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A Vote Mob Is A Good Mob

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 12:49 PM

It all started with a rant on Rick Mercer’s Tuesday night show, The Mercer Report. Mercer is famous for his short speeches or rants that are filmed as he hustles down one of the graffiti ridden alleys of Toronto. The topic was the youth vote. He began his one-minute rant with the observation that, in this election, every demographic group has been targeted except one. He finished his speech with the following:

It is the conventional wisdom of all political parties that young people will not vote. And the parties, they like it that way. It's why your tuition keeps going up.

So please, if you're between the age of 18 and 25 and you want to scare the hell out of the people that run this country, this time around, do the unexpected. Take 20 minutes out of your day and do what young people all around the world are dying to do.

What followed was the beginning of a series “vote mobs” on university campuses across the country. A vote mob is not a protest demonstration. Its purpose is to show other young people that there are youth who do care about the political process and to encourage as many young people as possible to vote on May 2nd. These events are non-partisan, yet they are also meant to show politicians that youth are paying attention to what politicians are saying, and that it’s time for politicians to pay attention to people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five. Participants carry signs, sing songs, dance, and generally have a good time.

It’s really nice to see a celebrity use his fame for good, and I’m especially pleased to see Mercer attack one of my pet peeves, voter apathy. I strongly believe that it’s the responsibility of everybody of voting age to cast a ballot, and if you can’t vote for anyone, then you should show up, vote for everybody, thus destroying your ballot. Destroying a ballot is important because these are counted too, and if enough people who are truly disgusted with things as they are destroy their ballot, it would send a message as well. Voting is the one time when we can express our political will. If we shut up, then politicians can ride roughshod over us all. We just can’t let that happen.

The other night, I watched a newscast in which a woman in her twenties claimed that she didn’t vote because she just didn’t understand politics so she didn’t really care. I walked away from my TV in disgust. This woman was about to get married and perhaps would eventually start a family. You wouldn’t ignore what’s going on in your child’s school so why should you ignore what’s going on in the halls of government, the very place where decisions are made that will affect your child’s future.

I applaud the vote mob movement and I encourage everybody to get to the polling stations on May 2nd and vote, no matter how old you are. If you are interested in what vote mobs are about, the web site www.leadnow.ca gives more information about this organization whose purpose is to get young people to be politically engaged.

If young people are the future of Canada, they have every right to give voice to what kind of future that will be. On May 2nd, let your voice be heard and vote, because if you don’t, you have no right to complain about the government that you get.


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Of Fathers and Sons-in-Law

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 7:30 AM

I don’t usually like to chat about goings-on in my family; you all have your own lives and your own problems that are probably far more interesting than mine, but indulge me on it this week as I try to make a point or two.

This past weekend, I went to see my nine-one year old father in New York City. Just before I went to see him, his hospice social worker caught up with me and told me that she was just about to call me as she was very concerned about the state of my father’s hair, moustache and beard. My father took a violent dislike to the nursing home barber and refrained from any form of haircut or shave. The social worker asked me if perhaps, I could do something about it. She also commented on how much she loves to visit with my Dad. She loves his stories. Dad tells people great whoppers: he was a four star general, he worked with Eisenhower, and he helped Albert Einstein develop the atom bomb. It is a family mystery to all of us whether Dad actually believes these stories or just simply enjoys pulling everybody’s leg, but Marcy the social worker doesn’t worry about the veracity of his stories; she simply enjoys them and lets Dad enjoy telling them.

When I saw my father, I knew that we really did have to do something. His moustache was curled into his mouth and was caked with the red juice that they gave him to take his medication. It would be easy to accuse the nursing home of negligence, but they have strict rules that you cannot force a resident to have any form of treatment, including barbering. I’ve been told by the staff that my father is normally gentle and friendly, but he can be pretty scary once you get his back up. That’s the Dad that I know and love.

Dad was perfectly amenable to having either of us help him out so it fell to my bearded husband who has far more experience and courage than I do in these matters to wield the scissors and risk the wrath of my impatient father. When we showed up with a just-purchased supply of scissors, comb, and mirror, I fully expected my father to bail on us and flatly refuse the makeover, but I was wrong. We did bring him his favourite treat of seedless grapes plus a Hershey bar which he happily devoured before my very nervous husband started snipping away at the back of Dad’s head.

