Saturday, June 22, 2013

"See You Down the Road" Blue Rodeo in Stratford, Ontario

Diamond Mine - Blue Rodeo

Another fabulous evening spent in the company of Jim Cuddy, Greg Keelor and the rest of the boys that make up BLUE RODEO. I am a career long fan of the band from the first time I heard Rose Coloured Glasses on the radio. And then I saw the video on Much Music with the keyboardist Bob Wiseman jumping up to the beat of Greg singing "Day after day..." (3:40 on the official video) and I felt such joy - someone wipe this silly grin off my face. The energy that I felt when they was infectious. I ran out and bought the album, one play through and I was hooked. It was like getting two albums for the price of one. Greg and Jim had very distinctive voices and styles and i was drawn to each for different reasons - but the harmonisations made them a unified force. Over the next 25 years from one release to the next - what's not to love? Let your heart dance with mine to the beat of the music...

It's difficult to classify their genre. There were times they were considered a country band that occasionally crossed over - but that was a lot from the name I think. Some Blues too ;) There are songs that have a decidely country feel with the instrumentation and cadence of the tune - collectively and solo efforts. And then there is more raucous tune that features an accordian melding with the electric and acoustic guitars. Maybe it's my Italian background but I want to start passing the red-wine stained, wicker-covered wine bottle, get up and sashay around the room with an inebriated uncle (aunt or other family friend) like I did during our version of Newfoundlands kitchen party.

The show last night was held in Stratford, Ontario. Third time's a charm, the show was cancelled two times previously for various issues that were beyond the control of the boys in the band. Worked out great for me, because the person originally scheduled to go had other commitments leaving a ticket for me. I was thrilled to be asked to attend. Of course we got there early and enjoyed some of the sights and sounds of both the city of Stratford Ontario and Blues and RibFest. Okay, it was general admission and we like to be up front and center. So yes, we were at the front of the line, and when the doors opened we whooped our way in - front and center. It's all part of the experience and we met some nice people - Paul, Jerry, Sue, Josh (so familiar looking)! Only fitting since we met at as early rising audience members for a Blue Rodeo appearance on Canada AM. Another first, we were interviewed by the local newspaper "The Stratford Gazette" and proclaimed "two of Blue Rodeo's biggest fans". WooHoo! Now we just need a Meet and Greet to fulfill a true fan's fantasy. Time to chat and get to know them. 

Blue Rodeo hits the Stratford Stage Newspaper article from South Western Ontario Stratford Gazette online.

Some pictures instead of words depicting the concert experience. Enjoy, share but please credit. I'm not a pro, just a fan. I am sorry that some are sideways - They were upright when I uploaded them. If I can figure out how to fix, I will. Meanwhile - do yourself a favour....LISTEN TO THE MUSIC! BUY THE MUSIC! YOU'LL LOVE THE MUSIC!

More pictures can be found on my facebook page :)

Credit where credit is due
To Jim Cuddy, Greg Keelor and the boys in the band - without them their wouldn't be such great music in my head :)
The Stratford Gazette

Friday, June 14, 2013

What Is the Price of Life? and The Rob Ford Follies

Money City Maniacs - Sloan

I am going to take a stand on what I feel is a disturbing trend fuelled by the almighty dollar. I am annoyed and can't be silenced. More and more often these days we are hearing about the outcome of events being contingent on the raising of a specific dollar amount from the public. The first I heard of this involved a movie. The Veronica Mars movie project. The producer had a script and agreed in principal to make the movie (I don't know if the standard avenues for funding were explored and denied or just bypassed) - the idea was put to the fans. If you want to see it, you have to pay us for making it. Then you can pay again to see it. I guess it's your money, do with it what you want. I've no interest in Veronica Mars or even know who she is. If a movie is made and I find it worthy of my time, I will make the decision to see it then. A cursory glance at one of the internet platforms reveals that not just movies are seeking your dollar so are inventors looking to get their latest notion to market. Fashion trends too. And people are laying their greenbacks down. A few clicks and mental calculations and an easy million has been committed to various projects. 

