Top 5 Least Important Stories of 2007- Part 3

On Christmas Day, Adam and I continued our annual tradition of counting down the least important stories of the year. There are lot’s of things we talk about that are important, and lots of important things that we don’t talk about. This show was about those unimportant things that, for whatever reason, we spent too much time talking about.

Joining us was Joshua Prowse and Giacomo Panico. This is our number 3.

Top 5 Least Important Stories of 2007- Part 2

On Christmas Day, Adam and I continued our annual tradition of counting down the least important stories of the year. There are lot’s of things we talk about that are important, and lots of important things that we don’t talk about. This show was about those unimportant things that, for whatever reason, we spent too much time talking about.

Joining us was Joshua Prowse and Giacomo Panico. This is our number 4.

Top 5 Least Important Stories of 2007- Part 1

On Christmas Day, Adam and I continued our annual tradition of counting down the least important stories of the year. There are lot’s of things we talk about that are important, and lots of important things that we don’t talk about. This show was about those unimportant things that, for whatever reason, we spent too much time talking about.

Joining us was Joshua Prowse and Giacomo Panico. This is our number 5.

Adam Talks to Richard Gwyn

 

In our ongoing series of interviews regarding new book releases, I (Adam Coombs) talked with Richard Gwyn regarding his new biography of John A. Macdonald, entitled John A: The Man Who Made Us. This is the first volume of a projected two volume biography on Macdonald. The interview first aired in October and is available at the end of this post.

In the 1840s Britain began to move toward complete free trade. Combined with a worldwide economic downturn, manufacturers and farmers in the United Provinces of Canada began to rightly fear economic ruin. Over a three year period, property values in Montreal had fallen by over 50% while Canada’s exports had fallen by over 40%. In response, over 1000 Montreal businessmen, including two Molsons and two Redpaths, supported annexation into the United States. During this period John A. made no speeches nor did he write letters to a sympathetic newspaper. Rather, in typical fashion, he quietly helped to organize the British America League which argued for unrestricted reciprocity, or free trade, with the United States. By the time the group disbanded in 1850 the same Montreal businessmen had embraced the idea of reciprocity. Macdonald had never made any definitive statement regarding his own beliefs yet the current crisis was averted.

The entire annexation crisis and Macdonald’s reaction exemplify both his leadership style and the political culture of pre-confederation Canada. Macdonald was, by supporters and enemies alike, called “old tomorrow” for his strategy of avoiding taking positions on issues and delaying decisions until a suitable result was achieved. Fiery speeches and declarations caused division and in the multi-religious, multi-lingual patchwork of 1850s Canada and a successful politician could never afford to be divisive. Furthermore, Canada as such didn’t exist yet and was constantly threatened by both internal tensions and the ever preset specter of the United States. It is both the personal style of Macdonald and the challenges threatening our early country which Gwyn focuses on.

In popular culture and Canadian historiography, John A is portrayed either as the loveable drunk who was utterly corrupt or as a the mythic figure that created our nation with his own bare hands. Gwyn seeks to deal with both these perceptions and create a new version of Macdonald. Unlike other biographies of Macdonald, Gwyn focuses on the man’s personal life beyond simply his drinking. There are engaging accounts of his attempts to care for his sick wife Isabella and of his attempts to re-connect with his estranged son Hugh John. These snippets of his personal life serve to add much needed depth to a man who is too often portrayed as someone devoid of true human characteristics. Gwyn doesn’t minimize Macdonald’s accomplishments but rather seeks to allow the reader to understand the man behind the Canadian myth.

The largest complaint about the book is it is pop academia. While it is extremely well written and engaging, the lack of footnotes, for a history geek like myself, occasionally got annoying. As well anyone well versed in Canadian history will find many of the sections which provide context as dull. Gwyn even warns readers with a basic knowledge of early Canadian politics to skip certain sections. If you are expecting a scholarly, in depth biography then you will be disappointed. However if you want an entertaining and engaging read then this book is certainly highly recommended.

Adam Coombs

Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre

As part of what has become an occasional series looking at various community and not-for-profit organizations in and around Ottawa, this morning I spoke with Kate Van Slyck of the Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre.

Amethyst, based in Sandy Hill, is as the name implies an addiction counseling centre for women. As is usual with not-for-profits, they work to balance demand for their (I can only assume) top-notch services with the confines of a budget built on government grants and donations.

Amethyst also suffers, I think, from something that troubles all sorts of mid-sized operations: they do excellent work, but sit at the back of most people’s minds when they think about their charitable donations. This isn’t to say that the larger charities are more or less worthy, just that awareness for smaller organizations is always going to be difficult as compared to the CHEOs and Canadian Cancer Foundations of the World.

In any case, Amethyst, like the other people that we’ve spoken with, is the sort of organization that makes communities better: dedicated people working very hard with limited budgets to make the city, and people’s lives, that much better.

