Sunday, 28 September 2014

I ate corn twice and other summer regrets

I may have slept through the Summer of 2014.
Certainly, I didn't do much else.
Last week, it hit me. I'd only consumed corn on the cob, my absolute favorite vegetable, twice.
When I was a kid, the oldsters teased me that I could eat a dozen corn on the cob in one sitting -- when I was twelve!
 For some people that would mean hugging the toilet for a couple of hours. In my case, living in a house without indoor plumbing, that would not have been an option.
It just didn't seem to affect me that way, whether I ate one cob or a dozen. I was like a little beaver sawing logs. RRRRRRR; in thirty seconds the cob was done.
Alas, as I get older, corn does get me runnin' a bit, but I still love to slather the butter, salt the little number and scarf it down. It's a horror show really, with condiments dripping from my face.
Shirts are never the same after a good feet at the trough.
But this year, the oompf went out of my corn dogging.
Maybe it was all the dieting I've done over the past few years. Maybe it's Doctor Oz.
It think this whole weight thing has actually made me afraid of certain foods. Except ice cream. I could never be afraid of ice cream.
Whatever the reason, corn wasn't on the menu. I will miss it terribly come January and will be jonzing for it in the spring.
Thinking about corn, a reality set in. I realized that I have stopped doing many of my favorite things in the summer.
I didn't play tennis.
Haven't for years.
I used to love tennis, the sun on my face, the whirr of the ball as somebody hit it past your left ear when you weren't paying attention, the beer afterwards, the company.
But tennis has become too demanding. If you play club tennis, you have to commit to showing up, and I rarely commit to lunch these days. Also, my left knee has developed arthritis.
But watching Eugenie Bouchard not win any majors this year, has brought back the longing.
Unfortunately, it hasn't brought me back to the courts.
I used to play golf a couple times a week -- at least. For two years, I rented a condo at Amberwood Village, back in the day. I played nearly every day when I was working nights reviewing bad bands for the Citizen.
Amberwood had tennis courts, a par three golf court, a pool and racquetball.
It was a dream spot.
Over those two years, I was never in better shape. It brought joy into my life to see the little white ball sail over treacherous waters and land on the green. Didn't always happen, but when it did, I couldn't believe there was a better feeling on Earth.
Who cared about the mosquitos the size of softballs?
Even if I sucked, it was still a nice walk on a rich man's lawn.
I haven't played golf in years, either.
It's too expensive.
Besides, now everybody is taking it up and all the courses look like car washes, with everybody lining up, hurrying up, just to wait.
I can get that at Red Lobster.
I used to walk, too, through the woods, smelling the pine air and kicking the chips on this city's wonderful trails. Now, I can only go once a week, for the running of the hounds, because of my damned bummed knee.
Oh yes, and cottage life. There's nothing nicer than going to a cottage, paddling around a lake, playing cards til midnight and reading in the sun while feeding peanuts to a chippie.
We didn't get invited to any cottages this year.
It's sad because every day I wake up to see the gorgeous images on the splash pages of my Facebook friends who have inherited their parents' cottages. I'm an orphan from a widowed woman, so I sit here looking at the cottage pictures, writing on this old computer and hoping Rosie O'Donnell will get into a fight on The View.
It's sad, really, to realize you've become a pastey faced, yo-yo-dieting indoor girl.
Fear has brought me to this place.
I'm afraid to get out in the sun and venture out only in the twilight like some kind of vamp. I slather on SPF 40 instead of baking in the noon day sun.
I want to bake. I want to tan.
But fear and a fierce esthetician has keep those instincts at bay.
The good news is I have virgin skin again. The spots are gone, the bags have subsided.
I look like a summer lass voting in the Scotland referendum.
But I kept my promise and now I have virgin skin again.
I've traded in the golf clubs for a gym membership. I swim in a tepid saltwater pool instead of with the leeches and zebra mussels.
I've given up the carbs that brought joy to my belly in favor of squash and kale.
Sometimes I regret this change of lifestyle.
I'm no longer what you would consider a risk taker.
But my waistline, and my skin, and my knee thank me.
At this age, I guess that has to be enough.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

