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Ned Powers chats with Bill Orban, a player in Saskatoon’s 60 Plus Hockey League. The league will be featured in next week’s Express. (Photo by Sandy Hutchinson)
 
Christmas lights, cookbooks, and great gifts: ‘tis the season

I am afraid of heights, so when Sandy suggested we put up Christmas lights I was a bit taken aback. To her, it meant making our home appear more festive. To me, it meant a ladder and a blow to what little manhood I have.
It bothers me that Sandy has to go up on the ladder and clip the lights to the eaves. In our neighbourhood, this appears to be a job men do. Yes, I know it’s 2016.
Since there was no talking Sandy out of putting up lights, I asked her if we could do it under the cloak of darkness. During daylight hours, neighbours will often stroll past. It never fails.
“Looking good, Sandy,” one might say. “Oh hi Cam, I didn’t see you hiding under the ladder.”
There is a peak on our house that I begged Sandy not to do. She went part way up an extension ladder and agreed it might be a bit much.
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Sask. talent steals stage at The Bassment

It’s that time of the year when Saskatoon Jazz Society patrons are getting a healthy dose of Saskatchewan-grown talent.
Guitar virtuoso Jack Semple set the tone when he played to a pair of sellouts at The Bassment on Nov. 24 and 25, chalking up 380 admissions over the two nights. Classical piano whiz Thomas Yu is going to lend a hand to the society in a fundraiser on Jan. 8. And, in between, there are some tried and tested acts with SRO possibilities and some encouraging signs in January and onwards.
Semple has been a superb artist on the Saskatchewan scene for many years. The fact that he chose to create a tribute to B.B. King was a strong selling point. Semple delivers each performance with technical skills, high creative juices and a work ethic that is hard to match.
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Talking with Smith-Windsor easy and enlightening

This is how a call to Kent Smith-Windsor usually goes.
“Hi, Kent. It’s Joanne. How are you today?”
“Always good, but thanks for asking.”
I was trained, largely by former StarPhoenix stalwart Art Robinson, to always engage in pleasantries when calling to ask for an interview. “Talk about the weather,” said Art. “Make ‘em feel comfortable.”
Excellent advice, even with executive directors of chambers of commerce. So, with Kent, I’d always start with a ‘how are you’ and always knew what the answer would be. It was rather comforting, somehow, to always hear that things were good with him.
Then I’d move on to my first question. It was often something a bit vague, like, “how’s the economy? What has to happen for it to smarten up?”
And he’d say something short and a bit inscrutable, like, for example, “India.”
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Whether a board is appointed or elected, education will continue

Is the provincial government’s “transformational change” review of educational governance simply a process to introduce cost cutting measures or, alternatively, provide a rationale to increase taxes to fund education?
Education Minister Don Morgan is well placed to head up the project, given his earlier experience as chair of the Saskatoon Public School Board, although he probably could have saved the cost of Dan Perrins’ contract and three weeks of time because he already knows how little flexibility school boards have in their budgets, including what money is spent on administration and governance.
Will we get value in converting locally-elected boards to government-appointed boards like the health regions? According to reports, the Saskatoon Health Region saved a whopping $76,000 last year on governance costs. While it is nothing to sneeze at, it is less than minuscule when compared to the health board’s budget and does little to address the public’s concerns about the condition of our hospitals and the services provided.
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Fireside Singers
Christmas Memories concert evokes patriotism, nostalgia

It’s been an annual Christmas tradition in Saskatoon for more than four decades — and this year will be no exception.
Marilyn Whitehead and the Saskatoon Fireside Singers will once again celebrate the festive season with their Christmas Memories program. The 44th annual show is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 17 and 18 at TCU Place, where the choir will perform traditional carols, African folk songs and contemporary and classic tunes.
“I believe we are consistently rewarded with these sold-out houses at TCU because of our really varied Christmas program. I think we really methodically select a program that really satisfies all the emotions of Christmas at this time,” said Whitehead, the artistic director.
The concert will feature something for everyone, including songs that evoke patriotism and prayers for peace and celebrate “our lives and the opportunities we have,” Whitehead said.
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Mainstream news can rip your heart out

When I worked in the news business, somewhere down the line a story became just another story.
Writing this column is different because now I feel like I’m sitting down and having a chat with you. Before I became a storyteller, I worked in the mainstream news as a television news reporter and newspaper reporter.
I’ve also been involved in a countless number of projects involving writing or journalism. I was able to separate my personal life from my jobs, mostly because I didn’t want my family to hear about the car accidents where people are screaming for their lives.
There are only two times I recall when a story affected me to the point of tears. This is amazing because both stories had nothing to do with me.
The first time I ever cried was when all those children were killed in Connecticut. A young man walked into a school and shot and killed 20 kids, all aged six and seven.
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