Never Subscribed To Spotify

It’s quite the conundrum for musicians spawned by the era of virtual streaming and Napster’s foot hold. 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. 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. Never have and never will. 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”. 

Heartbreak At Manitoba U.S. Border

One wrong- headed move and your life could be over just like this family of four from India. I’ve spent time in the far north in the winter time and I’ll tell you – you are no match for the elements and perhaps even if well prepared. Today I share a story of respect for the cold.

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 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. There wasn’t 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.  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….they 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.  

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.

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.