Re-Creative is live!
Check it out and let us know what you think!
Re-Creative is live!
Check it out and let us know what you think!
Doug and the Slugs is one of those bands that I came to appreciate over time. That I gradually realized I really liked as it dawned on me that they had several great songs. And one song in particular that I would place in the “love” category: Day by Day. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve seen them twice in concert, both lively, energetic and enjoyable shows. Nor does it hurt that there’s a slight personal connection. I was going to write a meaningful personal connection but that couldn’t be further from the truth; it’s actually a ridiculous personal connection. I’ll get into that in a bit.
I’m thinking about Doug and the Slugs now (and listening to more of their music) because I just watched the documentary Doug and the Slugs and Me by Teresa Alfeld on CBC Gem. It’s really a fine doc on this quintessential Canadian band, expertly crafted and features many of the Slugs and other interesting personalities such as Bob Geldof and Bif Naked and Ron Sexsmith (I have a personal connection to Ron Sexsmith too; a couple, actually, one even more ridiculous and embarrassing than the Doug and the Slugs connection, the other much more respectable: more on those in a bit).
Here’s what I used to think about Doug and the Slugs. I liked their music. I liked their energy. I was intrigued by their front man Doug Bennett. I had heard that he was a businessman who’d decided to form his own band and I inferred that he possessed a unique combination of skills that allowed him to do so. He could write music and sing (sort of, well enough) and I guessed that his businessman acumen and experience conferred upon him the ability to organize a successful band and all that that entailed. I was under the mistaken impression (a lot of mistaken impressions, really) that he’d started the band late in life. Then I’d heard that he had become ill on a grueling touring schedule before finally collapsing and dying in his early fifties. I’d always figured it was a heart attack. And that the rigours of touring had been a major contributing factor. At least, I’d thought, he died doing what he loved.
That’s what I’d always thought.
What I knew for sure was that he made some great music and put on an entertaining show. And that he was a character. At one open air show that I saw in Toronto he made a crack about all the “young, female flesh” hanging off the walls, which painted him forever in my mind as a rather salacious character. At another show, this time at the now defunct Forum in Toronto during a summer afternoon, I sat in the bleachers enjoying the show in my usual quiet, understated fashion when he pointed from the stage in my direction. Gradually I realized that he might be pointing at me. So I pointed at me too, and he immediately nodded, yes, you, asshole! And then he mimed clapping. Cuz everyone around me was clapping. So I began clapping, and he nodded, and then we were good, and even though I kinda hate clapping at concerts I kept on clapping because I was now obligated. (That was the ridiculous personal connection.)
That’s the extent of what I knew and thought I knew about Doug and the Slugs.
Teresa Alfed’s doc set me straight on a number of points and educated me on many others. Doug Bennett had actually started the band as a much younger man that I’d thought. He was a charismatic dreamer of a leader, and effective in that sense, but not much of a businessman. He wrote more of the material than I’d realized. He was a family man, but that had gone south, though he seemed like a pretty fun father. There had been two versions of Doug and the Slugs. One with the original Slugs, which had been fun and reasonably successful but not all sunshine and lollipops, and then, a while after their heyday, another iteration with Doug and a bunch of other guys. And it hadn’t been a heart attack that had killed Doug; it had been alcoholism.
For the latter reason I found Teresa’s documentary quite tragic. It’s the story of a man with a dream who kind of attained that dream for a bit, and then lost it, after which his demons crept up and polished him off. I HATE when that happens. When reality bites us in the ass. When the absolute worst happens. I hate the knowledge that it CAN happen, and all too often does. I feel for Doug Bennett and I feel for his family.
I think those of us who dabble in the arts can relate to Doug. We craft our art, our books or our music or whatever, and we hope that we’ll be successful at it. It takes us a while to define that success. At first, it’s a vague notion of becoming famous for it and making a lot of money at it. That does happen for some. It doesn’t happen for most. And then there’s those who get close, or get to taste it for a while, only to lose it, and then spend their lives trying to get it back. Like a kind of addiction. I think astronaut Chris Hadfield’s line applies here: Don’t be too in love with your past self (and you don’t have to have been famous to need that advice; simply having been young once also qualifies). And then of course there’s those who don’t make it at all. Doug Bennett falls into the second camp. As it stands now, I fall into the third. And I’m okay with that.
I’m okay with that because I now define artistic success as crafting art successfully. Actually, even just trying qualifies. And here’s the other thing: regardless of how much money Doug Bennett and his Slugs made (or didn’t), or how world famous they became (or didn’t), their music lives on. It’s enjoyed by millions. And it means something to millions. Day by Day got me through at least one rough patch in my life. I clung to it like a life-line and appreciate it still. I wish that Doug Bennett had lived to become an elder statesman of Canadian rock & roll and made several more albums worth of music and ultimately got to appreciate just how successful an artist he actually was. He sure would have had a lot of fun with the Barenaked Ladies, I think. They absolutely would have performed together.
The Ron Sexsmith stories. Once, as a callow youth, I saw the Ron Sexsmith Trio perform at C’est What, a Toronto club. They played the Beatles Dig a Pony, a song I didn’t know at the time but really enjoyed. I misheard the title as Lucifer’s Pony, for some reason. I used to drink a bit too much in those days, my early twenties. By the time they finished their set I was pretty drunk. Oblivious to bar band protocol, I approached Ron and asked him if they could play the song Lucifer’s Pony again. They politely told me to f*** off and finished packing up their instruments. Fast forward about twenty years and I was the recording engineer for CBC Radio’s Q. We had Ron Sexsmith on one day (no longer a trio). I had the privilege of recording him live for the show. He was terrific. I never mentioned C’est What or Lucifer’s Pony.
