CBC British Columbia
Bob's Blog

Alice in Wonderland

bc-alice-nixon-100330.jpgMy father in law, who lives in the U.S., is addicted to a weekend TV show called Book Time.  In it, a fellow talks with an author for at least an hour about a latest novel or non-fiction work he or she has written.  Just the two of them.  Paul, my father-in-law, loves the show because he has lived his life in the world of ideas and two people thrashing out ideas on TV is, to him, pretty good theatre. 

Me?  I kinda get antsy watching two folks do nothing but talk on TV.  Nothing is happening.  Ideas are great, but I would rather read a transcript of their discussion.  I love books, the printed word. 

I mention all this because I occasionally make TV stories about books.  They are quite difficult.  Aside from pages turning, not much happens visually with books.  But when the Rare Books folks at the University of British Columbia called so say they had a very big collection of Alice in Wonderland material, I had to head over.  So a story about books follows.  However, I should mention the UBC Rare Book section is very much worth a visit.  It is open to the public and has a fabulous display of material concerning the early European exploration of British Columbia.  Rare Books icon_video.gif 


Righteous Fury

bc-anger-nixon-100329.jpgI can understand it if a hockey coach gets angry when he thinks a ref makes a bad call.  In fact I understand alot about anger.  We've all been there, ticked off about dumb drivers, pet owners who 'forget' to scoop, journalists writing ungood English.  Oh it infuriates me. 

But when that Abbotsford Heat coach Jim Playfair melted down during an AHL game on Saturday, that sent me right to an anger management consultant.  Not for any anger issues I'VE got, understand.  Purely for the sake of this story.  I wondered, what is the appropriate way to express anger in such a case?  Anger Management icon_video.gif

Oldest Bowling Alley

bc-bowling-nixon-100324.jpgHow is it possible to wander the streets of downton Vancouver for decades and not realize there's a bowling alley on Granville Street?  I was shocked at myself.  The place was staring me right in the face, the big neon sign, the bowling pin shaped sandwich board straddling the sidewalk.  Yet somehow I had missed it.

So I decided to go inside, and was shocked once more.  The place is amazing, something right out of the 1930s.  In fact it is right out of the 1930s, virtually unchanged for eighty years.  And most amazing still, it was open for business but completely empty.  Not a bowling ball was rolling anywhere.  I may have discovered a new lunchtime hobby.  But I don't have the time to spare.  Oh ho.  Ho Ho Ho.  What a stupid line, eh?  Had to use it.  Other Commodore icon_video.gif


LP Records

bc-vinyl-nixon-100323.jpgYou should have seen Lawrence Crawley's eyes light up when I told him I have an original Sex Pistols 'Never Mind the Bullocks' album.  "We could sell that within an hour," he told me.  Of course, when I said 'have', that's only kinda true.  I gave my record collection to my sister for safe keeping decades ago when I moved out of the country.  Guess what?  I never asked for it back.  (Hey Pam.  Send me that album.  I'm hankering to listen to "God Save the Queen" again.) 

It seems Crawley has caught a wave, as people who never bought a record in their lives are suddenly discovering the joys of LPs.  They like the idea of the whole process involved in getting music played, taking the vinyl out of its sleeve, putting it on the turntable, taping a penny to the needle - you know, the whole record playing thing.  So much more personal than downloading some MP3, plugging in the earphones and nodding your head erratically on the skytrain.  But maybe even that will seem way cool in 30 years when all music comes through brain implants.   Vinyl Guy icon_video.gif

Spring Treat

bc-nettles-nixon-100321.jpgI remember the day like it was yesterday.  Imagine me, a poor, defenceless 11 year old minding his business in the park when suddenly a chance encounter with a malicious plant sent me into paroxysms of pain.  Never mind that I was trying to capture a feral turtle sunning itself beside a pond at the time.  Never mind that I had to climb a chain link fence to get near the reptile.  No, my friends, no such transgressions ever deserves the punishment of stinging nettles. 

