Wednesday 30 June 2010

Metro Loves Biking

Over the last decade, Dieppe has grown up from a town to a city.

2 OF 2
Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge
Bernard C. Cormier/TIMES & TRANS
[Photos:© Bernard C. Cormier 2010]
Marcel LaPlante recommends that anyone interested in biking to lose weight use a BMX bike, rather than a mountain bike as, with only one gear, it requires more energy.

But, despite its municipal adulthood, its residents' love of bikes is bigger than ever.

Not only does Dieppe have bike paths wrapped around it, it is home to The National Cycling Centre - Atlantic Canada, which has a mandate to develop cycling and train cyclists to compete at the highest levels of competition. The Centre's facilities are located in Dieppe's Rotary Park and include a BMX track and an oval-shaped velodrome track.

"The bike path and all of that stuff really helps the city and the people living in the city," says Luc Arseneau, head coach of the National Cycling Centre - Atlantic Canada. "Also, I think the demographics of Dieppe, in general, with lots of young families with generally OK or above-average income, not that cycling's an expensive sport but it is something that families really like here."

Jim Goguen, a bicycle industry veteran and co-owner of Mike's Bike Shop, agrees that there has been an increase in bike usage but doesn't see it as a phenomenon exclusive to any given municipality.

"In Dieppe, Moncton, Riverview, (interest in) biking as a whole has expanded tenfold compared to 10 years ago."

Goguen says that now it's not uncommon to sell bikes with retail values exceeding $1,000. He believes that a partial reason for such an increase is motivated by a desire to improve heath.

"Doctors are telling (people that) they have to get out, get healthier, lose weight. They say, in general, Atlantic Canadians are not healthy, well I can tell you, anyone who's cycling is healthy! More and more people are taking their bikes back and forth to work. Even on rainy days, if you look around, you'll see people on bikes, maybe not as many (compared to sunny days) but more and more people are heath conscious."

Some bike enthusiasts are very particular about what they ride. Marcel LaPlante, a Dieppe resident and musician who records under the stage name of "Mars Creation," is one such enthusiast. His interest in bicycles is so great that he's shot many videos featuring bikes and motorcycles. He plans to eventually record a bicycle-themed CD, like Kraftwerk's 2003 album Tour de France Soundtracks. LaPlante only drives BMX bikes for many reasons, including physical fitness. He recommends that people interested in biking for weight loss use BMX instead of mountain bikes.

"With BMX, there's only one gear. You'll definitely get tired and it will take a lot of energy and it will drain you out. It's better with BMX than (with a) mountain bike. A mountain bike (has easier) gears, (it's easier) work."

When it's possible, he bikes to work and encourages others to do so.

"It will save mileage in gas plus it's good exercise and, like I say, it's a good feeling."

Although everyone seems to agree that cycling is healthy, Metro Moncton is sprawled over such a large distance that biking to work may not be practical for everyone. People living near the old airport in Dieppe, as an example, may not want to commute to work on a bicycle if they're employed at the casino located in near Magnetic Hill. Arseneau understands that.

"It's a factor that the Greater Moncton area was not developed into neighbourhoods, like Vancouver was. Here in Dieppe, as an example, one thing people will often say is that the next corner store is 8 km away. It's true. That was the way (the cities were) developed. It is a fact here that the cities are so spread across that it could mean 10 kilometres to work. For me, that's almost nothing but for anybody on the street, 10 kilometres is a lot of biking! If you have to come back (home) at 4 o'clock in the afternoon or 5 o'clock after a long day at work, that's a lot of work.

"But after a few months or weeks of training or practising, 10 kilometres is not that far on a bike and everybody can do it."

Arseneau suggests on way to reduce commuter mileage on a bicycle: use Codiac Transit to cover part of the distance since many of its buses are equipped with bike racks.

He also believes that people would be more encouraged to bike to work, and to other places, if business owners would be more accommodating to those interested in using that method of transportation.

"The businesses need to adapt," he says. "(As an example), in Paris, there are showers now in most of the new buildings so that people who bike to work can shower and have a clean day at the office."

"(Metro Moncton has) all of these nice businesses where you can have a coffee or something but (they don't have) bike racks! So, you bike, you have a nice bike path or bike trail or lane, whatever you want to use, but you get to that place to take a coffee or go to a restaurant, whatever you want to do, and there's no place to even lock your bike! That's not really positive and encouraging for people to go to those places by bike, so they'll just take their car."

