Book Review: Lightfoot by Nicholas Jennings

 

LightfootI think I have spoiled myself. I have set a high bar for biographies after reading books on the lives of Keith Richards, Paul McCartney and the Beatles, Robbie Robertson among others. I have written on this blog before the effect reading a great biography has on me. I end up spending days and weeks listening to the music of the book’s subject buying the music I am reading about. This has happened after reading about Led Zeppelin (When Giants Walked the Earth) and Joni Mitchell (The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell even though the book was just okay) where I added CD’s from each of these artists and more. I would say that reading about the music maker is my greatest motive for adding to my music library.

Written on the Inside front flap of the cover of the book is “…Jennings (the author) had unlimited access to the reticent musician. Lightfoot takes us deep inside the artist’s world…” Note that Lightfoot is italicized; my perception was that Gordon Lightfoot himself was going to bring readers and his fans into his world, something that Lightfoot has protected tightly.

Make no mistake, Lightfoot is the most comprehensive book written about Canada’s original folk singer-songwriter troubadour. Jennings provides a view into the life of Lightfoot. There is just enough of Lightfoot in the book to know that Jennings had spent significant time with him. The early years in Orillia are very well documented and give us a look into the musical talent that Lightfoot’s mother stimulated and encouraged from kitchen table concerts to Church services to public performances and winning talent shows.

There are multiple voices heard throughout the book, wives, girlfriends, business partners and artists that Lightfoot has played and written with, including Bob Dylan. The most interesting chapters of the book involved the early years finding his voice in a sea of other performers, touring and recording. Sadly a lot of what is written in this period comes from those around him. There is just enough from Gordon himself to add credibility of the “unlimited access” talked about on the inside flap.

What is lacking is more of Gordon Lightfoot. The early years could have used more of his take on the music and performing and collaborations and his take on his success, or why it was taking so long. Lightfoot’s music is his legacy; we are familiar with it and long to know more about it. Lightfoot could have used some focus; perhaps leading to ending the book in the lead up to 1976 and the success of that years surprise hit “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. Without that focus, Lightfoot seems needlessly stretched to include GL’s sporadic recording since after the 2002 hospitalization and the near death experience following a collapse before a hometown concert in Orillia.

If Jennings had been able to extract more from Lightfoot, there might a reason to write about Lightfoot’s music past 1980, without it the book struggles to keep its audience.

The true test of course to the success of Lightfoot is whether or not I spent a significant amount of time listening to Gordon Lightfoot’s music. I didn’t. There was nothing to spur me on to listen back and hear in the music what Lightfoot was thinking or feeling at any particular time during his best creative years.

Lightfoot’s fans will enjoy the book, but it is best to limit expectations. Lightfoot himself doesn’t have the voice that was promised; if he had, there would’ve been a depth I’ve found other books of the same genre.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net

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Book Review: Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

Are you sleepingAfter reading several non-fiction books, I was more than ready for a good work of fiction. My selection from Simon and Schuster, Are you sleeping by Kathleen Barber had arrived a couple weeks earlier and was sitting atop of my must-reads

Are you sleeping is the story of Jo Borden, who has successfully kept a secret from her circle of friends including her boyfriend. Successfully that is until an Internet blogger starts to investigate her past, more specifically the death of her father who was shot years before by the son of the neighbour. Claims are made that the young man convicted 12 years previously was incorrectly jailed for a crime he did not commit. It is an explosive accusation that attracts attention through social media and chat rooms until the mainstream media picks up on story.

While the mystery of the murder of Jo’s father is creating waves, Jo makes waves herself with the unravelling of her made up life story for the past 10 years. The unravelling includes a name change, a family that had not been talked about and the death of a mother, a death that is complicated by a lie of a death that took place a decade earlier.

Jo, really Josie Buhrman, is confronted with her reality, a reality that contradicts her new comfortable life in New York. Back into her life is a twin sister, Lanie, a former boyfriend and her now dead, for real, mother Erin Buhrman. Add the family history of neighbours, students and the intrusion of Poppy Parnell and podcasts that bring the murder of Chuck Buhrman and the drama surrounding the Buhrman family in that tragic time more than a decade ago is back in the local spotlight.

Are you sleeping, Barber’s debut suspense novel, published August 2017, has combined different mediums in the story to tell the tale of the Buhrman’s, the murder of Josie and Lanie’s father and the sudden death of their mother Erin Buhrman. Barber’s use of social media, and a transcripted podcast in the novel allows the reader to learn the background of the Buhrman family without the family drama getting in the way – until that drama is needed to bring a resolution about a mothers disappearance and a father’s death.

