Jottings from everywhere

The chickens have come home to roost:

NTT-Cover-ENThe Ontario Ombudsman issued a scathing report (click on the image to read it ) about the treatment of Adults with development disabilities. Basically it lists the problems that have accrued since the “deinstitutionalisation” of these folks. It has a Cobourg connection since D’Arcy Place, an Institution for the Mentally Retarded was a Cobourg workplace. Of course we don’t use that language anymore. Casting back to the time of the emptying of the “Cobourg Hospital”, located on College St./University Ave, we can remember telling the powers to be that such events would happen. But the pols of the day refused to heed the warnings and now the mess has got the attention of the Ombudsman. What he can do isn’t much if the Government of the day doesn’t accept the recommendations.

We hope that Minister Helena Jaszek acts on the report and helps the adults trapped in the maze of regulations and poor funding.

Port Hope makes a change:

1297870061126_ORIGINALFire Chief Jim Wheeler has been retired. Not by his choice but by the new broom of the Council. Apparently the Chief has two years to go on his contract but there is a clause in it to say that the Council can invoke retirement. Now the BR doesn’t have a copy of the contract but at least the Chief should be consulting his lawyer to increase his severance – six months pay after thirty-seven years is a little short of the mark. Considering that he was not let go because of any performance issues it could be considered to be a dismissal without due cause. Get a lawyer Jim!

Another note from Port Hope – Dan Christie has an opinion:

The 15th Annual Port Hope All Canadian Jazz Festival is fast approaching. September 9,10 and 11. The organizers and volunteers spend all year putting this thing together. I applaud their efforts.

With that out of the way, (and bearing in mind that BurdReport bills itself as ‘A Place For Alternative Points Of View’) let me say this: As in past years, save for one, I won’t be attending The Port Hope All Canadian Jazz Festival. I won’t be attending any other jazz festivals either. To paraphrase the late, great Jeff Healy, it’s not my kinda jazz. Jazz -to me at least- always had a tinge of the illicit about it, a mild kind of wickedness that seemed somehow both dangerous and exciting. Speakeasies. Prohibition. Flappers and running boards. Ness and Capone. The 20s roaring with Fats and Louis and Bix and all that jazz.

And it only got better with age.

By the time the forties gave way to the post-war rebirth of the 1950s, hot jazz had turned cool. Real cool. The Birth Of The Cool if Miles had anything to say about it. And he said plenty. He said we’re going somewhere else now, somewhere we’ve never been. And we’re not coming back. It was all languid, leggy blondes draped over barstools in smoke-filled grottos waiting for Peter Gunn to stroll in and be so understated it hurt. It was Brubeck’s outfit, so uncool they were cool, looking like horn-rimmed high school math teachers,  -except for Joe Morello and his sunglasses looking like he was on the lam with a price on his head. Then, by the seventies it was Lee Morgan being shot dead on stage by a jealous lover at Slugg’s Bar in New York. And the news that Miles either had been or was a pimp. But we’d forgive anything if he’d just pick up that horn, something Lee would never do again. And it was Cannonball Adderley at The Colonial on Yonge Street as the sixties were on the way out. I might have been 18, the drinking age 21. But I got served and the whole scene changed me forever. Oh, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy alright. Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.

And that’s why I don’t go to jazz festivals, which are everywhere throughout the summer. Everywhere. Ubiquitous. Like mushrooms after a rain. I don’t go because jazz to me is not -and never was- about small children gamboling on green lawns and poking their darling little heads out from under billowing white tents where, between acts, Hagendass and Perrier work their magic on new age jazz fans. In broad daylight no less. It just doesn’t feel right somehow. It’s like Jazz-Lite, a thoroughly sanitized version of what it used to be, that illicit tinge now reformed and 12-stepped straight into respectability, cleansed of any lingering bad habits. Perfectly suited to fans of Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift alike.

As for myself, on all three days of The Port Hope All Canadian Jazz Festival, I’ll content myself with staying pleasantly stoned on (medical) marijuana, cold draught from my kegerator, watching Youtube reruns of Peter Gunn, and contemplating where jazz might be headed next.

Or maybe not. Maybe it’s better to just enjoy it for what it was.

A touch of humour about a serious problem

From our man in Port Hope – he had the problem and wrote about it with humour, at least he can laugh about such a dirty problem!

14045885_10154404535712744_2253888774787796295_nI first became aware of the problem when my friend Denis handed me a piece of the elm he was splitting and said “Smell this.”

Ah, wood. The smell of the forest primeval. Nature itself. Hewers of wood, drawers of water. It’s what we are, us Canadians. It’s in our DNA.

