Promises, promises, promises

When they’re everywhere, this time of year, how do you swear off these as a resolution?

One of my friends recently announced to me that he was going to get fit in 2017. Another promised she would eat more sensibly starting this week. And I read about others who proclaimed this next calendar year they would be kinder, more forthright, better listeners, less ideological, more philanthropic and take up volunteering – all noble objectives, I should add. Eventually somebody asked me if I’d made any resolutions. Well, I chickened out. I chose a kind of joke, one of my father’s regular Jan. 1 comebacks to the question.

“Yup,” I said. “My resolution is to … not make any resolutions!”

Barris story recognized by RCAF Association

On December 30, 2016, RCAF Association News website announced:

“As 2016 comes to a close, the RCAF Association would like to wish its members, partners and other industry professionals a safe and happy holiday season. As we reflect on the past year for the industry, we would like to provide the readers of the RCAF Assocation News a look at the most accessed articles from the year…”

Among them was “Bringing the Hally home,” published by the National Post.

Read the full story at: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/ted-barris-bringing-the-hally-home

Gifts money can’t buy

It took my dad far too long to set up his B&H movie camera and light rack, before allowing us near the Christmas tree.

It was a time before cell-phone selfies and video. Heck, it was even before video. Each Dec. 15 morning, our parents wouldn’t allow us into the living room where the tree sat until the time was right. My sister and I had to wait until Dad wound up his Bell & Howell movie camera, and turned on the powerful electrical lights so that the camera would register an image on his 8-millimetre motion picture film.

“OK, I’m rolling,” he would say finally. “You can come in now!”

Whereupon, my sister Kate and I, blinded by the movie lights and unable to see a thing until our eyes adjusted to the bright lights, would stumble into the living room.

All the news that’s fit to fake

Very much alive, but nobody bothered to check. Courtesy GordonLightfoot.com.

As I recall, it was an afternoon in February a few years ago. One of my journalism students came to me with a cell phone in his hands – you know the pose, with head bowed, eyes mesmerized, phone illuminating his face – and a look of incredulity. He looked up at me and announced the news.

“It says here Gordon Lightfoot is dead,” he said.

“What?” I said, then added with a tone of say it ain’t so in my voice “No.” Then, I asked him where he was reading such news.

No glass ceiling strong enough…

pboro_examiner_jun61944It was a spring day, not unlike others on the home front that year. And Canadians, as they had since 1939 when the Second World War began, looked eagerly overseas for news. Jean Portugal, in her second full year on the job at the Peterborough Examiner newspaper, faced one of those graveyard shifts working overnight. Suddenly, the wire service machine delivering international news into the Examiner newsroom, began to clatter. And night editor Portugal faced a difficult decision.

“I knew I would have to wake up one of the managers,” she told me in 2004. “The Allies had landed in Normandy, and I had to get permission to use Second-Coming-sized type on the front page.”

Lucy in the sky…

Gerald Le Dain took several years to reach a decision on decriminalizing marijuana use.
Gerald Le Dain took several years to reach a decision on decriminalizing marijuana use.

The media came out in droves to hear an important pronouncement about law and the use of a controversial hallucinogenic substance in Canadian society. Then, three sober-looking legal figures proceeded to offer their findings. J. Peter Stein, Heinz Lehmann and the man after whom the report was named, Gerald Le Dain, unveiled their findings.

“The cultivation of cannabis should be subject to the same penalties as trafficking,” Judge Le Dain said, “but it should not be a punishable offence…”

If you thought those pronouncements were a recent dress rehearsal for the current Trudeau Liberal government’s plan to decriminalize the medicinal or recreational use of marijuana next spring, well, you’d almost be right.

Getting the message through

This week, we have witnessed two sides of the coming Donald Trump administration and its method of information distribution.

On Monday, the president-elect invited former opponents, friends seeking roles in his transition team and even TV executives to his New York White House, the Trump Tower in Manhattan. Nobody was allowed to report on the meetings. Everything, by agreement with Trump, was off the record.

The next day, Tuesday, the president-elect travelled across town to the offices of the New York Times, tweeting, “I have great respect for the New York Times. I have tremendous respect…”

Power in association

The occasion was a municipal debate at Toronto City Hall, that I witnessed some months ago. The issue arose over the purchase of a small, insignificant piece of land by the municipality for the expansion of a city service. And before the debate even began, the city clerk called for city councillors to declare. Then, several stood up and did.

“In accordance with the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act,” one councillor said, “I excuse myself from the debate.”

The German who served Canadians

Rene Thied in 2013, listening to Canadian veterans recall their role in the liberation of Sicily.
Rene Thied – art historian, tour guide and lover of life – seemed eager to learn more every day.

Like it did millions of other Europeans, the Second World War changed Rene Thied’s life. Born in Hanover, Germany, following the war, Thied first learned about the Holocaust while he attended Ann Frank Schule, a grade school in Hanover. Even as a boy, Rene was appalled by what the Nazis did during the war.

“I couldn’t live in a country that had done such a thing,” he told me years later, “so, I decided to leave my home country.”

Today, November 11, Canada’s annual Remembrance Day, I will try to pay tribute to as many Allied servicewomen and men as I can. Over the years, I have had the good fortune to meet and interview perhaps 6,000 vets of the two World Wars, the Korean War, U.N. peacekeeping and Afghanistan. Many of them are top of mind today.

The trail she blazes

An opportunity to pose for a photo at the University Women's Club of North York event on Oct. 31, 2016.
An opportunity to pose for a photo with Mayyasah Akour, a woman focused on a career, her future and a way to lead the way. Oct. 31, 2016.

It was at a speaking engagement. I was about to address the University Women’s Club of North York the other night. I had prepared my opening remarks and was just waiting to be introduced. That’s when a stranger approached and asked about my work as a writer. I responded briefly and asked about her career.

“I’ve just begun my first semester at university,” she said, “in engineering.”

“A challenge?” I asked.

“Not so far,” she said and smiled. “I hope it’ll be the right thing for me.”