Sunday, November 29, 2020

All we are saying is get a vaccine


Where COVID-19 is concerned, we are not out of the woods yet - not by any means,  However, we are getting closer.  It's a matter of time, discipline and patience. Each day brings more and more discussions about various vaccines and their distribution.  The vaccines are definitely coming.  It's only a question of when, where and how.  As U..S. immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci put it, "The cavalry is on the way."

Many people are reluctant to trust a vaccine immediately.  Some are staunch anti-vaxxers.  These anti-vaxxers are not ready to change their minds.  Others are just reluctant to trust a vaccine yet.  They have not ruled it out, but they just want to be more confident that it is reliable.  They also want to make sure that healthcare workers, the elderly and those with serious conditions are inoculated first.

In order for the vaccines to be effective, a certain percentage of the population has to be vaccinated.  We can't force people to get vaccinated, but we can persuade them to do it.  Recently a member of my family paraphrased the lyrics of John Lennon's song, Give Peace a Chance. and an idea came to my mind.  I thought about how this could be used to promote vaccination.

All we are saying . . . is get a vaccine

Suppose major recording artists from countries around the world recorded a video of Give Peace a Chance with the words "All we are saying is get a vaccine." It could be streamed all over social media in order to reach young people. It could be shown as a television public service announcement and an audio version could be played on the radio.

The Canadian version might feature Shawn Mendes, Jann Arden, Justin Bieber, The Weekend, Bryan Adams, Drake, Shania Twain, Drake, Alessia Cara. Neil Young, Burton CummingsCéline Dion, Michael Bublé and others.

The British version might feature Elton John, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Adele, Rod Stewart, Sting and others. 

The American version might feature Taylor Swift, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Billie Elish, Bruno Mars, Faith Hill, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Madonna, Gwen Stafani, Nick Jonas, Cher, Tim McGraw and others.

I'm not sure how much merit this plan has.  It's a huge undertaking.  I don't know if it's feasible or who would organize it or finance it.  It's just a germ of an idea, but I thought I would present it online and find out if there's any reaction or any interest.  If you think it has merit, I urge you to let me know or pass this blog posting along to others.

- Joanne

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Meditations at Home During the Pandemic #8

This is the eighth in a series of reflections while I am at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hello to readers from around the world.  Greetings and well wishes from Toronto, Canada.  I haven't written my COVID meditations for a while, but I want you to know that I am well and safe.  I hope you are, too.  I have some exciting news to share with you.  During this pandemic, I have taken the time to  self-publish a novel.  It's called Children of Dieppe and it will be available in ebook form soon.  I will provide you with more details on Number 16 as soon as possible.

Writing my novel has been a shaft of light during this COVID-19 nightmare.  It has been a healthy and productive means of escape for me because it has taken my mind off the virus.  I've been able to release my creative energies and relax.  In short, my novel has been a great distraction from the pandemic nightmare.

Here in Canada, COVID cases have really spiked since school opened and autumn began.  People are sacrificing a great deal.  In Ontario, the government has started to reinstate some restrictions.  Another full lockdown could be imminent.  We have entered the most difficult phase of this pandemic.  Winter is coming and the days are getting shorter.  It will become colder and darker.  The sadness and the suffering is horrifying.  Yet, we will get through this.  We have to.  A vaccine is on the way and that will help, but I 'd advise everyone to listen to reputable doctors and scientists before considering a vaccination.  Above all, I advise my American friends not to listen to Donald Trump and his quacks.  Don't be fooled by Trump's blathering and his lies.  Please wear a mask and social distance.

I will definitely get vaccinated, but not until Canadian health authorities and my family doctor tell me it's safe to do so.  When a reliable vaccine becomes available, there will be decisions about how it will be distributed and who gets it first.  That will all be worked out in due time.  The important thing is that there will be a vaccine.  It's interesting to note that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece has announced that all Greeks will be provided with coronavirus vaccines at no cost, as soon as the vaccine is made available, most likely in the first half of 2021.

As much as I welcome a vaccine, I realize that it is not a panacea.  COVID-19 will not magically disappear from the face of the earth within days.  Eradicating this terrible scourge on humanity will take time and great patience.  Still, a vaccine is imminent and it will be a major step forward.