I inhaled deeply.

Primevil alright, it smelled exactly like human waste. Feces. Excrement. Distinctly like shit.

The elm(s) in question are not on our property. They line the driveway at the side of our house on the neighbours’ side. The limbs Denis was splitting were lying in our driveway, having been sawn off at great height the day before. Those limbs overhung our property and thus were fair game for a woodsman whom I had instructed not to spare that tree -at least not the part hanging over our side.

Chinese Elm best lends itself to waist-high hedges. When left to grow unchecked it becomes brittle, produces more suckers than a time share seminar, and, every June issues forth a month long snowfall of dime-sized seeds in numbers even Carl Sagan would have difficulty describing.

“Billions and billions” as the great astronomer once said. Only of the cosmos, not weed trees.

And weeds they are. Huge weeds. Unattractive and angry looking as trees -or weeds- go.

Cunning too.

The Chinese Elms came into our lives about twenty years ago when the neighbour next door, a determined woman, decided that the neighbourhood could always use more trees. Not being versed in the skills of an arborist (or even having a copy of The Golden Book Of Tree Identification) she nonetheless made regular forays into the surrounding countryside armed with a five-gallon pail and a spade. If she spotted a sapling she liked she dug it up and brought it home for replanting. Her property is now a candidate for a Worst Forestry Practices volume, the chapter on ‘Invasive Species’.

And it’s not even a forest. It’s a yard. A yard so crowded with Manitoba Maples, growing at 45-degree angles, that they’re slowly committing suicide by strangling themselves with their own roots, their only redeeming feature.

Much of southern Ontario has just come out of a six-week drought. No rain, warmer than normal temperatures and very high humidity. It is under conditions like these that trees send their roots deeper into the ground in search of moisture, any moisture.Even the moisture of human waste will suffice when survival is at stake.

Yep. Sewer pipes. Household waste. A veritable smorgasbord of nourishment for trees of all kinds. Which brings us to the hamlet of Orangeburg, New York, population 4,568, where in the 1860s, something called Orangeburg Pipe was born.

Orangeburg Pipe, known to plumbers as ‘paper pipe’, is a bituminous coal tar-impregnated wood chip sewer pipe that was in use until the 1970s -not a bad run for a product so dubious in its design that in at least one jurisdiction, Ann Arbor, Michigan, the citizenry rose up in a class action suit demanding that the city replace all Orangeburg Pipe as part of any road resurfacing that was undertaken.

Tar-paper sewer pipe is no match for thirsty trees. Especially old tar-paper pipe. And if you’ve got an old house in this area, [Port Hope ON] you’ve probably got Orangeburg Pipe.

And thus it was on Sunday last, whilst entertaining a small group of friends and relatives, we were informed by one of our guests that the toilet was not flushing -a phenomena that only occurs when you have guests. One needn’t be Kreskin to predict such things. Voracious human-waste-eating elm trees and substandard paper sewer pipe had conspired to put an end to our little gathering.

But…the next day, thanks to the best plumber in the area, a temporary fix was effected. Things would be fine, Woody said, just don’t use too much toilet paper for the time being. And, sometime next month Woody will return and excavate from the house to the sidewalk, removing the Orangeburg and replacing it with whatever the latest advancement in sewer pipe is.

I should have put two-and-two together when Denis handed me the piece of stinky elm. After all, the answer to the mystery of our clogged toilet was right under my nose.


Another one from Port Hope

Listening last Sunday to CBC’s ‘The One-Eighty’ with Jim Brown, I again heard the voice of one Jason Shron, train enthusiast extrodinaire, tireless proponent of high speed rail, and owner of Rapido Trains -which, it should be made clear, is a manufacturer of model trains.

When it comes to advocating for big fast things with steel wheels on steel rails blowing through town at a thousand miles an hour, the voice of Jason Shron is ubiquitous.

Mr. Shron was born in Montreal and now makes his home in Toronto, a home which includes a full-sized Via Rail coach interior in his basement.

The last time I checked, a high-speed rail service between Toronto and Montreal would cost something in the neighbourhood of $24-billion. But what’s money when the combined forces of train buffs and environmentalists are concerned? It would be a mistake to underestimate both their influence and the sheer cunningness of their simpatico relationship.

Environmentalists, to a man (usually the one wearing the Birkenstocks), cling to the myth that trains are superior in their respect for the environment than automobiles or airplanes or just about anything with or without wheels this side of a recombinant bicycle. Certainly a rush hour GO Train with 2400 people aboard is far and away more environmentally efficient than any automobile. A half-full Via train hauled by a diesel-powered electrical generating station on wheels? Not so much. If at all.

