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Beiber & Ford To Lead Peace Mission to Ukraine

bukowskiAre you a Beleiber? Perhaps a member of Ford Nation?

If  you’re a first timer to ANDSHELAUGHS, it may take you a while to get to the point I’m making.

It may take you an awfully long time indeed my dears, but why don’t you, just for the heck of it, pour yourself a little jigger of Beiber’s reported fave cough syrup concoction, or get a big whiff of crack if you prefer Rob Ford’s poison. After all; monkey-see, monkey-do.

For my regular readers, dive into your coffee, bourbon or bubbly and settle in for a Sunday afternoon re-cap of what made very small headlines this weekend.

That’s it darlings, get cozy.

Being this far into the countdown to the Olympics, we’ve all had a little taste of the skimming-the-top-of-what-it’s-like-to-live-in-homophobic-black-market-Russia. The news business knows that we like a little scandal to go along with the glory of the Olympics.

You know, the once-every-four-year-event that brings the best of amateur athletes to the world stage. Pssst…dont’ tell the NHL about the amateur, non-professional athlete part. Yes, it’s the kind of thing that makes grown men cry.

But why  look all the way to cold, socially backward Russia when we have our own little Pan Am Games scandal right here in good old Canaduh? While the Beibs got a full, center spread in the Globe this weekend, the firing of Ian Troop got a lousy 10 inches.

You might want to fill up your glass for this little nugget folks, poor Mr. Troop (according to the Globe article) will receive a paltry $478, 200.00 lump sum as part of his severance package, along with retirement benefits AND medical benefits of $43,100.00.

Now that, my dear Canadians, is a punch in the throat to the millions of folks in this country just trying to get by.  We, like the Ukrainians should be rioting in the streets.

You do know about what’s going on in  Ukraine don’t you?

What about South Sudan?  No?

But I bet you know about old Rob Ford getting a jay-walking ticket in Vancouver though, don’t you?

If this little news exposé has you looking at a map to find Kiev, or  wondering how you can use your art to protest our government’s capitalism-gone-rogue reign of terror on real journalism, social programs, health care, and anything that threatens the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, then I have done my job.

If not, please, by all means, enjoy the bliss of your ignorance, and enjoy your cough syrup and crack.

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Christmas Rant: Part I

The War in the Vendée was a royalist uprising ...
The War in the Vendée was a royalist uprising that was suppressed by the republican forces in 1796 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, ‘Part I’. There may, indeed, be a ‘Part II’ , depending upon how stupid things get before the new year.

Last year the grand ‘we’,  declined to see the value in the Occupy Wall Street campaign, that was staggeringly avoided by major press agencies.

We let the dreadlocked-live-our-values-over-charged-for-our-mediocre-educations-and-under-employed youth, fight it out in the streets for the middle class. The middle class, who are losing their ever crippling grip on the edge of affluence as they march to the hypnotically convincing drum of ‘The Man’.

‘The Man’, yep, that pretty much almost sums it up. Consider two facts from Joseph E. Stiglitz’s The Price of Inequality;

“The top 1% earned more than 65 percent of the total national income [in the United States], ” and, ” …the ratio of CEO annual compensation to that of the typical worker by 2010 was back to what it had been before the crisis, to 243 to 1“.

While the media reports on Miley’s junior-miss sized twerking patooty, in above-the-fold-full-colour-coverage, they give about half of that coverage to reports about unions being vilified (by the powers that be), as unfairly over-compensating workers.

It doesn’t take a PhD in maths to know that the statistics mentioned above impact the majority of folks in not only North America, but everywhere on the planet.

When we treat silver-spoon born Conrad Black as a real journalist, and Rob Ford as a misunderstood ‘average guy’, we’re wrong. Dead wrong. Rob Ford’s Escalade is worth 3x that of the average vehicle (a simple Honda Civic) owned by those living in the GTA, and his assets multiply to have net value in the millions.

Toronto has a mayor who openly flaunts the rules, degrades homosexuals, women and anyone else who thinks differently than him, and uses the excuse that the press is too rough on him to get away with it all. Actually, his big bully brother does the talking. The day I knew we’d lost all dignity as a nation was the one that showed Mr. Ford and his compadres dancing like  idiots in council chambers just days after having his mayoral power stripped from him.