Another shaft of light for me during this bleak COVID era has been the defeat of Trump in the U.S. presidential election.  There was dancing in the streets, as if a dictator had been overthrown.  Most of America's European allies are thrilled that the United States will be working closely alongside them again.  Under Joe Biden, the U.S. will rejoin the Paris environmental agreement.  Once again, there will be an American leader who cares about climate change and fair immigration policies.  Joe Biden has promised to reinstate DACA, which allows the children of undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S.  It may take time to reverse Trump's immigration policies, but Biden will be judged on how well he keeps his promises.  Furthermore, under the Biden administration, U.S.  Americans with pre-existing conditions will not lose their health insurance.  Yes, America is back!  

Although I continue to rejoice at Biden's victory, some sobering thoughts remain.  Over 70 million people in the United States voted for Donald Trump.  It is mind-boggling that so many Americans could vote for such a man, despite the fact that he has allowed COVID-19 to spread like wildfire in the U.S.  Although Trump lhas ost the election, his cult-like followers are still out there.  

As expected, Donald Trump has been ungracious in defeat.  He has refused to concede and he probably never will.  He just can't admit that the election was fair and that he lost.  There is no evidence of a rigged election or any kind of widespread voter fraud.  Trump lost 306-232  in the Electoral College and 5,400,000 votes (and counting).  Those, my friends, are the facts.  Trump and his Republican lackeys continue to waste money on frivolous lawsuits that will not overturn the result of the election.  The American people have spoken and they have chosen Joseph R. Biden, Jr. to be their next president.

Beginning on January 20, 2021, Joe Biden will have a huge mess to clean up.  Biden wants to be a president of all American, including those who didn't vote for him.  He seeks to united a very divided country.  It will be a daunting task, but Joe has the opportunity to change history.  I do not exaggerate when I say that he has a date with destiny.

Trump began his first foreign trip with a visit to Saudi Arabia, that great bastion of freedom and democracy, the country responsible for the abominable killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.  I hope Joe Biden's first presidential trip will be to Canada, where U.S. presidents have traditionally visited first.

Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving back in in October.  However, American Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner.  Unfortunately, those two holidays will cause the virus to spread at an even greater rate in the United States.  Due to this horrible pandemic, many people around the globe, including myself, will not be able to celebrate the great feast of Christmas the way we would really like to.  We won't be able to have large family gatherings or attend Christmas concerts.  We'll just have to celebrate the best way we can under these circumstances.  

Take care and stay safe.  I wish you all the best and I will keep you posted about by novel.

- Joanne

Monday, November 9, 2020

Whatever happened to Donovan?

"It wasn’t all just fun and games, the 1960s, but I have a light touch. The songs I write and sing try to say important things with a lightness."

"I think of myself as a poet. I grew up with poetic influences – what I know from my background is the bardic poetry, which came down through oral tradition. And Scottish folk music, which was liberating, humorous, real. What happened in the 60s gave a new voice to that tradition: the bohemians and the eccentrics, people like me and George Harrison going through the old bardic books. We infused it with the spirit of that time."  

- Donvan, The Guardian, April 23, 2016

During the 1960s, Donovan was a gentle troubadour with an impressive array of hit songs.  This Scottish singer, songwriter and guitarist and harmonica player was the consummate flower child. He embodied the hippie era with a unique musical style that combined folk, pop, jazz, psychedelia and calypso.

Donovan Phillips Leitch was born on May 10, 1946 in an area of Glasgow, Scotland known as Maryhlll.   He grew up in a Glasgow tenement, the son of  Donald Leitch, an engineer, and Winifred (née Phillips) Leitch, a factory worker.  He is of Scottish and Irish descent (his grandmothers were Irish).  In 2016, he told The Guardian that his sense of humour comes from his Irish side.  "We get something from the music halls," he stated.  "There's that Beatles line: 'For the benefit of Mr. Kite, there will be a show tonight . . .'"

As a child in Glasgow, Donovan contracted polio and was left with a limp.. The Leitch family eventually moved to the town of Hatfield , Hertfordshire, England.  Their home had always been filled with a love of music and Donovan learned how to play the guitar at the age of 14.  He briefly attended an art school, but dropped out to go on the road.  

Donovan Leitch arrived on the British music scene in early 1965 with his performances on the U.K. rock/pop TV series Ready Steady Go!  His first appearance on the show was due to Brian Jones, founder of The Rolling Stones.  Brian walked into one of Donovan's demo recording sessions in London and  later told Ready Steady Go! that if they didn't have Donovan on their show, they'd be sorry.

