before this small moment of ‘enlightenment.’  What has gone before tells us that somehow there will always be some devious, quasi legal, way of placing the blame not on the monster that abuses power, but on the helpless victims of the predator.

Why is that?

Women and children do not hold some mysterious power over the male penis. The real power is not inherent in the one allowing or denying open and unasked access to his or her genitals .. it is in the one doing the hiring and the firing, making decisions, controlling our work environment, and deciding how much to pay women, or even whether to treat women like humans or adversaries. It is in those who would rather take what they want, by trick if possible, by force or coercion if necessary, and then deny any culpability in the abuse.

Where’s the power, once the predator has ejaculated into whatever tunnel of love or potted plant they’ve chosen to empty their sperm within, when all they need to do is turn over and sleep, a good sleep, despite now needing to spend the rest of their lives concealing what they’ve done, from those who would make them accountable?

Is it with the ‘powerful’ victims, who then get to clean up the mess, do the ‘walk of shame’ home afterwards, and try to live with the reality that they have been treated as no more than a convenient receptacle for the lust of a powerful person who has neither the need nor desire to control their own sexual drives?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m really glad that there are many powerful people, both men and women, who are now willing to stand by the victims. But hopefully you can forgive those of us who fail to believe that the uncloaking of predators like Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, and yes … the Dear Leader Trump … will change how society will go forth from their current days of reckonings. We know how this game is played – you will forget, and they will rise again, somehow, somewhere. They are merely the figureheads, the most powerful in their fields, the ones who got caught … this time. This abuse of power goes on every day, and in every sphere of human life, from the homes where children have to be wary of their own lust driven parents or step-parents, to your local MacDonalds. It’s happening in small and large business, and in places of government … anywhere where some creep with a modicum of power uses that power to take what they are not willingly offered.

trump grabs ivankas assAnd, lord help me, I don’t see it ending anytime soon.

“Incest and other forms of prolonged sexual abuse are such profound violations that they provoke a different form of disbelief than the kind that women often face when they talk about sexual violence they have experienced; when you tell your mother you’re being raped by your father, as the author of The Incest Diary does multiple times in her adolescence, you are disbelieved not because your mother is casually misogynistic, in keeping with her culture, but because she can’t believe you and uphold her understanding of the world. Incest is a violation so profound that it breaks knowledge. In these cases we disbelieve not because we’re so inured to a world where men take sexual advantage of women that such abuse seems normal, but because we can’t conceive of a world in which what we believe is normal could be so defiled.”
(https://electricliterature.com/who-gets-to-write-about-sexual-abuse-and-what-do-we-let-them-say-928dfbd184d6)

For many, the exposure of the Cosbys, the Weinsteins and the Ailes comes as a surprise. The knee jerk reaction is to disbelieve the victims, as if this sort of abuse is an aberration, a gross accusal of wrongdoing that is impossible to fathom, given the position, power and wealth of the accused. Such disbelief speaks to a naiveté and privilege that belies the reality of what we call first world civilization.

Power, fame and wealth do not bestow intelligence, empathy or humanity. In many cases, in fact, they are diametrically opposed.

We so often hear of those that can only believe an accusation of abuse from a women if it has happened to one of their own .. their daughter, their sister, their wife. Then, and only then, is sexual assault scary and disgusting. Consider how comforting that is to those of us whom you don’t consider your ‘own’ in some fashion.

I would like to think that this depressing interval in history can be a time of revelation, a time when the abused and oppressed can tell their stories and be believed, when the realization that women are people as valuable and respected as men – indeed as equal – is accepted as fact, even if just from this day forward.

But I’m not holding my breath.

” My friend was so ready to excuse the actions of this man as normal—he was a relatively new acquaintance, I might add—that he waved me off and acted as if my extreme discomfort was negligible.

Never mind the fact that he was already doing harm, by ignoring my wishes to be left alone and making me feel vaguely unsafe during an otherwise pleasant evening. Never mind that I wasn’t asking for my friend to beat his ass (a show of magnanimity, I thought!), or that I wasn’t going so far as to scream rape or otherwise suggest that I was in danger of him sexually assaulting me right then and there (even though my spidey senses told me he certainly might, if given the chance, since “no” clearly wasn’t in this guy’s vocabulary)..”

(https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com/i-have-been-raped-by-far-nicer-men-than-you-1819412131)

i-did-try-and-f-ck-her-she-was-married-i-12715251One of the saddest things I’ve read in recent days was on my own Facebook page, in a thread where the discussion of Weinstein’s abuse of power was inevitably compared to Trump’s, with a meme that quoted Trump’s own words, spoken on that Hollywood Access tape, before … BEFORE .. the election that saw him crowned King of America.

The (American) woman who commented on the post was incensed. She could not believe that Trump had said those words – in public, on video tape, irrefutably – and had still been elected as President of the United States.

He did. He was. And he is.

