Radical Workplace Episode 1 Drops!

First episode of The Radical Workplace drops now!! David Cubitt and I reminisce about the old CD Plus days and chat about his proven entrepreneurial philosophy of passion vs. money and his latest success with Wasaga Beach Brewing Company!

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The Big Epiphany – That’s Why I’m Here

“Fortune and fame’s such a curious game.
Perfect strangers can call you by name.
Pay good money to hear Fire and Rain
Again and again and again.
Some are like summer coming back every year,
Got your baby, got your blanket
Got your bucket of beer.
I break into a grin from ear to ear
And suddenly it’s perfectly clear.
That’s why I’m here.”

One of my faves James Taylor wrote this 35 years ago. He had an epiphany about his purpose on the planet. He spent years working on his career to the detriment of everything else around him, constantly fighting against the legacy of incredible music he had created to focus on the music to come. After a slew of personal tragedy, he realized the simplicity of his existence. His main job was to entertain, to enlighten, to relieve the burden of everyday life from the world – if only for the 2 hours he played. People “paid good money to hear “Fire and Rain again and again and again”. So that’s what he would do. He said himself that he hasn’t been the same since.

I’m taking my lead from old JT.

I’ve been very reflective the past few weeks. A lot has gone on. And through it all, something became very clear to me. My Mom always said to her children that the only way to guarantee a legacy is to positively influence at least one person. Of course, like everything else in life, the gravity of this statement never really occurred to me until I got much older. I always doubted this about myself. I always felt like a bit of an imposter – that people’s expectations of me were far higher than I could ever achieve. But recent events have since brought me to the realization that I have left a positive mark on this earth – no matter how small – and that focusing on those things will lead me to a fulfilled future. So I am taking it seriously.

A lot of you will have noticed that I have doubled down on promotion the past few weeks. I know it may seem self-serving, but the reason is plain. I have been very lucky in my life, and I am profoundly grateful. It’s time for me to focus on using that gratitude to ramp up my ability to make positive change – whether through business podcasts, mental health advocacy, or other creative endeavours. It’s become very clear that – just like JT – that’s why I’m here.

So here’s my new FB Page, which will allow me a better audience reach to help me facilitate that change. It will also allow me to keep my personal profile a little more private because who the fuck wants to take the chance of being hacked again lol.

I’m hoping you will all like this new page and follow me as I try to make a difference. I can’t guarantee success, but I can assure you that we will have an amazing time trying 😊

https://www.facebook.com/shaelrisman/

SURFACES now on all Streaming Services!

Hello friends! For those who have been asking for years – my indie album SURFACES is now on Spotify and all other major streaming services!!

Originally recorded in 1988, this album was a collection of some of the songs I had written since 1984. I pretty much locked myself in the piano room at my parent’s house with a Fostex 4-track recorder, beat-up keyboard, microphone and trusty black Yamaha piano – and tried to capture the essence of the songs as best I could. I was very proud of how SURFACES ended up, and it really gave me confidence to start performing live whenever I could. People started hearing the album, and soon I couldn’t press them fast enough. Nearly 1000 were sold over a period of 2 years. Even more surprisingly, I was hearing stories about copies being made as far away as the Middle East.

Listening to the songs again, it’s easy to identify the poor recording quality and the shameless sentimentality that soaks them throughout. I’m not making any excuses – I was in my late teens after all and everything was a crisis. But, at the time, I really put my flesh and blood into these songs and they took me through some difficult periods.

Anyhoo – the more you listen, the more money goes to CAMH (all proceeds go to them) so listen and share and like and review and whatever else you do. Thanks for the support!!

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2AM at Windsports – The Origin of a Camp Song

2021 marks the 35th anniversary of (I Wanna Go Back To) Tamarack. Howie (the original camp owner) announced to the camp that I was writing the new camp song. Which was cool. Except that it was the first time I was hearing it too.

1986 was a bizarre, wonderful, tragic summer. It was the year we lost Jonathan Miller to a freak boating accident, and suddenly the camp was in mourning, which – as I’m sure you can imagine – is about as strange and foreign an emotion as you will ever have at camp. It seems to rise above that somehow. After Howie announced it, at about 2AM that night, I ventured out to windsports on my own with only the night sky lighting my way. I sat down on the picnic table with my yellow legal pad and a pen and could not for the life of me start writing. I was 19 years old and well established in my own emotional turmoil. I was on the cusp of starting university, which I was not looking forward to as I did not have Clue One about where I was going. My parent’s marriage was also slowly slipping into oblivion, so I was about to head back to more chaos than I could bear. All I wanted to do was stay at camp. With my family of friends. Who would shield me from the rest of reality while we idyllically breathed in an endless summer.

So that didn’t happen.