Are you sleeping grabbed me from the start, and held onto me until the near end when truths are discovered and by that point there was no turning back. In the end, Barber smartly allows Poppy Parnell to provide the epilogue to Are you sleeping.

Are you sleeping is a smartly written suspense with well-composed twists in the plot. For suspense lovers this is a must read! For others I offer a strong recommendation to pick up this novel from Kathleen Barber, not only for you but your book loving family and friends.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net

The new look of a newscast?

CBC unveiled its new look of its flagship newscast, The National this week. While it is being broadcast as the main change in how the Canada’s public TV network, but is one in a chain of changes that is meant to transform how Canadians view the news. It’s goal, ensure that we have our eyes glued to the CBC.

In the “New” National it is a “deliberate decision” to have fewer longer pieces of news as one of the new four hosts, Andrew Chang tweeted to me.

Personally I am a quantity person when it comes to news. Through a workday I can’t get to a newscast. I rely on social media to get the breaking stories of the day. The news I get, because of where I work is nearly all political, other news is not something I would catch. If something breaks I then tune to a news channel on TV to catch the story.

The CBC made some subtle changes (subtle in the grand scheme) to their news line up recently, but since the launch of the revamped National it has all come to me. The subtle changes were all part of the big plan. The CBC has worked to make it the place we will end up for financial news, political news, world news and breaking news – at the end of the day the source for the breakdown of the 5 or 6 major stories. They are counting on us getting our news in drabs through a day and then wanting to go deep behind the headlines.

On the second night of the new National, I watched at 9pm and then went to CTV National News at 10. The differences were expected and very noticeable and that is what the CBC was going for. Gone from the CBC are the traditional 10 stories in 22 minutes. No more top stories with 90 seconds to give you enough information to want to hear more. You’ll get the in-depth story from the very start of the broadcast.

As mentioned, this is one of several changes. First was the move of “On the Money” from 7pm to 4pm. I tweeted about the move, host Peter Armstrong replied that the show would be available in its entirety on the Facebook page, encouraging me to watch there, “whenever I was free to do so”. The second change replaced the Vancouver based early evening news, previously hosted by Ian Hanomansing, show from 8pm to 11pm with the standard host/presenter of CBC New Network. Carol MacNeil now hosts a 2 hour block from 7pm to 9pm.

Finally the new National is dropped into its place in the schedule. New for the National will be the flexibility of having live updates inserted into the taped broadcast. It will be like having breaking news and the previously recorded news all in one – seamless and not noticeable to those tuning in.

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What I get from this is that the CBC is expecting its viewers to get their ‘bits of news’ from new sources like Twitter, Facebook, Huffington Post and Buzzfeed (among others) while some old guard news watchers may have listened to the radio or had the TV on in the background for news.

It seems that the CBC wants to flip how the news is delivered. You might recall not too long ago when the internet was where you went to read/view the in-depth reporting and TV gave you the headlines and maybe a little bit more. Has the CBC been surveying how Canadians are receiving news and current events? Now they want you to go in deep on TV and only scratch the surface on the Internet. The CBC wants users of Facebook and Twitter as their news source to consider the National as a one hour fix for the deep coverage of top seven stories of the day.

I see the value of their theory, I understand the theory, I get the concept. I get it. Will other Canadians? Will Canadians have the energy for the attention at the end of long day needed for the one hour of the National whether it will be through the Cable/Satellite/Fibre TV provider or online? The CBC is counting on two things, one, that current viewers of the National will accept the challenge and two new viewers will flock to the challenge of fewer and longer reports.

Success will not be in only what the traditional TV ratings will reveal, but what traffic has gone to CBC’s online presence (website, Facebook etc.) Has the CBC driven people to watch where ever they might be?

The concept will grow on me. What will pull me away will be the longer world news stories. While I know what is happening in Syria and the Middle East is important to the world it is not enough to me to watch 7-9 minutes and wait for the next story.

The editors, directors and hosts will have to balance Canadian news watchers needs of Canadian, American, World and Financial news. Too much of one of the others and not enough Canadian could be what moves people to another channel for news in their country.

This first week will not reflect what the National will be like in 6 months, by the second or third week we’re told we’ll see the hosts out of the studio and in the field and gathering news. Then we’ll see how the new National will deliver on the “New” in the new National.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net

Is it too soon to talk Municipal Elections in Ottawa?

Ottawa VotesHere it is November, we are almost at the end of Ottawa’s run where all things #Canada150 overshadowed what was being talked at in City Hall. With the end of 2018 we’ll see the dismantling of the #Canada150 Flame at City Hall and business of the City come more into focus.

