Sunday, September 18, 2005

CBC and being Canadian

The dispute between mother corp. and the Canadian Media Guild seems to be lasting longer than I had hoped or expected. Perhaps it is, as one guild member suggested to me, that CBC management won't feel any urgency to settle until hockey season starts and they can't snap up that big commercial revenue that supplements the fed money that keeps cbc going.

My sympathies weigh in with the on-air talent, but I have to admit that it makes some sense that the corp. needs to be able to change programming to keep up with trends and competition. You can read the blogs and make up your mind.

One effect of the dispute is that cbc is playing "best of" shows from as far back as 2003, I guess trying to keep many of us from permanently drifting off to commercial radio as a lifestyle choice. It'll work for a while, at least for me, and at least for as long as the level of conversational tone on Vancouver rock stations remains at high school level. But there have been a couple recent events that together have really made me reflect on what it is to be Canadian.

It's lame to fall back on defining ourselves by our differences from the Americans. What are our distinctive Canadian values and society? The two glimpses I saw this week: 50 tracks replays on CBC, and the 25th anniversary of Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope. Fifty Tracks is being repeated in thr 5-6pm drive time, not a bad choice. In this slot various media and music people nominated the most significant songs of a decade. Then the audience weighs in. Typical of the critics, they select the seminal bands and tunes that defined a musical genre, and the rest of us just pick the ones from the top 40 that bring a smile of recognition and remembrance. The insight that it offers as a gestalt of Canada is this - what kinds of Canadian artists and songs are our contributions - Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, The Guess Who, Neil Young, Stan Rogers, The Tragically Hip, April Wine. Our artists play it straight - straight from the heart, and straight speaking. We're generally a country of plain speakers, who love our stories, and respect the storytellers without making them pedestal-tippy icons, or reveling in their human foibles.

Which takes me to Terry Fox. This year 10,000 schools across Canada ran various races to raise money for cancer research. It has been 25 years since Terry Fox started on his cross-Canada trip, trying to raise $1 for every person in Canada, which at the time was around 25 million. Since that time over $360 million has been raised worldwide in his name.

Terry was a hero in the core sense of Canada. He set out to do something hard, he endured pain that many of us would not choose to endure, and he took each day one step at a time, each run one step at a time. He didn't aspire to greatness, he just wanted to do something significant on as large a scale as he could with whatever time he had.

As should we all.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Cars are amazingly heavy...

In both senses of the word. I had the chance last summer to see and hear Dean Kamen talking about - what else - the Segway Human Transporter. While I haven't bought into the Segway vision, or for that matter, an actual Segway, Dean pointed out some facts about cars, especially SUVs that once you hear them, makes it hard to think of them the same when you see them on the street. Dean compared the weight of a person, say 150lbs, with an SUV, of about 6,000 pounds. Hopping into the SUV to drive to the store to get a liter of milk is like Cleopatra getting carried in her sedan chair by 40 slaves. Disturbing analogy. Try this one - try to push your car, especially up a gentle incline. Because car engines are so powerful, we lose the sense of how much power it takes to climb hills, and turn corners. We just push a little pedal, and a stream of liquified dinosaurs burns up and drags this huge hunk of steel and plastic around.

So, I'm starting to ride my bike to the store for milk. My wife has some foolish argument this is a better use of heart, lungs, and money than buying a Segway HT (with yellow fenders). Dang.