Arseneau believes that such moves by local businesses would be beneficial to the environment and it would impress bike-using consumers.

Another bike-related concept absent from Metro Moncton is the coin-operated bike rentals that are found in larger cities, like Montreal. Both Arseneau and Goguen don't believe that Moncton has a population to support such ventures but they would support the idea if it were ever introduced in the region. Goguen says that success of those rental units would be dependant on tourism.

"A local person is not going to rent a bike just to go out for the afternoon but someone travelling can't always have their bike with them."

* Bernard C. Cormier is, among other things, a freelance writer and broadcaster. E-mail: © Bernard C. Cormier 2010

Join In The Fete de la Musique

Every year since 1982, people around the world have been celebrating La Fête de la Musique.

Click to Enlarge
Bernard C. Cormier
[Photo:© Bernard C. Cormier 2010]
Glen Burg will perform in downtown Moncton Monday as part of Fete de la Musique.

Meaning a "Celebration of Music," it is sometimes identified as, among other things, "World Music Day" in English, and occurs each year on June 21.

Its origins can be traced back to 1976 when Joel Cohen, an American musician employed by a French government-owned radio station, thought up the idea of having an annual celebration about music. He also thought that it would be best if such a day would take place on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.

The first Fête de la Musique took place five years later during legendary French politician Jack Lang's stint as Minister of Culture, a political position that is highly regarded and respected in that country. Since that time, La Fête de la Musique has spread out into the rest of the world.

"It was a French initiative," says Gilles Courregelongue, the Consul General of France based in Moncton.

Although the Minister of Culture oversaw it in the early days, he says that it was always a non-governmental activity. "Of course, it went much further than the limit of the French government's competence and its goals," the consul general says. "Now it's in so many countries! In every country of the world, the French embassies are always taking part in it and helping (with) it but it should not (be seen) as a "French Government Action." We are just a part of it. We have maybe been the leader at the very beginning but it's not at all the situation today and that's not the image we want to give because we don't deserve it anymore."

La Fête de la Musique is a day to celebrate music: any music, all music, and any way a person wants to, as long as it's about the music and the musicians perform for free.

Therefore, it is totally acceptable, for example, for anyone to pull out a guitar and walk up and down Mountain Road while playing acoustic death metal.

To make things a little more structured and organized for people who wouldn't do that in Moncton, a committee of various organizations led by the French Consulate, which include The Province of New Brunswick, The City of Moncton, and Music NB, plan free public performances to be held on Monday.

"(The French Consulate) introduced the idea (in Moncton) in 2004," says Mamadou Konté, the co-ordinator of those performances.

This year, as with the previous ones, Konté was involved with the selection process that decided which artists would effectively be performing at the "organized" venues, which include City Hall and Mascaret Park.

"We're open to all genres of music because we're not selecting bands for us but, instead, for the public," Mamadou says. "We don't know what the public will like, so we make sure to offer all musical genres. One night, we sat down and listened to what each band interested in performing submitted to us. We tried to make a line-up that held together and included all musical genres. It certainly was difficult in making decisions to cut bands when we were nearly finished with the process, but I can assure you that we didn't cut many. We had to cut some acts due to time restraints."

Another person involved with the process was Jean Surette, executive director of Music N.B. Jean is also a member of the band Les Païens.

"One of things that the (selection) committee tried to do was to involve as many people as possible," he says. "Have a list of people who wanted to play and try to cater to everyone, if possible. That, obviously, wasn't possible but we tried to. It was to give a good mix, depending on what time of day, where was the venue and what kind of event we wanted to create, like "early-evening/late-afternoon.

"Well, we tried to cater more to families but later in the evening we were able to program maybe heavier or more adult' bands.

"One thing that's beautiful about music, especially on a day like La Fête de la Musique, is to let people have the chance to discover new music, whether it be music that they're not used to hearing or that they don't get to hear. So, it's giving people the opportunity to discover new music."

"The Spirit of La Fête de la Musique is that you play every kind of music at every level! That means that you can have world famous artists and also young kids just learning," says Gilles.

