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Monday, October 31, 2011

Did Chuck Lorre insult Cher and her family?

Two and a Half Men episode refers to "transsexual on Dancing With The Stars"

In a scene where the Jon Cryer character complains about his mother and infers that Chas Bono went on Dancing With The Stars because he is screwed up, rather than because he likes dancing, Chuck Lorre may have gone beyond social commentary. The remark is guaranteed to piss Cher off, as it implies that she and Sonny Bono were not good parents, and Sonny isn't even here to defend himself.

Chas is also unlikely to be amused, as he ends up being the "potential bad result" in this "joke". That slurs both him and his parents, so Chuck better get his full apology bows in order.

Is that Charlie Sheen I hear snickering in the background?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Occupy Together; Music and jams from across North America

Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine performs The Fabled City at Occupy Wall Street

Blues slide guitar virtuoso at Occupy Wall Street

Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel at Occupy Wall Street

Down By The Riverside at St. James Park, Occupy Toronto

Chanting and singing at Occupy Taipei

Violin, Banjo and Two Guitars at Occupy Toronto

Rainer Mandler's new song Nothing About Us, Without Us

Faith Nolan and Bill Bourne perform together at Occupy Toronto

More 99% Blues from Occupy Wall Street

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Burlington music in the mid to late 1970s

When I think back to when I was fifteen years old and in my very first band, with Jim Burns on drums, Bill Bishop on guitar and myself on bass, there is a lot of joy in the memories of those days, and in the musical journey from there to here. We were just teens goofing around on Jumping Jack Flash, Takin Care of Business and Radar Love, yet those sloppy, noisy nights were the beginnings of a lifetime love affair with rock music and culture.

Around seventeen years of age I de-emphasized bass playing and began managing the best band in town, Bill Wood's excellent progressive rock group Darwin, which also included the stellar Mike Danna on keyboards, Mike Lalonde on drums, Mark Shannon on bass and artist Tim Clement on guitar. These guys could play everything from Pink Floyd to Genesis, King Crimson to Led Zeppelin, and were a staple of the Tree Top room at the Estaminet on Lakeshore Road before I started booking them into Burlington and area high schools.

After Darwin, the next group I managed was Interchange, and though they were a bluesy rock outfit closer to the Stones and Aerosmith in style and repertoire, one thing they had in common with Darwin was they also had a very strong lead singer, Simon Leblovic. Simon later went on to front The Start, a Toronto band who had the Cancon hit Hey You in the early 1980s.

Growing increasingly influenced by songwriters such as Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen, at nineteen I began playing guitar, and soon embarked on a couple years of hitch-hiking and learning songs on the road, which would take me to Dawson Creek, Vancouver Island, Santa Cruz in California, Vancouver, Banff, Quebec City and Charlottetown, PEI.

At the peak of my street singing I knew about 56 different Dylan songs and about 300 tunes in total, including some originals I had written. Then I saw the Dead Boys perform in San Francisco, and was truly electrified.

World War 3 by DOA; my all-time fave punk video

Say no more...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Occupy Toronto: Down By the Riverside at St. James Park

Indie band performs strong set at Occupy T-Dot gazebo

Had the pleasure of meeting and jamming with poet / musician Jesus Las Vegas this afternoon at St. James, and also was introduced to Johnny Righteous and other members of the excellent reggae rock soul combo Down by The Riverside, a Toronto indie band, who performed at St. James gazebo today:

This aft Jesus Las Vegas played harmonica on some of my original tunes (Big Bear, Ecology) and a cover of One by U2, while I noodled out a few blues leads for his songs. Here's Jesus from Day One of Occupy T-Dot, reading three of his original poems and inspiring the people with his uplifting vibe:

Interview with Toronto band Down By The Riverside:

Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel at Occupy Wall Street

Alright, now here are a couple of bonuses for all you Neutral Milk Hotel fans, vids of Jeff Mangum performing on acoustic guitar at Zucotti Park Occupy Wall Street protest:

Okay, one more bonus: Nozuka brothers of Down By The Riverside, jamming at St. James Park.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

1%er prefers Occupy Together ethos to Tea Party madness

A Voice From the Top 1%

by Gaius, DailoyKos.com

The impetus behind the Occupy Wall Street movement - a vague sense that the rich are getting ever richer while everyone else suffers - was confirmed by a recent report from the Social Security Administration showing that while total employment and average wages remained stagnant, the number of people earning $1 million or more grew by 18% from 2009 to 2010. Those figures give real substance to the "We are the 99%" slogan, yet Republicans continue to insist, despite all evidence to the contrary, that if anything those "job creators" deserve an even greater share of our national income. The Tea Party, meanwhile, has launched its own "53%" movement, inexplicably rallying the working class to the defense of the wealthy. The one group rarely heard from in this rancorous debate is the 1%, whose incomes and taxes are its focus. I am one of them, and here is my perspective, which may surprise you.

First let me note that I am not part of the yacht and private jet set, which represents an even smaller subset of incomes than mine. The threshold for inclusion in the top 1% of income earners in 2008, the most recent year for which published data is available from the IRS, was $380,354, enough for an extraordinary life but nowhere near enough for a harbor berth in St. Moritz. Nevertheless, I am - for now - comfortably ensconced in that demographic. Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan would save me roughly $400,000 a year in taxes, and President Obama's tax proposals would cost me more than $100,000, yet I support the latter and consider the former laughable.

Here is a secret about rich people: we wouldn't have noticed a 3.5% tax increase

Thus you can imagine my amazement this summer when I watched the Republicans in Congress push the United States to the brink of default - and the world to the brink of ruin - over whether to repeal a portion of the Bush tax cuts and raise my taxes by 3.5%. I know a lot of people with high incomes and even the conservatives among them were confused by that sequence of events. Here is a secret about rich people: we wouldn't have noticed a 3.5% tax increase. That is not only because there isn't a material difference between having $1 million and $965,000, which is obvious, but also because most of us don't actually know how much money we are going to make in a given year. Most income at that level is the result of profits rather than salary, whether it comes in the form of bonuses, stock options, partnership distributions, dividends or capital gains. Profits are unpredictable and they tend to vary wildly. At my own firm, the general rule of thumb is that if we are within 5% of our budget for the year, everyone is happy and no one complains. A variation of 3.5% is merely a random blip.

I was not amazed but disgusted when John Boehner and his crew tried to justify the extremity of their position by rebranding the wealthy as "job creators." While true in a very basic sense, it obscures the fact that jobs are a cost that is voluntarily incurred only as a result of demand. Hiring has no correlation at all to profits or to income - none. Let me keep more of my money without increasing customer demand and I will do just that - keep it. Perhaps I will spend a little more of it, though probably not, but even if I do it won't help the economy very much. Here is another secret of the well-to-do: we don't really buy much more stuff than everyone else. It may be more expensive stuff, sure, but I don't buy cars, or appliances, or furniture, or anything else more frequently than the average consumer. The things I do spend more money on are services such as travel, entertainment, restaurants and landscaping, none of which generate well-paying middle class jobs. There, in a nutshell, is the sad explanation of what has happened to the American economy over the last 25 years of "trickle down" economics.

