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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.             

Platitudes from Houston City Officials RE: Deaths At Concert

What is it about a civil society that you can’t go to a music concert in peace expecting law and order? Is it just Texas – that gun wielding state which through its leadership has scorned COVID precautions? How do otherwise law abiding citizens turn to gate busting hooligans because a rapper takes that stage? Why is it that law enforcement is now in this passive mode of complicity when witnessing misdemeanours and regulatory infractions? What’s happened to our moral compass of heeding the regards of others?

I was aggravated while listening to a Houston city official reference the notion that nobody should be concerned that a love one’s life would be in jeopardy upon attending a concert. YET IT HAPPENED! Had these city bureaucrats learned nothing from the Las Vegas massacre just two years ago!  Then there was the MSNBC news anchor reporting of the tragedy in an almost enthusiastic tone as if she was looking for ratings instead of expressing events indicative of solace and grief.

Something is amiss in the conscience of man. Something has happened. I’ve taken notice and theorize with respect to the cosmic source. However; a case can obviously be made that evil has always been with us and manifestations of such are simply now readily highlighted through the mechanism of mass multi-media. As our experience unfolds in the human race at a time when we can now commercially send people to space…how is it that we can’t effectively administer occasions of culture?  

Vancouver Sun Edit Reposted Here RE Trump Signage

The big “Trump” sign still persists in his closed hotel on Vancouver’s West Georgia. This is my Vancouver Sun comment which was struck due to an apparent breach of guidelines in context of article questioning the sign: “Pure sign (pun obviously intended) of a dysfunctional society incapable of doing the right thing at the right time (sign removal) in good faith with honour and integrity. Put the tomahawk chop to this sign.” Could it have been the “tomahawk chop” reference (Trump reported to have exhibited the chop at Chiefs game on Sunday) which produced the guideline infraction without the editor’s knowledge of Trump’s weekend conduct. Perhaps. What do you think? One more example of political correctness gone berzerk?

Culture Void & Pandemic

Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders was interviewed in 2014 where she touched upon situational anecdotes, spontaneity, and setbacks during her rise to fame. Artists of the late 70’s and 80’s had more of life experience even in their youth to draw upon while creating their art. In fact physical art and modeling were in her background while forming the Pretenders which arose primarily as a result that no other band would have her.   

The interview got me thinking about listening to The Pretenders back in the 80s not knowing at the time band personnel behind the song “Back in The Chain Gang” and “Brass In Pocket”. There were so many pop ‘80s bands creating melody that we thought that this would always be the way. However; we’ve come to learn that the era was extraordinary for one hit wonders and catchy pop riffs. The scene was tight inspiring collaboration. Simple Minds had connected with Chrissie (in fact she had married front man Jim Kerr) while touring and the connection for me resolves with my everlasting affinity for Simple Mind’s “New Gold Dream”.

It’s been 18 months now and our youth have not had access to live events – musical or otherwise which are occasions which cement memories and this has been collateral damage of the pandemic. I really empathise with the opportunity cost in intangible terms. I recall such joy when going to see movie classics such as “Saturday Night Fever”, “Grease”, “Bad News Bears”, and “The Breakfast Club”. Concerts such as Tina Turner, John Cougar, and April Wine stirred the spirit. A bit later, there were the dance clubs playing New Order tracks from their double album “Substance” amidst the strobe lights and ambience. Disco still carried an influence and attire mattered out in the clubs. Friends would swap physical LPs and the actual vinyl would serve as reminders of the tracks for discussion. Some sleeves would even carry lyrics. College dorm lounges served as meet ups for night life forays.

From my viewpoint, culture was running stale pre-pandemic and now it’s naturally become worse. Despite initiatives with funding the few newer venues have lacked the warmth and appeal typified by a place engrained with history. Older venues haven’t been able to keep up the rent and too few philanthropists were quick enough to save old halls. Certainly urban planning decisions have also played a role in retracement of culture in Canada. Will there be a day when the suburbanites with their fenced yard and double attached garage look back and wonder what happened to their Friday and Saturday nights?           

Letter to Calgary Mayor Beltline Pool

Dear Mr. Nenshi.

RE: Beltline Pool

I see in the news that a report is expected to be tabled this week pertaining to the recommendation of closing the Beltline pool. Although, I ‘m not a resident of Beltline (Marlborough Park) I draft this letter in the context of my background as a Physical Education graduate having had attained lifeguarding credentials and as a concerned citizen having witnessed poor zoning decisions downtown which are now going to require remediation. There are quality of life considerations in Calgary to consider in the context of a bold move such as closing a public pool. As you know, with the closure of the Eau Claire pool, aquatic leisure in the central core will be limited. I’m not certain that the Repsol Centre’s pools are the best teach pools. Repsol is accommodating to competitive and recreational swimmers but not so much for fostering early development swimming skills. Should better programming, scheduling, and management of the Beltline pool be implemented in the context of Eau Claire’s closure, revenues should grow.

