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Don’t Read Twitter, Read A Book

My Dad, like many older children of the “Dirty 30’s”, never finished school and instead had to go and find work to help his family survive the Depression. But he was an intelligent person and driven to learn more about the world, so he did that through reading books and newspapers and anything else he could get his hands on at the time.

Reading was his education, especially when it came to world events and war history. He referred to historical events all the time as I was growing up.

I was not interested in history in the least, so I would simply roll my eyes at him.

When he passed away in 2013, he left quite a library of books behind. I gave family and friends a chance to take what they wanted, and then donated the rest to the Times Colonist Book Drive. I hung on to one or two of them for myself.

One book is titled “The Bitter Years” by Richard Petrow. My Dad referred to that book often, and for that reason I decided to keep it.

The book is about the German invasion and occupation of Denmark and Norway during the Second World War. My family is Danish on both sides, and my mother lived in Denmark during the German occupation.

About 2 or 3 weeks ago, I decided that maybe I should start reading it myself. Considering the war that is going on right now in the Ukraine, and potential war elsewhere in the world, I thought the topic was more relevant than ever.

The book is very detailed and sometimes overwhelming, but I am dedicated to finishing it and maybe learning a few things along the way. Actually, I’ve learned a lot already.

Reading a book takes time, and even patience. And in this world of tweets and tik toks, we’ve become conditioned to getting it all said and done in 280 characters or less.

Not only that, but we often believe what we read in a tweet without making the effort of finding out for sure if it is true.

Maybe we’ll even re-tweet it. I’m ashamed to say that I have done that myself.

As we know, social media has lead to all sorts of misinformation and misunderstandings. How different the world would be if we actually had to educate ourselves about something before re-tweeting it!

I know. That’s not going to happen.

When the internet and Google and Twitter came to be, I was worried about public libraries. What would happen to them?

I worked in a public library for several years and learned so much from that experience.

During that time a lot of people relied on libraries for information, from students, to researchers, to writers. Even teachers. Librarians would be answering questions on the phone or in person day and night.

There were all kinds of calls. Some of them interesting. Some, not so much.

On a Friday or Saturday night, you might get a call from a couple of guys at the bar who’d been arguing over who the first Major League Baseball team was.

Whatever the question and wherever it came from, librarians were trained to find the correct answer.

For a period of time I worked on the switchboard at the library, so my job was to direct questions to the appropriate department. One day I got a call from someone who wanted to know how to waterproof a zipper.

How to waterproof a zipper. I really had to think about where to direct that question. So, I thought, probably not the Sociology Department. Not Language and Literature. Ah! The Science and Technology department. That was it! I put the call through.

These days we Google everything, but Google isn’t university trained like a librarian is.

The good news is that libraries have changed and adapted to modern technology, and have remained very relevant and popular.

There is no excuse to not read a book about something and educate yourself. With a library card, you can also borrow e-books so you don’t even have to go there.

And they have plenty of audio books too. So you don’t even have to read.

And me, when I’m not focusing on my history book, I am into cozy mysteries. But that’s for a whole ‘nother chapter.

Oh, and by the way, the first MLB team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

I Googled it.

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Michael Woloshen – That’s A Wrap!

You might not know his name, but if you’ve watched CHEK Television at any time over the last 42 years, you’ve seen his work many times over.

January 2nd, 1980 was Michael Woloshen’s first day on the job at CHEK as a commercial writer/producer. He came to Vancouver Island from Richmond where he had lived with his family since 1969. Before that they lived in Boucherville Quebec, a suburb of Montreal where Michael was born.

His Dad, Andy Walsh, was a well known radio broadcaster both in Montreal and Vancouver.

Michael’s passion for television began back in the early 1960’s around the age of 7, when he got the chance to be in the audience for a local Montreal children’s television show called “The Johnny Jellybean Show”. It ran in the afternoon and was a big hit for CFCF-TV at a time when local television was mostly live.

Michael remembers being dazzled by the lights and the cameras in the huge studio. He also got to play a part in another children’s show later on, and, like a lot of kids from the 60’s, he recalls sitting at home with his many siblings surrounding their new black and white television.