When the hair was done and my husband got to the sideburns, my Dad asked if my husband would kindly trim his moustache as that was bothering him. With sweat beginning to accumulate all over my husband’s face, he gingerly began hacking away at the encrusted moustache which every now and then pulled at my father. This part was a much more difficult as Dad had to stop munching on the grapes, stop talking, and hold still. All through the procedure, my husband continued to apologize if he was hurting Dad and Dad gently responded that all was well. Then my husband took on Dad’s chest-length beard. By this time, my husband’s shirt was drenched with perspiration as he worked on my father’s face with courage and determination.

Once the procedure was over, we helped my wheelchair-bound father out of his hairy shirt and into a clean one. Seeing my father with his shirt off and with the once muscular arms now flabby made me sad. My father once wielded heavy bags and now he was utterly helpless to even lift a telephone and make a call. The way he maintained his dignity was embellishing his past to strangers.

Finally, my husband gave Dad’s mouth a good cleaning and my father looked much more like a retired officer and gentleman than a wild old hermit of the mountains. I looked at these two important men in my life – my husband and my dad – and remembered how unsure Dad was over thirty-five years ago that the young man who was about to marry me would be the right man for his daughter. I also remembered how, in my mother’s declining years, both of my parents admitted that they had been wrong and that they now loved my husband as if he were their son.

This experience made me realize how short life is and that the people that we trust the least may turn into the ones that we have to count on the most, so we should all be open to changing our minds…and girls, when you fall in love, take a hard look at your husband to be. If he’s the kind of guy that will trim your old dad’s wild and dirty beard some time in the future, you’ve got a winner, no matter how rich or poor he is.

It’s not something that I would have thought of in the days when my father could hold up the world, but I’m convinced that deep down, I knew that my husband would come through for my parents, and in the end for me, and for that, I am truly grateful.


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Digital Community in the Superstorm of 2011

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 5:51 PM

It was a difficult drive back last Sunday after visiting my father. We drove through the Adirondack Mountains to Montreal where my husband, who had a meeting in Montreal on Monday, got me to the bus station so that I could take a bus to Sherbrooke. The road conditions were awful in the mountains of New York, and there was a bad accident in which people who had gotten out of their cars were hit by oncoming traffic. Once I was safe at home, the Environment Canada weather warnings made me nervous about what I was to face the next day.

Usually during a snowstorm, I can hear a snow plow going by between 5:00 and 6:00, but all was deadly quiet outside. I got up, ready to walk my dogs and go to work. When I opened my door, snow tumbled in. My car was buried under snow and my driveway was nowhere to be seen. I let the dogs out as I shovelled snow away from my front and back doors and tried to get the excess off my car. One look told me that I wasn’t going anywhere.

Later, I called my colleagues and found out that my employer was telling people who couldn’t make it in to stay home. I called my trusty driveway plow-man and chatted with his wife. He’d been out since 2:00 in the morning, and even the city plow couldn’t traverse some of the snow-covered streets.

I was snowed in and alone. Strangely enough, this made me feel a bit panicky and claustrophobic. Ever the city slicker, I couldn’t believe that I was stuck, but my power was on and my Facebook was working. I was not alone. My friends were online, The Record was online and Sharon McCully was online:

The Record Many Record carriers were unable to get out their own doors to get to yours this morning so your Record may not be delivered this morning. 8:02 AM

The Record The City of Sherbrooke has issued a notice that city offices will be closed today. Sidewalks will not be plowed and there will not be a garbage collection - it will be postponed till Friday. Essential services will be maintained. The city has set up an emergency service centre to respond to situations requiring fire protection and police services, public works. 8:03 AM

The Record Due to the continuing snowfall, and the risk to our employees who would have to travel to work, The Record will not publish today. Please see Wednesday's Record for full storm coverage as well as all the news and continue to watch The Record's Facebook page for breaking news and storm updates. 11:39 AM

All day long, I read Sharon’s and The Record’s posts and felt that I was in touch with what was going on. My friends posted photos and chatted back and forth with the latest measurement of snow from their backyards along with funny stories and words of encouragement. Meanwhile, I waited for my husband who insisted on driving home. My friends were sending me messages telling me exactly what to say to him in order to get him to turn around. He wouldn’t listen. Four hours later, when my husband finally made it up the street after being detoured by a stuck tractor-trailer in Rock Forest, I sheepishly posted the news that he was home and received lots of Hurrah’s and “likes,” as in people who liked the news that my husband was home. It seemed strange to him that I would post his doings on Facebook (he’s getting used to me telling tales in The Record), yet at a time like that, the commiseration of my Facebook friends was a wonderful support.