I’ve noticed from the city website that a study has been undertaken to identity recreation needs of residents in the Beltline and Inglewood. This study appears to have taken a sincere “what do you want” approach reflective of one common answer to this demographic….”like going to the bar with my friends”. I suppose if the upcoming report is going to recommend the closure of a pool in the context of such community feedback, then my appeal would seem futile. However; I’m not so cynical. Ambassadors of sport such as I believe that good people like you are cognizant of the benefits of good health over beer and the long term correlation of healthy citizens as long term taxpaying citizens.   

I have much difficulty with the prospect that operating short falls of the Beltline pool can’t be overcome in the climate of complicity with demands from the Calgary Flames organization that they needed a new Stadium partly funded by taxpayer dollars. This makes zero sense to me. I can’t fathom the notion that wealthy hockey players and sport executives are deserving of taxpayer assistance but not the lower income couple looking to put their kids in swimming lessons in need of a facility.  Something is amiss if this pool closes from the standpoint of the city’s soul. Mr. Nenshi – you cannot allow this to happen.

You have my permission to disseminate this appeal freely.

Sincerely,

Blair Sveinson

GREAT AMERICAN EMBARRASSMENT – DONALD TRUMP

Astonishingly, some still support Donald Trump and this fact gives me pause and reflection when pondering the state of mankind’s great story line during this tumultuous era. Yes, there’s an argument that somebody needed to save the masses from liberal oppression, the Chinese commercial trading advantage due to breaches in human rights, complicity in the settling of illegal immigrants, and revitalizing a populous ravaged by a collapse in manufacturing. Such positions have merit but the messenger was the wrong man for the job. It was apparent from the outset that Donald Trump lacked the character to serve in an office held in esteem for the purpose of leading a nation. Yet, it was deemed by right leaning delegates that this breed of unbridled brashness with disregard for the truth and basic decency was somehow the success formula for flouting the arrogance of the liberal establishment. One cannot doubt the savvy campaign for stirring emotion. It’s just too bad the brains of so many became compromised by their plight and attachment to desperation.

It could be as early as tomorrow that the second impeachment trial concludes and the conscience of Republican Senators will also be put on trial with respect to the charge of inciting an insurrection. I haven’t watched the proceedings but I was at my computer on the day of the attack on the Capitol Building. For the longest time I watched with Donald Trump being a no show until long after the penetration of the Capitol grounds. We’re coming to learn that a shouting match had ensued between Trump and House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy while the attack of the Capitol was in progress all in the context of Trump not immediately condemning the riot. There’s ample evidence in his rallies and speeches that he rebelled against an establishment and sought emotional response from the beleaguered. You will recall the outright refusal to accept election loss along with unsubstantiated claims of election fraud which appeared to have stoked a rage in him apparently putting him in such a mind frame that it was only by the pleading of senior officials to ensure the word “peaceful” appeared in a tweet in context of a request of rioters to withdraw.  Of course there was the Presidential debate in which he refused to ensure a peaceful transition of power in the event of his election loss.

Months ago, senators had the opportunity to impeach this moron for the reprehensible act of restricting legislated aid to Ukraine until a political favour was bestowed. Evidence was overwhelming and he was acquitted along the party line. It was unconscionable. We’ll see in short order which Republicans will stand tall and which ones will wilt.   

Rolling Out a Vaccine in 2020

Imagine the look on the face of Moderna’s most senior research scientist when learning that a military commander in Canada is suggesting one vaccine dose instead of two. First there’s the eyebrow raise. Then comes the slight back and forth head motion. Then a back of the neck clasp. Finally….an utterance.

Of course every Canadian will have pondered the notion by now…”will the effectiveness of this vaccine be compromised by the laziness of the army to comply with strict instructions from the manufacturer on how to deliver and store? How many doses already have failed the freezing minimum storage temperature?

When you combine the aforementioned with the vaccination rate in Alberta at less than one third of the target so far, the competence of those serving in logistics is not leaving me with much confidence of those in charge.    

A Culture Void of Dance

You remember junior high school gym class when social dance was introduced. As boys you were too cool and as girls you were mystified by what might transpire (presumptuous of me I know). I suggest that the curriculum was good for you. I went to all the school dances and left my friends behind. It wasn’t easy getting rejected by girls at that age.   

