Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Greenbridge Celtic Folkfest

In case you thought me too grouchy.....I'm happy to spread the word about a positive event - Greenbridge!

Perhaps you've already been to a concert with Natalie MacMaster and/or her husband, Donnell Leahy. She's from the very musical MacMaster family of Cape Breton, He's no slouch either. Many years ago we saw him perform here in Ottawa, as part of his family's musical act - The Leahy Family.  They're  from just outside of Peterborough. Together MacMaster and Leahy are a force to be reckoned with.

They are the masterminds behind Greenbridge, a new outdoor summer music festival, which we attended in August.  It's held on a magnificent property in Keene, just east of Peterborough. This was just its second year. Click here to go to their website.

                     The festival is mostly fiddle music but there were a variety of musical acts.

One of the most memorable performances I've ever seen was from a Boogie Woogie piano player named Jason D. Williams. Words can't adequately describe his act. You'll have to google him to watch him play... with his feet, upside down - he's a real character.

The last act of the evening was Natalie and Donnell. Just watching them would have been enough. I didn't expect their kids to come out at that point. They had already performed in the afternoon and now it was already 10 pm. But out they came. MacMaster and Leahy are now the parents of seven children. Five of those kids performed at Greenbridge. They step dance, play fiddle, sing and some of them also play piano! The phrase "talented family" doesn't even begin to describe them.

The day after the festival we got talking about security on the festival site, as in, where was it? It's true that we spoke to a firefighter,  but he was mostly letting little kids see the fire truck. There weren't police officers and security people to be seen because it just wasn't that kind of event. Yes, there were two bars on site but it never got rowdy. This was a summer music festival with a difference. It was extremely relaxed and friendly, starting with the volunteers who met us on the way to the parking lot.

If you want to attend a summer music festival with a laid back atmosphere, in a lovely setting, with good food options and outstanding musicians, head to Greenbridge at the end of next August. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Michael Moore

If you're not a Michel Moore fan, you'll want to skip this post.

I love the guy and look forward to seeing his latest movie, which premieres at TIFF tonight. Sure hope that this will make a difference in November.

Here's the message he sent out today.

FAHRENHEIT 11/9...a note from Michael Moore

In my lifetime, I've had maybe only a dozen days like the one I've woken up to this morning.

It's the day that a new film of mine will have its World Premiere, and that is what will happen tonight for FAHRENHEIT 11/9 at the Opening Night kick-off of the Toronto International Film Festival, North America's premiere film event. I am just hours away from that moment when the lights will dim, the curtain will rise and my work, with all its revelations and warnings and dangerous ideas -- well, dangerous politically to a President who has no intention of ever leaving office unless the Secret Service physically drags him out of there -- will be shared with the world. This siren call of a movie is my contribution to ignite the fire underneath a despairing, dispirited public who must -- MUST -- do its job and end the madness at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I have spent the better part of this year constructing a film that will not only explain how the @#&% we ended up with Trump, but also help show us the way out. I must warn you -- I do not pull ANY punches in the film. No one is spared - not even me.

It is already being talked about as one of the most anticipated films of the fall, and just yesterday, this wonderful piece was published in The Hollywood Reporter!

This film is THE moment of truth we've all needed for sometime, and I truly believe its release nationwide on Sept. 21st will be the real beginning of the end for Donald J. Trump (and perhaps, more importantly, the eventual end of the rotten, corrupt system that gave us Trump in the first place).

I also believe we have, as we approach November 6th, a massive tsunami of women, young people and people of color (i.e., TWO-THIRDS of the American public) who maybe -- just maybe -- will drown the whole stinkin' lot of them in a record number of ballots for a midterm election.

But this will not happen on its own -- and any early celebrations of victory like those that happened in 2016, are sure to keep the Republicans in power for years to come.

Donald J. Trump did not just fall from the sky. His rise to the presidency was not an aberration and should not have come as a shock. It was the logical end result of a long, downward spiral in America that culminated in one of our most loathsome citizens conquering our most powerful office. One of our most deceptive minds, commanding the bully pulpit. One of our most fraudulent hucksters, armed with the powers of the presidency to protect him.

