The Buddha Board

I didn’t need a lot for Christmas this year, in fact it was a very low volume Christmas, as far as presents under the tree go, in our home due to pending renovations – we were packing things up, the last thing we needed was to pack more stuff away.  So, I only wanted one thing and I bought it for myself.  Of course, I received a few small items in a stocking, but I didn’t feel I needed much more than what I gifted myself, a Buddha Board. 

For those that don’t know, a buddha board is a ‘relaxing’ water drawing board. You draw using a wet brush in a board, you don’t have time for anything detailed because within minutes of painting, the artwork begins to evaporate.  The art you produce is temporary, but also relaxing.  If you didn’t like what you painted, it will be gone soon enough.  If you like what you drew, take a photo of it.  

I never know what I’ll paint, it all starts with a line, a paint brush stroke and I’ll paint a couple times a day.  I’ll get up, start with a stroke of the paint brush, and see where I end up in less than a minute, you can’t think about it you just do it.

The decision to have the buddha board at work was easy, I didn’t want to pack it away and it felt that work was where it was needed the most.  I set it up on table at work and anyone that comes in is invited to draw and let the creative in the flow.  There is no wrong or bad drawing, just drawing.

Now, I am not saying to go out a buy one without trying it – if you see one in a store try it – give the brush a swirl, a swipe, or a stroke.  Even in store the buddha board is oddly calming.  The simplicity of the buddha board is the genius of the buddha board.  If you see one, don’t pass up the chance to give the buddha board a go.  

The invitation to those that come into my office is open to paint a water masterpiece of their own and then see it disappear into air…calmly.

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 on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

TBD

Isn’t this how most of us feel? TBD, not TBC as is “To Be Confirmed”, but “To be Determined”.  Oh yes, I have my family, I have my work and I have what I like to do in down time, but what is next?  It is like being in a holding pattern circling the airport waiting to land. What will we face when we are wheels down?

For more than 10 years #RedHeartBlueSign has been posting almost weekly.  2021 saw an increase in readership with more views than the previous years and an increase in visitors to the blog. In that year I’ve written about taking the blog to a podcast and ideas have been thought out and episode outlines have been drawn up, yet I’ve not taken the time to 

In the spirit of the TBD, I’ve made the decision to concentrate on producing a podcast and reducing the content on my blog to once, maybe twice a month, down from the weekly posting I’ve been doing for almost 10 years.  In examining what I wanted to do with #RedHeartBlueSign I found that really needed to dedicate a good amount of time to the podcast – that was the only way I would and could do it.   For the next eight weeks I’ll focus on writing, recording, producing, and posting the podcast episodes.  Now is the time to see the idea of a podcast become a reality. 

Thank you to all the readers and followers on #RedHeartBlueSign for your loyalty and interest in what I put out in the world while I press pause to hit play on something that I’ve really wanted to do for a year – Rob’s Record Shop Podcast.

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 on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Wrapping up 2021 in Music Part 2

In Part 2 of my best in music I am taking a different road.  Part 2 is about other places that I found music, as an example in part one I mention that following Sonny McCartney led me to wanting to hear and listen to Maisie Peters.  These types of sources have led me to other musical finds. In part 2 I’ll share some of my best musical finds from what I’ll refer to ‘third party’ sources that include You Tube, Documentaries, and podcasts.  

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I look back to where 2021 led me musically in podcasts, I consider a few podcasts I listened to. First up is the Broken Record Podcast (BRP), and here I have heard some the best interviews of artists and performers.  In BRP record producer Rick Rubin and journalists Bruce Headlam and Justin Richmond and author Malcom Gladwell present musicians, songwriters and producers who open to their stories and music. 

Recently, this month, they posted a rare two-part interview with Neil Young following the release of his new album “Barn”.  There are others this year that really stand out; Fleetwood Mac alumni Lindsey Buckingham (September), Songwriter Diane Warren (October), Liz Phair (June), Barry Gibb (April), John Hiatt & Jerry Douglas (September) and Ringo Starr (September). In each of these interviews it has led me to purchase the vinyl or to add an album to my favourites list/playlist on Spotify.  This is only a partial list of some great interviews on this pod.