On an academic level, I had taken dance to another “step” because as a fundamental core component of Physical Education, kinesiology class in first year university and the modern dance module was a requirement for men and women. You either found open mindedness or you failed. It was that simple. There was jazz element in which I actually took an interest because one could actually incorporate popular music with coordinated group steps. In second year having decided that I found enjoyment from the class, I actually paid for a jazz evening class on campus.

I danced in the clubs during the ‘80s and 90’s while I circulated solo. At times, when the crowds were sparse, I was a spectator checking out the moves wondering how to incorporate them at some later date. Imagining swing moves without a partner was difficult. I looked upon it as part of the challenge.

The best part of my accounting practice has been seasonal slowness every fall. It’s a time when I challenge myself to learn something new. Dancing classes have been perfect in this regard. I’ve taken classes at Alberta Dancesport, Ceroc Calgary, and some salsa privately. The moves get forgotten without practice and reinforcement.   

Now here we are in this pandemic and I wonder how people are doing. I mean really doing….. from a spiritual sense. The thing about dance is that there is connectedness while the body moves to music. There is much life force in this.

At some point whether it was TV, the movies, or National Geographic, you’ve seen the serenity among people engaged in ethnic dance forms. Tribal cultures have ascribed spiritual meaning toward dancing while accompanied with their primitive instruments. Unfortunately, advanced cultures have been distracted from a committed temporal form of being perhaps without an understanding of the value.    

We evolve and some will return invigorated through a yearning to express our humanity through body and music. Others may still be anxious or insecure but curious.    

Quick & Easy Time Management Thoughts

  1. Why are you buffing your car on a hot sunny day after a car wash?
  2. Why does that weed pulling chore need to be perfect?
  3. Can kids not walk to school in friendship groups instead of being escorted by car?
  4. Still paying bills at the bank?
  5. Other online shopping options pursued?
  6. How expensive is it really to get some occasional domestic help?
  7. Why do I live so far from work?
  8. Am I doing stuff the kids should be doing to earn their allowance?
  9. Does the household really need a spouse going to “work”?
  10. Is there a better time during the week to grocery shop?

Presidential Debate Analyis Biden Trump

First of all…it was anything but presidential. The parties, the candidates, and the country were not well served. I expected it and couldn’t resist tuning in having learned that I could get it on youtube.  Sadly, I also expected belly laughs and these two guys delivered on that count about twice. 

Despite Trump’s weak character, I found him to be somewhat compelling at times and was actually winning the debate early on. His problem though is his inability to recite honest facts which of course reverses any credibility he would establish through compelling moments of cerebral thought.

There was the obvious discord in context of COVID. Biden did poorly in reciting Trump’s missteps and Trump started to find some groove in talking about lifting lock down measures and the impact of lock downs on people’s well being.  

Biden was looking old and worn out and did not really possess the vitality to produce effective comebacks which is what we were all looking for of course. Trump has so much vulnerability that one thinks that it would be unfathomable not be able to produce stinging frequent jabs. However; Biden was on his heels partly due to Trump’s continual counterpunching which was at times effective Also,  the moderator’s attempts at policing Trump may have actually worked in Trump’s favour by extinguishing any eruption of emotion in Biden.

There were personal attacks. Biden referenced Trump as a liar and a clown out loud intentionally and not under his breath. Trump smeared Biden’s son and Biden’s record. Biden smirked and chuckled in reaction to Trump responses. Trump attacked, interrupted and exaggerated.

Tax return topic was addressed of course and Trump suggests millions of taxes were paid in 2016 and 2017 and not the $750 suggested by the Times. Apparently, the returns are still under audit and somehow this audit has not been expedited in lieu of the taxpayer in question. 

Trump was tested one more time to outright condemn white supremacist groups with a request to ask them to “stand down”. He stumbled and instead of voicing conviction, he referenced antifa.

The two of them were asked to articulate a message on climate change. Trump talked about managing the forest better and attempted to tie Biden to a radical plan differing from Biden’s actual plan. 

There wasn’t a lot of substance here and the biggest take away would be a simple feeling emptiness that this was the best that the country could produce in two candidates. I’m afraid that the democrats did almost as poor a job in appointing Biden as the Republicans did in appointing Trump.

A parent in the U.S. could have come away thinking that their child would be left with a worse off country given that the concluding question dealt a matter that an advanced democracy hasn’t had to face in decades….a question in confidence about counting ballots fairly and any collateral repercussions.