Victimhood Abounds

Victimhoood abounds and group think is having an effect on those tasked with putting up internet headlines and then the drivel that follows. It’s come to light that there is a First Nations Group dismayed that they weren’t counseled in B.C.’s decision not to go forward with a 2030 Olympic bid and the press is giving them a voice. It’s ludicrous and argued by this group in the context of recommendations made by a commission dealing with “Truth and Reconciliation”.

Here is what I’d like to see happen in the context of truth and reconciliation. I’d like to see every indigenous citizen in our country leave tax exempt reserves and pay tax through work like everyone else. Temporary transitional housing and job training should be provided at a cost to taxpayers. Reserves should be put back to nature just like the requirement bestowed upon natural resource firms once operations cease. There should be a complete excavation of these grave sites with accountability. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms should be amended restricting the liberties of those who cannot care for themselves due to mental health and addiction issues so that they can be rehabilitated. The democratic process should be updated to reflect discourse through strict regulated administrative means as opposed to scenes of intimidating road blocks. In other words, I’d provide apprehension powers to the state for unlawful protest apparently more strict than what’s currently available. I’d encourage the complete removal of any affirmative action protocols at every level of government, industry and schools. The new stat holiday “Truth and Reconciliation” day should be abolished. I would amend school curriculums at the secondary level to include compulsory course work in personal development, free enterprise, economics / industry, business administration, capitalism, and capital markets.        

Gordon Lightfoot Calgary Performance 2022

Gordon Lightfoot’s 2022 Calgary performance was unforgettable. Twenty seconds into the opening number, Gordon Lightfoot needed a dose of oxygen and there was some awkwardness in the crowd. At 84 next month one questions what keeps him going especially considering emphysema having been a smoker. However; once he found a chair and regained his composure with the aid of his caring support group…the music started to take shape.

They played all the hits familiar to you with some brevity. Lead guitarist Carter Lancaster provided some lyrical support to “Sundown” but with all other songs…Gordon was right there with all lyrics to all songs despite a voice past its peak. The Grey Eagle venue in Calgary does have good acoustics and the levels were set perfectly. Ian Tyson seemed to be with us throughout the evening with mentions of the ’88 Olympic performance for which they teamed as well as credits toward closing pre encore number “Early Morning Rain”. The band was tight and acoustic guitar support and short solos from Lancaster made for the perfect blend with Gordon. In select songs Lancaster played a ES-355 style semi-hollow with nice fat tone.

You could feel the audience light up once “If You Could Read My Mind” came around and it had a great sentimental feel in addition to the clarity of delivery. Honorable mention goes to keyboard player Mike Heffernan for harmonizing with Gordon beautifully. Speaking of “Beautiful” it was beautifully done. This is a finger picking song and Gordon is still up to the task despite having had a hand issue. In fact, Gordon’s guitar playing was much better than expected…especially on his 1942 Martin. He nicely introduced songs with poignant opening single note melodies. 

Every song kept me interested. It was more than the music. It was the witnessing of a Canadian music icon at work at his age that brought mystery to the evening. In fact, once the standing ovation waned at set’s end and Gordon opened up the closing song with a defining lick from “Rainy Day People”, the simplicity of the song colored with melancholic movement spurred emotion and the surreal sense that we all were lucky to have seen this man and his band live given his contribution to Canadian music.   

Lightfoot in Calgary 2022
Lightfoot in Calgary 2022

Most song played:

Sundown

Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald

If You Could Read My Mind

Morning Rain

Rainy Day People

Beautiful

Carefree Highway

Alberta Bound

Cotton Jenny

14 Karat Gold

I’d Rather Press On

On Liberty Without Limits

It’s August 13, 2022, thirty-one degrees and a little warm for tennis. I ponder the dark side of man and liberty without limits as I listen to the haunting opening track to Above and Beyond’s live acoustic performance at Porchester Hall from some years ago.