From that time on, he was a TV guy. He was also a bit of a ham.

Michael (left) as Tweedle Dum in “Through The Looking Glass”

In school, he participated in music and in drama, getting parts in high school plays like Through The Looking Glass and Tom Jones. Even after graduating from high school, he joined a local community theatre for the production of Bye Bye Birdie.

When he had completed high school, he went to BCIT and signed up for their television broadcast communications program. On weekends, he spun a little dough at Shakey’s Pizza.

After graduating from BCIT, he landed a job at Delta Cable. And then Michael’s whole world changed when he saw an ad for a job at CHEK 6 in Victoria. It meant moving to another city all by himself, and starting a new life.

When he first started working in CHEK’s Commercial Production department, the station was located on Epson Drive, right beside the Cedar Hill Golf Course.

Michael began by writing and producing commercials for a number of local businesses. Then he got involved in writing for the children’s television series, “Foufouli” with Dale Read.

He also co-wrote and produced “Highband”, a comedy/variety show featuring music videos and sketches, and “Everyday Things” with children’s entertainer Pat Carfra.

Then there was “A La Carte”, a cooking show which he also co-hosted, the home fixup show “Home Check With Shell Busey”, and “Reel Guy”, where Michael went on camera in his hockey shirt and housecoat, introducing the movie of the week. You had to be there.

There were also the parades. Michael wrote the scripts for and produced the CHEK broadcasts of the Victoria Day Parade and, after a time, Santa’s Light Parade.

Of the countless commercials he has written and produced, the Dodd’s Furniture spots would probably be what many would remember most. Gordy Dodd was always gracious and good humoured, allowing Michael to dress him up as so many memorable and crazy movie and television characters over the years.

Michael with the “cast” of Dodd’s

For all of his work, Michael collected his fair share of awards from B.C.A.B, the British Columbia Association of Broadcasters, and CanPro, the Canadian Television Program Festival. Life was good.

During this time, the station had gone through a move to its present location on Kings Road, and a couple of changes in ownership on top of that.

And then one day, it all came to a grinding halt.

Michael, along with the entire commercial production department, was laid off. It was a cost cutting measure as CHEK and a number of other stations across Canada were put on the market yet again. This was in early 2009, when the world experienced the domino effect of the 2008 stock market crash in the U.S.

For Michael and everyone in his department, it was devastating.

And yet, somehow over the next 9 months, he found a way to employ himself independently, working wherever he could to make ends meet. Even worse news came when CHEK itself was put on the chopping block and was going to shut down completely.

Then, just like in the movies, there came the happy ending. A group of investors stepped up, and along with CHEK’s employees, they put their money together and bought the station. Michael was the first person that was hired back.

On his first day of work, he had to scrounge around just to find a chair and a desk to use. But it was the beginning of completely rebuilding the commercial production department, literally from scratch.

As we sat around the kitchen table the other morning (it’s okay, we’re married), I asked Michael what he enjoyed most about his work.

“Putting all the pieces together,” he said. From coming up with the concept, to writing and shooting and editing all the bits, and finally seeing the end result, that’s what pleases him most. “I mean, there’s lots of aspects of it that are interesting.”

But when I asked him what he wanted to be remembered for, he said that it’s all about the people he has worked with over the years. As an example, he enjoys helping someone who had never been in front of a camera before, getting them to relax and bring out their best performance.

And it’s also about making clients happy. “You have a connection with clients and the goal is to help them with their business and create that message for them.”

But overall, building the production department back from nothing, employing people as a result, and creating so many local television series’, has given him the greatest satisfaction over the last few years.

I might be slightly biased, but I think he’s done a fabulous job.

On Friday, May 27th, Michael moves on to another chapter of his life; retiring after over 40 years of doing what he loves most. You can’t beat that.

So, as Michael has said so many times, “That’s a wrap!”

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We Love Music – But Who Pays For It?

There are so many bad things happening in the world these days that a lot of news stories end up even lower on the radar than usual.

It certainly didn’t receive anywhere near the attention that Will Smith’s incident with Chris Rock did, but did you know that last year, Canadian songwriters made an average of only $67.14? Talk about a slap in the face.