There is no question that the increasing income inequality in our society is a bad thing, in the short-term and the long-term

That's why I was so pleased when the Occupy Wall Street protests began. I support them wholeheartedly, for several reasons. First, because I fervently believe in the exercise of first amendment rights, and I have been waiting for years for the American people to wake up from the torpor of the Bush years, when they were seemingly cowed into submission to corporate authoritarianism. Second, because I am dismayed by the thuggish tactics of the NYPD. I would have expected as much from Michael Chertoff or Dick Cheney, but not from the Bloomberg administration. Third, there is no question that the increasing income inequality in our society is a bad thing, in the short-term and the long-term, for both workers and for business. It is bad in every way and for everyone, with the sole exception of Wall Street itself. Fourth, I love the hysterical reaction it has provoked from arch-conservatives such as Eric Cantor and Glenn Beck. As George Orwell wrote in "Homage to Catalonia" about fighting fascists, I don't always need to know what I am fighting for when it is clear what I am fighting against. Fifth, and most important, it changed the national media narrative and sucked almost all of the energy out of the tempest that was the Tea Party.

It is the Tea Party's effort to recapture that energy, through the "We Are the 53%" movement, that has truly bewildered me. I have spent far more hours than I should have these last few weeks puzzling over the postings on that website, trying to understand who these people are and why they would possibly care about my taxes. I don't really have an answer to those questions, but I do have a few insights.

To begin with, a fair number of the posters there don't seem to understand the actual issues, or even the meaning of "53%," which is supposed to refer to the percentage of people in recent years who actually owed - and paid - federal income taxes. From their own descriptions of themselves as unemployed, underemployed, or struggling to raise families, it seems likely that many of these posters actually AREN'T part of that 53%, but rather, like most of the 47% they complain about, receive full refunds of their taxes each year, or perhaps even more thanks to the Republican-sponsored family tax credits. I suspect they think that because they work, and have taxes withheld, and file a tax return, they are different than the "47%" they decry as lazy layabouts. Of course they are not, but sadly they don't even realize it.

Next, ALL of the posters there seem quite proud of themselves. No doubt they should be, but they seem to have derived very different conclusions from their life experiences than I have from mine, which could read like an exaggerated version of one of their posts. My family is from one of the poorest counties in the country, in rural Appalachia. My grandfather was a coal miner who left school after 5th grade to help support his impoverished family. My grandmother wasn't allowed to attend high school because according to her parents women didn't need an education. I never knew my father. My mother and I subsisted on food stamps for several years. I got my first job at 13, working as a bus boy for $2 an hour, and I have never been unemployed in the 37 years since. I worked my way through college, which I paid for myself. When I started my career I worked 60+ hour weeks every week for nearly 15 years before that effort began to pay off. I employ nearly 20 people, I have no debts, and I have no doubt that I have earned every penny I have.

And yet, I am living proof of Elizabeth Warren's maxim that no one gets rich on their own. If not for the UMWA helping to secure a living wage for my grandfather, I would probably have had to leave school to help support my family, as he had done. If not for my grandmother's passionate belief in the value of the education she was denied I would never have aspired to go to college at all, and if not for my mother teaching me to love books, I would never have been able to succeed there. If not for my wife I would never have been inspired to work as hard as I did to see what I could become in life. How many smart, talented children don't have those positive influences? How many have exactly the opposite?

My good fortune did not end there. It was sheer luck, rather than moral virtue, that I never had the criminal record many of my less fortunate friends did when I was young. It was sheer luck that neither I nor any of my family members ever had a major illness, or accident, or disability, despite lacking health insurance much of the time. How different my life could easily have been! How different the lives of others still could be.

I understand too that but for food stamps, I would have gone hungry as a child, that but for public subsidies and federally guaranteed loans I could never have afforded college. I know that without the internet and airports, both of which were developed with federal taxes, I could not earn an income even close to what I make today. That all seems so obvious to me that I don't understand how anyone could question it, and those are just a few of the many reasons I am happy to pay my fair share of taxes, whatever that share maybe. Paying a lot of taxes just means you make a lot of money, and it is hard, frankly, to complain about that.

One last observation. Many of the 53% crowd seem quite proud of their Christian faith. I am not religious myself, but I am reasonably certain that Jesus would not respond to the poor and unemployed with shouts of "Get a job!" I vividly remember what it was like to be poor. To be concise, it sucked, and my heartfelt sympathies automatically go out to anyone who has to experience it, especially children who are blameless for their circumstances. Whenever I meet someone who has not been as lucky as I have been, I recognize how easily our roles could have been reversed by the random forces of fate. And despite my lack of religion, I instinctively think "There but for the grace of God go I." If only those who actually believe in God would think the same thing more often they might not be so eager to cut my taxes

Cale Sampson video, live from Occupy Toronto

Toronto rapper Cale Sampson performs Reach Up at St. James park occupation site

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happy Birthday Simon SLAM!!! Long may you run!

Simon Slinger from The Start celebrating B-day in Kyoto, Japan

Regular readers of the Original Joe College blog will remember Simon's tales of the Burlington / Hamilton rock music scene in the late 1970s, and we hope to share more of Simon's memories in coming weeks. We're also putting a book together regarding Golden Horseshoe bands from that era.

Happy Birthday Simon!!! If there's one thing I could've helped you with in your music career, I wish you would have let me help you pick your punk name. Though Simon Slinger wasn't a bad handle for the period when you were frontman for The Start, it's shallowness and ultra-obvious sexual connotation means that it may not have translated well to a solo career, which may have been a factor in preventing you from going that route. I would have preferred something like Simon Slam or Simon LeBeau...

Well, that's water under the bridge and it is what it is. The main thing is we made a lot of fun music in those days, and laid a foundation that allows today's youth almost complete creativity in their musical output. Amen to that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

3 things you may not know about Occupy Toronto

I made a return visit (have now been down on Day Three and Day Eight) to Occupy Toronto yesterday, and am happy to report that spirits in the camp are strong and there's more music than ever. I sat in on about five different jams within a couple of hours and very much enjoyed the sessions.

Props to young actor / rapper Sami Sayn for making the trip down to St. James Park with me. Sam was hung over from a weekend in Niagara Falls so wasn't able to spit more than a few low-volume verses before his raps faded, however it is the thought that counts and the people of Occupy TO appreciated the urban flow and the witty humour.

All in all a great day at the park, hoping to be back there real soon!

HERE are the THREE THINGS YOU DID NOT KNOW about Occupy Toronto:

1.YOU are welcome there. Regardless of your age, sex, creed or ethnicity, come on down!!! You will find the people very hospitable, and willing to answer any questions you may have about the occupation (it is true that having an occupation is good for your health!).

2. The Occupy Together movement IS highly relevant to Canada and Canadians. Even though we are not in the dire straits of many other nations, the social network is being eroded in Canada and the recent majority given to the PCs will increase the backsliding. Canadians are respected globally and it is crucial we have a strong voice in this new worldwide movement.

3.The protesters DO KNOW what they want, and it is an end to a globalized society that treats corporations and the super-wealthy as above the law, and a beginning to a more cooperative, human-focused world. The issues may vary from one encampment to another, and this is a global movement (more than 1,000 cities, 82 countries), so there is room for everybody.

I encourage all Torontonians and GTA residents to visit the occupation, and if you are a musician, bring your instrument!!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

2012 will mark end of capitalism as a pure ideology

Social justice movement a Western reflection of Soviet Bloc in late 1980s

Just like the breakup of the Soviet Union put the lie to communism in the late 1980s, the United for #globalchange / Occupy Together / Take The Square movement will swell in Spring and Summer 2012, and mark the end of conscious human beings believing that capitalism is a practical ideology for governments to follow.

