Sunday, October 29, 2023

Why is there so much anger?

Anger is an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong.

Anger can be a good thing. It can give you a way to express negative feelings, for example, or motivate you to find solutions to problems.

But excessive anger can cause problems. Increased blood pressure and other physical changes associated with anger make it difficult to think straight and harm your physical and mental health.

- Adapted from the Encyclopedia of Psychology

In my whole life, I've never seen such anger and despair and hate in the world.  Of course, I haven't lived through the Great Depression or World War II.  It is understandable, however, that people are hurting from a very painful pandemic.  It's also understandable that they resent having to pay higher prices for food and rent, especially since they are not seeing similar increases in their wages.  In times of struggle and adversity, women, children and the marginalized suffer the most.  One thing I know for certain, the larger the gap between the haves and the have-nots, the more unhappiness and crime there will be in a society.

The anger is most apparent in the political arena.  It is sparked by fear and frustration, and it draws people to dangerous demagogues and authoritarians.  Demagogues promise simple solutions and bumper sticker slogans.  They reel you into their "cause" because they can be very charismatic.  They give you people to blame for your grievances.  They target "enemies" for you.  Those "enemies" are individuals who belong to other political parties or have different political views.  They are people who look differently than you, worship differently from you, speak differently than you or eat differently than you.  They are immigrants and refugees, Blacks, Jews and Muslims, to name a few.  

 Although anger is included as one of the Seven Deadly Sins, it is really "excessive anger" that is destructive.  As long as anger is contained and channelled in a positive way, it can be a useful emotion.  However, anger should not be allowed to fester.  It needs an outlet.  If it is not expressed in a constructive way, it will be expressed in a destructive way,  It will explode into road rage, domestic violence or murder.  That is the danger.

- Joanne

Monday, October 23, 2023

The Toronto Blue Jays' playoff disaster

Something is rotten is the state of Blue Jays Land.  Toronto Blue Jay fans are disappointed, disgruntled, disgusted and dismayed, especially with President Mark Shapiro and General Manager Ross Atkins.  Oh sure, the team won 89 games and they were good enough to make postseason play.  However, the Jays collapsed like a house cards in their playoff series against the Minnesota Twins.

It's not just that the Jays have gone down to defeat in the their last two playoff appearances.  It's the way they've lost.  Their last two playoff performances have been embarrassing and shameful.  In 2022, they allowed an 8-1 lead slip away in the second game of a 3-game against the Seattle Mariners.  They didn't get past the first round.  Although the Jays won 91 games in the 2022 regular season, they experienced a meltdown in the postseason.

In their 2023 playoff series with Minnesota, the Blue Jays only managed to score one run in two games.  Don't get me wrong, the 2023 Jays were a good team with some glaring flaws  They were by no means a great team, but there were a lot of talented players in the lineup.  The 2023 roster just wasn't built to go deep into the postseason or to win the World Series.  They didn't have enough power hitting and they couldn't hit in the clutch.  Time after time, they left player stranded on base.  

During the 2022 offseason, the Blue Jays made some big roster moves.  On November 26, they traded outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, a fan favourite, to the Seattle Mariners for relief pitcher Erik Swanson and pitching prospect Adam Macko.  In doing so, the Jays gave up some hitting power.  Hernandez spent six seasons in Toronto and won Silver Slugger awards in 2020 and 2021  In 2023, he batted .258 for the Mariners and hit 26 home runs in 160 games.  Swanson was a good addition to the Jays' bullpen, but they missed Hernandez's hitting. 

In December 2022, the Jays made two significant moves to bolster their outfield defence.  On December 14, they agreed to a one-year $9 million contract with fee agent  Kevin Kiermaier.  On December 23, they made what may turn out to be the worst trade in the history of the franchise.  They acquired outfielder Daulton Varsho from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for their star prospect, catcher Gabriel Moreno, as well as outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr.  As expected, Kiermaier and Varsho provided solid defence, but at too high a price.  Unfortunately, the Jays gave up a lot of slugging power in order to get Varsho.   With Moreno and Gurriel Jr. making huge contributions, the Arizona Diamondbacks are playing the Philadelphia Phillies for the National League Champioship.Series (NLCS) title.  

