Jean Doherty

I was sad to read this morning of the death of Jean Doherty.

I worked with Jean over the years in many different capacities, most recently through the PEI Home and School Federation, when I was President and Jean was handling communications for the Department of Education.

Jean was that rare public servant who never developed a thick skin: she was universally helpful and kind, and genuinely believed in the work she was doing, and the benefits of clear and effective communication. I always enjoyed our interactions.

She will be missed.

Mr. Hooper is Dead, Grover is a Alcoholic

Back during my brief flowering as a writer of comedic songs–Kitchen Utensil Love, Gay Squirrels, etc.–I wrote a song about Sesame Street, the lyrics of which evade me now, other than “Mr. Hooper is Dead, Grover is a Alcoholic.”

I thought about that song when I came across this passage in The New Yorker in the story How We Got to Sesame Street:

For Kamp, “Sesame Street” peaked in 1983, after the death of Will Lee, the actor who played Mr. Hooper, the neighborhood grocer. Lee, a former member of a radical theatre troupe, had been called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the nineteen-fifties and been blacklisted from television; “Sesame Street” had become his theatrical home. He was much admired by the rest of the cast, and the writers decided to reckon, on air, with grief. Big Bird, told that Mr. Hooper is dead, wants to know when he’s coming back. “Big Bird, when people die they don’t come back,” a cast member says, softly. Big Bird tilts his head, yellow feathers fluttering, and whispers, unbelieving, “Ever?”

I remember that episode of Sesame Street like it was yesterday: the stunning absence of Mr. Hooper, Big Bird uttering that line. I’m pretty sure that Mr. Hooper cum Will Lee’s death was the first time I remember “death” being a thing.

We can’t believe it’s not summer!

Regular readers will know of my longtime aversion to the use of generic stock photography to illustrate news stories. I’ve written about this here and here and here.

I will make an exception to this aversion today, however: in the CBC News story MPs urged to demand the names of Canadians behind offshore tax shelters a photo of people appearing to walk on water, on a beach in the Isle of Man, was used as the illustration.

It’s an Associated Press photo taken by Raphael Satter that appears in news stories as early as 2014, stories ranging from We can’t believe it’s not summer! Britain will bask in sunshine until Wednesday (but then it’s back to normal at the weekend) to KPMG pressed for details on Isle of Man tax scheme.

What I love about its use in this particular CBC story is that the photo is, vaguely, related to the content of the story, which mentions the Isle of Man, but, more so, that it’s a playful take on “offshore tax shelter.” Indeed one assumes that journalist Harvey Cashore may have simply searched the CBC image library for “Isle of Man offshore” and this was the first image that popped up.

Screen shot from CBC News website showing photo of people appearing to walk on the water on the Isle of Man just offshore

The Liam Neeson Cinematic Machine

Liam Neeson is the star of a new movie, The Marksman, which is described like this:

Along the US/Mexico border in Arizona, Jim Hanson a rancher and Vietnam war vet, is going through a tough time. His beloved wife just passed away from cancer and the bank is about to foreclose on his vast property.

I have, as it happens, been on something of a Liam Neeson streaming kick of late, having watched all or parts of the three Taken films, Honest Thief, and, last night, part of The Next Three Days. I feel like that description of The Marksman, with small variations, could be used to describe any of those films.

Neeson plays troubled character (veteran, retired CIA operative, retired bank robber, prison escape expert, etc.) with unusual moral clarity; he is either divorced or widowed, and is possibly in love with his ex- or late-wife.

People are after him.


I wonder if he loves the roles, or simply has very expensive tastes.

Upcoming roles:

  • The Ice Road: After a remote Canadian diamond mine collapses, an ice driver leads an impossible rescue mission to save the lives of trapped miners despite thawing waters.
  • BlacklightTroubled repairman off the FBI books is tasked with pulling undercover agents out of dangerous situations.
  • Memory: Liam Neeson will play an expert assassin with a reputation for discreet precision.