CTV News depicts Mike Duffy as a gargoyle

Perhaps the graphics department at CTV News decided to have a little fun at the expense of embattled Senator Mike Duffy this week. It's gotta be tempting. I mean, he is a pretty big target, just like Rob Ford who is constantly shown in a gonzo state on the late night shows.
If the graphics team was to blame, that might be CTV's best excuse for running this photo last night of Mike Duffy, shown in hues of pink and grey, resembling one of the Gargoyles that dress the stone facades in front of Parliament Hill.
While Lisa Laflamme solemnly read the story that Duffy's court case was ripening and finally being hatched, the graphic was a clear signal that Old Duff was still a pretty fine piece of catnip for the news cats to play with, have fun with, to swat back and forth before finally being consumed in bite sized pieces.
While some people in the newsroom might have had a great guffaw over this -- the stoning of one of their own who had embarrassed the profession -- many people didn't think it was very funny.
For those who still believe in, and cherish, our system of government, the Duffy-Wright Harper affair is serious business. It will be messy, it will show some of our highest members of elected and appointed office to be opportunist, lying fowl. Duffy is just one player, a big one, that's for sure, but why is he being vilified in this manner, tarred and feathered, ridiculed beyond measure?
It's as if George R.R.Martin has suddenly turned the news into a made-for-television blockbuster, a Game of Thrones for the masses, and Duffy has been added for comic relief.
Interesting, that we do not see Mr. Harper portrayed in this manner. Or Nigel Wright. Or Marjory LeBreton.
Whatever the reason, it was a cheap shot, that's for sure.
There are a lot of people who put together a newscast -- reporters, editors, producers -- but the blame for this one should be placed squarely on the expensively decorated shoulders of Lisa Laflamme who is the chief anchor and senior editor at CTV News.
It is her face we see every night, her brand. In that seat, Laflamme should look at every image as well as every story before it goes on the air. If she did see this one, and maybe had a chuckle, she is no better than Ezra Levant and the trolls over at Sun News Network.
For all his transgressions, Mike Duffy deserves a fair trial not a continued drubbing at the hands of immature and spiteful tastemakers.
And Canadians should expect more of its top-rated newscast.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

How do teachers talk to students about ISIS?

If he's still there, Mr. Bloom must be having a challenging time teaching world history and politics to his high school students.

How do you talk to students about ISIS or ISIL, whatever name that's being used these days, especially when you're teaching in a school that has already raised a homegrown terrorist -- a white kid, no less?

Mr. Bloom was the best teacher the kids had. Marissa hated high school, but she loved Mr. Bloom. Ditto Stef and Nick.

That's because Mr. Bloom was a straight shooter, a teacher who was unafraid to tell it like it was. He'd been an English as a second language teacher in Korea. He smoked pot. He drank gallons of hooch on his off hours.

That gave Mr. Bloom cred.

I had a teacher like that in high school, Ralph Eising, who wasn't afraid to teach students about the real world.  In Grade 12, Ralph gave us a book of essays to help us understand the curse of being aboriginal in this damned country.. While other teachers were still using lame texts like Breastplates and Buckskins, sleepy-time tomes written by sanitized academics that romanticized the battles between the whites and "Indians", Ralph was teaching us about our own role in promoting poverty, alcoholism and despair on reserves.

Ralph was fearless, inappropriate and wore his heart on his sleeve.

That's why we loved the damned guy.

He was too good for this world, Ralph Eising, and he left it too soon. Couldn't take the hurt and the pain, I guess.

His life had become a country song.

I think of him often, as I think of him today, as I'm trying to make sense of a world run amok with bad guys stinking up the place, making living here worse for everybody especially their own Muslim brothers and sisters. It's bad enough for us; how bad can it be for the millions of Muslims who just want to get along in this world, go to school, get good jobs, make a contribution, and if they are very lucky, earn a pension at the end of it all?

It starts with Mr. Eising, and it starts with Mr. Bloom.

It's a heavy responsibility being a teacher or a journalist or a politician now to get the script right without scaring the bejesus out of kids and their parents and old folks who just want to go to Loblaws to get groceries but who hear that constant earworm about how they could be beheaded getting lettuce, or blown up stepping on the bus.

Kids, kids are everything. White, black, brown, are our future. We write on the blackboard in their brains everyday. So how would Mr. Bloom -- or Mr. Eising -- have taught students about ISIS, about the Muslim culture and influence in Canada, particularly considering the fact they are not just teaching to the choir. Muslim students are right there, in the classroom.

How does the teacher diplomatically discuss fears for the future when ISIS recommends that all Muslims kill us in our beds, in our shopping malls, at the RedBlacks game?

What does the modern day curriculum say about 9/11? About shoe bombers and self-immolators?
I bet there's nothing about them in Breastplates and Buckskins.

I'm thinking both those teachers would see this, not as a scary chore, but as an opportunity for dialogue. Maybe that's all you can do.

I don't know. I don't envy a world politics teacher today.

