Watched an interesting film last night: “You’re Not You”. Didn’t realize up front that the girl Hilary Swank plays is suffering from ALS - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. As I mention on my website (peterjennings.me), I think it’s reasonable for those of us with any kind of web presence to show support for causes, and ALS is the one I’ve chosen. It’s a motor neuron disease that gradually paralyzes people because the brain is no longer able to communicate with the muscles of the body. There’s no known cause and no cure, and that’s why I’m supporting efforts to help change that. Important new discoveries have scientists sorting through the way the ALS mutation plays out inside the brain's motor neuron cells. They say, “ALS is not an incurable disease: it is an underfunded one”. So I hope you’ll join me in donating to the Canadian and U.S teams who are in this fight:
In Canada: https://secure.alsevents.ca/registrant/DonationPage.aspx?eventid=342522&langpref=en-CA&Referrer=direct%2fnone
In the U.S.: tps://www.als.net/donate/?soc=blog509
I’m in the midst of having conversations with sons and daughters of famous people to discuss being raised from childhood in somewhat rarefied environments. This is for my 9th book, “Icons. Growing Up In The Shadow Of Greatness”.
As I prepared to chat with Ted Barris, son of the late Canadian media superstar Alex Barris, I re-read two of Alex’s books: “The Pierce-Arrow Showroom Is Leaking: An Insider's View of the C.B.C.” and “Front Page Challenge: History of a Television Legend”. Both refer to Alex’s time spent with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in writing and on-air hosting.
In 1969, Alex wrote, “What the CBC desperately needs now is a transfusion – a transfusion of confidence from the Canadian people and the Canadian government.”
Yes, those words hail from more than 50 years ago, but they ring true today in 2022. I, for one, believe the CBC is crucially important in sustaining our Canadian identify. It is key when you realize we live next to such a huge, dominant enterprise as the U.S.A. If we believe being Canadian is important – and I sure do – a vibrant CBC is there to remind us of who we are, where we came from and where we’re going.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (the body that reviews, approves and renews the CBC) states, “Along with the need to adapt to Canada’s evolving socio-demographic realities, the emergence of online delivery of content has resulted in new domestic and foreign online competitors within the Canadian broadcasting ecosystem, dramatically changing the way Canadians consume audio and audiovisual content and reshaping traditional business models for acquiring and monetizing programming content. Furthermore, the current COVID-19 pandemic has only served to accelerate these trends and increase the need for broadcasters to quickly adapt to these realities in order to remain relevant.”
As I’ve stated here previously, the CBC does need to change (including trimming its’ sails). But if it can re-design itself for efficiency over the next few years, it will be to the benefit of Canadians that we reflect ourselves – not an American version of ourselves, to each other and to the world.
Have to say I’m elated by the support my message about Canada cutting ties with the royal family has received.
Yet, at the same time, I’m disappointed by people who seem to think I bear some hostile attitude to the late Queen before she’s even buried. Really? If you read the first paragraph of the entry I made on this subject, how can you think I’m being hostile about the late ruler? What I said was, “To the family and loyal subjects of the late Queen Elizabeth II, I offer my sincere condolences. She was a marvelous lady who took her duties seriously and I highly respected her for doing so.” If that’s hostile, well…
I’m also saddened by those who say to cut ties with royalty will necessitate revising our constitution. Yes. So? Your point is? Yup, gonna take some work. But wouldn’t we be a sad lot if we never wanted to do some work to attain change!? The phrase “Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” comes to mind.
Oh well… onwards.
First of all, to the family and loyal subjects of the late Queen Elizabeth II, I offer my sincere condolences. She was a marvelous lady who took her duties seriously and I highly respected her for doing so. But in so doing, she’s the last of a reign.
I am not alone in suggesting that Canada ought to take the opportunity of the monarch’s demise to cut our times to this outdated model. I’m no fan of the antiquated royal family who have stayed too long at the fair. Their days have come and gone.
These people are victims of their own complacency; we have no need to respect them anymore. A few hundred years ago, amidst all their riches, they got tired of ruling (oh sob, sob) and outsourced their responsibility to what was then a first minister: a Prime Minister. Since then, they’ve simply devolved into a rubber stamp mechanism with no legitimate responsibility. Charles talks to plants and screws around on his wife. Andrew talks to kids and screws them. Enough said. Now that Queen Elizabeth has died, that’s it: shut it down. Time to bid adieu to this feeble travesty.
