Category Archives: Book Review

My best laid plans for a vacation…

I am going in a different direction with this week’s post, mainly because I went in a different direction personally this week – I took a few days off work.  I had a few thing things that I had aimed to accomplish in my few days away from the ‘home office’, but even the ‘best laid plans’…you know how the saying goes.

For this short staycation, we planned to spend a day or two with the grandkids, J & J, as Mom was working, and Dad was away on a fishing trip in Northern Ontario. I wanted to get the podcast in good shape for a September launch and I has books I wanted to read.  It all seemed very doable.  All this would take place after one day of working to clear up some issues, this because the idea of taking some time off was late coming to me.  This would be the first vacation since our time in BC for a wedding which appeared in the post Y2KXX in April (and which I have chronicled for the book Not Cancelled: Canadian kindness in the face of COVID-19 from Wintertickle Press).

Our two day stay lasted four. We cooked, cleaned, continued the build of a LEGO research boat at a pace and attention span that a 7-year-old can give you.  We play ‘Lava’, this involves putting cushions on the floor and on the count from three you have to get off the floor (of lava) and get on a cushion before the lava gets you.  This game can go one for quite a while. Days were filled with games, an excursion to a water pad and many walks where we were chasing scooters and bikes.  We even squeezed in a shopping trip to Costco.  We just couldn’t leave but had to as I have a hair appointment late Friday afternoon.

The last 20 weeks has had me do so much, I’ve taken up a few things outside of working hours.  Here is a break down.

Since the end of March, I’ve read 6 book, 20 weeks for 6 books.  The bulk of that time, about 7 weeks was dedicated to reading Margaret Mitchell’s two volumes on WW1 and the Treaty that followed the war.  I read the books in the reverse order they were written, starting with “The war the ended peace” and then on to “1919’.  My reasoning was that “Peace” really outlined the issues that brought war on that would play a role in the treaty negotiations. This order of reading the books gave more ink to the Leaders of the UK, France, Germany and other nations.  It was insightful to read about these leaders and how things would play out in 1919.

I’ve started reading the Stephanie Patrick series of books written by Mark Burnell; I’ve read ‘The Rhythm Section’ and ‘Chameleon’ with “Genesis’ and ‘The Third Woman’ waiting to be opened. Liz has also been reading a lot, we don’t normally share books, but she insisted that I read ‘Where the Crawdad Sings’ by Delia Owen. I loved it!  Maybe I loved it too much as there were a few passages that just might have had a few teardrops dampen the pages.  I have also started reading the ‘Bones’ books written by Kathy Reich – this started due to the fact that Liz and I have been watching episodes of the TV show recorded from the CTV Drama channel. The shows are aired chronologically.  While we started late, we watched the end of the 12-year series and then immediately moved to episode one season one.  As of today, we’ve watched the first 5 seasons and the last 2.  We’re working through the series, but that’s how I turned to reading the books that the TV show has been based on. I’ve finished the first book “Deja Dead” and have another ready to go.  I’ve selected Adam Shoalts’ “A History of Canada in Ten Maps” is next on my reading list.

Hopefully you’ve read my post on my upcoming podcast, the good news is the test episode is complete I’m comfortable with the editing and now I’m writing new episodes.  I’ve been calling the podcast ‘Red Heart Blue Sign – The Podcast’, well now I have finally come up with the moniker for it, it is based on my years in Stratford.  I would spend hours talking with a friend about music and more in his record shop ‘Laughing Gnome Records’.  I am looking forward to sharing with you this new and exciting project. 

Musically, I’ve complied a new playlist called “60 years on” (a nod to Elton John) as a celebration of my 60thbirthday in September.  I have selected 59 songs representing the years 1960 to 2019.  There will be a 2020 song, I haven’t discovered or ‘felt’ which song from this year that should make the list.  I’ll be writing about this in the next few posts.

My song for 2019, “I Got You” by Olivia Lunney

Finally, this is post is number 297 of #RedHeartBlueSign, I’ll be posting the milestone 300th post written since I started the blog in October 2011 in a few weeks.  I don’t know what that will look like as a finished product, but I have a few ideas swirling around, I am just waiting for them to land.