I think that Monday was a good example of what a digital community is. Sharon got the latest out to us on what was going on in Sherbrooke and friends did what friends do best, showing their concern and sharing the inevitable photo. Many people knock Facebook, but I believe that Monday was a great example of social networking at its best. Thanks, Sharon!


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Getting the News

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 2:55 PM

Just the other day, a friend posted a cartoon in which a prophet type looking character with long hair and a beard is seen walking down a city street carrying a sign saying, “The world ended while you were on Facebook.” I can be shamefaced enough to say that when I open my computer in the morning while I have my coffee, I go to Facebook to see what my friends are up to and often, I get the latest news that way.

That’s a pathetic way to get the news but since I have friends who are fellow news hounds and take to posting stories from new web sites, that’s slightly less pathetic than you might think. I’m glad to see you all reading The Record and supporting your local English newspaper. You’re getting the local story and keeping Anglo culture alive in The Townships but of course, you probably want to catch some news that’s further afield once you’ve read The Record from cover to cover.

Cable TV has come a long way so that news is readily available all the time…but it depends on the kind of news that you prefer. Nowadays, I turn to BBC News for my world news because I find that it’s fairly objective and covers places that Canadian news networks don’t. For example, with all the uprisings in the Middle East and northern Africa, BBC gives pretty good coverage of what’s going on, not only in such hot spots as Egypt and Libya, but countries such as Bahrain, Tunisia and Yemen.

I also get a kick out of watching the world weather on BBC because there’s something very old school in how it’s done. They broadcast their logo and a loud hum before the weather forecaster comes on, as if it’s taking time to hook up with the guy somewhere in Mumbai and they talk about the weather as if Timbuktu is right around the corner. If you ever want to feel like “it’s a small world after all,” then watch BBC weather which comes on just before 6:30.

For Canadian news, I tend to watch CBC or CTV because I like their local newscasts. Yet here’s a question for you readers: Am I the only one who was miffed when all three major Canadian networks decided that there were not enough Anglophones left in Quebec to warrant cancelling local morning news shows in Montreal? I hope not. If I support CBC, it would be nice to have the service that I pay for.

For American news, I tend to watch ABC, as I no longer get CNN. You can only take so much of Wolf Blitzer and his situation room for so long. I don’t appreciate news being made dramatic, as CNN likes to make it.

One station that we won’t be turning to is a Canadian Fox news network as the CRTC has a rule that newscasts must be fair and honest and the CRTC has decided that Fox News does neither. I was opposed to having such a news network in Canada reporting its own bias rather than the news. There’s a difference between censorship and regulation, and I believe that the CRTC got it right. Otherwise I might have had to turn off the news at six, and see what my friends are reporting on Facebook.



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Getting Prissy?

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 7:20 AM

It’s not easy being a middle aged person. You get set in your ways and you find yourself having expectations, perhaps ridiculous expectations. You go through your day thinking that sanity and courtesy will prevail and it doesn’t and it makes you angry.

The other day, on Facebook no less, a friend accused me of prissiness. Now I have many and sundry faults. There are doubtless people who would be more than happy to enumerate these faults to you and that’s not paranoia; we all like to gossip. Yet prissiness is a fault that I have never been accused of and it occurred to me that perhaps it is my again-ridiculous expectation that folks would think of others besides themselves that might make me look like an extremely prissy old crone.

The accusation came from my complaint that people who snowshoe or let their dogs walk all over cross country ski trails should be ashamed of themselves. I thought my statement was somewhat restrained. After the rotten cross country ski that I had in which my skis could not glide because some snowshoer couldn’t take three steps to the right and snowshoe on the snowshoeing path or some dog walker refused to keep his/her dog out of the skiing trail, I was ready to write something far worse and over the top. After falling and getting tripped up, I was pretty annoyed. To add insult to injury, I got called prissy in public…but the person who wrote that is a really good friend so I forgave her. Besides, some good cross-country skiing friends weighed in so I felt supported in my alleged prissiness.

Then there was the concert at Higher Ground in Burlington. If you are middle-aged and if you have flat feet as I do, I strongly discourage you from going to Higher Ground to see someone that you really like. Feel free to disagree with me but my experience was far from pleasant.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings played there on February 11th. Sharon and the band do the best soul music that I’ve heard in a long, long time. The songs are great, the horn section and bass player are flat-out fantastic and Sharon works overtime to entertain you. What a great voice she has! It was bad enough that she was struggling with a microphone that cut in and out but she had the crowd with her every step of the way. She was terrific.