The albums that received multiple plays were the John Hiatt’s “Left over Feelings”, Buckingham’s self-titled record, they may have benefited lots of driving I was doing at the time.  To listening to these artists, talk about the inspiration of the music and the creation of it takes me to a place far away – and a place I like to visit often.  Broken Record Podcast is a “go to” for me for hearing the latest from established artists and newer and artists I haven’t heard. 

I am now starting to listen to the Record Store Day Podcast, hosted by Paul Myers.  I was recently introduced to this podcast through Mark Sutcliffe’s pod Digging Deep.  I’m currently into older episodes and Myers’s interview style is loose and friendly and shows his love of music and the process of making it.  

One other podcast that I was really following was Digging Deep with Robert Plant, a podcast that has Robert talking about his music, with Led Zeppelin, solo and with Allison Krauss.  The availability of new episodes seems to revolve around Plant’s work schedule, the fourth season wrapped up in August with 6 episodes in 2021.  Hopefully season five comes soon.

This fall I started viewing You Tube for music and specifically Rick Beato, a musician, songwriter, and music producer.  I’ve watched (or listened to while working) many episodes this fall from his breakdown of Adele’s first single from the Lp “30”, ‘Easy on Me’, to his two episodes on the Beatles doc “Get Back”.  The Everything Music You Tube Channel regularly has one million views for each episode and the that channel itself has 2.7 million subscribers (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJquYOG5EL82sKTfH9aMA9Q).

Beato also has recently started posted long form interviews, he had some wonderful chats with Pat Metheny, Peter Frampton, and Sting.  Most interesting though are his shows talking about the theory and how songs are ‘built’.  I am the most amateur of amateur guitar players and listening to Rick Beato inspires me to pick up my guitar ‘big red’ and play.

To complete this blog, I want to talk about Peter Jackson’s “Get Back” Documentary a much expanded take on the 1970 film “Let it Be”.  The myth the Beatles were at each other’s throats is busted in this almost 9-hour doc.  Yes, there are tense moments and there a period where George walks out (he came back a few days later), but the joy in watching “Get Back” is the evolution of the making of the music.  My mind was continuously ‘blown’ watching songs like ‘Get Back’ evolve from Paul playing chords on his bass and reading about immigration protests – I mean who knew that ‘Get Back’ started as protest song?  Not me.  

Variety.com

‘Let it Be’ was another evolution, watching the song be created while it was being created to Paul deciding that it will be a two-verse song and sing them twice to make it long enough for a single.

Episode one ends with George walking out and Episode two is about the return of George and the move of the Beatles to a quickly assembled studio, using equipment from Abbey Road studios in the new Apple building at 3 Saville Row.  As one of them said, or maybe it was George Martin who commented, we just relocated Abbey Road for you.  

In the second episode, following George’s return, the band spent a day in studio without cameras, and came out with most of the songs written arranged and ready to record.  The band was back as the Beatles, and we’ll never know how that 24-hour period helped and healed what we had been witnessing in the previous 2+ hour episode.  To me that what happened in those unfilmed hours is the greatest of mysteries that only Paul or Ringo can talk about.  We also hear many unreleased songs, some in jest but some that never made the leap to tape.  There are a few bars that make it to solo albums, and they are easily recognizable and give you an ‘a-ha’ moment. 

Heading to the third installment it’s about the completion of record and the planning of live show.  It started as a show somewhere in the world, to a park in London and as we all know now, a rooftop gig.  More about the rooftop show in a moment.  

Episode 3 shows Ringo writing ‘Octopus’ Garden’ and in a telling moment, George openly discusses a solo album (it ends up being “All Things Must Pass”) as he describes, has many albums worth of material and wants to see how it stands outside of being a Beatle.  He has this conversation in studio with John and Ringo but not Paul as Paul is in the control room listening to a playback of a song.  It’s not known if Paul has this conversation with George, but Harrison gives the band an option to stay together as “the Beatles thing” and have solo projects.  John seems to agree it’s an option.

Of course, the 3rd installment is all about the show.  5 songs, 9 performances with the rooftop performances of songs making it onto “Let it Be”.   I write this I have the five songs performed playing, even listening to these rooftop recordings is exhilarating.  I watched as four friends played together live, neither of them might have known it would never happen again.  I watched the performance as edited by Peter Jackson, with the police and crowd clips included and shown side by side on screen.  I was back in time and didn’t want to come back to 2021 – but I know I can go back at any time.