Thank you for taking time to read #RedHeartBlueSign, stay safe, wash your hands and protect your social circles. If you feel you have symptoms of COVID-19 get tested.

Rob

I just finished the best book I’ll read in 2020

Yep, I read what will be my best read in 2020.  So I can pack away my library card and put away all the books I am planning on reading this year just because none of them will be any better.  I should also add in the few weeks of this year I have also read what will most likely be my worst read of the year.

How did I get so lucky, by reading these two books read in January?  It was pure luck.  One was a case of good luck and the other…bad.

Let me say a few words about my worst read; “Too Dumb for Democracy” by David Moscrop.  I first heard of this book last year at the Ottawa Writers Festival; I saw him live give a presentation about state of our democracy.  He appeared with Michael Adams, author of “Could it happen here: Canada in the age of Trump and Brexit”. Adams and Moscrop were debating the state and status of democracy in Canada.  The evening suggested that our democracy was dead because Donald Trump had been elected.

If you believed Moscrop that evening and then read his book, you would have to assume that we’re screwed, and democracy is dead.  I think it’s far from dead, in fact democracy worked its best when Trump was elected. It worked best then because voters took their democracy for granted and didn’t vote.  We have that right;  the right to vote or not to vote.  But Moscrop writes in his book that we don’t know how to vote because of Donald Trump, Doug Ford and Boris Johnson.  Yes, he mentions these three on the back cover.  He wrote, that because of irrational decisions voters made, we are in a mess.

Moscrop relies on lots of philosophy to try to make his point.  He rambles and his writing makes pea soup seems like a clear broth.  Moscrop doesn’t like the political right, he didn’t like three election results and was given the opportunity to waste paper and ink on his inner thoughts. There are better books from left of centre writers that do a better job of explaining how Trump won.  I can tell you in one sentence how he won.  Democrats disliked Trump, but they were willing to endure 4 years of the Donald rather than elect Hillary Clinton and then wait for 2020 for a do-over.

Now that I have that over with…let’s move on.

My best read on 2020 comes from Canadian explorer Adam Shoalts.  “Beyond the Trees” is his account of his solo trek across Canada’s north, much of it above the Arctic Circle.  He writes about hiking on the Dempster Highway, canoeing across ice covered lakes, portaging across arctic canyons and shooting the wildest rapids Canada has.  He does this in the most pristine, untouched by man environment Canada has.  His trek is his tribute to Canada at 150 and Canada’s north.  He crosses a land that is millions of years old, land that has endured two ice ages, glaciers and now has some of the most beautiful and unforgiving landscapes in the world.

Though Shoalts does this 4000km adventure alone, he is never alone.  He writes as if the waterways, trails and rapids are his travelling companion.  Some days his companion is kind, others they’re nasty and some days down right mean.  He writes of the wolves, bears and muskox that inhabit the north, who were there first and how they make their appearance throughout his journey as a reminder that he is the stranger in this unforgiving land, they have learned to survive there for generations.  It is he that must survive his one summer, the summer of 2017.

This book tells a tale of tragedy, the loss of men over 100 years ago making the same journey he is.  It’s not lost on Shoalts that his journey could end at any time, much like the journey of 8 people who fled the north leaving all of their gear as a sign that nothing is ever certain in that terrain.

Shoalts comes across corpses, shacks and ruins of explorers from the past.  While he shakes their ghosts, he knows he is one slip on a wet rock in one of 100’s of kilometers of portaging his must do to meet his final destination.   The portages, and there were many are feat of his strength and determination.  Because of his of two supply barrels, his backpack/tent and his canoe a simple 1 km portage turns into a 7 kms with four trips needed to get to a point where he can get back in the water.

He rarely comes across other humans, he needs to from time to time for a re-supply stop.  Those stops become tedious and having to talk becomes a chore if only because of having to answer the question of ‘why’ he is out there.  For a loner in a crowded world he is a conversationalist with nature.  “Beyond the Trees” is one man’s love story to rest of us about a Canada very few have or will ever experience. It’s a story all Canadians should read.