On the ticket, the show time was indicated as 8:00 PM. In fact, that was when the door opened and let you into a ballroom with just a very few seats in the back. The first band went on at 9:00. The Dap-Kings went on at about 10:30. By then, I had sore feet but I was ready for a great show. Just my luck, some drunk guy, ‘way taller than me decided that he and his girlfriend (both with no sense of rhythm) were going to dance in front of me with no care for who was around them. He nearly knocked over a lady well into her sixties. When he jabbed me in the stomach with his elbow…I was not happy and vociferously expressed that. He didn’t care, he just kept it up, banging into other people and being a regular jackass. Meanwhil,e all the other young people danced in place without hurting others. Curses upon such as he!

Life would be so much nicer if we all took a few minutes to consider how our actions might affect others. We’ve heard it before, but the Golden Rule still stands as a way to get through a day by making the world better for others and therefore, yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you….and if you can see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings in Montreal, by all means go!


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Romance Amidst the Horror

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 7:15 AM in ,

I don’t like horror movies or movies that have a blood bath of killing, but there’s one TV show that I’ve watched week after week for the last six years. It’s a show that has more than its share of icky and gory carcasses, and there’s both romance and humour to be had while hanging around those carcasses. That show is Fox’s Bones, which is on every Thursday at 9:00.

The show is very loosely based on Kathy Reichs, a real-life forensic anthropologist who has written many best selling murder mysteries. I am a fan of that genre, but not one of Reichs’ style, which probably puts me in a minority. Reichs produces Bones and I really like the TV show a lot better than her books.

The plot revolves around a brilliant but socially inept forensic anthropologist, Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and her F.B.I. partner, Sealey Booth (David Boreanz, formerly the star of the show, Angel) who solve murder mysteries together. Booth is a former U.S. Ranger and sniper. He is warm-hearted and relies on hunches to solve mysteries while Brennan (Bones) is a firm believer in scientific method and logic to solve mysteries. Bones just doesn’t get people. The two spar constantly and the spark between them is reminiscent of the 80’s romantic comedy Moonlighting which spent two years with the tease of whether the characters (played by Cybil Shepherd and Bruce Willis) would ever become a couple. The two years in which they did become a couple was seen to lead to the cancellation of the show. Obviously, the writers of Bones have spent the last six years doing everything possible to avoid the “Moonlighting curse.”

Bones also relies heavily on the ensemble cast who support the two main players. Brennan’s best friend is Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin), the team’s forensic artist and computer whiz, who tries to teach Bones how to behave like a normal person and has her own romance with Dr. Jack Hodgins (T. J. Thyne). Apparently, the Moonlighting curse has not applied to them because, after an on-again-off-again relationship, Hodgins and Angela were “allowed” to marry and now Angela is pregnant.

They are the more off beat couple on the show as Hodgins, who comes from a ridiculously wealthy family, is mad for conspiracy theories and Angela is a warm, high spirited artist type who doesn’t exactly fit in with the squints or scientists. There is also a series of graduate students, each with eccentricities that adds comic relief to the mysteries that are solved each week.

This is the key to why Bones differs from the Law & Order and CSI series on television. There is more focus on characters and the development of their own lives interwoven with the mysteries makes the show feel more like a movie rather than an episodic TV murder mystery. This is why I think that I’m able to stand all the blood, guts and gore; there’s humour and character development from week to week. The characters have changed and grown from the first year to this, their sixth season.

Will Bones and Booth ever get together? I think that they will when the show has a series finale. Meanwhile the writers will do everything that they can to stretch out that romantic tension for as long as they can to keep Bones going into as many seasons as they can manage.


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Romance Amidst the Horror

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 8:08 AM

I don’t like horror movies or movies that have a blood bath of killing, but there’s one TV show vaguely in that genre that I’ve watched week after week for the last six years. It’s a show that has more than its share of icky and gory carcasses, and there’s both romance and humour to be had while hanging around those carcasses. That show is Fox’s Bones, which is on every Thursday at 9:00.

The show is very loosely based on Kathy Reichs, a real-life forensic anthropologist who has written many best selling murder mysteries. I am a fan of that genre, but not one of Reichs’ style, which probably puts me in a minority. Reichs produces Bones and I really like the TV show a lot better than her books.