But this notion of so-called Crowd-Funding has gone to the dark side when a tabloid-type website decided to raise the ransom requested before releasing an incriminating video of Rob Ford (mayor of Toronto, Ontario) smoking crack. Now, I'm no fan of Rob Ford but if he has engaged in illegal activity it is up to the police to deal with it. If a crime occurs, the first thing police do in this technologically aware society is seek out security video from surrounding homes or businesses. And they don't pay to view it. So it stands to reason that if someone is claiming to have video of Mayor Rob Ford engaging in illegal activity, the police need to step in not me and my visa number. He is a master of denial from the Bill Clinton School of It Wasn't Me and is quick to point a finger to someone else. Just one step shy of a temper tantrum, he blames the media frenzy on a specific newspapers being out to get him. Not even the National Enquirer could make up some of this stuff let alone the humble Toronto Star. He sees himself as a hero for the people. The people need to see him for what he is. An arrogant, self-involved, lying buffoon. And for the record, the required amount of money was raised (and then some) but suddenly the owner of the video wasn't interested in talking anymore. 

But let's look at a potential benefit to this new form of fund-raising. I am well aware of the level of my own intelligence but I can't be the only one who thought of this. Some time ago there was a story circulating on the interweb about a cancer cure in the form of DCA by researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. It was on the CBC - Canada's go to trustworthy news source. The claim was that a drug called Dichloroacetate had been found to kill brain, breast and lung cancer cells while leaving the healthy cells alone. The problem was that the patent on the drug had long since expired so there was no incentive by the pharmaceutical companies to invest the money required for further testing. If they can't make money they aren't interested. This is incomprehensible to me. But it lies credence to the long held notion that there has been a cure for the common cold for many years but the industry makes so much money from our coughs and sputters that it will never be disclosed. Same thing here except it's not a runny nose it's the breath of life. And it's not an internet scam gone wild - investigated and found that although exaggerated somewhat in the cure-all claims, there was a lot of validity to the story and according to the most cynical professionals, the drug itself was worth investigating further. 

If there is the slimmest of chances of a cure for a deadly disease that affects almost everyone one of us these days in someway...Someone we love or someone we know...If there is a tiny possibility that one person in 10, one in 100 is cured then it's worth the money. Take all the money that we raise to see a movie come to the big screen and preserve the life of a loved one - wouldn't you do it. You could send $5 to see a video of Rob Ford breaking the law or making an ass of himself or you could turn on the 6:00 news any given night and sit on the sofa and laugh with the special someone who was just diagnosed and now has a chance to live. More than $200,000 was raised for that! Think of the good it could have done.

In 2012  2 in 5 Canadians were expected to develop cancer.
In 2012  1 in 4 Canadians were expected to die from cancer.

Sobering statistics. What would you do to change it? If every Canadian made a commitment of $1.00 would it be enough to take control of the drug, do further testing and then put it to market. For the people by the people. And top it up with $1,000,000 from the next national lottery instead of giving it as a winning prize. Then we would all win again. If I could do it and have my brother back - well, it's a no-brainer. 

The Saga of Rob Ford is entertaining so lets roll with it.

Do we really need to pay money to verify that he is an arrogant, lying, disgrace to the city who thinks he is above the law. I give it less than a month before he has done something else to get the world laughing at Toronto. More Ford Nation? He needs to be recalled like the vehicles bearing his name. Mayor Rob Ford has golden horseshoes up his ass along with a silver spoon/soother in his mouth. He has dodged more bullets than raindrops in a thunderstorm and still he stands. But then again Weebles wooble but they don't fall down. The ironic thing is that he often the one stirring the pot and creating the story. This wouldn't be the first time that the always innocent Mayor has found himself on the negative side of public opinion. Off the top of my head:

1. He gave a finger to a fellow motorist when she challenged his being on the phone while driving. An illegal activity in the province.
2. He was photographed driving along a major highway, reading and navigating the congested road. Distracted driving is a crime but he begged off because he is a "busy man". 
3. He gave priority status to the road work that was to be done in front of this family's business to ensure it's completion before a 50th anniversary celebration
4. Conflict of Interest charges were brought against him after he funnelled solicited funds to his football foundation and then voted to not pay it back when the story came to light. For that he was ordered to step down as mayor. He won his appeal and the people lost.
5. Campaign finance violations by exceeding the spending limit and accepting a no-interest loan from a Ford family business instead of a recognised lender. Allegations his own lawyer didn't deny but called insignificant.
6. He extended his sympathy for cyclist who are killed on the city streets by saying "it's their own fault at the end of the day."
7. With his head down trying to avoid reporters he walks into a camera and then with a few expletives and blasphemies claims they hit him with the camera.
8. He questioned the mental competence of a fellow politician when she claimed that he grabbed her derriere in a drunken stupor.
9. It was the Toronto Sun not the Star that confronted the mayor after finding records of an arrest in Florida in 1999 for drug possession and DUI. He vehemently denied the possession allegation "Now I'm getting offended. No means No". Later he admitted having one joint in his back pocket. He pleaded no contest to the alcohol related offence. 
10. He used a taxpayer paid aide to help him coach his high school football team and they used city vehicles for transportation to games and practices.
11. Also a benefit to the Don Bosco High School team that he coached, paying transit customers were booted off a bus in the rain when Ford called the CEO of the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) saying his team needed a bus for a ride back to the school after an away game.
12. After failing off the scale at his Cut the Waist Challenge, he twisted his ankle. While he did lose 17 pounds, he never really seemed to take it seriously and when the going got hard, he gave up and went to KFC instead. And he was spotted with his hand in the bucket. More on this story can be found at my blog written on May 1, 2012 Downsizing An Upsizing World. The link can be found below. 