Ever since that fateful morning at 2:29 AM on 11/9/16 when the Associated Press officially called the election for our nation’s new leader, we have been trying to save what's left of our democracy. This is not a film telling you what a jerk Donald Trump is or what an buffoon Donald Trump is or what a liar Donald Trump is. You already know all that. Everybody already knows all that (except for your conservative brother-in-law whose mind you’ll never be able to change). I wouldn’t waste your time or my time making that kind of film. And with all due respect to your conservative brother-in-law, we don’t need him. We’re the majority in this country, he’s the minority, he knows it and that’s why he’s so mad!

Instead, my team and I have been on a mission to tell a much, much more important story. It’s a story about hope... and what comes after it. It’s a story about deception and betrayal. It’s a story about what happens to people when they’ve hit rock bottom. It’s the story about who we are as a people and what it means to be an American in the era of Donald J. Trump. Finally, it’s a story about where we might be heading as a society.

My crew and I have moved heaven and earth to make sure we deliver this film to you in time to have an impact on this year's midterm elections. I’m excited to announce to you that “Fahrenheit 11/9” will open in more movie theaters than any of my previous films -- over 1,500 theaters across America!

(It will also be opening in dozens of countries around the world.)

We open nationwide on September 21st, 45 days before the most important election in American history (and with voter registration still open nationwide!).

I’m writing you today because I need your help. I’ve made a film that was meant to be seen on a big screen, in a dark theater, filled with a hundred strangers. My hope is that you will experience the magic of cinema the way it was meant to be experienced, in a movie theater. It's the best way to truly feel the big story I'm telling you.

Any bit of anger, despair, or frustration you’ve felt over the past few years must be channeled into action this fall!

I am on my way to Toronto. I don't have to make a run for the border a la "The Handmaid's Tale" -- yet. For tonight, I'll just be showing a movie. Then on Monday night in Flint, I will hold the US premiere of FAHRENHEIT 11/9. After that, everyone will have the chance to see it.

We are the majority -- never forget that. But we need to rise up. That’s the only way out of this mess.

All my best,
Michael Moore

P. S. I'll bring you into the world premiere tonight via Facebook Live just before 11pm ET.


Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Infill Housing #5

Things are progressing across the street. Many years ago, we were young parents with a little guy who was obsessed with construction. Watching this build would have been heaven for him!

Digging finished....ready for cement

Living this close, your section of the street becomes a construction site.

There are numerous deliveries of materials, often resulting in blocked driveways for the neighbours.

Those are the foundation forms out on the street.

Even the neighbours' driveway was used when they had to rescue a Bobcat that flipped over.

Steel beam delivery. Some of the vehicles leak oil on the street.

Wood delivery. The sidewalk will have to be replaced. It's all cracked.

At last, the ground floor. It's time to say goodbye to the house that backs onto the new one.
The house behind it disappears from our view.
With this first wall up at the back of the house, I realize that neighbour will lose her privacy.  After a lifetime of facing a green, overgrown yard and a tiny old house, she will now be confronted by these big back windows.

So, as of yesterday, here is the new house!

So what can I say? Mostly that we are grateful for small mercies. Yes, it's a much bigger house than what we are used to looking at. However, they didn't seek any variances from the city regulations. They have built within those guidelines.  It is not taller than the house on the left and mercifully, it does not have a flat roof. Who would have known that I would be happy to see a slightly sloped roof on a new house, as if it were a novelty?

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Ontario's New (Old) Sex Ed. Curriculum

What a time to live in North America, to live in Ontario, where we now have our own version of Donald Trump. The similarities, the same simplistic thinking is scary and shocking.

The Ford government's decision, to revert back to the 1998 sex ed curriculum is so short-sighted. While watching an interview with a local teachers union representative, I was reminded of just how complicated this whole process really is. Doug Ford thinks you just make the decision and bingo, it's back to 1998. This teacher rep got me thinking about more logical questions like:

Where are the 1998 curriculum documents?
Teachers are just now trained on the 2015 curriculum. No doubt teachers have been creating their own carefully thought-out lesson plans,to achieve the objectives of the curriculum. Do those all get tossed?
Do teachers include any of the new material?
How do they answer students' questions, when students are now faced issues that didn't even exist in 1998, like sexting and cyberbullying?