I digest the news. It impacts me and simmers in my subconscious mind upon going about my affairs. I think about those who actually believed that Donald Trump was good for America and were duped. I wonder about the blind eye we turn to the homeless. I question the conduct of our police and the plight of women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. I wonder about the creeps stained by social aberration unable to find their place with a propensity to commit evil deeds. There are the weak minds amenable to anti-social agendas while religious sects quietly confront. We speak of war with rules as we normalize the invasion of Ukraine. Underpinning man’s propensity to inflict harm is the hopefulness of youth perplexed about what the future holds in store served by a smattering of unfiltered opinions, propaganda, and deceit blabbered through “platforms” of “social media”. Free speech although virtuous in theory has unfortunately been central to hurt and consequent suicide. In fact, I postulate that the ultimate quest for liberty without limits has stained the consciousness of a society by leaving the addicted and mentally unfit to their own devices ultimately.        

Nobody is immune from the potential of chaos brought by circumstances beyond one’s control. There are those who espouse such righteousness at times in life when seemingly in control. Unfortunately, destiny serves all despite inklings of immortality and resilience. The internet has brought a forum to all but not all speak responsibly and not all possess capacity. Activism run amok sponsored in part by internet access presents the plight of an author speaking his mind, the ghoulish fandom of populism, the irrational refusal of facts, and cowbells in a town square on a Saturday afternoon. The thoughtful amongst us are quiet because notions of reprisals are real. The quiet majority feels queasy.

The Homelessness Mess

The homelessness mess stains the first world. I’ve seen the look on faces of people stumbling upon homeless folks underneath downtown Calgary underpasses. It’s one of troubled disappointment. It’s just a moment of their day which passes whereby the mind becomes dispossessed quickly upon returning to daily affairs. There’s not sufficient intrusion on the mind for passersby to engage wholeheartedly.  However; tomorrows arrive and incidences have become more frequent.

Upon returning to train station on foot (Chinook) from Long and McQuade today…I came across three lonely souls with their shopping carts in tow. None of them looked like what one might presume to be a homeless person. Stopped and spoke to a man who looked to be 40 or so. He mumbled as he spoke but he was coherent. The train of thought had logic. He didn’t look that bad in terms of hygiene and did acknowledge his shortcomings. (don’t want to divulge specifics). You can imagine probably most everything and anything as to why people end up on the street. When I asked if anyone spoke to him with a barrage of questions like I posed today….he replied no.  I left him on his way.

Down the road a ways a police van was stopped on the side of the road. I approached it and spoke to the two officers. I shared that I had spoken to this homeless man and asked what the city is doing about them. He said they receive “AISH” (Alberta Income for The Severely Handicapped) and help is available. However; it’s apparent that many of them don’t reach out for help. I shared that this man said that he had never asked for help.  Reference was made to restrictions and limitations imposed on the police with my ultimate suggestion that the “Charter of Rights and Freedoms” requires and update in order to effectively deal with the problem. One officer concurred but opined that few have an appetite to seriously consider the political challenge of such an undertaking.

Next I went for a beer and fries at Joey Tomatoes at the Chinook mall and then to Staples for office supplies. Upon arriving at my office I found a lady sleeping behind my office building. I checked for her respiration. Another set of officers arrived just as I had left her and I pointed her out to them. Then onwards to some Options Trading review in the office on a long weekend Sunday afternoon.     

Never Subscribed To Spotify

It’s quite the conundrum for musicians spawned by the era of virtual streaming and Napster’s historic foot hold. As of yet, I’ve never subscribed to Spotify. My reading of Johnny Cash’s autobiography has been inspired by the “Life In Music” series of Canadian bluegrass / folk guitarist J.P. Cormier. It’s been interesting to learn of dysfunction and cronyism behind the recording industry which may have produced my hesitancy in subscribing to Spotify. The Neil Young disconnect with Spotify and Joni Mitchell’s follow on weaves its semantic influence of my perception on the consumption of music. Context is such that my own musicianship has been on the rise of late.

