A horse of a different colour

Image of Bell logo I grew up in an era when television consisted of BOTH channels. There was a constant after-school disagreement between my sister and I over what constituted good programming: I Dream of Jeannie and The Partridge Family, or Get Smart and Gilligan's Island. (Inasmuch as I came to appreciate that Barbara Eden was a babe, the juvenile humour of Get Smart and Gilligan's Island were more to my liking. And for the guys.... Mary Anne... not Ginger.) We had an incredibly labour intensive remote. One of us would have to stand by the window in the livingroom and yell outside to the other one who was charged with the task of turning the antennae pole to better tune in the channel. This was a real pain in the arse in the winter, when the antennae pole would freeze in, but somehow we soldiered on.

We did not pay a subscription fee to watch television. The signals were received "over-the-air", a broadcast method still widely used today. (Some might argue that the transition to digital broadcasting has brought a resurgence in OTA reception.) Nonetheless, subscription fees are not required for OTA signals. What we have come to accept, however, is that content, or at least traditional network content, is accompanied with, and interrupted by, commercial advertising. Of course what followed, particularly in urban centers where erecting an external antennae was difficult, or impossible, was the alternative cable distribution system. And while cable, delivered to subscribers as a monthly service, boasted signficantly more channels, it adhered to the same commercial-laden model as OTA. In my view, this is when naive consumers were duped into believing that paying to watch television commercials was acceptable. I'd also argue that the model is exactly backwards: content borne with advertising should be free or, conversely, the consumer should be receiving part of the advertising revenue stream.

Image of movie marquee There was a time, not that long ago, when Nancy and I would make a weekly trip to the local theatre to catch a flick on the big screen. It was our night out; a time to forget about work, the state of world, political affairs and to simply be entertained. We've grown a bit long in the tooth to attend live concerts and while there was a time when I'd have lined up to see Alice Cooper, our weary bones and joints just aren't up to the challenge and most of our idols have either stop performing, died or are gumming their mashed bananas in retirement villas. (Keith Richards is, no doubt, getting his bananas fed intravenously.)

Cost is only part of the reasons we've opted out of theatres. The last time we caught a film at the Silver City Gloucester Cineplex, we shelled out just over fifty bucks for two tickets, two soft drinks and a popcorn. And that was before the film even started! And if the exorbitant cost weren't enough to dissuade anyone with more brains than money, I felt the bite of salt in the wound by being forced to endure 15 minutes of commercial advertising before the damned film even started! The only thought that went through my mind when the film finally started was "Why the hell did we just drop $50 to watch commercials of a financial institutions that made billions profit last year?" It was a question I posed to the folks at Cineplex and, not being satisfied with their response, the underlying catalyst for seeking out a different form of entertainment. As a result, I have rediscovered, and embraced, harness racing.

Image of harness racing horses Rideau Carleton Raceway is a horse racing and gambling facility on Albion Road in Ottawa's south end. Patrons can watch (and wager) on year-round racing from the dining room which overlooks the track while they're enjoying a substantial all-you-can buffet for about $25 per person. Or, put another way, for roughly the same price as two movie tickets, a soft drink and some popcorn... a full meal with more selection than you could possibly imagine!

What I've discovered, and come to appreciate, is that the buffet and racing can stretch between about 5:00pm and 10:00pm. And whereas each of about 10 or 12 races lasts only a couple minutes, much of the time can be otherwise spent engaged in the lost art of conversation. This is a venue very conducive to fostering communication between people. If you don't like someone, take them to a movie. For a mere fifty bucks, you can sit in the dark and not have to look at them or speak to them. (You can also chuckle under your breath that they may actually be dumb enough to believe the "you're richer than you think" narrative that fat Scotiabank bankers pimp to movie patrons before the film starts. If, on the other hand, you prefer talking to the other person in your life, consider harness racing. You might discover how small the big screen really is.

Where else could you laugh at a horse named Hoof Hearted?

Submitted by Jeff Dubois, 31 January 2017