There are serious items that will linger through to the Municipal elections in Ottawa in 11 months.

Mayor Jim Watson has campaigned on 2% or less for property tax increases. The problem with 2% property tax increases is that everything else has increased almost triple the rate of property taxes. Water fees, sewage fees all increased and are budgeted for large increases through the next five years as the City looks for revenues it can’t raise with a 2% property tax rise.

Watson’s rationale is not that different from Provincial and Federal Liberals that are “lowering” income taxes, but increases other necessary costs, like Hydro negate any reduction in taxes because any gain in disposable incomes is lost on higher hydro rates and carbon taxes put on the cost of gas at the pumps.   But Jim Watson will campaign on low property taxes and avoid any talk of higher water, sewage and user fees.

What will dog Watson are his views on safe injection sites and funding illegal pop up site. The safe injection site in Sandy Hill was given the federal go ahead, but that did not stop an unauthorized pop up site from appearing in a Lowertown park. This prompted the Ottawa Health Officer to opening a ‘legal’ temporary site on Clarence Street.   The illegal pop up site continues to operate even though its original mandate was to have a permanent site available to prevent deaths by overdose.

The irony here is that ‘conservative’ Mayor John Tory in Toronto is looking more progressive that ‘liberal’ Mayor Jim Watson in Ottawa. There will be calls for the City and the Mayor to accept money from the Province the same money Kathleen Wynne gave Toronto for its pop up site to be able to operate in the cold.

I also expect to see Jim Watson try to ride the shiny sparkly new LRT to another 4 years at City Hall. He better hope that it goes as planned, that sinkholes don’t create any unseen drops in his popularity. He is no doubt still very popular, but with urban councillors like Catherine MacKenney (Somerset Ward) and Jeff Leiper (Kitchissippi Ward) pushing a more progressive agenda, those councillors and perhaps others that want to see the City spend more on social services will look past Jim Watson for support. Sadly we may not see just who will challenge Watson for a few more months.

There were changes to municipal election for 2018. In previous election cycles candidates could register to run in the early weeks of the year. New rules now put any registering for the election at May 1st, four full months before in previous elections. This rule puts incumbents in the fundraising driver seat, as there can be no fundraising for a campaign before the candidate in registered. With the delayed registration date, incumbents no longer have to stress about announcing early.

The change in registration date will have a serious impact on challengers hoping to put up a strong effort against an incumbent. Losing four months of fundraising will drive some away from the challenge. The biggest financial impact may be on those that want to run for the Mayor’s chair.

In play for what could be tight race for Mayor are Bay Ward Councillors Mark Taylor, Diane Deans and former Ottawa Centre MP, and son of former Mayor Marion Dewar, Pal Dewar. Mark Taylor campaigned in 2010 to being a two-term councillor will he keep that promise. He is currently one of two deputy Mayors. If his good friend Watson decides not to run, he’d expect to pick up all of the current Mayor’s support. If Watson seeks re-election, Taylor could be in a jam as he campaigned in 2010 to only be a councillor for two terms.

Diane Deans, a Councillor for the Southern ward of Gloucester Southgate is also conserved a sure thing to run for the Mayor’s chains. She has the needed experience, as she has been a sitting Councillor since 1994. She has had verbal jousts with the Mayor in the past, especially this current term. Deans may see 2018 as her last chance to run for the top job, it could be the run for the Mayor’s chair or retirement for her.

Mayor Jim Watson’s biggest challenge may come from outside council. If Justin Trudeau can fill the position his father did, why can’t Paul Dewar follow his mother? Marion Dewar was Ottawa Mayor from 1978 to 1985 and a councillor from 72 before becoming Mayor. Where Watson would in previous elections be seen as the ‘progressive’ candidate – he’d look like a Larry O’Brien Conservative, if he has to run against Paul Dewar. A successful NDP MP in Ottawa Centre, he would be a dream candidate for progressives seeking greater funding for housing, opioid life saving programs and reducing homelessness in Ottawa.

As the New Year comes we’ll have to wait longer than normal to see who will challenge, who will retire and who will seek another four years. While Mayor Watson has announced he will run again ( https://redheartbluesign.wordpress.com/2017/03/17/the-first-shot-has-been-fired/) all eyes will be on him as the May 1st registration deadline approaches to see if he really meant it or not.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net

Small Business, more than business – it’s social

first jobThere has been a lot of ink used about small business in Canada since the government introduced ideas about taxation. From these discussions it is generally agreed that Small Businesses are good for Ontario and Canada. They support community non-profits, create jobs – first jobs and spur growth in our local economies. There is more to it, there’s what small business does socially, yes, small business is a good social addition to our society.

