The Mail

The Mail

November 15 1999
The Mail

The Mail

November 15 1999

The Mail

The M-word

Am I the only one who is sick and tired of the overuse of the word “millennium” (“Millennium countdown,” Cover, Nov. 1)? What is so compelling about this particular word that makes it dominate the media like no other 10-letter word has done in the history of the English language? Why has it taken hostage of advertising and the media? As most people are aware but don’t care,

virtually all uses of The Word refer to the year 2000, which is, of course, erroneous. That drives the irritation value even higher. Please, no more!

Henry Lim, Edmonton

I'm sick and tired of people who correctly point out that the third millennium will start on Jan. 1, 2001, being

Letters to the Editor

should be addressed to:

Maclean’s Magazine Letters 777 Bay St., Toronto, Ont. M5W IA7 Fax: (416) 596-7730 E-mail: letters@macleans.ca Maclean's welcomes readers’ views, but letters may be edited for space, style and clarity. Please supply name, address and daytime telephone number. Submissions may appear in Maclean’s electronic sites. E-mail queries about subscriptions or delivery problems should be addressed to: service@macleans.ca

dismissed with terms such as “purists.” Anyone who gives the matter a moments thought realizes that the forthcoming New Year’s Day is the beginning of the last year of the current millennium, and not the first day of the next. If, as I suspect we all profess to be, we are concerned about teaching numerology to our children, how do we justify our deliberate and stubborn insistence on a clearly wrong notion? Michael Watson, The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Toronto

You left out the huge number of people who will be celebrating the millennium countdown at work. The military is on call, as will be everyone who works in any kind of information technology support and many people who work in banks or anywhere else finance-related. You sounded surprised that so few people were travelling. It’s not because we can’t afford it, or that we’re worried it’s not safe. It’s because we’ll be at work, making sure your power is on, your phone works and your e-mail works. Happy New Year to you, too.

T. K. Moxley, Halifax

As a sky diver, I had to chuckle over your statement that “it is possible to hitch a ride on a sky diver’s back to glimpse the rising sun a full 15 minutes before its rays touch land anywhere.” You must have been referring to a tandem sky dive where the instructor or jump master is buckled to a passenger so that he or she is free-falling directly beneath the jump master.

Tiiu Haamer, Burlington, Ont.

Truth and courage

I’m appalled by the continuing attempts of Canada’s arts establishment to suppress debate over the issues

American intrusion

Your Oct. 18 issue takes a happy view of the president of the United States having put Lucien Bouchard “in his place” (“An airing of the dirty linen,” Canada, Oct. 18). The Bush administration, in which I served for four years as deputy assistant secretary of state for Canadian affairs, believed with equal conviction in the desirability of continued Canadian unity. However, we steadfastly resisted any busybody urge to press our views. The “mantra” (a title for which I modestly claim authorship) was we stand for a Canada strong and united, but we shall never intervene in the internal affairs of our sovereign neighbours. The current American president has gratuitously chosen to express views favouring one faction in a friendly foreign country over another. Is American intrusion, however benign in intent, really good for Canada or, for that matter, the United States?

Robert H. Pines, New York City

Maclean’s raised in its excellent cover story on Bill Reid (“Trade secrets,” Cover, Oct. 18). My father, George Norris, is one of the artists who was quoted in your story. Neither he, nor, to the best of my knowledge, any of the other artists who granted interviews for the piece sought out your magazine. All they did was answer the questions they were asked to the best of their ability— often with great reluctance. They do not deserve to be publicly insulted—or have their motives or competence questioned—for having had the courage to tell an uncomfortable truth.

Alexander Norris, Montreal

Your coverage of the work of Haida artist Bill Reid and the justification printed in the following issue (“The art world goes on the attack,” The Forum, Oct. 25) glossed over the enormous physical disabilities his body suffered as Parkinson’s disease progressed. I was privileged to be part of his nursing staff during the late ’80s and early ’90s and watched the torture to which this brilliant man was subjected. It was a miracle that he was able to envision and un-

derraíce to create his Haida Gwaii statue. Many days, he was paralyzed, too unwell to move, yet his indomitable spirit was an inspiration to all around him. Margaret Jones, Okanagan Falls, B.C.