What will emerge is a global consensus, led by the British Commonwealth nations, that the best path to peace and prosperity is through social democracy, a finely-tuned balance of business and government. Growing secular humanism builds bridges between faiths and cultures, and the idea of wars among our nations will become increasingly remote.

Countries will still utilize private business, including publicly-held companies, to generate the bulk of economic activity, and this will be regulated for sustainability, equity and fairness issues. 2012 will also see a major institutional investor revolt, with pension plan managers insisting on dividend payouts from corporations rather than massive executive bonuses for a firm's inner circle.

We will scramble to achieve a sustainable, organic economy, yet we will do it. The efforts of the 99% will ensure the survival of the 100%.

Americanarama Occupy Together July 4th, 2012 in Philly

In light of the USA national Occupy Together meetup scheduled for July 4th, 2012 in Philadelphia, here are the lyrics to the awesome song Americanarama by Canadian band Hollerado.

Americanarama, by Hollerado

Hey Philadelphia you used to exist

As a city in the North-East where the Power used to sit

There's no more Chicago

She went down with the last of the buffalo

Poor weak New Orleans

She went first and we didn't even hear her scream no

Denver U.S.A

you came down from the top of the mountain

Bet you didn't count on becoming what you are today

Doot doot doo doot do doo Doot doot doot doot do doo

Lord I miss you

Doot doot doo doot do doo Doot doot doot doot do doo

Lord I miss you

Hey Philadelphia where'd you go?

Oh New York City... you're so pretty in the dark

When all your lights are gone out

We're camping out in Battery Park

Denver.. U.S.A.

you came down from the top of the mountain

Bet you didn't count on becoming what you are today

Doot doot doo doot do doo Doot doot doot doot do doo

Lord I miss you

Hey Philadelphia where'd you go?

Hey Philadelphia...

Hey Philadelphia...

Where'd you go?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

FREE Iranian filmmakers!!! Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Hollywood leaders call for release of six documentary filmmakers in Iran

Six independent documentary makers whose films have appeared on BBC Persian TV were arrested in September.

Actress Marzieh Vafamehr has been imprisoned and sentenced to 60 lashes for being in a film critical of Iran.

The groups have also condemned the continued house arrest of Jafar Panahi for making a film about Iranian unrest.

BBC Persian TV, which can be accessed through satellite TV, is aimed at Farsi speakers, mainly in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

Broadcasts from BBC Persian TV have been jammed in Iran amid criticisms of the BBC by the country's government.

Hadi Afarideh, Shahnam Bazdar, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Naser Saffarian, Katayoun Shahabi and Mohsen Shahrnazdar were arrested last month for providing the BBC with material deemed damaging to Iran.

Saffarian and Shahrnazdar have since been released.

In a statement, the Academy said that, before the release of these two, all six had been denied access to their lawyers and families "who were forced to remain silent".

"These film-makers - and others - are artists, not political combatants," it went on.

"We join our colleagues around the world in calling unequivocally for these film-makers' safety, release and return to film-making."

It said they deserved the same "full freedom of expression" as any other film-maker, "no matter where they are from, no matter where they work, no matter what their beliefs".

Social commentary

Last week Panahi, a vocal critic of Iran's strict Islamic law and government system, lost an appeal against a six-year prison sentence.

He was convicted in December for trying to make a documentary about unrest following the bitterly disputed 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and has since been under house arrest.

Panahi, whose films are known for their social commentary, was also banned from making films for 20 years as well as from leaving Iran.

The director, whose film Offisde won the Silver Bear award at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival, has made a documentary which shows him under house arrest in his apartment in Tehran.

This Is Not A Film, which was smuggled out of Iran, was co-directed by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb - one of the six arrested in September.

The documentary, which was shown at Cannes this year, has just been screened at the London Film Festival.

Actress Marzieh Vafamehr, meanwhile, was sentenced earlier this month for criticising conditions in her country.

She appeared in 2009 Australian movie My Tehran for Sale, a film that is banned in Iran that tells of an actress whose stage work is banned.

The Directors Guild of America, one of the co-signatories of the joint statement, said creative freedom was "an essential building block of liberty, culture, civil and human rights".

"We hope the Iranian government will release these film-makers and recognise that their creative works can only strengthen and enrich Iranian society," it added.

The Screen Actors Guild urged Iran "to refrain from stifling the artistic expression of its citizens and to let their unique and valuable voices be heard once again".

The Producers Guild of America, the Writers Guilds of America and the International Documentary Association are also among the bodies calling for an end to the film-makers' detention.

Source: BBC.co.uk

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Letter to the Dead Man who inspired global revolution

Mohammed Bouazizi's self immolation sparked worldwide resistance to oppression

by Rebecca Solnit, author of 'A Paradise Built in Hell'

Dear young man who died on the fourth day of this turbulent 2011, dear Mohammed Bouazizi,

I want to write you about an astonishing year -- with three months yet to run. I want to tell you about the power of despair and the margins of hope and the bonds of civil society.

I wish you could see the way that your small life and large death became a catalyst for the fall of so many dictators in what is known as the Arab Spring.

We are now in some sort of an American Fall. Civil society here has suddenly hit the ground running, and we are all headed toward a future no one imagined when you, a young Tunisian vegetable seller capable of giving so much, who instead had so much taken from you, burned yourself to death to protest your impoverished and humiliated state.

You lit yourself on fire on December 17, 2010, exactly nine months before Occupy Wall Street began. Your death two weeks later would be the beginning of so much. You lit yourself on fire because you were voiceless, powerless, and evidently without hope. And yet you must have had one small hope left: that your death would have an impact; that you, who had so few powers, even the power to make a decent living or protect your modest possessions or be treated fairly and decently by the police, had the power to protest. As it turned out, you had that power beyond your wildest dreams, and you had it because your hope, however diminished, was the dream of the many, the dream of what we now have started calling the 99%.

And so Tunisia erupted and overthrew its government, and Egypt caught fire, as did Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, and Libya, where the nonviolent protests elsewhere turned into a civil war the rebels have almost won after several bloody months. Who could have imagined a Middle East without Ben Ali of Tunisia, without Mubarak, without Gaddafi? And yet here we are, in the unimaginable world. Again. And almost everywhere.

Japan was literally shaken loose from its plans and arrangements by the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, and that country has undergone profound soul-searching about values and priorities. China is turbulent, and no one knows how much longer the discontent of the repressed middle class and the hungry poor there will remain containable. India: who knows? The Saudi government is so frightened it even gave women a few new rights. Syrians wouldn’t go home even when their army began to shoot them down. Crowds of up to a million Italians have been protesting austerity measures in recent months. The Greeks, well, if you’ve been following events, you know about the Greeks. Have I forgotten Israel? Huge demonstrations against the economic status quo there lasted all summer and into this fall.

As you knew at the outset, it’s all about economics. This wild year, Greece boiled over again into crisis with colossal protests, demonstrations, blockades, and outright street warfare. Icelanders continued their fight against bailing out the banks that sank their country’s economy in 2008 and continue pelting politicians with eggs. Their former prime minister may become the first head of state to face legal charges in connection with the global financial collapse. Spanish youth began to rise up on May 15th.

Distinctively, in so many of these uprisings the participants were not advocating for one party or a simple position, but for a better world, for dignity, for respect, for real democracy, for belonging, for hope and possibility -- and their economic underpinnings. The Spanish young whose future had been sold out to benefit corporations and their 1% were nicknamed the Indignados, and they lived in the plazas of Spain this summer. Occupied Madrid, like Occupied Tahrir Square, preceded Occupy Wall Street.

