Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hey, Teacher, Leave Them Kids Alone

It’s reprehensible, distasteful, ridiculous and wrong. The latest billow to be added to Quebec’s ominously dark language cloud aims to target schoolyards. Once upon a time, recess and lunch were that part of the school day when excited and energetic little children were free to play and interact with others. Soon, if the Commission scolaire de Montreal has its way, it will be a time when children will have to be on the lookout for schoolyard monitors who will reprimand them for speaking languages other than French.

It’s shameful. It’s no way to encourage an open and free society and, frankly, it’s no way to protect and preserve a language.

The Commission scolaire de Montreal wants to make French the mandatory language in schoolyards. Children, playing on their own free time, will no longer be free to speak the language they choose.

How can you tell an English, Italian or Portugese child playing with friends, they’re not allowed to speak their own language?

Adults in Quebec have already lost several freedoms, but how can you justify taking freedoms away from children? How can you justify allowing petty politics to infiltrate schoolyards?

Separatists may argue it’s a matter of inevitable extrapolation.

When francophones in PEI battled tooth and nail in 2000 to get their own French school in Summerside, where were the Quebecers so deeply devoted to the protection and preservation of French? When, in July, francophones in the Yukon were battling for a French high school and the right to manage their own educational institutions, where were the Quebecers so deeply devoted to the protection and preservation of French?

They had their heads in the sand.

They had their heads in the sand when the United Nations ruled in 1993 that Quebec’s French-only outside sign law violated the declaration of human rights. They had their heads in the sand when, in its 1994 report on human rights issues, the US State Department declared non-French people in Quebec continue to be discriminated against.

In 1998, Premier Lucien Bouchard stated Quebec’s language laws must be applied in a way that doesn’t give the province a bad reputation; it’s a little late for that.

French parents themselves have gone to court for the right to send their children to English schools.

Quebec has taken away the freedom of choice for parents deciding schools for their children. Quebec has taken away freedom of expression for companies who want to advertise. Now it’s stooping to taking away the right to freedom of expression from children in schoolyards!

The language issue in Quebec casts a dark cloud over a magnificent province. Why must the protection and preservation of French be negative and based on paternalistic, self righteousness? If you can figure out a way to encourage people to have children, surely you can think of incentives that encourage people to speak French and educate their children in French. Instead of depriving people of freedoms, why not enhance their freedoms by offering incentives, encouraging them to freely choose French. You can lower tuition fees and offer tax savings to people who send children to French school. Help employers offer incentives to employees educated and trained in French.

There is strength in numbers and if Quebec politicians made it their business to spread and support French across the country, think what that would do for the future of the French language in Canada. In 1996, Franco-Manitobans fought to have bilingual signs posted in St-Boniface. In 1996, the Bloc Quebecois fought to have more French on signs in Ottawa. Rather than let French wither away elsewhere in Canada, Quebec should take steps to promote and encourage its protection and preservation. That’s the most effective way to preserve and protect the French language and culture in Quebec; the protection and preservation should come from inside and outside the province.

Separatists behave as though there’s nothing outside Quebec, when, in fact, there is a whole world beyond provincial borders. Many adamant separatists have been enlightened and educated outside provincial borders.

It’s time to pull your heads from the sand. Quebec is not the only province that belongs to Quebecers. All of Canada, with all of its resources, beauty and opportunity, belongs to Quebecers. Separatists, like it or not, this is your country; you are entitled to all it has to offer. Stake your claim and stake it in the language of your choice.

Schools are supposed to be about positivity, learning, expansion, progression, openness; not repression, suppresssion, regression, coercion and conformity. The rest of the world admires Canada and every year, thousands of people become Canadian citizens. Life in Canada is about glorious freedom; tens of thousands of Canadians died in its name and in its defence. Quebec’s language legislation is giving the rest of the world the wrong idea of what life in Canada is about and now, it’s giving its own children the wrong idea of what life in Canada is about.

Making French the mandatory language in schoolyards is just another brick in the wall; the wall that keeps many anglophones from coming here to explore opportunities and the wall that keeps many unilingual francophones from leaving here to explore opportunities.

You can bet the offended separatist schoolyard monitors who proposed this CSDM rule are drooling, their young targets already in sight.

Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Steve Hill Rocks

What an artist!

Steve loosens up
Steve Hill is from Trois-Rivieres. He's been playing guitar since he was sixteen. He was in the television station this week to promote his sixth album, entitled "Whiplash Love" and to promote his upcoming show at l'Astral. He performed a track from the album, live, for our show and I must say I was extremely impressed! Every note he sang was bang-on, his voice sounded terrific, his words heartfelt and every pluck of the guitar, precise.

During our interview, he gave a lot of credit for his growth as a musician and artist to Pagliaro. Steve has played with Buddy Guy, BB King, Jimmy Vaughn and toured with several other artists. Steve was an easygoing pro, the very best guest a host could hope for. He was always smiling and happy to sign an autograph or pose for pictures.

Sound test with Steve as one of technical guys, Alain, a big fan, looks on
There had been a mix-up. I had told his people in exchanged e-mails, we could accomodate an amp and voice, but when he got to the station, he explained that he'd  been told our crew could not work with an amp. As a result, he didn't bring an electric guitar and, instead, brought a steel-bodied acoustic guitar, made in 1931. His performance of "I'll Walk" was the last segment of the show. I did the show-close, but still had some time to use up, so I turned to him and asked if he'd play a bit more; instantly, he did.

As far as I'm concerned, he has a standing invitation!

