Opening Notes

Tanya Davies,Barbara Righton,D’Arcy Jenish August 30 1999

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies,Barbara Righton,D’Arcy Jenish August 30 1999

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies

Afloat on high hopes

The Canadian rowing team was looking forward to having the homecourse advantage at this weeks World Rowing Championships, being staged near St. Catharines, Ont. The team is coming off a dominant performance at the Pan-American Games in Winnipeg, where it collected 10 medals in 12 events, including four golds. The world championships, however, are a

far more difficult test because the field McBean; Porter at includes the top rowing teams from the Pan-Am Games Europe and Australia. As well, results (right): medals will determine berths for next sum-

mers Sydney Olympics. “It will be great motivation for all

of us to do well,” said longtime star Derek Porter.

For Canadian fans, the world championships offer a chance to preview the team that will carry Canadas hopes at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Rowers, after all, won six of Canadas 22 medals in Atlanta in 1996, and five of 18 in Barcelona in 1992. Some names have changed over the last four years, in part due to the retirement of longtime stars such as Kathleen Heddle and Silken Laumann. But there remains a veteran core led by single scullers Marni McBean and Porter, and Emma Robinson and Theresa Luke go into the world championships with two recent World Cup pairs wins and a Pan-Am gold to their credit.

There is extra motivation to race well in St. Catharines.

What little sponsorship money is available to rowers is usually meted out during the year leading up to an Olympics, so a top finish at the worlds could help offset next years training costs. “Money is a problem for most amateur athletes in Canada,” said Porter, a chiropractor from Victoria. “So the next little while leading up to Sydney is very important to us.”

A real Jurassic Park

Alberta’s famous Dinosaur Provincial Park is the world’s single most bountiful site for the great reptiles, having yielded the bones of more than 250 individuals from 36 species. But as David Spalding shows in Into the Dinosaurs Graveyard (Doubleday), the national dinosaur rush has raged across Canada, from the first fossil discovered in Prince Edward Island in 1845 to the islands of the High Arctic. Spalding tells a colourful tale of eccentric collectors and the long struggle to keep Canadian finds in Canada.

Catherine McKinnon’s musical life

Double Take

It has been 35 years since singer Catherine McKinnon toured Canada with CBC’s Don Messer’s Jubilee. But her fans still remember the beautiful Saint John, N.B., native with the sparkling blue eyes and angelic voice. When they come to her restaurant, Catherine McKinnons Spot O’ Tea, in Stanley Bridge, PE.L, they are hoping for a performance along with their meal—and she doesn’t mind a bit. “They want to know, ‘Does she still sing?’ ” says McKinnon, 54, who lives in Stanley Bridge with her husband, entertainer Don Harron, during the summer and in Toronto in winter. “My staff got me a T-shirt that reads, ‘Yes, I still sing. I’m not dead yet.’ ” As proof, she regularly launches into a tune while patrons dine. Sometimes, Harron drops by and tells jokes. It is an act the two repeat at their theatre

beside the restaurant three nights a week, where McKinnon occasionally does a tribute to Messer. “That show was part of people’s lives,” she recalls.

An army brat who moved around the country, McKinnon started singing in public at the age of 5. Two years later, she made her radio debut. In 1964, she recorded the folk tune, Farewell to Nova Scotia, which became a national hit.

Besides the theatre and restaurant, McKinnon and Harron, 74, stay busy with other gigs. In 1994, they entertained Canadian troops overseas. In January, they will perform on a cruise ship. “My sister has had cancer and she has taught me a lot about life,” says McKinnon, who has a grown daughter with Harron. “I value every day.”

Barbara Righton

Ranking the rank

When the Sierra Legal Defence Fund released its National Sewage Report Card on sewage treatment systems in 21 Canadian cities, some commu-

nities came out smelling sweeter than others. Cities that provide at least secondary treatment of their sewage received a passing grade (anything above a D), while those that dump raw sewage were given an F-.

Ranked in order of grade:

Calgary A Edmonton B+ Yellowknife B+ Fredericton B Regina B Whitehorse B Saskatoon C+

Ottawa Quebec City Toronto Winnipeg Hamilton Vancouver Brandon, Man.

Charlottetown E Saint John, N.B. E Halifax EMontreal F+ Dawson City, Yukon FSt. John’s, Nfld. F Victoria F-

Explorer

The Walkman

at 20

Some revolutions begin quietly. Take the Sony Walkman, which was introduced in Japan 20 years ago this summer, and has since changed the way people around the world listen to music. The Sony chairman of the day, Aldo Morita, thought the initial production run of 50,000 units too high, and ordered it cut to 30,000. The Japanese media initially ignored the new gadget, which was clad in a classy silver-and-blue metal casing. And sales were modest—only 3,000 moved in the first month. The Walkman took off a couple months later after Sony publicity staff tried some grassroots marketing— allowing Tokyo subway users and students at high schools and universities to sample the sound quality for a few minutes. Since then, music lovers have purchased over 237 million tape-cassette Walkmans and related products, such as CD and mini-disc players. Many longtime users remain hooked on the musical experience. “It is totally liberating,” says John Jones, senior music programmer at Toronto-based MuchMusic. “At the push of a button, you can be somewhere else with your music.”

Sony will mark the 20th anniversary with a sleek but pricey—$300—com-

memorative model. It will be available in mid-September along with posters tracing the evolution of the product. One of the biggest changes was the 1992 introduction of the MiniDisc, a six-centimetre square plastic wafer used for recording digitally. Sony’s Canadian general manager of advertising and corporate communications, John McCarter, says MiniDisc players, already popular in Japan and Europe but slow to catch on in North America largely because they cost up to $500, will eventually replace tape players. But one thing seems certain: the Walkman and its many imitators will likely be around for many years.

The new kids on the block

There’s nothing like success to attract criticism. Over the past 20 years, there have been two knocks against the Walkman and its imitators: tape players always make a whirring sound and the disc players sometimes skip, especially in motion. There’s no danger of any such distractions with a new type of portable music device called an MP3 player, at least according to the manufacturers, because the gadgets contain no moving parts.

Several companies have developed players to take advantage of MP3 technology, a method of compressing digitally recorded Nomad MP3 player: music so it can be uses new technology stored efficiently

on a computer. Consumers can slip a standard audio compact disc into their PC, transfer the music to the hard drive, then download up to two hour’s worth of tunes onto the MP3 player’s flash memory card. The devices, which sell for $275 to $400, are small—about the size of a package of cigarettes—and can weigh as little as 70 g.

D’Arcy Jenish