The plot revolves around a brilliant but socially inept forensic anthropologist, Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and her F.B.I. partner, Sealey Booth (David Boreanz, formerly the star of the show, Angel) who solve murder mysteries together. Booth is a former U.S. Ranger and sniper. He is warm-hearted and relies on hunches to solve mysteries while Brennan (Bones) is a firm believer in scientific method and logic to solve mysteries. Bones just doesn’t get people. The two spar constantly and the spark between them is reminiscent of the 80’s romantic comedy Moonlighting which spent two years with the tease of whether the characters (played by Cybil Shepherd and Bruce Willis) would ever become a couple. The two years in which they did become a couple was seen to lead to the cancellation of the show. Obviously, the writers of Bones have spent the last six years doing everything possible to avoid the “Moonlighting curse.”

Bones also relies heavily on the ensemble cast who support the two main players. Brennan’s best friend is Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin), the team’s forensic artist and computer whiz, who tries to teach Bones how to behave like a normal person and has her own romance with Dr. Jack Hodgins (T. J. Thyne). Apparently, the Moonlighting curse has not applied to them because, after an on-again-off-again relationship, Hodgins and Angela were “allowed” to marry and now Angela is pregnant.

They are the more off beat couple on the show as Hodgins, who comes from a ridiculously wealthy family, is mad for conspiracy theories and Angela is a warm, high spirited artist type who doesn’t exactly fit in with the squints or scientists. There is also a series of graduate students, each with eccentricities that adds comic relief to the mysteries that are solved each week.

This is the key to why Bones differs from the Law & Order and CSI series on television. There is more focus on characters and the development of their own lives interwoven with the mysteries makes the show feel more like a movie rather than an episodic TV murder mystery. This is why I think that I’m able to stand all the blood, guts and gore; there’s humour and character development from week to week. The characters have changed and grown from the first year to this, their sixth season.

Will Bones and Booth ever get together? I think that they will when the show has a series finale. Meanwhile the writers will do everything that they can to stretch out that romantic tension for as long as they can to keep Bones going into as many seasons as they can manage.


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CBC Radio 2: A Little Something for Everyone

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 7:40 AM in , , , ,

Anyone who has followed my columns knows that I’ve done much whinging and whining about the changes in the CBC Radio 2 format. I liked the old classical station that I came to love when I moved to Canada. If I wanted rock and/or roll (a Reverend Lovejoy reference for you Simpsons fans), I would turn my dial over to CHOM when I lived in Montreal or to some of the obscure New England stations. I don’t know if anyone can still get WBTZ, the alternative music station known as “the Buzz” that broadcasts out of Burlington, but it is next to impossible to pick up in Lennoxville. I always enjoyed their mix of old and new pop/rock music though the commercials made me turn the station off about as many times as I turned the station on.

The thing is, when I get in my car, I don’t feel like futzing with my iPod and all the wires plus I figure it’s not good for the iPod’s battery to leave it in the glove compartment in minus 16 weather, so I’ve been leaving CBC Radio 2 on for the drive to and from work to make my life easier and to pretend that I’m keeping an open mind. I may be middle aged but I’m still curious about new music that’s coming out.

A crazy thing has happened; I’ve started to get used to Radio 2. I’m tentatively admitting that I like it. In the morning, I’ve been listening to Bob Mackowycz who plays a solid mix of old and new music. He definitely has a well loved play list as I’m getting a little tired of hearing We Could Have Had It All by Adele (I’m also getting more than a little tired of singers with only one name, kind of presumptuous, don’t you think? Why should Adele be the quintessential Adele? There are probably some other very special Adele’s in the world…and don’t get me started about Ellen! I had the name first.) Other than that, I must admit it’s kind of nice to turn on my radio in the morning and hear Bob Mackowycz sing the praises of a group like The Clash who I used to love and then hear Rock the Casbah which, politically incorrect as it is, is still a great song and frighteningly timely.

When I come home from work and then hit the exercise or guilt machine, I listen to The Drive with Rich…Terfry. The reason that I put the pause in is that’s exactly how he says his name on the air and all the time. Everybody has his or her eccentricities and that’s his, I suppose. He’s had a running theme to the show for the last few weeks which has been music to exercise to, and for me, that’s been very handy as he’s been playing a lot of upbeat music, like Adele’s You Could Have Had It All, but then, I grew up with AM radio when the number one song was played a lot so that doesn’t put me off too much. Terfry plays everything from Joni Mitchell to Patti Smith to Elvis Costello to a Canadian band called Lazy Susan whose single is called Sweet Thing, (not to be confused with Van Morrison’s song of the same name which is infinitely better), to The Decembrists who have garnered lots of favour, according to my Facebook friends. It’s a great mix of lively music and Terfry is an engaging radio DJ without being annoying.