Not here, not anywhere.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Pugs: It's always something

Having three dogs is like having three kids.
No matter how wonderful their worlds appear to be, one of them is always out of sorts.
This week, it's the junior pug, Sophie, who has developed a kind of honking sound, like the noise emanating from a flock of Canada Geese as they bid farewell to the North in the fall in search ways to irritate our Southern neighbors.
Like all pugs, Sophie has her peccadilloes.
She has been itchy for a year and has developed a rather unsightly sore on her right ear. Itchiness is a permanent condition for some pugs; Ming had it her whole life and had to be on steroids in her latter years to prevent her from self-harm.
Sophie is going the same way, I'm afraid, but we've managed to keep her off the medication by holding her, calming her, using the tried and true Temple Grandin squeeze box technique.
Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't.
The itchiness is bad, but the honking makes the whole thing worse.
The new affliction is unnerving in the middle of the night, the honking, now combined with the scratching has resulted in our bed shaking like one of those twenty-five cent massage affairs you see in bed bug-riddled motels in Niagara Falls.
As a result, everyone is awake, except for the mighty Finnigan who has taken to the Lazy Boy for relief.
This would be a good thing except, when we finally manage to get Sophie calm and asleep, Finnigan bounces onto the bed and wakes us all up again and causes Gordie, the Jurassic incontinent pug, to poop on the bed.
Let's be clear.
There is no room on the bed for Finnigan, considering that his parents have a combined weight and girth of more than four hundred pounds, but he will not be deterred. Like some kind of lugubrious eel, he manages to insinuate himself between Scott and me, somehow, just somehow, managing to avoid the decapitation of Sophie who is under the covers and Gordie who has somehow crawled up beside my snout.
Finnigan is a swarthy fellow, generally adept at good landings.
But like any sleek stallion navigating the steeplechase, his jump can be ill timed, like last week, when he landed on my right ear, the bad ear, the one the pillow had managed to munch down to the cartilage -- don't ask -- leaving me writhing in pain for much of the rest of the day. Serves me right, I guess, for sleeping upside down.
In my own defence, some nights I need to sleep with my feet at Scott's head, because Gordie can become disoriented and agitated, a symptom of his advanced age. He, too, can only be calmed by the Temple Grandin squeeze box method. I am the box.

This is the third summer that Gordie has managed to escape euthanasia.
He is a miracle of science.
Every time we think it's time for him to hobble down the Green Mile, he fools us. One minute, he can be languishing or uncomfortable, the next, he can be snoring with nary a care in the world.
He has some bad days, but a lot of good ones, so we continue to play the waiting game.
The vet gives us pats on the back for being the kind of pug parents that never give up on the 14-year-old blind, incontinent, toothless, hypo-thyroid paralyzed little fellar. I still carry him from pillar to post, Scott still squeezes him to pee, and well, he smells really, really bad most of the time. Other than that, there's nothing really wrong with him and he isn't much of a bother, though I do have to write my blog watching the sunrise as he insists on sitting with me every minute of the day.
I love him, and obey him, what can I say?

Last night we figured out what the honking was.
Apparently, certain pugs develop a problem with the trachea, which causes the honking.
"It sounds worse than it is," says the online vet, who instructed us to give her some cough syrup, which we did last night.
For the first time in a week, Sophie slept through, as did Gordie, without pooping, as did Finnigan who was sandwiched between us, paws up, bicycling his dreams away. Not even one Lab Death Roll.
Finally, there was peace in my bed.
It's like Rosanne Rosanna Danna once said: "You know, it's always something."
As a dog owner, you have to accept the bad with the good.
It's what you sign on for, as a card-carrying member of the Puppy Pile.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

CRTC: Canadians don't need a cultural crossing guard

I don't usually watch the CRTC hearings.

I don't think I'm alone in this.

But I was riveted by them on Friday, when the captains of Canadian culture started grilling Netflix's director of global public policy, challenging her to open the corporate books, while suggesting that Netflix should pay, essentially, a Canadian culture tax.

Most of the media took to Twitter to share their embarrassment over how the CRTC commissioners conducted themselves. You'd think they were starring in a Canadian roll your own, like the Heritage Minutes, carrying muskets to fight a phantom war against technology.

We didn't ask the CRTC to do this. Canadians are grownups; we don't need a cultural crossing guard.

Justin Trudeau was right the other day.

Old men belong in gentlemen's clubs, smoking cigars. They are not needed to be the guardians of taste, or biology. It's our party and Canadians should be able to choose whatever track we want to groove upon.

Once upon a time, I suppose, Canada needed to stand up for its artists against the wave of American culture. Because of the Canadian content rules, a lot of bands got airplay and television shows got produced that shouldn't have. The real deal, artists like the Guess Who and Neil Young and Joni Mitchell didn't need their help, but let's say Edward Bear benefited.

