No sound? No reality!

SUBCONSCIOUS_PASSWORD_POSTERThe concept was fairly simple. Oscar-winning moviemaker Chris Landreth leads his audience into the recesses of the brain of a character named Charles Langford, who’s attempting to remember the name of a long-ago friend he’s suddenly re-encountered at a party. You know… It’s when you see the face, but you can’t remember the name… Well, Landreth used that premise in an 11-minute short film, called “Subconscious Password,” which we recently saw during the annual Short Film Festival at Uxbridge’s Roxy Theatres. The film becomes a madcap edition of that classic TV game show “Password,” with every contestant knowing that the long-ago friend’s name is “John,” except our hero.

“Landreth’s spellbinding animation makes anomic aphasia unforgettably entertaining,” explained the Roxy program. [more...]

Handling the handlers

Toronto mayoral candidates (l-r) Doug Ford, Olivia Chow and John Tory.

Toronto mayoral candidates (l-r) Doug Ford, Olivia Chow and John Tory.

She started looking and listening from the moment she entered the room. Almost as if she were a bomb-sniffing canine, she was casing the space in which Olivia Chow was about to participate in a mayoral debate, Monday evening. I was the moderator and introduced myself. She had a raft of questions about where Ms. Chow would be sitting during the debate, and what the order of speaking would be. Then, just before her candidate entered the room, the handler approached me with one final question.

“How will Olivia know when her speaking time is up?” the woman asked me. “Have you got signs to count her down to the end of her time?”

“No.” I said. “I’ll just tell her she’s got 30 seconds left.”

“I really think you ought to have visual signs for her,” she insisted.

“Don’t worry. I’ve moderated a lot of debates. I don’t think we need visual signals. I’ll just find an appropriate moment, a breath pause in Olivia’s comments, and I’ll gently say, ‘Thirty seconds.’ It should work just fine.” [more...]

How families grow wiser

Walter Allward's marble sculpture of Mother Canada mourning her dead at Vimy Ridge memorial site in France.

Walter Allward’s marble sculpture of Mother Canada mourning her dead at Vimy Ridge memorial site in France.

Early in the celebration of Bill Cole’s life, last Sunday afternoon at Wooden Sticks, his son Rob talked about the periodic disconnect that had existed between himself and his late father. Rob said he thought it was much the same as the disconnect between Bill and his father, First World War veteran Thomas Clark Cole. But Rob admitted a reality that many sons and daughters do.

“I was astonished,” Rob Cole said. “The older I got, the wiser Dad seemed to become.” [more...]

Rules are not for breaking

People's Climate March supporters believe world leaders have failed to live up to environmental commitments.

People’s Climate March supporters believe world leaders have failed to live up to greenhouse gas emissions regulations they agreed to at Kyoto in 1997.

I remember the shot as if it were yesterday. Just a few minutes into our friendly game of shinny, this new guy in the game came skating down the wing, pulled his hockey stick back to let a slapshot fly. In an instant, the goalie ducked and everybody in the path of this guy’s shot got out of the way; it was like the parting of the Red Sea. A second later, his blast from the wing exploded off the glass behind the goalie and ricocheted around the boards with a resounding boom.

“Hey! No slapshots!” somebody yelled. “Don’t you know the rules?” [more...]

Hosting Holland Liberation Tour 2015

Citizens of Utrecht celebrate newfound freedom on May 5, 1944, with their British and Canadian liberators.

Citizens of Utrecht celebrate newfound freedom on May 5, 1944, with their British and Canadian liberators.

They said 2010 would be the last hurrah. The parades, the observances, the remembrances would never happen again. Officials claimed the vets and the community had acknowledged it all…  for the last time. Well, apparently not. For those who know anything about the Netherlands, the Dutch never say never. And so we’re going back – for the Holland Liberation Tour 2015.

Our plans are to join the 70th anniversary commemoration of Canada’s role in securing victory over Germany’s occupation army and liberating the people of the Netherlands.

The tour – organized by Merit Travel – includes visits to historic sites and attendance at commemorative events, including:

Canadian vets feted by Dutch during 2010 Apeldorn parade.

Canadian vets feted by Dutch during 2010 Apeldoorn parade.

“Bridge Too Far” site at Arnhem, National Liberation Museum and cemetery at Groesbeek, participation in Holland’s annual “Silent March,” attending Canadian commemorations of the surrender at Wageningen, travelling to Walcheren Island where Canadians completed the liberation of the Scheldt Estuary… And we’ll join the VE Day festivities at Apeldoorn, to celebrate the 70th!

It’s a springtime journey when tulips bloom and the Dutch pay homage to their Canadian liberators.

See more at the Merit Travel site for detailed itinerary and package prices.