But what did happen is that I found myself immediately writing. About leaving friends, about things I would miss, about tumbling with unforgiving speed from a child to a man. And somehow, it all got flavoured with my overwrought feelings of longing, and sadness, and dread of the future and what it held for me. Suddenly the page of my yellow legal pad was full all the way to the margins with these little thoughts, and within an hour I had the song. And what was most surprising to me was that even though I had written it with sorrow and doubt and fear, it was overwhelmingly filled with joy when I put it to music.

I wish I could explain what it feels like to hear 35 seasons of staff and campers sing that song. My mom always taught me that the only worthwhile goal in life was to leave this world a better place than you found it. If you can have a positive effect on just one person, your life was worth it. That is the camp song for me.

Recently (for obvious reasons) Rob Cooper (the first Head Of Video at camp and now an award-winning writer and producer (Wikipedia Page here) sent me a long-forgotten video he shot for the camp song in 1986. I was surprised by how emotional it was to see myself in all that youth and angst and vulnerability (and hair), but it was a humbling and loving reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I will play that song for as long as I am asked to. Because it takes me back to a snapshot of comfort and safety and belonging. It always will.

The Continuing Radiance of Marc Cooper

Well you did it again, you vile fuck.  You took another one.

I get it.  He was one of the greatest humans alive.  Always putting others first.  Always.  No matter what.  He built his entire existence around it.  Gleaning joy from the joy of others.  But that is not anything you tolerate or even understand, do you?  The whole joy thing.  You shit on it every minute of every day.

I’ve been thinking about it non-stop since Ellen called me yesterday morning, as I suppose most of the people who knew him are doing.  I’m no different.  The past 10 years we had grown super close, though, after my daughter Sophie started at Tamarack.  I could always count on receiving random pics of him and her all summer, in various states of hair or hat or attitude.  We spoke endlessly during the year, mostly about our mental health and trying to help each other with it.  There is a very basic connection between people with mental illness who share similar lives.  We were both fathers, husbands, leaders – blessed with the voice and the opportunity to affect our communities positively and driven by creativity that could barely be contained.  But it was you that monopolized our conversations.  You were inescapable as usual.  But somehow, gradually, and in tiny ways, we would fight you off.  Until the next time you showed your ugly fucking face.  And you always did. 

Plenty of people are going to be writing eloquently about Marc Cooper.  And they should.  He was indeed among the greatest humans alive.  He touched thousands with his unique light and unceasing positivity.  He changed people.  He changed me.  And that’s just the kind of shit you hate.  The better they are, the more you need them.  I know this very well because you killed my brother in the same way.

My other brother is a psychiatrist who has dedicated his own life to stopping your vicious crusade.  He deals with your shit daily, even hourly.  And he has said to me many times in the past, and again yesterday, that the only certain thing about determining if someone is about to cause harm to themselves is that there is no certainty.  There is no way to jump in front of you at that singular moment when the decision is made.  It can happen anytime, anywhere, no matter who you are or what you do or how profoundly your kindness, charm, generosity, and humour have affected the people around you.

Carly and Jack, the real tragedy of all this is you. There is a lot of collateral damage to families. It is the hardest road you will ever walk. Just know that your community – the one that Marc had a profound hand in building – are right here beside you always. And forever – even if it’s just to remind you of the kind of incredible person he was.

All I know now is this.  To the thousands of people – children and adults – that Marc has left his glorious imprint on, this is their time to shine.  Talk about him.  Loudly.  They must talk to their children about their own mental health, and about suicide, and about how Marc battled the darkness until he just couldn’t anymore.  And talk about how there is no shame in that. We must fight the stigma of suicide more than ever, and talking about it will do just that.

The last text message I got from Marc was a few weeks ago, saying simply, “I love you.  That’s all have in my tank right now, and I wanted you to have it.”  That’s the kind of guy you wiped off the planet.  But I will tell you this, we will figure you out, you unredeemable, useless fuck.  Eventually we will.  And when that happens, no one will enjoy watching you die more than me.

Nobody.

ANCIENT ALBUM VAULT – 30th Anniversary of Road Apples by The Tragically Hip – 1991

I remember the day the play copy of the Tragically Hip’s ROAD APPLES came into the store in 1991. I loved Up To Here and was stoked to see if they were going to worship the “Sophomore Slump” myth and fail hard or kick it into high gear. And then Paul Langlois’ opening riff from Little Bones exploded across the store like it was kicking in a door. Holy Fuck. Nothing makes me bang my head more than that song. And every tune that came after it was equally as awesome. Just a joyously exhausting listen from end to end. And Fiddler’s Green – good god it ate me up and spit me out. Anyway, it’s become a Canadian classic and it’s the 30th anniversary of it’s release today. Watching and hearing Gord in the video below is a poignant reminder of his stunning magnetism – both lyrically and physically – and a tragic memento of an icon lost too soon. Listening again for the first time.

Watching and hearing Gord is a poignant reminder of his stunning magnetism – both lyrically and physically – and a tragic memento of an icon lost too soon.

Also, I bought 24 of these, because, well, The Hip.

