Monthly Archives: April 2017

It took me almost 40 years to read The Handmaids Tale

 

Handmaids TaleI never read The Handmaids Tale in high school. I graduated before the book was published. If I had though I am pretty sure I would not have “got it”. I didn’t have the life experience to comprehend what Margaret Atwood was writing about. I would have only learned through current life examples, at the time, through news or history lessons. When I graduated from Erindale Secondary School in Mississauga (in 1979) the only parallels to The Handmaids Tale I would’ve known of were the Khomeini in Iran and the Soviet Russia, which while severely cracked was still in one piece. If I were to read and discuss Atwood’s ‘1984’ in high school I would have been far too influenced by the teacher’s impressions. Honestly, at that time, it would have not made me enjoy the book.

It is only now, 38 years later that I can say I read The Handmaids Tale and enjoyed every page. This is not a knock on Margaret Atwood, but back then I was reading books about a fictional Canadian takeover of America by Richard Rohmer and music biographies. Yes, it is now after 38 years after graduating from high school that I could read the book, appreciate the book, understand the book and fear the outcome of a world that seems too real.

Margaret Wente in the Globe and Mail (April 29, 2017) wrote “Are we living the The Handmaids Tale?” (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/are-we-living-in-the-handmaids-tale/article34843333/) . Wente discusses the recent calls from Vanity Fair, The New Yorker that under recent events women’s rights are under attack. She says “…the book is regarded as prophetic…more than ever people are convinced that women’s rights are under threat…”.

Wente and others are not wrong, and as a man reading a book that reduces women to providers of children and to complete the simplest of duties it scares me to think what happens when some have too much influence. Maybe purposely, but they also forget that in The Handmaids Tale men to things – also reduced to simple chores, driving a car, gardening and impregnating the Handmaid.  In The Handmaids Tale we see that men are afforded certain luxuries taken from women – access to computers for work purposes only), information and reading. In the book we do not know what the Commander of the house does, where he goes from 9 – 5 and how he earns his status in the new state. His marriage is just a marriage, not a marriage – a partnership or something to enjoy – but never a marriage. To keep appearances, there are a lot of whispers, clandestine signals and prohibited rendezvous. The Commander and his wife are under the same roof, but do not live under it.

While not to the extent that the rights of women have been taken away, the Commander and others like him also lost in the Gilead.  The freedom and happiness that the Commander seeks can only be done in secret. His midnight meetings with his handmaid only to talk and play scrabble show us that in a world that creates a strict doctrine, it removes the simple joys of life we take for granted. The Commander has to sneak out with the handmaid to be able to have enjoyable sex with her, sex for procreating is not fun in Gilead – it is a job and if either person involved this duty fail, whatever little they have now is taken away. Banishment from the ‘good life’ and the few accommodations allowed in Gilead are removed.

Atwood correctly identifies that women are not things and portrays an image of what feminists fight for everyday. But, she also identifies that men also suffer under strict doctrines and in The Handmaids Tale while not advocating for what might be called masculinism, she is warning that under the control of few, the many lose.

After reading The Handmaids Tale, a friend of mine send a recommendation for more Atwood via Twitter:

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Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

O’Leary was Late

RHBS 156

For months Conservatives have been waiting for consolidation among the ranks of the 14 candidates vying for the Conservative Party leadership.   Most were expecting (and secretly hoping) that one, two – oh heck 4 or 5 candidates on the lower end of polls would exit the race, I wonder if they were wary of having their own David Orchard moment and getting promises that would never be realized? Whatever the reason, the time to leave the race came and went with no movement from the bottom.

The moment in question I mention is the date before ballots were printed. Whatever date it was – that day came and went with 14 candidates going to the printer for 259,010 Conservative Party members to mark the 1 through 10 preferences. Presumably the date to withdraw from the race would fall between February 24, 2017 – the day nominations closed and March 28th when membership sales ended. There might have been another week in there as the cut off, but without the party publishing the key milestone dates we’ll never know.

All we know is that 259,010 party members will receive a ballot with an O’Leary-less leadership ballot with O’Leary on the ballot.

RHBS 156

Why was O’Leary late is leaving the race? His name on the ballot leaves a lot of questions. These questions would have disappeared if Kevin O’Leary had left the race before the ballot sent to the printers. Kevin O’Leary is still going to be part of the leadership conversation, I am sure he would want it any other way.

Now that he is out, will his memberships move to Bernier? How many of O’Leary’s memberships will still mark Kevin as #1? How many ballots will never make it to a mailbox?