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 & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook athttp://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

My year in pages – Part II

Part 2 of my year of the books I’ve read covers July to December.  In this list of books, I have chosen “Trudeau”, “The King’s War”, “A Gentleman in Moscow” and Stephen Harper’s “Right Here Right Now” to be my reading list while I was in Barrie for the federal election for 8 weeks.  While I read the first three as planned, I finally read Harper’s book in December.   I also did not complete the books in the 8 weeks as I planned, but I did read them all just a later than planned.

Here are my July to December books.

Trudeau: The education of a Prime Minister by John Ivison (2019)

This was like rereading the headlines for the past 4 years, but with a view from the right.  As I anticipated it reaffirmed everything I know and feel about Trudeau.  After reading Ivison, it feels like I should be reading Promise and Peril: Justin Trudeau in Power by Aaron Wherry just to see if I come out on the middle of this time in Canadian history.

The King’s War by Peter Conradi and Mark Logue (2019)

The follow-up to The King’s Speech, to which the Oscar winning movie was based. The King’s War follows George VI and Lionel Logue after the war and into peace time.  If you liked the movie, you’ll enjoy this book.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (2016)

A great story!  After you have finished it you’ll want to read it again – right away to catch what you missed the first time that lends to the eventual ending.

The making of the October Crisis: Canada’s long nightmare of terrorism at the hands of the FLQ by D’Arcy Jenish (2018)

A couple of years back I read a book about the legacy of French Canadians have and their contributions to what Canada is today.  Beside Legacy” Canada has an history that needs to be told, sometimes it is an ugly history and we should not hide from it.   The making of the October Crisis is a thorough account of the beginnings of the quiet revolution in Quebec to the explosive climax of it in 1970.  Jenish starts us with the 1960’s Quebec, the roots both political and social that lead to the dissatisfaction of Quebecers.

The groups and individuals who fueled the crisis are explored in detail and provides background to where Quebec is today and helps to understand political cycles in there that include the resurgence of the Bloc of Quebecois in the 2019 federal election.

This book is an important book, it’s a book all Canadians should read, but baby boomers will have flashbacks of the events while reading this.  It’s a weird feeling as you may have lived through this era of our history, it will trigger memories. More importantly it triggers the idea that we cannot allow the same conditions to flourish again.

Right Here Right Now by Stephen J. Harper (2018)

If people could past their dislike for former Prime Minister Harper and read this for this is, an account of the collective good conservative policies generate, history will be much kinder to Harper when political adversaries look back at his tenure as PM.  RHRN is Harper not shooting arrows at his adversaries but shooting arrows at the policies they brought forward.

It is written clearly and not so that you need a PHD to understand it.  His look at polices that have national and global impact on the economy, immigration, nationalism and trade are straightforward and make sense.

Harper’s view of Donald Trump is not at all flattering, but he also recognizes that the reasons for the election of Trump goes back years through policies brought in by previous White House administrations.  Trump is merely the person that recognized and capitalized on the anger of the American worker, it doesn’t make him a better President than say Hillary Clinton would have been.  It’s a lesson that should not be overlooked here in Canada.

Many Moons: A Songwriter’s Memoir by Dayna Manning (2019)

My reading steer me to where I lived and what I’ve done.  Manning hails from Stratford Ontario where I spent 5 years working at CJCS-AM.  I thoroughly enjoyed Dayna’s journey as a musician and a songwriter.  I feel that I should be looking to purchase music she’s released, or at least the songs she has profiled here.

As you may have noticed, my reads leaned heavily towards non-fiction last year, something I would like to change in the next 12 months.

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 & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook athttp://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

My year in Pages – Part I

I made a promise to read more, at least an hour a day.  I was able to keep this promise most days, so it was not a complete failure.  I always, with the exception of the weeks I was busy on the election, had a book on the coffee table that I had was in the process of reading.

The result of that promise was that I read 15 books, more than double the 7 books I read in 2018. I’ve written about some of the books I have read, and where I have, I’ll include the links for the complete review.  In the order I read the books, here is is my 2019 in pages.  Part I consists of books I read from January to June.

