Tag Archives: CBC

Spooky action at a distance


At this time of the year, when the worm moon greets dawn’s croaking grackles, I find myself unable to quit my weather app, which I check obsessively.

A decade ago, friends of mine from England asked what sort of outerwear would be suitable for our Canadian Maritime climate in the middle of May. I said something like, “Don’t worry your pretty little Brit heads. We’re well past the worst of Mother Nature’s seasonal tantrums.”

They arrived, happy and shiny and right on schedule, at Stanfield International Airport. Two days later, 40 centimetres of snow dropped.

Friends of mine from England are no longer speaking to me.

But, then, how was any of this my fault?

I had a weather app, for God’s sake.

“You know I actually work for a living,” a tech-savvy Meteorologist acquaintance of mine protested over the phone the other day. He was alluding to the fact that I am a lowly freelancer who prefers to scribble in his “leisure suit” between bouts of weather-induced paranoia.

“Sure, sure,” I spluttered, “but what do you make of these forecasts? How do you know what is or isn’t going to happen in my backyard 14 days from now?”

One word, he said: “Algorithms . . .The less snow that falls in any given winter, the more snow gets computer modelled and pushed to the end of the year. It’s math, boy, simple math.”

So, all of this is accurate, yes?

“No,” he sighed. “Well, sometimes.”

That, I declared, “is not fair.”

No, it’s not, he sighed. “Neither is the fact that you’re an idiot.”

Be that as it may, in the Great While North – where Spring often meets Winter for a robust afternoon of ice dancing on some cosmic frozen pond of their mutual liking – I am not alone in thinking that I have a right to understand, with a smartphone in hand, the shape of all the universe’s spooky actions at a distance.

Some years ago, under crisp and brilliantly clear late-April skies, I peeled out of the driveway of my Guysborough County farmhouse to commence the first leg of a business trip to Halifax. The coast was clear. The CBC said so.

Twenty kilometres up the highway, a snow squall forced me off the road. When it was over, I limped back to the shore through 12 centimetres of treacherous, rapidly melting muck, listening to the public broadcaster predict, “Nova Scotia will be absolutely beautiful today.”

Of course, the weather – like hockey – is one of those glorious preoccupations Canadians almost never get right. A Farmer’s Almanac item recently observed: “Before there were apps for your phone, Doppler radar or the National Weather Service, people looked to the signs of nature to prepare for what’s to come.”

The venerable source was talking about the American Midwest, but the folklore could easily apply to the Canadian East Coast: “Heavy and numerous fogs; racoons with bright bands; woodpeckers sharing trees; thick hair on the nape of cows’ necks; and pigs gathering sticks.”

On the other hand, according to my limited research, here are some sure signs that spring has sprung: Heavy and numerous fogs; racoons with bright bands; woodpeckers sharing trees; thick hair on the nape of cows’ necks; and pigs gathering sticks.

And what about that balefully glaring “worm moon” (also sometimes known as the “super moon” when it appears, as it did this year, on the vernal equinox). Scientists think it might make certain animals. . .uh. . .friskier than normal. Isn’t that also a sure sign of spring?

As for me, I continue to rely on my weather app. It tells me in its own inimitable, techno-spoken language about thick mists, critter fur, avian condo dwellers, and the porcine obsession with twigs – all that I may expect in the coming weeks.

Thank you, weather app.

Unless it snows.

Then, curse you weather app.

It’s funny how I never do this in the middle of summer.

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Whither Mother Corp?


Growing up in Halifax, I was a public radio nerd, and pretty much the only one I knew. I’d put myself to bed, listening to the honeyed voice of Allan McFee on CBC Radio’s “Eclectic Circus” just as the low, grumbling baritone of the harbour’s foghorns began to rise.

Other kids would tune into one of maybe three private stations, playing endless loops of Top 40 hits. Not me. Give me some academic yakking about the fall of the Roman Empire on “Ideas”, or a dollop of late-night jazz, and I was good to go, drifting sweetly off to la-la land.

When American radio icon Garrison Keillor announced earlier this year that he was formally retiring, after 42 years, from hosting National Public Radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” none other than U.S. President Barack Obama told the 73-year-old announcer, “One of the reasons I miss driving is that you kept me company. (The show) “made me feel better and more human.”

That’s a bit like how I feel whenever I tune into CBC Radio’s Moncton-based morning program, or the Maritime-wide afternoon call-in show, or the drive-time rolling-home broadcast out of Saint John.