The social conservatives that Ford is pleasing say that parents weren't consulted about the new 2015 document. "Wrong" said then premier Wynne, during the election campaign:

"It's just not true," she told reporters at an event in Toronto. "Parents were consulted. Psychologists, psychiatrists, police, people who live in communities and are concerned about the safety of young people were consulted."
About 4,000 parents, as well as child development professions, were given an opportunity to weigh in on the changes to the curriculum, Wynne noted."

And who do we have now, at the helm of Ontario schools, as we make this sudden shift in direction? The new minister of education actually has no background in education. Lisa Thompson is a goat farmer! I kid you not!
In a July 11th memo she did a good job of parroting her boss. "I can assure you that help is on the way. We will be working hard to better prepare our kids for the challenges of work and life."

However, I digress. What's an Ontario parent to do, in this confusing situation? As the social conservatives say, sex education is a parent's job. That's true but at best, parents should be discussing at home, what is being taught at school. Parents and teachers should always be partners in education. If possible, parents might want to latch onto a hard copy of the 2015 curriculum or download a copy while it's still on line. 

As a grandparent (and retired teacher) it would be handy to have a copy. There are all kinds of issues that my grandchildren will have to face, that I'm simply not familiar with. I'd like to be able to answer their questions accurately, with well thought out materials. I'd like to take advantage of the years of research, consultation and expert advice that went into the creation of the 2015 document. It's a scary world out there and keeping these materials away from teachers, students and families is putting students at risk.

Doug Ford would have us go back to the good old days. How many novels have we all read, where children were sexually assaulted because of their lack of knowledge? How many real life tragedies have occurred because children didn't have the basic facts, and never had a discussion with an adult, about appropriate touching or consent.? How dare he discard the progress that has been made in teaching this important area of the curriculum? 

But hey, at least I'll be able to buy beer at my corner store - that's what's really important.

July 21 Update
Click here to read David Reevely's Ottawa Citizen article on this issue.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

The Power of Music

As I make my way through this sad season and struggle to accept the reality of life without Dad, I have been comforted lately by the healing power of music.

We've been to a few memorable concerts. The musicians involved were no spring chickens; they were all older than me. From time to time I encounter a definite feeling of ageism, an attitude from younger folks, that those of us with gray hair are pretty well finished. The musicians that I've recently encountered are examples of vital, productive, inspiring seniors.

On the May long weekend we were in Toronto. Happily, our visit coincided with a series of free concerts by Fred Penner, at Harbourfront. Our grandchildren were so excited to be seeing Fred in person, again. (The Cat Came Back is usually on repeat on their car stereo. Can you still say stereo?)
It was a brilliant sunny day as we made our way to the spacious concert area, right beside Lake Ontario. Fred Penner at 71, is as busy as ever. As he said in a recent interview,  "The phone keeps ringing." During the concert he told us that if we want to see him in Toronto next spring, he'll be at Roy Thompson Hall, with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra!

Onstage he is funny, enthusiastic, warm and entertaining. It was heart-warming for me to hear him sing his new song, Celebrate Being. It's a simple message that I needed to hear. The audience was made up of kids and adults of all ages. Penner refers to his old fans as "Fredheads." We all lapped up his jokes and songs. Afterwards he patiently met with fans for photos. It was a privilege to meet him.

A few weeks later we were in Toronto again. We attended another "children's" concert, this time with Raffi. Years ago, when we lived in Brampton, we took our  kids to several Raffi concerts. His Christmas album is always playing as we decorate our Christmas tree. Raffi, also has a name for his older fans. We are Beluga grads, named for his hit, Baby Beluga.

Again, Raffi is still a great entertainer, with a really beautiful voice. His enthusiasm,  jokes, and earth friendly songs like One Light One Sun and Inch by Inch, went over very well with the audience at Roy Thomspn Hall that afternoon.

If there's a highlight in this concert list, is has to be the Paul Simon concert at the Air Canada Centre, on June 12th. Again, Simon is getting up there. He's 76 and has called this tour  Homeward Bound. He says it's his last, so that's why I was desperate to hear him again.