Takedown: The attempted political assassination of Patrick Brown by Patrick Brown (2018)

I knew the players; I saw it unfold on TV and in the news.  It was a sad thing that happened to a man that likely would have become the premier of Ontario.  There are many loose ends to this made in Ontario political thriller that have yet to be heard.

Gatekeepers by Chris Whipple (2017)

The most interesting political book I read all year and is a timely read considering how challenging being the Chief of Staff for Donald Trump could be.  This book is about leadership, good leadership and bad leadership and how there should always be at least one person who is there to steer Presidents, Prime Ministers and Political leaders.  Whipple profiles White House administrations going back to Gerald Ford. The gatekeepers is an intriguing read that puts a few of history’s most crucial moments in a new perspective for the reader. https://redheartbluesign.wordpress.com/2019/01/20/the-gatekeepers

Shakey by Neil Young (2002)

I had a false start on reading this in 2018, I had to put it away a for a few months before I could start over and really enjoy this.  Is there anything Neil can’t do? Reading this almost 20 year after it was published, everything he has accomplished was on his terms. I think about everything that was NOT in this book.  I might have to find a recent memoir to catch up on Neil. https://redheartbluesign.wordpress.com/2019/03/31/neil-and-randy-the-winnipeggers

How the Scots Invented Canada by Ken McGoogan (2010)

I borrowed this after seeing it in the office of a Senator.  I’ll leave it at that, you can read the review here: https://redheartbluesign.wordpress.com/2019/04/07/dont-tell-the-irish-the-scots-invented-canada

The Girl in the Spider Web by David Lagercrantz (2015)

This sat in my shelf for a couple of years before I opened it up, my inspiration as wo have read it before I watched not one, but two movies based on the book.  The Swedish film version was heads better that the English version that featured Claire Hoy (The Crown) as Lisbeth. The book however was fabulous and generated much more page turning excitement than either of the movies did.  Lagercrantz does the Stieg Larsson’s franchise well with this.

Open Look by Jay Triano (2018)

I was intrigued by One Look based solely on the success that the Toronto Raptors were having last season.  Like any good sports book, it really isn’t about the sport.  It’s about how a person gets into the sport and how the sport teaches how to overcome adversity, but it still has a lot about basketball in it. https://redheartbluesign.wordpress.com/2019/04/30/hoop-dreams-open-look-by-jay-triano

Tales beyond the Tap by Randy Bachman (2015)

I paired this book up with Neil Young’s Shakey in a post about the two famous Winnipeggers. There is a dogged determination in everything that Bachman has tackled and succeeded at.  He should go down as one of Canada’s greatest musical mentors.

The Effective Citizen: How to make politicians work for you by Graham Steele (2017)

We became aware of this book in Halifax during the Conservative Party of Canada convention in 2018.  I have written more about this book in a previous post, but the synopsis is this:  If you want to get involved in the democratic process in Canada and any level of government you must be smart and methodical about it.  This book is a lesson for politicians and their staff who disregard the voice of the voter AND it’s a “how to book” on working with local representatives, Ministers, Shadow Ministers and their staff.  This book along with “Gatekeepers” were the most informative books I read in all pf 2018.

Independence Day by Ben Coes (2015)

Good fun paging turning fiction.  It has spies, espionage, and lots of international deceitful action that gets fixed by the end of the book.

Part 2 will be posted next week, thanks for reading Part 1.

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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 & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook athttp://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

My #elxn43 – Day 47

Reading will be my salvation this campaign.

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The days will be long and by Election Day I may be arriving at the campaign office in the dark and leaving long after sunset.  I have an amibtious reading list for this campaign period and it which will require a great deal of dedictation to complete.  The readng list is part of my plan to decompress from the pressure, stress and activity of the campaign.

Here is what I will be reading:

Trudeau by John Ivison

The King’s War by Peter Conradi and Mark Logue

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Right Here Right Now by Stephen Harper

The Making of the October Crisis by D’Arcy Jenish

I’ve started with Ivison’s take on Trudeau.  While this might not be a complementary account on JT it is scewed to my current opinion of him and how he has performed as a Prime Minister.   ‘The King’s War’ is a follow up to the Kings Speech, which won a few Oscar’s including Best Picture, Director and Actor in 2011. Mark Logue the co-author is the grandson of Lionle Logue, the therapist that work with King George to avoid stuttering as portrayed in the King’s Speech.

