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.

 

 

 

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/)

 

Can Survivor Cure Cabin Fever? I’ll Ask the Cat


man freezingI’ll admit it – the frigid weather in Toronto is making me a crazy person. We’re having record low temperatures, my cats are in complete (and loud) cabin fever mode, and I haven’t left the house in days. For the first time since childhood, I’m even wearing a winter hat. Sometimes even indoors. This is serious cold.

dandelion smilySpring can’t come soon enough. I need to smell fresh air, and see green grass emerge from under the carpet of snow. I’m even looking forward to dandelions in the lawn. I just need a change of season!

There’s another reason I look forward to spring – the tv networks like to toss us a few new bones to chew on. Since April 2011, I’ve been doing recaps of television comedies, dramas and reality shows for an entertainment site called Starpulse. I’d trade off the unpaid writing as a way to legitimize my television viewing, and it has worked for us so far.

survivor borneoI’ve watched Survivor since the first episode, 15 years and 30 seasons ago. This year marks my ninth season of recapping Survivor episodes. What started as an exercise has become an obsession, it seems. I enjoy the show, and have many friends who do as well, so you might call it my ‘water cooler’ job; I get to chat about some of the sillier aspects, and sympathize with viewers when fan favorites are voted off the island.

A lot of people have nothing but disdain for reality television, and I’d agree that some networks manipulate the course of some series. But we love our scripted and unscripted dramadies.

reality show auditionsMany desperately want to be on a reality series. In our increasingly televised lives, there have been many ordinary people elevated to fame through constant television exposure. Some have done very well; others have crashed and burned.

renovate your wardrobe me and farley(I was on a reality show years ago called “Renovate Your Wardrobe.” It was a lot of fun. But alas, the public didn’t glom on to my smiling face. I got a renovated bedroom, closet, and some new clothing. Would do it again in a heartbeat!)

I’ve never enjoyed the ‘talent shows’ that feature wannabe musicians, dancers, and entertainers of all sorts, but I love the fact that those platforms are available for those who want them. Bless ‘em all for giving it all they’ve got.

sweeping-beach-pulau-tigaMe, I like Survivor, and shows of that ilk. And I am desperate to be somewhere hot and sunny, by a salty sea, even if only in my dreams.

Since I’m down a quart of blog for the week, here’s a link to today’s recap of Survivor: Worlds Apart, Spring 2015. Enjoy!

survivor worlds apart 2015

http://www.starpulse.com/news/Roxanne_Tellier/2015/02/26/survivor-worlds-apart-and-so-it-begin

Empathy By Degrees


My cats hate each other, but they hate winter more. cats fightingBoth Big Blonde and the Black Whiner have finally come to one agreement; cold and snow are not to be tolerated.

My cats are very lucky. They live lives of relative luxury; they are loved, well-fed, and taken care of when they are ill or needy.

The two homeless men that died in Toronto during the cold snap of this week were not so lucky. As temperatures plummeted, the men – one found dead in a downtown bus shelter wearing only jeans, a T-shirt, and a hospital bracelet; the other found dead in an abandoned delivery truck parked in the city’s west end on Monday – were 55 and 60 years old.

There hasn’t been a lot of information released yet on these men’s backgrounds. homeless in toronto winterIt seems they’ve already been filed underhomeless,’ and for many people, that’s enough to make a judgment. “Those” people – those that have fallen through society’s cracks and who bother us by begging for spare change, or whom we step over as they sleep on heating grates in one of North America’s richest cities – rarely elicit more than a ‘tsk’ from those who have jobs, families, friends, and societal approval.

In Toronto, the Mayor’s office issues an extreme cold weather alert when the temperature plummets to –15 C, (5 below, in Fahrenheit,) or when Environment Canada‘s forecast includes factors like wind chill and precipitation. The city has to do so, as even if there were enough shelters to hold our most vulnerable residents, there are many who would still brave the cold rather than seek shelter. The cold weather alert releases additional resources, like warming centres, in those cases. homelessDSC00414

Despite the cold snap that descended on Toronto on Monday morning, the city did not call an alert. On Tuesday morning, temperatures reached -20 C with wind chill, but the actual temperature was -14 C, just above the range. Imagine being outside and homeless, chilled to the bone, teeth rattling as you shiver, and contemplating that one degree of separation.

Even though an extreme cold weather alert had not been issued by Toronto Public Health (TPH,) Mayor John Tory requested last night that the city manager open Toronto’s two 24-hour warming centres.

toronto-homeless1-622x414TWO warming centres, in a city with an estimated population of more than 2800 people living on the streets on any given night.

On the bright side, during an extreme cold weather alert, shelters are directed to relax service restrictions, allowing some homeless, known to be mentally unstable or disruptive, a chance to “warm up.” Transit tokens are made available at drop-in centres so that people can reach shelters, additional shelter spaces are made available, and there is an increase in street outreach and transportation services.

Gaetan Heroux, a member of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, organized a protest at City Hall yesterday, as the hashtag #CallTheAlert trended on Twitter. Toronto residents calling for action gathered outside the Mayor’s office criticized the city’s policy of 15C below. With two dead in two days, Toronto Public Health (TPH) still defended the -15 C threshold, saying that their conclusions are appropriate, and based on science.

Meanwhile, local radio and television statements urged pet owners to be diligent in keeping their furry friends indoors, as the cold could lead to frostbite and long-term health problems.

Environment Canada has issued an extreme cold weather warning for today, forecasting that the wind chill will make it feel like close to –30 in the afternoon and overnight.

My cats are lucky; they’ll be safe and warm, well-fed, and being cared for by people that love them. homeless in Toronto2But for the homeless in Toronto, there’ll be two warming shelters, begrudgingly allowing its citizens with physical, emotional or financial problems to “warm up,” – but only when it’s below 15C.

From the City of Toronto’s website: “If you see someone whom you think requires street outreach assistance, call 311. Note that 311 is not an emergency number. In an emergency, dial 911.”