Friday, November 2, 2012

Phil Conway and local community spirit: a former This Week reporter looks back

(This letter to the editor was published in the August 22, 2012 edition of Barry's Bay This Week.)


Dear Editor,

It was with sadness as well as fond remembrance that I recently heard of Phil Conway’s passing. I worked for him as a reporter back in 1993, when he was publisher of this newspaper, and remember his cheerful and forgiving nature as if it were only yesterday.

Beyond representing his hometown as a local municipal councillor, he was also a staunch representative of the Madawaska Valley’s community spirit, a spirit that I view as being defined by a strong sense of hospitality. (When I refer to ‘hospitality’, I mean it in this case as an innate virtue – something that is practised without forethought because it is simply the natural thing to do.)

Thinking about Phil, as well as Barney McCaffrey, who also passed away earlier this year, got me to reflecting on my time in your community, where I was frequently the recipient of the above-noted hospitality. A few quick examples come to mind:

-My impromptu tennis lesson with then-Deputy Reeve, the late Eric Huestis. Concerned that I was wearing loafers on the court, he told me I’d perform better with more appropriate footwear, and insisted I drive all the way back to my trailer near Combermere to retrieve my running shoes, and then come back to resume the lesson. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I’ll still be here.” Sure enough, he was.

-A particular venture to someone’s house to snap a picture – while I have long since forgotten who it was or the reason for the picture, I do remember that they wouldn’t let me leave without first sitting down for beer and pickled eggs in the backyard.

-At another backyard photo shoot, this time a small family reunion and cookout in the middle of the afternoon, the host got wind that it was my last assignment for the day. Someone handed me a plate and, before I knew it, it was late at night and I was still there, locked into a marathon of food and conversation, almost forgetting that this family reunion wasn’t my own.

All of the above occurred just within my first few days on the job, and came to represent typical encounters in my travels. As time went on, I would of course meet, write about and photograph many more of the characters that make up your community. And being a music guy, I also have particularly fond memories of the Tuesday night they let me play the drums (badly) at the Wilno Tavern’s weekly blues jam.

Then there was Phil himself – larger than life, constantly enthusiastic, and always with a beaming smile on his face. Whenever he had a joke to tell, you could see that boyish twinkle of benign mischief that seemed to be his signature. Conversely, whenever he had to impart criticism or corrective advice, he always did so in a way that respected the dignity and humanity of the person on the receiving end. (Being a greenhorn, I was that person on more than one occasion.)

The last time I saw him was in the winter of 1995, when I breezed through town and stopped into the office to say hello. He and his wife, Helen, greeted me with the same level of warmth and good cheer as they did on my first day on the job. Similar to my experience with the folks at that cookout, it felt like I was visiting my aunt and uncle rather than my former employers. It is truly a regret that I allowed myself to drift out of contact with them after that.

I will always be grateful to Phil and Helen for giving me the opportunity to serve (and get to know) their community as a young reporter just fresh out of college. Although I may not have realized it then, I was having the time of my life.

James Deagle
Ottawa, ON

Monday, October 1, 2012

Alphabetical Tabloid (Front Page)

For bpNichol

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Filmgoing in the age of advertising-as-entertainment

It used to be that studios would parlay the success of a movie into products. The Star Wars series, which George Lucas spun into a veritable licensing orgy, would be the quintessential example of this. (It's no accident that the studios and the entertainment media now refer to a film series as a "franchise".)

Then, with the release of films like the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider® and Resident Evil® series, the reversal began, where movies were now "inspired by" products, in this case video games, rather than the other way around.

At least the above-noted products were creative works with something resembling characters and a storyline. With Battleship®, which has been a spectacular and expensive flop so far, we now have a commercial film based on a mere product. (To say that a simple guessing game has an inherent "storyline" or even a sense of drama is bit of a stretch.)

The thinking seems to be that brand recognition itself is enough to get vast numbers of people swamping their local megaplex. If this really is the case, expect to see films with titles like McDonald's®, iPad®, or Professional® 4L Wax Build-Up Remover.

So let's do the math on what is shaping up to be the current filmgoing experience: audiences are paying ever-higher ticket prices to watch movies based on products, with product placements scattered throughout. Not to mention that the cartoons/newsreels/short subjects that used to precede the feature attraction have long been replaced by commercials.

I realize I'm being a Negative Nelly, and should just lighten up. Afterall, summer is almost here, and that means Hormel® Chunk Meats: Chunk White & Dark Chicken will be hitting the big screen. Life is sweet!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Yes, this blog is sleeping...

Just a quick note to say that this blog is in "sleep mode" for now due to some things I'm working on offline. When these things come to fruition I'll give this blog a reboot to bring it into line with my efforts out there in meatspace.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mindlessly Devoted To You (The Conservative Voter Song)

(To the tune of Hopelessly Devoted To You, as performed by Olivia Newton-John)

Guess mine's not the first vote wasted
Thrown away on one like you
Somehow I just don't see
The contempt you show for me

The Sun says "Fool, blame the workers,
and universal healthcare too."
Nothing of my own to say
I salute and obey
I'm mindlessly devoted to you

But now I don't know why
I'll be Tory 'til I die
I've got no head
Mindlessly devoted to you
Mindlessly devoted to you
Mindlessly devoted to you

It's never been 'bout reason or rationale
Mean and angry is what I am
Never read your policies
It's all just Greek to me
I'm mindlessly devoted to you

But now I don't know why
I'll be Tory 'til I die
I've got no head
Mindlessly devoted to you
Mindlessly devoted to you
Mindlessly devoted to you

(c) 2011 by James Deagle


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Letter to the Editor (USA Today)

From: James Deagle
Subject: Letter to the Editor
To: letters@usatoday.com
Received: Sunday, January 1, 2012, 10:13 AM

Dear Editor:

Just today I was reading Anick Jesdanun's article on your website (How to get your Facebook in order), and wanted to leave a comment advising people about the pitfalls of Facebook, and why they'd be better off simply deactivating their account. You can imagine my dismay when I finished rattling off a quick paragraph's worth of my two cents and realized that the only way to leave a comment is to log in through a Facebook profile.

I find it troubling that you limit your online conversation to Facebook members, as there are plenty of us out there who have either not signed up or have deactivated our accounts on a matter of serious principle due to ongoing (and unresolved) privacy concerns. Additionally, many of us refuse to provide a map of our social life and consumer preferences to an organization that has yet to prove itself a trustworthy guardian of that information.

By allowing your online conversation to be 'branded' by Facebook, can we as readers trust that USA Today will also provide objective news coverage of Facebook when privacy, copyright and other legal issues arise, and perhaps even dare to publish editorials critical of it when warranted? By allowing Facebook to own and control your online forums, you allow a shadow of doubt to be cast over said objectivity, and as such I am less inclined to count myself among your readership.

James Deagle
Ottawa,Canada