In Chile, students outraged by the cost of an education and the profound inequities of their society have been demonstrating since May -- with everything from kiss-ins to school occupations to marches of 150,000 or more. Forty thousand students marched against “education reform” in Colombia last week. And in August in Britain the young went on a rampage that tore up London, Birmingham, and dozens of other communities, an event that began when the police shot Mark Duggan, a dark-skinned 29-year-old Londoner. Young Britons had risen up more peaceably over tuition hikes the winter before. There, too, things are bleak and volatile -- something I know you would understand. In Mexico, a beautiful movement involving mass demonstrations against the drug war has arisen, triggered by the death of another young man, and by the grief and vision of his father, leftwing poet Javier Cicilia.

The United States had one great eruption in Wisconsin this winter, when the citizenry occupied their state capitol building in Madison for weeks. Egyptians and others elsewhere on the planet called a local pizza parlor and sent pies to the occupiers. We all know the links. We’re all watching. So the Occupy movement has spilled over from Wall Street. Hundreds of occupations are happening all over the North America: in Oklahoma City and Tijuana, in Victoria and Fort Lauderdale.

The 99%

We are the 99% is the cry of the Occupy movement. This summer one of the flyers that helped launch the Occupy Wall Street protest read: “We, the 99%, call for an open general assembly Aug. 9, 7:30 pm at the Potato Famine Memorial NYC.” It was an assembly to discuss the September 17th occupation-to-come.

The Irish Hunger Memorial, so close to Wall Street, commemorates the million Irish peasants who starved in the 1840s, while Ireland remained a food-exporting country and the landed gentry continued to profit. It’s a monument to the exploitation of the many by the few, to the forces that turned some of our ancestors -- including my mother’s four Irish grandparents -- into immigrants, forces that are still pushing people out of farms, homes, nations, regions.

The Irish famine was one of the great examples of those disasters of the modern era that are not crises of scarcity, but of distribution. The United States is now the wealthiest country the world has ever known, and has an abundance of natural resources, as well as of nurses, doctors, universities, teachers, housing, and food -- so ours, too, is a crisis of distribution. Everyone could have everything they need and the rich would still be rich enough, but you know that enough isn’t a concept for them. They’re greedy, and their 30-year grab for yet more has carved away at what’s minimally necessary for the survival and dignity of the rest of us. So the Famine Memorial couldn’t have been a more appropriate place for Occupy Wall Street to begin.

The 99%, those who starve during famines and lose their livelihoods and homes during crashes, were going to respond to the 1% who had been served so well by the Bush administration and by the era of extreme privatization it ushered in. As my friend Andy Kroll reported at TomDispatch, “The top 1% of earners enjoyed 65% of all income growth in America for much of the decade” just passed. “In 2010,” he added, “20.5 million people, or 6.7% of all Americans, scraped by with less than $11,157 for a family of four -- that is, less than half of the poverty line.” You can’t get by on less than $1,000 a month in this country where a single visit to an emergency room can cost your annual income, a car twice that, and a year at a private college more than four times that.

Later in August came the website started by a 28-year-old New York City activist, we are the 99 percent, to which hundreds daily now submit photographs of themselves. Each of them also testifies to the bleak conditions they find themselves in, despite their hard work and educations which often left them in debt, despite the promises dangled before them that (if they played the game right) they’d be safe, housed, and living a part of that oversold dream.

It’s a website of unremitting waking nightmares, economic bad dreams that a little wealth redistribution would eliminate (even without eliminating the wealthy). The people contributing aren’t asking for luxuries. They would simply prefer not to be worked to death like so many nineteenth-century millworkers, nor to have their whole world come crashing down if they get sick. They want to survive with dignity, and their testimony will break your heart.

Mohammed Bouazizi, dead at 26, you to whom I’m writing, here is one of the recent posts at that site:

“I am 26 years old. I am $134,000 in debt. I started working at 14 years old, and have worked Full-Time since I turned 20. I work in I.T. and got laid off in July 2011. I was LUCKY, and found a job RIGHT AWAY: with a Pay Cut and MORE HOURS.
 Now, I just found out that my Dad got laid off last week - after 18 YEARS with the same employer. I have debilitating (SP! Sorry!) O.C.D. and can’t take time away from work to get treatment because I can’t afford my mortgage payments if I don’t go to work, and I’m afraid I’ll lose my NEW job if I take time off!!! WE ARE THE 99%.”

Some of the people at we are the 99% offer at least partial views of their faces, but the young IT worker quoted above holds a handwritten letter so long that it obscures his face. Poverty obscures your face too. It obscures your talents, potential, even your distinctive voice, and if it goes deep enough, it eradicates you by degrees of hunger and degradation. Poverty is a creation of the systems against which people all over the planet are revolting this wild year of 2011. The Arab Spring, after all, was an economic revolt. What were all those dictatorships and autocracies for, if not to squeeze as much profit as possible out of subjugated populations -- profit for rulers, profit for multinational corporations, profit for that 1%.

“We are not goods in the hands of politicians and bankers,” was the slogan of the first student protest called in Spain this year. Your beautiful generation, Mohammed Bouazizi, has arisen and is bringing the rest of us along, even here in the United States.

The People’s Microphone

Its earliest critics seemed to think that Occupy Wall Street was a lobbying group whose chosen task on this planet should be to create a package of realistic demands. In other words, they were convinced that the occupiers should become supplicants, asking the powerful for some kind of handout like college debt forgiveness. They were suggesting that a dream as wide as the sky be stuffed into little bottles and put up for sale. Or simply smashed.

In the same way, they wanted this movement to hurry up and appoint leaders, so that there would be someone to single out and investigate, pick off, or corrupt. At heart, however, this is a leaderless movement, an anarchist movement, catalyzed by the grace of civil society and the hard work of the collective. The Occupy movement -- like so many movements around the world now -- is using general assemblies as its form of protest and process. Its members are not facing the authorities, but each other, coming to know themselves, trying to give rise to the democracy they desire on a small scale rather than merely railing against its absence on a large scale.

These are the famous Occupy general assemblies in which decisions are made by consensus and, in the absence of amplification (by order of the New York City police), the people’s mike is used: those assembled repeat what is said as it’s said, creating a human megaphone effect. This is accompanied by a small vocabulary of hand gestures, which help people participate in the complex process of a huge group having a conversation.

In other words, the process is also the goal: direct democracy. No one can hand that down to you. You live direct democracy in that moment when you find yourself participating in civil society as a citizen with an equal voice. Put another way, the Occupiers are not demanding that something be given to them but formulating something new. That it involves no technology, not even bullhorns, is itself remarkable in this wired era. It’s just passionate people together -- and then Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, text messages, emails, and online sites like this one spread the word, along with some print media, notably the Occupied Wall Street Journal.

The beauty and the genius of this movement in this moment is that it has found a way to define its needs and desires without putting limits on them that would automatically exclude so many. In doing so, it has spoken to nearly all of us.

There is the terrible rage at economic injustice that is shared by college students looking at a future of debt and overwork, as well as those who couldn’t afford college in the first place, by working people struggling ever harder for less, by the many who have no jobs and few prospects, by people forced out of their homes by the games banks play with mortgages and profits, and by everyone the catastrophe that is healthcare in this country has affected. And by the rest of us, furious on their behalf (and on our own).