Ever since music ventured into the digital realm, more and more people have been using streaming services to create their playlists. And many find ways to create digital copies of songs so they don’t have to purchase them.

But, of course, it didn’t start with the internet.

When cassette tapes were the big thing, we would record songs off the radio or make copies of our albums to play in our cars. And with the advent of recordable CD’s and the internet, we found a way to download and record songs that we wanted copies of.

With everybody streaming music these days, I decided to research how much a songwriter actually makes from streaming their songs. It turns out that they get, on average, about $0.005 per stream. That means their song would have to be streamed 200 times just to make one dollar.

One dollar. For 200 streams.

Spotify is reported to have about 406 million subscribers. About half of those pay $10 a month for the service while the “free” service includes ads.

That means Spotify rakes in about $2 billion a month just from subscribers. Never mind the ad revenue. Where does all that money go?

If you’re a Rihanna or a Justin Bieber, you’re not too worried about money. But if you’re a songwriter trying to make some kind of living from your work, well, don’t give up your day job.

Don’t get me wrong: it has always been a challenge making a living as a performing songwriter. Never mind how COVID has impacted live performances in the last couple of years.

But when I was doing that back in the 90’s, at least I could sell a CD or two.

I can’t tell you how many times I was told that not getting paid for a gig was okay because it would be great “exposure”.

Sometimes I was lucky and they would pass a hat during my performance.

On one occasion, I was asked to play right after a poetry reading night at a coffeehouse in Burnaby. They were going to pass the hat that night, and they did so during the poetry readings.

When the poetry was done, the poets and the patrons left and took the “hat” with them. I was left with empty pockets and one person to play to for an hour. She sat on the couch politely listening, probably too embarrassed to walk out and leave me all alone.

If you got your song on the radio back then, which I did a few times, you were at least fairly compensated. And if you were really lucky and the song caught on, you were on your way.

When the internet became a thing, I remember thinking that this would be a great way to reach so many more people without having to go on the road.

I was partially right.

In fact, in the very beginning, I got a couple of my songs on one of the first digital music platforms, mp3.com. A lot of businesses played mp3.com stations, and if your song got into rotation on one of those, you were doing well. I made some real money from that.

According to Wikipedia, “At its peak, MP3.com delivered over 4 million MP3 formatted audio files per day to over 800,000 unique users on a customer base of 25 million registered users.”

It was a great venue for independent artists to not only get that “exposure”, but make a little money at it too. And then everything changed, mp3.com was sold, and it morphed into something else. 

Big digital companies caught on to mp3.com’s success, and now here we are with streaming services that, once again, have no respect for content creators.

SOCAN, the Society for Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, is trying to do something about this by pushing for Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act.

But I really think more needs to be done to force digital streaming services to pay actual money for the content they use to make their fortunes.

Now THAT would be music to my ears.

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Do You Still Wear A Mask?

On the first day that the mask mandate was lifted here in B.C., I had an appointment at the optometrist in the mall. I was curious to see how many people would be without masks.

I was asked to wear a mask for my appointment, so it was hanging beneath my chin as I walked toward the mall entrance. Approaching the door, I placed it securely over my face, out of habit, or maybe just because I wasn’t ready to be without one yet.

How many people would show their faces?

When I opened the door, I was immediately surprised to see three ladies about my age, without masks. They were giving the thumbs up to each other. I assumed it was because they were happy to be mask-less, but I don’t know for sure.

I had half expected all of the mask-less minions to be young and male. Maybe that came from watching and reading too many stories lately about the so-called Freedom Convoy.

My guess was that about 90% of the people in the mall that day had masks on. They were all ages, although the majority were middle-aged and older.

Since then I think that number has gone down to maybe 50-60% or less.

The truth is that, for many of us, it feels strange not wearing a mask. Two years of heightened awareness, of strict protocols and news about upticks in COVID cases, deaths, and virulent variants, have made us extremely cautious. So not wearing one just feels wrong, somehow.

It took awhile to get used to donning masks in the first place, but in the beginning we used our creativity and embraced the notion of mask wearing in public. Well, some of us did. But it was a novelty, and as usual, the novelty wore off and the reality sunk in.

