DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 02/01/2013 - 03/01/2013 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me

Saturday past was my birthday. I was born February 23, 1943.   which makes me 70 years old.. I guess that makes me old although I do not feel old. I wonder if one ever feels old?

My sister considered this birthday a significant event.  She insisted on a special recognition of it saying if I did not come to her home in Toronto,  she would come North to River Valley to be able to spend some time with me on this occasion.. So I found myself being driven by my son to Toronto for the weekend which allowed me to go to Penny's home and share a birthday meal with her, husband David, son Donald along with my son Parker and my belovéd friend Lynne.  It was a nice evening as we reminisced about years and friends past in the old neighbourhood of Port Credit, where Lynne has continued to live and is a living link to the past.  It seems for the rest of us while our roots were torn up years ago, memory calls his back to the time before the historic changes.  It was a nice visit and gesture by my sister, two years my senior.

My sister gave me this painting for my birthday. She saw it some time ago and it spoke to her that It was the perfect gift for me. She has squirreled it away until the perfect occasion to give it to me,  my birthday.  I love it.. I have few cherished possession.  My 16 foot cedar stripped canvas covered canoe is one of them. Of all the thing I have had over the years it has given me the most pleasure. I was 16 when I worked half the summer to pay for it and then spend the other half of the summer alone on a lake in Muskola using it and mastering the fine art of paddling it listening to the quiet and gentle sounds of Nature. For many of the years I spent in the US I drove around with it on the roof of my car. I seldom stopped to use it on an impulse but maybe just maybe there might have been an opportunity. It certainly made it easy to find my car in a parking lot. With it I became a self taught camper with a dedication to minimalist camping. (leaving no signs behind as well as being able to carry in a single backpack all you need to keep yourself in Nature for two weeks . I most often enjoy solitary canoeing although there were time of just playing with others in the canoe. I even tried once to master the test  suggested by Pierre Berton of being a real Canadian by "making love in a canoe". It is a tricky as it sounds.

My canoe is an interesting measure of how times have changed over the years. I paid for my new canoe $150 all those years ago. To purchase one now would cost one $150 a linear foot.  I twice has some repairs done on it. Once I drive to New Brunswick from Boston to have a gunnel replace by the original manufacturer of the it, The Chestnut Canoe Company (now out of business)  although their molds were purchased by others and there are still builders of their models, Mine is the iconic Prospector model that the great outdoors man and canoeist Bill Mason used and our former Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau was photographed in.
I next had my canoe repaired a little at the North Bay Canoe Company which cost me $1,700 with the assurance it would last another 50 years. Sadly, not true, it needs some repairs now which will cost about $2,700. I have not used it for a couple of years and my son has now hung it from the ceiling of his log cabin. I am not willing to see it become an ornament yet just as I am not willing to see myself at this age become just an ornament.  Hopefully we will both have some vital years of life fulfilling reason for our existence.
In the meantime I will find an honoured place to have the painting of a red canoe by Canadian Artist Greg Shafley.

My sister also gave me this book for my birthday. She is sure I will enjoy it. I trust her. She often gives me books and the rarely disappoint me.  The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal is a family memoir of a Jewish family during WWII.. I look forward to reading this book.

My birthday party in part turned into an "intervention" ( this word occurred to me in retrospect.)  My current medical problems became a topic of discussion. I have a very painful leg which gives me shooting sharp pain with certain movements that temporarily locks the leg up with me bent over in pain until though my tentative efforts to regain the use of the leg pain free after I hear or feel a little click in my left thigh. This happens almost every time I get up from a chair or bend over to reach near the floor., for whatever.  This a annoying and painful  I have also know my feet are swollen somewhat.

My general attitude is to ignore such things figuring they the will go away or I will die.  I am not a big user of the health care system. The problem is serious enough that I actually started to take some pain killers. I also avoid taking pills normally.  David, Lynne, Parker all chimed in with encouragements for me to see a doctor. I finally agreed with the wisdom of the loving advice I was getting and somewhat agreed to see a doctor sometime soon.

Driving home with Parker he brought up the subject of me writing a will and preparing a letter of power  of attorney in the case I find myself unable to manage my own affairs.  I think he was taking to my sister and brother in law to come up with this. It seems there are those betting I will not have as many bonus years as I think I might. Is this a result of my current aches and pains and general neglect of any proactive health care on my part?  It makes me smile. Of course this is a good  idea and I agreed that if Parker set up an appointment with  a lawyer I would consider both of these.  During the drive we did not resumed the talk about my painful leg and swollen feet. I should have been suspicious for the surprise was ahead of us.

When we  reached Sturgeon Falls and headed for Parker's home, past the hospital, he suddenly turned into the hospital and said  "You are going to the hospital, right now." Now I knew I had been in an intervention.  I went to the emergency room, as I do not have a doctor. My last one closed his practice and them died, (  How inconsiderate of him. I guess he knew he was sick). He left 7,000 patients  who had to look for another doctor..