It seems that Moreno has the potential to be an all-star or a Hall of Famer.  The Jays had three good catchers in Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk and Moreno.  Something had to give and one of them had to go.  It should have been Kirk.  This is not to demean Kirk, far from it.  He is a skilled catcher and he demonstrates grit and determination. It's just that Moreno is a better hitter and a much faster runner.  Kirk gives it his all, but he will always be a slow runner.  The Jays will always have to use a pinch runner for hm in key situations. 

After the Jays humiliating defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Twins, GM Atkins should have accepted responsibility for the debacle.  I am not putting all the blame on Atkins.  The players also bear some responsibility.  Their play was far too streaky all season.  For example, Matt Chapman was American League player of the month for April.  For the rest of the season, his hitting was very uneven, although he always provided stellar defence at third base.           

Ross Atkins

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. recorded 26 homers and 94 RBI in 2023.  Those are very good numbers.  They are very respectable, but still disappointing for Vladdy.  More is expected of him because he hit 48 homes with 111 RBI in 2021.  Fans wonder if he'll ever be that good again.  Vladdy is not always the best base runner either.  He can sometimes be too aggressive or not attentive enough, as he was in the crucial second game of the 2023  playoff series with Minnesota. With the  Blue Jays down by two runs, Vladdy was at second base and George Springer at third.  Bo Bichette at the plate, with two outs and a full count.  Suddenly, Vladdy was picked off second base.  That was an inexcusable blunder.

Vladdy's gaffe, however, pales in comparison with the Jays' bonehead decision to pull Jose Berrios after three dominant innings, when he was pitching the game of his life.  Barrios had only allowed three hits with five strikeouts and one walk on 47 pitches.  As soon as he allowed that one walk, manager John Schneider walked on to the field and replaced him with lefty Yuseai Kikuchi,   Kicuchi promptly allowed two runs, from which the Jays never recovered.  As commentator Buck Martinez pointed out, the removal of Barrios provided some relief for the Twins.  It was a psychological advantage for them.  They didn't have to deal with Barrios anymore and it sparked them.

The Jays have defended the move to replace Berrios.  They say it was planned, that it was an organizational decision.  Atkins has called it a "courageous" decision on Schneider's part, deftly deflecting the responsibility from himself.  The truth is that it will go down in the annals of Blue Jays history as a bonehead move.  Call it whatever you like. but a bonehead move is still a bonehead move.  It doesn't matter how many were involved with the decision, it cost the Jays a must-win game.  I did notice that Schneider's seemed red-face for the rest of the game.

There are three lessons to be learned from the Jays' experience.  Firstly, statistics and analytics won't necessarily win you games.  The Jays loss in the second game against Minnesota proves that.  Sometimes good managing means reacting to what's happening on the field.  Barrios was pitching well and shouldn't have been removed.  Period.  Secondly, a team that performs wee in the regular season many be eliminated early in the postseason.  Racking up wins in the regular season is not as important as winning when it really counts.  Thirdly, balance is needed.  The Jays shifted from too much from offensive power to defensive strength.

Then there was the mishandling of Alec Manoah. Manoah's nightmare season was unexpected, and the Jays brought him back too soon.  Who knows how he'll perform n 2024.  He may return to his old self, or he may never be the same.  The Jays can't count on him.  If he rights himself, it will be a bonus.  The Blue Jays have to get a decent starting pitcher.  Their starting pitching depth is very weak.

Jays fans are understandably upset.  They supported the team very well.  In 2023, Jays attendance surpassed three million for the first time since 2017, despite increasingly rising ticket prices.  The fans deserve better for their money.  The Jays have had few playoff appearances since their World Series wins in 1992 and 1993, over 30 years ago.  They only really came close in 2015 under their former GM Alex Anthropolos, who led Atlanta to a World Series victory in 2021.  A.A.'s team has done far better than the Jays in the playoffs.  Just imagine if Moreno, Gurriel and Hrrnandez were still in a Blue Jays uniform.  The Jays certainly would have gone further in the postseason.  

Mark Shapiro has confirmed that Russ Atkins and John Schneider will be back for the Jays' 2024 season.  They are fortunate to have survived the disappointing 2023 season.  They won't be so fortunate if the Jays don't turn it around in 2024.  As for Rogers, they may find a lot of empty seats at the ballpark if something doesn't change.


Sunday, October 22, 2023

Phoebe: St. Paul's Deacon and the Future of Women in the Church

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.

