Meet Your Local (Calgary) Authors

This Saturday, October 4 2014, is Meet-Your-Local-Authors Day at the Parkdale Community Association, 3512 5th Ave NW, in Calgary. Here’s a link to the Facebook Page publicizing the event. We’ll be there between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., 45  of us, talking about our books, selling and autographing copies.

I’ll have six of my titles available for purchase. They are:

Songs of an Irish Poet: The Mary O’Leary Story. The biography of a 19th century Irish folk poet, with translated editions of all her known poems. I’ll be giving away free copies of this book (a $20 value) to everyone who buys one of my other titles.

Building a Province: 60 Alberta Lives. My first published book. Biographical sketches of 60 remarkable Albertans who helped make the province what it is today.

How the West was Written: The Life & Times of James H. Gray. The biography of a great Prairie social historian whose best-selling books included Red Lights on the Prairies and Booze.

Leaving Dublin: Writing my Way from Ireland to Canada. My autobiography, published three years ago when I was 68. The story of how and why I gave up a well-paying job in the Irish civil service to establish a life for myself in a country where I had no friends and no family connections.

Romancing the Rockies: Mountaineers, Missionaries, Marilyn & More. A collection of stories about various individuals who came to the Rocky Mountains to explore, climb, take photographs or make movies.

The Good Steward: The Ernest C. Manning Story. The biography of the Alberta premier who served the longest (25 years) and oversaw the evolution of the province from a farming region into one of the western world’s most significant suppliers of oil and gas.


Randy Bachman Blasts Harper

Randy Bachman, according to a story in the Huffington Post, has vented his displeasure at Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for using without permission his classic “Takin’ Care of Business” as the theme song for a speech Harper gave recently to his Conservative supporters.

Bachman tells HuffPo he likely wouldn’t have granted permission to Harper to use the song because of the low royalty rate (10 percent of the American rate) for digital music streaming set by the Copyright Board of Canada earlier this year. The full HuffPo story is at this link.

I did a newspaper interview with Bachman back around the time he wrote “Takin’ Care of Business.” You can read about that encounter in a recent column I wrote for the estimable Facts & Opinions online journal. You can find a link to the column here. It will cost you a buck to read it but, hey, that’s less than you would pay to buy me a cup of coffee. Plus, that buck helps pay my grocery bills. I depend on royalties for my livelihood too.

UPDATE – Bachman has backtracked somewhat, saying in a story today that “Takin’ Care of Business” was actually played in a venue licensed for use of recorded music. But he’s still upset at the Copyright Board for shortchanging Canadian musicians. You can find the updated Winnipeg Free Press story here.

Time-capsule journalism

I’m writing a new arts column for the estimable Facts & Opinions: Journalism Matters  journal, recalling interviews I did with celebrities during the 15 years I worked as a newspaper entertainment reporter. I was inspired to revisit the interviews after a recent conversation with a friend, during which I happened to mention casually that Tennessee Williams once complained to me that the Russians were ripping him off to the tune of thousands of dollars in unpaid royalties.

“You talked to Tennessee Williams?” said my friend.

Yes, and I talked to Kenny Rogers and Tammy Wynette and Sally Rand and Chuck Berry and dozens of other well-known individuals of that period. Revisiting those interviews now is an enjoyable exercise in time-capsule journalism for me, particularly in light of events that have occurred since. I call the column Brief Encounters because many of the interviews were conducted in haste, in green rooms and hotel rooms, when the publicists gave me 15 minutes or less to fish for pearls of wisdom.

I talked to Kenny Rogers after he had tried rockabilly, jazz, folk, country and psychedelic rock, and was unsure where he was going to go next. This was long before he recorded “The Gambler.” I talked to Tammy Wynette when she was finding it difficult to reconcile being a married mother of four with being constantly on the road. Later that month, she got divorced for the fourth time. I talked to fan dancer Sally Rand when she was still taking her clothes off in public at age 71. I talked to Chuck Berry when he was refusing to talk to other reporters because of all the bad press he received over his troubles with the law.

Jay Silverheels as Tonto

Jay Silverheels as Tonto

When B.B. King played for President Obama at the White House in 2012, I recalled that he once told me he thought the blues was dying. When Randy Bachman reinvented himself as a CBC Radio host, I recalled that I had talked to him about his career choices after he had seemingly committed artistic suicide twice, first by walking away from The Guess Who and then by leaving Bachman-Turner Overdrive. When Johnny Depp played Tonto in the 2013 big-screen remake of The Lone Ranger (a flop, by all critical accounts), I recalled that I had talked to the original Tonto, Jay Silverheels, about the racism he encountered in Hollywood.

My first column is about Silverheels. Check it out by clicking here. I hope you enjoy this journey down memory lane with me.

Front yard progress

This time last year, I posted this report on the landscaping of my front yard. Take a look at the pictures below and see how the yard has changed and grown since then. A couple of the plants didn’t survive the winter, which was probably to be expected. But most did, and I’m very pleased to see how Mother Nature does her work in this often inhospitable climate.

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Stories removed

You will notice that a dozen of the biographical profiles I had included in the “Life Stories” section of this site have now been removed. The reason: These profiles will be included among the 31 in my next book, tentatively scheduled for publication in the spring of 2015. Stay tuned for further details.