These sound about right.

Vicarious Travel

As Ton has been travelling vicariously by revisiting travel photos, I have been travelling vicariously by revisiting travel blog posts. Like this one, about our 21 say stay in France:

Twenty-one days isn’t enough time to really understand anything about a place — we’ve been on Prince Edward Island for twelve years and we still don’t understand. Most of what I relate above is more about comfort and familiarity than about realizing French life, culture and history.

But I’ve a strong belief that culture is found not in the monuments and the museums but in the substance of everyday life: road signs, roof tiles, park benches, the little twist of the bag that keeps the croissants from falling out, saying bonjour to everyone you meet as you walk.

Living in the midst of what to us is a strange yet vaguely familiar land, and achieving some level of comfort and familiarity, has allowed us, if not to understand France, at least to realize that there is something here to be understood: that the wine and the land and the architecture and the parks and the croissant bag twist and the church and the war and the cheese and the strange opening hours are all part of a complex, interdependent system. This is not something unique to France, of course; it’s just that this system in this country has an integrity, a maturity, and tremendous sensual appeal that makes it an excellent selling tool for opening the mind to consider other.

If all Oliver remembers from the trip he took to France when he was four is a vague memory of that notion, then I think we will have done our job as parents well.

and then, a few days later, still in France:

But I found Au Bonheur des Jardins oddly alluring.

Somehow being amidst something so disturbingly familiar but in French (and thus completely without chance of recruitment) made for a very pleasant afternoon. I sat back and drank my mint tea (leaves left in, of course) and ate my brownie, and just watched it all unfold. I even screwed up my courage and bought some artisanal cheese (very good, from the Champagne region) and some handmade books (cookbooks about basil, eggs and olive oil).

Catherine, frighteningly at home in any situation, simply dove in. She and Oliver made handmade paper, fished for recycled stuffed toys, and watched the mimes up close. She bought some myrtle juice (we’re still not sure what a myrtle is) and some more cheese and some weird substance from which she can purportedly make tea.

Travel together was our métier, and that experience in France set the tone for many adventures that followed.

Simple Projection Screen

I decided that we needed to upgrade our home cinema game, which isn’t hard to do given that it’s built around a $129 projector. So I invested in a $34 screen. Worth it for the packaging alone!

Karine Polwart, Gordie Sampson, Tim Banks, Lennie Gallant

From Karine Polwart’s latest newsletter:

The last song on the Come Away In EP hasn’t, as far as I’m aware, ever been released. Lovelines was co-written in fleeting session with Canadian songwriter Gordie Sampson, whilst on a trip to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where my children’s father is from. Gordie is a Nashville-based writer now, with songs under his belt for country A-listers such as Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Faith Hill and LeAnn Rimes. You can definitely hear his influence in the style. Still, I think it’s a bonnie wee thing, that’s much happier for not gathering virtual dust on a hard drive in my office.

We saw Gordie Sampson at The Trailside in 2007 on a memorable night where we were seated between Lennie Gallant and Tim Banks:

The only stain on the evening was the lurking presence of Lord Voldemort at the next table. And thus the ever-present, if completely irrational, fear of imminent disembowelment. Lucky for me, Lennie Gallant was sitting on the other side of us, and so my scenario-planning included situations where Lennie would leap to my defense with some freaky Rustico-style jujitsu should I be assailed. In the end Voldemort kept to himself, no eye contact was made, and I lived to fight another day.

Gordie Sampson is certainly a virtuoso, and he put on an entertaining couple of sets. If you ever have the opportunity to take in his show, especially at a venue like the Trailside, do so. We capped the night be staying just long enough after the closing credits to hear the aforementioned Lennie Gallant play a tune.

To listen to the song Polwart recorded with Sampson on her Cape Breton trip requires joining Hudson Club, a subscription offering from her record company; a bonnie wee thing indeed.