Romans 16:1-2
The New International Version

Our sister Phoebe, a deacon in the church in Cenchrea, will be coming to see you soon.  Receive her in the Lord, as one who is worthy of high honour.  Help her in every way you can,  for she has helped many in their needs, including me.    

Greet Priscilla and Aquila.  They have been co-workers in my ministry for Christ Jesus,  In fact, they have risked their lives for me.

Romans 16 1-2
New Living Translation, Catholic Reference Edition

Who was Phoebe and why is her legacy so important today?  Phoebe was a first-century Christian woman in the church of Cenchreae, an ancient seaport, now a village known as Kechries in the municipality of Corinth in Greece.  She is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans 16: 1-2.  Paul describes Phoebe in the King James Version of the New Testament as "servant,"  and :"succorer."  The New International Version changes those two nouns to "deacon" and "benefactor."   

Paul's letter to the Romans was written in Corinth, likely around the years A.D.56  to A.D. 59, before his third missionary journey.  St. Paul wrote his epistle in an effort to obtain support for a missionary journey to Spain.  He not only speaks of  obtaining assistance from Phoebe, but he also mentions other women such as  Priscilla and Aquila, whom he describes as "co-workers in my ministry for Christ Jesus."

Although some scholars believe the Paul restricted the office of deacon to men, others point out that when describing the attributes deacons must posses, Paul included women.  He wrote, "They, likewise, are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything." (Timothy 3:11)  Woman deacons, therefore, were to adhere to the same standards as male deacons.

If St. Paul considered Phoebe a deacon of the church, one wonders why Catholic women are prohibited from serving as deacons. The Roman Catholic Church is facing an existential crisis.  Church attendance has plummeted in the secular societies of Europe and North America.  In France, Italy and Spain, once great bastions of Catholicism, Mass attendance has dropped substantially .  The COVID-19 pandemic certainly hasn't helped.  Still, many Catholics failed to return to the pews when the pandemic eased.  

To make matters worse, the Church has been hit hard by sex abuse scandals and residential school scandals.  It is also facing a conflict between conservative Catholics and more liberal ones.  Its charities and good works have been far overshadowed by misdemeanours and malfeasance.  Furthermore,I have noted that many people in their 20s and 30s have no attachment to the Church, even if they were raised Catholics.  Many find little relevance in religious observance.  To be blunt, social media is their god.

Prayer is good and powerful.  However, prayer alone will not increase church attendance.  Nor will it bring about a substantial increase in vocations.  Let me be clear.  I am not suggesting that tradition should be abandoned or that stability is not a desirable goal.  I am not advocating change only for the sake of change, or merely to increase church attendance.  I truly believe that women deacons would energize the Church.  

Female deacons would be a valuable asset. in spreading the gospel.  Deacons cannot perform any of the sacraments, but they can preside over services that do not involve the celebration of the Mass.  Although deacons are not able to preside at the Eucharist, they can lead worship with the distribution of consecrated communion elements, when permitted.  Catholic deacons can officiate at weddings, but only with the permission from the priest or bishop.

Women deacons would provide an underused resource, namely the greater contributions of women to the Church..  Women played very important roles in the New Testament. According to  the Gospel of Mark, It was Mary Magdalene and other women who found the empty tomb on Easter Sunday, and they saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.

Yes, it is true that none of the 12 apostles of Christ were women., but neither were they Black, Asian, disabled or Indigenous.  The Church is said to be the Body of Christ.  Women are members of that Body.  The laity is also part of that Body.  Why shouldn't they have a voice in the direction of the Church?

At present, a Synod on Synodality (October 4-29, 2023) is underway in Rome.  It is an assembly designed to advise Pope Francis on how the Catholic Church  can more fully incorporate all of its members.  There are 54 women among its 365 delegates,  This is a distinct minority, of course, but the encouraging news is that it will mark the first time that women have ever voted in a Synod of Bishops  It is also interesting to note that more than a quarter of voting members are not bishops.

Tradition is important, but rigidity can be stifling.  Over 60 years have passed since the opening of the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII on October 11, 1962.  That's why fresh air should be allowed in.  Some windows need to be opened.  Inflexibility is not the answer and a Church that fears change will stagnate and wither.  As Pope Francis put it, "If you don't change upward you go backward - And the effects on morality are devasting."  The clergy is made up of human beings.  They have made mistakes and they will continue to make mistakes.  The Church was wrong about Galileo Galilei, a 17th century Italian astronomer and physicist.  It took the Vatican 350 years to formerly admit that Galileo was correct when he said that the Earth moves around the sun.