And then there is the joyous hope that things could actually be different. That hope has been fulfilled a little in the way that an open-ended occupation has survived four weeks and more and turned into hundreds of Occupy actions around the country and marches in almost 1,000 cities around the world last Sunday, from Sydney to Tokyo to Santa Rosa. It speaks for so many; it speaks for the 99%; and it speaks clearly, so clearly that an ex-Marine showed up with a hand-lettered sign that said, "2nd time I've fought for my country, 1st time I've known my enemy."

The climate change movement showed up at Occupy Wall Street, too. What’s blocking action on climate change is what’s blocking action on all the other issues that matter: it would cut into profits. Never mind the deep future, not when what’s at stake is quarterly earnings.

A dozen years ago, after the wildly successful revolt against neoliberal economic policy in Seattle, the slogan that stuck around was: “Another World Is Possible.” I was never sure about that one because in crucial places and ways that other world is already here. In a YouTube video of the New York occupation, however, I watched an old woman in a straw hat say, “We’re fighting for a society in which everyone is important.” What a beautiful summation! Could any demand be clearer than that? And could the ways in which people have no value under our current economic regime be more obvious?

What Is Your Occupation?

Occupy Wall Street. Occupy together. Occupy New Orleans, Portland, Stockton, Boston, Las Cruces, Minneapolis. Occupy. The very word is a manifesto, a position statement, and a position as well. For so many people, particularly men, their occupation is their identity, and when a job is lost, they become not just unemployed, but no one. The Occupy movement offers them a new occupation, work that won’t pay the bills, but a job worth doing. “Lost my job, found an occupation,” said one sign in the crowd of witty signs.

There is, of course, a bleaker meaning for the word occupation, as in "the U.S. is occupying Iraq." Even National Public Radio gives the Dow Jones report several times a day, as though the rise and fall of the stock market had not long ago been decoupled from the rise and fall of genuine measures of wellbeing for the 99%. A small part of Wall Street, which has long occupied us as if it were a foreign power, is now occupied as though it were a foreign country.

Wall Street is a foreign country -- and maybe an enemy country as well. And now it’s occupied. The way that Native Americans occupied Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay for 18 months four decades ago and galvanized a national Native American rights movement. You pick some place to stand, and when you stand there, you find your other occupation, as a member of civil society.

This May in Ohio, a group of Robin Hoods literally lowered a drawbridge they made so they could cross a “moat” around Chase Bank’s headquarters and invade its shareholders’ meeting. Forty Robin Hoods also showed up en masse last week in kayaks for a national mortgage bankers' meeting in Chicago. Houses facing foreclosure are being occupied. Foreclosure is, of course, a way of turning people into non-occupants.

At this moment in history, occupation should be everyone’s occupation.

Baby Pictures of a Revolt

Young man whose despair gave birth to hope, no one knows what the future holds. When you set yourself afire almost ten months ago, you certainly didn’t know, nor do any of us know now, what the long-term outcome of the Arab Spring will be, let alone this American Fall. Such a movement arrives in the world like a newborn. Who knows its fate, or even whether it will survive to grow up?

It may be suppressed like the Prague Spring of 1968. It may go through a crazy adolescence like the French Revolution of 1789 and yet grow beyond its parents’ dreams. Radiant at birth, wreathed in smiles, it may become a stolid bourgeois citizen as did such movements in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and the reunited Germany after civil society freed those countries from totalitarianism.

It may grow up into turbulence as has the Philippines since its 1986 revolution ousted the kleptocracy of the Marcos family. Revolution may be assassinated young, the way the democratic government of Mohammed Mossadegh was in Iran in 1953, that of President Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, and President Salvador Allende’s Chilean experiment on September 11, 1973, all three in CIA-backed military coups. On behalf of the 1%.

Whether a human child or a child of history, we can’t know who or what it will become, but it’s still possible to grasp something about it by asking who or what it resembles. What does Occupy Wall Street look like? Well, its siblings born around the world this year, of course, and perhaps in some way the American civil rights movement that began in the 1950s.

There was a national uprising in the United States no less spontaneous in its formation during the great depression of the 1870s, but the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 was violent, while the Occupy movement is deeply imbued with the spirit and tactics of nonviolence. The last Great Depression, the one that began in 1929, created a host of radical movements, as well as the Hoovervilles of homeless people. There are family resemblances. The marches and actions against the coming invasion of Iraq on February 15, 2003, on all seven continents (yes, including Antarctica) are clearly kin. And the anti-corporate globalization movement is a godmother. And then there’s a sibling just a decade older.

Cousin 9/11

Zuccotti Park is just two blocks from Wall Street, and also just a block from Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 attack. On that day, it was badly damaged. This September 21st, my dear friend Marina Sitrin wrote me from Occupy Wall Street: “There are people from more diverse backgrounds racially, more diverse age groups, including not just a few children here with their parents, and a number of working people from the area. In particular, some of the security guards from the 9.11 memorial, a block away have been coming by for lunch and chatting with people, as has a local group of construction workers.”

If the Arab Spring was the decade-later antithesis of 9/11, a largely nonviolent, publicly inclusive revolt that forced the Western world to get over its fearful fantasy that all young Muslims are terrorists, jihadis, and suicide bombers, then Occupy Wall Street, which began six days after the 10th anniversary of that nightmarish day in September, is the other half of 9/11 in New York. What was remarkable about that day 10 years ago is how calmly and beautifully everyone behaved. New Yorkers helped each other down those dozens of floors of stairs in the Twin Towers and away from the catastrophe, while others lined up to give blood, desperate to do something, anything, to participate, to be part of a newfound sense of community that arose in the city that day.

There was, for example, a huge commissary organized on Chelsea Piers that provided free food, medical supplies, and work equipment for the people at Ground Zero and also helped find housing for the displaced. It was not an official effort, but one that arose even more spontaneously than Occupy Wall Street, without leaders or institutions -- and it was forcibly disbanded when the official organizations got their act together a few days later. Those who participated experienced a sense of democracy amid all the distress and sorrow, a tremendous joy in finding meaningful work and deep social connections, and a little temporary joy, as they often do in disaster.

When I began to study the history of urban disaster years ago, I found such unexpected exhibitions of that kind of joy again and again, uniting the generative moments of protests, demonstrations, revolts, and revolutions with the aftermath of some disasters. Even when the losses were terrible, the ways that people came together to meet the occasion were almost always inspiring.

Since I wrote A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, I have been asked again and again whether economic crisis begets the same kind of community as sudden disasters. It did in Argentina in 2001, when the economy crashed there. And it has now, in the streets of New York and many other cities, in 2011. A sign at Occupy San Francisco said, “IT’S TIME.” It is. It’s been time for a long time.

No Hope But in Ourselves

The birth of this moment was delayed three years. Argentinians reacted immediately to the 2001 crisis and to long-simmering grievances with an economy that had ground so many of them down even before the government froze all bank accounts and the economy crashed. On the other hand, our economy collapsed three years ago this month to headlines like “Capitalism is dead” in the business press. There was certainly some fury and outrage at the time, but the real reaction was delayed, or decoyed.

The outrage of the moment did, in fact, result in a powerful grassroots movement that focused on a single political candidate to fix it all for us, as he promised he would. It was a beautiful movement, a hopeful movement, much more so than its candidate. The movement got its lone candidate into the highest office in the land, where he remains today, and then walked away as though the job was done. It had just begun.