Train buffs cheerfully piggyback on the environmental argument because, well, any other argument they might make is charmingly transparent. Any argument is better than actually saying out loud ‘I really, REALLY like to watch trains go by!’. Which, of course, is no argument at all -especially when incomprehensible amounts of money are involved.

In order to facilitate a dedicated high-speed rail line between Toronto and Montreal, watercourses would have to be rerouted or buried. Roads would need grade separations or be stopped up altogether. Wildlife would be displaced, humans expropriated. And all for what? If not the environment then it has to be fetishism. Train fetishism. The kind of fetishism Jason Shron appears to be in the throes of.

Of course, in places like Port Hope or Cobourg, high-speed rail would have undeniable benefits. Imagine being able to stuff the grandkid’s snowsuits full of old newspapers on the coldest winter days and, standing shivering at trackside, waving madly at all those wonderful rich people as they whizz through town in the blink of an eye! Surely we wouldn’t deny a paltry $24-billion for a privilege such as that, would we?

Instead of non-stop high speed between Toronto and Montreal, which its advocates like to call ‘thinking outside the box’, why  not try a little thinking inside the box for a change? How about every Via train in either direction between Toronto and Montreal or Ottawa, stops everywhere -not just here sometimes and there other times but everywhere every time. Why? To be what Via should be -a feeder for the airports in those big cities. In Toronto, for instance, dump the Union Pearson Express and when a Via train arrives from Montreal or Ottawa it simply continues to Pearson Airport, which, like Via, is a federal government entity. Returning from Pearson, the Via train assumes a schedule to wherever, be it to Montreal or Windsor or Ottawa.

Such a plan would be anathema to train buffs -to say nothing of Via management whose last example of thinking outside the box involved festooning their locomotives with a huge jolly Kool-Aid pitcher, seemingly oblivious to the phrase ‘drank the Kool-Aid’ and what that phrase meant.

Anyway, Jim Brown’s interview with Jason Shron should be seen as pure entertainment, a chat with a genuine eccentric, harmless and easily dismissed. I’m not so sure. Mr. Shron, train buffs, and the high-speed rail crowd are indefatigable in their zeal. They could, in time, end up costing the rest of us a lot of money. And, at the same time, accomplishing nothing that makes train travel any easier for the rest of us to access.

Here’s a link to The One-Eighty with Jason Shron:

Daniel J. Christie

Finally something we can get excited about

imagesIf one remembers the debate at Cobourg Council two months ago when the man with the most votes of the losers in the 2014 Municipal Election was appointed to replace resigning Councillor Rickerby one would also remember that a policy about filling future vacancies was commissioned.

How about some good news and then some really bad news

videoWith the welcome news that Cobourg Council will begin ‘streaming’ its meetings comes the absolutely horrible news that they will only be available for three months. For those who have waited for the campaign promise and strategic plan entry the news that ‘streaming’ video will be coming at us over the interwebthingy is  a big “What kept yah”. But the idea that only three months worth of history will available on “civicweb” is a big letdown and heresy to all of who value history as it is being made.

Summer Time send us your pieces.

From Dan Christie:

Donald Trump: Man Of Peace
One of my favourite Dylan albums is 1983’s ‘Infidels’. For the affecianado, all of Bob Dylan’s work contains insights, real or imagined, that can be conveniently applied this way or that to whatever argument a person might be making -especially as those insights apply to politics.

One of those “Oh No” moments

NonameAs a person who was born and raised in the UK,the events of the last few days have been puzzling to observe and even more puzzling to understand. What condition produced the surprising result of the Brexit debate – that to leave?

Assorted jottings and comments

Election Fraud:

It is unthinkable for the majority that such a headline might exist in the mighty Kingdoms of North America and those who propogate it could be considered to wear tin-foil hats. But the rumblings of such a thing gets louder and louder each day. This what one blogger wrote the other day,

A camel is a horse produced by a committee!

ymca1At the next CoW meeting Cobourg Council will read and discuss a report produced by a committee composed of Town Staff, Elected officials and YMCA members and Staff. This committee has been meeting since a resolution was passed by Council in April 2015 that discussions take place exploring the possibility of putting a shared facility at the CCC.

A shifting time

Cobourg_CoatofArmsThe busiest person in the Cobourg Town Hall this week was the poor sod who has to put names on plates and hang them in their respective doors or desks. One new Councillor, one leaving Director of Public Works and a new one taking his place.