 It was 3:30. The emergency room was not too busy but it still was 7:30 before I got out of there.

The result was the doctor could not find out why I was having pain in my leg. This is good news for she ruled out a bone problem, a tumor or a blood clot. I had an X ray of my pelvis and leg.. She also had blood work done.  I turned out my blood work was good. I have somewhat elevated blood pressure. I would have guessed that but maybe the sharp pain I was periodically having send that up. My sugar was good so my swollen feet was not diabetes, which I am always concerned about. In our family there have been thyroid problems as well as diabetes so I am always interested in test of my endocrine system. So I am in pretty good shape for an old guy, except I still have pain that makes every day things difficult. I will be trying something else soon. If it does not improve in a week I will go back. There many be a bone scan in my future or physical therapy. (The latter is no long paid for my our universal health care.) I can't afford  that. The last time I did it twice a week for 10 months to overcome my frozen shoulder condition. It was paid for by the government then. This life drama will continue.

Should three score and ten be seen as an ending, a new beginning or the beginning of the end. Time will tell. The Bible hold out the hope of reaching four score.  Modern medicine seem to suggest 5 score is a possible option for may more of us.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Police Dramas US vs Canada

In movies and on television I have come to realize that there are very different ways in which crime, violence and police behaviour is depicted in the United States and Canada. The contrasts, I believe, reflect our cultural differences.

As a rule, I no longer watch American movies that deal with this topic.  Canada has had little or no movies made with such themes. The only one I can recall is a comedy thriller, Good Cop Bon Cop.  When I used to get our movies on videos I deliberately avoided American movies of this genre, it was easy to avoid them..  They  invariably  had a scene on the jacket of someone or a group of people holding a gun or in some violent scene of gun play.  I readily moved on to other dramas or comedies.. These movies were more likely to have been made in Australia or Britain or Canada (if any at all were made.)

A better place to compare this genre of drama in Canada and the United States is  on television.  Both  produce  police dramas. They seem to hold a fascination for people in both countries. I must admit I watch a number of them myself.. They fascinate me for reasons I am not sure. Each countries dramas distinctive and reflect the different cultures.

Here are some of the differences I have noticed..

1. In the US police drama  is a  battle between good and evil. There are few shades of grey.  The police are at war with the bad guys. In the Canadian drama the police are more likely to be solving crimes that are a problems for society but which often are the result of more complex behaviour than just evil. The "criminal" may be ill, a product of a very back background or family situation, the crime may be an accident or a miss understanding. The police are not at war with the bad guys but merely trying to limit the damage to the benefit of individuals and society.

2.Canada has some funny police drama quite often based on our regional quirkiness. The best example of this currently is The Republic of Doyle which takes place in St John's Newfoundland. Years ago, Da Vinci's Inquest which was based in Vancouver, which I found amusing.  And do you remember, Due South, with the quirky Canadian  Mountie and his bewildered Chicago police partner.  It seems Canada can laugh at crime and the police. Americans like their police dramas to be very serious.

3. American police dramas are very high tech.  A lot of the plot is unraveled in a lab. We see this in the CSI version of police dramas, in NCIS and in Criminal Minds.  Canadian drama are solved by basic police work, built on experience. The science and technology is in the background. such as in Flashpoint and the new drama Cracked.. Years ago, I used to enjoy Cold Squad, in which cold cases were solved by revisiting the evidence with fresh and experienced eyes but with seldom new high tech science.

4. Canadian police drama have very little shooting in them. They virtually never have great shootouts such as the Hawaii  Five O I watched the other night where the bad guys actually had assault rifles.  In Canadian drama the police do not engage in gun battles. If they do shoot it is a single shot the ends the incident. The police who end up shooting someone are traumatized. They need and get counseling and in future episode reference are made to the troublesome burden of having once killed someone. We see this in Flashpoint where if shooting takes place it is by a single sniper type policeman, who continues to be troubled by it.. It is a rare occurrence that a policeman has to use his gun, negotiations often are used..  The new series, Cracked, is based on this. It is a team of a psychiatrist and a top policeman who are called to investigate crimes that involve mental illness.  The policeman has previously had to kill someone. This  traumatic event saw him taken off the tactical squad. Along with a personal life in disorder, this shooting affects his character which his doctor  partner assures his boss he is "cracked" but not broken.  In American police drama's the police  in a matter of fact way used their guns and even engage in running gun fights with people. Having to use a gun is seldom seen as an ongoing trauma more the officer.