That movement could have fought the corporations, given us a real climate-change policy, and more, but it allowed itself to be disbanded as though one elected politician were the equivalent of ten million citizens, of civil society itself. It was a broad-based movement, of all ages and races, and I think it’s back, disillusioned with politicians and electoral politics, determined this time to do it for itself, beyond and outside the corroded arenas of institutional power.

I don’t know exactly who this baby looks like, but I know that who you look like is not who you will become. This unanticipated baby has a month behind it and a future ahead of it that none of us can see, but its birth should give you hope.



Source: HuffingtonPost.com, also published on TomDispatch.com

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

6 Principles of Slow Money Investing

The Slow Money Principles

In order to enhance food security, food safety and food access; improve nutrition and health; promote cultural, ecological and economic diversity; and accelerate the transition from an economy based on extraction and consumption to an economy based on preservation and restoration, we do hereby affirm the following Slow Money Principles:

I. We must bring money back down to earth.

II. There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down -- not all of it, of course, but enough to matter.

III. The 20th Century was the era of Buy Low/Sell High and Wealth Now/Philanthropy Later—what one venture capitalist called “the largest legal accumulation of wealth in history.” The 21st Century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence.

IV. We must learn to invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered. We must connect investors to the places where they live, creating vital relationships and new sources of capital for small food enterprises.

V. Let us celebrate the new generation of entrepreneurs, consumers and investors who are showing the way from Making A Killing to Making a Living.

VI. Paul Newman said, "I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out."

Recognizing the wisdom of these words, let us begin rebuilding our economy from the ground up, asking:

* What would the world be like if we invested 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?

* What if there were a new generation of companies that gave away 50% of their profits?

* What if there were 50% more organic matter in our soil 50 years from now?

Source: SlowMoney.org

First demand of Occupy Together / United for #globalchange

While we would like to clearly state that the oppressed should never at any time be limited to one demand, a single request is required to get negotiations going, so let us consider starting with an important, likely crucial one. If you agree, please place the short version on a poster or sign, and the full demand can be utilized during your General Assembly and other gatherings, and in your publications.

Yuya Joe College
Toronto the Good

1st Demand, Occupy Together

End oil, coal and uranium

First Demand, United for #globalchange

The people demand that academic, business and political leaders develop and execute a coherent ten year plan to evolve and transition our society away from a dependency on toxic fuels coal, oil and uranium, utilizing natural gas as a bridge fuel while developing an infinite energy based, organic economy. The new green model will have a diverse range of renewable power inputs, including geothermal, solar, wind, biomass / biogas / biofuel, wave / tidal, fuel cell, additional clean energy technologies plus improving efficiencies in energy generation, power transmission, energy storage / batteries and modern conservation techniques.

As hemp is a proven provider of high quality food and fuel, plus fibre for paper and clothing, it is imperative for our planet that hemp be given a central role in the emerging organic economy.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The rapid rise of United for Global Change

American Autumn of Inspiration spawns worldwide protests tomorrow

How the Canadian magazine Adbusters launched a planetary revolution

How did a small Canadian “culture jammers” magazine inspire a global revolution? The story of United for Global Change begins with the Adbusters call for a protest called Occupy Wall Street (OWS), to begin on September 17, 2011. The instigators of the action would have had no way of knowing what they were about to set off, and the global movement has grown so fast that it seems to be a case of perfect timing. It is almost as if people thought “if the world's gonna end in 2012, we don't wanna go down like bitch-ass punks, so let's stand up and fight for what's right.”

Huffington Post lets readers down by not covering global uprising

First of all, keep in mind that this has been an organic, grassroots uprising, with little help from established media, including even the usually reliable Huffington Post. I was shocked that HuffPost carried a badly written climate change disinformation piece by Conrad Black earlier this week, but was even more dismayed that not a single mention of the United for Global Change movement was made anywhere on the HP website, even though we will be protesting in over 900 cities and over 80 countries tomorrow.

Back in July, after being inspired by the Tahrir Square people's uprising in Egypt and the wider Arab Spring of Hope, Adbusters magazine issued a call for protesters to Occupy Wall Street on September 17th, 2011. The fact that the call came from Vancouver, Canada, and that NYC's Zucotti Park is owned by Canada's Brookfield Properties, both went unnoticed by mainstream media.

On the 23rd of August, global hacker group Anonymous issued a video backing #OccupyWallStreet, and the movement spread globally from that day forward. The success of S17 in the USA gave rise to the 15OCT protests being coordinated internationally, and here we are on the eve of the biggest global protests ever held.

This ain't no Tea Party, this ain't no foolin around

Those who would compare the OWS ethos with the Tea Party surely miss the uprights by a wide margin. Although there was a grassroots angle to the early gatherings, that “movement” was quickly taken over by Rupert Murdoch's Fox News organization, whop paid the Tea Party's bills by granting huge amounts of free television coverage. From there it was easy as pie to get the original Tea-baggers to abandon their own goals and become shills for America and the world's billionaires and multinational corporations. Now it is just an obstructionist rump within the Republican Party, a new “Moral Majority” that again represents neither morality nor a majority of American citizens.

As for the 99%, who will be protesting in almost 1,000 cities worldwide tomorrow, it will be fascinating to see if the rapid rise of United for Global Change will lead to enduring, positive, progressive change.

Our planet and its two-legged creatures could really use a respite, and on Saturday, October 15th, conscious human beings will be throwing a few more wrenches into the churning gears of the toxic death machine.

Let the Autumn of Inspiration roll on!

Primary websites of United for Global Change movement:

October 15th worldwide network - United for Global Change

Livestream Global Revolution streaming videos website

TakeTheSquare.net official website

Thursday, October 13, 2011

America's Autumn of Inspiration now worldwide United for Global Change movement

15October protests scheduled for 868 cities in 78 countries

How did a small Canadian "culture jammers" magazine manage to inspire a global revolution? I think it's good timing.

Good on ya Adbusters...

United for Global Change October 15th protests official website

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

United for Change Movement: Statement for Canada and Canadians

15O protests in 719 cities, 71 countries

People are rising up all over this beautiful spinning ball of blue, green and brown fun, rallying to claim their rights and demand a true democracy. Now is the time for each and every one of us to join in a global non-violent protest.

United in one voice, we will let politicians, and the financial elites they serve, know it is up to us, the people, to decide our future. We are not goods in the hands of politicians and bankers who do not represent us.

Time and water are running out, the Earth is heating up, and it is imperative that we foster and steward a global green revolution, a grassroots movement, a coalition of wonderfully diverse forces with common goals. We want a more humane, egalitarian, equitable, just and sustainable society.

In Canada we will march for legalized marijuana, assistance for the poor, more education and health funding, for equality among sexes and ethnicities, to protect the rights of workers and to preserve our ecological heritage through a diverse, permaculture economy.

On October 15th, we will meet on the streets to initiate the global change we want. We will peacefully demonstrate, talk and organize until we make it happen.

It’s time for us to unite. It’s time for them to listen.

People of the world, rise up on October 15th!

United for Global Change movement October 15th website

American Autumn of Inspiration now in 71 countries!

October 15th United for Global Change protest has spread to 719 cities

The revolution is being televised and is coming to a metropolis near you. Localize your concerns, globalize your empathy.

In Toronto we need to push social justice, ecology and legalization of marijuana.

Yom Kippur video from Occupy Wall Street

I love the 99%, it's amazing how inclusive people can be when they desire it. A large, open plaza across from Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, where Occupy Wall Street has made its encampment for three weeks, proved to be the perfect setting for Kol Nidre on Friday night.