 

The frill is gone

My checked luggage as a profit centre for long-suffering airlines.

My checked luggage as a profit centre for long-suffering airlines.

It was just past 6 a.m. I was rushing through the Calgary airport to catch a flight to the U.S. a few weeks ago. I was relieved when I found nobody in front of me at the United Airlines check-in. I rustled up my passport and sighed with relief that I’d probably get to the gate in plenty of time. The ticket agent scanned my credentials and took out a tag for my one piece of luggage to be checked to the airplane’s baggage compartment.

“How would you like to pay for this?” she asked.

“Pay for what?” I asked.

“It’s $22 for your checked baggage.”

“I’m only checking one bag,” I protested. [more...]

A 9/11 story

Laurie Laychak simply identified herself as "a volunteer."

Laurie Laychak simply identified herself as “a volunteer.”

It was the tail end of a travel junket. By that I mean I was touring parts of Virginia (near Washington, D.C.) with several other writers and broadcasters. We had been invited there by a state tourism consortium in hopes we would write glowing stories about such tourist spots as Alexandria, former stomping grounds of George Washington; Manassas, with its showcase U.S. Marine Corps Museum; and Arlington, home of the Arlington National Cemetery.

But, on the last day, our guides took us to the west side of the U.S. Pentagon just across the Potomac River from D.C. There we entered a park area, with benches and stunted trees. A woman approached us.

“Are you the Canadian writers?” she asked. Then, she introduced herself. “I’m a volunteer. My name is Laurie Laychak.”

I still didn’t get it. “Volunteer?” I asked. And I looked around at the stainless steel benches inlaid with granite and the Crape Myrtle trees.

pentagon-Corbis

“Welcome to the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial… I lost my husband David Laychak, here in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.” [more...]

9/11 Volunteer

Laurie Laychak seated on the bench dedicated to her husband David Laychak, who was killed in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon’s southwest wall (pictured behind her).

Laurie Laychak seated on the bench dedicated to her husband David Laychak, who was killed in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon’s southwest wall (pictured behind her).

One day last summer, Laurie Laychak came back to the place where her husband David died. She visits the recently inaugurated cantilevered benches, Crape Myrtle trees and light pools of the Pentagon Memorial several times a month. Yes, it’s a pilgrimage. But she’s also on a mission. This day, the Laychaks’ daughter Jennifer has joined Laurie for the drive over. Just before her mother meets a group of travel journalists from Canada, Jennifer makes a painful admission to her mom.

“I can’t remember Dad’s voice,” the 20-year-old said. [more...]

U.S. Stalag Luft III Prisoners of War Association presents Barris with Certificate of Honor

Stalag Luft III Prisoners of War Association Certificate of Honor

In late August 2014, members of the Stalag Luft III Prisoners of War Association in the U.S. presented Ted Barris with a “Certificate of Honor” for his work on The Great Escape: A Canadian Story, the historical account of the famous 1944 breakout in the Second World War.

The Great Escape: A Canadian Story has received its first recognition in the United States. In late August 2014, members of the Stalag Luft III Prisoners of War Association in the U.S. presented Ted Barris with a “Certificate of Honor” for his work on publishing the historical account of the famous 1944 breakout in the Second World War.

Barris delivered the keynote at the association’s annual reunion, this year in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Then, during the reunion’s formal banquet – featuring the parading of the colours, the lighting of candles in honour of the fallen, and recognition of service to the veterans – the U.S. reunion co-chairs Marilyn Walton and Mike Eberhardt (both the offspring of former Stalag Luft III POWs) presented Certificates of Honor for what the association called service above and beyond.

They recognized five civilians, including: Mary Elizabeth Ruwell, an archivist at the U.S. Air Force Academy; Ben van Drogenbroek, a Dutch researcher; Val Burgess, an American oral historian; Marek Lazarz, the director of the Stalag Luft III Museum in Poland; and a Canadian author/historian whose writing, they said, has brought valuable attention to the Stalag Luft III story… Ted Barris. They handed recipients only copies of the certificate, because the originals will be housed permanently at the U.S. Air Force Academy archives in Colorado Springs.

Driven and loving it

The Nanji twins are driven to contribute to their community.

The Nanji twins are driven to contribute to their community.

The two young women stood together at the front of the hall, the former pharmacy on the main floor of the Toronto Street medical building. They couldn’t have been more alike. They wore the same T-shirts decorated in a blue and yellow logo. They wore their hair the same – shoulder-length – and they even looked, well, identical. And when they spoke – like a married couple – they finished each other’s sentences.

“I still remember a year ago, thinking this might not work,” one said.

“Yeah, we’ve grown so much,” the other said. “There were only 15 people attending this time last year…”

“This year, there are over 30,” the first added. [more...]