In the documentary Doug and the Slugs and Me, Ron performs a moving acoustic rendition of Day by Day, a song that includes this intriguing snippet of lyrics that, although he was certainly a fun-loving guy, I suspect comes from not too deep in Doug Bennett’s heart, and that we can all relate to at one time or another:
Sometimes late at night I
I feel strangely blue
Sometimes late at night I
I need what I get from you
Day by day you show me a better way
Day by day you help me to find a place
Day by day you help me make it
Day by day by day by day by day
I’ve been invited to participate in a Twitter self-publishing colloquium by fellow writers Paula Johanson and Celu Amberstone.
Honoured to have been asked, I readily agreed, and then promptly went to the dictionary to figure out what a “colloquium” is, and whether Paula had spelled it correctly. I mean, what the heck kind of word has “uiu” in the middle of it? I should not have doubted her. She spelled it correctly. I cannot spell it correctly without saying the letters “uiu” out loud as I’m writing it.
And what is it? “An academic conference or seminar.” I guess you can have those sorts of things on Twitter, especially now that Elon Musk is running the joint. (With him there apparently you can have, do or say anything you like, world order and democracy be damned.)
It may sound like I’m being a bit flip about the whole thing. (That’s cause I am. ) But the flippedness ends now. (Not really, but a little bit.) Cuz I am in fact pleased to have been asked to participate and have every intention of taking it seriously, or as seriously as I’m able, which is every bit as serious as is required without being one iota more serious than that.
And what exactly are Paula and Celu asking of me? Initially, a series of ten tweets accompanied by a brief blog post (you’re reading that part right now) about the whole (hang on while I recite the letters out loud) “colloquium” (it didn’t work; I had to scroll back up in this post to get the order of the letters right).
But wait! I haven’t even really explained what it’s about.
According to Paula (who should know as she’s the one putting this whole thing together) it’s about “self-publishing your own fiction, and things you have learned.” And for me specifically: “What was it like preparing your father’s book and publishing it? What kind of reaction and feedback are you getting? What skills that you learned working for the CBC are you bringing to your self-publishing?”
So that is what I will be tweeting about tomorrow, Saturday April 30th around noon EST with Paula and Celu.
Paula adds: “I’m sure there’s lots you have in mind to say.”
Perhaps… but not right now. It’s Friday afternoon! And I have to walk the dog, after which I’m going out for wings and a movie with the guys. As you can imagine, there hasn’t been a whole lot of that sort of thing the last couple of years. Now that the damnpenic (sic) is over (hey, I can pretend just as well as the rest of our dumb elected officials) I can do that sort of thing again.
Our Twitter Colloquium on Self-publishing, hashtag #SelfPubCol. I hope you’ll join us!
Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) used to prevent war between NATO and Russia. Now it appears to just prevent NATO from fighting back militarily. So Russia can do whatever it wants without fear of military retaliation from NATO.
A question: were NATO to fight back, would the idea of mutually assured destruction prevent Russia from escalating for the same reasons that make NATO hesitant to intervene more directly? If so, then perhaps NATO should have intervened directly from the outset.
There is also the possibility that Putin will escalate anyway and deploy nuclear weapons out of desperation or impatience (or because he’s suicidal or just plain evil), in which case NATO should also have intervened earlier, because it wouldn’t have mattered. And in such a scenario perhaps there is a chance, however slim, that Putin could have been brought to heel.
Of course, nobody has a crystal ball. We don’t know what Putin will do if NATO retaliates directly, or if Putin becomes desperate. So we’re left with Russia and NATO not just capable of destroying one another but much of the rest of the world, and Russia savaging Ukraine because it suspects it can get away with it aware that NATO will stand by (not entirely helplessly but certainly not bringing all its forces to bear) for fear of Putin abandoning all reason and killing us all (or most of us). Which he might do anyway.
And in this way we are held hostage, made impotent, unable to help Ukraine or prevent future similar aggressions from either Russia or China (e.g., Taiwan) or (insert aggressor of choice here). This is obviously untenable. The problem is that the stakes are so high (back to mutually assured destruction) that NATO can’t afford to get the calculus wrong. On the one hand, with NATO’s current strategy, global bullies will probably continue to ride roughshod over the rest of us and it will just keep getting worse until the final fatality, the final bullet in the final head, as it were, could well be democracy itself.
On the other hand, should NATO opt to intervene directly (e.g., fly over zone) the probability is at least medium that the result will be catastrophic for all of us: a third world war, millions if not billions of casualties, with the survivors looking back wistfully at a mere pandemic as a kind of lost golden age.
Emotionally, I want to intervene directly. I want the no fly zone. I don’t want the bully to get away with it. I want the cavalry to show up, kick the bully’s ass, save Ukraine and democracy, and everyone (except the bully) lives happily ever after.
Intellectually, I know it isn’t going to be that easy. That we have to get the calculus right. That we have to defuse this bomb without blowing everybody up. I believe it to be possible. As Former Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Abba Eban has said (a version of the quote is often misattributed to Winston Churchill), “Men and nations do act wisely when they have exhausted all the other possibilities.” It is a tragic function of the human condition that wisdom does not always (or even often) come first.
Myself, I do not presume to possess the wisdom required to lift us out of this awful predicament. Maybe sanctions will be sufficient; maybe some other action will be required. I don’t know. I have only faith in the collective wisdom of humankind (sadly after much bloodshed, suffering and tragedy) to eventually get the calculus right.
Theme by Anders Noren — Up ↑