On being … 2016 A to Z

A is for anthem – earlier this year a bill was before the Canadian Parliament to change the wording of our national anthem to make it more inclusive by making it gender neutral. The bill was literally the dying wish of a Member of Parliament who was suffering from ALS. After more debate than you might expect, the legislators approved the change from: “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command”. But, as if that wasn’t enough of a to do for one year, at the baseball All-Star Game, one of The Canadian Tenors (well, now he’s a former member) stunned the crowd when he modified a stanza of the Canadian anthem to make a political statement that all lives matter.

B is for BACN – my tech friend Sandy introduced me to this concept – it’s e-mail spam that you signed up for.

C is for census – Canadian residents are required to fill out a census every five years and 2016 was a census year. Statistical information from the census guides policymakers. One in four households is randomly selected to fill out a so-called long-form survey. In 2011, the government of the day decided to make the long-form census optional. As a result, the 2011 census data doesn’t lend itself to comparison with previous censuses and Stats Canada ended up withholding results for over1,000 small communities because the data was considered unreliable because it was so lacking. The Trudeau government brought back the long-form this year and thousands of excited Canadians took to social media to express excitement when they got the long-form. The fact that Canadians cared was a wonderfully Canadian feel-good story!

D is for Daesh – always a bit confusing that different news organizations and politicians use different names for this group. In March, the Toronto Star explained that it adopted a policy to refer to the group as Daesh because to call it the Islamic State implies acceptance that it’s a state.  Makes sense to me – I wish others would follow the Star’s example.

E is for Easter – apparently the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks that Easter should be on a fixed Sunday every year, rather than on a Sunday determined based on the phases of the moon, as it is currently determined. The Roman Catholic and Coptic churches are on board, but the Archbishopestimates it’ll take five to 10 years for all to agree on a mechanism fordeciding what Sunday Easter will be. In yet another reason not to hold your breath on this, apparently they tried to get this agreement back in the 10th century. Guess we’ll have to wait and see if folks in the 21st century are more amenable. 

F is for fun – in a news story I found uplifting, two-time NBA MVP San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan quietly announced his retirement this July. The announcement was a low-key affair made via phone and when asked why he was retiring, he said it was because playing wasn’t fun anymore. This story resonated with me because the topic of retirement has just started making its way into conversations in my social circle. Now, none of my closest friends are looking at walking away from jobs that pay them over $5 million/year – but the idea of quitting something because it’s no longer fun seems like a pretty good rationale to me.
G is for governor – it so happens Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, is a Canadian who helped steer the Bank of Canada through the 2008 financial meltdown. I’m sure he thought his new job would come with a variety of challenges, but I’ll bet tending to the Bank of England as the UK exits the EU wasn’t on his radar.

H is for Hillary – I was so moved when she said in her nomination acceptance speech: “When any barrier falls in America, it clears the way for everyone. After all, when there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.” Sadly, her defeat is a stark reminder that the sky’s still not the limit for women.

I is for intestate – dying without a will. (See W below)

J is for journalists – my undergrad degree was journalism and I was embarrassed by the role the press played in the US election. Nearly everyone in the mainstream press was content just to follow the Trump show around and put up with his harassment and disparaging of the press corps rather than stop ceding airtime to him. What about policy issues ? I know, Trump didn’t have any – but the only way you’d show that is to continually ask him policy questions.

K is for Kellyanne Conway – according to the Wikipedia page on her, under the heading “Political views” it says she “views herself as an activist Gen X woman conservative”. Me, I see her as a smiling, obfuscating liar.

L is for locker room talk – interesting that so many professional athletes were offended at Donald Trump’s claim that his boasting to Billy Bush about what he “gets away” with with women because he’s famous was mere locker room banter. 

M is for MacGyver – a friend uses this as a description for problem solving using a creative approach (when the traditional means fail). I love it!

