Pet Park in Peril

 

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Only chicken wire and wood separate the canines from the under-nines

In what is set to be the battle of the ages, dog owners along Toronto’s Beaches boardwalk are up in arms over an invasion that has them frightened for the safety of their four-legged family members.

A new disease-bearing tick?

Someone leaving poisoned treats?

Marauding coyotes looking for a snack?

Nothing so mundane.

Instead, pet parents are angry that the dog park at the foot of Lee Avenue has been invaded by terrors of the bipedal kind as parents throughout the area have literally unleashed their children within the wood beam and chicken wire compound.

“It’s just not fair,” cries local Peke-a-poo owner Jolene Carpenter. “They have a wooden fortress and wading pool right there in Kew Gardens, and full playgrounds at either end of the boardwalk.”

“How would they like it if we turned their sandboxes into litter boxes?” adds Henry Ratsburg, collie-enthusiast and former cat owner.

As though proving their point, the fence bordering the dog park resembles a sand-covered drive-in as strollers of all sizes, colours and designs sit parked along the fence. Meanwhile, their parental owners relax at the nearby ice cream bar and coffee shop, chatting with other parents while their children run amok beyond the gates.

“I really don’t understand the fuss,” chimes Cyndy Jacobson, mother of two. “My kids need a safe place to run around, and this is the only designated off-leash section of the beach.”

baby_boy_on_leash

Docile when leashed but muscles braced for freedom

Ironically, the dog park, which is actually comprised of an open sandy section and a larger shrub-laden section, was established by the City of Toronto several years ago after many parents in the area complained about dogs littering their waterfront fun.

“It was a total mess out there,” remembers long-time Beaches resident Jackson Brink. “At best, people would just bury the dog droppings in the sand, but it doesn’t take long on a hot summer’s day to realize you’ve parked your beach towel on a fermenting pile left by a mastiff or Great Dane.”

Play time

Frolicking in the sand or burying the evidence?

The park’s transition from canine to kiddie has been a slow but inexorable one that started with delayed summer temperatures last year and parents’ worries about letting their children play in the frigid surf. One by one, as stressed parents discovered the relative calm of the dog park, they began to release their children into its confines.

“The first few actually showed up with both kids and dogs in tow, but they didn’t fool us,” says Carpenter. “Within minutes, you’d see them skulk out of the park with their dogs, the kids nowhere to be found.”

Several residents have demanded the City step in, if only to deal with the potential health and safety risks.

“They bite; they scratch; they’re full of germs. I just don’t feel that my babies are safe in there,” complains Ratsburg, anxiously stroking the fur of his tri-colour collies.

Rebel lake

Ratsburg and friend in better days

Nobody from the City of Toronto was willing to go on the record, but one unnamed source suggests there is little the City can do given the way current bylaws are written.

“All we can do is caution people to make sure their little ones have all their shots and don’t get trampled,” the source suggests. “Residents with children might want to do the same.”

From tampons to toilet paper

Taxi pads

As of July 1st – Canada Day – women in Canada will no longer be required to pay sales tax when purchasing feminine hygiene products such as tampons and pads. The change comes after many months of Canadians decrying the tax as gender discriminatory, as solely a tax on women (see House of Commons debate).

Having wracked my brain, I was unable to determine an equivalent male-exclusive product and so broadened my thinking to identify products that might be absolute necessities. There are no taxes on groceries, for example – family-size purchases, that is; “junk food” and “individual” purchases are taxed.

And then it struck me: toilet paper.

So yesterday, I launched a faux campaign to remove the taxes from toilet paper, and welcome you all to join what I am calling the #BowelMovement.

Tweet

Feel free to * ahem * pass this along.

TP tax

Peter Pan arrested for murder

Prison pan

NEVERLAND – News is filtering in that famed fly-boy Peter Pan has been arrested by the Neverland Police Department. While details are sketchy, inside sources say the green-tightsed man-child was charged with the stabbing death of Captain Hook’s right-hand man.

This is the second such set of charges laid on the former leader of the Lost Boys, who was questioned in the death of maniacal monodexter Captain James Hook. When the local District Attorney was attacked by a dust mote and unexpectedly turned into a sea slug, the original charge of manslaughter was dropped.

Sources suggest the sword-wielding pixie possessor was distraught over rumours that his life-long girlfriend Wendy Darling was seeing another man. Upon confronting her with his suspicions, she reportedly denied the allegations but did admit she was interested in terminating their relationship.

Still emotionally connected, however, she tried to let her green-eyed felt-clad paramour down gently, suggesting her desire was in no way related to his prior behaviour.

While we cannot yet confirm the content of their conversation, we believe the confusion began shortly after she started to explain herself with:

“Oh, Peter, it’s not you.”

(think about it for a second)

(still not getting it?)