ANCIENT ALBUM VAULT – Change Everything by Del Amitri – 1992

Justin Currie and band just nailed the shit out of their sophomore release CHANGE EVERYTHING. We played it endlessly in the store when it came out in 1992. From the opening chords of Be My Downfall through Surface Of the Moon and right to the final glow of Sometimes I Just Have to Say Your Name, Del Amitri truly delivers on the blissful power pop I loved in the 90s. Nothing special about the lyrics – which is weird coming from me I know – but the catchy hooks and soaring melodies make them almost unimportant to the joy. It was huge in Scotland where they are from, but it was almost completely missed here at the time.

Agree? Disagree? Like it? Hate? Let me know what you think in a comment below. I can take it 🙂

An Open Letter to “Fitness Professionals” from a Fat Guy

So I have a FB friend who today posted about the poor 13 year old girl in Brampton who died with COVID. The young lady who died was overweight, so of course that gives anyone the right to blame her for her predicament.


My friend is a “Fitness Professional”, and she posted that her heart goes out to the people who cannot control their health during these times. But for the people who CAN (ie fat 13 year old girls and people like me) control their health or at least some elements of it, success and getting more of us out of this pandemic healthy is up to us. She looked at a picture of the girl and said that it was easy enough to see that this poor girl was extremely overweight for her age, and this was probably the primary factor in the severity of her body’s response to getting COVID-19.


I like this FB friend of mine. I think the world of her. But I am so fucking livid right now I cannot see straight.


This is one of the most ridiculous and self-serving posts I have seen on FB in the past little while. And that says a lot. As a person that has dealt with the physical and psychological issues behind weight issues for upwards of 50 years, I can tell you that dealing with these challenges is not corrected by simply taking a walk and trying to change your eating habits. Make that 10-fold for a teenage girl. How did she diagnose this as a death contributor? By looking at a picture??? Did she get a detailed family history? Did she talk to her doctor? Of course not. And yet she has no problems getting up on Social Media and giving us her completely unfounded opinion on why this poor girl died.


I am really fucking tired of self-labeled “Fitness Professionals” pretending they are educated in all things weight related and proceed to regale us fatties with how we need to just “buckle down” and “just exercise” or “just eat properly” as if it was something we just completely overlooked. This is a battle, darling – one that has occupied most of our lives and where we have had to endure people like you treating it like a common cold that I can treat. You are providing no useful service to anyone with this. Quite the opposite. This is a shameful, uneducated post from an educated person, and that is the most disappointing element of all.


Let me save other “Fitness Professionals” a bit of time here, by posting some helpful guidelines from the people you think you are helping with these posts.

  1. There is not a person in the first world that is not aware of the health effects of obesity. We get it, believe me. We are not ignoring you. Regularly posting things that everyone knows just makes you look weird.
  2. We have had to live our entire lives with this. Society has its own sort of perception of people like me – we are disgusting, fat, slothful, lazy, incompetent, stupid. By being so visible and taking up so much room, in a strange way we are also quite invisible. People kind of clock you and their eyes slide off you. I feel bullied, slighted and ridiculed. Being judged firstly and continuously by the way we look, as if we all set our minds to being fat, and despite our body’s every effort to stay thin we kept fattening ourselves up because it just looked like so much goddam fun. You telling us that it’s as easy as eating right and exercising conveniently reduces our struggle to a mere oversight on our part. If it was that fucking easy everyone would be thin because believe me, being fat is not the choice you seem to think it is.
  3. Even though it may not look like it to you, we are trying. We have never wished for anything harder. There are any number of physical, genetic, biological and – god help us – psychological elements to obesity that you will never understand, because if you did, you would not be acting the way you are.
  4. Society approved people get the privilege of dignity by default; fat people must earn that dignity, as I once tried to, years ago ― running on the treadmill until my knees ached, swimming, dieting – literally everything – until I said that this circular hell of calories-in, calories-out wasn’t worth risking my safety or my sanity.


I am the luckiest of all fat people. I can make you laugh. I am the jolly fatty. I am a decent musician and can entertain people. And I am grateful for all of that because if I couldn’t do any of those things all people would have ever seen is my fatness.
I am not going to shroud any of this in kindness though I probably should. I am far too angry. I am, however, hoping that the next time a “Fitness Professional” decides to ply their delightful demonization of fat people out in public, that they think about this post and remember that I told them to go fuck themselves.

AAA – AWESOME ALBUM ALERT – LORI MCKENNA’S THE BALLADEER

Fellow lovers of the singer/songwriter genre,


I have know about since Lori McKenna her first record. Had to drive into the city and back today, so I listened to her new one. I think I cried the entire time. An altogether joyous and painful look at how aging changes relationships – be it sibling, spouse, or children – and how it all just goes by in an instant. It seriously floored me. The music is simple, mournful and sweet in the best sense of classic Americana, and the lyrics are devastating. Feedback welcome.