Canadian content regulations might have gotten a lot of studios built and helped second rate creatives earn a living in Canada. They might have given Canadian deejays a lot of power back in the day.

But we don't need them anymore. Canadians have learned that competition is good for them.

The thinking that Canadian artists need protection and support is so 1970.

Justin Bieber didn't need the CRTC to become a star.

He became a star because of Youtube, not the Homegrown Café.

Justin merely used his Internet connection to become a world class asshole.

The world has been changing for a while and so have we. Canadians have become global citizens who would rather illegally steal services like Netflix US than have to watch another episode of Murdoch Mysteries. Or some aboriginal guy with his hand up the ass of a puppet on CBC in the morning.

And let's talk about that dirty little secret called the Canadian Television Fund, the place where Canadian "artists" and producers in the know go to fund the creation of content they produce to ship south of the border in the manner of Lifetime Movies., summer procedural dramas or reality shows. These people are stealing our money and smuggling it over the border in the form of crap programming.

It's time for Canadians to stand up to the regulators, the Canadian broadcasters and the erstwhile pack of showrunners who are turning Canadian culture into a joke.
Let us be free to be you and me.

I agree with Netflix's Corie Wright. Regulating the Internet the way the CRTC regulates television and radio will only hurt Canadian consumers and continue to make us a laughing stock.
For once, I agree with the Prime Minister.

When it comes to Canadian content, we don't need more regulation, we need less.

p.s. How much Canadian taxpayer money went into this? (Strong language warning, eh?)


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Pay television: Canadian style

Did you hear the head honchos from CBC at the CRTC yesterday?
Usually, the CRTC hearings are dry affairs, so you can be excused for not paying attention, but these hearings are both entertaining and important because they will determine how much you will pay for cable service and whether or not you get to "pick and pay" for the services and channels you actually want.
Like the executives at all the other for-profit television networks, the CBC brass are saying that they believe Canadians will pay to subscribe to the nation's broadcaster. The CBC is different, of course, because it is, for the most part, funded by you and me....
Wait, wait.
So the CBC is saying we will be happy to pay to subscribe to the CBC and yet we are already paying for the CBC.
That's stupid, isn't it.?
Public television in the United States is, indeed, paid for by subscribers and also appears as part of a cable package. I watch PBS to see who will die on Downton Abbey as determined by the players who didn't want to renew their contracts. I also watch Mr. Selfridge because I like Jeremy Piven.
But I don't succumb to the siren call of the nerds sitting on card chairs asking me to donate to public television. Lots of people -- rich people, mostly -- do contribute to public television, and I thank them for their contribution.
The CBC could try the same tactic, 24-hour fundraising, but you know it won't do that when it can get the money from the taxpayer. Hell, the CBC even balks at the mere thought of advertising.
Now, I like the CBC and I'm friends with it, not in a formal sense like some like-minded people do who want to associate with it. But I like it.
I like Peter Mansbridge and I watch his show every night he's on, though I turn the news off when I see Wendy Mesley. And Evan Solomon. I also like Rick Mercer, no, that's not true. I don't like the current Rick Mercer who has become little more than a pitchman for Tourism Canada.
I like the old Rick Mercer and the old This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
So I don't watch either.
Reruns of Just for Laughs, again paid for by the taxpayer and all her credits, are also pretty good.
But I can also watch them on the Comedy Network.
So it's the National, I watch. That's it.
Now Peter is looking like he's getting ready to get out the old fishing rod, and volunteer as a stagehand at the Stratford Festival, supporting his wife Cynthia Dale's dubious career, so I'm trying not to be too attached to him.
Which leaves me, as a television viewer, in this spot.
If all I'm watching of the CBC is the National and Peter retires, will I be happy to pay a subscriber fee to get the CBC?
Besides, it's kind of a weird question because I'm already paying for cable and I'm paying through both my nostrils. The whole point of pick and pay is to reduce my cable bill and these yahoos are saying I should be paying more for it.
Here's what Canadians want, I believe.
We want to stop paying ridiculous cable bills that are almost as much as our mortgage payment.
We don't really give a rat's ass about Canadian culture, anymore.
We want to pay just for what we watch, and let's face it, a lot of Canadians -- fair minded, intelligent, ethical people -- are not even prepared to pay for that.
Most people I know steal their television by downloading it.
I don't agree with that just as I don't agree with stealing music or anything else that somebody took the trouble to make.
I'm happy to pay for the basic channels ($40), and a handful of others, like the Food Network, HBO, A&E, Bravo and TSN for the tennis. That's pretty much it.
I never want to see another French channel, twelve more sports channels, and all those lifestyle channels that feature gardening and saying "yes" to the dress, and Duck Dynasty.
As far as subscriptions are concerned, I feel I'm covered just by paying my damned cable bill.
Now I'd like to address the concerns of all the television producers who are squawking that if we get rid of the specialty channels, it will be the end of television production in Canada as we know it. I could see that argument if we were funding fine productions like Downtown Abbey. But we're not.
We're funding reality shows about moving houses, repairing leaky basements and where to plant the best azaleas. Oh yes, we're also funding a shitload of Lifetime movies destined for the U.S. and cop shows that the American networks use as fillers during the summer.
Like Rookie Blue on CBS? You'd better; you paid for it.
I don't know about you, but I am not prepared to subsidize this drivel. Television producers who make this drivel on our dime should be stopped. I don't think I'm alone in saying this.
And I dream of a day I don't have to spend half my night scrawling up and down the dial, zooming past 57 channels with nothing on.
I will be happy to pay for the CBC as part of a basic package on my cable bill ($40).
But I won't pay more for it.
I need that money to pay for Super Channel for six months so I can watch Homeland.


