Text versus talk

I fear this anecdote I’m about to tell you may be all too familiar. On a fairly regular basis, my wife and I are asked by one of our daughters, or their husbands, to drive a grandchild to school, to buy a jug of milk on the way home, or to borrow a tool or something. Most of these requests come to us on our phones, but they’re usually preceded by that characteristic “ping” in our pockets, signalling a text.

“Can you pick up the kids?” the request reads in a bubble on the screen.

Whether my answer is “Yes” or “No,” I generally grab the phone – often my land-line – and call to find out if everything is all right, if there’s an emergency or not. For me it’s instinctive. My reaction is and has always been that I can gather more information by listening to a voice face-to-face, than if I wait for the bubble with the three dots (illuminating in sequence like a Mustang car turn signal) to give me an answer.

Trump’s ban, Canada’s boon

Refugees from the Baltic at Pier 21 immigration hall in 1848. Photo Halifax Chronicle Herald.

A number of weeks ago, neighbours and friends gathered in the basement of the United Church in my town. The church auxiliary served sandwiches, cakes, cookies, coffee and tea. A Syrian family had finally arrived in this community and the gathering at the church allowed townspeople to greet and meet them. They kept thanking the town for its generosity and initiatives to help. One thing the couple said that first day we met has stuck with me.

“Thank you for this welcome,” they said.

Surviving: A Life

Overseas during the War, Ed Carter-Edwards served with 427 Sqn in the RCAF.

His smile remained as infectious as ever. The twinkle in his eye was still bright during my visit with air force veteran Ed Carter-Edwards this week. When his son-in-law Mike and I lifted him, so that Mike could scratch a nagging itch on Ed’s back, I could feel the muscle in his shoulders that had served him a lifetime.

Now 94, Ed battled this week not just for life, but to stay connected to a hospice room of family and visitors as long as possible. Across from his bed, his son Dennis nodded and summed up his father’s life in a sentence.

“If there was ‘quit’ in his life,” Dennis Carter-Edwards said quietly, “he never would have made it.”

Being there for history

Angela Davis has spoke up for concerns of women in America for a generation. Davis Facebook photo.

She and her friend walked among the multitudes, it seemed for hours. Some in the march were chanting, but she said it wasn’t particularly tense. Besides the obvious aspects of it being demonstration, she said she didn’t sense the men and women around her were targeting their frustration at anybody. And then the group came upon a stage, where Angela Davis, the American University law professor, was speaking.

“This is ground zero in the struggle for social justice,” Davis told thousands during her speech to the Washington Women’s March last Saturday. “Women’s rights are human rights all over the planet, (and) this is just the beginning.”

An address, not an email

President Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inauguration address trying to put the one aspect of his first term to rest. Courtesy Wikipedia.

The first one used just over 1,400 words to do it. That was George Washington. The most recent one, Barack Obama, took about 2,400 words. The one who took the longest to do it, with over 8,000 words, was William Henry Harrison in 1841. The first one to do it in the third week of January, did so in 1937, setting the precedent for every inauguration to follow; and that was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And the president-elect who spoke the fewest words at his inauguration, Abraham Lincoln, chose among the most eloquent 700 words to do it.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all,” Lincoln said in his second inaugural address, “let us strive on to finish the work we are in…”

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.

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.”

Duty to say nice things

Maud believed in pointing
Maud Montgomery believed in the pointing of duty.

Earlier this week, in the town where I live, there was a little incident on the main street. A car jumped the curb and ended up sideways in front of a few shops. I noticed it because the police were there. I ventured closer and saw a woman, I think the owner of the car, sitting on a storefront step. What intrigued me was that everybody gathering around had the same first reaction.

“Are you OK?” everybody asked the woman.

She appeared shaken, but otherwise all right.

A time of evil

Dalton Trumbo's smile was deceiving given the prejudice he endured.
Dalton Trumbo’s smile was deceiving given the prejudice he endured.

I watched an entertaining and important movie at The Roxy Theatre in Uxbridge this past week. It reminded me of a very scary time in the world. It made me wince at the lunacy of the fear mongering. It saddened me to think that people lost their careers (and in some cases their lives) for their political views in a democratic country … in my lifetime. The hero of the story, Dalton Trumbo, summed it up late in the movie.

“No one on either side (of this feud) who survived it, came through untouched,” he said. “The blacklist was a time of evil.”