I never understood the Napster appeal. I never understood why folks surmised that they deserved good music for nothing. Convenience is one thing and fair remuneration is another. We are apparently inherently self interested enough to circumvent the financial welfare of those who feed our id. The Spotify membership is affordable for all and this was a business model which obviously generated mass appeal and has consequently led to a monopolistic landscape for music consumption. It’s the reality and what is often the case for the masses generates hesitation by yours truly. The general sentiment for those with some semblance of taste is that music on the radio right now is uninteresting yet somehow the business side of radio has come to learn that this style of music aligns with advertisers. CDs and vinyl are now becoming tougher to access. Musicians are not necessarily adept at the distribution side of their own work. Production runs on vinyl require minimum orders which may exceed demand.

The consumption model for receiving music may be under scrutiny right now. That’s not to say that the Neil Young / Joni Mitchell spat with Spotify has initiated such but the egregiously low streaming royalty rates have not been sitting well with artists for some time. Undoubtedly times are changing and musicians such as blues comer Samantha Fish who seems savvy around business may start becoming the instigators of a modern form of the “label”. 

Heart Break At Manitoba U.S. Border

One wrong- headed move and your life could be over just like this family of four from India. The Canadian elements have lead to heart break at the Manitoba U.S. Border for one family not necessarily accustomed to how cold it can get. I’ve spent time in the far north in the winter time and I’ll tell you – even if well prepared….the Canadian winters are a brutal force.

It was the summer of 1983 (that’s right – a Canadian summer day) and I was working as a summer student at a gold mine as a millwright’s assistant in between first and second year of university. I was stationed out of Thompson Manitoba but was flown into a mining camp some 200km north of the Manitoba border into Nunavut (was still the N.W.T. back then) on a one week in and one week out rotation.

There is much camaraderie in the mining business and I was the mill superintendent’s son. There would have been an unspoken agreement among those working in the mill to ensure to look out for the kid. One day there was a blizzard and it was time to go for lunch. The mess hall was only 200 feet from the mill but in a “white out” you’re lucky to see your hand in front of your face never mind 200 feet into the distance. However; a vague outline of the destination building was visible. The mill exit door and the mess hall entrance were corner to corner and if you missed the corner and became disoriented, you’d be potentially left vulnerable to the freezing cold Canadian north.

As an eighteen year old, I had already experienced life in the far north having lived in a place called Cantung, N.W.T  as a child in 1975/76. I had cross country skied and snowmobiled up there in very cold conditions. There was talk of dress and respect for the cold. Parents had lived life on the prairies of Canada rurally growing up. A culture of cold had been nurtured within.

In other words, I had been conditioned to formulate a plan just for going for lunch on that wintery summer day. I ventured back from the exit to find a mill operator who would monitor my trip with signals and sound. After lunch….conditions changed and the trip back was all clear. This one small measure was relatively hassle free.     

It’s heart shattering to have learned that this family of four from India froze to death in their quest for a new life in the U.S. It’s maddening to learn that there’s not better coordination of law enforcement between countries.        

CBC On The Internet

Today I decided to check out a CBC article on the internet presented via link on their website. The first thing a received was video ad and a one paragraph blurb offering nothing more than the headline. On this occasion did not even a drill down link to get deeper into the article. However; after the ad completed an interview with a subject to the article did appear to provide some substance to the headline. 

You fund the CBC and you pay your internet host monthly fees and now you also get journalists substituting video feeds for the written word after getting through an advertisement. Paper media certainly was more simplified. By the way…the profits of Shaw Cable are up substantially during the pandemic. I’ll be monitoring the CBC more now going forward. I’ll learn whether the newer crop of journalists over at the CBC are equipped intellectually to present articulate and well researched op-eds. Society is in need of such journalists and I wonder whether the demand for them is lacking due to an unfair perceived lack of value.