Only someone with the wealth of Mr. Black has the gumption to whine about being incarcerated for being a liar and a cheat. Call it fraud, bad accounting, whatever…it’s lying and cheating at the cost of everyone else who shares the same planet.

The worst part is, we let it happen. Yes, read this slowly; we allow this to happen. Instead of rioting in the street, we go to work, pay our taxes, and our over-inflated power, cell phone and health care bills.

Let me get back to the subject of unions. We’ve seen unions vilified by the Conservative government and big business, so much so that we’ve bought into this anti-union perspective.

Unions may have been gauche in the booming 80’s, but today we live a different economic and social reality. The reality is that unions are needed now more than they were needed in the past thirty or forty years. For over thirty years, the average annual income of a full-time worker stagnated, while the profits at the top have multiplied at astonishing rates.

Young adults entering the workforce are under-employed at alarming rates. Not to mention everyone one else. The days of full-time jobs with benefits that sustain a comfortable lifestyle are over. Instead, we have the majority of people working at part-time or contract jobs, unable to sustain themselves, or have any measure of security.

Besides being unable to pay their bills, folks in jobs that are not secure suffer from more illness and social problems than ever before. Economic instability feeds fear, and that creates a downward spiraling quagmire of social issues; homelessness, addiction, abuse, crime, and all of the other wonderful side-effects of poverty.

The top 1%’s after tax income reached an average of $1.3 million in the United States in 2010. That of the bottom 20% only reached $17,000. No wonder big-business-journalism and politics doesn’t like unions. Unions distribute the wealth and offer job security.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are issues with unions too. Look at the billions of dollars of bailout money that went to Automakers with no conditions to streamline their production or offer more affordable, environmentally friendly products. Despite the obvious lazy-barnacles that infest unions (they also infest non-union environments at the same rate though), I’d rather live with unions to ensure more people with full-time jobs, than with what is happening now.

Canada and the U.S.,  live in a world of performing-party-politicking that leaves us without leaders in a wild-western-hemisphere black-hole of civilization.

If we leave the world up to those with no social conscience, and a taste for greed rather than loving-kindness, there will be many darker days to come, than this, the longest night of the year.



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Our Crack Smoking Mayor & The State of Our Nation

Crack Pipe
Crack Pipe (Photo credit: TylerIngram)

Hold the presses! After months of outright denial of crack use, Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford has admitted that he did, indeed smoke crack.Somebody put me over your knee and spank me. I couldn’t be more shocked darlings.

Just kidding.

“He should not resign. He has to be charged, tried, and found guilty. This is Canada,” said one Toronto city counsellor.

This is Canada.

Frightening, no?

We live in a country where justice prevails? No. We live in a country where our political leaders are not held accountable to lies, deceit, and abuse of power.

Consider also, that today the unconstitutional suspension of some of our Senators took place. Our Prime Minister and the Conservative party have a dark cloud of questionable behaviour regarding voter coersion, shutting down parliament, and most recently, the unethical if not illegal set-up of these three Senators to fall.

This is Canada eh?

You bet your sweet fur-panty covered petunia it is.

We are a nation led by the super-wealthy minority, and their naive middle-class, RRSP investing wanna-be’s.

We whine about taxes, but turn an eye to the gross amounts of money invested in high-paying beaurocratic jobs and point the finger at users of a social system that barely provides enough support to feed and shelter a person even if they’ve worked hard for decades.

We believe the news fed to us by a corporate entity with powerful political clout. We question nothing.

I challenge every single Canadian reading this to do a little investigation into ANY government department. The majority of money spent is at the upper level, for inflated salaries, repetitive planning and process tweaking (I’m not talking millions here folks, I’m talking billions). Been there, seen the waste, had the T-shirt torn from my back.

This is a huge problem throughout the federal, provincial, and municipal governments.

Oh yah, I almost forgot. Beware the Canadian career politician who is more interested in seeing their face on the evening news than fighting for ethical and socially responsible policy making and governance.

This is Canada.

We live in a country where people from across the globe seek refuge from severely broken, religion-tangled and poor countries.

For some they are grateful, for others, they work to make a positive difference. Still, for others moving to Canada they seize the opportunity to bring their mucked up system to a new country and tell us all how much better it was at home. And we let them!