With an upper tier of the leadership that has been thinned out, what is there for the lower tiered candidates to gain from the ballot? Are there expectations of a victory or the opportunity to make a statement? In the final debate, candidates Trost and Obhrai both appealed to those watching by stating that they each had common ground with other candidates on the stage. Of the lower tier how does coming number two help? Who do they become number two to? Of Bernier, O’Toole, Scheer or maybe Raitt or Chong who do Leitch, Trost, Obhrai or Lemieux aim to be 2nd on the ballot to?

Will we see deals made between Bernier and Raitt? O’Toole and Scheer? Does Chong even rate a number based on his Carbon Tax stand? The only other candidate that has outlined an environmental plan is O’Toole, does Erin court Michael and visa versa?

Ballots came in the mail to our home today, while we might be 90-100% of who our #1 is, it’s the 2 through 10, or maybe only a 2, 3 and 4 that are the source of discussion. It is too early to tell which way our ballots will go. If you have a ballot, good luck and have fun figuring out how your ballot will look…I hope to see you in Toronto on May 27th.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

What’s Shufflin’ on my iPod

 

Blue Rodeo – 1000 Arms

Here’s the problem with Blue Rodeo, it’s their catalogue of great music from the previous 15 studio albums, a Greatest Hits package and “Live” recordings over 30 years. 1000 Arms is the first collection of new music since 2013’s In Our Nature; in between there was the Christmas release A Merrie Christmas to You and their 3rd Live Lp recorded at Massey Hall.  Oh yeah, there a single released during the 2015 federal election which caused me to (temporarily) hold a personal protest of Blue Rodeo music.

1000 Arms stands so well on its own, however with the catalogue of material that the band is competing with, many of these songs will go unheard live. I’d like to see Blue Rodeo tour and unapologetically not play anything from before 2000. The set list would be just as vibrant and eclectic.

1000 Arms should be a great addition to cottage porches, patios and car rides this summer.

Standout tracks:  Superstar, Long Hard Life, 1000 Arms and So Hard to See.

Michelle Branch – Hopeless Romantic

From the opening refrain of ‘Best You Ever’ Hopeless Romantic signals the return of Michelle Branch. Her song writing remains the same, but has matured. The stronger songs are a result of years of collaborations while trying to come up with material her record company would stand behind. It should be no surprise that she has stepped up her game by sitting in and composing with some of the best in LA, Nashville and London.

With less acoustic guitar work, her sound has filled out and her vocals reflect the sensitivity of the material filled with the fragile emotion of a break up, ‘Fault Line’ is a great example of this. However when she breaks out the acoustic it is solid, ‘Knock Yourself Out’ is not out of place on this 14 track set.

It is so good to have a first rate female singer-songwriter of Branch’s caliber with new material. Hopeless Romantic has been in rotation on my iPod since April 7th and likely will be there for the summer.

Standout tracks: Fault Line, Knock Yourself Out, Hopeless Romantic and Heartbreak Now

Ryan Adams – Prisoner

This one is for the long haul; it’s been playing since February of this year. New Lp’s from other artists have tried to squeeze it out, but none have succeeded.

Prisoner follows the release of a complete remake song by song of Taylor Swift’s 1989. Creatively, Prisoner is Adams’ most complete work of music on one disc since his work with The Cardinals. Like Michelle Branch’s Hopeless Romantic, the music here reflects his divorce, health and disillusion of the music business.

Through a renewed interest in music, via his own label PAX-AM, Prisoner has the hooks of what Bryan Adams would have recorded at his career zenith (you need to hear his version of ‘Summer of 69’ to get this connection), the thoughtfulness of Dylan and good American rock of Tom Petty. His swings from rock, to country folk and back are so easy to listen to – his voice lends to being able to commit to any style wants.  His musicianship shines throughout this disc, he loves his guitars and different sounds he gets from the many he owns. It brings diversity not on many discs.

It will be a sad day when I pull this entire disc off the iPod, trying to find individual tracks to act as a highlight of Prisoner will be difficult.

Standout racks: Do you still love me, Prisoner, Doomsday, Outbound Train

Linda Carone – Black Moonlight

What may seem like the odd duck in these four discs is really not, Black Moonlight is just really good music performed by very good vocalist. Linda Carone is a Toronto Jazz pianist-vocalist. She is self-described as a vintage jazz and blues singer. While Black Moonlight is her debut disc, but by no means has she just popped up. Linda can be found often on the jazz circuit in Toronto.

The choice of songs is just as important as her voice. In the tradition of Diana Krall and Harry Connick Jr., Carone has chosen well and clearly played these songs live enough to be able to ‘own’ them. So, when listening to Black Moonlight, close your eyes and just try to image you are not in a club – it will be impossible.