As a result, Donovan landed his first television performance before he had even released a single.  In those days, he came across as Bob Dylan-type folksinger and he enjoyed early success with hits in the United Kingdom - "Catch the Wind," "Colours," and Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Universal Soldier."  His voice was soft and expressive and soulful.  

The mid-1960s were Donovan's heyday.  He ended up hanging out with such luminaries as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan himself.  It was Dylan who introduced Donovan to the Beatles in 1965.

Donovan in 1965

Epic Records released Donovan's hit single "Mellow Yellow" on October 24, 1966.  Donovan also scored big with "Sunshine Superman" (1967) and "Hurdy Gurdy Man" (1968).  His lyrics were obscure and thought to include drug references.  In 1966, he became the first British pop singer to be arrested for possession of marijuana. 

In February of 1968, Donovan travelled with The Beatles to Rishikesh in northern India to attend a training session in Transcendental Meditation, held at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  It was during this famous visit to India that Donovan taught John Lennon the finger picking guitar style he used on The White Album.  As Donovan told David Marchese for a 2016 article in Vulture, he and Lennon were kindred spirits:

"John asked me to teach him some new chord structures and how to do finger-style guitar.  You know, I knew in 1965 when we met that he and I were similar.  John and Paul (McCartney) are Liverpool Irish, and that means we're both in the ancient Gaelic traditions of bards and shamans and troubadours, poets of the very highest order, those with the goal of delivering peace and order.  So we had a similar outlook."

Other notables in the Beatles' Rishikesh entourage were George Harrison's first wife, Pattie Boyd, was as well as Pattie's  younger sister, former British model Jenny Boyd.  In March of 1968, Donovan released his hit single, "Jennifer Juniper," a song inspired by Jenny.  Although she and Donovan were never a couple, he admitted to having a crush on her.

Donovan performed on The Smothers Brothers Hour in 1968 and 1969.  On the November 17, 1968 show, he sang "Lalena" and "Happiness Runs."  Other guests on that 1968 show included Dion, Jennifer Warnes and The Committee.  There was also a cameo by George Harrison encouraging the controversial Smothers Brothers to continue trying to tell the truth to America.

Below is a photo of Donovan performing live on The Smothers Brothers Hour on March 23, 1969.  He sang "Giggle in A Bubbly Bath," "Angels Thoughts," "Little White Window," "To Love Me," and "Antlantis."  Other guests on that show included Peter, Paul and Mary and Mort Sahl.

In 1969, two months into a world tour, Donovan experienced what he describes as "a dark night of the soul."  Everything had caught up to him, especially the fame and the loss of his private life.  He looked into the mirror of his bedroom in the Tokyo Hilton and said to himself, "I've done it.  Why should I continue?"  He felt that he had accomplished his mission, so he abandoned the tour and returned to his cottage in Hertfordshire.  

During the 1970 and 1980s, Donovan continued to compose and perform, but his hippie style was derided by critics, especially after the rise in popularity of punk rock.  However, his career receive a boost in the 1990s with the emergence of the British rave scene.

From 1966 to 1970, Donovan had a relationship with American model Enid Karl.  They had two children together, a son named Donovan Leitch (born 1967) and a daughter named Iona Skye (born 1970).  The children were raised in the United States by their mother.  

In 1969, after abandoning his world tour, Donovan ran into Linda Lawrence, ex-girlfriend of Brian Jones.  He had first met Linda in 1965, while performing on Ready Steady Go!.  On October 2, 1970, Donovan married Linda (born 1947) in Windsor, Berkshire, England).  The couple wed, at Windsor register office and honeymooned in the Caribbean.  Linda was the inspiration for his song "Sunshine Superman."  In a 2016 Guardian interview, he stated, "I wrote 'Sunshine Superman' knowing she'd hear the lyrics [in L.A.} and realise I still loved her.  I sang: 'It'll take some time, I know it, but in a while/You're gonna be mine.  I know it/ We'll do it in style.'"

Donovan and Linda settled in Ireland, where they raised Linda's son, Julian, by Brian Jones (Jones was found dead in a swimming pool on July 3, 1969 at the age of 27).  Donovan adopted Julian (born July 23,1964), who took "Leitch" as his last name.  Linda  and Donovan also had two children together, Astella and Oriole.  

Below is a 1970 photo of Donovan, Linda and Julian at the BathFestival.  