Regarding the alleged work of Bill Reid, his “slaves” and his defenders, this Joe Artist believes all participants in the co-operative production of art deserve standing and credit. Period. Just because it is or was old-school practice to employ anonymous artisans to carry out the dog-work doesn’t make it just. My read of the Macleans story sounds like Reid was the executive producer and director of his own film, but the actors (craftspeople) went unnamed. Weird. Mendelson Joe, Toronto

Celebrity president

Andrew Phillips’s view on the current American celebrity/political road show was right on target (“Beyond the fringe,” Oct. 25). Even though I am a proud American, one of the many reasons I like to read Macleans is to get an across-the-border view of my own country. I am often asked what the differences are between the United States and Canada, and the “politics of celebrity” is usually my first response. How would Canadians react to, say, Celine Dion announcing she was seeking a seat in Parliament, compared with the frantic attention paid to a megalomaniac billionaire, a faded actor and a fascistleaning (at best) television commentator, all of whom seem to think they should be president? Very differendy, I suspect.

Charles M. Seigel, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Thanks for the rescue

Your article on search-and-rescue technicians (“ ‘It takes a special person,’ ” Canada, Oct. 25) came just before a significant anniversary for me—the eighth anniversary of the Hercules crash near Alert, N.WT, on Oct. 30,1991. As one of the very lucky 13 survivors of that

crash, it saddens me that the Chrétien government’s myopic slash-and-burn cost-cutting policies are jeopardizing the very program I credit for the happy fact that I’m still breathing today. The major benefits derived from our tragedy were better equipment for the SAR-techs, improved military policies regarding the training of flight crews and better-protected safety equipment onboard military aircraft. The permanent disabilities that afflicted me and civilian passenger Bob Thomson were a heavy price to pay for those improvements, but it may have been for naught thanks to the foolish and poorly thought-out budget games of the government. I’m just ecstatic that Finance Minister Paul Martin keeps getting surpluses so far in excess of his forecasts—too bad for potential victims if my heroes can’t do what they do best.

D. N. Montgomery, Master Seaman (Ret.), Ottawa

Narcissism in print

Thank you, Anthony Wilson-Smith, for finally blowing the lid off of the trend towards narcissistic journalism (“The curse of ‘Me Journalism,’ ” Backstage, Nov. 1). It has gotten to the point where I turn the newspaper over the minute a writer introduces an important story with some anecdote of what happened to him when he was six years old. Curiously enough, television newscasts haven’t sunk quite as deep into that trap as print has, but it is frightening to think that, if this trend continues, we will be turning more to television to get a balanced story.

Mark Jones, Toronto

When H. L. Mencken wrote, “No one has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people,” it was considered a rather pithy comment on the entertainment standards of the day. Recendy, it has become the rallying cry for those who would reduce journalism to infotainment in the name of ratings and subscriber bases.

Michael Kidder, White Rock, B.C.

‘Arts or technology ?

Bravo to Ann Dowsett Johnston for her remarks about the Youth News Network (“Beware the techno-gods,” Oct. 25). It is important to note that Manitoba Premier Gary Doers rejection of YNN for Manitoba schools is not an isolated act. Manitoba joins British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon who have also banned the Youth News Network from their schools. At one point even Quebec— the home of YNN—forbade schools to sign on with YNN.