I writhed and jiggled and bopped about like a crazy kid in futile efforts to rid myself of that terrible itch.  Finally it ended when I ran almost a marathon to a water fountain where the cooling waters lessened the pain.  I had learned my lesson, folks.  Forevermore, turtles have been safe from me. 

So imagine my surprise when I recently discovered someone actively seeking out that vicious herb.  What an education I was in for. Nettle Madness! icon_video.gif

City Hall Bees

bc-bees-nixon-100319.jpgFull disclosure time now.  I have an interest in this story.  The miracle of honey production has fascinated me ever since I was a kid on the prairies.  Manitoba creamed clover honey sent me into the most wondrous sugar high.  As a teenager, I once spent months poring over a bee catalogue imagining myself as an apiarist (that's fancy for beekeeper).  But I lived in the city, everybody knew you could not raise bees in the city. 

Fast forward 30 years and I discover that cities are changing.  Vancouver ended its ban on backyard beehives.  I called up the head provincial apiarist and took a beginner course.  Got some hives.  My life has been sweet ever since. 

Now Vancouver City Hall has gone one step further.  Not just allowing its citizens to engage in this sometimes stingful hobby, but deciding to put hives at City Hall itself.  Proving you can flight city hall.  (I'm sorry, but you need to be prepared for the painful puns you are about to hear.)  Bee City icon_video.gif


St. Patrick's Day

bc-patricks-nixon-100317.jpgFame is a strange thing.  It tends to narrow down complex people and places into easily digestible bits.  Brad Pitt is a sexy actor.  Cuba is where they make the cigars.  And Ireland?  That's the country where people drink plenty of beer. 

Certainly that appears to be the Emerald Isle's claim to fame every St. Patrick's Day.  Certainly that's what draws celebrants to Irish themed pubs in Vancouver and across the country.  But that was certainly not what I wished to discover when I went to one of those pubs on St. Patrick's Day.  I wanted to know what else Ireland is famous for. 

You can guess what happened.  It was an easy task.  Guinness and Green icon_video.gif

Neon Chinatown

bc-neon-nixon-100315.jpgThe trouble with doing a story about neon signage in Vancouver during the day is .... (fill in your answers here). 

Of course, it is not as big a problem as it is for the folks who decide that the best time to turn on the sign for the first time happens to be the day after daylight savings time kicks in.   A lovely twilight image of brightly shining coloured glass tubes artfully bent into an enticing message somehow loses its impact when the sun still has ninety minutes to go before setting.  But perhaps they were caught unawares and, besides, what does it matter in the long run?  Vancouver gets another big sign to remind us of the glory days of neon.  Or perhaps to herald a bright shining future.  Glow in the Dark icon_video.gif

Edmonton Murder

edm-100314-david-burns.jpgAs a reporter I have covered many murders over the years, though my current beat generally deals with more pleasing matters.  But when I read about the tragic shooting of two people at an Edmonton car dealership over the weekend, I recognized the name of the killer.  Dave Burns had worked there and killed himself.  Could it be the same Dave Burns I went to high school with back in Winnipeg in the 1970s?  The one who stabbed another teen to death at a social in 1974? 

On Sunday, I found out that, yes, it was the same Dave Burns. 

I did not know Dave well.  He was in my Chemistry class in Grade 11 at Grant Park High School.  He was not a bright student, even worse in chemistry than I was.  At some point he had had been put back a year because he was a year or so older than the rest of the kids.  He was a scary guy, brooding, angry, with eyes that made the rest of us wary.  Tales were told about him, about how he beat up other kids.  I did not know if any of those stories were true but I kept my distance.   


Medal Money

bc-gold-bonus-030210.jpgOh it's a hard scambling life being an Olympic athlete.  Or most of them anyway.  Either they dip into savings, beg from Mom and Pops - a corporate sponsor or two helps as well -  or work to get some of that government Own the Podium or Excellence money that became available for the Olympics. 

But if they were lucky enough to win a medal - and those 26 medals for Canada translated into 88 individual winners - the Canadian Olympic Committee was passing out the cash.  A total of $1.61 million dollars this year to our athletic heroes who made the podium.  That compares with just over half a million given out to athletes at the Beijing Summer Games. 

