OPENING NOTES

August 28 1995

OPENING NOTES

August 28 1995

Serious funny business

OPMG ITO

They may be straitlaced in their day jobs. But when they don red noses and silly costumes, the day-to-day personas disappear and they are ready to try to make the world laugh. Last week in Medicine Hat, Alta., 103 clowns from across North America, with names like Buttons and Ducky, gathered for a week of Clown Camp. The camp, the first of its kind in Canada, featured not just practical jokes, but also rigorous training sessions in which the clowns fine-tuned their skills in everything from improvisation to magic tricks. They also learned about clowning with a purpose—using their skills to contribute to community and social programs such as working in hospitals and day-care centres—and the clown code of ethics, which covers such topics as professional conduct in

Derision at the front

Canadian peacekeepers in Bosnia have taken a lot of lumps since their arrival in the former Yugoslavia in April, 1992. They have been held hostage by Bosnian Serbs, harassed by Bosnian government troops, and overrun in this month’s Croat offensive. But another target of their anger is their own government in Ottawa, which some Canadian peacekeepers say has embarrassed them in front of other peacekeeping nations.

public and reminds clowns to play practical jokes on each other, rather than the audience.

The happy campers, who ranged in age from 13 to 80-plus, were as diverse as the paint jobs on their faces. “We’ve got everything from engineers to university professors to folks who are professional clowns full-time,” says camp organizer Penny Beitel (Gummee the clown). Char Holzheimer (Glady), 70, of Great Falls, Mont., who has entertained in seniors’ homes and hospitals for the past 13 years, says that clowning gives her the chance to be “completely nuts.” Stephen Beres (Limen) of Calgary is a 13-year-old novice who says he hopes that clowning will one day lead to his becoming a director of feature films. For some people, clowning around is serious business.

Their anger springs from the standoff in June between Canadian troops and Bosnian government troops, who were then in the midst of an ill-fated assault to break the siege of Sarajevo—and did not want UN blue berets monitoring their moves. The Canadians were refusing to abandon two observation posts outside Sarajevo, even though the Bosnians had cut water and all supplies to the posts. But worried í about the prospect of I Canadian casualties, the liberal government ordered the Canadians to give up their positions and retreat to the Canadian battalion’s base at Visoko, known as CAN BAT II. Canada has never been among the more bellicose of the peacekeeping nations in its dealings with the warring factions. But the decision by politicians to overrule the senior UN military commander in the field—a British brigadier general—“has made us a laughingstock,” said one Canadian soldier. It has not helped the morale of the Canadians, who were already derisively referred to by British peacekeepers as Can’t Bat.

A sitcom in cyberland

Microsoft’s Windows 95, the computer software operating system that hits the stores this week, is one of the most ballyhooed product launches in recent memory. Now, what is being billed as the world's first cyber-sitcom is also getting on the Windows 95 bandwagon. The Microsoft Windows 95 Video Guide is a slick educational video featuring actors Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston, co-stars of NBC’s hit sitcom Friends.

For $19.99, the viewer can hear Aniston proclaim the new system “trippy.”

Elsewhere on the video,

Perry compares using the computer belonging to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates with playing hockey with Wayne Gretzky’s hockey stick—a nod to Perry’s Ottawa upbringing and one of many in-jokes in the 45-minute video. The video’s producers are clearly expecting to have a hit on their hands: GT Interactive Software of New York City shipped 10 million copies earlier this month and will release an interactive CD-ROM, featuring clips from the video, in September.

A trashy problem for B.C. sailors

With its famous sockeye salmon off-limits to fishermen and more and more forests being closed to logging, British Columbia increasingly relies on tourism as the economic mainstay of rural communities. But in one popular region, the provincial government itself is being blamed for endangering the pristine quality of B.C. scenery. In the archipelagos that lie between Vancouver Island and the province’s mainland, the government has removed most garbage-disposal facilities. A government spokesman says they are simply not necessary. “[Marine parks] should be treated the same as backcountry wilderness,” explains Drew Carmichael, 0 district manager for more than two dozen § provincial marine parks. “People should | pack their garbage in and pack it out.” ï

But marina operators say that is impractical for those who are afloat for weeks at a time. With nowhere else to dispose of trash, some boaters resort to throwing refuse overboard. And that, says John Ohman, owner of a marina on Thetis Island, between Victoria and Nanaimo, threatens “eco-tourism.” Says Ohman: “You don’t want to watch whales swimming through floating plastic bags.” So far, however, provincial authorities are unmoved.

Driving a private bill through Parliament

For only the third time in 30 years, a senator in Ottawa has managed to get a private members public bill through Parliament. Senator Colin Kenny says that the economics—and the timing—were right for the bill, which requires most federally owned vehicles to convert to alternative fuels. Under the terms of the bill, 75 per cent of the federal fleet

will switch to such fuels as natural gas, propane, ethanol or methanol by 1999. That should result in an annual reduction of 22,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions—about 20 per cent less than the emissions from gasoline—and savings of $7 million. Still, moving the bill along was not easy. Kenny first approached Public Works Minister David Dingwall, was then shunted on to the Treasury Board, the departments of Environment, Natural Resources and Industry, and finally went to the Prime Minister’s Office. Kenny says they all liked the idea, but none wanted to take it on: “I went from minister to minister, but the bill was an orphan.” Eventually, however, Kenny gained enough support from colleagues in all political parties for the bill to pass the Commons 196 votes to 42 in June. Kenny now has a new target: he says the government could achieve economies of scale by drastically reducing its 106 different vehicle models. Warns Kenny: “I’m still active.”

BARBARA WICKENS