And they’ll all do just fine without us Canucks carrying on. I mean, as an example: poor old Prince Andy has had to pare down and live on the tax-free payment of $323,000 he gets each year from his late mom’s estate, plus the $26,000 he enjoys from his “service” in the Royal Navy. And he’ll have lots of time to enjoy that, having had all his royal duties expunged out from under him by his mom before she died. Apart from always being “cash poor”, the poor old sod now is reduced to having a measly net worth of only $45 million. How sad. I’m sure we all feel terribly sorry for him. Well… don’t we?
Afraid I have no devotion to the “royals” who have surely outlived their usefulness to everyone (except themselves). Farewell.
Also, check out this column from the Toronto Star:
As I read the news about the death of Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, I was reminded of my attempts to contact the former leader of the Soviet Union. I had always been impressed with what seemed to be his logical steps toward “reformed communism” through perestroika, feeling that one problem with his country was its obsession with secrecy. His solution was glasnost – openness – which he hoped would promote frankness and economic efficiency to strengthen communism.
If ever there was an individual who pushed the boundaries, it was Mikhail Gorbachev. I felt he would be an ideal contender for my book, “Pushing The Boundaries. How To Get More Out Of Life” (pushingtheboundaries.life) and managed to get my request to him translated into Russian. But try as I might (and believe me, I made numerous enquiries to his publisher and various other enterprises with which he was involved), I could never get a response. And so, Gorby would be the “one who got away”, a fairly regular characteristic of the type of non-fiction books I write. Too bad.
I’m a lucky guy in that I get to meet so many intriguing people when doing interviews for my books.
Robert Charles Wright is one such man.
Bob Wright enjoyed a stellar career in broadcast television, retiring in 2007 as Chairman and CEO of NBC TV (the oldest major broadcast network in the U.S.). He's been credited with overseeing the company's expansion into a media conglomerate and leading growth to record earnings. Not bad for a resumé that also features several executive positions with the network’s then parent, General Electric, culminating as GE's vice chairman, a role he retired from in 2008.
It was a real thrill for me to spend time with Bob at his stylish waterside residence in Palm Beach, Florida where I talked with him for my book “Pushing The Boundaries! How To Get More Out Of Life”.
Bob told me that his boss for much of his time at GE was the famed John Francis Welch, Jr. Now, I thought Jack Welch was a champion of business – let’s face it, during his tenure, GE's value rose 4,000% and Fortune named him "Manager of the Century"– but I’ve just read David Gelles’ book “The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America” and it tells a very different story (as you might guess by the book’s title).
Still, Bob Wright told me, “Jack was one of those 'Can-Do' guys. I got along with him well. He was a scientist... but a crazy scientist. I love that. And I did some things on the business side that were very attractive to Jack, so he said to me, 'Why don't you come over here [to the corporate side] full time.' You know Peter, he was a real carouser. He didn't need any sleep. He could drink you to death or run you to death or play hockey with you, and still get up the next day and be the first one at the office. He'd run ya! But that was not out of style at the time, in the 70s."
Welch liked the fact that Bob was always the guy asking what the real problem was. "People would say, 'We don't have enough money' and I'd say 'You're not spending it right. And by the way, before we try to get more money, you need to explain what’s happened to the money you’ve already spent.'"
Welch was also impressed by the way Bob changed how television covered the Olympics. “We were always in an auction against the other networks,” he told me, “so it became clear we had to have a different approach: to bid high, yes, but also have a program theory that was better than the other guys. We needed to offer more, but we also needed to get more return from it. So we took a look at a game plan that was wildly different, inventing a 'studio-in-a-box' kind of thing. We really pushed the boundaries on this... building a control studio for the Olympics that could last for 10 years! Not just for one set of Games, you understand, but use 'em, pack 'em up, store 'em and bring 'em back again in 4 years for the next one... make it work for a few cycles as opposed to using it once and then selling it at 20 cents on the dollar, which is what was normally done."
"Kind of like NASA's shuttle?" I suggested.
"Yes, exactly!" Bob said. "You're right, just like the shuttle. Periodically it would have to be updated, but then it was good for another 10 years. And the other part of it was programming. Problem was, you only have so much time on a single channel. So we came up with the idea of using a series of channels on Pay-TV. ‘
Bob mentioned that for the Olympics, NBC had a partner in Chuck Dolan of CableVision Systems. "50 million he had to spend and 50 million we had to spend at GE," he explains. "I remember Jack Welch telling me, 'You're gonna get killed on this, Bob! He doesn't have the money. He can't pay his share of the loss. I'm going to write it off.' I said, 'No, no, I talked to him and he says he's going to pay.' In the end, a guy came to my office and he says, 'Mr. Dolan has a note for you.' I opened it up and it was a check for $50M. So I went to Welch and said, 'I'm working on Dolan,' and he says, 'Don't waste your time,' And I said ‘Well, I got this note from him,' and handed over the cheque. Welch looks at it and says, 'I can’t effing believe it!!' And he was thrilled because it made him look good too. We still lost $50M but the next time, we were better prepared with cable. Now we had MSNBC, CNBC, and we took those channels and converted the programming to cover parts of the Olympics that people never get to see: equestrian, boxing, wrestling... that went over very well. And when we added a channel, we'd add more programming. So it was all about looking at things differently, thinking outside the box, pushing the boundaries... and it worked!"