N is for naked – We have a “clothing optional” beach in Toronto. (Yes, we are the Great White North, but it can be warm enough for swimming!) A controversy about just what “clothing optional” means has developed – but it’s not what you might expect. Apparently “naturalists” (read: nudists) interpret “optional” differently. It seems they think people who use the beach should be required to be completely nude. As a plain language person, I disagree with their interpretation.

O is for Obama – Michelle Obama’s speech in New Hampshire on October 13, 2016 about Donald Trump was the speech of my generation – both in terms of writing and delivery. 

P is for Prince – I was terribly saddened by his sudden death. I think it hit me so hard because he was of my generation. I remember someone I went to university with who was from Minnesota and she knew him from high school. And, though I really only know his hits, I never tired of them and whenever they’d pop up on the radio, I always smiled and sang along.

Q is for the Queen – she turned 90 this year and we had proof that she’s human when she was “caught” saying that some Chinese dignitary had been “very rude” to one of Britain’s Ambassadors. Scandalous talk? Hardly – just proof that the Queen’s just like the rest of us – capable of feeling irritation at others’ behaviour!

R is for rude – it didn’t take too long for the new threshold of rudeness in the U.S. to be on display. It became clear for all the world to see in February when the NY Post’s front page showed the statue of liberty giving us the finger with a headline that read: Drop Dead, Ted. Nice…

S is for security briefings – the fact that president elect Trump has skipped some security briefings is unbelievable. I guess he never heard the old adage that information is power. Then again, with only 24 hours in a day and so many tweets to put out, something’s gotta give, right?

T is for truth – one of the most alarming lines of commentary to come out after the US election is the idea that we’re living in a post-truth era. That strikes me as just another way of saying that to many, the truth no longer matters. Frightening idea…  

U is for understatement – One of the biggest understatements of the year was uttered by Charles Kinsey, a behavioural therapist in Miami. He was attending to a 23-year-old autistic patient who was playing with a toy truck in the middle of the street when North Miami Police officers pulled their guns on the pair. Kinsey, who had both his hands up, calmly told the police that the autistic patient was playing with a toy truck and that neither of them were armed. One of the SWAT officers fired three shots, wounding Kinsey. Afterward, Kinsey was quoted as saying, “Once I’ve got my hands up they’re not going to shoot me, this is what I’m thinking, they’re not going to shoot me … Wow was I wrong.” 

V is for voters – voters in the UK and the US clearly decided to shake things up. Unfortunately, the rest of the world that didn’t have a say in those elections will, no doubt, feel the impact.

W is for will – it shocked many that Prince died without a will. So many people commented that they thought it was unbelievable he didn’t have one, given his many lawyers and advisors. I’m sure his advisors urged him to make a will, but clearly he decided not to. You know, there’s nothing wrong with deciding not to – after all – inaction is a decision too… maybe not one others would make, but a decision all the same.

X is for xtreme reactions – I realize policing is hard, dangerous work. But too many stories surfaced this year where an officer’s willingness to shoot surely was an extreme reaction.

Y is for yes – We all know that “no means no”. For the next few year’s we’re all going to find out what “yes” really means. I wonder if all those who said yes to Brexit and yes to Trump will come to regret their yeses…

Z is for zika virus – though the zika story has fallen from the headlines, I think governments and scientists should be putting a herculean effort into coming up with a vaccine. If they don’t, the old adage that says you can pay me now, or you can pay me later will surely kick in. Without a vaccine, those infected will suffer their whole life, not to mention that they’ll be a huge burden on the healthcare system their whole life.

There you have it – the words and thoughts that mark 2016 for me.

I’m not very optimistic about 2017. About the best I can muster is to say I think we’re in for a bumpy ride. So, my toast to the new year is just: “Let’s hope for the best”.

© 2016 Ingrid Sapona


On being … photographed

By Ingrid Sapona

Photographs, ugh…. Have you given much thought to them? I certainly hadn’t until recently – and now the topic weighs heavy on my psyche. Hell, for the camera-happy selfie generation, it should rank right up there with religion. And yet, the wherefore and whys of photos don’t come up too often. I think it’s time for a frank discussion about photos, so here goes.

