October 25, 2010

R.I.P. Walkman (1979 - 2010)

Sony announced recently that the last batch of its iconic Walkman was produced in April of this year, and that no more new cassette Walkman products will be made.

The Sony Walkman debuted in 1979, and reached its peak as the must-have accessory for pop music fans for those of us who were in high school from, ahem, 1984 to 1988.

While younger folks may scoff as such antique, even quaint, technology it's worth pausing to reflect on how much the Walkman changed the relationship of music to the listener. As the first truly portable music device, the Walkman blazed the trail for personal listening and created a market for a more individualistic music experience.

There is no doubt that the Walkman was a revolutionary consumer product, paving the way for the portable CD and DAT devices and, eventually, the digital evolution to MP3 and the now ubiquitous iPod and its various spawn.

The Walkman was every much the status symbol that the iPod is today. There were clones on the market then --as there remains today--and you could walk proud only if you had a genuine Sony Walkman. In fact, I recall that the de riguer outfit was either a Lacoste polo shirt, Ralph Lauren Oxford button down, tan or brown cords, and your Sony Walkman. Some of you may recall the Lacoste knock-offs, those scratchy polo shirts with the fox sewn on their fronts, that you could buy at Sears? But I digress...

So a little tear for getting a Walkman model with auto-playback; for running out to Sam the Record Man to get the latest INXS, U2, or The Cure cassette; for having a little place to carve out in your head while you rode the bus to and from school; to the first time you could really make a statement with your music; to forging your first scaffolding of what would become your sense of self and identity.

October 14, 2010

Canada's diplomatic woes

Canada's international reputation took a beating this week, with the loss of a seat on the U.N. Security Council (the first such loss for Canada since 1945), and being asked to leave its base in the U.A.E. 

Influential magazine The Economist weighed in on the Security Council snub, summarizing Canada's current foreign policy as "better at doughnuts than diplomacy". Ouch. Canada hasn't received such a harsh barb from the venerable U.K. magazine since it labelled then-PM Paul Martin as a "ditherer".

Harper's team immediately blamed the loss of the Security Council seat on opposition leader Michael Ignatieff, saying that his criticism of Harper's foreign policy did not present a united front to the world. After pundits and editorialists rightfully called the blame game both specious and idiotic, Harper stated that Canada lost the vote because "of his government’s refusal to trade policy positions to be popular among UN voters".

Others pointed to the Harper government's decision to effectively neutralize Foreign Affairs, consolidate all decisions and power at the PMO, and its staunch alignment with Israel that played the real parts in Canada's loss of support for the Security Council seat.

The embarassment of not earning a seat on the Security Council means that Canada will not have a voice on the most powerful arm of the U.N. for the first decade since the U.N. was founded. It's a blow to Canada's diplomatic corps, long viewed as one of the world's pre-eminent foreign services. Canada was a founding member of the U.N. and had long distinguished itself as a quiet but stable influence in global diplomacy, exercising its self-appointed role as a "middle power", a status that reached its apex during the Suez Canal crisis, for which Lester B. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize. Canada had long pursued a foreign policy position based on quiet but influential diplomacy and a commitment to peacekeeping.

Canada's diplomatic influence is directly related to the global perceptions of its credibility. Clearly the decisions made by the Harper government have negatively impacted our reputation and lessened our ability to influence other countries. Put another way, our country's actions and policies have consequences and for the first time in a lifetime Canada's diplomatic position in the world is in deep trouble.           

October 13, 2010

For your consideration

Civic elections are looming across the province and in the effort to promote democracy and informed decision-making, herewith I present the lowdown on Kingston's mayoral candidates.

The Front Runners

Mark Gerretsen
Son of former Kingston mayor and current MPP for Kingston and the Islands and Minister of the Environment, John Gerretsen, Mark has most recently served as the councillor for the Portsmouth District. His last name provides him with strong brand recognition by association, but this is both a positive and negative attribute, depending on one's view of the McGuinty government. Gerretsen will likely enjoy the support of the local establishment and prominent members of the city's business class.

Rob Matheson 
The vocal councillor for the Loyalist-Cataraqui District, Matheson was born in Africa and lived around the world before his family settled in my former home town of Aylmer, Quebec. Matheson moved to Kingston in 1997, and he has taken a keen interest in public service and has been involved in many service organizations. Matheson will attract voters keen on his mantra of sustainability and those who are wary of political dynasties.