Mind you, not every Olympic athlete needed the cash.  Take the men's hockey team - which if they were an NHL team have contracts that would exceed the league's salary cap by about $67 million.  U.S. dollars too, if you're counting.  

What to do, what to do with the dough the COC was passing out?  That's a question to take to the streets.  What do you think?  Olympic Green icon_video.gif


Hockey History

bc-crosby-030310.jpgAs I pondered what to do one day a man came into our newsroom draped in an Olympic flag, wearing a hockey helmet with a flashing red dome glued to the top and carrying a monster Canadian flag attached to an extendible golf ball retriever.   At the time I was reading a story about the missing gloves and stick that Sidney Crosby had used to score the winning goal in Canada's now historic men's gold medal hockey win against the United States. 

The fellow in the hockey helmet is named Dave Ash and he had come to do a satellite interview with my buddy Costa Maragos, the host of the Regina CBC TV news show.  Dave is from Regina, but went to every hockey game the Canada's men and women played during the Olympics (all thanks to his job as a long-standing tour operator in Saskatchewan).  Every time Canada scored - he turned on his flasher, waved his flag and went nuts like everybody else in the arena.  

Now get this, he sat right behind the net when Crosby scored his winning goal, as close to the action as anybody there.  So I asked him about what he saw when Crosby scored - and who might have had the chance to 'misplace' the now-famous equipment.  He was not the only witness, of course, and the story fleshed out nicely as the day progressed.  Crosby's Mementos icon_video.gif

Autographs Anyone?

bc-authographs-030210.jpgStories sometimes change when reality strikes and this one is an example.  If you watched any of my Olympic stories for that Gold Medal program "The City" hosted by Ian Hanomansingh, you might have noticed I often visited the Olympic flame on the waterfront where people tended to congregate.  Congregate is a nice way to describe big, huge, crowds drawn like moths to the Olympic flame. 

After the Olympics ended, we gathered in the airy palace of light that is the CBC newsroom to consider mind movies.  Those are ideas in which we imagine how a story will look on television before we ever shoot a frame of video.  Some ideas are difficult to demonstrate, and the mind movie concocted for my story proved a case in point.   Find the post Olympic mood.  Mood.  Mood?  

What does a mood look like?  A glum face that the games are over?  A serene, satisfied demeanour?  Tears?  Joy?  Dancing in the streets?  Fury?  All of these were possibilities I prepared for as I headed back to the flame.   What I found there was mostly - emptiness.  People had abandoned the place.  What mood was that? 

But then I met the subject of my story - still cheerfully engaged in a project he had worked on diligently since the games began, and long before.   As he told me his story - and you really need to watch this one because it is quite a tale - I thought this is one Olympic mood there for anyone to see.  Olympic Record icon_video.gif 

Hello You Must Be Going!

bc-guests-nixon-100225.jpgI got the idea for this story from personal experience.  Friends from the Yukon called me up, oh, five years ago and asked if they could stay with us during the Olympics.  I checked my schedule and discovered that, yes, we had an opening during that time.   We put away all dreams of renting out our home for seventy-five million dollars, which probably turned out to be a wise move since there is no worse hope than a vain one.  Besides, they are not just friends, they are good friends.  

On the appointed day they arrived, the snow not quite completely melted from their parkas.  They bought us gelato and paid for sushi and Thai food take-out which, we learned, is not as readily available north of 60 as you might think.  They stood for hours in rainy line-ups for buses to take them up Cypress Mountain so they could spend one hour watching aerial skiers emerge from the fog, wandered about downtown to see people wander about downtown, gave us an extra couple of tickets that they had bid for on the 2010 sales site, but did not expect to win.  In short, they had a great time and they were the perfect guests.  Fun, friendly, generous.  Boy, am I glad they're gone.  

Out of that, I questioned people about their own guest experiences during the Olympics.  Purely unscientific, understand, but perhaps represenative of what makes for a good stay.  Guest Etiquette icon_video.gif