With a sultry and velvety voice Black Moonlight going to be perfect on our balcony this summer with the candles, balcony lights and a glass of wine after the sun has sent.

Standout Tracks: Black Moonlight, Guilty, Under the Spell of the Blues, Livin my Way of Life


 

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

The Collective Benefits of Ending Homelessness 2

December 2011 I posted “the Collective Benefits of Ending Homelessness”, since then, over 5 years, there have been 500+ clicks to see the post. Five plus years later, it is time for an update. In those five years the conversation has shifted, it has moved from talking about ending homelessness to having available affordable housing, in essence the conversation could now be the “Collective Benefits of Affordable Housing”.

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Back in 2011 I wrote about the then Federal Conservative Government plans to reduce homelessness by finding and funding places for people to get off the streets and under a roof. Was it the right approach? Where does the search to end homelessness begin? Is this is a chicken or the egg situation? What is the right beginning, to create new housing to move people to a house from a room or fund shelter spaces to move people off the street? Whatever the solution, it helps the circle of movement move faster and more efficiently (one hopes).

Since the 2012 report from the Ottawa Alliance to End Homelessness (ATEH) there has been an increase in the number of people accessing homeless spaces. The 2016 report (http://endhomelessnessottawa.ca/resources/2016-progress-report-on-ending-homelessness/) shows that 7170 individuals used a shelter of some sort, not since 2012 have over 7000 people sought a shelter for the night. There is some indication that the federal plan of 2011 has had a positive impact as numbers dropped to 6508 in 2014, but that number has been slowly creeping back up to the numbers released recently by the ATEH.

Why isn’t the needle moving in a positive direction on this? What is hold us back?

With a 10 year commitment from the City of Ottawa to reduce homelessness in its 4th year, there remains a concern that the needs are not being met – and that the reasons for it are changing. Affordability is becoming more and more the reason for not having a permanent home. Youth are couch surfing and families are moving into smaller homes as the cost of rent and everyday needs (like hydro) increase without solid solutions to reduce or stabilize the cost of staying in a home. In 2012 it was estimated that 1000 new housing units were needed annually in Ottawa to meet, reduce and eliminate homelessness. In five years the City of Ottawa has created just under 1300. Based what the ATEH estimated, the Ottawa is 3700 units behind its needs.

It is clear to me each new government has its own ideas for solutions to ending homeless and in 2017 we see affordability becoming a huge issue as the cost to purchase a home rises annually. The Liberals in Ottawa announced $11B over 11 years as part of National housing strategy, but that money is being spread over several initiatives – the $11B sounds like an incredible figure and it is. But on an annual basis the figures do not seem as impressive. As an example, the $3.2B in the Renewed Federal-Provincial-territorial Partnership for seniors housing over 11 years is less than $300M each year.

The $11B is a good first step nationally, but for the 10,000+ on the Ottawa housing wait list it will take years to build those roofs and walls and eventually end homelessness in Ottawa and other communities across Canada. What needs to be addressed is how governments can help the unknown those families, youth and individuals who are not on wait list, we don’t know where they are today or where they will be tonight.

I have hopes that by distributing the $11B through the CMHC it will be a much more effective and efficient flow of funding rather than previously when the money flowed through three different government hands before it got to the providers and builders of affordable housing. One positive out of the 2017 budget is that it should reduce the reporting structure for how the money used while this funding is available over 11 years.

2017 and 2018 will see several Municipal and Provincial elections held, for the social and affordable housing sectors these will be important to hold governments to account for a lack of progress and to ensure incoming governments and councils will take actions that will see less use of shelters as more rooms, apartments and houses for youth, seniors and families will be ready with doors wide open for them.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

Happy Cannabis Day

Pot FlagThe Trudeau Liberals checked off another box today from their 2015 election promises. Legislation was introduced to legalize the use of recreational marijuana.

In this bill, Trudeau is sitting pretty atop the pyramid of responsibility, he has the least to lose and the least to pay for an issue that in the Provincial Elections of 2011 and 2014 was not raised. Even during my short time campaigning municipally in 2010, this was not an election concern. In the federal campaigns of 2011 and 2015, I don’t recall legal marijuana being listed as a top concern in Ottawa Centre and other ridings, whether it was in Toronto or Ottawa that I helped a candidate in.

While the Liberals have the greatest to gain and the least to lose it’s the two lower tiers that will have to work the hardest to make the legislation work. This is legislation that as far as I can tell was not top of the page in Queens Park, Ottawa or Toronto City Hall or any other provincial legislature. As the responsibility drops, there’s more to lose. The cost of enforcement falls to municipal and provincial police forces; the provincial justice system has to try the cases. Distribution will flow through individual provincial manners much like alcohol and with different provincial policies for health and healthcare it just gets messier.