Now craggy-faced and sporting wild grey hair, Donovan is still living in Ireland, He recently recorded an album dedicated to teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg.  The album is called Eco-Song and he recorded it with his wife, Linda.  It is a collection of 21 songs composed and sung by Donovan throughout his career that have an environmental theme.  He and Linda intend to turn it into a "stage opera."  They want to take it to schools and universities and have young people perform it.  Before the COViD-19 outbreak, Donovan was planning to take Eco-Song on tour; but for now, it has only been released as a standalone CD.


* Donovan contributed some lines of lyrics for two classic Beatles songs.  It was he who came up with the line "Sky of blue and sea of green" for  "Yellow Submarine."  When John Lennon told Donovan that he wanted to write a song about his mother, Donovan asked him where he imagined himself when he thought of the song.  John replied that he thought of himself at the beach holding his mother's hand.  Donovan then suggested "Seashell eyes/windy smile,"  The song turned out to be "Julia."

* Iona Skye, Donovan's daughter with Enid Karl, is now an actress and painter.  his son with Enid, Donovan Leitch, became a Calvin Klein model.

* In 2012, Donovan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  In 2014, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame

* Donovan has written an autobiography entitled The Hurdy Gurdy Man.  It was published in 2005.  

* In 2012, Donovan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  In 2014, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  

*Below is December 19, 2018 photo of Donovan as he appeared on Britain's ITV on a show hosted by Lorraine Kelly.

SOURCES: The Guardian. "'The songs try to say important things with lighness: The singer, who is about to be 70, on bardic poetry, a drugs sting and 'Mellow Yellow' sung by kids," by Ed Vulliamy, April 23, 2016; The Guardian, "Donovan: 'Can you believe the Beatles and I were paying 96% tax': The 60s folk troubadour is on an environmental mission to Greta Thunberg. He discusses love, success, Brian Jones - and how drugs became big business," by Zoe Williams, April 9, 2020; The Guardian, "No name left undropped," by Dorian Lynskey, May 24, 2005; Vulture; "Donovan on the Time He Helped Write a Beatles Classic and Then Watched John Lennon Chase a Paparazzo Into the Jungle," by Donovan as told to David Marchese, November 9, 2016; Wikipedia  

- Joanne

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Reflections on the election

Contrary to what Donald Trump may say, the 2020 American presidential election is NOT over until all the votes are counted.  He has no right to declare himself the winner until those millions of ballots are tabulated.  As I write this, Joe Biden leads in both the electoral college vote and the popular vote.  Neither candidate has won the required 270 electoral college votes yet  By the way, the electoral college system is archaic and unrepresentative..  

Yesterday I posted a warning that American democracy is at stake.  It certainly is.  There is a moral sickness in America.  Why else would so many people cast their vote Donald Trump, a racist, misogynist criminal?  Why else would so many people vote for someone who is willing to allow COVID19 to run rampant?  Trump's inaction on COVID, and his rallies, have resulted in many deaths.  There will be many more deaths from the virus if he is sworn in as president again.

I feel sad for America and the American people that so many have a cult-like devotion to this unstable man.  I want to throw up my hands and say, "Can't you see what he's done?  He's locked children up in detention centres and separated them from their parents.  He has constantly lied and cheated.  He thinks climate change is a hoax and he has removed environmental protections.  He is a bully and he is chummy with dictators.    He has given tax breaks to billionaires.  In short, he is totally corrupt."  

I hope that Joe Biden wins the electoral college vote.  Even if Donald Trump prevail  legally or illegally, he will someday account for his actions.  He will meet his Waterloo.  After all, they got Al Capone for tax evasion.  Hey, hasn't Trump had a problem with his taxes?  

- Joanne

Monday, November 2, 2020

WARNING: Last Chance to Save American Democracy

"Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe.  No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise.  Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time . . ."

Winston S. Churchill
November 11, 1947

"Any chance of success depends entirely on the outcome of this election.  This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that's what it takes to win . . . Do not let them take away your power.  Do not let them take away your democracy."

- Barrack Obama
2020 Democratic Convention

I am heartened by the record-breaking turnout of voters in this turbulent 2020 U.S. presidential election.  This is proof that democracy is still very much alive in the United States.  However, I am not exaggerating when I say that American democracy is still in dire peril.  I don't write those words frivolously and I don't take them lightly.

