Stitch in time

Royal Flying Corps aircraftman James Armishaw, in 1917 tunic tailored by Beauchamp & How.

First, they told me to stand still. For an hour. Then, a man I didn’t know except through my father ran a tape measure across my shoulders, down the length of my arms, around my waist and chest. A little later, when he needed a measurement down there, he ran the tape measure from my ankle up into my crotch. I kept on smiling even though, at about age 10, I had never done this sort of thing before. The man with the tape measure finally smiled and gave me a pat on the back.

“Ted, you’re going to love this,” he said, “your first ever tailor-made suit.”

Icon at a gas bar

It’s the sort of thing I do mindlessly. Pull up next to the pumps. Pop the gas tank cover lever next to my driver’s seat. Walk around to the pump. Pick up the nozzle. Press the self-serve request for gas. And fill my gas tank. Then, just as mindlessly, I walk into the gas bar booth to pay for my gas. Only this time, when I entered the booth, I was almost bowled over by the music blaring inside.

“There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run,” an unmistakable voice was singing from the booth speakers.

And I nodded my head so the booth attendant would realize I heartily approved. And then I asked him why that music, why that loud?

“Because this month is Canada’s 150th,” he said with a pinch of patriotism. “And after all, it IS the greatest Canadian song ever.”

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.

Where the Junos come from

The current Juno Award owes its name to a champion of Canadian arts and culture from the late 1960s, Pierre Juneau. Photo Music Canada.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with some of my journalism students about the annual parade of awards shows – the Grammys, the People’s Choice Awards, the Oscars and the rest. The subject of this year’s Canadian music awards, coming up in April, eventually cropped up. They had all heard of the Junos, sure. But then I asked if anyone knew the origin of the Junos.

“Oh, it’s the name of the Canadian beach on D-Day,” one said.

“Yes, you’re right on the D-Day reference,” I said. “But not the musical one.”

“I know,” said one of my more erudite students. “Juno is the Roman goddess of marriage and queen of the gods.”

“Right again,” I said. “But she’s got nothing to do with the Juno Music Awards in Canada.”

Canadian grooves

Saturday morning mecca for LPs, Sam the Record Man, in Toronto.

Sam Sniderman changed my Saturdays forever. Back in the 1960s, instead of sleeping in, savouring my coffee, wasting my morning, I high-tailed it downtown to Yonge and Dundas streets, to the store under the spinning-record sign to spend my money on vinyl. Yes, every Saturday morning I raced to take advantage of Sam’s door-crasher specials.

“The best music and the best prices,” Sam Sniderman used to say in his advertisements. But more than that, he also said, “Buy Canadian music because it’s the best.”

No more immunity for social media

I walked into my History of Broadcasting class last Friday morning. I told those present – about 50 Broadcasting and Film students at Centennial College in Toronto – that I was tossing out the lesson plan that day. I suggested I had a more contemporary issue on my mind. But I didn’t want to colour their responses. I simply asked for their take on the alleged gang rape of that student near Vancouver earlier in the week.

“It’s revolting,” one male student said.

Twitter this!

Hands up, if you believed the statement that President Barack Obama is a radical Muslim who would not recite the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. Or more recently, and closer to home, the story that began circulating last Thursday, that Canadian folk music icon Gordon Lightfoot is dead. When the legendary singer-songwriter heard about his so-called demise he contacted the Toronto media outlet CP24.

“I haven’t gotten that much airplay of my songs in weeks,” he told them.