Oh, for more happy landings

I remember as a boy of six or seven, when my mom and dad and sister and I got a lift out to Malton (that’s the former name for Pearson International) Airport for a marathon flight to New York. I was almost jumping out of my skin, I was so excited. I think for a month afterward all I ever said in gatherings of more than two people was:

“You know what I did? I flew to New York on an airplane.” [more…]

Twits and the Twitter-verse

Rachmoninoff genius with her hands on the piano... Valentina Lisitsa on her smart phone, not so much.

Valentina Lisitsa with her hands on a piano, a Rachmaninoff genius … with those hands on her smart phone, not so much.

Under different circumstances, classical piano fans in the Greater Toronto Area by now might be raving about a unique performance they’d seen and heard of Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2. They might have joined the thousands of concert-goers who’ve witnessed her brilliance on the piano keys at such venues as Carnegie Hall and Royal Albert Hall. They might have been able to say they saw the once child prodigy now internationally celebrated concert pianist Valentina Lisitsa. Instead, she took advantage of her celebrity to offer her pro-Russian view of Ukrainian politics.

“The new school year begins in Odessa with teachers forced to wear tribal dress, a truly European custom,” she tweeted (in 2014) in an apparent slam at the cultural dress of her native Ukraine. [more…]

When high tech becomes low junk

E_WASTEA couple of Saturdays ago, the district Scouts assembled in a local box store parking lot. They had a large dumpster – open at one end – into which they were piling used electronic equipment that folks around town wanted to discard. By the time a photographer friend and I arrived there about midday for a peek at what was going on, the dumpster was nearly full. He and I began nosing through the discarded electronics to see what the Scouts had collected.

“Old, well-used, communications artefacts,” I said and then asked my buddy, “I wonder whether you and I qualify?” [more…]

Leading by example

Two air force cadet warrant officers and a visitor at the end of a family gathering in Oshawa.

Two air force cadet warrant officers – Declan Lloyd, left, and Adam Boyden – and a visitor at the end of a family gathering in Oshawa.

The evening was winding down. The last of the catering staff at the hall folded up the dining tables and chairs. The flags that had presided over the ceremony all evening had disappeared back into their sheaths. I had autographed the last of some books people had purchased. Among the last of the cadets recognized for his service during the course of the evening approached me with a final request.

“Sir, would you allow us to take a photograph with you?” Warrant Officer Adam Boyden, 19, asked.

“Sure,” I said, “but you can call me Ted.”

He smiled back respectfully, called his friend, Warrant Officer Declan Lloyd to join us in the photograph, and the three of us posed for several smart-phone snapshots before everybody said their last good-nights and left the hall.


The art of listening

OTTAWA_PARLHILL2_MAR2015Last week, I received an email from one of the young reporters in our journalism program at Centennial College. The message proved a bit alarming. We had sent this young man, in his 20s, and one of his female classmates – both senior students in our program – to a national forum in Ottawa. The message said that the conference organizers were preventing our two reporters from gaining access to many of the forum proceedings.

“Apparently media people are not allowed into the meetings,” our reporter told me in his message. “We hope to get into workshops. Wish us luck.” [more…]

The road taken

A once-in-a-lifetime Paul McCartney concert

A once-in-a-lifetime Paul McCartney concert (courtesy thewritersrefuge.wordpress.com)

An acquaintance of mine told me about the night he met up with a music legend. For weeks, before Paul McCartney’s most recent concert stop in Toronto, my acquaintance and his partner debated whether they should part with the cash required to get into the Air Canada Centre to see and hear the former Beatle. My friend said they vacillated over the expense. Then, realizing they might miss an opportunity to see and hear the creator of such landmark songs as “Yesterday,” “Hey Jude” and “Live and Let Die,” the couple gathered as much cash as they could, dashed to the ACC, but arrived after the concert had begun.

“The scalpers were there with a few last tickets,” my acquaintance said. “But with the concert already underway, I guess they figured they’d better unload the tickets.” [more…]

Their chance to lead

Plan Canada "Because I am a girl" advertisement

Plan Canada “Because I am a girl” advertisement

You’ve seen the advertisement on TV in the past few weeks. The two swaddled infants appear lying on a multi-coloured mat. The babies seem contented and comfortable as they lie there. One is cooing; the other has a partial smile. As I looked at the ad, it never occurred to me to ask what gender the infants were. But then we’re told…

“Both of them could be head of a class… could lead a nation,” the voice-over announcer said. “Yet one of them won’t even be given a chance, simply because she’s a girl.” [more…]

Learning to save daylight

Making the most of sunshine is a year-round proposition.

Making the most of sunshine is a year-round proposition.

For some of us, Sunday morning holds a ritual that’s nearly religious. I’m talking about my oldtimers’ hockey league. But what with people away on holidays and a flu bug going around, attendance last Sunday wasn’t what it should be. One of my teammates arrived just before the first game, at 7 a.m., and was surprised how few of us were there.

“There were hardly any cars in the parking lot when I came in,” he said. “It’s as if it was Daylight Saving and everybody forgot to reset their clocks.” [more…]

Tunnel in a teapot

Toronto Police Services' Mark Saunders addresses media about tunnel discovery (courtesy CBC).

Toronto Police Services’ Mark Saunders addresses media about tunnel discovery (courtesy CBC).

Radio, television, the newspapers and most of social media were all buzzing, Monday night, because Toronto Police had found a tunnel a stone’s throw from an indoor tennis court facility in northwest Toronto. It wasn’t just any tennis court. It wasn’t just any tunnel. The tunnel was big enough to live in and apparently pointed in the direction of the Toronto Pan-American Games tennis venue – the Rexall Centre. But when asked at a press conference if he thought the tunnel was part of a terrorist plot, Deputy Chief Mark Saunders had a simple response:

“There’s no criminal offence for digging a hole,” he said. [more…]

What giving 110 per cent really means

Olli Jokinen at first Leafs' press conference

Olli Jokinen at first Leafs’ presser (Toronto Maple Leafs)

I read the newspapers over the weekend. I expected to see news about a trade involving the Maple Leafs. And there it was on the front page of Monday’s Toronto Star sports section. Defenceman Cody Franson is gone. So is perhaps the hardest working forward on the team, Mike Santorelli. Then, Tuesday online, I caught a bit of the reporter scrum involving Toronto’s newest acquisition in the deal, 36-year-old Nashville Predator Olli Jokinen responding to the question: “Are you surprised?”

“Yeah, absolutely,” he told the Star. “Why wouldn’t I be?” [more…]