A Welcome Getaway in Rhode Island

After the recent Book Expo in NYC, when I worked about seven days straight before, during, and after the book industry trade show, my wife and I got a nice break from work and the city for a getaway in Rhode Island. This is a charming part of New England, quite accessible to where we live in Manhattan, reachable in about four hours through a stress-free combination of commuter rail to New Haven, CT, where we picked up a rental car, then drove in to the southern corner of the Ocean State. It wasn’t hot yet, not so hot that swimming in the ocean was desirable, but we waded in the surf and took great beach walks. We also encountered freshwater ponds that back up to the edges of the dunes, with the ocean crashing on the other side, both bodies of water separated by fields of fragrant wild rose bushes. We hope to head back for another break later in the summer or fall. More pictures here.

Appreciating the CBC’s Grant Lawrence for his Evocation of Felix Mendelssohn’s 1829 Visit to Fingal’s Cave

CBC Radio’s Grant Lawrence is for the second consecutive August filling in for three straight weekends as guest host for the Vancouver weekend morning show, “North by Northwest,” which airs from 6am-9am in British Columbia, and a very civil 9am-noon in NYC. I’ve been listening to, and enjoying Grant on the radio since 2009, when he was hosting “Grant Lawrence Live,” a three-hour show most weekday afternoons on CBCRadio 3, the Internet-only outpost for homegrown indie rock n’ roll on Canada’s national broadcasting service. For the devoted audience of which I was a part, we listened to the station as often as workdays, employers, and connectivity would allow. And Grant wasn’t the only popular host—there were many others avidly listened to, and musicians who did guest-hosting. The blend of infectiously enjoyable programming combined the best Canadian indie rock n’ roll; crackling wit, from Grant especially; good heart from all; regular podcasts that supplemented the daily programming; and a lively communal blog on the Radio 3 website where listeners, hosts, and musicians occasionally, were all on line together, sharing thoughts and info on topics-of-the-day, plus current events, both news from the public sphere, and from people’s lives. It made for great radio, a close virtual community, and music, art, and friendship that enriched many lives over several years.

In 2015, the CBC, what’s known in Canada as a “crown corporation”—already under strain for several years due to severe budget cuts under the misrule of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, plus questionable management by CBC appointees who didn’t, and still don’t know broadcasting—ended live daily hosting on Radio 3, with emotional final shows by all the hosts still there, with Grant and another, Lana Gay, among the last remnant. The programming became taped promos, intros, outros, pre-produced musician featurettes, and a livestream of music, much of it by the same artists as before, but lacking the personal touch. The blog was still available to us then, and many of the core still hung out there in virtual space; I continued to visit the blog occasionally, but much less often listened to the live stream. Even though Justin Trudeau came in to office as Canada’s new PM in November 2015, with a promise to restore funding to the CBC, the same management is still in place, and the privation of the service has not noticeably improved yet. Finally, last month even the Radio 3 blog was folded up, too. And, mysteriously, the music content on Radio 3 has been geo-fenced, so it can only be heard within Canada’s borders, even though Radio 3 had long had fans and listeners from the US, Mexico, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and all over the world.

I’ve drafted a letter that as a lifelong friend of Canada I’ll be sending to the Honourable Mélanie Joly, 
Minister of Canadian Heritage, who has purview over the CBC. It reads in part,

I am personally and professionally invested in the work of sharing Canadian culture and spreading word of it all among appreciative cultural consumers in New York City, the US, and the wider world, among music lovers, readers, and among people who appreciate what a good country Canada is, with so many creative people.

I am writing to express my sincere hope that you and your colleagues will seriously consider restoring live hosting to CBC Radio 3; the daily live blog; and continue to provide the music service that has introduced myself and many other non-Canadians to the rich treasure house of talented Canadian musical performers.

I very much appreciate your attention to this letter from a non-Canadian. I remain a friend to Canada and to Canadian artists. Thank you for your consideration.

I hope she and her staff will read this and consider reversing course in many areas with regard to CBC Radio. Some of the Radio 3 people have moved on to jobs elsewhere, like Lana Gay who is on-air at Indie 88 in Toronto. For his part, Grant Lawrence has stayed at the CBC, working in social media and digital marketing for CBC Music, the larger entity in to which Radio 3 was folded, then swallowed up and made in to just another of their many live streams.

This is all stated as prologue to explain that I’m pleased when, from to time, Grant does a guest-hosting stint on one of CBC Radio One’s many programs, such as the one mentioned above, on “North by Northwest,” as he has the past two weekends, and coming up again this weekend (August 13-14). On his first weekend in the hosting chair, he aired a fascinating interview with American-Canadian blues legend, Jim Byrnes. He’s also done a segment with Chris Nelson, a First Nations man who acts as custodian of 5,000-year old petroglyphs on the BC coast. Then, last weekend, he broadcast a segment about composer Felix Mendelssohn’s fateful tour of Scotland in early August 1829, when he toured the scenic Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles, located off the mainland of Scotland, 187 years ago this month. Among many majestic sights, the composer visited the isle of Staffa, which is composed of vertical basalt stacks, formed it is said from a volcanic blast that also created the Causeway of the Giants in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland. On Staffa, seven miles distant from the larger island of Mull, Mendelssohn visited Fingal’s Cave, a remarkable setting that inspired him to create new melodies after he experienced its uncannily acute acoustics, with the sea rushing in and out of the sheltered space. Last Sunday, Grant played the splendid orchestral overture “The Hebrides,” and a section from Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony.