Pope Francis is an awkward situation.  He clearly wants to make changes, but faces fierce opposition from  the conservative elements of the Church.  Francis obviously doesn't want to create deep division within the Church.  At this critical time, the Church cannot afford a schism.  It would be painful and destructive.  So, Francis has to navigate very carefully and very deftly.

Prior to the synod, five conservative cardinals submitted a set of dubia, or doubt, to Pope Francis regarding women's ordination, the blessing of same-sex unions and the authority of the synod to issue binding teaching.  They were Germsn Cardinal Walter BrandmüllerAmerican Cardinal Raymond Burke, Mexican Cardinal Sandoval ÍñiguezGuinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, and Cardinal Joseph Zen the former Bishop of Hong Kong. None of the five cardinals who submitted the new set of dubia are among the roughly 400 participants in the synod, which is scheduled to meet until Oct. 29.

Francis, for his part, has chastised conservative critics in the United States, who have challenged him on such theological issues as the Latin Mass, and social issues such as the environment and migration.  During an August 5, 2023 m meeting with Jesuit priests in Lisbon, Portugal, Pope Francis addressed the  the criticism of his leadership, particularly in the United States.  He said, "Those American groups you talk about, so closed, are isolating themselves.  Instead of living by doctrine, by the true doctrine that always develops and bears fruit, they live by ideologies."

For the sake of the Church's future, progressives and conservatives must find common ground.  They must engage in dialogue and listen carefully to each other's concerns.  All voices should be heard and much consensus is needed.  No one should be unbending and unyielding.  That, of course, is easier said than done, but the effort must be made. That is the only reasonable path forward for the Church.

Yes, it is true that none of the 12 Apostles of Christ were women, but neither were they Black, Asian, disabled or Indigenous.  The Church is said to be the Body of Christ.  Women are members of that Body.  The laity is also part of that Body.  Why shouldn't they have a voice in the direction of the Church?  

God is often portrayed as an old man with a white beard and a deep voice, but a Supreme Being does not have a gender.  A Supreme Being is spiritual.  Someday there will probably be woman priests, but it won't happen overnight.  Meanwhile, the basic tenets of Christianity (Love Thy neighbour, the Golden Rule) are more important than dogma.  If Christians follow those teachings, they will always be on the right track.  Those teachings can never be changed.  They can never be outdated.  They serve as a guide forever.


The name Phoebe means "pure," "radiant,"  It was the name of a titan in Greek mythology.

Phoebe is not canonized a saint in the Catholic Church.  However, her feast day is celebrated on September 3rd by the Roman Catholic Chuch, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Episcopal Church of the United States.

- Joanne

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square should be renovated


Yonge-Dundas Square

A recent Toronto Star editorial argued that Toronto is sorely in need of a public square that is attractive and engaging.  I heartily agree with that notion.  The greatest cities in the  world have wonderful public squares.  I have long wished the same for our city because, let’s face it, Yonge-Dundas Square is undesirable.  In fact, as the Star editorial stated, “At its worst, it has all the appeal of a parking lot."  To be blunt, it is an eyesore.

Just last month, I had the good fortune of visiting Scandinavia.  I was very impressed with the town and city squares in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.  They are people-friendly gathering places with plenty of seating.  Views are not obstructed by skyscrapers.

Of course, Toronto isn’t going to have a Trafalgar Square, a Place de la Concorde or a beautiful Italian-style piazza anytime soon.  Still, why can’t we aspire to something better than Yonge-Dundas Square?  Surely the fourth largest city in North America can create something preferable.

Let’s begin with the name. “Yonge-Dundas Square.”  What could sound less enticing, less imaginative, less attractive.  That name is as dull and sterile as the square itself.  It too has all the appeal of a parking lot. 

In my daydreams, I imagine a large friendly public square at Bloor and Yonge.  When I awaken, I see nothing but skyscrapers blocking my view.  There is no welcoming place for people to congregate, no public square with fountains, statues and greenery in the heart of our city.  Those high rises at Bloor and Yonge, unfortunately, are here to stay.

However, it is not too late to improve Yonge-Dundas Square and give it a new name.  Restaurateur Arron Barberian has put forth a suggestion for renaming the downtown square after the late singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot.  Barberian’s suggestion certainly merits a great deal of consideration, especially since the square is situated near Massey Hall, a venue where Lightfoot frequently performed.