The organized La Fête de la Musique events in Moncton this year will include Alcaz, a band from France.

For some of the performers at La Fête de la Musique, it presents them with a new platform and, perhaps, an exercise in audience interaction.

Local musician and radio personality Glen Burg will participate in La Fête de la Musique for the first time. Although his experiences in public performances include impressive experiences, like playing on stage with members of Gentle Giant, Glen sees his solo acoustic Main Street morning sidewalk set as a welcome challenge.

"It's easy for me to get up on stage in front of thousands of people as I've done before in a band setting and be just like OK! Let's kick this! Let's do it right!' Myself, in front of two or three people, forget having thousands of people! Just having two or three people there, one of whom I might not have known beforehand...the stakes are raised! For me, that's the challenge that I push myself into at the same time with La Fête de la Musique. It's like, OK, maybe people will be more receptive today but at the same time I'm going to be nervous as heck!

"I don't have stars in my eyes playing on the sidewalks of Moncton," Glen adds, "but it's nice to be part of this activity because, over in France, where it originated, you get music on every street corner! "

"The big difference in France, and in Europe, is that (the performances) are small and more spontaneous," Gilles says.

"Here, it's more organized. Also, the cities are different. In Moncton, you cannot do things (that) you can do in Paris. In many European cities, (bands) are playing on the pavement, in the streets..."

In case anyone thinks that he's panhandling, Glen will place a sign in front of him saying I'm not soliciting. I'm here for International Music Day.'

* Bernard C. Cormier is, among other things, a freelance writer and broadcaster. E-mail: © Bernard C. Cormier 2010

Reviewed: "Che: A Graphic Biography"

Thursday 17 June 2010

Tommy Cash Pays Tribute To His Brother

Tommy Cash, the youngest sibling of late entertainer Johnny Cash, and his backing band, The Cash Crew, will take the stage tomorrow at Moncton's Capitol Theatre.

Click to Enlarge
Tommy Cash started out managing his brother Johnny Cash's music publishing company in 1964, before launching his own recording career the following year.

"It's been a long time since I played any shows in New Brunswick," the 70-year-old singer said last week during a telephone interview from his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee. "(I played there) back in the '70s and maybe in the '80s. It's been a long time, so I'm looking forward to (going) back to that part of (Canada)!"

The youngest of seven children and eight years younger than Johnny, Tommy Cash somewhat followed in his older brother's footsteps by becoming a singer in the 1960s despite being advised not to.

"He told me to stay out of his business. He said, "It's rugged and it's tough and it'll kill you! Travelling, and being up and being gone all the time..." but I didn't listen!"

"I came to Nashville in 1964, after I got out of the U.S. Army, to manage Johnny's music publishing company. I worked at that for two or three years and then eventually went out on my own and started touring with Hank Williams, Jr. and Connie Smith. I then had a few hit records of my own."

Tommy Cash's recording career began in 1965 with the 45-rpm singles "I Guess I'll Live" and "I Didn't Walk The Line." His first LP was Here Comes Tommy Cash. His only album for the United Artist record label, it was released to the public in 1968.

His next half-dozen albums, including 1970's Six White Horses, were recorded for Epic. The title track of Six White Horses, would become his most successful song. It reached No. 1 on Canadian country music charts and No. 4 in the United States.

Throughout the years, the older Cash assisted his brother by including him as a guest on The Johnny Cash Show and in various TV specials. The two also recorded songs together as late as the 1990s.

Although Tommy Cash continued to record and perform, the music industry took somewhat of a backseat in the 1980's as his priorities shifted towards real estate.

"I got a real estate licence in 1984 to help the family with their real estate needs: brothers and sisters and parents and so forth. I liked it so much that I just stayed in it! I still do a lot of real estate, too."

But his involvement in real estate never made him retire from recording and touring, it just made him less available for such activities. Over the last decade, Tommy Cash has been reducing his real estate workload and refocusing on music, as he did in the 1960s and 1970s. He's away on tours for as many as 120 days each year.

"I'm taking more bookings than I did in the '80s and '90s. I still enjoy it and I'm still in good health. So, as long as I feel that I can do a good show and as long as I'm feeling well enough to travel, then I'll continue to do it. When the time comes when I need to retire from all of this, I will."