I picked up ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ because of the premise of the story; a Russian Count is ordered to house arrest in an apartment in Moscow by the Bolshevic tribunal for wrtting a poem with revolustionary undertones.

I’ve had Stephen Harper’s book for a while, this just seemed like a good time to read it.  My Sister-in-law sent me ‘The Making of the October Crisis’ after she had read it.  I was aware of the October 1970 crisis as a 10 year, this book goes back to the beginnings and Montreal in the early 1960’s.  Like other books I’ve read I find its important to understand what fueled a crisis as a means to prevent a repeat.

I’m going to have to complete a book in just over a week to return to Ottawa with these five books completed. Clearly some days will have more reading time than others, I’ll have to grab whatever time comes my way to be successful and hope what I’ve brought to Barrie with me are real page turners.

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 & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook athttp://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Hoop Dreams: Open Look by Jay Triano

Jay TrianoThe NBA playoffs are in full swing; the Toronto Raptors are in the second round and fans are hoping for a championship come June. Though this book was published November of 2018, the NBA playoffs are as good a time as ever to tell Jay Triano’s story and his rise through in the world of basketball, his dreams of playing for Canada’s Nationals team, winning championships and coaching in the NBA.

A quick read of Jay Triano’s Wikipedia page will give you the playing and coaching history of Triano, but it leaves out all the best parts; what drove him as a youth and the people who had influence on his character and how he became a world champion playing for Canada (1983) and coaching the American mens basketball team in 2010.

In Open Look, Triano describes his earliest of great experiences seeing the Canadian Mens National Team play in for the first time.  From that moment his fate is sealed, he will not be anything if not a member of the Canadian National Team.  But to do that Triano had to follow a trail that would lead him to meet people that would have an impact  that he could not have envisioned you can see where each of these experiences have led him to his dream.

Stan Stewardson recruited Triano to play at Simon Fraser University, a BC University that played Division I basketball in the USA.  Along with recruiting him, Stewardson guided the nineteen year through his first years living far away from home.  Stewardson also taught Triano what he needed to be a great player, team mate and eventually to where he would see his greatest success – as a coach.  But Stewardson also introduced Triano to a person who would have a profound effect on his life in in his early years at SFU, Terry Fox.

Terry Fox was a basketball player at SFU, the season before Triano arrived Fox blewout his leg playing, only his leg was weakened because of cancer.  When Triano met Fox, he was in a wheelchair having had his leg amputed.  Fox was to be Triano’s trainer in those weeks in his first summer at SFU in 1977.  That summer Fox was in training himself for he had already self-determined that he would run across Canada.  Triano notes that even then Fox had a charisma about him that you could never forget.

Of all the people in the career of Jay Triano Jack Donahue perhaps played the greatest role.  The American who was coaching Canadian Team, the coach that said the hotshot from Ontario was “no good”; little did he know that Triano went through the 9 day tryout with a taped up bad ankle. That first year player  from SFU would be remembered by Donahue and it would not be long before Triano would make his dream come true – he would wear the red and white of Canada’s National Team.  Jack Donahue would play a huge part in Triano’s for years.  Triano would honour him years later after his death.

It felt like that Triano’s story is only scratching the surface in Open Look; almost as if there are so many stories that he could tell that to get the most in details had to be left out.

But, what Open Look does is teach one thing, it’s a lesson that all young athletes should learn – have a goal, work at that goal and have all things your do be to realize your goal and do it all honestly.  Whether its basketball, baseball, hockey, football  or anyother sport Triano does noting if to say stay true to your goal.

Open Look is a must read for any athlete that wants or needs a role model. The only thing that could be better that reading Open Look wold be Jay Triano on the speaker circuit where he would tell these stories and add what the book can’t the emotion and personal perspective, how great would that be?

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 & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

(don’t tell the Irish) The Scots Invented Canada

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April 6th is Tartan Day in Canada, how appropriate that I sit and write a few words about a book I first spotted in the office of a Senator when I toured the new Senate building a few weeks back.