5. Canadian police are quite often depicted as working in disciplined teams.  Flashpoint is the best example of this. When this drama first showed up I thought they had made a drama with an I to the American market.since the police are a large team  dressed in all the latest battle gear that tactical police seem to fancy these days. They  even carry a modified version of an assault rifle but seldom use it. They have specialist on their team like a computer communications person, a sniper, a bomb specialist,  and  individuals who can rappel and use lots of specialized equipment.  They are the ultimate disciplined team tied together with wireless ear pieces and a leader who gives all the instructions.  For all their hardware not all episodes involve violent confrontations or hqve guns fired.. They have had attempted suicides, mistaken kidnappings and occupations.  In American police dramas the police operate in small groups, quite often pairs.  There is a  well assumed police culture of how partners are supposed to be together as a bonded team. This unit is often  acting on it own in solving the crime. They can, and do, break the rules in an undisciplined way which is OK if they get the bad guy in the end. We see this weekly on Blue Bloods where the main police character seems like he can hardly bear to stay within the rules in his passion to get the bad guy.

6.In American dramas street people ( minority young men, prostitutes, drug dealers, mentally ill, homeless) are often treated with disrespect.. They are bullied and at times even physically assaulted to get information out of them.  In Canadian shows street people are normally treated with respect. Often they are asked if they are OK. by the police who seem to have some understanding of their troubles in daily life.  They care for them for more than what information they may share..

7.  One contrast, that I find particularly unsettling is how the police view the law. In American police dramas comments by the police often reflect a disdain for the law when it get in the way of getting the bad guy .A policeman might suggest of only he were left alone in the room with the suspect he would get information out of him. Or the police might bemoan the fact that their case was thrown out of court even if their bad police work. was not within the technical rules. They even at times suggest some people do not deserve to have some rights. The law in Canadian dramas is never referred to in a disdainful manner. .

In general, I find police dramas in Canada more focused on relationships.  It is through relationships that crime can be solved, even more so than technology or rough tactics by the police. It is not only relationships between the police but often relationships with  "criminals" and witnesses and street people. Guns and violence by the police is rarely seen as part of police work.

I think the contrast between police dramas in the United States and in Canada reflect the differences in our cultures: the place of violence and fear, the respect for law, the treatment of people and the expectations of how the police should behave.  Our countries two cultures are really quite different in fundamental ways.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Black History Month, A Memory

Black History month has come around again.  It always moves me to research and even recall events in history in Canada and the United States of the Afro American and African Canadian communities.  I recently noticed that there was a showing  in Toronto of the Film, The Last White Knight by Paul Saltzman.  It is his story of returning to Mississippi to confront a member of the KKK who had assaulted him in 1965 to see how much the times have changed and whether there was basis for reconciliation. (Excerpts of this film can be seen on You Tube.) Paul has been moved by the murder of the three civil rights workers in Mississippi the previous year. (James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner). He went to Mississippi to work with voter registration with the SNCC organization of Stokley Carmichael. It was here he was assaulted by Delay de la Beckwith, the subject of his film..

It got me thinking about Paul Saltzman and all that he has accomplished in his life.  I knew him for a couple of years at University. We had a mutual friend and I knew his brother Earl.  Paul was an interesting and energetic student.  He did a four year degree in three and always seemed to want to get university over with so he could go on with more interesting things.. He did just that.  He went to India on a spiritual quest and end up spending time with the Beatles at the Ashram of Maharish Mahesh Yogi..  He became a film maker and photographer and married Deepa Mehta, the famous Indo-Canadian film maker, best remembered for her Elements Trilogy of films, Earth, Fire, Water. Paul's career has included may films for the screen and TV, more of shorts and documentaries than feature films.

 He has continued his interest in civil rights and people finding basis of getting along. He made a film with Morgan Freeman called "Prom Night in Mississippi" Paul  Saltzman had heard that Morgan Freeman's home town still has separate proms for the graduating high school class and that Freeman had offered once to pay for a united prom . Paul asked Freeman if the offer still stood. The result was the film.

 Better than me writing about his life, you can hear him speak about it in this TED Talk in Waterloo Ontario.

Paul Saltsman came from a very interesting family. His father is Percy Saltzman, who people of my generation will remember as Canada's first Weatherman on TV. He presented the weather every night  drawing the weather pattern on a chalk board. He always ended his presentation by tossing the chalk in the air and catching it again.  Paul also worked for the CBC for a while and now his nephew Aaron Saltzman in a journalist on the CBC.  Paul's daughter with Deepa Mehta, Devyani Saltzman is a writer.

I cant resist it. Here is Percy Saltzman doing the weather before it all got so high tech on TV. It was always interesting  because of his energetic presentation.

During Black History month, I find it appropriate to remember the civil rights struggles of the 60's: those who risked themselves to help to fundamentally change the culture of the South: those who died trying, the final trials, only in the last decade, of those who murdered civil rights workers. and to understand how things have changed while other things  still resist change. The struggle for social and political rights is always an ongoing process; for people, times and circumstance can see them easily denied once again.