Two Beatles albums (from iTunes!) stir assorted memories

David Letterman, noting Yoko Ono’s 78th birthday last week, joked that she celebrated by breaking up The Jonas Brothers.

Back in the twilight of sixties, perhaps early seventies, a much-appreciated Christmas gift (namely for my older brother Craig but which the rest of us took full advantage of) was a record player. Not just any record player, either. This was stereophonic, which as far as we could tell just meant there were two speakers – left and right – with enough spare cord to separate them by a couple of feet or so. We later learned (of course Craig already knew) that cool things happened in one speaker, then the other, sometimes back and forth.

It wasn’t in a big coffin-sized cabinet like my aunt’s. It was very slim. The record player dropped down from inside like a Murphy bed and it had a spindle maybe six inches long where you could pile records one on top of the other and they would drop down, individually, as the one before it finished – very cool. This also worked for 45s (single songs, double-sided). An arm swung over from the corner and held the records in place up top until they were ready to hit the turntable.

It’s hardly a surprise, thinking back, that it was green – my mother’s favourite colour – kind of the same shade of green as the fridge and stove.

If I remember correctly, that Christmas Mom and Dad played it pretty safe (for them anyway) with gifts to us of the greatest hits albums of Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, the latter being a Christmas album some of which I now have in mp3 format for old times sake.

I’ll try to think of a list of many of the albums which eventually flopped down onto that stereo turntable but meanwhile, as I enjoy the remastered Beatles iTunes in my ears, I’ll share a few memories of them.

I remember seeing them on one of their Ed Sullivan Show appearances. I remember the black suits and ties, white shirts and the scandalous mops of black hair which they all shook at various times as they performed. I must admit my appreciation only grew for them after they broke up, I was quite young, probably allowed to stay up to see them because the mouse was on with Ed, or promise for later that night.

Craig had both Let It Be and Abbey Road, the two I’m listening to now, if not more.

I almost owned a late hit single of theirs – at least I was late trying to get it, which I didn’t. My first and last shop-lifting attempt was, among a couple of other things (pipe-smoking equipment well beyond my age), the single “Revolution”. Never did get it, but will never forget the reason why.

As I was heading for the mall exit at Woolco (that dates it right there) a man hooked me under my right arm, very discreetly, and asked me to “vide tes poches” – empty my pockets. Well, amateur that I was, hoping to impress my peers and yet flying woefully solo, he very nearly had a few extra lumps from the back of my pants!

I was red-faced, nearly crying I’m guessing by then, certainly panicked. His office was back between the washrooms and the shipping room. Long story short, he eventually told me that he wasn’t going to involve the police nor my parents. Good thing, too, because as I explained to him I was just a few months away from a once-in-a-lifetime school trip to London (so I must have been 15 or 16).

Other than being later than expected home that night, I escaped unscathed.

Happier memories just floating by come from a diner in the Bellerive district of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, where I grew up. It was called Le Fricot (The Stew) best-known, by me, for its nice, brown french fries (second only to the chip van which parked near the tracks on Maden Street most summer evenings). The Fricot was a one-storey building, modern, cube-shaped (it might be mistaken for a bank nowadays) and was built on a corner of an otherwise older neighbourhood so I suspect one of our annual major winter fires probably cleared a spot for it. Inside, diner-style, were booths separated by faux wood just above elbow height and mini jukeboxes dangled over the partitions between booths. I’d guess the going rate was three songs for a quarter. I distinctly remember that opening yelp from The Beatles’ “Oh Darlin'” there!

Song titles – and picture me singing the background sopranos at the top of my lungs in the basement – included The (soaring) Long and Winding Road, the hammer instrumentation of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, the guitar opening and brass-in-bass line of Because, the simple, descending, repetitious bass clef piano line in Let It Be, and the lyrics alone from She Came Through The Bathroom Window were hilarious enough for this kid!


Bixi rocks!

Originally uploaded by Kenn Chaplin



Bixi is the name of the private,not-for-profit outfit which rents bicycles at highly visible stands throughout Montréal.  By buying any of a variety of memberships, residents and tourists alike can pick up a bike within a short distance of almost anywhere and drop it off at another such Bixi stand.  For $5 per 24 hours or via passes of various lengths it sure beats having to replace stolen bicycles every six months or so!  (The billboard pictured in Vieux-Montréal is advertising $10 off a pass for a limited time.) 