So, I’m always momentarily alarmed when Mother Corp. – which gets the bulk of its money from taxpayers – enters one of its periodic phases of existential angst, as it has just recently. As a panel of Ottawa politicians examines the condition of the news industry in this country, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission has issued a statement that, in part, reads: “The emergence of new digital technologies has made access to news and analysis from around the world easier than ever and presents many new opportunities. Digital technologies are empowering individuals, allowing them to tell stories that are in the public interest and to share them instantly with millions of people.”

Still, the CRTC reported, “Many Canadians . . .emphasized that local programming, particularly local news, is of great importance to them and a primary source of news and information. In one survey, 81 per cent of Canadians indicated that local news is important to them.”

Within this mix enter the usual suspects of mostly Conservative critics. Tory leadership runner, Kelly Leitch, declared last week, “The CBC doesn’t need to be reformed, it needs to be dismantled. So long as the CBC continues to distort the market by consuming advertising revenues and having its operations underwritten by the taxpayer, the market is uncompetitive.”

Of course, the CBC’s own research tells a tale of relevance. (What would you expect?) A survey it conducted a couple of years ago reported “80 per cent of Anglophones and virtually all Francophones (98 per cent) who responded to the questionnaire feel that CBC/Radio-Canada is important. Seventy-three per cent of Anglophones and 91 per cent of Francophones who participated believe that public broadcasters will continue to be important in the future.”

At the same time, “42 per cent of Anglophone participants prefer that CBC/Radio-Canada provide the most appropriate regional services into 2020, whether they be online, radio, television, or a combination of all or some, while 38 per cent want continued regional services in all formats (TV, Radio, and Digital).

People like Ms. Leitch (indeed, there appear to be quite a few of them) are welcome to their opinions, but a public broadcaster plays an important role, especially in lightly populated areas such as the Atlantic Provinces. Through it, we know ourselves as members of a larger family of Canadians.

To snag the words of the outgoing U.S. president, it makes us feel better and more human.

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Making the enemies list and checking it twice


Beware all the liberal media vipers in our midst

Beware all the liberal media vipers in our midst

Canadian political junkies are in for a treat next month when former Conservative operative and Stephen Harper confidant Bruce Carson spills the beans about his brief sojourn at the center national power. 

But we addicts of hysteria in statecraft may not actually need his upcoming book, “14 Days: Making the Conservative Movement in Canada”, to help us comprehend the true dimension of Tory paranoia. These days, the party’s power brokers are managing to do that all by themselves.

As the Globe and Mail reported last week, Conservative officials recently sent a fundraising letter to potential contributors asking them to pony up big bucks for what is certain to be a titanic battle against the Liberal establishment and their lickspittles and  lapdogs in the mainstream media.

The Globe quoted portions of the letter from Fred DeLorey, the party’s director of political operations, thusly: 

“(The) increase in the number of seats, plus the need to expand Conservative communications and outreach. . .will require the biggest campaign budget in Conservative Party history to ensure victory next year. . .To compete for these extra new seats in 2015, our outreach and communications budget must expand too – and we must do it now. If we wait until next year, it may be too late.”

Indeed, lefties lurk around every corner.

“Despite all his verbal flubs, lack of experience, and his failure to outline any practical economic policy for Canada, Justin Trudeau is still awarded a shining halo by liberal-minded journalists and pundits who are bedazzled by their own hopes of a Liberal second coming,” Mr. DeLorey fumes.

What’s more, he instructs, “Over 80 per cent of Canadian media is owned by a cartel of just five corporations – each of which owns dozens of publications and networks under various subsidiaries and affiliates. . .The Canadian newspaper industry today is largely controlled by a small number of individual or corporate owners, which often own the television networks.”

As a result, this “media convergence has greatly complicated our Conservative Party efforts to present the unfiltered facts and foundations behind our policies for economic growth, our faith in family values and our commitment to jobs, free trade and prosperity. . .The official campaign for re-election of Stephen Harper and our Conservative majority government won’t start until next year – but in the media it seems it has already begun.”

Fie, a pox on all your wobbly Fourth Estate houses, especially the CBC, which  

“costs taxpayers too much and its operations should be privatized” before, presumably,  “inexperienced Liberals like Justin Trudeau or leftist ideologues like Thomas Mulcair” make it their official mouthpiece!

This is not the first time Tory brass have taken a swipe at Mother Corpse (or, indeed, any media that doesn’t display the word “Sun” in its corporate letterhead) in a fundraising letter. In fact, for several years now, the practice has been all but required by right-wing etiquette. 

