Wednesday, September 26, 2012

RE the apparent plagiarism of Peggy Wente: British journalists have to be more careful what they write because there are about 50 newspapers there, most of them cheek by jowl in Wapping, London. They watch and read each other. 
    That's one of our Canadian problems: our information emerges from a much small number of sources, which means that we listeners, readers and viewers have few outlets for counter arguments.
    If Carol Wainio, who is responsible for pointing out Wente's apparent plagiarism, had written a letter to the editor of the Globe complaining about Wente's apparent plagiarism, that letter would most likely have been consigned to the circular G file. 
    Same with the CBC. We are constantly being invited to comment, but those comments, if critical of a program or a host, rarely get read on air. Personally I loathe much of what Richard Stursberg did to CBC-2, but no one at the CBC seems to care about the introduction of what I call Rack and Roll to what was once a source of classical music.
    I have a personal gripe: soon after my biography of Peter Gzowski was published, it was damned on air by the hostess of the only CBC book show dealing with Canadian books, even though Shelagh Rogers claimed that she had never read the book. In fact she had read an advance copy of the book. She refused to have me on her show to answer her questions and complaints. Until now I have never complained, for I assumed that no CBC ombudsman would listen to me.
    The solution, it seems to me, would be to emulate Wainio's use of social media.

Monday, June 27, 2011

When my Bell Expressvu ceased working last week, I waited for about 24 hours before calling Bell.

I was surprised at the withdrawal symptoms -- nervousness, twitching, the fear of missing the latest accident or fire or political scandal.

When I finally called Bell, the pleasant young woman, whose voice rose at the end of each sentence, statement or question, asked me if I had a favourite program.

After a few seconds thought, I answered, "Not really. In fact, I am increasingly disenchanted with television, though I do enjoy PBS's documentaries and its rebroadcasts of operas and musicals. "As for the CBC," I added, "I do enjoy watching, from Montréal each weekend, Matin-Express, Weekend."

I knew, by the silence that greeted my statement, that the young woman had no idea what I was talking about.

We had a few more minutes to chat as the "diagnosis" of my television problem was at work. She had taken me into places I had never been, on my TV screen, I mean, and now we were waiting for the results of my system's "MRI."
"The problem is at your place," she informed me, her voice rising on "place." "Your TV dish may have moved, or the wire leading from the dish into the house may be damaged, or your receiver inside the house is old."

I expressed doubt at numbers one and two, though, who knew, perhaps a strong wind had shifted the angle of the dish, and perhaps a visiting coon has gnawed at the wire. And indeed the receiver was about a dozen years old.

"We can send a technician to your place," she told me, her voice rising at "place." "That will cost you $75 and tax," she added. "The technician will probably advice that you buy a modern receiver, and that will cost you about $100 plus tax."

I thought a moment, and asked. "And of course Bell will not be charging me for programs I cannot receive?" My voice rose on "receive."

She assured me that, of course, I would be paying because I was subscribed to all those programs.


"Let me think about this. This may be my opportunity to get rid of television for good.

We hung up.

Then I began to consider if I really could do without repeats of "Keeping Up Appearances" (Is there a better comic actress than Patricia Routledge?); or The PBS Newshour (even though it's American, it manages to be international at the same time); The BBC news (rarely anything about Canada, thank goodness, unless there's a riot in Toronto or Vancouver). And could I really miss the arrival of Kate and Wills (there's nothing like watching a royal plane pulling up at am airport terminal, stopping, and, a few suspenseful moments later, disgorging a smiling member of the royal family!).

The next day I was beginning to enjoy the fact that the screen was blank. I was reading more. I began to read Julian Barnes' latest collection of short stories, and the latest biography of Dr. Norman Bethune. I looked with envy at the stack of other books waiting to be read.
I was spending more time writing. While recovering from Peter Gzowski, A Biography, I am happily engaged in writing short articles for the best little local magazine in the country, The Ramara Chronicle.

On the third day, curious, I tried again to see what my TV would offer.

It spoke to me, and it showed me a pretty picture. I could get one channel, and that was one advertising Pay-Per-View programs.

I called Bell again.

After going through the insufferable recorded labyrinth, often called "Emily/Émilie, that may eventually lead the caller to the right department, I reached a live voice.

"So it isn't my receiver, or the dish, or the wire," I told the surprised real person at Bell. "If I had taken the advice of your colleague, about three days ago, I would by now have spent close to $200 for a technician and a new receiver."

We returned to diagnosis. Finally we solved the problem. "Take out the card from your receiver," the young woman instructed me, "and count to ten before returning it."

Within a few minutes, I had all my subscription channels back in good working order. I could now waste time on Alex Trebek's "Jeopardy," or "Mansbridge One On One," or Evan Solomon's political discussions or any number of other mind-numbing shows.

Darn it all. I suppose one way to solve the problem is to put the television out at the curb on the next garbage day.

Do I have the courage? I ask myself, my voice rising on "courage"!

Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Commissioned Works

How many writers can share with me the perils of commissioned writing projects. I've been through the mill several times, most recently twice. In each case, the person in charge has told me point blank, "Since we are paying for you to pipe us a tune, we'll call the tune." In other words, to hell with historical or biographical 'truth.' We want the past to be recreated or invented as we imagine it to have been. If there is any line separating fact from fiction, that line vanishes, it seems to me, in commissioned works. Any comments? RBF