It was pure joy.

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 on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Wrapping up 2021 in Music Part 1

This is the post I most look forward to writing every year.  In this part one of the best of music in 2021 I go back through the past 12 months and look at the music that really got me this year.  I am going to break this into songs and albums, because they don’t always go hand in hand.

Photo by Anton H on Pexels.com

My list for best songs features a remix of old and new, a comeback, a fabulous new find and two newer favourites. I write about the songs ‘Becoming Human’ and ‘Levitating’ in the next section while the three others of note are the Pnau remix of Rocket Man and Sacrifice titled ‘Cold Heart’.  This remix took Elton John back to Number one in the UK and USA.  John Mayer came back with a fabulous track ‘Last Train Home’ that he also gave a slow acoustic treatment to later this year that was better that the original mix.  The last of the five was a catchy ‘Psycho’ from the UK’s 21-year-old Maisie Peters, a talented singer songwriter that combines Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigues as one. 

61 Songs for 61 Years, the hardest decision I had to make was which song would be my 2021 song.  In 2020 I created 60 songs for 60 years, you can read about it here, (insert link).  2021 comes down to two songs, from the five I listed as my best songs of the year.  The two are Dua Lipa’s ‘Levitating’ and ‘Becoming Human’ by Carolyn Arends.  Both songs got extensive repeat play listens.  ‘Becoming Human’ came out in the start of the year, while ‘Levitating’ was released in 2020 on the Lp “Future Nostalgia”, but as a single it was released in January and was one of the summer of 2021 hits.  It spent 41 weeks in Billboard’s Top Ten!  

In the end I’ve put ‘Becoming Human’ as the 61st song on the list.  The song came out as so many people were suffering through the first Christmas and New Years of the pandemic.  The message behind the song was inspirational.  Musically it was the first new music from Arends in 12 years. Musically it’s light, airy and has a bounce to it, while lyrically it challenges us to become human – to be ourselves in a world that forces us to bend to how others may want us to be.  Take a listen: https://youtu.be/9VE0TTVAR_A.

Wikipedia

Looking back at the albums that really got to me, it made me realize that moving to a streaming service for music has altered what and I listened to.  Moving to @Spotify made it more difficult to listen to an album, especially new music.  On the other hand, I had so much more access to new albums before making the shift. 

Some the new albums that I favourited on Spotify included the new self-titled album from Lindsey Buckingham, it was a crazy eccentric album that had pop licks throughout it.  I thought Taylor Swift’s “evermore” was a much more significant album the previous album “Folklore”. As the year ended Adele and Ed Sheeran released new albums I’ve been listening to and as the urge to listen to Christmas eases, I will delve back into these records. What indicates real like of an album is the investment in the vinyl.  To this there are three albums that struck gold for me and vinyl for me.

John Mayer’s Sob Rock was a turn back to the 80’s in a way only Mayer could do it.  It included previously released singles ‘New Light’, ‘Carry Me Away’ and ‘I Guess I Just Feel Like’.  The first single ‘Last Train Home’ led the way for a solid record, perhaps we had been waiting 4 years for something new really fed our appetites.  It’s an album I can go back to again and again.

What the pandemic taught me is don’t be surprised by anything when it comes to new music.  There were many ‘lockdown’ albums released in 2021.  Liz Phair had a terrific Lp as did Fiona Apple, Taylor Swift released two of them.  Eric Clapton has a ‘lockdown’ record and in October Elton John dropped “The Lockdown Sessions” 16 tracks recorded after his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour had been put on hold.  Every track is a surprise and different from the previous track.  Working with others has, as Elton puts it in the liner notes of the record, opened him up to take chances and really collaborate.  

Standout tracks include the ‘Cold Heart’ remix, ‘eTicket’ with Eddie Vedder, ‘Stolen Car’ with Stevie Nicks and ‘I’m Not Going to Miss You’ with an earlier recording from the late Glen Campbell.  That these songs close the record tells me this is an ace of a record from start to finish.  The Lp packaging and Elton’s liner notes are an added plus.

