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More liberation needed

My mother, Kay Barris, could have run the retail department in which she served as a sales clerk.

My mother, Kay Barris, could have run the retail department in which she served as a sales clerk.

The deadline for getting my news story on the air was fast approaching. My TV producer, a long-time filmmaker and friend named Sue, made some speedy recommendations in the editing room to help me get the story finished in time. At the time, her experience was wider and deeper than mine. And thanks to her skill, we managed to get my TV story broadcast that night. That’s when I delivered that horribly cliché and patronizing line about her talent.

“That’s why you get paid the big bucks,” I said condescendingly. [more…]

Wartime life at sea

Canadian sailor Jim Hunt served in the Norwegian Merchant Navy in WWII

Canadian sailor Jim Hunt served in the Norwegian Merchant Navy in WWII

Regulations clearly stipulated against it. An exposed light in the middle of the darkness, especially on the open sea when the country was at war made the vessel emitting the light extremely vulnerable. German U-boats could spot it in a second, and attack in the next. And the risk was made extremely clear to merchant navy man Jim Hunt during one North Atlantic crossing when his tanker convoy was under an escort by U.S. navy ships.

“Someone had left a porthole open with a light on at dusk on board our tanker,” Hunt said, remembering his time in the Second World War as a teenaged sailor at sea aboard a Norwegian merchant navy ship. “So, an American destroyer came alongside our ship and signaled for us to turn the light out … or they would sink us.” [more…]

On his own terms

JASUN_SINGH_PORTRAIT_EMy writing staff and I had just completed a production meeting. I had just given our writers – the senior students of our online newspaper at Centennial College – their Remembrance Day assignments. With the recent loss of two reserve soldiers here in Canada, we were all sharply focused on Nov. 11 coming next week. So, I’d gone around the table and assigned stories to our student reporters. One would write about a woman in the Royal Canadian Navy in the Second World War. Another had an interview with an Afghanistan vet. A third would feature young military cadets.

And one reporter, a young man named Jasun, needed a phone number for a D-Day vet I asked him to interview.

“May I give you a bit of background?” I asked him.

He started writing notes on a single sheet of paper with his other hand as the writing surface.

I invited Jasun into my office. He sat at my desk. I stood across from him and gave him as much detail as I could about the 90-year-old veteran he would be interviewing later that day or the next. [more…]

Loss of innocence

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo's casket in the streets of Hamilton, Ontario, on the day of his funeral.

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo’s casket in the streets of Hamilton, Ontario, on the day of his funeral.

Politicians, police and just plain people have offered a lot of captions to the events in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa over the past week. The Prime Minister called the killings of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo an attack on Canada’s democracy. Law enforcement officials referred to the murders as “lone-wolf terrorism.” And friends of mine have said it was an assault on this country’s innocence. A paramedic who joined those watching Cpl. Cirillo’s body pass on Hwy 401 last Friday summed it up:

“I never expected to be standing here for a Canadian soldier killed on our own soil,” Roger Litwiller told the Toronto Star. [more…]

Visual aids or impediments

Alberta Aviation Museum at Edmonton's former Blatchford airfield.

Alberta Aviation Museum at Edmonton’s former Blatchford airfield.

It was just a few minutes to go. Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, the author with whom I was sharing MC-ing duties (last Friday night), and I, were trying to organize visuals for our combined presentation about historic aviation moments. We were about to co-host the launch of the LitFest 2014: Edmonton’s annual non-fiction festival. The audience was all seated in the venue now, the Alberta Aviation Museum. She tried to get all our images to register on her computer. I tried to get them to register on mine. But we couldn’t get one laptop to talk to the other.

“It’s just a Mac-PC thing, I guess,” she said.

[more…]

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…]

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…]