This is Canada.

Tommy Douglas, Jack Layton and Margaret Atwood….now that’s Canada.

It’s time we challenged the status quo and admittted we live in a shattered system. It’s time we showed up; on Parliament Hill, at Queen’s Park, outside the local MP’s office, in council chambers, and take back the Canada we once could be so proud of.

I’m finished ranting now. Someone call the mayor of Toronto and get me something to take away the pain of witnessing the fall of our great country.


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Why We Need to Keep Mirvish & Gehry Tucked Snuggly in Bed Together

Art Gallery of Ontario at dusk. Toronto, Ontar...
Art Gallery of Ontario at dusk. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More shocking than the  social architecture project being conjured up by two wealthy visionary wizards of our time, is the fact that Toronto, a city that boasts their position on the world stage of urban centres, has a mayor who wants to bring back the plastic bag.

Packed into a few corner inches of the front page of the GTA section of today’s Toronto Star is the not-so-shocking revelation that the most pressing item on Mayor Rob Ford’s agenda at present is to get rid of the plastic bag ban in the city.

This is also the mayor who, instead of finding truly innovative mass transit solutions, is trying to figure out how to allow more vehicular traffic into the city.

In the rural village where I grew up, this would be considered, “Ass backward” thinking. That’s saying a lot, because it was a rather ‘ass backward’ place.

Basically the Gehry/Mirvish marriage proposal consists of a cultural complex which includes three condo towers . According to a Toronto Star article, a potential 10% of the residential area will be dedicated to three-bedroomers as is dictated by new planning strategies. 

It is a proposal only, with much shuddering and fearful beaurocracy waving flags of red tape in the direction of  Mirvish-Gehry forward-thinking parade.

 Mr. Mirvish may have come across as a little high-brow when he said, “I’m not building condominiums. I am building three sculptures that people can live in.” High-brow maybe, but in reality, that’s exactly what he’s doing.

What with Gehry’s Messiah like status in the world of architecture, working on creating truly artistic architecture, including  (excuse the pun) cutting edge technology to build translucent, dream-like glass structures, why shouldn’t Toronto honour its prodigal son?

One of the big concerns is how can the municipal infrastructure accommodate such a huge influx of residents? Roads, sidewalks, power, water…? Well, the straight answer is it can’t. Not as it exists now. Not as it may exist in another twenty years if visionaries with the financial clout don’t take the lead. Whether we like it or not, the city of Toronto needs to make room at the table for millions more.

This city needed to have had a much gutsier, greener plan decades ago. Shut down the streets to traffic, plant grass and trees, and heaven forbid, make proper bike lanes. Give us back the tree-lined boulevard and earth under our toes.

Frank Gehry gave us the new AGO, a building that makes you want to come inside so you don’t have to look at it. Maybe. But once inside, you are given views of the city that inspire introspection, appreciation of the city landscape, and creativity. All of which are a much-needed respite from the hectic pace of the world we live in.

There are studies on the effects of architecture on psychological well-being. How prison design either helps or hinders a prisoner’s behaviour. How efficient and effective workers are in different environments.

Anyone who has ever visited a communist country can tell you plainly how ‘communist architecture’, (concrete block buildings) can declare war on the psychological landscape. Gehry’s designs do anything but declare war. They ask us to look up, to look inward, and to reach out.

 Cities, nations and civilizations that dare not to dream and take risks based on visions of a better future fail. I daresay with the election of Mayor Ford, that the balance hasn’t already tipped greatly in the direction of that failure. 

Toronto is a symptom of the nation’s most chronic illness – extreme apathy.

There are questions about destroying historical landmarks, infrastructure, cost, how the community space will be used.

All I have to say is that art galleries and cultural space paid for by developer’s fees have a lot more to offer citizens than a chain restaurant and a theatre (The Princess of Wales) that has become, by virtue of higher supply than demand, rather mediocre.

I certainly don’t have answers to the thousands of questions that will need solutions. In my opinion I would rather have artists, visionaries and  philanthropists solve  those problems and design our urban spaces than career, ego driven politicians.

My prayer tonight; Please universe, let me prosper so I can live out the final days of my life in the milky glass dream of Frank Gehry. Amen. Hallelujah. Praise the Mirvish legacy.