His most recent album, Fade To Black: Memories of Johnny, which includes duets with George Jones and Marty Stuart, was released in 2008. It was his first album for the Christian record label InLight Records. Like Cash, InLight Records is based in Hendersonville. "The label contacted me. I signed a contract with them to do three albums and (Fade To Black: Memories of Johnny) is the first one. I haven't done the second or third one, yet, but we're negotiating as to whether I should stay with this label or go with another label.

"At my age, you know, people are not jumping up and down and knocking at your door to sign you to a record contract!

"Even though myself or someone else in my position might be singing as well as they ever did and performing as well as they ever did, or better because of experience, the record labels are not interested. They're interested in the young people with money to promote themselves.

"In other words, they're wanting the young people on their labels, not the older people. If you (go) to the labels with a big production package and lots of money, they may put an album out on you or they might put a single out on you but they're certainly not knocking on your door to get you to sign with a major label. It's sad in a way that the record labels are that way but they're only interested in making money. "They're not interested in promoting an older artist's career."

Tommy Cash has performed in 37 different countries and, as one would expect, has had many different types of experiences while on the road, even some negative ones when entering Canada.

"The only time we've ever had a problem at the Canadian border is that I had a bus driver who did not tell me that he had a pistol in his tote bag! That held us up a few hours!

"We explained to the Canadian authorities that I didn't know that he had a pistol and that he shouldn't have tried bringing it into the country. They confiscated it, of course, and let us go on our way. That was a time that was quite scary!"

Unlike his brother, Tommy Cash has yet to be the subject of a biopic but he was included in Walk The Line (2005).

"I was a 10-year-old in the movie. When (Johnny Cash) puts a little boy on his shoulders and says "Where's Tommy?", that's me. Also, I was in another scene where I was dancing in the background as a 10-year-old."

Although the film's producers didn't ask him for his permission for such inclusions, Tommy Cash was flattered that he was incorporated into the story.

"I think if they would have done more with the family (then) all of us would have been in the movie, all seven of us...but the movie was about Johnny and June (Carter-Cash). It wasn't about the family, it was about Johnny and June."

Tommy Cash gives the film a passing grade but dislikes some of the creative liberties it took with some of his family members.

"(The film's producers) showed us a rough-cut of the movie six months before it was released to the public. I was surprised about a few things. For an example, they portrayed my dad as a mean-spirited, hard-boiled, hard-to-get-along-with person and he wasn't that way at all! Especially the last 30-40 years he lived, he was very mellow. I didn't understand why they did that and I asked them to change it but they didn't. When the movie came out, (the portrayal of the senior Cash) was actually stronger because there were scenes in the rough-cut of the movie that were not in the (final cut) of the movie and vice versa!"

Regardless of the manner his father was portrayed, other members of his family, in his opinion, were right on target.

"Reese Witherspoon as June Carter-Cash was outstanding! She had June's personality down-pat. She was wonderful!

"I suppose that's why she won an Oscar for that performance!"

* Bernard C. Cormier is, among other things, a freelance writer and broadcaster. E-mail: © Bernard C. Cormier 2010

Thursday 3 June 2010

Tommy Cash

This weekend on "Bernard Brule Les Ondes!" (BBLO!): an interview with Tommy Cash (Johnny's brother).
The show starts Saturday night at 12 midnight AST.
Listen to it live on FM or online:

What are you drinking this summer?

[Photo:© Bernard C. Cormier 2010]

Officially, it will not be here for almost a month but its seasonal temperature has already struck our region.

That means it's a good time to invite friends over to, like many locals would say in chiac, "timer" (pronounced "time-é": party, drink).

If you're going to entertain people in such a manner, you probably need to be prepared to provide them with something to wet their throats. For such occasions, a person must be mindful of who's coming over to keep you company and if any liquid consumption exceptions exist for them.

The first step in planning is at the grass roots level of your inner circle of friends.

According to Saint John-based sommelier and freelance writer Craig Pinhey, that fundamental fact's a no-brainer.

"You know how it is: you hang out with people of liked interests, right? It's very rare for somebody to be coming to my place that doesn't drink wine or beer. It's just like I don't have any smoking friends, really. It's rare to a few," he says.

"People who are interested in food are not going to come (to my residence) and eat Kraft Dinner, right? I wouldn't invite people for a potluck supper who only know how to make hot dog casserole, you know. That's not snobby, it's just, like I said, liked interests."