I find inspiration for new music from many places.  In the case of Maisie Peters, it was from a post on Instagram from photographer @sonnymccartney (nephew of Paul) who posted a pic of Peters and ranted about an upcoming new album.  That album is “You Signed Up For This”, known in Social Media as YSUFT is new English pop, and takes me back to the 80’s when I started to listening to Rachel Sweet, another young UK singer (at the time).  Peters’ channels American Olivia Rodrigues with the lead off track, ‘You Signed Up For This’ by stating at 20 she still doesn’t have her driver’s license.  

YSUFT’s breakout was ‘Psycho’, co-written with Ed Sheeran (who signed her to his Gingerbread Man Records label) other singles include ‘John Hughes Movies and the newest double a sided single ‘You Signed Up For This’ and Brooklyn.  

Peters has mastered social media and you can’t escape her fans posting videos of singing the middle 8 of the song ‘I’m Trying (not Friends)’.   I didn’t hear a weak song, faves are ‘Brooklyn’ and the previously mentioned ‘John Hughes Movie’ and ‘Psycho’. 

There is a lot of promise for a bright career, and she’s been noticed on this side of the ocean with a spring tour in the North America (there are shows in Toronto and Vancouver) sold out.  

In part two I will look at how music as it appears in podcasts has inspired and entertained me, including Peter Jackson’s “The Beatles: Get Back”.

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 on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Wrapping up 2021 in Television

I haven’t written a lot about television in the 10+ years of Red Heart Blue Sign.  It seems that because of COVID we’ve all reached for comfort and familiarity in watching TV, whether it is on a laptop, tablet, our phones and are ever larger TV screens.

Photo by Nothing Ahead on Pexels.com

The expanding world of streaming services have allowed us to catch up on older shows we haven’t seen before and love the plethora of new shows that have been created.  What’s here today is some of the TV I’ve been watching, some of what I’ve loved and what I struggle to love.

CSI: Vegas, this year a 10-episode reboot aired on legacy TV.  A longtime fan of CSI, the original Vegas series it was good see some of the old gang back, Gil Grissom, Sara Sidle who are back in Vegas to help former boss Jim Brass and David Hodges.  It was all very familiar, the scenery of Vegas, the storytelling and of course the music!  When it first aired, the story arc was to give Grissom and Sidle closure on the original series.  Now after a successful season this fall, CSI: Vegas will return in 2022 with the new cast of regulars introduced this fall.  CSI: Vegas was a welcome return to the city that always has a story to tell.

Mare of Eastwood is gem of a short-term series that features Kate Winslet in one of her least glamourous roles but highly regarded roles.  Winslet is Mare Sheehan, police detective in Philadelphia investigating the disappearance of one girl and the murder of another.  Mare of Eastman is loaded with a great cast and each of the seven episodes is a great viewing.  Jean Smart also stars in a role supporting role that she elevates. 

Hacks, an unexpected comedy that is I enjoyed and binged through in a matter of days.  Starring Jean Smart and Hanna Einbinder, Hacks brings two generations of comedians together to save not one, but two careers in Vegas.  A winner of three Emmys, the writing is sharp and acting makes the script even brighter.  Hacks might be the best in comedy TV for the next few years.

Starting January 1st this year 138 days is what it took to watch the 10 years of Friends and finish with the Friends: The Reunion.   It was quite the romp through time, Friends still has those moments that you just can’t help but laugh out loud, and I don’t mean LOL.

Back when summer meant re-runs and not new limited series as we’re used to know, NBC started “it’s new to you”, a campaign targeted to bring viewers to shows they missed through the year because they were watching something else.  Under the “it’s new to you” category is Manifest, a series that had a three-year run-on NBC ending in the spring of this year.  Because of Netflix, Manifest is still available for us to watch, or re-watch, the saga of the passengers of flight 828 – a flight that landed five years, everyone intact, after it was originally scheduled to.  We’re into the 3rd season and now anticipating how, or even if the mystery gets wrapped up.  Family members that have watched complete series haven’t and won’t tell us how it ends.

