When you’re living in the past, who needs the CBC?

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 4:07 p.m.
Sometimes I want to hide out from bad news and what better place to hide out from bad news than a wormhole or a jail or that place in The Chronicles of Narnia where nothing ever happens – you just use it to jump from one world to another. I like these in-between places where nothing ever happens. That’s the vacation for me!

Television and movies have served that purpose very nicely for me over the last few weeks. This means that when the previews for the news comes on, I stick my fingers in my ears and do my best version of that old favourite, “La-la-la, not listening.” That song is becoming as popular as Happy Birthday to You. And why not? Who wants to hear any news anymore – it’s all bad. My ninety year old Dad has told me not to worry about things that I can’t control. He’s been telling me that since I was sixteen. I’m beginning to suspect why the sum of my parents’ life was having children, going to work every day, and coming home to an evening of watching TV. The real world was too scary.

Nowadays, avoidance of reality is very easy and very legal. For example, if you turn on Canada’s Comedy Channel, you see reruns of Montreal’s Comedy Festival Galas from a decade ago. The comics are all cracking jokes about history instead of current events. I find this very reassuring. Turn on the Déjà Vu Channel and it’s the Seventies and Eighties all over again: All In The Family, Who’s The Boss? Archie Bunker and Meathead and Gloria are fighting the same battles forty years later and they’re all still alive. How good is that?

My own particular favourite is The Space Channel because it’s all about lands and peoples who don’t exist at all. If I think that I’ve got it bad, all I have to do is watch Star Trek - Deep Space Nine as Captain Sisko struggles to deal with The Dominion and the evil Founders, a people made of liquid who can change into any solid shape at will. The Founders created a race of unbeatable soldiers the Jem Hadar and they are beating the pants off the nice Federation of Planets who really just want everybody to get along. Good guys die by the dozens but Sisko struggles on in this fictitious universe that knows the meaning of epic good versus bad battles yet is kind of challenged when it comes to acting…but I don’t care. It’s all pretend.

Meanwhile, like a good citizen of the world, I signed a petition to save jobs at the CBC. In spite of the fact that the CBC now broadcasts Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune everyday (as if nobody else does), this is one of the few broadcasters that even bothers with a local Montreal English language broadcast every evening. CTV seems to be hanging in there but ALL of them bailed when it came to morning new shows. Global, CBC and CTV just figure that there aren’t enough English people in Quebec who care to get news in the morning on TV. CBC is all about what’s going on now and though that’s hard to take, somebody has to be reporting the stuff.

The CBC was set up as a national television and radio network to inform people about local, national and international news. The problem is that when bad times roll around, people wonder if this is worth the cost. Shouldn’t private companies be taking on the job of media? Where do we look for a model – of course, our neighbours to the south, Yes, indeed. Fox News is the pinnacle of fair, objective broadcasting and shows exactly how good an idea it is to leave news reporting to businessmen. (No, I’m not at work, so I can be as sarcastic as I damn well please!)

If you want to spend an entire life hiding out in a mythical wormhole, then the future of the CBC may not mean much to you but for the rest of Canada who needs to know what’s going on, who cares to know what’s going on, dollars must be found for the CBC to continue to be a strong voice in Canadian media.

Meanwhile can Ellen find sanity outside the wormhole? Tune in tomorrow.

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A Plea to Bosses Everywhere – Walk Away From the Dark Side

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 6:33 p.m.
I’m lucky to have sympathetic friends. There is no question that they can offer comfort when I’m feeling confused, stressed and beating myself up with a big psychic baseball bat. Yet they often have the intelligence to say unexpected comments that ring out with pure unadulterated truth.

A friend of mine who had been an administrator in a company and who retired a few years ago said to me, “What makes you think that the people who make decisions are actually qualified to make decisions?” It was the last thing that I expected him to say. I expected him to defend administrators to the bitter end but no, he had experience with people further up the line than him who were continually making bad decisions so he finally retired and walked away.

I am continually amazed by the low quality of decision-making that I see by people who are supposed to be in a position to know better. They will undercut the exact goals that they wish to achieve by going out of their way to make these bad decisions and then to make matters worse, they will go even further out of their way to make the people who work for them feel crappy.

If you have a group of intelligent people who are willing to collaborate to get the best for everybody and the most productive and profitable work environment for everyone involved, doesn’t it make sense to solve problems together rather than using the old school ideas of “We know best and you are idiots. Do what we say and stop whining!” Hundreds of years go by and we still work with outdated confrontational models of solving problems in the work place - the model where the boss has to be the smart, all-knowing monarch and everybody else has to be stupid because they haven’t achieved boss-status. Not only does the boss have the monopoly over the purse strings, he has the monopoly over information and he can use that monopoly to keep his workers “in their place.” And in their place, they must stay.