What a night! Simon walked out on stage and the crowd leapt to their feet to give him his first standing ovation of the night. He started with America,

"Kathy, I'm lost I said, though I knew she was sleeping.
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why.
Counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike
They've all come to look for America
All come to look for America."   before speaking to the crowd.

America was very much on his mind.  "Thank you." he started. "Oh no, Thank You", is what we answered, with another thunderous ovation. He then referred to President Trump's comments to Prime Minister Trudeau after the G7 conference.  "That's not what is in the hearts and minds of Americans. " he assured us. "We'll always be family." Again, we were all on our feet, to thank him for that.

Near the end he sang the hauntingly beautiful American Tune, from 1973.

"But it's alright, it's alright.
For we lived so well so long.
Still when I think of the road we're travelling' on
I wonder what's gone wrong,
I can't help it, I wonder what has gone wrong."

When I bought the tickets for this concert I was just thinking about hearing Paul Simon. I didn't think about who might appear with him. It was such a bonus to have so many fine musicians on stage. He never treated them like backup, like afterthoughts. Through his words, onstage position and gestures he honoured his fellow musicians and gave them the spotlight on many occasions. They were all, regardless of their age or experience, a vital part of the musical extravaganza. I especially enjoyed the horn section and their part in such hits as, You Can Call Me Al.

The concert seemed to be ending with another energetic horn performance in Late in the Evening. Everyone left the stage but of course, after a sufficient frenzy of cheering and clapping,  he came back on stage. This time though he was alone; just Paul Simon and his acoustic guitar.  He sat down and played Homeward Bound and we all sang along. It could have been any campfire or house party from the 60's or 70's, with some friend leading the group in song, but it was Paul Simon and all of us, thousands of us, singing along in unison, every word, just like we did in our youth.

Maybe that's the thing. For those brief moments we were those teenagers again, singing those earnest songs of our youth, with as much enthusiasm as ever. It was magical. When he sang Bridge Over Troubled Water, I was transported back to my high school bedroom, with that album playing over and over again, on my little red and white plastic record player.

After twenty-five songs he ended with Sounds of Silence. It was one of those nights you didn't want to end. You just wanted to be with him, singing along to those wonderful songs, with the guy who created them.

The following day we were in Peterborough, to visit my mother-in-law. who is living with dementia.
Pat brought her and a few residents to the dining room and sat down at the piano. Once he started playing, more residents joined us, and sang along to old classics like Take Me Out to the Ballgame  and Irene Goodnight. It was quite the contrast to the 20 000 plus crowd at the ACC, the previous night, but the effect was similar. For the time that we sang with them, the residents there were connected to each other in song. Even those who now barely speak were smiling and singing along and totally into the musical experience. For that short time, they were outside of their usual daily experience and part of the music itself. They were actively creating music and feeling good about that.

So from the toddlers at the Raffi concert to the older kids at the Fred Penner event, to the boomers at Paul Simon, to the seniors at the long term care residence...we were all lifted out of our everyday lives and connected to each other by the power of music.

For a lovely, online musical experience, check out Paul McCartney's Carpool Karaoke with James Corden.  (Click here) At seventy-six, he's still having a great time creating and sharing music. The faces on the pub crowd, who enjoyed his surprise concert, pretty well sum up everything I've been saying.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Infill Housing # 4

You never know when construction sites will be active. Work could start first thing in the morning or it could be busy for just a few hours in the middle of the day. So it's hard to predict. Neighbours next to infill construction might be up all night with a baby or sick child, they could be working the night shift, they might be sick themselves or maybe just plain tired. Regardless, builders are allowed to start working at 7 am on weekdays. It can go on until 8 pm.

When I was a child, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Sunday was a day of rest. It was a restful, quiet day, meant to be spent with family.  Stores were closed and very few activities were running. Of course that day is long gone. Today's noise bylaw offers us a brief respite on the weekends. You can work from 9 am until 7 pm.

So we know we are in for a noisy summer. Things haven't been too bad so far. My parent's house is about five minutes north of us, closer to the Ottawa River. That neighbourhood is built on rock so when infill houses are constructed there, neighbours have to put up with a lot of drilling and blasting. Here it's mostly clay so we have been spared the drilling and blasting. Instead we have only the noise of the machines and the loud thuds as they deposit the dirt and debris into waiting dump trucks. Last Friday, however was different.