I learned that there is almost a cottage industry of books written about things that Scots have invented.  There are books written about how the Scots invented the modern world, golf, fine single malts and Canada.  How Scots invented Canada was written in 2010 by Ken McGoogan and looks at 5 dozen or so Scots/Canadians with Scottish blood lines.

There are the expected profiles and where they stand in Canadian history, like Sir John A MacDonald, George Brown, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Frederick Banting and Sanford Fleming.  We know their place in Canadian history as fathers of confederation, the building of the CRP Railway and in the world of medicine and science.   McGoogan then goes and expands all our knowlledge of all things scottish and give us names like Alexander Grahma Bell, Doris Anderson, Timothy Eaton, John McCrae and Nellie McClung.  He manages to bring Scots into to present day Canada where the world continues to expand and unfold.

Lets go back to the pre-confederation for a bit.  Famine, wars, the American Revolution all emerge as some reasons of how many of Scottish decent came to the Upper and Lower Canada provinces.  Scots loyal to the crown found refuge in early Canada.  The Scots led to the successful mapping of trade routes to the west coast, some doing faster than anyone could have ever imagined. The growth of the Hudson Bay Company was at the hands of Scots that had been educated due to the “Scottish Enlightenment” where reading was given to many.  The enlightenment was a leading road to building the character of well educated Scots that would be foremost in business management and growth.  The growth of the fur trade and the establishment of the trade routes were instrumental in bringing the west coast colonies into an eventual confederation in 1871.  That move to came about with a promise to build a transcontinental railway.

Moving through the decades, profiles of Bell, George Brown and Timothy Eaton talk of leaders in communications.  Bell with the telephone, Brown as a leader in newspaper publishing and Timothy Eaton with the catalougue .  These communication giants helped grow commerce in a young country.  These three live on in 2018 with Bell Canada, The Globe and Mail and the centre of commerce in Toronto, the Eaton Centre.

Of Canada’s Prime Ministers, 60% have Scottish heritage.  14 of 24 can claim a direct Scottish lineage right up to our current PM, Justin Trudeau.  Younger Trudeau’s mother comes from the Sinclair Scots and his grandmother from his father’s side was also Scottish as Pierre Elliott Trudeau was borne from a Scottsh mum and French father.  Besides Sir John A, McGoogan brings us our other leaders; Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas, Nellie McClung and paths through their family lines that started back in the homeland.

While the book is an informative read about the mapping, discovery and building of our nation, there are a few chapters where I find he looks pretty far back to find the thinest of Scottish thread.  But have no fear he talks about Robbie Burns and the ties that the great poet has to Canada. He even reveals a personal connection in his family to Robbie Burns.

Over 60 profiles build a a strong case that the Scottish really did build Canada.  If you are Scottish you’ll enjoy this, if you want to be Scottish “How the Scots invented Canada” will reinforce that feeling. With all of the work McGoogan does to lay out his claims that the Scots really did ‘invent’ Canada, you have to wonder what everyone else doing?

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 &  @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Neil and Randy: The Winnipeggers

A few months ago I was given Shakey, a biography of Neil Young, surprisingly it took a false start and a few months to read it.  But after finishing Jimmy McDonnough’s work I knew the next book I had to read; Randy Bachman’s Tales from Beyond the Tap. The reason for this is amount of ink that Neil Young gives Randy, was it reciprical by Randy?  They are Winnipeggers, the early pioneers of rock and roll in Winnipeg (and Canada).  They made it and got away from Portage and Main.

The two books are not that different; McDonough asked Neil Young a TON of questions while also getting more about the music and life of Young by talking to many people that have been part of his life and and his music.  There are the tales of being on the road; accounts of being in the recording studio and the politics of the music industry. In Tales from Beyond the Tap, Bachman answers questions from listeners of his CBC Radio Show “Vinyl Tap”. The questions range from his life influences, tales of being on the road and his adventures in the recording studio.