I had mentioned to viewers, at least twice, that we had a copy of Steve Hill's CD to give away and then, like a moron, I completely forgot to do the giveaway on-air! Duh! I still feel terrible about that.

Watch our interview and Steve's performance. If you're into rock, blues, guitar or great performances, be sure to check-out Steve Hill!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Morning Stampede

It was the kind of chilly morning that keeps an unsuspecting gazelle's ears twitching alertly as it stands in unfamiliar pastures. In spite of the chill, the sun was bright and warm and the air, fresh.

A single ox grazed stupidly beside me, grunting occasionally. It was 7:15 this morning. The Wal Mart opened at 8.

My son had warned me the release of MW3 would bring unprecedented crowds and likely break all previous sales records. I dared doubt.

By 7:45, I was surrounded.

Customers wait for store to open
The oxen jostled and pawed restlessly. Their big, beefy, bovine butts stank of fresh bursts of methane. I hadn’t been in the store since its expansion. It was now the premiere watering hole of the vast savannah, attracting greedy, oblivious oxen from continents away! Susan had been inside since the renovations and had emphatically warned me to avoid the place! With its new grocery empire, ignorant, inconsiderate oxen now stood crammed in aisles, amid fresh plops of dung, like gigantic, dumb sardines, severely amplifying the danger to polite humans, of being inadvertently trampled or stupefied.

These were unfamiliar pastures, indeed!

Two oxen were exchanging snorts, discussing which route would provide the quickest way to the electronics department. By the time the corral door had been unlocked, I had been firmly planted at the front of the herd for forty-five minutes. Idiot.

Though slightly uncertain about the trajectory ahead, I had lulled myself into a false sense of security. That false sense exploded into smithereens as the doors slid open. Instinctively, I cowered.


I had been sent by my son before to pick-up new video games on their release dates, but for a mostly civilized man, this was entirely new territory! At once and with impressive resolve, the oxen surged forward, trotting at first, between the trees and rocks and then, mere instants later, breaking into full gallops! In the midst of the thundering hooves and clouds of dust blinding my vision and choking my windpipe, my first impulse was to curl into a ball behind a tree stump. Instead, for my offspring, I switched into full gazelle mode, bounding, springing, dancing and prancing, fleet of foot, between the massive frames. I was fifth in line, with huge oxen, muzzles sweating, panting loudly in front and behind me.

I deliberatly nudged the ox in front of me; he had arrived five minutes before the door opened and managed to get in line ahead of me. Oh, to be an ox, free to toss all shreds of deceny to the wind! A clerk opened a second cash and I dashed over to her counter. Now, I was first in line! When in Rome, baby! I paid for the game and stepped aside, catching my breath, astounded by the sheer spectacle.

The person behind me requested the special edition. The clerk came out from behind the counter and began going through unopened cardboad boxes while lines of oxen waited. There were three cashes going, each one with line-ups of fifteen to twenty people as more oxen steadily trudged into the department. It was bedlam! I could imagine Darwin observing from a nearby rock, excitedly scratching out the rudimentary principles of natural selection.

Home now, I continue to do inventory of my limbs. The new video game has been placed on Tristan’s desk, waiting for him to get home from school. How ironic. In video games, Tristan's character may struggle to survive, win and complete missions. It's child's play; in the real world, there’s no respawn. It’s you and the oxen, poised on the ruthless pastures of bargain-dom, playing for keeps.

The nightmares of today's mission will be mine to bear.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Toad the Wet Sprocket

Last night, I introduced William Shatner's show at Place des Arts. I was there as the representative for the television station, title sponsor of the event.

Earlier in the day, I had been told by the actor's publicity guy that the introduction the night before in Toronto had not gone well and, moments later, Shatner himself claimed it took him a while to get the audience back. As a result of the Toronto incident, they decided I would no longer be preparing a sixty second introduction; instead, they decided to script me. It turns out the script they sent me was thirty seconds long, so I decided to add an unauthorized line, along with a second mention of the station name.

I believe the sentence I added was most appropriate. After mentioning that I was delighted to be there representing the title sponsor, I told the audience beyond the glaring lights, "I'm also delighted to be here to introduce a man who is so interested and inspired by his life, that he interests and inspires us."

Uh-huh, now that's writing.

I had the opportunity to interview the 80 year old actor late yesterday afternoon at his hotel in Old Montreal. I had been assigned to put together a 2 minute 30 second report on the interview. We had an animated and interesting conversation that lasted about a half hour. When I first arrived at the hotel and as I was climbing the stairs with Todd the publicity guy, I asked if I could get a signed picture for my sister-in-law who, according to Susan, is a big Shatner fan. Todd, or should I say, Toad, responded curtly, "no". 

I took an instant sour pill, responding with the same curt tone to the remainder of his questions.

William Shatner is an actor, author, musician, writer, director, interviewer and so much more. He is passionate, interested and inspired by life, as I so eloquently and brilliantly and insightfully and perceptively pointed-out in my on-stage introduction! I was never a "Trekkie" but had, in recent weeks, begun to watch "Shatner's Raw Nerve" and enjoyed watching episodes of  "!%&$ My Dad Says".

David Sedell, my camera guy at the shoot is a huge Shatner fan, and rated meeting him as highly as the time he met George Harrison! We wondered whether the actor would be willing to pose for a picture with the two of us. David's idea was to have the three of us stand in front of the rolling camera and take a freeze frame from the video. Shatner agreed.
I'm glad we didn't ask Toad.