They were sometimes a pain to get on or off, especially with glasses or hats or hearing aids. They made it difficult to converse with people or to understand instructions. They made your glasses fog up. Sometimes it was just that much more difficult to breathe.

You’d think we’d all be happy to be rid of them.

I have a collection of masks from many different sources over the past two years. I have Christmas masks, funny masks, N95 and KN95 masks. I have mask extenders, ties and clips. I always have one in my purse, in my car, and in my coat pocket. Just like Kleenex.

But like many people, I’m not quite ready to be without them yet. “We need to support that. We need to recognize that we all have our own risks and our own vulnerabilities,” Bonnie Henry said at the news conference announcing the end of mandate.

I would add “anxieties”.

At this point, I find myself staring at people indoors without masks. Maybe I’m just not used to seeing naked faces. I have to keep reminding myself that masks are no longer required, at least for now, and people should do what they’re comfortable doing.

As long as the mask-less offer me the same respect.

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Electric Avenue

When I was quite small, the family car, an old 1938 Chrysler, finally gave up the ghost, and we went for 4 years without a vehicle. New cars were expensive and my Dad, a bus driver, had a mortgage to pay and not much else left over after that. We pretty much walked or took the bus everywhere we needed to for those four years.

Finally, around about 1966, my Dad bought one of the first Toyota Corolla’s in Canada. It cost him $2298.00. And, as he recollected in his memoirs, that was with a radio included!

One of our first road trips with the new car was a drive to the BC interior. Whenever we stopped for gas, the gas attendant would stare up and down the car in wonder. The Toyota looked nothing like the North American vehicles everyone was used to at the time.

Dad loved that car and drove it for many years.

Fast forward to last year, February 2020, when my daughter became the first in our family…well, the first of anybody we know, actually, to get an electric car. She’s had her red Hyundai Kona for almost a year now, and it’s been a learning experience, but not a difficult one.

With the recent announcements by GM that they will be building electric vans at their plant in southern Ontario, and President Biden revoking the Keystone XL Pipeline permit, there is a feeling of change in the air. Literally, I suppose.

Gas vehicles won’t disappear overnight, of course. And hybrid vehicles will help the transition for many. But more and more people are lining up to buy electric vehicles these days.

Still, change can be slow. One of the concerns many people have is the number of charging stations across the country, and the other is the length of time it takes to charge, even for a fast charge. More and more infrastructure is being built across Canada, with many gas stations also providing EV charging stations now, but it’s a process. And you won’t find EV charging stations yet in many smaller communities.

Charging up certainly isn’t quite as quick as gassing up. While she was waiting for her Kona to arrive, my daughter plotted out where all of the charging stations were in and around the city and on the Pat Bay Highway. Then it came down to figuring out how to use that charging time effectively. Like plugging into an EV stall at the mall and getting her grocery shopping done at the same time.

When she comes to visit us, she plugs her car into a regular outlet outside the house. In an 8 or 9 hour visit, she can only get a 10-15% charge. As an example, she uses that much charge just driving to and from work for one shift out at Swartz Bay.

At the mall, with what is called a Level 2 charge, she can get the same charge in about 2 hours. With a Level 3 charge, it’s two or three times faster than that. Of course, that all depends on the size of the battery too.

Me, well I still have my 2004 Mustang GT convertible. It’s a gas guzzler, but it’s pretty nice. I love to put the top down. When it isn’t raining, that is. And it has a V8 engine, so you can hear me coming from many blocks away.

Ford came out with an electric vehicle called the Mustang Mach-E but it looks nothing like a Mustang to me. So I have refused to purchase it, in protest. If they ever make an electric Mustang that looks like a Mustang, I’ll be first in line.

I don’t drive a lot. I work from home, so typically, I get in the car once or twice a week, if that. Some might say I don’t even need a car considering how little I drive. But I can’t let go of my Mustang. Don’t make me!

The car also has to be plugged in when I’m not using it. Just like a lot of muscle cars, the battery drains when it’s sitting there for too long. So I have a battery maintainer that I attach to it to keep the battery charged.

In which case, I guess you could say I DO have an electric vehicle, no?