My take-away is that Jack Welch may well have ushered in a new, cutthroat era of American capitalism, yet he still created a hugely profitable enterprise that at the time did not appear to be the root of all that’s wrong with business today. And he also promoted stars like Bob Wright who created imaginative solutions to business challenges.
"Thanks for asking intriguing questions,” Bob told me as I left. “Come again, I've enjoyed this."
I’ll do that for sure when next in Palm Beach. Meanwhile, I invite you to read more about the amazing Bob Wright in Chapter 7 of “Pushing The Boundaries! How To Get More Out Of Life” (pushingtheboundaries.life).
Well, finally – finally – the company reached out to me, actually phoned me after ignoring my phone calls to them and texts and emails… They explained they would replace the Aeroplan points and the cash they had lifted from me for seat upgrades that, due to their own lack of capability, never happened. Of course, “Daniel” at Air Canada couldn’t be nice about this: he started by trying to blame me for upgrading my seats the wrong way (Hey pal, get your facts straight: I just followed the process on your own website! This is your problem, not mine!!) He then gave me an option: use my points and money to book new seats with Air Canada (no thanks!); or pay $300 to get them returned to me. Do you agree with me that it is outrageous for Air Canada to charge me for their errors!? But you know what, I’ve got to the point where I’m too damn tired trying to fight with them any longer, so I actually agreed to pay their fee. And I actually got my points back. The credit card refund apparently will take a few days to go through banks, so I'll check next week.
You know, I’ve been travelling in Europe a fair amount recently and feel proud to be a Canadian when I’m away. That is, until you realize what a screwed up company our national airline is and the fact that Canada’s largest airport, Pearson, holds the worst record anywhere in the world for flight delays and lost luggage.
And here I thought Air Canada owned the label “Worst airline ever” (see my previous blog entry). Welcome to the club KLM/Air France: "Royal Schmuck Airlines"!
My companion and I were set to travel recently from Toronto to Amsterdam, then on to Basel, Switzerland where we would begin a Rhine River cruise. As part of the package, we’d been booked on KLM which I’d not flown with before.
I should have realized something was up when I was trying to check in and get boarding passes online, but it never worked. I was always invited to “try again later”. On departure day, we arrived at the airport 3 hours before flight time and lined up “forever” to check in. When we finally got to an agent, she looked at our ticket info, punched something into the computer and then said, “Oh, you’re here a day early. You’re flight’s not until tomorrow.”
What?!? No way. The tickets we booked were for today. (Frankly, they had to be: we were flying overnight in order to get to Amsterdam, and then Basel that same day, to board the ship and take off on the cruise. If we weren’t even leaving until tomorrow, we’d never get there in time.) I explained this to the lady but she said, “Sorry, these tickets are for tomorrow’s flight at this same time.” “How could that be? I asked. “Our travel agent specifically booked these tickets with Viking (the cruise company) for today.” “Must be your travel agent who made a mistake,” the KLM lady replied nonchalantly.
“Wait right there,” I said, none too happy. I immediately called Rose, my trusted travel agent, and explained what was going on. “No way I booked tomorrow’s flight!” she said vehemently. “Let me talk to her.” I handed the phone to the KLM lady who talked for a while with Rose.
I won’t bore you with the next several hours of frustration that we experienced going back and forth between this lady, Rose, Viking, the airlines (including Rose’s insistence that they get us on another flight so we could get to Basel tomorrow… their insentience that Viking would have to do this since they had made the original booking… Rose’s attempts – finally successful – to get someone from Viking who could help… they then make a booking, we share this with the KLM lady who says, ”That flight’s already overbooked. You can’t get on it.” So, why the hell did they accept Viking’s booking!?!... so now we wait and wait and wait while Viking tries again… finally we get booked on an Air France – KLM’s sister company – flight that doesn’t leave until almost 10pm that night… oh joy, we get to spend several hours sitting around the airport, waiting).
