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Jude and Megan

November 26, 2017

Black Friday Almost Over, Cyber Monday On Its Way

The Google Home Mini and the Acer Aspire i5 desktop computer

In 1957, my mother gave me a transistor radio for my 7th birthday!

We lived at 2165 East 2nd Avenue in Vancouver, just off Garden Park, on Vancouver's eastside. I knew my neighbours, a polyglot amalgam of "displaced persons" (displaced from WWII), refugees from a Europe of destruction who had arrived in Canada to pursue a life for their families.

Although the television had been around for almost a decade in common use by the more well-to-do among the population, no one on our block had a TV — there were doctors, plumbers, nannies, seniors, construction workers, and no one thought to purchase a television, particularly given that TVs were going for around $400, or about 10% of a man's average annual wage (the average hourly wage for women: 35¢). When times were tight, and families were large, and folks were just simply trying to find a way to scrape by, purchasing a $400 TV (with an outlay of another $50 for a rooftop aerial) was simply beyond the means of the common folks.

1957. Watching television through a shop window.

If we wanted to watch television, we'd head up to Commercial Drive, and watch the TV in the Magnet Hardware window.

Of course, all the kids on our block clamoured for a new TV (not that any of their friends owned one, mind you) — but, alas, that was not to be. Fortunately, the price of a black-and-white TV dropped dramatically in 1958 with the introduction of the colour TV (introduction of a new technology always results in a price cut for "older" technology), and most families, including mine, bought their first television that year, parents finally capitulating to the incessant, heart-rending pleas of their gentle children.

1957. Transistor radio and leather case.

1957. I was about to go into Grade 2 at Lord Nelson Elementary School. My birthday fell on the 223rd day of that year, on August 11th, an otherwise inauspicious Sunday, except for the fact that at midday, thanks to my mother, I found myself in the possession of a brand new $49.95 (plus tax) leather-cased transistor radio! That's right, my mother worked more than 150 hours to get me my much-prized 7th birthday present — making me the only boy on the block with a portable transistor radio. I was thrilled!

On another day, I'll tell you what the impact of being the first to own a new tech toy had on me, what it meant for a career that I would pursue less than a decade later, and how it came to be that over the past 40 years, I have continually found myself on the cutting edge of new technology, as an early adopter. As I say, though, I'll leave that story for another day.

Black Friday 2017

All of which brings me to Black Friday, a day I cannot resist even if it is Buy Nothing Day. On Friday, I purchased a new Acer Aspire Intel Core i5 desktop computer (even though I can't afford it, cuz I'm a pauper) — as a consequence of my 8-year-old, once state-of-the-art custom-built computer having been on its lasts legs for some months now. A friend assured me today that my new computer is a piece of junk. Oh goodie.

A fairly mundane picture of my new, much-needed computer may be found at the top of today's column — alongside my brand spanking new Google Home Mini which, truth to tell, I don't really need but it was half price at only $39.95, and I've been falling behind on my cutting edge tech persona. At about $40, I think I can indulge my techy side this holiday season.

As you may know, I love radio (even to this day). Just by saying, "Hey Google, play BBC Radio One", within seconds BBC Radio One will begin playing through the Google Home Mini speaker. The same is true of hundreds of other radio stations. I've used my Google Home Mini to set alarms and reminders, check sports scores, stream music from Spotify, or from my iTunes library (of more than 5000 songs) employing Bluetooth.

If I purchase a Logitech Harmony Hub I could control my home theatre by voice command. Or, if I purchase the Phillips Hue Starter Kit, I could also control all of the lights in my house, and set the lights to turn on at a specific time, so when I enter my Co-op apartment, I won't be entering into darkness. I could even set each individual light to a specific colour.

Yep — an indulgence. I won't be purchasing the Phillips Hue system or the Harmony Hub anytime soon, but it's nice to know that they're available.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 8:20 PM | Permalink | Web & Tech

November 24, 2017

Arts Friday | Lori McKenna | America's Finest Roots Songwriter

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, I was head over heels in love with the music of Joni Mitchell — so much in love, in fact, that I turned around and married a woman (Cathy) who looked just like Joni Mitchell.

Raymond Tomlin and Cathy McLean, circa 1972

By the time the late 1970s rolled around, my woman singer-songwriter allegiance had switched definitively to Rickie Lee Jones — whose music became the soundtrack of my life through the late 1970s and 1980s, so much so, that Rickie Lee Jones also became the soundtrack of my children's lives — that'd be Jude and Megan — as well. In the times to come, I will write about my love for Rickie Lee Jones, which has not abated to this day.

Being a callow fellow, as time rolled on my allegiance to a woman singer-songwriter of melancholy countenance switched to Iris DeMent in the early 1990s — for me, there is no better, more reflective and more melancholy album that has ever been recorded than Ms. DeMent's 1993 release, My Life. Please find the entire album directly below. Have a listen ...

As I say, though, I am a callow fellow, and by the late 1990s I had found a new love — a Boston-suburb-based housewife, mother to five children, wife of a Boston firefighter and, by far, the best roots songwriter this century. On another day, I'll write about Lori McKenna at greater length. Today, you'll find four of her songs at the top of the column — four of my favourite songs written by and sung by Lori McKenna ... well worth a listen.

Recently, my friends and next door neighbours, Shirley Ross and Bill Tieleman celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary — I looked all over for Lori McKenna's Stealing Kisses somewhere online, but until a couple of days ago, I couldn't find it (and, truth to tell, I bet the video below won't last long online — you'll want to listen to Stealing Kisses while the opportunity is provided to you). Here is one of my favourite Lori McKenna songs.

Dedicated to Bill Tieleman and Shirley Ross, Happy 25th Anniversary ...


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:44 AM | Permalink | Music

   



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