The unpopular opinion is that Succession is overhyped and doesn’t deserve the success and critical reviews it receives.  At the risk of being on the receiving end of darts, I am agreeing with that unpopular opinion.  I managed through the first two seasons and was hopeful for the third based on the season two cliffhanger.  Am I wrong to feel this way when almost every TV Critic says it is something I should watch?  I may fight my way through the season (though there is no guarantee), but I’ll cringe through the dialogue and wince by the innuendos that I doubt anyone really says or does.  

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 on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Dominos

It all started Friday morning and by that evening the dominos started to fall in place. That first domino was the expected (in my mind) announcement from Mayor Jim Watson of stepping away from the mayor’s office and choosing not to run in next fall’s Ottawa elections.  Now another from the class of 2010 (https://redheartbluesign.wordpress.com/2021/11/20/ottawa-city-council-class-of-2010/)  is stepping aside leading the next council to be one of the greatest transitions around the council table.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

This announcement, within hours of it being public, has started the run for the mayor’s chain.  Councilors Diane Deans (Gloucester-Southgate) and Catherine McKenney (Somerset Ward) have announced that they will run to replace Watson.  Two more open wards lead me to suspect that this election will truly lead to a major transition at City Hall.  Councilors Moffatt and Harder previously announced their retirement from council; with two more council seats and the mayors chair now open, Ottawa is only a few strong challenges and a couple more similar announcements from sitting councilors from the largest shift in Ottawa’s municipal political scene.

Deans and McKenney were followed a few hours later with a tweet from former mayor Bob Chiarelli stating, ‘I am in as candidate for mayor’.  Ottawa area MPP Lisa MacLeod and former Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna have taken their names off the list as candidates.  There will be a few others considering options including Rideau-Vanier Councilor Fleury who has stated he is thinking about it. 

Nominations open on May 2nd, between now and then a lot can happen.  Those looking to fill the councilor seats vacated by Deans, McKenney, and maybe Fleury best wait until they have officially filed their nomination papers for mayor.  

The big question will be if Jim Watson will stay out of it and NOT endorse any one candidate?  Watson hold considerable sway (both for and against him) so any endorsement could help or hinder a potential candidate.  No member of ‘Club Watson’ has jumped into the pool, though let’s be honest so far, the declared candidates have all been vocal against some big policies that the mayor has put forward.  If a member of the club decides to run, Watson’s support could be behind the scenes pushing his supporters to his preferred heir for votes and financial contributions.

I’m looking forward to this story developing over the next few months, especially to see how Deans and McKenney use City Council to push their ideas for their run for mayor.  All three (Deans, McKenney and Chiarelli) have said Transit (and LRT), housing and climate change will be their lead issues in their campaigns.  It will be interesting to see how they line up on these issues and the cost of their platforms to support their plans for the City of Ottawa.

The dominos have started falling, and it started at least a month earlier that I expected.  I thank a few more will fall, faster now with these four announcements.

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 on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Wrapping up 2021 in books

My last look at the books I’ve been reading came in the start of July, in today’s post I give a look back at the best and most interesting page turners for 2021.

In that July post (you can read it here: https://redheartbluesign.wordpress.com/2021/07/04/more-page-turners-my-2021-q2-books/) I recommended Wade Davis’s Magdalena, The Fight for History by Tim Cook and Celine Caesar Chavannes’ post Parliament biography Can you hear me know? 

Last April’s page turners post I recommended books by Sir Winston Churchill, The Great Republic and Anne Applebaum’s The Twilight of Democracy. You can view this post here: https://redheartbluesign.wordpress.com/2021/04/01/pages-turners-for-the-2021-so-far/.

I’m currently finishing up the last 80 or so pages of Margaret Atwood’s 2nd in her Maddadam Trilogy; The Year of the Flood.  It’s my 22nd book of the year, meeting a challenge of reading 20 books in ’21.  The previous year I completed 22 and had started my 23rd book, a number I should meet in this year.

Starting with fiction, American Dirt by Jeanine Cummings, The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett and the latest in Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan series The Bone Code were all good entertaining reads.  For 2022 I’d like to read more fiction and that includes The Windsor Knot follow up, The Queens Men, the latest two from Louise Penney and that includes State of Terror written with Hilary Clinton.  The escape to a near reality these give are a welcome relief.  I also fully expect to complete the Atwood Maddadam trilogy.  I’ve also put Chris Hatfield’s space murder mystery on a “to read list”. 