The bicycles are stylized, if not stylish, and made of very light aluminum by Alcan, one of the program sponsors. 

I saw quite a few of the bicycles around town this week. They’re like two-wheeled Zip cars (even handier) – but helmets, while recommended of course, are not provided for practical reasons. 

Would any bombastic, and other, mayoralty candidate(s) in Toronto care to import this great idea from down the 401?

For now it’s expanding to Washington!

Canada’s government, rightfully shamed in Copenhagen, too arrogant to see it

I say, “Bien oui!” to The Yes Men!

Copenhagen Spoof Shames Canada; Climate Debt No Joke

The Yes Men Punk Canada

Who Are The Yes Men and Why Did They Punk Canada at Copenhagen

Like Rick Mercer and This Hour has 22 Minutes, there’s a lot more truth than spoof in the treatment of Canada’s environmental policy by American satirists/activists The Yes Men. While I used to take great, smug pleasure in Rick Mercer “Talking to Americans” I feel shame for our country with the band of environmental pirates who purport to govern for all of Canada.

Stephen Harper, Jim Prentice and their cadre of environmental hooligans, in encouraging the tar sands development to just keep on going, treat the boreal forests of Alberta like a giant ash-tray, clear-cutting ancient forests and then further degrading the area by strip-mining down and down and down scraping up tar and then extracting the oil – the dirtiest oil business on the planet.

It’s like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble are in charge except that in their quarry the tar sands and their exploiters were just a glimmer in the eye of Bedrock. Dinosaurs, at least in terms of brain size, can still be found in the halls of Parliament.

So Yes Men, keep it coming. The government of my country will not see the humour – they are rarely capable of finding it in anything other than bullying, knee-slapping jabs at anyone who disagrees with them.

Canadian International Air Show sold out all weekend – many downtown residents unimpressed

As Toronto continues to welcome more and more residents to downtown high-rises and neighbourhoods the hazards and inconveniences of the Canadian International Air Show mount exponentially – to which the show responds, trumpeting the economic benefits. Note the sponsors.

It is one thing to honour grandfathers and great-grandfathers with fly-pasts of World War II planes, be it on Labour Day weekend or Remembrance Day; it is quite another for modern-day supersonic-jet-fighters to scream over the city at break-neck speeds – first in practice, earlier in the week, and then during the CNE air shows themselves (so that’s Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Sunday and Monday).

This is not a downtown, street-level festival. This is a lakeside exhibition with necks craned skyward and over the water. However to set up the manoeuvres, and then to double-back to base, these pilots are roaring across the downtown – a multi-use, high-density residential part of the city.

It is one thing to try and console small children and pets, who can’t possibly understand what these terrifying sounds are, but imagine what it must be like for survivors of present-day conflicts where these war machines have traumatized so many.

Please – be done with this testosterone-fuelled militarism or move it somewhere with a smaller population and an even more welcoming audience.

I hope that this is an early agenda item for all levels of government in the fall. It will certainly be a multi-level election issue!

P.S. I think NOW’s headline summed it up well:

Air Show porn

Suburbia encroaches on wildlife – not the other way around

As I watched this very interesting report on The National the other night I was reminded of a wildlife corridor project a lot closer to home, whether I consider home to be Toronto, Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Québec or Perth, Ontario.

It’s called A2A – Algonquin to Adirondacks Conservation Association. A look at the map on the website shows Perth (when most maps of that scale would not) at the eastern edge of the corridor.

Come to think of it, Perth’s local conservation area is very popular with birders (and less so at certain times of the year with anyone who fears snakes) so conserve-nature-and-they’ll-come-is-a-good-lesson.

Also, about ten years ago, a very forward-looking organization called ecoPerth turned a steep, sleepy hillside just down the street from my Mom’s into a thriving urban “forest in the making” which overlooks the Tay Canal Basin. While it’s still young there were enough fast-growing trees and other vegetation planted to give it a wild out-of-town feel already.


Not far from Perth, along the back roads to Kingston, is the Foley Mountain Conservation Area on a beautiful peak overlooking the village of Westport. I took this picture around Thanksgiving of 2001 (before I had upgraded my camera).

View of Westport from Foley Mountain

We’ve become accustomed to raccoons making their home fairly close to our downtown household garbage. Yet there really ought be no one surprised when deer, rabbits or even coyotes and bears start visiting and/or terrorizing suburban neighbourhoods.