In order to hook up the new house to water and sewer, a trench had to be cut, pretty well right across the street in front of our house. Apparently all the neighbours were supposed to receive written notice that our street would be closed for five days because of the open trench. No notice was received. A worker casually mentioned it to us, when we happened to be outside, the day before.

Now that was noisy! As the machine banged its way through the pavement  the noise was tremendous. Our whole house was shaking. That probably didn't do our foundation any favours.

Neighbours only three doors down were having a family wedding that very day. Our block was to be closed to traffic for the annual block party on Sunday. Here's what it looked like at the end of the workday last Friday.

We left the next day but it sounds like there was plenty of action. The young neighbours, with all their little kids, weren't happy that the worksite was not properly secured. Bylaw officials and our local city councillor were notified. Besides the hole and the noise, one neighbour has had her phone and internet cable cut twice so far. This is what it's like to live near infill construction.

Because real estate folks have declared our area a desirable neighbourhood, developers are crawling all over the place, outbidding people who just want to buy a house and live here. Developers come onto our streets. knock down houses (many of them in fine shape), then disturb the neighbours with construction for months. Often they build houses that simply don't fit in with existing homes. Sometimes, the builders stay; they actually live in the new houses. Most of the time however, after all the disruption, they sell the new place, make their profit and move on to another conquest. The city allows all this, in the name of intensification of the core, which we're all supposed to embrace.

Simon and Garfunkel famously sang, "Silence like a cancer grows." We could change that to, "Infill like a cancer grows. " It really seems that once one house on a block is knocked down, others soon follow. On this one side of this one block, we have just heard that a fourth house will soon go up for sale. Surely they won't all be destroyed.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Premier Doug Ford ?!

How it pains me to write those three words together - Premier ... Doug....Ford.

This is a sad day for many of us in Ontario. I can't believe this is happening again. When Donald Trump ran for the leadership of the Republican Party, most of us thought it was laughable, until he won. Even after he won, we never thought he had a real shot at capturing the presidency. Again, the unthinkable happened, We've had a year and a half of watching him stumble through every aspect of his presidency, making a mockery of the highest office in the U.S., bringing us all to the brink of nuclear war and now starting a trade war with his allies. You might think that the Ontario electorate would look at that scary American situation and ponder. They might come to the realization that you shouldn't hand over power to simple minded people, with no political experience, who promise you more money and old fashioned jobs.

However last night that is just what millions of folks in Ontario did. They gave this very simple- minded, inexperienced buffoon, the keys to the premier's office. One caller on CBC radio in Ottawa this morning happily stated that he was going to have more money in his pocket and pay less taxes - just what Rob Ford promised him. Which goes to show that if you continually tell the people a simple,  straight-forward message and appeal to their selfish nature - they will buy that message.

What make me the saddest today is to acknowledge that there are so many selfish people in this province  - people who are only thinking of themselves and their bank accounts. Maybe when they put their children or grandchildren in school and have to put up with larger class sizes because teachers have been cut, or maybe when they try to put their parents in a long term care home and can't find one, or maybe when they're waiting in a hospital emergency department, maybe then they'll come to the realization that we all need to pay taxes so that we can receive important government services.

Was the Liberal government without fault? Of course not. Plenty has been written about the gas scandal etc. And yes, they had been in government a long time. However, I think there have been some positive achievements as well. Having free prescriptions up to age 25 is a wonderful advantage, as is free university and college tuition for needy families. It was brave of the Liberals to stick to their guns and press ahead with the much needed, improved sex education curriculum in Ontario schools.

Last night, after watching the three leaders speeches, I felt sick. Doug Ford is so simple. He thought it was appropriate to bring up the memory of his  brother, who many remember as a crack-smoklng embarrassment of a Toronto mayor. Please don't remind us of your family background Doug! I would have been happy if Andrea Horvath had won, but last night I found her to resemble a shrill teenager. And then there was Kathleen Wynne. She spoke with grace, humour, warmth and intelligence. It was a classy speech that started with her praising people from all different backgrounds and areas of the province. Contrasting her speech with Doug Ford's reminds me of listening to Barrack Obama, next to Donald Trump.

It's a sad and scary time indeed.