Most of 2021 was a non-fiction read.  Since July I’ve read a couple based on Munk Dialogue presentations; The Madness of the Crowds by Douglas Murray and We Need New Stories by Nesrine Malik.  Both authors look at societal changes from opposite political views but within a Ven diagram both stand for understanding, listening while being able to speak our views peacefully.  They both challenge you but are worthwhile if you can fight the urge to put it down because of their personal views.

Peter Mansbridge published Off the Record, an accounting of stories and events in his life from his arrival in Canada from the UK, to the overseas postings his father held and his career in journalism.  Mansbridge has had a great career in media and his work in the CBC has given many opportunities and he gladly share these with his readers.  Overall, this was a good book. Where I felt challenged was with the length of entries.  As a reader I like the longer reads, I can treat them like a run, with a warmup, keep a good pace and race to the finish.  Many of the stories were done before my warmup was completed.  I gave this advice to Bob Wiseman with I reviewed Music Lessons, breaking the stories into themes, and creating chapters would have created a more cohesive read of Off the Record, although hearing Mansbridge in your head while reading is a thing of joy.

The second half of the year saw me pick up two political books, Lucky by Jonathan Allen and Ami Parnes, the same pair that brought us Hilary Clinton’s 2016 election postmortem.  It describes an unlike path to victory, one that cannot be replicated in 2022 for a Biden second term.  

I had An Inconvenient Indian on myself for a while and made it a point to read it in 2021, especially after the discovery of buried bodies property of Residential Schools in May. Thomas King, the author gives a chronological accounting of North American Indigenous Peoples, it is very interesting that treatment of Indigenous people hasn’t really changed in the many generations since The British, French, and Spanish came to North America.   I think back to that book often and now feel that it needs to be reread.  I’ve since lent it out to others and when it finds its way back, I’ll give it a rare, for me, second read.

Lastly, Jody Wilson Raybould’s Indian in the Cabinet is a great read, yes, you get right ot the point of her relationship to the Prime Minister in the opening pages, but more importantly gives Canadian’s an insider view of government and cabinet that isn’t lightly glossed over.  JWR gives as much information as she can on the issues that were huge to her political career.  She makes important disclosures to cabinet confidence.  It really is a tell all book, telling about as much as she can without leaving us wondering too much.  Like Caesar Chavennes, JWR’s run into and then out of politics was fraught with pain and turmoil brought on by actions of others.   I don’t recommend this book to read about the failings of the PM, but rather on the strength and abilities of JWR.  We can all be a better nation if JWR decides to seek political office again.

Looking ahead to what’s to read in 2022, my book pile includes Louise Penny, Margaret Atwood, books on race, war, John Lennon, the Vanderbilts, tips for the 21st Century and Dave Grohl’s “The Storyteller” which might be the one I open next.

I hope you had a good year of reading and have as much to anticipate for ’22 as I do.

What were your favourites of 2021? Leave a comment or email me your best reads of the year.

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 on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

The bells, like Parliament are going (virtually) silent

This week I was reading about two things that will take place on Parliament Hill.

1917-1918 Parliament Rebuilding -Library and Archives Canada

The first was that the Carillion on the Peace Tower will go silent as soon as January as part of the 10-year rehabilitation of Centre Block.  There has been extensive work done in the year plus that all Parliamentary business move to the West Block. In the new year the work of stripping the tower of windows, carvings etc. starts. It will all be cleaned and prepped for reinstallation by 2030.

The second item of note this week was the return of MP’s eight weeks after the September 20th election; the Speech from the Throne and the introduction of the first business of the government.  Government Motion No. 1 was brought forward to bring back a hybrid Parliament.  There are a lot of opinions on this motion.  Looking at party lines, the Liberals will be supported by the NDP as the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois will fight to stop this motion.  Numbers don’t lie and by the end of Thursday last week (November 25th) the motion passed 180 to 140.  As soon as Monday November 28th, MP’s may have the option to work from home and be a parliamentarian by video.

Most will think of Question Period when they think of a MP and the work done in the House of Commons. They may think that virtual Question Period is not such a bad thing – however the move to a hybrid parliament affects so much of the business of the house.