Thursday, 11 September 2014

Hey Bell Media: I've got news. Local is dead .

Bell Media was hoping to scare consumers yesterday, with its pronouncement that local programming could disappear without us paying for it through some sort of subscription plan.
Its head honcho suggested that Bell, Rogers and Shaw will have to find other revenue streams to keep local fare alive; otherwise the local news will be on the chopping block.
But would we really miss it?
Anyone who watches the current local shows knows they are already on live support. Our local CTV affiliate in Ottawa has all but stopped doing remote satellite feeds that once made the audience feel like they were part of the action. Even the host of its once lovely little program Regional Contact has had to resort to covering only stories that are bussable.
CTV Ottawa's noon hour program has been turned into a repeater for news from the night before, and its local segments are nothing more than infomercials for local restaurants and stores. I saw a story last week about a local eatery commenting on the possibility of the city posting health grades. The next day, that same eatery became a half hour segment on the noon news about its great new burgers.
I mean, why tie up two crews when one will do?
Oh well. Guess there's no real local news happening save traffic accidents, already doused fires with uninsured tenants milling about, feeble feeds from the network on international and national news, and weather and sports.
Did ya miss it?
No worries, just go to the website. The same drivel is repeated there like the pickles on those burgers from the local eateries.
I watch it, I can't lie, because I'm sitting around the house answering employment ads while waiting for Candy Crush Saga to let me move to the next level.
If I want real news, I go to Twitter where I can find out what's really happening in my community and in the world.
What's on the local news isn't really news anyway. I could do without the infomercials for Bell services on CTV Ottawa, I could live without seeing dog abuse videos and I could certainly go to sleep at night without worrying about Terry Marcotte's golf game.
Oh yes, and I forgot to mention the constant web videos that they use for filler in between the infomercials. Every television news program -- including Canada AM -- has discovered it can fill precious minutes in newscasts with "what I learned on Twitter" and "what I saw on YouTube".
Fact is, I don't need to watch these during the news.
I can watch them myself on my Smartphone while sitting on the stupid bus or waiting in line for Starbucks. Pretty soon, I can watch them on my iWatch!
It would be one thing if the local news show actually showed video that it paid a reporter and cameraperson to go out and shoot. More and more, local shows prefer to have their reporters standing on the other side of the newsroom telling the story to camera. Or worse, the reporters stand outside the door in front of the newsroom.
Even poor JJ Clarke can hardly get out of the office anymore -- outside -- where weather is actually happening! (Sometimes, they throw him a bone and let him stand on the balcony, which even a poor apartment rat could do on her own.)
The key problem for Bell Media and the others is that nobody wants to advertise on these shows, and advertising used to be the life blood for local programming. The advertising dollar now has to be spread between radio stations and the Internet, on the cheap, and the television stations on the rich.
Also, the local commercials are vile.
They use heavily accented French Canadians to advertise "the buffet de something or other" on "le boulevard de something or other". They even use visual images that have French signs.
These horrendous ads are speckled between spots with the half made bed Trivago guy, reverse mortgages and car commercials. Even the Oprah Winfrey Network has better ads!
And let's face it, we all tape the damned news anyway while we're making dinner, or drinking then fast forward through the stupid parts. (You're never too young, Terry Marcotte's golf game and the YouTube videos you've already seen, plus commercials.)
Hate to say it, Bell, but local is doomed anyway.
It's done.
Stick a fork in it.
Give me Netflix (US) and HBO (not Canada).
Or give me brain death.
I hereby turn in my Canadian content card.