In 2007, the late Doug Finley, who was then the Conservative Party’s campaign director, decried alleged incidents of political bias among frontline reporters at the CBC. Is this (he asked rhetorically) what $1.1 billion in taxpayers‘ money buys for hard-working, well-adjusted Canadians?

Still, though most citizens will dismiss such frantic hyperbole outright, the Tories do know their audience, which suggests that there’s less genuine fear than calculated fiat in the messaging.

The danger of a Liberal resurgence in this country is real, but right-wingers deal with their terror of fancy-pants, artsy-fartsy types by towing the party line. And they do it better than anyone else. 

That’s why, in political terms, they have more money than God (despite their persistent and disingenuous poor-mouthing). It’s also how they have effectively demonized the mainstream media for a sizable chunk of the mainstream audience of news and opinion (again, despite their absurd and disingenuous claims to victimhood at the hands of commie-influenced press barons).

Time and again, the modern incarnation of conservatism in Canada makes claims to truth where none exists and then makes quislings of all who dare question its wisdom and virtue.

Still, we political junkies wouldn’t have it any other way. Most of us are journalists, anyway. Who else but a late-stage partisan paranoiac is going to keep us on our toes?


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The healing properties of a great walk


Chained to a post, the bike languishes in the baby barn like a forgotten pony. It’s not its fault. It’s done nothing wrong to deserve its alienation from my increasingly fit company. It’s just that, gradually, over the past year or so, it’s been replaced in my affections by a sturdy pair of walking shoes.

Nowadays, they take me everywhere within a five-kilometer radius of my home in downtown Moncton: to the lake, the park, the grocery store, the cafe that serves the best coffee east of Montreal. They are admirably beat up, like a hobo’s boots.

I began my deliberate, quotidian, 45-minute marches for no other reason than to see if I, a man in his early 50s, could muster enough self-discipline to stick with something that had nothing to do with the usual mid-life preoccupation of making money. It was easy, at first. Then, it got hard. Walking every day without exception, I discovered, was as much a mental as physical game.

Still, in a recent broadcast of CBC Radio’s Sunday Edition, host Michael Enright explored what appears to be a renaissance for the alternately graceful and rigorous pastime of perambulation. His guests included a psychologist, a biologist and an urban planner. The show’s promo put it this way: “It seems that walking has come back in vogue. Walkable neighbourhoods are a cornerstone of current urban planning and they help drive real estate values up. People are moving back to the downtown cores of cities, where they can walk to do their shopping or get to work.”

Our ancient history, of course, supports the walker. (Even though, over the past 100 years, we’ve done everything we can to render him extinct – from inventing the internal combustion engine to enshrining the American television sitcom).

Says the CBC blurb: “Humans and their forebears have spent five million years perfecting one of the talents that make us most unique as a species. . .the ability to walk upright. We evolved to walk on two legs. Our bodies are meant to walk, and our biology wants, even requires, us to walk.”

Event the Internet is now telling us to walk. Here are some words of advice from About.com’s Wendy Bumgardner: “Walkers live longer. The Honolulu Heart Study of 8,000 men found that walking just two miles a day cut the risk of death almost in half. The walkers’ risk of death was especially lower from cancer.”

Not only that, she says, walkers are smarter: “A study of people over 60 funded by the National Council on Aging, published in the July 29, 1999, issue of ‘Nature’, found that walking 45 minutes a day at a 16-minute mile pace increased the thinking skills of those over 60. The participants started at 15 minutes of walking and built up their time and speed. The result was that the same people were mentally sharper after taking up this walking program.

They’re more emotionally stable: “Walking. . .leads to the release of the body’s natural happy drugs – endorphins. Most people notice an improvement in mood. A November 9, 1999 study published in the ‘Annals of Behavioral Medicine’ showed that university students who walked. . .regularly had lower stress levels than couch potatoes or those who exercised strenuously.”

Not inconsequentially, walkers are also more successful than couch potatoes in one other important arena of human interaction: “What better reason for men to take a brisk two mile walk each day – a reduced risk of impotence from mid-life onward.”

For all these reasons and more, I shall remain an ardent walker. My wife and I are spending Christmas week, this year, in Manhattan (a strolling man’s paradise). Someday, when we’re fit enough, we plan to tackle the Appalachian Trail (at least, a chunk of it). Who knows, we may even find ourselves, one fine year, trudging along the Camino de Santiago in northwestern Spain, en route to the holy shrine of the apostle St. James.

In an hour, maybe two, I’ll get out my bike. But first, a good walk beckons.

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