My point towards this post is by having a hybrid parliament, there is so much more than just QP where the interaction of MPs is important to the business of the Parliament of Canada.  While media portrays different parties at odds with each other, this image couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

In the house chamber, off camera, there is the meeting of MPs with Ministers in the aisle in the House of Commons.  MPs share concerns of residents, present specific cases that need attention by the Minister and sharing of information.  During the previous hybrid parliament, MPs called or emailed Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries for the same reasons, and while there was some success the hybrid parliament missed the immediacy of the ‘meeting’ in the middle.

During the height of COVID, MPs from all parties were extremely busy, and because they were not in the House of Commons the ability to reach across the aisle was impossible and it was made more so by the government never having more than 10 members in the House and they were rarely Ministers and the Prime Minister.

There is something to be said for MPs being able to meet in person and talk. Whether it is a Commons Committee, an Inter-Parliamentary Group or Caucus Advisory Committees (which are caucus’ on specific issues such as poverty and homelessness) the in-person meetings generate lively and sometimes energetic discussions.  The display of emotion and compassion in these meetings is part of the Parliamentary experience of MPs working for their constituents.

Presently these meetings taking place are held in person or virtually, but not in a hybrid format. 

Members of all parties gather at receptions, events and cultural openings, the move to a hybrid setting reduces the number of MPs that will be in Ottawa at any given time.  I should say that in almost all instances all Members get along with each other.  These events outside of the halls of Parliament are an opportunity to talk about the issues and seek resolutions.  

Any move to limit and reduce Members of Parliament time to gather among other MPs hinders the ‘soft’ and ‘personal’ parliamentary work that gets done.  I know for a fact the bells of the Peace Tower will ring again; will full parliamentary activity ever return?  Will the government looked at these measures they’ve had passed and decide that they like the reduced contact?  For now, the hybrid parliament will end when the House rises for the summer in June next year. 

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 on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Ottawa City Council Class of 2010

This week Rideau-Goulbourn (to be renamed Rideau-Jock) Ward Councillor Scott Moffat announced he would not be running for re-election in next years Ottawa Municipal elections.  Moffatt’s announcement will start speculation on the future of the remainder of the class of 2010, ‘rookie’ Councillors, and Mayor in the 2022 election.

Courtesy of CBC

The election of that year saw a change at the top with Mayor Larry O’Brien toppled by Jim Watson who would start he second run as Mayor that fall.  Other members of the class of 2010, those elected for the first time included Mark Taylor (Bay Ward), Keith Egli (Knoxdale-Merivale), Tim Tierney (Beacon Hill-Cyrville), Mathieu Fleury (Rideau-Vanier), Peter D. Clark (Rideau-Rockcliffe), Katherine Hobbs (Kitchissippi), David Chernushenko (Capital Ward), Stephen Blais (Cumberland) and Allan Hubley (Kanata South).  

The Class of 2010 saw 9 new councillors and a (old) new Mayor elected; it was almost a clean wiping of the slate around the council table.  Of the 10 elected, six remain; along with Moffat there is Watson, Hubley, Fleury, Tierney and Egli.  

Mark Taylor bowed out in 2018, keeping a two term promise he made.  Stephen Blais left mid-term in 2020 when ran to fill the Provincial seat of Orleans, Clark did not seek re-election in 2014. Hobbs was defeated in 2014 and in Capital Ward David Chernushenko served until 2018 when he was defeated by current seat holder Shawn Menard.

With Moffat now out of the running for 2022, the remaining members of class of 2010 may also consider what they’ll do in ’22.  Let’s do some speculating.  

Tim Tierney has been very popular winning each election with a clear majority.  Beacon Hill-Cyrville is his for the keeping if he wants it.  His name will be on the ballot again, but does he want to be the big fish in the small pond and run for Mayor – only Tim knows the answer to that.  

Keith Egli is an enigma to me; he keeps quiet but plods along and does what he should without making waves.  The voters must like that as he has increased his vote in subsequent elections.  After 12 years, is there something else Keith Egli would rather be doing?