Credit where credit is due:

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Another Time, Another Place - Ron Sdraulig

Cancer - My Chemical Romance

And in the blink of an eye another year has passed. And as I mark yet another anniversary of profound loss, I want to focus on what can be done so others may not have to feel the pain. I don't wallow in self-pity. It is what it is. If I could change it I would but I have had a few years to adjust and cope with my loss. I wasn't always alone. It just seems like a lifetime. I came from a large family. There were 6 of us and counting when my Dad passed away unexpectedly, and in the decades that followed everyone else went away also. The last to go was my brother Ron Sdraulig. Ron was 21 years old on June 4 1984 when he muttered my name and gasped his last breath. I was glad to be with him to offer comfort (I hope) and to see for myself that his transition onto the next journey was peaceful. It was, but 29 years later when I think about that night I still hurt a lot. His biggest fear before he died was my mental state - it's a good thing that his physical being wasn't here in the past two years because he would have kicked my ass. Or maybe we would have together kicked some ass before I could be beaten down. Truth be told, less than a month ago I was preparing to join him. And then something happened to renew my hope that it was worth the fight. I may have a halo of angels floating around my head but even they aren't always strong enough to keep me standing on my feet while I am getting sucker punched. Fortunately my stubbornness reminded me that it's "Never Too Late"

When Ron passed, the official cause of death was noted as Heart Failure. I read that as a broken heart - a young man who had lived a decade fighting for his life alone when all he wanted was the support of his mom in his time of sickness. The Mom who had been there by his hospital bedside, holding his hand during painful treatments and their side effects, who listened to the prognosis and made the decisions. Ron battled Hodgkin's Lymphoma from the age of 9 when the first goose-egg sized lump appeared on his neck like an unwanted gift the day after Christmas. And so many recurrences and illnesses that followed after she was taken in a car accident when he was just 11 years old. I was a kid myself and didn't understand but I do remember the recurrence in his groin and the tumour that appeared his head far from the lymph nodes. And in between the cancer operations, radiation and chemotherapy, there were spinal taps and a severe and painful bought of shingles. You really don't know what you have when you have your health. A pain-free day for him was filled with worry of what the next day would bring. I didn't support him emotionally then - I was an angry kid, making unwise decisions about my own life and unmindful of Ron's struggles. I was just a year older than Ron - I can regret my selfishness now but I would rather focus on the positive. Sneaking in to see him when we were told that it was dangerous (for me) and sitting on his bed laughing. About what, I don't remember - but for just a moment he forgot pain and laughed. It's all that mattered then. Just like being there awash with tears to tell him I love you the very last time June 4, 1984.

In 1972, cancer was not very common, especially in the young. Certainly not like it is today. The only thing I know is that while the population of Canada did not double between 1987 and 2012, the chance of a Canuck being diagnosed with cancer has doubled. I want to know why. It seems that everything causes cancer. Back in the day, Ron and I had an interesting discourse about cancer risks. Of course it can't be argued that smoking in any way is good for you, but even then, more additives were put into the commercial cigarette compared to the time when if you wanted to smoke you  got a bag of tobacco and rolled your own. Certainly there were many people that we knew who smoked and never got cancer, what was the difference? To my mind, the nasty brownish-yellow acrid foul-tasting smoke coming from the stakes of the local paper mills and enveloping the surrounding neighbourhoods was far worse to inhale then commercial tobacco. And indeed working in the mills certainly presented health concerns. Somewhere in my files I have two articles that I set aside to prove my point in the next debate. One article stated that caffeine consumption was proven to cause cancer. Not a month later there was an article from the same newspaper that claimed caffeine prevented cancer. And these days you could drive yourself batty trying to keep up with all the do's and don'ts.  