What emerges from the two books are parallels in experiences in Rock and Roll.  Freindships and rvialries and many stories about the music.  The two books also reference the other Winnipegger.  In the index of Shakey, Randy Bachman is mentioned in 18 pages through Bachman directly and indirectly via The Guess Who, Bachman Turner Overdrive and Chad Allen. Unfortunately, In Tales from Beyond the Tap, there is no index to count the number of times Bachman refers to Young, whether its about recording, guitars and gizmos, touring and songwriting Bachman has great respect for Neil Young and he mentions his fellow Winnipeg rock pioneer on numerous occasions. Cleary though when reading the two books, there is a mutual respect for each other.

As songwriters, the two came about it differently; Young seems to have been writing from the moment the guitar was in his hands.  For Bachman the reality of being a serious songwriter came as a a result of a business deal offered to him and Burton Cummings by producer Jack Richardson.  Both have been prolific writers in their prime churning out great songs, while their output may have slowed,  they have not stopped challenging themselves.

Both Randy and Neil love life in the studio, they thrive on achieving a sound and for both it’s a sound that they’ve thought about before recording.  This brings with it disagreements and causes division.  In Bachman’s case 1977’s Freeways was the end of his time in BTO as he sought to bring in a different texture to the classic BTO on their 6thLp. It seems that Young has constantly been in conflict with everyone when it came to beng in the studio. He rebelled after Harvest was released as everyone wanted a Harvest 2, but more accurately no one knew what the result of Neil in the studio would be until he delivered the final master tapes.

Neil and Randy have always looked for something new, what would their next project be? For Young that often meant a new kick at the can at CSN&Y, or touring with Pearl Jam and embracing the era of grunge and the return to playing with Crazy Horse. Bachman, like Young, often went back to what was familiar; there was the Guess Who reunion tour, the Bachman-Cummings songbook and 2010’s Bachman-Turner that brought him back to the straight ahead rock of BTO with Fred Turner.

I think the best insight into these two Canadian music icons comes from an interview that Randy did with Guitar Player magazine in 2015 after the release of his Heavy Blues CD.

Geoff Kulawick, who is a friend of mine from Canada, had taken over True North Records, and was interested in signing me to a record deal if I would do something “new and exciting.” At the same time, I was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in January of 2014, and Neil Young was there, because his pedal-steel player, Ben Keith, was inducted as well. Ben had passed away, so Neil was there to accept for him. I told Neil I had a new record deal, and he said, “Great opportunity. Do yourself a favor: Don’t do the same old stuff. Get a new band, get different guitars, get a different producer. Do something scary that you’ve never done before or haven’t done in a while. Go into a strange room, challenge yourself, and see what happens.” (Full interview is available here: https://www.guitarplayer.com/players/randy-bachman-delivers-heavy-blues-with-a-power-trio)

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 &  @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

The Gatekeepers

Since the creation of the position of “White House Chief of Staff” in 1946, thirty-three men have had the ear of the President.  In the years since there has only been one extended period where a President did not have a ‘Chief’,  for 909 days President Carter chose to not name a Chief of Staff (Cos), or rather HE acted as his own chief.  For over 60% of his presidency, because of his decision, Jimmy Carter could not focus 100% on his job as he was doing a job that should have gone to someone else. Pundits feel he didn’t get it right until the last 7 months of his term, too late to avoid defeat  to Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The Gatekeepers:  How the White House Chiefs of Staff define every Presidency written by Chris Whipple, is not only about the Chiefs of Staff but the Presidents themselves and the decsions made by them.  With all the information the Presidents had about previous CoS’s, there was a pattern of errors, or mis-decisions in filling that role. 

Gatekeepers covers the American Presidencies from Nixon to Obama and closes with a few words about the 45th President and how Trump might handle the slection process for the position.  Of all the Chiefs’, the consencus is that James Baker III is the cream of the crop and was able to ensure that Ronald Reagan won his re-election bid.  