As sundown approached, a crowd of approximately 700 people gathered on the New York plaza for Kol Nidre prayers; similar services were held at Occupy Wall Street camps in Washington, Philadelphia, Boston.

Kol Nidre @ Occupy Wall St. from Jewish Forward on Vimeo.

FREE Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye

Ethiopian PM's interference indicates mistrial

Everyone who respects the rights of journalists and values a free press will find Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's public comments regarding an ongoing trial offensive, and the only way for Ethiopia to go forward is by declaring a mistrial and freeing the journalist team from Sweden.

With a massive local and international battle looming over the proposed Nile River dam, the Ethiopian government will likely have little time for this issue, and the best way to make it go away is to expel the two from the country, as they usually do when finding truth-seekers reporting on life.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

JUMP, You FUCKERS! Best Occupy Wall Street signs, Volume One

The corrupt fear us, the honest support us, the heroic join us

American protesters use signs as outlet for communication, creativity and frustration

Personally I'd like to see more eco-activists join this protest and keep our issues at the forefront, as green energy, conservation and efficiency technologies are all crucial to America's economic progress in the 21st Century.

Enjoy some signs reportedly photo'd at the NYC Wall Street protests:

Interchange's early gigs; Simon remembers the adrenalin and the alcohol

(Initially published on MortysCabin.net)

What God Didn't Give You

by Simon Leblovic

At forty one learns to close the door quietly on what once was. At eighteen I was drinking like Malcolm Lowry under the volcano. Being a crazy baby, I always took things too much to heart, so getting loaded quelled the demons and unleashed a babble of nonsense. "Demi, why you do dis to me? Please, Demi, I'm afraid." To ease my deluded and obsessed little mind, I developed a rabid thirst for booze, a taste like no other. So how does a dipsomaniac and professor of scatology recall and imagine times long past? Allow me to run my mouth and whine my latest head up my ass soap opera. But first I must beg your indulgence in inflicting this maudlin, adolescent reminiscence from a faded and wasted youth, for which I have only my village idiot self to blame. How can I put this all into perspective? Lou Reed sang, "Some people work very hard, but still they never get it right." Johnny Rotten sang, "I don't believe illusions 'cos too much is real." My Father used to quote his maternal grandmother from the Carpathian Mountains. The Slovak translation would roughly go, "What God didn't give you, you can't buy in a drug store."

There is too much useless information and nothing fires my imagination. Then out of a quagmire of drivel rises the shining image of Lesley, my fantasy girl and high school sweetheart who never was. In those hazy days, whenever I saw Lesley I would swoon and my crystal heart would fill with the passion of young love and infatuation. To me she looked like the actresses Leslie Caron, Sandy Dennis and Jane Fonda, sweet and vulnerable with long black hair, blue eyes, pale skin and pouty lips. I remember walking down a school hallway and there was Lesley sitting alone. I'd never really spoken to her, but on that day I sat next to my sweet angel and talked to her with no one else around. I retain a vision of Lesley walking through the high school parking lot wearing a long coat and smiling and waving to people. Watching her from a distance gave me reason to live, though she barely knew I was alive. I finally got around to asking her out in high school, but she told me she was already going steady with some guy. I couldn't get to first base with her, although I did manage to learn that she had been born in Wales and was a year older than me.

Even while dating other girls, I still found myself thinking about Lesley. I remember being in a local bar one night called The Pig and Whistle, where I saw Lesley sitting with some friends. As I passed their table on my way out, I impulsively leaned over and gave Lesley a kiss, for which I received a shocked and sour look in return. On another night in a feverish fit, I phoned Lesley and asked if I could see her. She said yes, and when I got to her place we went and sat in a park near her house. Being near her, I wanted to take her in my arms, but even more I ached to tell her how much I loved her. During our conversation she suddenly brought up the subject of schizophrenia. I had certainly been what you might call different in high school, so did she think I was crazy, or was it just part of her studies in biology at McMaster University? Love is insanity, but madness aside, I was head over heels in love with her and she didn't even know it. Or maybe she suspected how I felt and didn't want to know.

After high school my volcanic bouts of drinking kept erupting, spewing forth some severely evil and obsessive delusions. My family had written me off, as I had taken up residence in another world, playing the part of a rock star and singing in a Burlington band called Interchange. Looking in the bathroom mirror, I thought I could be as cool as Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler. What did it matter that I couldn't sing, for there were positive signs, like people telling me that I resembled Freddie Mercury from his "Bohemian Rhapsody" period, a comparison I absolutely loathed. Other than my weird and wonderful little self, the only member of the band who I considered to be cool was our rhythm guitarist, Roy Furness, my musical mentor and Keith Richards partner in crime in my mind. Roy was a few years older than me and had previously played guitar in a Rolling Stones band in Burlington called Stonehenge. When I was desperate to play, he let me sing in the first band we put together called Shampain. I suspect he may have done this partly because I drove and could give him a lift to rehearsals. Roy definitely had me pegged, because when we hung out at Sheridan College, he would ask me with a sly grin if the sky was blue. My pin head was about as far up my butt as it could go, and I really had no clue as to what was going on. I mean was the sky blue? It was clear that I was living a white punk on dope, pie in the sky existence, although there were girls around when you played in a band, which wasn't a bad thing.

By the fall of 1975, I had been with Interchange for about half a year. At that time we were rehearsing and doing a few gigs here and there, playing cover songs by bands like The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, The Yardbirds, The Beatles, Chuck Berry, Led Zepplin, Bad Company, The Doobie Brothers, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, April Wine, A Foot In Cold Water, Golden Earring and Foghat, along with a few of our own original songs. That September the band was booked to play an afternoon gig in the auditorium of a school in Burlington called General Brock. I recall what a rush I got when we hit the stage at that show and started playing a great, sleazy number by Alice Cooper called "Never Been Sold Before." Roy had chosen that song, mainly because he liked the Stonesy sounding guitars that came jumping out of the speakers when he played the song on his turntable. I remember Roy playing me "Two Thousand Light Years From Home" by The Rolling Stones under headphones, and raving about how you could hear some heavenly body in outer space whirring through your head at the end of the song. Stuff like that was pretty trippy and I liked it.

After the show at General Brock someone asked if we could play a house party on the following Saturday night in a part of Burlington called Mountainside. We decided to do it, and the next day I took a chance and phoned Lesley to see if she wanted to go. I actually thought she might be impressed watching me play rock star at a house party in a suburban basement. Leslely agreed to come, so on the night of the party I took extra care blow drying my hair in order to look my best for her. Frank Zappa sang, "It's Disco Love tonight. Make sure you look all right." Unless you've got brewer's droop, that is. Besides my coiffed hair, I was also thinking about liquid refreshments, which would most likely be provided for us at the party. But just to make sure there would be sufficient, I decided to take a forty-ouncer of gin from my parent's liquor cabinet. Chance favours the prepared mind, and in my wisdom I thought that Lesley just might be impressed by the sight of such a humongous bottle of booze. Please pause here for the Freudian slip. So armed with the forty-ouncer and my harmonicas, I fired up the white Toyota and drove off to pick up Lesley, ready for a night of song and dance and romance.