Coming later in the week: Me vs. Warren Kinsella and Me vs Janet Stein and Eugene Lang.

Previously in the series: David Gladstone on the O-Train. Phil Robinson of People for a Better Ottawa. Kathleen Okatcha.

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Radio Topics, December 18th

December 18th? Seriously?

That means that next week is Christmas day. For those that would like to include Adam and I (and Josh Prowse and Giacomo Panico) in your Christmas mornings, we will be broadcasting our annual “Top 5 Least Important News Stories” of the year. These are the sorts of things that we all ended up talking about a lot, but in the end we probably all are poorer for doing so. In any case, that will take place at the usual time next week, and will be put up on the website sometime shortly thereafter. For real.

But what is the usual time? Tuesday Morning, 7-9am on 93.1fm for those in Ottawa, the CKCU website for all the rest.

As for tomorrow:

At 8:30, we’ll be joined over the phone by Kate Van Slyck of the Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre as part of our ongoing series on Ottawa community organizations.

It’s December 18th. Do you know where your snow removal budget is?

Ottawa to close Swantanamo Bay, release Swans to someone else.
Zero may not mean zero, but good science still means no crackpipes.

Baird agrees to binding targets at bali. WTFBBQ?
Another “scandal” in the works? In other news, Noted lifelong liberal suggests ill of the mother corp on a competitors political talk show.

Santa writes to small children, signs “ho! ho! hoes!”

Props where props are due: NDP appears before Bouchard-Taylor Commission, sending their best star to not Ottawa on the day that Mulroney appears before Ethics Committee.

WSIB to keep up with controversial (but engaging) television ads.

Apparently it is racially motivated when Asian fisherman are attacked at night.

‘Topes Win: Ottawa restarts reactor despite best advice of Science, Common Sense.

Sidelines of the Podcast

(Photo via rockpaperpixels under a Creative Commons by-nc-nd license.)
I’m usually remiss to write about music, if only because McNutt and I(heart)music do such a good job at it, but also because I am much better at categorizing books. But one of the upsides of having a radio show – beyond 2 hours a week of your own personal FM soapbox – is the opportunity to talk with artists who you enjoy.

So, in that vein I spoke with Wayne Petti of Cuff The Duke this morning about their new album Sidelines of the City. I’ll leave much of the discussion to the podcast, but tend to think that his description of this record being a sort of mix of the first two is apt: it’s polished, catchy, and made me want to listen to it over and over again.

They play Barrymore’s on Saturday night, and if the show is anything like past ones, is well worth the cover ($13 advance).

(Trouble with the embedded player? Download the file or try the iTunes feed.)

The Otesha Project


This past Tuesday, I spoke with Kathleen Cote of the Otesha Project, an organization that seeks to promote environmental awareness through a short play, variably performed by a series of cycling theater troupes and by interested high school students.

On the weekend, I also had the pleasure of attending their 5th anniversary celebration in Sandy Hill, courtesy of an invite from fellow cyclinginottawa.ca contributor Josh Prowse. I was expecting a small affair, so was more than a little surprised to see some 250 people crowded into the hall. The event itself was a mixture of the usual Otesha presentation intermixed with speeches about the organizations history and growth. For what its worth, I think that the play itself is a little hokey, and the associated slide show a little over the top, but I think that is also kind of the point. I’m certainly not the target audience, and I suspect that those in late-elementary school would be much more receptive.

As always, if listening through an embedded player, be warned that the audio might sound accelerated. If so, download the file itself or listen via the iTunes feed.

(image from Flickr user fortinbras, licensed via the creative commons)

Radio Topics for November 13th

As usual we air on CKCU 93.1fm from 7 to 9:00am. For those outside of Ottawa you can listen live on the web at the CKCU website.

This week Adam will be covering for Lucy and playing music from 9:00 to 10:00am. Tune in and judge him based on his musical tastes.

At 8:30, we’ll be joined by Phil Robinson of People for a Better Ottawa, a citizen’s group that (in short) advocates for greater city funding for social services. They have their city budget kick-off later in the morning.

Maclean’s has its annual university rankings out: Carleton’s number 7!
Further accusations against NATO regarding torture in Afghan prisons.

And Amnesty International doesn’t stop there. A week after announcing Canada wouldn’t seek the return of prisoners facing the death penalty, Canada refuses to co-sponsor a bill which denounces the death penalty.

NCC promises to actually consult public next time it choses to selectively remove information on Canada’s history.

Hugo Chavez actually compares himself to Christ. Wow!

Toronto School Board proposes Afri-centric schools for black children.

Portrait Gallery looking for a home and not necessarily in Ottawa.

Want $1000 dollars? Write an essay and collect 25 signatures on a petition.

City considering pulling funding for Ottawa Concert Hall.

City investigates selling Hydro Ottawa to raise $300 million.