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Arizona man finds magic moments in TV show on uncle Houdini

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Terry Tang, The Associated Press


Published Thursday, December 27, 2018 11:15AM EST

PHOENIX — Growing up, George Hardeen never thought too much about being related to arguably the most famous magician of all time, whose name is synonymous with great escape.

But at 66, the Arizona man is delving into the history of his great-uncle Harry Houdini in a journey at the heart of a new series on the Science Channel.

“We spoke to many collectors and historians. These guys live Houdini all the time,” Hardeen said. “They know more about Houdini than I will ever be able to.”

“Houdini’s Last Secrets,” which begins airing Jan. 6, follows Hardeen as he and escape artist Lee Terbosic explore the engineering behind some of Houdini’s most legendary feats.

The Hungarian-born illusionist, who came to the U.S. as a child, generated headlines in the early 1900s for escaping from handcuffs, straitjackets and even a milk can.

Each of the four episodes focuses on a different stunt, including being buried alive and the water torture cell, in which Houdini was lowered upside down into a water tank with his feet locked in stocks. A stunt builder constructs the props, and Terbosic re-enacts the stunts.

“No one knows how Houdini did the tricks. So, we pondered it and came up with our own methodology so that Lee could perform the trick,” Hardeen said.

Wyatt Channell, a Science Channel executive producer, said Houdini knew how to create a persona and hold people’s interest but the program tries to look at him from a different perspective.

“Everybody thinks of him as an escape artist, illusionist and magician. But there was a ton of engineering behind what he was doing,” Channell said.

The production company approached Hardeen about a year ago.

“I think, in many ways, the show is George’s journey,” Channell said. “George is really the one, as the everyman, asking the questions we all are wondering: How Houdini did these things.”

It also touches on other questions, such as whether Houdini could have been recruited to be a spy. For that, Hardeen interviewed John McLaughlin, former acting director of the CIA and a lifelong magician and Houdini fan.

Hardeen’s grandfather Theo Hardeen was Houdini’s younger brother and an illusionist in his own right. George Hardeen’s father didn’t tell his son about his magical lineage until he was about 10.

“My sister found a piece of mail that came addressed to my dad, Harry Houdini Hardeen. He always went by Harry H. Hardeen,” George Hardeen said. “That’s when he basically told us.”

The show has helped Hardeen learn more about the man behind the magician.

Houdini, who died on Halloween 1926 at 52, and other family members had an incredible work ethic and aimed to be the best, Hardeen said. Houdini ran 10 miles (16 kilometres) a day to keep his body in peak shape but also was a hoarder with a compulsive side, he said.

“It jibes with stuff my dad told me,” said Hardeen, a communication consultant for an Arizona utility.

The show brought him to the House of Houdini, a museum in his ancestral home of Budapest, Hungary, where he hopes to take his three children.

His youngest daughter, Shonie Hardeen, said she would love that opportunity. The 24-year-old from the Arizona mountain town of Flagstaff said the show has increased her interest in her dad’s family and Houdini.

“Some people are from somewhere in Europe, and they can’t pinpoint it,” Shonie Hardeen said. “I guess it’s easier for my family to figure out stuff because he’s been written about for so long.”

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LIFESTYLES

Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

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Top environment official urges Canadians to back Ottawa’s ambitious plans to tackle plastic trash

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The second in command at the federal Environment Ministry challenged Canadians to continue to speak up about the problem of plastic pollution and push elected officials, scientists and businesses to do more.

Quebec MP Peter Schiefke, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, made the comments online at Vancouver’s annual zero waste conference on Friday.

He said most Canadians want solutions to curb the tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic garbage that ends up as litter each year on the country’s beaches, parks, lakes and in the stomachs of animals. 

“Making sure that message is heard with industry stakeholders, elected officials and make sure that they are constantly putting pressure on it … so we notice that this is something that Canadians want, the backing of Canadians to go and undertake these huge challenges,” he said.

Schiefke filled in for  Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson at the last minute after Wilkinson was called away to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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OC Transpo’s monthly bus pass one of the most expensive fares in Canada

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OTTAWA — OC Transpo’s monthly bus pass is one of the most expensive passes in Canada, and transit riders are facing another 2.5 per cent hike in transit fares on New Year’s Day.

Ahead of Wednesday’s Transit Commission meeting on the 2021 budget, CTV News Ottawa looked at the cost of a monthly adult bus pass at transit services across Canada. Ottawa ranks behind the TTC in Toronto, Mississauga’s “MiWay”, Brampton Transit and Vancouver “TransLink” Zone 2 access to the suburbs for most expensive transit fares in Canada.

The cost of an OC Transpo adult monthly bus pass is currently $119.50 a month.

The 2021 City of Ottawa budget includes a proposed 2.5 per cent hike in transit fares. If approved, an adult monthly transit pass will increase $3 to $122.50, while a youth pass will increase $2.25 to $94.50 a month.  The cost of an adult single-ride cash fare would rise a nickel to $3.65.

The TTC is the most expensive transit service in Canada, charging $156 a month for an adult fare. MiWay charges $135 a month, and the cost of an adult monthly pass with Brampton Transit is $128.

Metro Vancouver’s transportation network “TransLink” has three fare zones. The monthly bus pass cost for “Zone 1”, which covers Vancouver, is $97 for adults. The “Zone 2” fare, which covers Vancouver and the suburbs of Richmond and Burnaby, is $131 a month.

Edmonton Transit Service, which includes a Light Rail System with 18 stations on two different lines, charges $97 a month for an adult monthly bus pass.

An adult monthly bus pass in Calgary costs $109 a month.

The survey by CTV News Ottawa of transit fares across Canada shows Gatineau has higher transit fares than Montreal and Quebec City. The STO charges $99 a month.

A monthly adult bus pass costs $88.50 in Montreal and $89.50 in Quebec City.

The cheapest adult monthly bus fare is in Charlottetown, at $58.50 a month. A monthly bus pass in Whitehorse costs $62 a month.

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