Monday, August 30, 2010

Peaches Princess Johnson

I planned to write a post about having a dog in the fight against cancer. My daughter's beloved pug, Peaches, found herself in the fight of her life against canine lymphoma, a very aggressive cancer. We went into the fight right along with her. I planned to say that as long as he body and spirit could keep up the fight, we would fight right along with her.

But today at noon the cancer won. Peaches's joyful spirit never faltered, and our love for her never wavered, but we both ran out of time. We took her to the vet yesterday because the chemo-therapy made her throw up. Today we found her listless and unable to eat; at noon she went into convulsions, and before we could reach the vet she died in my daughter's arms.

We feel so sad that our dog has died, for ourselves and the things we won't get to do with her, and for her and the things she won't get to do with us. We will never forget her; we will miss her joyful brave spirit, and we will do our best to honour the gifts she brought to us.

Peaches Princess Johnson, Feb 29 2008 - Aug 30 2010. We said goodbye too soon.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Radio (3) How to Switch the Station so you Teenager Won't Notice.

If you have ever travelled in a car with a teenager, and become tired of listening to noisy and/or incredibly misogynist music, especially the song where the boy meets the girl in the club and, well, he doesn't want to be disrespectful...but he just has to say that her rear end is [...], then you will appreciate this method of radio sabotage.

This method works only if:

1) you are in the front seat and the teenager is in the back seat;
2) you have push-button radio;
3) the teenager has a friend (or a DS gaming system) with them, making them less vigilant about radio tampering; and
4) you want to switch seamlessly from the noisy rock/hip-hop station to an easy rock/light favourites station (you can't switch to classical music, or to CBC Radio 1, or to the Radio Netherlands Africa Report: it would be too noticeable).

Here's what you do, in 4 easy steps.

1) Wait for a commercial. While your teenager is busy chatting with their friend, etc., slowly reduce the radio volume, bit by bit.
2) When the volume gets down to a whisper, push the button for your favourite easy rock/light favourites station
3) very gradually increase the volume on the light station.
4) enjoy several miles of mildly pleasant music together (perhaps Michael Buble or the Black-Eyed Peas) until the teenager finally wises up and calls out "Hey! That's not my music!"

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Radio (2) The Radio Gods

I spend quite a bit of time driving through the western suburbs of Toronto, often taking our dog Peaches to the vet. While listening to the radio, I compose short essays in my mind--mostly about the radio. Every night this week I am contributing a little "radio" essay.

I have a theory that there are radio gods, who govern when we will get to hear our favourite songs on the radio. To please the gods, we must treat them properly. To cruise rapidly through the dial is not the way. For one thing, you will have to hear a lot of sub-par hip hop, gushing contest winners, Celine Dion songs, suggestive pizza ads, and--worst--the celebrity news as delivered by Ryan Seacrest.

Besides, do you really want to hear only the second half of your favourite song? I didn't think so.

So this is what you do. Push the up arrow to a new station. If you hear an advertisement or someone talking, move on to the next station. If it is a song, take a few seconds to recognize the song, and then decide how much you like it on a scale of 1 to 10. If you give a rating of 5 or less, move on.

If you rate the song at 6 or more, stay put. Most radio stations play a consistent style of music. This means there is a good chance you will also like the next few songs. And because you have found a congenial station, there is an excellent chance that, after 3 or 4 songs (and maybe a pizza ad or two) the radio gods will bless you and you will get to enjoy "Brown Eyed Girl" all the way through.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

AM radio

There is a station that we get in Toronto, Oldies 1150 (CKOC) out of Hamilton. It's one of the few oldies stations on the dial, so I have it programmed in as one of the 18 push-button options on my car radio. It and the all-news 680 (which I listen to mainly for traffic) are the only AM stations I have chosen to program in.

It's always an odd thing, when I happen to push this button, how the quality of sound is so different than the FM stations. The scratchy sound is like the grainy picture on an old TV with only aerial reception. The (lack of) sound quality, even more than the particular songs, really takes me back to my adolescence, when I listened to the radio on a sturdy battery-operated radio (it even accompanied me during my bath) and sometimes on a tiny avocado-green set that fit into my palm.

Back then, we didn't care much about the sound quality as much as the songs. I got excited the first time a disc jockey (on CKFH) played a request for me--it was 1971 and he played "Brand New Key" by Melanie. I spent most of the 1970s obsessed with the Beatles (yes, I know, I was a decade late, but better late than never). Mostly I listened to then on a portable record player that spun at 39 RPM instead of 33 1/3 (I had timed it). As the songs were speeded up, I always seemed to be getting up to change the record.

Listening to the few surviving AM music stations today, there is an odd time-warp about suddenly being surrounded by the sound texture of my childhood. It's as if I suddenly had a delicious whiff of my mum's "Green Pepper Delight" or plunged my nose into my dad's tin of Revelation tobacco.