The 2020 U.S, presidential election is nearly over, thank goodness.  The day of reckoning for American democracy is almost here.  November 3rd is just one day away and the finish line is in sight.  I can't vote tomorrow because I am a Canadian, but  if were a citizen of  the United States right now, I would devote almost all my time to campaigning against Donald Trump.  Nevertheless, I urge my American friends to take nothing for granted.  Just get out there and vote.  Bring this nightmare to an end.

From a Canadian perspective, I find some aspects of this U.S. election rather unsettling.  The thought of armed Trump supporters at polling booths is foreign to me.  I have never considered or expected any armed persons to intimidate me at a polling station, nor have experienced long lineups when I've voted - granted there is a much larger population in the United States.  However, it seems so strange that every state has different election rules.  Here in Canada, we have Elections Canada and voting is overseen by the federal government.  I have never used a voting machine and I have always just marked an "X" on my ballot.

Canada has an enormous stake in the outcome of this election.  What happens to our southern neighbours affects us deeply.  It affects us socially, economically and politically.  It also affects the rest of the world.  Here's what is so confounding: Donald Trump is extremely unpopular outside of the United States.  Many non-Americans cannot fathom how such a man can have the support of so many Americans.  They wonder how Americans  even consider re-electing this president after what he's done - the corruption, the lying, the racism, the sexism and misogyny, his refusal to control COVID-19 and the lives that have been lost unnecessarily because of it, the bullying, his disregard for environment concerns and climate change, the cruel separation of migrant children from their parents. . .I could go on and on.  The list is very very long.  Trump has really lowered America's standing in the world.  If he leaves office, a shaft of light will begin to shine around the globe.

There is a malaise in the United States, a moral sickness (When I say this, I am not speaking from a sense of Canadian smugness or superiority.  Canadians are not immune to violence and racism and right-wing extremism).  Trumpism is a manifestation of that moral sickness.  I find it difficult to understand how so many people can support a man who has said and done the terrible things that Donald Trump ha.  First of all, his remarks about Access Hollywood remarks about assaulting women should have disqualified him.  I don't know how anyone, especially a woman, could support him after those remarks.

I am not a conservative, but I respect the right of others to have different views.  It's not Donald Trump's conservatism I object to.  It's Trumpism I object to.  It's his extreme right-wing racism, his corruption, his lack of empathy, his criminal behaviour.  He thinks loyalty to him means loyalty to America.  He calls his supporters great patriots.  Those who oppose his policies are his foes.

Trump and his supporters are determined to suppress the vote.  Don't let them do it.  Exercise your right to vote, a right that far too many people in this world don't have, and far too many take for granted.  This is a watershed election. It is probably the most consequential election in American history. American democracy is facing its biggest threat since World War II.    

This time, the threat to democracy is domestic.  The danger comes from within.  Donald Trump is an authoritarian and he is hellbent on destroying the rule of law.  It is unlikely that democracy in the United States can withstand another four years of the Trump presidency.  It has really taken a beating from almost four years of this administration.

The signs of a healthy democracy are shared respect and shared power.  Donald Trump and his loyal backers, such as Mitch McConnell, Jim Jordan and Lindsey Graham, do respect their political opponents.  They do not want to work with Democrats to build a better country.  They want to utterly destroy their partisan foes.  

Donald Trump and his ilk are not like the late John McCain.  McCain was a conservative but he respected the views of his political opponents.  He formed friendships with them and he did not make personal attacks on them or call them names.  

The world is changing and the Republican Party is on the wrong side of history.  It is going to have to adapt to the new reality or become extinct.  The demographic trends do not favour the party of Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham.  Younger Americans, non-white Americans and female Americans want their say.  They want a greater share in the power and control of government and society.  Older white males are reluctant to give up their power and control.  They are afraid of change.  That's a fear that Donald Trump has tapped into.  His slogan, "Make America Great Again" is really a dog whistle for "Make American  White and Male Again."  

Those who are eligible to vote should do so as soon as possible.  I am pleased that so many people have already voted and that they have been willing to endure long lineups in order to exercise their franchise in the midst of a deadly pandemic.  Joe Biden has to win decisively.  Who knows what tricks Trump will pull to declare himself the winner.  He will not go gentle into that good night.  He will not graciously concede defeat.  That is not in his nature.  He is at heart an authoritarian.  He admires Vladimir Putin and has no real use for democracy.

Please get out there and vote.  Defeat Trump and let the healing begin!  Bring some hope to world suffering from a deadly pandemic.  Help stamp out the scourge of Trumpism.

- Joanne