(oh, all right then)

“It’s me.”

smee sword

Shhh…the Toronto Marlies made the playoffs

hurray

My beloved hometown Toronto is often described as “hockey-mad”, and as home to the Hockey Hall of Fame and one of the most legendary franchises in National Hockey League history—the Toronto Maple Leafs—you might think that makes sense. The epithet hockey-mad is, however, a lie.

Toronto is not hockey-mad, it is Maple Leafs-mad.

In fact, it is now Maple Leafs-livid because yet again, the big team has failed to make the Stanley Cup playoffs and so my fair city will go a 48th consecutive year without a championship.

Still legendary, but for entirely the wrong reasons.

But while the local news media are filled with stories about what the woeful Toronto hockey fans will do as the Leafs players take to the golf courses, they are completely overlooking one local professional hockey team that has made the playoffs—for the fourth consecutive season.

I speak of my beloved Toronto Marlies, the American Hockey League farm team of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Nary a word. Nary a reporter. No pictures. Doesn’t exist.

Star sports coverage

The team is covered by bloggers whom I respect:

But otherwise, silence.

Mark (facing us) came all the way from the UK to watch the Marlies play. Toronto sports reporters, not so much.

Mark (facing us) came all the way from the UK to watch the Marlies play. Toronto sports reporters, not so much.

To address this short-coming, I have started a campaign with other Marlies fans to bombard the local media with news and highlights of what is happening in Toronto playoff hockey. My first missive is below:

Playoff hockey in Toronto

Over the past week, I have read two stories in the Sports Section of the Toronto Star describing what playoff-starved Torontonians can do now that the Maple Leafs have hit the golf links. Woe is Toronto in the absence of playoff hockey.

And yet, Toronto will play host to professional playoff hockey, and by players proudly sporting blue and white maple leaves. I am, of course, speaking of the Toronto Marlies, the farm team of the moribund Toronto Maple Leafs.

You see, as the ACC has sat deathly quiet, the Ricoh Coliseum just a little way down Lakeshore Boulevard has been rocking night after night as the Marlies rescued a terrible season start and turned it into a rollicking run back into the Calder Cup playoff race.

Last night, with a loss by the Hamilton Bulldogs and a win by the Marlies, Toronto’s boys in blue clinched their fourth consecutive playoff spot, and over the next two days, could see themselves sit anywhere from 6th to 8th in the AHL Western Conference.

And how did the boys do in their previous runs at the Calder Cup? Three years ago, they reached the championship finals, only to fall to the juggernaut that was the Norfolk Admirals. Last year, they were within 22 minutes of advancing to yet another Calder Cup final, but fell to the ultimate champion Texas Stars.

Sure, everyone was disappointed that the boys didn’t bring home the Cup, but in a city that is used to switching allegiances in April, touting a hockey team as Conference Finalist and Cup Finalist is pretty heady stuff.

With the house-cleaning planned up the road at the ACC, the Marlies have never had a greater importance to the Maple Leafs. The boys I watch on a weekly basis are the future of the big squad. Rookie scoring champion Connor Brown. Future phenom William Nylander. Tomorrow’s goaltending duo Christopher Gibson and Antoine Bibeau. Former Defenceman of the Year TJ Brennan. I can keep going.

So as your readers bemoan being unable to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars taking in one Leafs playoff game, they should know that they can come down the road a bit (plenty of parking) and bring the whole family (for a fraction of the price) to cheer the Marlies as they march into Calder Cup competition.

I’ll be cheering the boys. My friends will be cheering the boys. Come on down. We’ll give you a warm welcome!

Go Marlies, Go!

Wish me (and the Marlies) luck.

playoffs

Agenda journalism – Wendy Mesley v Jon Stewart

One of these people is a "serious journalist" (Wendy Mesley; Jon Stewart)

One of these people is a “serious journalist” (Wendy Mesley; Jon Stewart)

As I practice the art of writing (e.g., novels, screenplays), I pay my bills by writing for the pharmaceutical trade publication DDNews. I consider myself more of an essayist and commentator more than a journalist, mainly because I have too much respect for journalists and the tightrope they walk balancing the need to produce a story and discover a story.

With that respect, however, comes a certain level of expectation, and in too many high-profile cases, those expectations are not being met.

The most recent case for me (and the prompt for this post) was an interview between CBC journalist and anchor Wendy Mesley and film director and host of The Daily Show Jon Stewart, who appeared on CBC’s The National on November 14.

CBC The National interview with Jon Stewart (Nov 14) (video)

The interview used as evidence Bahari worked with spies

The interview used as evidence Bahari worked with spies (Jason Jones, Maziar Bahari)

Ostensibly, the interview was meant to discuss Stewart’s new movie Rosewater  (trailer at bottom) and the events that led to the incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran, the interrogation of whom involved video of Bahari’s discussions with a The Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones.

Ironically, the interview became an attempted interrogation of Stewart on his culpability in Bahari’s incarceration and torture, and the broader question of satire feeding the flames of fanaticism.