By social, its not social media, but actually being social; social with customers, social with co-workers and social with supervisors. I recall my first job at 17, clearing a parking lot of grocery carts and looking after the parcel pick-up. It was also where I learned my first lesson of employment. I will have more about that first lesson later.

The social lessons of the small business employer have helped many youth with their first jobs. While as children we learn a lot from our parents, there are lessons that can only be learned from others. In our first jobs we experience different cultures, different languages and finally learning to have someone other than our parents as being figures of authority – someone else that we have to listen to and follow instructions from.

In our first jobs we have to listen to others, that can be challenging, but what saves us when have a new boss that is ‘challenging’ in their ways is our enthusiasm that we have for that first job and the regular pay cheque. We learn that what drives our employers is their need to succeed. Their business is their future and the future of their family. What we learn is not obedience but a respect for authority. While we learn respect in our first experiences of employment it also teaches us that we can also earn the respect of others when one day, we are in a position to supervise and employ others. While we might not know it then, we do learn good and bad leadership styles and hopefully keep the good lessons and learn outcomes from bad leadership.

The first job is not likely to be in an office cubicle, it’s also not likely to be behind a computer. It will probably be in retail, or a service industry – a Tim Horton’s or McDonalds. What is learned in these social settings will set us up for how we treat others for the rest of our lives. I learned in my first job to work with people of all different personalities, how to work for people with different personalities and how we serve so many people in our communities with different backgrounds. It can be very challenging, not everyone can ‘survive the bad boss, but these first jobs teach us the meaning of ‘being’ social to so many and smiling through it all.

In these jobs as service counter clerks, cashiers, grocery clerks is knowledge gained about business from so many that we worked for in those first jobs. When small businesses are lost, so to are opportunities to learn the social lessons by youth in those first jobs. When small business is called the backbone of the local business it should also be known as the great educator of our future business leaders, the leaders who will be better than we are because they will learn from our lessons and our weakness.

My first real lesson of employment came from the words of Roger Kingston, Store Manager of the old Woodchester Mall Dominion Store.  After working for a few weeks he asked if I liked my job, I said yes. He asked me “why does it look like you don’t? You know, you won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t want to work here, but if you do, when you come for your next shift have a smile and have fun when you’re working.”

Boy did have those words helped, I went on to work at that store for 7 seven years and worked in many different positions.  I never forgot to work with a smile. and always made sure I enjoyed working, whatever I was doing.  I’ve had lapses when I let emotion get the better of me and suffered for it, but I’ll never forget the second chance that Mr. Kingston gave me. Because of that I have paid forward second chances to those I thought deserved it.

Small business is not just business, it’s social and the social lessons learned in those first minimum wage jobs we all had. We kill those job opportunities and we also lose those invaluable lessons that build the character of next generation leaders.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net

What I learned from the Hip

Hip 1I am just an average Tragically Hip fan, I have never experienced the band live.  I am probably more of an admirer than what people would call a true fan, I bought the CD’s created the iPod playlist and chose to learn to play Ahead by a Century on my new guitarI can’t say that I remember how to play it today if I took the guitar out of its case. I consider the Hip to be the new Guess Who, who I grew up listening to with songs of Canadiana. You can’t forget about Running back to Saskatoon; Share the Land, Albert Flasher and of course American Woman. So back we go to about 15 years after the Guess Who and here come the Tragically Hip, 5 kids from Kingston who before we knew it started telling us more about Canada and taught us and reminded us about a nation we weren’t aware of.

The Hip opened up the stories of Canada through their songs. There is the cottage anthem of Bobcageon, the Maple Leaf anthem of Stanley Cup angst 50 Mission Cap and the vastness of the west that include the Paris of Prairies. Like the Guess Who and Gordon Lightfoot their music the Hip created a pride in Canada through their music.

As the word of the Hip spread so did their celebration of not only Canada, but also of whom they were – they were us – you and I. We were and are students of the Hip. The first lesson is that we are all equal. They were equals among themselves and because of that they survived. The Tragically Hip was able to stay together for 30 plus years because they didn’t break up.  The Hip battled through the difficult times.  Simple to say, but harder to do. Image five brothers that stay together for 30 years. In a typical family there is always an oldest brother, a youngest brother and a middle brother. Could the five brothers stay together with those dynamics in place?

Equality created the staying power of the Hip and only when it was clear that the limits of time were ending did Gord Downie seek to create equality for those that had it taken from them. Their music brought Canadians together, around a campfire, the small concert halls and during the #ManMachinePoem Farewell Tour where thousands gathered in public squares, parks, bars and living rooms to watch the Farewell show from Kingston.