CBC Radio 2 may not be the class act that it was a few years ago, but in its drive to be all things to all people, there are bound to be some hits and misses. CBC Morning and The Drive are a bit of what Peter Gzowski’s Morningside was, but in a more musical vein. When you play a wide mix of music, you are sure to please some of the people some of the time.


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The Trials and Tribulations of Multiculturalism

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 6:54 PM
This has been a week in which the world seemed to get a little smaller. The demonstrations in Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia calling for a change in government and a more democratic government have grabbed our attention. In Great Britain, there have been demonstrations for quite a while protesting governments cuts to students. I’m starting to believe that 2011 is this millennium’s 1968 – people are calling for a world where everybody gets a chance to have his or her say and a world where people just feel that they might have a chance to get ahead period.

It’s very easy to feel that all that stuff is happening over there. On Saturday, I was cross-country skiing in the woods and feeling very apart from the world, but as I was swishing around and falling in the snow, I did get a little quiet time to ponder something that the Prime Minister of Great Britain said. He claimed that state multiculturalism has failed and that countries need to implement what he called, “muscular liberalism.” His idea is that once you immigrate to Great Britain, you have to accept its values. This is not unfamiliar territory. We’ve had a similar discussion here in Quebec with our debates over reasonable accommodation.

With a world so interconnected, I think that Prime Minister Cameron is trying to go back to a 1950’s world that will never exist again. Nowadays, people are moving from one country to the next in search of employment and in search of a better way of life for their families and themselves. With cyberspace, we are connected through Skype, Twitter, Facebook, and whatever social networking system will come along in the next few years, and there are sure to be plenty more with bells and whistles that we haven’t thought of yet. Very few places are isolated anymore; what happens in Egypt may eventually have an effect on us, particularly if oil tankers aren’t making it through the Suez Canal.

You can only ski in the woods for so long nowadays, both literally and figuratively. Whether you are in Montreal, Sherbrooke, London or New York City, you are sure to encounter people whose cultures, upbringings, food, dress are going to be different, maybe radically different, from your own. To think that we can create a national or international system of right values in the twenty-first century is nostalgic daydreaming and it’s the kind of daydreaming that can get us into trouble. We have to recognize that the days of one people of one nationality and one colour living together in harmony are long gone, and let’s face it, even within that same group, someone was always fighting with somebody else anyway.

We have to face the fact that we live in a multicultural world and multiculturalism simply can’t be allowed to fail if we are to live in some semblance of peace. People will come to live in our country and they will have to find a way to navigate through our value systems. Yes, they will have to learn to live side by side with us, but it might be a little much to ask them to accept everything that the rest of us believe in, hook, line, and sinker. Perhaps over time, they will adapt to us, and as our society becomes more diverse, we may adapt a little to them. That kind of give and take makes for a more peaceful and perhaps a more interesting social environment. In a world where modern day fascists are making hay with our fear of terrorism, decrying multiculturalism is downright dangerous. A prime minister should know better.

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Things That We Can Do Without in January…or February

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 7:41 AM
January is a long, cold, dark, and cruel month. I’ve called it the dark night of the soul, and for me, it ever and always will be. Everybody always tells me how much they hate February, but February has longer days, and every now and then, you get those wonderful thaws where you just barely feel the warmth of the sun. The icicles are dripping off roofs, and spring feels like it’s around the corner.

What we don’t need in January is negativity, but…lists aren’t necessarily negative if they spread mirth, delight, and a feeling of commonality. If you feel the way I do, that’s great, and if you don’t, turn the page:

1. Sarah Palin: The shooting was bad enough. It was horrific. Did you have to cover yourself by using terms like, “blood libel?” What’s wrong with you? Stop giving women politicians a bad name and be a TV personality. It’s good money and you can be as dippy as you want.

2. Horoscopes: O.k., get ready for this. Astrology isn’t real; it’s fun, but not real. Yes, I am the epitome of a Gemini, but no one cares. Now, I’m a Taurus? Oh, gee, it just goes to prove that astrology isn’t real. Thank you for that amazing non-story when millions of people are starving to death, dying of AIDS, or from wars. Feel the shame!

