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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ben Johnson lookin' Still Alive and Well

Yesterday was a fun day for my wife Heather and I as our mid-afternoon breakfast (don't U sleep in on Saturday??) was highlighted by the arrival of Ben Johnson and his lady friend who sat at the table right next to us!

We were driving out to a semi-rural car lot in Richmond Hill to look at a 2005 GMC Safari van that had only 55,000 km on it and was supposed to be available for $13,888. As that price seemed about $2,000 too low, I was anxious to see the condition of it, and maybe make plans to buy it.

On the way there I wanted Heather to enjoy the really good breakfasts available at a place I had recently brekkied at with my friend Steve (bassist from punk band Sudden Impact and fellow record collector / crate digger). We were settling in there nicely when about 10 minutes after we arrived Ben and his gal came in and sat right next to us. I nodded acknowledgement a couple of times but generally wanted the man to be able to eat and converse in peace... then after we had all been eating for awhile a local came up and blurted "you look like Ben Johnson, are you..?" to which Ben nodded and the guy stuck out his hand and exclaimed honourably "Very pleased to meet you!"

Ben smiled and gave him a firm handshake and the gent went back to his table, having met a man who was formerly the fastest on the planet. I once met Donovan Bailey at his photographer's place when I was picking up some proofs for Salome Bey, so Ben was about to be the second speedster I had met. We finished our breakfast before they did and as we were getting up to leave I mentioned to Ben and his lady that "on the night you won the gold, I was at Lulu's in Kitchener watching you with several thousand other people."

Both Ben and his friend mentioned they remembered the club, I introduced myself, and then was about to introduce my wife when I noticed she was already out the door of the restaurant (I hadn't told her in advance that I was about to stop and talk with Ben, but as she's painfully shy, she didn't mind), so I just said "Oh, looks like I better get going, it was nice meeting you" and headed out the door myself.

Ben looked in really great shape which was good to see; I'm sure he's still faster than 99% of men out there.

Anyways, after that we drove to the used car / van lot, which turned out to have a variety of Astro's and Safari's with more km on them, but the pristine beast with just 55,000km on her was nowhere to be found. The guy told us it sold "about a week and a half ago" but the way he asked "did u see it? did u see it?" two times when I first mentioned that van made me believe it was a plant, a lure, a shiny piece of candy that never existed.

Still, I was glad to have checked it because whether it ever existed or not, it wasn't available now so I had to cross it off my list and not even use it as any type of reference point, as it seemed a bit too good to be true in the first place. And, I met Ben Johnson, whose legacy is greater than many understand (every single runner who competed against him in the Olympic finals dash was later found to also have been on steroids).

Still looking for a Chevrolet Astro or GMC Safari made between 2003 and 2005. I have a 1997 Astro now but would like one made in the final 3 years of production, as there were a couple of enhancements on those models that improved handling, and these wonderfully versatile vehicles are no longer made.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Politics and Punk go hand in hand

Readers are invited to comment about what they'd like to see in these pages, and I'll be happy to oblige wherever possible. Meaningful punk survives and thrives and even though it's a billion dollar industry now, the train keeps a rollin all night long.

Feel free to post notices of protest concerts and benefit shows, particularly those featuring punk, reggae, ska, world and other rebel music. Here are some of my earliest punk influences:

Sex Pistols
The Clash
Dead Boys
Young Canadians
Teenage Head

In Vancouver, I wrote and sang for The Reactors as Joey Power, and after moving to Toronto I formed Joe College and the Rulers with my friend Russ, a bassist known in punk circles as Menachem Begin! In Vancouver I was fortunate and honoured to open for the Subhumans, The Young Canadians and The Modernettes, and the tradition carried on in Ontario where we were able to rock the house with the likes of Teenage Head, DOA, and Crash Kills Five. 

True Canadian Hero and international punk pioneer Joe Keithley from DOA has written an intriguing book (I Shithead, A Life In Punk) that highlights that 79-81 era and I think it's a good read, as is the book by Buck Cherry of The Modernettes.

Keep me posted,

Joe College

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cleanup Time; ROCK AGAINST OCN promotes clean energy

Rock Against Oil Coal Nuclear Punk Protest set for 2010

I realize my ambitions are greater than most, but as my Yonge Street neighbor mentioned a couple of decades ago when he heard we were having triplets; That's Joe, he goes big or stays home!

So here are some ideas I feel we should be discussing to promote a strong economic future in Ontario:

1. Unity - It's ridiculous that progressive forces (humanists who believe in social justice and environmental integrity) are split among NDP, Green Party, Marijuana Party, Rhino Party etc when our nation needs us working together. If we can unite the Greens and the NDP and then invite fringe party members to join without asking them to disband their single issue groups, Canada will again have a strong 3rd party, perhaps stronger than ever before. We've been a fly in the ointment long enough; it's time for us to be the ointment, and Ontario is where the unification needs to begin.

2. Solarization - For both economic and environmental reasons, a move towards an infinite energy-based electro-hydrogen economy is a must. With a myriad of options such as offshore and land-based windpower, active and passive geothermal energy, flywheels / energy storage, fuel cells / hydrogen, conservation / energy efficiency, biodiesel / biofuels / biomass, silicon solar, thin film solar, concentrated solar and the list goes on, the timing is right for Ontario to lead Canada into the green powered 21st Century.

3. Culture of Contentment - The multi-decade swing to the right in the USA and resultant media brainwashing and shifting of the center has resulted in a schizophrenic political world south of our border that must be at all costs avoided here. The "greed is good" mentality that seeped from Wall St into Hollywoood and into American pop culture never really took hold here but the outlook has its advocates in the Reform Party wing of Harper's cabal. We need to maintain vigorous debate in Canada and quash doublespeak when it arises.

Galbraith wrote about the naval-gazing dangers of our modern insular world in his prophetic book The Culture of Contement, and we (those generally concerned about their fellow citizens and future generations) need to overcome this laziness and retake the reins of power for the people.

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