As one friend says, it doesn’t take long for people to go over to “the dark side” once they are promoted to administrator. They feel that they have achieved this through working harder and being smarter than everybody else. Soon they treat others badly because it is fairly obvious that their underlings just aren’t working as hard as they should be and they aren’t smart enough to realize it.

In many fields, people have to take Human Resources and Administration courses so that they have some theoretical knowledge about how to manage others properly. Yet, all too often, the people who are promoted to management positions have never had this kind of training and soon become bullies who push people around because they can. What they usually don’t see is that the very methods that they are using (and I realize that I’m repeating myself here) are achieving the exact opposite effect of what they had originally intended. Both morale and productivity suffer.

These are hard times for most of us. Our investments are dwindling. Retirement is getting closer and our money is fading away with each monthly RRSP statement. Is it too much to ask our so-called superiors to drop the superior attitude and realize that the bottom line can be affected, perhaps even improved in many ways? People need to be treated with respect and dignity in times like these. They don’t need to feel as if they’ve been raped after a meeting with management because if they do, a whole organization can suffer and I fear that as time goes on, more organizations will. As times get tough, courtesy and common sense are becoming increasingly uncommon.

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Uncertainty, Stress and the Writer’s Block Wall

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 8:14 p.m.
Uncertainty breeds stress and stress breeds a general state of crappiness that is a taxi to a very unhappy place, the writer’s block wall. I haven’t felt moved to write for about ten days because of uncertainty and stress and I am trying to figure out a way to un-strand myself from this wall that I’ve been hanging out beside ever since…ever since…well, ever since I surrendered to uncertainty and stress with a white flag waving in one hand and the other tied behind my back while I was screaming “Uncle,” to uncertainty and stress.

The writer’s block wall is a very ugly place to be stuck at. It’s a wall that is immeasurably tall and wide. It’s made out of stone the size of boulders that have been carved into ugly rectangles. The stones are painted black and in between them is some sort of grout that is a particularly nauseous shade of neon green. It’s dark by the wall except for the occasional spot light that picks you out of the crowd which consists of the rest of the losers hanging out by the wall. When the light goes up on you, you’ll be greeted by raucous canned laughter that comes from everywhere and nowhere. You just want somebody else, anybody else, to be the target of this derisive mirth from an audience of what might just be successful writers who are published every couple of minutes in hundreds of different languages and who receive endless amounts of praise and royalty cheques.

This is no place for the weak but it is the place where all the weaklings wind up. The worst part is knowing what exists behind the wall, ideas - ideas of every size, shape and every colour of the rainbow. They hide behind the wall giggling and whispering. You can hear them very faintly; that’s why you know that they’re there but you just can’t get to them. If only you could climb the wall or find the place where the wall ends, your writer’s block would be gone and your confidence would return.

It’s writing about the wall that helps me. Whichever devils and demons have created the wall – these little pointy headed meanies get very pissed off when I sidestep the depressing effects of the wall by describing the wall itself as well as the sad sacks like me who wind up by the wall. The men always seem to have stubble on their faces and wear bad trench coats and their cigarettes are almost always on the verge of going out. The women are dressed much as I usually dress: men’s red checkered shirts or sweaters with years of pilling and fuzz and of course, the badly fitting jeans bought at some discount store.

If I should dare pick out one man and one woman and write a story about their meeting by the wall and how they fell in love, stopped writing and found their way in life so that they never had to return to the wall, if I tell that story, all the writer’s block demons howl in pain. They try to tell me that’s it’s crap and that everything that I have or will ever write is crap but what can they do? There’s the story and it’s just agonizingly painful to the vindictive writer’s block bastard-demons that I could find a way to circumvent the wall and them and make my way over to the ideas that dwell behind the wall.

Once you have an idea, the wall just fades and the only thing that exists for the hour or the day is the idea. Then it’s farewell uncertainty and farewell stress and shut the hell up, you stupid demons because for just a few minutes, all the distant people who’ve made my life stressful just disappear and so do you.

It’s quiet here right now. No one is demanding my attention. Uncertainty is in the back of my head and it worries me but only as the sound of a fly buzzing on the other side of the house can worry me. It may come closer. It may turn out to be a hornet that can sting me but for now, for a few moments, I can ignore it and choose to deal with the hornet when it comes to sting me. That may be the moment I pick up the swatter and smack it right down.

You demons can look pretty nasty by the wall when the light hits you a certain way but at other times, you look as ridiculous as you try to make me out to be. I may be less than five foot three but I’m bigger than you and for this moment when I’m dealing with you, you look a whole lot more uncertain and stressed than I do. Now say Uncle, you little bugger and say it louder.

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