3. American Idol: I can’t stand Simon Cowell, but he has my undying respect for getting out. He should have done it two years ago. American Idol has done more to ruin popular music and television than Coca-Cola and Sprite. Would Ella Fitzgerald have won American Idol? I don’t think so. Ignore it and it may finally go away.

4. Reality Shows: Are we getting sick of them yet?

5. Demographics: The largest generation is getting older, there are fewer kids, and how does society pay for seniors’ health care and pensions? It’s all bad news. Maybe I will get used to eating cat food in my retirement. I can have dog food on Sundays.

6. China: Bad news always comes out of China. Things like melamine don’t belong in milk; lead does not belong in toys. A guy wins a Nobel Peace Prize, and you don’t let him out? May we please get some good news from China already? Peace in Afghanistan would be really nice too.

7. Automated telephone systems: Your call is important to us. Please wait an hour and a half, and the next available representative will not be able to answer your question. Too late, our offices just closed.

8. People in the United States who compare President Obama to Hitler: Read your history, please! Hate him, revile him, sneer at him, but don’t compare him to the man who gave organized slaughter a name. It just makes you look ignorant.

9. Wack-jobs who picket funerals with disgusting signs: Your grandparents knew about manners and maybe compassion. You don’t.

10. Columnists who make lists.

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Comedy Central and BBC Canada – A Continent of Reruns

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 9:16 PM in ,
How many of you think that the Gomery Report is funny? How many of you can even remember the scandal that it investigated? You’d know if you watched This Hour Has 22 Minutes on Monday, January 17th. No, it wasn’t doing a goof on Canadian History; the show itself was Canadian history, a good six years old. Political humour isn’t funny unless it’s current, but Comedy Central Canada just keeps playing reruns of This Hour Has 22 Minutes because even though it’s old and stale, it’s Canadian.

Good comedy almost always has an element of surprise. After all, a joke isn’t funny if you know the punch line. A pie in the face isn’t funny if you can see that pie coming from a long way off. Similarly, if you’ve seen the same stand-up comics do the same routines over and over again on Just for Laughs, it’s just not funny anymore. How many times can you watch Shaun Majumder do the most embarrassing shtick that couldn’t get a laugh from a college kid who’s had a few beers? It wasn’t funny the first time and it gets increasingly pathetic with each watching. A comic, who I’ve already seen, has to be particularly funny to get a laugh out of me after I’ve watched one of his pathetically un-funny introductions or eulogies to each comic’s routine. Yet I watch in hope, hope that one day I’ll see something new that will make me laugh.

While I applaud the mission of the CRTC to maintain Canadian content so that Canadian artists can be employed and that the country’s media reflects Canadian culture, there ought to be a law against the number of times a show can be broadcasted because it’s Canadian and cheap.

Speaking of Canadian content, if I’m paying for BBC in Canada, why can’t I see British programming? It makes no sense. When I watch ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, I see American shows and not reruns of a bunch of Canadian home improvement shows just so the station can meet its Canadian content requirements. A little research answered this question. BBC Canada is owned both by a Toronto company, Alliance Atlantis (80%) and BBC Worldwide (20%), therefore the CRTC considers BBC Canada to be a Canadian network. (Please don’t try to read that sentence aloud – you may hurt your mouth.) As a Canadian company, they must show a certain quota of Canadian shows, and that’s why you get a lot of Debbie Travis and Holmes on Homes.

Much of cable TV, particularly during the day, is made up of reruns. I can accept this to a certain degree, but when primetime rolls around, I would like to get what I pay for if I have to pay for television. If I watch a network that advertises itself as a network of reruns – Déjà Vu, for example – I’m aware that I’m paying for old shows. When I pay for a specialty channel, I hope to watch new shows. As a fan of British television, it is extremely disappointing to pay for a channel called BBC and find that it’s a home and garden channel in disguise.


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Back to the 70’s with Barney Miller

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 10:13 AM

Every day when I get home from work, tired and battle-weary from the tensions of the day, when I turn to television as a sedative to get my mind off my troubles, there’s one show on in the late afternoon that can elicit a chuckle out of me and make me smile. That TV show is Barney Miller which is on the Déjà View channel from 4:00-5:00.