I grew up in the Kodak days – you know, when you needed to load film into a camera to take pictures. Actually, I could’ve called it the dark room days, since that’s how photos were printed. Like many teens, I had a camera and I found it interesting looking at the world through the little viewfinder. (Oh how I miss viewfinders in cameras!)

The mysterious process of exposing the negative on special paper and using chemicals to make it appear is, no doubt, part of what fascinated folks when photography was invented. Indeed, the whole idea of capturing an image is nothing short of magic. Over time, however, the mystery and magic of the process receded as photos became commonplace. But, I’m sure the cachet of photos increased when someone coined the adages: “a picture’s worth a thousand words”, and “every picture tells a story”.

I think those two sayings were transformative for baby boomers. Why bother trying to describe the sunset – just take a picture. So, we took pictures of every major event – from weddings, to birthdays, to graduations, to family get-togethers. And we made copies and sent them to friends and relatives. We framed them and put them on our walls, desks, and refrigerators. And of course, we took pictures of all our travels. If we were really ambitious, we’d organize them in photo albums and scrap books. And we showed them to others because – and here’s another adage that drives the photo culture – seeing is believing!

Oh, and for the discerning photographers of the mid-20th century (my father, for example), another popular photographic option was colour slides. Who needs photo albums when you’ve got a slide projector that holds hundreds of slides per tray? Watching slide shows of others’ vacations – what better way to spend a Friday night? Maybe not – but if you’re of a certain age, I’ll bet you had your share of such evenings!

But what happens when we run out of wall space to hang our photos? Thank heaven for old shoeboxes, not to mention the corners of bookshelves we relegate old albums to. In other words, most of them just gather dust. And if we move, what do we do? Most of the time, we just move the boxes, albums, slides, and projector to a new place.

And before anyone chimes in (I’m thinking of a couple of cousins now) – yes, I realize I can have them scanned so that instead of having a shoebox of photos, I’ll have them all in a digital format. In fact, I just purchased a Groupon for a service that does that. But then I’ll have a couple more CDs of photos. Guess what I’ll end up doing with them? I’ll add them to the shoebox of other such CDs. (I just came across a box of CDs of photos that I didn’t remember I had. I forgot that in the 90s my local film developer always included a CD of the photos along with the prints.)

Problem is, CDs are going the way of the dinosaur too. Chances are my next computer won’t even have a CD player, so then what? I know, those same cousins are mumbling: cloud storage makes so much more sense… Or does it? I’m sure that for many, the cloud’s going to become simply another place where they’re out of sight and out of mind.

I get that photos are a keepsake – something to help you remember the moment the photo was taken. Or you want to remember a person or occasion. Indeed, I find it so comforting to see a picture of my Dad smiling, or even of our old dog. And, every now and then when I am cleaning out my storage locker, if I come upon a photo album I leaf through it for a trip down memory lane.

But why is it we cling to hundreds of photos we rarely, if ever look at? Sentimentality goes a long way to answering that, for sure. But I’m betting there’s more than a soupçon of guilt there too. Is it me, or do you feel it’s almost sacrilegious to get rid of old photos? I think it’s so hard because the photos seem like our connection to something or someone – a vacation, friends, and family members – and on some level, getting rid of the photo feels like an act of disrespect, if not desecration. Crazy, right?

It’ll be interesting to see if the selfie generation feels any kind of angst over all the photos they’ll have taken by the time they’re my age. My guess is they won’t because they’re not using photos to memorialize something – they’re using them just to show what they’re up to at that moment – or at least until they post the next photo. (Whether they’re missing out on experiencing the moment because they’re wrapped up in taking the photo is another question altogether!)

What about you? What fate awaits your old photos? If you’ve got any unique coping strategies – please share them!

© 2016 Ingrid Sapona