There wasn't a kid who grew up in the 1960's - 1980's that didn't drink from one garden hose or another. We were out playing all day long. To go inside the home for a drink of water meant that we might be caught and forced to stay in and do homework or some other distasteful chore. The hose was the go to - we never thought we were contributing to our own demise by partaking in the sharing of the hose fountain. If anything, being allowed to be kids may have strengthened our immunity and permitted us to be healthier. There was no toxic soup being used on the grass we played leap frog on. Homes were cleaned with chemical baths and disinfected to the point of sterilisation. And perhaps most importantly the food we ingested was not genetically modified and filled with chemicals and antibiotics. It was a healthier time and our bodies reacted to that. We are simply not built to fight off all the toxins that we are exposing ourselves to. And in our paranoia and attempt to cleanse we are killing off the good germs and at the same time creating super bugs that we can't kill to protect ourselves. 

I'm not a scientist and not the first person to tout this vein of thinking but, I believe that the incidence of breast cancer in women has gone up as women entered the business world and working more frequently outside of the home. It's not the work itself that's the problem it is the deodorant that they are using. Our bodies are magnificent machines that left alone can work trouble free for a lifetime. Yes, I see the irony there - but bear with me a moment. We blink without thought and it cleanses and protects our eyes, we sneeze on reflex to rid our respiratory system of an irritant. When we ingest something that is not good for us, for the most part they are expelled one way or the other. My mother used to say that if God put it there, there was a reason for it and unless it was absolutely necessary - it wasn't being removed. Of course this was the era of commonplace tonsillectomies. (Yes, I have my tonsils.) The point is that our bodies are meant to sweat and when we use a product to block the sweat glands where does the sweat (ammonia, urea, sugar and salt) go? Sweat itself does not smell - the reaction of the sweat with the bacteria on the body makes the smell. Yes, for some people it is a medical condition. For most of us, we don't have an issue with excessive sweat - we use it because years of effective marketing has convinced us that we must. So did our middle school hygiene/gym teachers. It is hard to find and more expensive but do yourself a favour (men and women) and buy deodorant instead of anti-perspirant. Unless you know you have the gene that has been identified as causing breast cancer like Angelina Jolie does.

Part of it is smart living. Watching how many chemically engorged processed foods we eat, being aware of genetically modified fruits and vegetables. I'm not an organic eater or a radical hippie, live off the land type. Just trying to be aware and not paranoid. It's a moderation thing when it comes to food. Too much coffee, diet soda, fried foods, beer is not good for you. But like the occasional glass of wine it won't kill you and life is about the enjoyment. Most of my family was killed in car accidents but rarely a day goes by when I don't get into a car. I try to be a safe driver and I'm aware of assholes on the road but I won't stop driving because it can kill you. 

So how did that discourse with my brother so many years ago end. Well, with a few tears and sand bags of sadness weighing on our shoulders we decided that everyone has cancer cells in them. For some the cancer is triggered by saccharine, by others caffeine, for others it will remain forever unknown. There are a lot of people who smoke and haven't contracted lung cancer. George Burns smoke and drank his whole life that ended after he turned 100. My brother never smoke or drank before beginning the fight for life at 9 years of age. And for the critics, it was pre-dominantly a smoke free home.

It is my goal to do what I can so that my brother did not die in vein. I try to keep his memory alive through my writing and spreading the word of his life story. I am also a part of a sibling study being conducted at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. I was approached many years ago, my part in it is minimal - I provide medical information on myself and my children and submit the occasional saliva sample and I've allowed them access to Ron's medical files. One thing that they have discovered is that many who were treated for childhood cancers where given treatments that their tiny bodies could not handle and they often succumbed from heart failure because of it. Like Ron did. 

Although in his case I suspect their was much more to it. The doctor at the time of his death said that "in a sense, Ron committed suicide because he had given up the will to live and had refused treatments in the recent past". It is true that Hodgkin's Lymphoma is considered to be one of the most curable cancers. Even in 1984 the doctor said to me that with treatment Ron could have lived another 10 years. By then, with the advances in medicine he would have had another 10 years. Be it what it is, he had fought for more than 10 years - mostly alone and he was tired. I get that! Now more than I ever have in my life. I get it! Ron was and will always be my hero. He cared about me more than he cared about his own future. He put himself in harms way to save my life when he returned to a fully-engulfed burning car to pull me to safety. He loved me when I was not lovable. 

Ronald McDonald Clock - Dan Gleeson
Ron's life in picture and song
(if the video doesn't show up - here is a link Ron Sdraulig Clock)


I have a recording of my brothers voice on an answering machine cassette. One day there will be a way to hear it again - on this earthly world or beyond.