It’s been at least 30 years since I watched this series so it’s brand new to me and I’m falling back in love with it. For those of you who weren’t around in the 70’s when this show was a hit series, the action almost always takes place in the squad room of the 12th precinct located in lower Manhattan. Barney Miller (Hal Linden) is the captain of the precinct and his detectives are an eccentric group. Miller puts up with them with a long-suffering patience and humour and is the show’s straight man. Detective Fish (Abe Vigoda) is nearing retirement, has a daily war with his digestive system and his deadpan reaction to criminals and colleagues is hilarious. Max Gail plays Wojo, a young detective who is insecure and sometimes seems to have more brawn than brains. Detective Harris sports an Afro, is always neatly groomed, is writing a novel and is perpetually on the lookout for a better apartment. Yemana (Jack Soo) constantly has his nose in a racing form. The inimitable Steve Landesburg (who unfortunately passed away last month) also has a killer deadpan delivery as Detective Dietrich who is the squad trivia know-it-all.

In each episode, the detectives deal with mostly small-time crooks or people in conflict with one another and try to solve problems while working out of an ancient cockroach infested building while being perpetually underfunded for the police work that they are trying to do. As people who have to put up with each other day-in and day-out, their relationships with one another and with their spouses makes for some very funny situations. In addition, when you watch the show, there are many faces that you will recognize from other TV shows and many well-known character actors. Trying to remember who they are and what they’ve been in is part of the fun.

The series had an eight year run and while the dialogue and characters are a bit stiff in the first year, the writers and actors seemed to warm up to the characters that they were portraying to the point that when you watch the show, it seems very much as if you are watching a comic play, particularly because the show is shot in video rather than film. Over the years, the show increasingly added dramatic elements as well as comedy. For example, toward the end of the series, Miller has marital difficulties as his wife has increasing difficulties dealing with her husband’s job.

Some people may find the show somewhat politically incorrect as it was filmed about the same time as All in the Family. For instance, Barney Miller’s treatment of female cops and female victims may make you wince now and again. Otherwise, it’s a very funny show with superb character actors and great scripts.


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Living in the Big Apple Just Isn’t Easy; Neither is Following Shows on HBO Canada

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 10:47 AM

One of my friends has been urging me to watch the HBO series, Bored to Death, which has been running at odd times on HBO. Strangely enough, it’s impossible to find out when a program is on HBO Canada unless you go on the Internet and check on HBO’s web site. In the case of this show, here is what you find: Jan. 8 -1:30 AM; Jan. 17 - 3:30 P.M.; Jan.24 - 3:30 PM.

This seems like craziness to me. Unless I am a virtuoso in the use of a VCR or have a handy dandy digital recorder, what’s the point in telling me to watch the show? I’m new to HBO, so I can only think that the show, Boardwalk Empire with Steve Buscemi is on all the time, and HBO shows a few other shows every now and then. Don’t get me wrong, I love Steve Buscemi in all the Coen Brothers films that he’s in – the dude abides, and all that – but HBO seems to replay certain series day and night and then they just go away!

The other night, I watched Bored to Death for the second time and actually laughed out loud in a few places. The premise of the show runs something like this: Jonathan Ames is a struggling writer in New York City whose girlfriend has broken up with him. His writing career is not going very well either, so inspired by a detective novel, he advertises on Craig’s List as an unlicensed private eye and clumsily solves mysteries while hanging out with his neurotic comic book writing best friend, Ray (Zach Galifianakis) and George (Ted Danson of Cheers fame) who is a marijuana smoking man about town and editor of a New York City magazine. This makes life more bearable and interesting.

I found the first show that I watched tedious, but the second episode that I watched was quite funny. It is definitely a character driven series, and though some of the situations are impossibly ridiculous, that’s where the comedy comes from. Ted Danson definitely steals scenes. He’s such a natural for this part, and his character seems to have no problem turning lemons into lemonade without mussing a hair on his beautifully coiffed head. Mind you, if you are offended by vulgar language and drug using characters, this show is definitely not for you.

Right after Bored to Death came How to Make It in America though that sequence may never be repeated on HBO again; it’s all about catching shows when you can. Another vulgarity warning for this show that is about yet another struggling young man in New York City. Ben (Bryan Greenberg) is an aspiring designer who is friends with Cam (Victor Rasuk), a free spirit and would-be future mogul. Cam takes it upon himself to get Ben “back in the game” after his breakup with girlfriend Rachel, now dating a successful hotelier. The show is all about the hustle to get money for projects and to network with the right people.

I loved how this show was shot and the script moved quickly. I was also surprised to find the characters more likeable than I expected from the beginning of the show. The two friends meet obstacle after obstacle together, and you can’t help but sympathize with Ben, who can’t even begin to get over his girlfriend, and is perpetually unlucky in love.


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