The answer is not to hand out hunting permits or silently condone such activity unlicensed, either.

Let’s do what we can to make sure they can safely get under our highways, or avoid them altogether.

They aren’t on our lands. We’re on theirs.

Green Party TV ads optimistic and effective

The Green Party began running a series of ads today to be broadcast through to the end of the campaign, this as Harris/Decima released poll results for September 29 – October 2 showing that, in Ontario, the Green Party is tied for third place with the NDP at 17 percent (and higher in some areas, according to H/D’s Bruce Anderson who appeared on CBC Newsworld’s Politics program ), while the Conservatives have a 34-31 percent lead over the Liberals. (More about the Politics broadcast below the videos.)

Green Party goes prime time with first-ever TV ads
OTTAWA – Fresh from a victory for Green leader Elizabeth May in the English-language televised leaders’ debates, the Green Party taking its momentum to the airwaves by releasing a series of historic television advertisements. Featuring leader Elizabeth May, the ads were released across Canada today. The ads mark the first-ever national television campaign for the Green Party.

In the ads, Ms. May is featured speaking about subjects that are close to the hearts of Canadians. She covers the Green Party’s economic plan, the elimination of poverty, protecting the natural world and improving democracy in Canada. The ads were filmed on Ms. May’s cross-country whistle-stop train trip, where she reached out to Canadians from coast to coast with the Green Party’s message of hope.

“The commercials provide a fresh approach to politics. They are unscripted, free from manipulation and are straight and honest,” said Jim McDonald, national campaign manager. “We wanted to raise the tone of political advertising in Canada.”

The ads will give Canadians the opportunity to hear Ms. May explain issues without stooping to the negative representations offered by the other parties.

The ads are being broadcast on all of Canada’s major networks, both in prime time and off-peak periods.

In addition, regional ads will target British Columbia and Quebec. Deputy leader and Vancouver Centre candidate Adriane Carr is featured in the British Columbia ads. The Quebec ads feature Claude William Genest deputy leader and candidate for Westmount-Ville-Marie.

English ads are running nationally on CTV, Global, CBC, CBC Newsworld, CTV Newsnet, E! Canada, and City-Toronto. French ads are running on TVA, Radio-Canada, and RDI. Videos are available on the Green Party’s YouTube Channel –

Elizabeth May 2008 TV Ad 1 – Grassroots

Claude Genest 2008 TV Ad 3

Elizabeth May 2008 TV Ad 2 – Poverty

Claude Genest 2008 TV Ad 2 (en français)

Elizabeth May 2008 TV Ad 3 – Economy

Adriane Carr 2008 TV Ad

Claude Genest 2008 TV Ad 4

Elizabeth May 2008 TV Ad 4 – Democracy

Claude Genest 2008 TV Ad 1 (en français)

Elizabeth May 2008 TV Ad 5 – Nature

Don Newman’s ‘Press Gallery Pundits’ today were Joan Bryden and Rob Russo from Canadian Press, Don Martin of the National Post and CBC Radio’s Chris Hall. Together they picked through the entrails of the two debates this week. Rob Russo said he thinks Stephane Dion’s English is better than Stephen Harper’s French but added that there’s a double standard when it comes to bilingualism in political life in Canada, which I agree with, whereby a francophone’s English must be more proficient than an anglophone’s French.

Chris Hall thought Harper was back on his heels in the early going in the English debate with Elizabeth May pointing out that the leaders had agreed to devote more time to discuss the economy and yet Harper showed up with no initiatives – let alone a platform.

On the question of minority/majority outcomes October 14, Russo said he believes Elizabeth May and the Greens are going to win many more votes than last time which will make it easier for Harper to win a minority – with even less than the 36% of the vote he won last time. (Of course the Liberals and NDP have been terrorizing us with that line for months now.) Newman and Martin tossed about the irony of Elizabeth’s strength perhaps coming at the expense of Dion whom she has said she would favour as Prime Minister over Harper.

I won’t be budged. The more individual votes the Greens can win, the better the party will be able to operate as a forceful voice on climate change and other issues. It is what Elizabeth refers to as the perversity of the first-past-the-post electoral system that so poorly reflects the will of Canadians. If the Greens get, say, ten percent of the votes across the country on October 14 it seems crazy that we would not have seats in Parliament.

So vote Green. With election financing the vote is worth about $10 to the party over the life of a government. That’s money to be used to grow, to broaden our support and to help Canadian democracy.