To his credit, while dismissing the questions as ridiculous, Stewart responded to them with logic and tried to look at the bigger picture. Mesley, however, could not be shaken from her belief that there must be guilt and culpability.

This is where I take issue.

Although I believe it is important for a journalist to know what she wants to talk about when interviewing someone, I also believe it is beholden on the journalist to let the conversation happen and see where it goes.

When I interview someone for one of my news articles, I start with a list of questions based on my research of the topic and the person/organization being interviewed. Going in, I have an agenda.

But when the interview starts, most of those questions fall by the wayside and are replaced by bigger, more important discussions that I didn’t foresee. In short, I listen to what the interviewee has to tell me and then adjust the conversation.

I completely understand that if someone is being evasive on a topic, a journalist may want to harder press a specific topic or series of questions, but in the Stewart interview, there was no evasion. He simply did not give the answers Mesley wanted, and she refused to accept them, as she is wont on many pieces throughout her years with the CBC.

Delightfully, toward the end of their conversation, Stewart called her on this, accusing her of not believing anything he said. She clearly did not do her homework on him, because she was uncomfortable with his challenge.

Sadly, this meant that the interview became about the interview and not the subjects that might have been vastly more interesting and were decidedly more important: political fanaticism, satire as a weapon, the erosion of journalism (ironically), human endurance.

An opportunity for insightful exchange was largely missed (Stewart did his best to talk about these things).

For anyone who thinks you might be interviewed at some point in your lifetime, study Stewart’s approach to this interview and any other.

For anyone who thinks you might become a journalist, study Mesley’s approach to this interview and pull a Costanza…do the opposite.

There are too many important issues to be discussed in the news to have the conversation high-jacked by a faulty agenda.

In the meantime, if Mesley wants to be an editorialist or commentator, do so. The CBC has several (e.g., Rex Murphy).

 

PS Some might argue that because I work for a trade publication, my questions are apt to be softball as the publication’s agenda is to suck up to the industry. One: I call bullshit. And two: read my stuff.

Happier times well after the events of Rosewater

Happier times well after the events of Rosewater (Jason Jones, Maziar Bahari)

See also:

Based on my true story

Image

As I wrote yesterday in “Write what you…No!”, I wanted to talk about a variant of writing on a topic in which you have expertise: the true story.

Now let me start off by saying that I have never written anything directly lifted from a true story—at least never attempted to fictionalize one—but I have spent the better part of two years listening to people try to do same, and it seems to me the effort is fraught with pitfalls.

(Ironically, however, I am about to start a project with someone that will be based on his true story, so let’s see if my attitudes change once I’m on the inside.)

The biggest challenge I have seen is that many novice writers forget that they need to tell a story. On the surface, that may sound ridiculous. It is a story. I know. I was there. The problem it seems is that a lot of writers try to chronicle the actual events that occurred rather than try to tell a story. That is a history, not a story.

It’s like sharing a joke with someone and having a third party enter asking what’s so funny. When you think about it, you realize the joke itself is not the funny part and you respond “You had to be there.”

The same holds true for the true story. With rare exceptions, while experiencing the actual events, you experienced emotions and actions that are just too difficult to translate into a narrative. And without your context, the audience loses something.

Likewise, you may be leaving out critical facts that are obvious or second-nature to you but elude us. When this happens, characters do not feel fully developed or plot points don’t seem connected, because we don’t instinctively see the link.

And ironically, despite what I just said, novice writers working on such stories tend to want to stick to the facts as they know it to the detriment of any sense of story…they refuse to fictionalize their story beyond changing names, settings and the odd plot point because to do more would be to remove the truth of their experiences.

Let me give an example.

A friend of mine was trying to develop a screenplay about a family coping with young adult son with a psychological disability, and the young man’s attempts to find his personal space. It was very well written, but at least in its initial stages, it felt like there were plot and motivational holes throughout the manuscript. As we discussed it in class, we learned that this was effectively a fictionalization of the writer’s family.

In her manuscript, the protagonist—the young man—was largely shut down from his family and even they largely repressed their feelings with each other as a coping mechanism. As an audience member, this made it difficult to get into the characters and rather than feel empathy or any form of connection with the protagonist, he just pissed many of us off. We hadn’t lived the experience the writer had, so we couldn’t see her story the way she did.

Try as we would to get the writer to see our dilemma, she was equally adamant that to make the protagonist any other way would make him unrealistic given his condition; a defensible position within limits. She couldn’t let go of enough of the truth to develop a story.

The story must come first if you ever hope to engage an audience. Even fact-laden documentaries and news items focus on a story or narrative. Without that, you are reading a dictionary or encyclopedia entry.

The truth or reality of your personal experiences are vitally important, but only in so much as they are used to bolster or support the story you are trying to tell. It is almost impossible to successfully do it the other way around.

(Image used without permission, and that’s my true story.)