All this reminded me of a visit Kyle Gallup and I made to Scotland in 1992, when we also toured the Hebrides and visited Fingal’s Cave on a boat ride that landed us at the edge of the island, permitting us to take a brief walk inside the cave, using guiding ropes and metal stanchions sunk in the rock to keep visitors from sliding in to the water. The stanchions looked as if they were fixed in place almost 187 years ago! I’m glad I can share my photos here from our remarkable day, just as Mendelssohn shared his through his music. The first three photos (including the one at the top of this post) show us approaching Fingal’s Cave, the middle two show us after we landed for our brief visit, and the last was taken from inside the cave itself. Thanks to Grant Lawrence for the reason to remember the glorious music of Felix Mendelssohn and our visit to Fingal’s Cave almost 25 years ago! I’ll be listening to him on “North by Northwest” again this weekend, and you can too, right here via the Internet.

From inside Fingal's Cave

Toboggan Days with Noah

 

The above picture with my dog Noah patiently waiting for me as I prepared to slide down a hill was taken during an outing for students of the School on Magnolia, the alternative high school I attended in Cleveland, Ohio in the early 1970s. In those days, my hair was sort of like that of NBA star Anderson Varejao, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Anderson VarejaoThe second picture here was taken by my late brother Joel, in the living room of the home we grew up in, in the suburb of Shaker Heights, a few years after the wintry picture.  Noah

Don’t Scoff–Serious Science on What Motivates Dogs As They Decide Where to Poop

Editor at Raw Story David Ferguson, known as @TRexstasy on Twitter, has a fascinating post up covering a new study of animal behavior by scientists in the Czech Republic and Germany demonstrating that dogs–when off-leash and left to their own devices–show a decided preference for finding a position to defecate so that they’re in line with the Earth’s magnetic field, along a North-South axis, and actually avoid doing their business on an East-West axis. Ferguson summarizes the findings of the research, published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology:

“The study examined the daily habits of 70 dogs during 1,893 defecations and 5,582 urinations over the course of two years. Consistently, during times of calm electromagnetic ‘weather,’ the dogs chose to eliminate while facing north or south. Dogs are not the only animals that are sensitive to the Earth’s magnetism. When it comes time for them to mate, salmon use their sense of the Earth’s magnetism to find their way back to the spawning grounds where they were born. Birds, similarly, migrate along magnetic lines. Even ants have been proven to have a sense of the Earth’s alignment and to distinguish between north, south, east and west. As to why the dogs prefer to poop facing north or south rather than east or west, that’s still a mystery. ‘It is still enigmatic why the dogs do align at all, whether they do it ‘consciously’ (i.e., whether the magnetic field is sensorial perceived (the dogs ‘see,’ ‘hear’ or ‘smell’ the compass direction or perceive it as a haptic stimulus) or whether its reception is controlled on the vegetative level (they ‘feel better/more comfortable or worse/less comfortable’ in a certain direction),’ wrote researchers, ‘Our analysis of the raw data…indicates that dogs not only prefer N-S direction, but at the same time they also avoid E-W direction.’”

This helps me understand why my old black Lab Noah–who was very obedient and with whom I often walked leash-less in the wilds of Franconia, New Hampshire, and suburban Cleveland–may have been so choosy about where he wanted to poop, and even once he had found his spot, sometimes moved around quickly in a narrowing circle, until stopping at what was evidently always just the right spot for him. I got Noah on a cross-country road trip with my brother Joel. We rescued him from a dog pound in Deadwood, South Dakota, in the summer of 1970, a day or two before his three-week stay there was going to end with him being put down. We enjoyed his companionship until 1982. I tell Noah’s story in greater detail at a post on this blog called How I Came to Have as a Companion a Black Lab Named Noah.Noah and PTNoah with Philip Turner

2 Good News Dog Stories Guaranteed to Help You Feel Good

2 tweets on 2 true good news dog stories:

 

1) A rescue dog at the roof of the world, healing its owner’s heart. Be sure to see all the great pics at the unsigned Huffington Post story. HuffPo gives a H/T the Daily Mail, whose story is also unsigned. Maybe the whole thing is sponsored content? The photos are credited to a Caters News Agency. I trust the story of Rupee is nonetheless true.

2) The banishment of a guide dog and its blind owner from a scheduled flight leads to a popular revolution on the aircraft, courtesy of Gothamist, with details and audio at TV station CBS 2 NY.