Pinhey says that he would likely not serve pop to guests. Instead, if necessary, he would serve water.

Moncton resident Marty Gautreau shares a similar point of view on the topic, especially concerning guests that don't consume alcoholic beverages.

"(If they don't drink alcohol), they're not (one) of your guests!," Gautreau says with a laugh and adding in French, "You're asking the wrong question to the wrong people!"

However, Pinhey takes his views towards gatherings a few steps further than Gautreau.

"I don't believe in pop," Pinhey says. "I just think it's the discourage of North America. I just think that pop is the reason for obesity in this country, especially when people allow their kids to drink it. Pop is just sugar. All pop is. You can use sugar-free pop and it will just taste sweet. It doesn't really bring a lot to the party in my opinion."

Although Pinhey doesn't encourage pop to anyone, he does, upon occasion, use it as an ingredient for some drinks.

"I usually keep Coke around for rum and coke but I would use way less (Coke) than most people! You hardly need any in that! It needs a lot of lime and then, you know, probably like half as much as what you see most people use when they're making rum and coke."

Besides pop, there is another drink Pinhey would not serve to guests: coolers.

"I wouldn't drink them and the reason (why) is (that) they're just sugar bombs. They're basically pop with alcohol in them and artificial colouring and flavour, you know. I just don't have time for that," he said. "I don't consider that a valid source of enjoyment for an alcoholic beverage. It has no purpose in my life ... (Coolers) are marketed heavily towards young people and women. Coolers are so sugary that you don't even taste alcohol in them. They're deceptive. You have to be careful with them, very dangerous!"

Tammy Brideau-Lirette, a sommelier and product advisor with NB Liquor, says that the possibility of weight gain due to alcohol consumption likely occurs when physical activities and exercise are reduced.

"Coolers are full of sugar and beers are full of yeast and all of that bloating stuff," she says. "These days, young people don't do as much exercise as they probably should with all of the video games, Internet, and all that. It's a big possibility that with all of that stuff, (weight) is accumulating.

"Exercise (with) moderate (alcohol) consumption. Be responsible."

She adds that it's very important to have some non-alcoholic drinks on hand in case some of your guests cannot drink liquor for medical reasons, like pregnant women.

Gautreau is experienced with hosting social gatherings. In the summer months, he's usually hosting such gatherings at an average of one per week. The drinks he serves and the structure of his gatherings are tailored for warm weather. In his opinion, the ideal summer gatherings are those focused on barbeques.

"Barbecue. Friday night. Suppertime. Have a few guests over, a little steak, and a little Corona followed by poker, you know," he says.

Pinhey, Gautreau, and Brideau-Lirette all have different recommendations for the perfect and appropriate alcoholic drinks.

Gautreau's recommendations for alcoholic drinks this summer are Coronas and "Blue Margaritas." He says that guests will likely accept the offer when it's a Blue Margarita.

"Everybody wants a Blue Margarita! It's like the Flaming Moe!" he says referring to a drink featured in an episode of The Simpsons. He also recommends bartending how-to books like "The Complete Bartender" by Robyn M. Feller.

Pinhey recommends classic cocktails like gin and tonic.

"They're simple to make. You can't beat gin and tonic in the summer!

"For me, in the summertime, my drinking changes a lot. I hardly drink any red wine. I drink a lot of light, refreshing white wine then I drink a lot of low alcohol white wines. Wines that are 10, 11, 12 (per cent) instead of 13, 14, and a lot of dry rosé wines. In the winter, it's not uncommon for me to get strong ale or Belgians strong beers. You kind of get a craving for them sometimes, like winter warmers. In the summer, I drink mostly pale ales and good quality lagers... and more cocktails.

"You definitely change your drinking habits when the weather gets warmer. No question about it."

Brideau-Lirette emphasizes the importance of being ready for any unexpected issues related to when your guests consume.

"If I have a group of people, I always try to have a little bit of everything to please everybody. I'll have a little bit of wine. I'll have a bit of a few import beers (and some) rosés.

"It's always nice to have people try something new."

Bernard C. Cormier is, among other things, a freelance writer, and broadcaster. He can be reached at: © Bernard C. Cormier 2010