We learned that the Air France flight went to Paris, not Amsterdam, arriving at 10:45am. But the flight to Basel did not depart until 5:50 that evening! Oh joy, more time spent sitting around Charles de Gaulle Airport (never my favorite spot to languish!). And of course, the seats I’d paid extra for (wider, more room between seats, etc.) were not available so we had to sit for the whole overnight flight squished into the middle of a row.
The only good news was that Viking would dispatch someone to the Basel airport to greet us on our arrival there at 6:55pm, help us get our luggage organized, and then whisk us to the ship before departure time of 8pm!
From this point on, the cruise was a dream: marvelous ports of call, fabulous meals, great new friends, etc. etc.
The flight back was fine, other than I had again paid extra for better seats which were booked as a window seat and the one next to it, but they “could no longer offer that” so we had to sit in the middle of a row.
Now, here’s what we learned. It was KLM that had cancelled our original flight! But they never informed us of this, nor Rose, nor Viking. Their agent lied when she failed to tell us this and then actually took it upon herself to blame our travel agent. SHAME!!
KLM, you’re right down there at the bottom of the toilet with Air Canada when it comes to caring about your customers or treating them with respect.
Oh BTW, in case you’re wondering, gentle reader: it’s now almost 12 weeks and I have still yet to be reimbursed by Air Canada for the money and points they owe me! SHAME!!
Remember that famous 1950s Cunard slogan, “Getting there is half the fun”? If only…
If you’re planning to travel, avoid Air Canada. That is, if you care about fairness, truthfulness and value, concepts clearly Canada’s national airline have thrown out.
Quick background: My travelling companion and I were booked on Air Canada 816 on May 13, 2022 to Venice, Italy. I had lots of Aeroplan points and decided to upgrade our seats to Premium Economy, having to also use a good deal of cash via my credit card. I received Air Canada’s confirmation of this upgrade to seats 15 D&E.
However, days later, when I went to get our boarding passes 24 hours before flight time, it showed we were in seats 39 D&E! I spent countless frustrating hours on the phone waiting to speak to one of their representatives. When I finally was able to talk to a human being at Air Canada, and subsequently at Aeroplan, I was told they did not have my upgraded booking. “What do you mean you don’t have it?” I asked. “It’s not in our system.” they said. “You didn’t order it.” “Oh yes I did,” I stated. “And you confirmed it. And why do my credit card and my Aeroplan points count show they have been used to get this booking!!?? (My credit card clearly shows Air Canada having charged $1,987.62 against my account and my Aeroplan record shows redemption of 143,400 points.)
Finally, someone told me to work it out at the airport: “They’ll be able to help you there.” I was very skeptical of this since how would they get us the seats I had ordered (and had confirmation of) at such a late date? Indeed, the next day, when we went to Toronto international Airport specifically early to address this issue, we talked with several people, none of whom could help us. And so, we ended up travelling from Toronto to Italy in awful seats I would never have chosen to fly in!
On arriving home after this vacation, I complained to Air Canada and to Aeroplan. Someone named “Karen Michaels” was supposedly put on this to solve the problem, but I think it’s a robot which has made several errors and the money and points have not been returned to me more than two months after they were illegitimately taken from me.
My patience has run out. My requests to have someone senior address this problem fall on deaf ears.
So, if you’re planning to travel, don’t go near Air Canada! They are a second rate operation and they care nothing about their customers.
Time for a rant.
I recently had the opportunity to travel with a friend to various ports of call in Europe via Oceania Cruise Lines. I was previously unaware of Oceania (namely because I was not into cruising) but it turned out to be “the world’s leading culinary-and destination-focused cruise line”. Well, OK… that they may be, but I discovered they sure aren’t customer focused. How surprising.
My travel agent had turned me on to the great deals Oceania was offering due to Covid. The trip we selected sounded wonderful: Italy, Croatia, Malta, Greece, Spain, France, Monaco, all from a first class ship featuring only 500 guests. What’s not to like, right?
And indeed, the ports of call were outstanding, as was the cuisine, accommodation and activities on board.
Now, I’m not about to bore you with details, don’t worry, but suffice to say, there were several incidents that occurred that negatively impacted our ability to fully enjoy this trip. What is truly surprising is that attempts to bring this to the attention of senior people on the ship or back at their head office were ignored (even my snail-mail letter to their CEO brought no response). And we’re not talking about trivial matters.
We had embarked on this trip with high expectations. To have those anticipations dashed was sad. But to learn that a company supposedly priding itself on quality doesn’t seem to give a damn about their customers is even sadder.
So Oceania: sayonara. You might just have had a champ here, ready to extol your virtues. Instead, you’ve won yourself an opponent who will not sail with you again (let’s face it: there are lots of alternatives) and will go out of my way not to recommend you to anyone I know.