I wrote about Jim Watson two weeks ago, (https://redheartbluesign.wordpress.com/2021/11/07/ottawa-election-22-look-whos-back-lrt/) will he want to risk a loss?  Will the upcoming Provincial inquiry into the LRT help or hurt his re-election chances.  These are question he’ll have to debate with himself.

The final two members of the class are the most interesting races that may or may not take place.  

Allan Hubley in Kanata South, the chair of the Transit Committee, and as a Councillor for the west end, transit is key.  He delivered on Phase two going west, but can he avoid the troubles of Phase one if he seeks re-election?  Kanata has seen massive growth with Hubley as the councillor, and in 2022 he will be 64 years old; will he want to do this one more time, and does he think he’ll ward off a younger challenger?  I think not, I expect Hubley to follow in the steps of Moffatt and step aside.

In 2010, Mathieu Fleury fought and defeated Georges Bedard by 88 votes. His tale of victory is a story of determination; a former lifeguard Fleury knocked on doors and out worked Bedard to become, in 2010, the youngest ever elected Councillor.  Now 36, Fleury, with 12 years under his belt may want to wear the chain of mayor around his neck. He’ll need to decide if he’ll out wait Watson to make that decision.  He is young enough that he can step down and not run 2022.  He can spend the next four years with his young family while investing energy and networking to run for the top job in 2026 if he doesn’t think he can win it now. If Watson is off the ballot for Mayor, Fleury likely will be.

There are still 18 other councillors that will have to state their intentions for 2022, if any of them have made up their mind and they are going to leave council they’ll announce sooner rather than later.

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 on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

My last Remembrance Day*

I do not write much about the work I do on Parliament Hill, today is different.  After working with veterans for 4 of the last five years this is the last Remembrance Day working with the shadow minister for Veterans Affairs.  This has given me the honour to cross Canada and talk with Veterans in 8 provinces.  

Walking up Elgin Street I joined the queue of hundreds, probably more, drawn to the National War Memorial for the National Remembrance Day service.   While I thought of those that died in battle, my thoughts were with the many veterans I have had direct contact with while working on the Veterans Affairs file. 

The struggle for a return to civilian life for veterans who have injuries that they cannot escape, seen and unseen, begins with the transition from active service to a veteran.  There are veterans who struggle during most of their lives as a veteran.  The systemic challenges are sometimes too big for one person to manage.  The issues faced are far too big and the details they need to embrace bog them down.  Transition is not easy, easier for most than others, but our veterans suffer from PTSD and other chronic mental/brain injuries.  These injuries cannot be defined by paperwork and regulations and their benefits should not be held back because of it

I have worked with many Veterans, worked with the Legion, Veterans Affairs Canada, The Minister’s Office, the Veterans Ombudsman’s Office, and National Defense to resolve the simplest and most complicated of case files.  From the top down everyone in these organizations want vets to have the help and benefits they need.  I’ve never had a bad experience from anyone in these organizations, but fixes are needed. 

Veterans Affairs Canada needs to react faster to the new complicated medical needs of veterans. Transition is not easy; the government has not responded as fast as the needs change.  There have been over 20 reports written by government, parliamentarians, and ombudsman offices on reforming the transition our of active service in the Canadian Armed Forces.  The Canadian government needs to act on its own to address PTSD Service Dogs standards, the mental health, and the effects of medications, like mefloquine on veterans and their families.  The days of waiting for other countries to do the studies are over.  

More than 40,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces fought in Afghanistan, they are young and soon they will be the largest cohort of Veterans for a generation that will need the assistance of Veterans Affairs Canada.  Just as war was modernized in the Afghan War, we need to modernize the transition, care, and treatment for these veterans.   Modernization means humanizing the system and becoming the service provider that is needed.  VAC needs to look at the hard case files better and learn to accept the grey not just the black and white as the reality of our veterans.  More work is needed to adjudicate benefit claim within the 16-week threshold and more attention is need to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB), who sits on the board and how often it sits.  This is just a start.

Veterans Affairs Canada and their workers do much right, it needs to do better on the hard cases. 

*No, his is NOT my last Remembrance Day, it is the beginning of using Remembrance Day to remember those that came home.  For many of them their struggles have only just begun.

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 on Twitter @robertdekker & @RedHrtBlueSign and on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/rob.dekker.54.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net