Could it be that the profession of journalism is fatigued after the Trump debacle and a proliferation of attacks from the not so savvy? I suspect yes. Do you remember the days of Allan Fotheringham, George Will, Rex Murphy, and Diane Frances? These were folks who had the capacity to silence the noise and pen an article with intellect. Unfortunately, for newer aspiring journalists the variable of bafflegab can befuddle. 

Nurses Quebec Example

Did you know that Quebec reported 50,000 health care workers now on “leave” from work due to “burn out”? Just when your country needed them most….those nurses in Quebec are now collecting a disability cheque. That’s right – short term and long term disability claims are enormous right now. The actual number not on the job is actually 70,000 with the other 20,000 associated with those in current isolation. It’s staggering and you can look to see an increase in insurance costs for whichever policy for which you apply because you are not immune from the effect of claims paid in sectors unrelated to your policies. There is some correlation between sector related claims pertaining to generating premiums but that correlation is not 100 per cent. Insurance companies spread risk through a process called “reinsurance” thereby indirectly affecting you. 

You know when Canadian soldiers lined the trenches while securing our freedom, there was no 1-800 number to call for applying for mental health leave. Of course, there are the “professional associations” and “unions” which provide complicating variables in restricting governments from casting a broader net for acquiring human resources necessary during this critical time. It should be no surprise that doctors are sparse and unavailable to assist due to our system of education and influence of the professional association in limiting access to the profession.    

 Here we are in a health care crisis whereby those associations so adamant at protecting their professions are now desperate. Nurses in Quebec and across Canada are needed now. Help them help us.  

Anastasia’s Story

As we head into 2022, we are hearing stories of cancelled flights, bursted pipes, and hospital strife. Some folks have managed the pandemic better than others. Today I wish to speak about Anastasia. This is Anastasia’s story.

I recite her story from her own account. It is a lucid story despite her addiction to crystal meth.   

Anastasia came to the U.S. at nine years old from Russia adopted by a U.S. family during the collapse of communism. Anastasia had never come to know her birth parents. Apparently, there was a tax benefit afforded to U.S. adoptive parents during this time for those willing to adopt Russian foster children. It didn’t work out. Anastasia claims that the adoptive parents were mostly interested in the tax benefit and the showmanship of philanthropy. One can imagine that if there was sincerity in intentions on behalf of these adoptive parents that they may have not been equipped in handling a child who had never experienced love and arrived from what had been characterized allegedly as a filthy corrupt orphanage.

Despite not knowing English at all upon arriving in an eastern U.S. state, sustaining childhood abuse within the foster care systems of both Russia and the U.S. and being bullied and ostracized during school, Anastasia went on to graduate from high school at sixteen while in foster care and was awarded a basketball and volleyball scholarship. Unfortunately after sustaining a knee injury…her financial supports collapsed along with her college pursuit.

Upon hitting 18, Anastasia had nowhere to turn and she ended up on the street. She ran into trouble with the law for dealing drugs (today she is a crystal meth addict) and decided to leave California for Arizona. Prostitution became her livelihood ever since.  Today she lives out of a tent in skid row L.A. and is attempting to affirm her U.S. citizenship and necessary I.D. in order to improve her life. Anastasia claims that U.S. authorities had made errors in paper work during her arrival from Russia and subsequent release of custody from her adoptive parents resulting in two names within U.S. government records. Follow up work has been initiated by the U.S. government on Anastasia’s behalf but astonishingly the orphanage where she resided from birth to 9 years old had been determined to be unrecognized by Russia. Furthermore, her U.S. adoptive parents would not vouch for her all these years later.  To compound matters, despite limited leads, the U.S. had learned from their research that Anastasia’s blood lines had been linked to Russian spies. Her situation today is unresolved as per her interview with Soft White Underbelly on this New Year’s Day of 2022.

There may easily be flaws in the story. For example, it’s perplexing that she found her way to college if there was an issue with her government identification. However; after watching her recital of her troubled life, on balance it’s not difficult to envisage that this woman fell through the cracks of government support systems and now deserves legitimate help.