The best advise that all Presidents are given is not to hire a friend, unless you want to lose that friendship.  A friend will not be able to say what needs to be said to the President, that is “No”. Honesty is the best advice that a chief of staff can give – if it can’t be offered, why have a chief.  The proof of Baker’s success is in his longevity working in the West Wing of the Whitehouse.  Baker, a registered Democrat in the 50’s when he met George H. W. Bush, served as Chief for two Presidents, Reagan and the recently deceased Bush. Baker’s connection to Bush 41 and his work as the Bush’s campaign for President against Reagan in the Republican primaries in 1980 brought him to the unlikely selection by Reagan to be his Chief of Staff.  His close relationship with Bush 41 must have played a huge role for Reagan.  As the architect of Reagan’s main opponent in the 1980 campaign Baker could be challenged as the best choice. Baker staying in as CoS through Reagan’s entire first term as President shows the loyalty that both Baker and Reagan had for each other and the roles they held.

As far as Chiefs for Democratic Presidents go, Bill Clinton can claim he had possibly the worst and best.  Clinton broke rule #1 and brought in a close friend, Mack McLarty as his first Chief.  McLarty , a member of the Arkansas Mafia, brought choas and unorganization to the the White House.  McLarty’s run as Chief can be best described as letting others run the administration with no control and what seemed like unlimited access to the President.  As chaotic as McLarty was, blame also goes to the Clinton.  His decision to appointment McLarty came the day after the election in.

As bad as Clinton’s decision was to hire McLarty, bringing in Leon Panetta in ’93 was a genius move and provided a smooth last few years in the White House while Hillary ran for a Senate seat and Al Gore was running for President.  Panetta was the steady hand needed to finish a presidency that was chaotic and challenged by a President that not always took the advice he needed.

The brilliance of Gatekeepers is not only the story of the CoS’s, but the issues, scandals and challenges brought on by a President but stickhandled by the Chief. Gatekeepersbegins with the Nixon Presidency, and if there is any administration that demostrates the loyalty of a chief, it’s Bob Haldeman’s running the the ship through the Watergate scandal of the 37thPresident, and he ran it right into the ground.  The most intriguing aspect of Gatekeepersis the insider perspective of major events that President’s had to deal with.  

The attack on the World Trade Centre September 9th2001 and the Bush 43 administration revealed the actions of an administration that could be scene as having two Chiefs.  Former Chief for Gerald Ford, Dick Cheney was now the Vice President and in agreeing to be the VP he negotiated responsibilities that normally go to the the CoS.  Andrew Card, who served as Deputy Chief under Bush 41, was now Chief for Bush 43.  The dynamic was “unique”  as Cheney says in the book as he, as VP, took on issues under National Security which under previous administrations would have gone to Andrew Card.

Gatekeeperspulls back the curtains on the West Wing.  As the reader you decide if you agree with how decisions were made and rate the effectiveness of the relationship between the Chief and the President.  What is clear is that the golden rule of not hiring a friend to be the CoS isthe cardinal rule and as the reader we all can sit back and see how a presidency falls apart because the Chief can’t say no and the President doesn’t want to hear it.

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&  @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Temporary Disappearing Act

poofIt’s unsettling to me that I have not posted for a while, but I have a good reason – a REALLY good reason.  I have given up the title of Candidate of Record for the Ontario PC’s in Ottawa Centre with the selection of Colleen McCleery to carry the PC banner in the Ontario election.

I’ll be occupied for another 4 weeks on the campaign for Colleen McCleery.  This is not where I thought I would be, but I am very happy to be there with a great team of people working to elect Ms. McCleery, who is a great candidate, as the MPP for Ottawa Centre.

In my temporary disappearing act I have other posts that are related to the Ontario election you can click and read.  Here are suggestions:

I wrote this piece about the Green Party of Ontario, is this election the break though the party is hoping for as they are Looking for their first seat?  Ontario Greens: Out looking for number 1

Last month I wrote about the election and what each party should be doing for a favourable outcome, I called it How (not) to Lose an Election. How to win (not lose) an election 

Something a little different for me, this was a non-political book, but was a fascinating read.  I hope the post gets you interested in reading the book. Ancient Wisdom and Knowledge, is it forever lost?

And one more for good luck, a quick three book review post,  3 Books 3 Reviews

I hope you enjoy the posts, I’ll be back in June with thoughts on the Ontario election and what the future of Ontario could be after the votes are counted.