Lesley and I arrived at the party at about 8:00, where I knew absolutely no one. But the people there were friendly and appreciated the fact that the band would be playing that night. I asked Lesley what kind of music she liked and she said there was a song on the radio called "Holdin' on to Yesterday" by Ambrosia that she liked. The rest of the band eventually turned up and we set up the equipment at one end of the basement wreck room. Our hosts offered us food and drink, but I decided to open the bottle of gin I had with me. Lesley wasn't interested in the gin, but she did seem to be having a good time, and I was happy to be with her. The thought passed through my mind that it might be better if I didn't drink too much that night. I always justified drinking by saying that it helped me to calm down and get into the music. Such is the state of my nerves, especially under pressure. Before we played that night I poured myself a few stiff drinks, mixing the gin with whatever was available. Gin has never been my drink of choice, and as far as hard liquor goes, I much prefer rye whiskey, tequila or cognac when I can get it.

We got up and started to play our first set, and things seemed to be going well with people dancing and enjoying themselves in the crowded basement. After we performed the Stones version of "It's All Over Now," a girl came up and told me that I sounded like Bob Dylan. Today I would have thanked her, but back then I didn't take it as a compliment having my singing compared with Bob Dylan. I guess I was talking it a lot back then, instead of trying to sing. After we finished playing the first set, I decided to take Lesley out in front of the house so we could be alone. Leaning up against a car, we kissed, and her soft lips yielded to my passionate advances. I was in heavenly bliss, my head was swimming, and I would happily have stayed there kissing Lesley for eternity. But I also wanted to play music, so after awhile we headed back inside, where I proceeded to pour myself a few more large tumblers of booze.

And that's when things started to go south and my memory of the night becomes a blur, as I crossed the line from slightly wasted to being pissed out of my mind. During the second set I was having trouble standing up and I was unable to keep the microphone near my mouth. Then as I was dancing around, I stumbled and fell into Roy's guitar, and the song we were playing came to a screeching halt. I don't know what happened next or how the set ended, but afterwards when I went up to Lesley, she looked at me kind of weird. So I grabbed the bottle of gin and headed off for the bathroom to take a break from everything. As I entered the bathroom some older guy followed me in, and through the boozy haze I heard him lecturing me about drinking too much.

I exited the toilet, but I didn't know exactly what was going on, because the guys in the band weren't talking to me. It certainly seemed that we wouldn't be playing anymore that night. What was this a party or a funeral? In my own defence, I doubt I drank more than half the bottle of gin that night. I was nineteen years old and far from burned out and I'm sure the adrenalin of performing would have overcome the booze and kept me singing far into the night. But with the party apparently over, I decided the best thing to do was to take Lesley and leave. She was stone sober and seemed to be heavily involved in a conversation with a gas station mechanic I had seen somewhere around town. I told her that I wanted to leave, but I was too drunk to drive. Somebody offered to give us a ride, but when we got to their car it was filled with puke. I'm not clear on what happened next, but it seems that someone kindly drove us home in my car.

It was around midnight when we got to my house, where I proceeded to drag Lesley hastily up the hall stairs, while slurredly introducing her to my Mother. I had a vague notion that Lesley and I would chill out and listen to some music, but I was so drunk that I was having trouble carrying out even the simplest of motor functions. I took Lesley into my bedroom, which normally would have led to getting her between the sheets. Instead, this stupefied idiot proceeded to pull his Rolling Stones records out all over the floor in an inebriated attempt to give Lesley a glimpse into the deepest and darkest recesses of my soul. "Ooh, ooh. Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm a bloody fool. Ooh, ooh." To really impress her, I should have put myself in the "Trainspotting" movie and taken a dump on the floor in front of her right then and there. But none of that happened.

Lesley stood in my room looking aghast and told me that she wanted to go home. We hadn't been at my place more than fifteen minutes, but I couldn't argue with her. The thing was that in my condition I wasn't really sure if I had done anything wrong. We left the house and Lesley reluctantly got into the white Toyota with me. I told her not to worry because I was a great drunk driver and her house was less than ten minutes away. As we drove I kept telling her how much I loved her, over and over again, and that she must love me, as if saying it would make it so. When we arrived at her house I gave her a drooling, slobbering kiss good night and told her again that I loved her. She couldn't have gotten out of the car any faster. Standing in the street I shouted one more time at the top of my lungs that I loved her, as her back disappeared through the front door of her house.

I woke up with a dreadful hangover the next morning and decided that I had to see Lesley and would drive to the Burlington Golf and Country Club, where I knew she worked part time as a waitress. When I arrived there in the afternoon, Lesley looked shocked to see me. I thought she looked quite fetching in her black and white uniform. I went up to her in the middle of the crowded restaurant and apologized profusely for the night before. I then asked if I could see her after she got off work. She looked at me like I was Travis Bickle in the movie "Taxi Driver," and after a moment said she would come by and see me later that night. I left the club and headed home, praying that I hadn't completely blown it with her.

I phoned Roy later to find out what was happening with the band. He told me that Bullwinkle the drummer had visited him that day and had talked about firing me for getting drunk at the gig the night before. Roy had come to my defence, telling Bullwinkle that singers, as well as those not suffering from LSD (Lead Singers Disease), got drunk and high on stage, and also the basement party hadn't been an important gig. Apparently I was still in the band, although a few months later in early 1976, I would be unceremoniously kicked out of Interchange and the dilapidated, condemned hell hole of a band house that we shared on Margaret Street in Hamilton. On the phone I told Roy what had happened with Lesley, and he laughingly said that I should have hauled her into a bedroom and had my way with her at the party. Whether or not Lesley deserved to be put on a pedestal, I couldn't treat her like a pig. But then again perhaps Roy was right and things would have been better if I had forgotten all the romantic nonsense and had just done her at the party.

After getting off the phone with Roy on that Sunday night, I waited in vain for Lesley to show up. The fact that she didn't come to see me was no big surprise because I had certainly acted like a drunken asshole and blown it with her. For a guy like me one drink is too many and a hundred is not enough, as the saying goes. The devil named Al Cohool got the best of me again. Now forgive me for waxing philosophical, but putting the demon drink aside and turning to the fair sex, it seems to me that some girls want you no matter what you do, while others remain unattainable and forever out of reach. I gotta ask myself why I was so much in love with Lesley. Was it because I couldn't have her? Years later, when I was going through another heart break., someone wrote me a note that I have kept to this day. It says, " A woman is like a bus, every five minutes another one comes. But remember, don't get on the same numbered bus again. Be happy!" Good advice that I never followed.

Three or four days after the party I phoned Lesley, but she was cold as ice and too busy to talk because she was studying for exams. Looking back on the whole experience with her, I sort of felt like Travis Bickle when he takes Betsy to see a porno film, and then can't understand why she rejects him after. I guess I was too stupid to realize that getting drunk is stupid. For some people the best parties are the ones they can't remember. Ha, ha, ha. A few weeks later I was driving back from Roy's house one rainy night, high on grass, and on the radio came Lesley's favourite song, "Holdin' on to Yesterday" by Ambrosia. I sang the choruses as loud as I could and then I began to lose my mind.

After I got tossed from Interchange I took a break from singing in bands. Then in early 1977 I met a guy named Steve Park in a bar called Duffy's Rockpile in Hamilton. Steve had previously played in Teenage Head, and he and I would eventually put a band together in his basement in the west end of Hamilton called The Loved Ones.

In the fall of 1976 I started taking courses in Religious Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton. One wintry day, as I was wading across the campus in my usual muddled fog, I suddenly came face to face with Lesley. It had been over a year since I had last seen her. She looked at me with scorn, muttered something and walked quickly away. I turned around and watched her disappear in the distance, never to be seen again.

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