John Pungente, President, Canadian Association of Media Education Organizations, Toronto

Welcome, Ann Dowsett Johnston, to the ranks of the eors. An eor is a person who offers only two choices: either one or the other. Her pair appears to be: arts or technology. Get something straight: technology makes art possible. Cave inhabitants who kept survival pressures at bay with hunting success thus had time to daub art on the walls. Technology—spears, snares, pit traps, flint tools, fire—made art possible. Let the Royal Conservatory of Music spend their $3.5 million finding what makes a truly rounded person. This may or may not need computers; what it assuredly does need is visionary educators not trapped with the eors and capable of seeing past rigid classifications to a picture of a truly educated citizen. Frank Gue, Burlington, Ont.

An editor’s joy

While never privileged to see the

female reporters imitation of Allan Fotheringham’s upset over changes to his column (“ ‘If I didn’t do this, I’d have to get a job,’ ” Oct. 11), I do recall getting into The Vancouver Sun newsroom daily at 5 a.m. to handle the editing of the Op-Ed page 5, which included a column by Dr. Foth and one by the late Jack Wasserman,

both columns arriving in separate taxis. Twenty-four years later, I recall two things. One, Wasserman’s column, which was a fascinating about-town, often consisted of items written on pieces of serviette or liquid-stained tavern coaster, and the other being that Fotheringham was either the world’s worst typist or equally bad speller. Only his editor knows for sure. But that is a small price for any editor to pay for the enjoyment provided by Wasserman then and Fotheringham on a continuing basis.

D. Dickson Melville, Victoria

Allan Fotheringham explains that he “wrote editorials, the most irresponsible act of all since they are never (except in sensible places like Quebec) signed.” I write this from Kingston, Ont., home of the The Kingston Whig-Standard, Canada’s oldest continuously published daily newspaper. Regardless of topic, all editorials at this paper are signed. It doesn’t matter if they are written by staff or by volunteer members of our community editorial board, or by a guest. That’s our editorial policy and we’ve successfully practised it for more than a decade.

Fred Laflamme, Publisher, The Kingston Whig-Standard, Kingston, Ont.

The right producer

We were honoured that our show Popular Mechanics for Kids was included in the story “Cool, cute and Canadian” (Special Report, Sept. 27) about the best new kids’ shows. We would like to point out, however, that the production company that produces the show, and has given us so much support over the past two years, is called Motion International, not SDA Productions Inc. as noted in your story.

Melanie Reffes, Unit Publicist, Popular Mechanics for Kids, Montreal

The Beaver in the ’90s

Federal Human Resources Development Minister Jane Stewart is right, it’s not June and Ward Cleaver anymore

(“For the children,” Canada, Oct. 25). Ward found that, as a result of government taxation policies like non-indexed thresholds, he was in the highest tax bracket. He found that he had to earn more than two additional dollars in order to take home one and when he got that dollar home, he was faced with things like property taxes, sales taxes and the Goods and Services Tax. No, he and June had no hope of making it on his salary alone. June had to get a job. The Beav? He spends his summers with the sitter now. AU of the help for Canadian families that the Liberal government has been chattering about lately is directed at dual-income families. To qualify for this relief, you need to entrust the care of your children to others. Make sense? These new measures serve to widen the gap between the income earned/tax paid ratios of singleand dual-income families.

Paul Stevenson, Dunrobin, Ont.

Reform party Leader Preston Manning lives in a dream world. I’d like to know when he will get with it and look at the reality of Canadian women. Sure, many working mothers would like to stay at home and cannot—but many more would prefer to work outside the home, and, yes, juggle their day to include work, family and other interests. I have worked just about all of my life, and even though at times I dreamed of spending more time with my son, I knew that work was a necessity and a fulfilment that I could not find at home. I had choices to make and I made them. Working parents want work, but we want quality child care. Our government must recognize this and put the money in the pot. Quality child care costs big bucks, but consider the benefits of happy, educated children— maybe we would not have so much depression, stress, crime and all of those negative factors of life. In considering child care with quality, let’s not forget that child care-givers must be paid decent salaries with benefits. It is time for the Preston Mannings of this world to come out of their closets and see what a “family” is. The days of mom staying at home are long gone. Whoopee!

Ruth Larson, Labrador City, Nfld.