From the Hip we learn again, learn to seek our purpose, large or small while there is
time and we work on our purpose until there is no more time. Their music will live on like other bands, dare I say it, as The Beatles, the universal presence of their music will grow and their appeal will continue to expand.   Because there isn’t going to be new music their musical legacy will outlast many others because of the popularity and the connections the Tragically Hip made with Canadians in every bar and on every concert stage they played on. We loved and embraced their music “Fully Completely”.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net

Book Review: Liberty’s Lieutenants

Libertys LieutenantsAh history, we all need to know it so we know where we’ve been as a society and it acts a roadmap of where we need or might be going.

I came to know of Liberty’s Lieutenants as the author works in the office beside me. I am always game to support local musicians, local artists and local authors that I know and happily bought a copy of Matthew Kelman’s book, a book that took the most of the past two years to write, edit and self-publish.

The book has a twofold purpose, first it’s a book about our liberties, our freedoms. . Our six freedoms are the freedom of conscience; freedom of speech; of association; to bear arms; freedom of movement and freedom to own property. Secondly Kelman has selected twelve historical figures (and one historical document) that have defended at least one of the six freedoms; all have military backgrounds and have been on the battlefield.

Kelman has divided that book into three eras; The Ancients; Renaissance and Revolution and thirdly Modernity. In each of these eras Kelman presents a portrait of battlefield warriors that typify how battles were fought. Common in each of their successes is the ability to adapt and change as the tools of warfare evolved and became more dangerous.

Liberty’s Lieutenants is a good start for those that are interested in history and curious about it as well. It is well written, but not written as a textbook. Some of the portraits Kelman provides are available in cinematic form already. Napoleon, William Wallace and the battles of Greeks and Romans are all ready to view, with artistic license given to the Director and Screenwriter. After reading the book, I challenged myself with deciding the top moments of Liberty’s Lieutenants. So I have my three favourite profiles.

The Romans and Greeks (from the Ancients) clearly influenced how wars were fought in the future. These warriors were outstanding strategists, but they were also busy politicians. The two professions went hand in hand, and did so for thousands of years. The practice of being a wealthy noble and military leader existed as recently as the 1800’s. Both the Romans and Greeks had military careers hampered by political actions taken against them while they were on the battlefield, only to be taken to court or lose office when they returned – even if victorious.

The 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta was celebrated in 2015. The Magna Carta is general considered the beginning of the division of powers between the Monarch and an ‘elected’ body of representatives. I don’t pretend to think those 35 words are sufficient to anyone who wants to understand the Magna Carta. Trying to do that is a daunting task. A travelling display made its way across Canada 2 years ago as an effort to educate us all about the beginnings of our parliamentary democracy. In Liberty’s Lieutenants, Kelman clearly explains where this all came about from 77AD to 1815 in 11 pages. Not to knock historians that have written essays and papers on the subject, but those eleven pages has been the best explanation I’ve read since 2015.

Of the thirteen chapters examined in Liberty’s Lieutenants, taking conversations being held across Canada and the US about historical figures today, the most interesting selection by Kelman is Robert E. Lee. My history lessons say Lee was a Confederate General; he fought and led Army of Northern Virginia in the war that was all about slavery in the in south. Right? Turns out it is only partially right. General Lee fought because he was against the North invading his home state of Virginia. Kelman writes that ‘Lee was morally and politically opposed to the institution of slavery’. Lee was invited to fight for the Union, declining because as I stated earlier ‘his reservations against raising a sword against his native State.’

Lee’s leading of the Army of Northern Virginia was not always successful, in fact had he been successful the US would look a lot different today. His leading of the Confederate Army was strictly a ‘nation’ issue and not related to slavery. He twice offered his resignation after battlefield losses, his offers to resign were always denied by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. This profile of Lee certainly changed my thinking of the man.

In each profile a generous description and background of events leading up to a conflict and the conflict itself are provided. Kelman also penned the maps of military movements providing a visual for his words. I would only suggest to him to include phonetic pronunciations for names, especially in the opening chapter with Greeks and Romans. I also felt a timeline would’ve been beneficial in locating his subjects with their contemporaries.

Liberty’s Lieutenants is a good read and a good precursor for additional historical reading. Liberty’s Lieutenants gives the reader of a few eras to consider for further study as their interest by be more in the time of “The Ancients” rather than the age of “Modernity” or visa versa. It could be that the age of “Renaissance and Revolution” is more a reader’s preference. In Liberty’s Lieutenants, Mathew Kelman gives a taste of each and lets you decide which road you’ll travel next.

Liberty’s Lieutenants is available on Amazon.ca.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net