If the federal government really wanted to take control of legal pot – they could do it all alone using federal institutions that are currently in place. Let’s leave the Provinces and Municipalities out of it. It’s not unrealistic to think that the federal government could do this all on their own, with few exceptions.

Growth and production regulations for of cannabis and cannabis products would fall under the Health Canada, while the Canadian Food Inspection Agency would team up with Agriculture Canada to regulate the growth, collection and inspection of the efficacy and safety of the product going out to Canadians. Health Canada would be responsible for education on the use of pot and the awareness of its use’s effects.

The federal government can rely on Canada Post for distribution of the marijuana to customers, either through mail or in Canada Post outlets. This eliminates the need and legality of others owning the pot dispensaries.

Enforcement falls in to the laps of RCMP; the CBSA could be expanded to include the law’s enforcement and on federal lands (parks and Parliament Hill) wardens and Parliamentary Police Forces would pitch in. In some other cases other levels of policing could be contracted and invoice the federal government when arrests are made. These policing costs would merely be a line item in the larger legal marijuana budget. Criminal cases would be tried solely in federal courts and convictions to be served in federal penitentiaries.

The same concept works for the treatment of cases for marijuana related ambulatory trips to the ER’s, stays in hospitals etc., Provinces can bill the federal government and receive payment through healthcare transfers.

Through all of this, the beauty is that the federal government keeps all the money; there would be no need to share any of the revenue from the sale of the marijuana.

Does this scenario make it more difficult for people who want to smoke it get it? Maybe, but that’s not my issue, more importantly though it makes it simpler to know who is supposed to do what.  It would all fall on the federal government – no one to blame (or praise) for the success or failure of legalizing pot goes to any other level of government.

The bottom line is this; it’s easy to come up with an idea and tell someone else to take care of it. But courage is to take ownership, 100% ownership. In a 2017 Trudeau world, there is no room to take 100% ownership of any problem, there is always someone else.

Now what can we do to move the date of legalization away, far away from Canada Day?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

Where are you now: The return of Michelle Branch

Hopeless Romantic

There are not many artists that I keep watching for, for the release of new music. From the 60’s I always have an interest in what Paul McCartney is putting out or if there is something new coming from the vaults of Abbey Road and EMI Studios with the Beatles, the face of the 70’s will always be Elton John and I’ll always have an eye and ear out for anything new he produces.

At the turn of the century there was a burst of new female singer-songwriters. Of the new breed hitting the charts, names like Vanessa Carleton, Avril Lavinge, Ashley Simpson all had opportunity to have long rewarding careers. In that mix is the new singers was Michelle Branch who release The Spirit Room spawned hits like “Everywhere”, “All You Wanted” and “Goodbye to You” The Spirit Room also had very strong inventory of album cuts. The Spirit Room was followed two years later in 2003 with Paper Hotel with hits like “Breathe” and “Are You Happy Now”. Like The Spirit Room, Hotel Paper was also stacked with great album tracks like “Where are you now” and “Find Your Way Back”.

And then that was pretty well it.

There was a collaboration that became The Wreckers’ Stand Still and Look Pretty in 2005 and an EP Everything Comes and Goes (2010) that got my hopes up for something new. New music almost came with the single “Loud Music” that was released before a full set called West Coast Music was due to be released but was ultimately shelved. I recall listening the webcast of a Q & A with Michelle that preceded the audio premiere playing of “Loud Music”. If not for online music services, that song would be buried along with the other 10-12 tracks that might have been part of that album.

The escapade that she went through with her record label has been recalled many times leading up to the new tapes coming out.

My excitement has peaked since a new collection of songs; Hopeless Romantic is set to come out April 7th.  Three songs have been pre-released; “The Best You Ever”, “Fault Line” and the title track. There is no chance now that we’ll have what happened to West Coast Music will take place with Hopeless Romantic and I could not be happier. This weekend I shuffled the three new tracks with her previous music. Not only did they stand up to The Spirit Room and Hotel Paper, they stood miles apart.

I do not think any musician would recommend waiting 14 years to release a full set of new music. In the case of Michelle Branch, working on new music for those years, a divorce and raising a daughter has given a whole new world for her capture in song. I don’t want to wait another 14 years for more from her, I might look silly as a 70 year old standing in line at the record shop to purchase it.

All I know is that April 7th, will be a great day! I will be sure to post a review Hopeless Romantic for #RedHeartBlueSign once I pry myself away from listening to the disc on repeat.

I am Happy Now

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.