Not feeling quite myself these days – it’s like there’s a flu going round. Some sort of energy-sapping, soul-sucking, misery-laden, bone-crushing, muscle-rending miasma, that’s keeping a lot of us from feeling our best, or even very good.

We’ve all got the TrumpPlague. And it may be the death of us.

 

Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Mourning Gizmo


I first wrote this column four years ago today … still missing the little geezer … some pups take your heart with them when they go …

………………………………

I freely admit that I am a crazy pet person. I love animals, respect them, honour them, and hope I understand a little of what they are unable to tell me in words. Their eyes, their little furry faces, their body language; these are the ways we humans commune with animals.

Our sweet friend, Gizmo, lost his battle with heart failure this week. A little dog, with a heart so big, his passing continues to impact on all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance.

Gizmo 2012My half Siamese cat is really having trouble mourning the loss of her pet dog. We all had to say goodbye to Gizmo on Tuesday, but Jade, for some reason, had the hardest time of us all. She sat near him, even before we went for that final appointment, staring at him, seeming to beg him to rally, one more time … Jade has never known a life without Gizmo. He was her dog. She was devastated.

After we returned from the vet, with that empty pet carrycase, Jade wound herself around my ankles, and kept close to me, demanding an explanation for the lack of ‘dog’ in her house. I cooked liver for her, a special treat. I opened a fresh tin of tuna and put it in her bowl. But nothing would assuage her pain.

I made a cup of coffee, and headed outside. She followed me, talking to me in that strange Siamese language, demanding to know … where was her friend?  And all I had was the scent of the vet’s office on my clothing; I had no comfort for her.

She found a perch in the back yard, and stayed there, for hours. Shawn and I both went out, and talked to her, trying to get her to come in, but she was inconsolable. She was sad, angry, frustrated, and possibly even more bereft than Shawn and I. She’d never known a day without that crazy dog in her life. Suddenly, for all of his interruptions into her life, he was gone. And she was not happy

People tend to fall into two camps; the ones that believe that animals have feelings, souls and interior lives, and those who think that pets are just a convenient way to pass the time, impress friends, and to show their children the “miracle of birth.”

To my mind, they are companions, in a life that will have ups and downs, but will always end with you and that pet, furry or otherwise, going nose to nose and shoulder to shoulder.  My pets know me, and love me. We communicate, even if it’s not in a way that others can understand. They share my joys, my sadness’s, and are always just a few inches away from me when I need them. Have you many friends about whom you could say the same? I’ve never thought that any sacrifices we’ve made for these wonderful creatures is too much … it’s always been such a win/win situation.

Cat-Holding-HandsWhen we take on an animal, we do so, hopefully, with a clear picture that we will not only love them when they’re cute and cuddly, but also through the awkward teens, through their middle age paunch, and slow descent into old age. It’s a lot like taking on another human being. Sadly, many pet owners don’t feel that way; they coo over the baby and toddler animal, but can’t abide the inevitable decline. Pets age so very much faster than we do, and we, as a species that venerates youth and abhors the spectre of age, have to face our own mortality, when we look into the grey beard of that sweetie pet that has now transitioned, sooner than we expected, into an older dog or cat.

We took on a dog, many years ago, that enriched out lives to the point that we could open our hearts to other needy creatures. All of my pets have been rescued from situations that were not kind to them. There are so many animals that need to be loved and respected, so many creatures that were taken on as an amusement, and later shucked aside like an old boot, like a toy that’s lost it’s charm. I can’t, in my heart, condone anyone who takes on a pet as an ornament to be displayed only until it loses its gloss. Pets and humans, if lucky, inevitably settle into the golden years, bearing the scars and stretch marks of time, lovable only to those who shared the living, or those who can see past the years, into the heart within.

Like humans, cats and dogs are born adorable, ready and eager to love and be loved by those who’ve chosen to take care of them. The horror is that so many people make a full stop in their minds when the pets become older, less cute, and a burden.

Eventually, I had to bring Jade in to the house. Although she didn’t want to come in, I’m a lot bigger than her, and I could pick her up, and put her in front of a dish of tuna. She wasn’t happy, but I knew that she had to eat, to find the strength inside her. Her mourning will go on, I’m sure, but I don’t want her to fade away while she misses her dog; I want her to understand that I’d never hurt her, never do anything to her that would harm her in her life, but that I, as the person who can see when the time has come to end her pain, will have the wisdom, and the compassion, to do so in the kindest way possible.

But tonight, all that Jade knows is that her dog is gone. She can still smell the scent of the vet on my clothing, and she can’t forgive us for taking away her friend. All I can hope for is that she, like we must do for ourselves, will eventually forgive us for ending the life of a loveable dog who only ever candlelightwanted to love us, protect us, and bring joy to our lives. Because that’s really what it’s all about. When you bring a pet into your life, you make a pact – and breaking that pact for any reason other than compassion, empathy, and love is a sick abdication of your humanity.

 

 

first published July 14/2013 at https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/roxanne-tellier-mourning-gizmo/