The Outsider

Barrie Chalmers
A longtime local business owner, Chalmers has not held public office before and is thus unknown to most Kingstonians. He brings a business orientation to how he views the issues and fixes for Kingston, and he prides himself on not being a politician. Chalmers' straight-talk apprach will appeal to those who think governments tend to get in the way, and those who distrust most politicians. Ironically, Chalmers' relative lack of name recognition could help him pick up the undecided who are wary of the career politicians. 

The Social Network

John Last/Kevin Lavelly/Nathaniel Wilson
With their snazzy web site "Run this Town", Last, Lavelly, and Wilson are three 20 year-olds running a mayoral campaign to eat away at voter apathy. Their approach is to tackle the cynicism of elections and to try and influence folks to get to the polls; that our civic duty is to be involved citizens in our electoral process. Their main audience is the younger demographic, who tend to shy away from municipal politics and elections. They don't expect votes but surely they will stoke the passions of a few citizens in the 18-25 age range.

October 12, 2010

You can now own a Stacy Kelly collectable

You can now own an essential and rare Stacy Kelly collectable, available to order from Chessler Books in Colorado.

Get your own signed copy of Everest: Epic Trivia co-authored by Don Travers and Stacy Kelly.  Published in 1999 this 76-page book features photos and hundreds of trivia questions and answers about the legendary mountain.

Order your copy now at Chessler Books.  Makes a great gift!

October 10, 2010

On the restaurant trail

As the dust finally settles on downtown Kingston's "Big Dig", the rather clever marketing campaign created around the revitalization of the main corner of historic downtown, some interesting developments are about to occur in our restaurant scene

First off, we may have a burger war on our hands. Last week Harper's Burger Bar opened just near the busy corner of Wellington and Princess streets. We tried to go in on Thursday night but the place was absolutely packed. They are getting the jump on Five Guys Burgers and Fries, opening up a block north. Whereas Harper's is the brainchild of the folks behind local favs Chien Noir and Atomica, Five Guys is the famous burger joint that started in the D.C. area. To add some more competition, a local joint opened up not too long ago called "Vinny's Italian Sandwiches". After a very brief run it closed (confusing all concerned) and then reopened as "Vinny's Burgers and Fries".  It will be a hoot to see which will thrive in Kingston's competitive restaurant market.

Secondly, there may be a tea war brewing as well considering a David's Tea location is opening up on one of the downtown's best blocks, just a few storefronts down from the current Tea Store. Don't know who this David person is but he's got the best location, right next to our Empire Theatre (movies) and across the street from the Grand Theatre (music & plays).

Clogging up the streets will be a poutine war, with a few new upstarts trying to unseat Bubba's as Kingston's fav poutine destination. A local operation called "Poutine Place" is opening up soon, along with a branch of the Smoke's Poutinerie empire.

October 6, 2010

It Gets Better!

As our own little contribution to the spirit and emotion behind the wonderful It Gets Better Project, I thought I would repost the interview Mark and I did about our life and love together. We celebrated 9 years together in August and our interview was a humourous and touching portrait of how two gay boys can overcome the great challenges out there and fall in love.

October 5, 2010

I can't believe the news today

RIP Asher Brown, a 13 year-old boy from Texas who killed himself after excessive bullying about his size, his beliefs, and about being gay.

RIP Seth Walsh, a 13 year-old boy from California who died in hospital due to injuries sustained after attempting to hang himself. Seth had reported being bullied for years for being gay.

RIP Billy Lucas, a 15 year-old boy from Indiana, who hung himself in his parents' barn after enduring bullying because he was gay.

RIP Justin Aaberg, a gay 15 year-old boy from Minnesota, who hung himself after suffering the torment of bullying at his high school.

RIP Tyler Clementi, a 18 year-old freshman at Rutgers University, who lept to his death after his roommate posted video online of Clementi having a sexual encounter with another man.  

These tragic and heartbreaking deaths all took place within the last month. Despite some important gains in legal protection and rights, and an increased profile of LGBT people on TV, bullying within middle school and high school remains very dangerous and pernicious for LGBT youth as well as those perceived to be LGBT.

In reponse to this crisis, well-known columnist Dan Savage has launched the It Gets Better Campaign, asking folks, both celebrity and non-celebrity, to share messages of hope and reassurance to LGBT teens who may be struggling with their own bullying, feelings of self-loathing, and may be feeling all alone. There are hundreds of videos of people sharing very touching personal stories and messages. Please have a look and please share with your social networks.

With my love and gratitude to my friends and family, who have always loved me for who I am. I would not be here without you. Love, Stacy