Yes, refurbishing Yonge-Dundas Square would be a costly venture in monetary terms.  Some would argue that the city cannot afford such extravagant spending.  Admittedly, renovating the square would be expensive.  It would certainly be an arduous task, but well worth the cost in human terms.  A refurbished square would be a priceless addition to our city, bringing much happiness to many.  It would improve the quality of urban life and it would attract countless tourists to Toronto. 

I don’t have all the answers, but I hope that Mayor Olivia Chow and members of Toronto City Council give this careful consideration.  They should make it one of their priorities.  Councillor Chris Moise (Ward 3, Toronto Centre}, has urged the council to order a review of the management of the square for the purpose of coming up with new ideas and to determine whether it should be run by an outside board or by the city, in the manner of Nathan Phillips Square.   That’s an important step forward and I wish Councillor Moise much success in his attempt to revitalize Yonge-Dundas Square.

After enduring a long and difficult pandemic, we Torontonians deserve something special to brighten our lives. a place where we can just sit and enjoy the sunshine on a summer day, or sip hot chocolate in the winter.  We need a locale for people of all ages to gather and connect with each other.  An isolated society is not a healthy society.

Back in 1972, media executive Moses Znaimer commissioned singer-songwriter Tommy Ambrose and advertising mogul Gary Gray to create a song about Toronto as the theme music for Citytv., a new UHF Television station.  They came up with “Toronto People City,” which, sadly, is largely forgotten.  I watched a video of that lost anthem on the internet today and I dreamed about what Toronto could and should be.  For those of you who haven’t heard the song, I suggest you google it.


- Joanne 

Friday, October 13, 2023

Good news: Something to make you feel better


Are you as sick and tired of all the bad news as I am?  Some days I wake up and I think the world is going stark-raving mad.  The recent ongoing wars between Russia and Ukraine and  Israel and Hamas, the hateful right-wing militancy, the political circus in the United States involving the Republican Party and Trump, and the ravages of climate change, are all very disconcerting and scary.  That is why on this Friday the 13th, I would like to brighten your day (and my day) by sharing some good news with you.  It's something you can cheer about.

Scientists believe that they have found one of the causes of autism.  This breakthrough could lead to treating serious neurological disorders in children such as autism and schizophrenia.  American researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have discovered that brain inflammation in youngsters may be the source of the disorders.  This could open the door to new treatments.

According to a Microsoft News (MSN) article by Stephen Beech, for the first time, scientists have learned that inflammation alters the development of brain cells and could be linked to neurodevelopmental disorders  Beech writes, "Using single-cell geonomics to study the brains of children who died from inflammatory conditions, such as bacterial or viral infections or asthma- along with those who died in a sudden accident, the research team found inflammation in early childhood prevents specific neurons in the cerebellum from maturing completely.

I am encouraged by anything that gives hope to children and youth.  They, along with women, suffer the most from war and discord.  We need some good news right now.  If you have some good news to share with me, I promise I will post it on this website, as it is factual.  I invite you to send your contributions to me.  Of course, we can't just close our eyes and completely shut out what's going on in the world.  However, sometimes we need a break, a respite from all the horror.  Every drop in the bucket helps.

- Joanne

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Butterfly Conservatory: Niagara Falls, Ontario - Photos

On October 4, 2023, I visited the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  The glass-enclosed conservatory was built in 1996.  It includes laboratories and specialized greenhouses for raising butterflies and growing plants.

This was my second visit to the conservatory and I enjoyed it immensely.  There is always more to learn about this fascinating insect. They are so colourful and graceful as they flutter their wings.

 I found the staff at the conservatory to be very helpful and friendly.  If you are in the area, I highly recommend that you spend some time in the conservatory.  It is located at 2565 Niagara Parkway, just 6.7 kilometres (4.2 miles) from the Falls.  Over 2,000 tropical butterflies float around the rainforest ambience.  You can take your own walking tour of the conservatory, but you will need over an hour to experience everything properly.  You start with a short, informative video presentation.  Then you can walk through winding  paths of lush vegetation and waterfalls.

Below is a photo of a feeding tray where butterflies gather.  Look closely and you will notice that these butterflies have a large eye design design on their wings.  This is for their defence against predators, so that  attackers will think they are dangerous.


- Joanne