"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Saturday, November 02, 2013

I didn't want to watch this

"Dum, dum dee dum, - yawn- kids are off to bed after watching Bringing up Baby and Casablanca with the old man, I've poured myself a nice gimlet. I wonder what's on TV at 11:30 on a Friday night? Anything fun, or should I watch another old movie. Hmmm, TCM's has William Powell and Myrna Loy in The Libelled Lady, nah, what else is on? "Cold Justice?" that sounds familiar, why do I know that program's name?…..OH SHIT!

Mary Ann Holmes was my cousin. We were about the same age. We didn't see each other very often, but we did sorta connect with each other and she was dear to me. I hadn't seen her since before her daughters were born, but I knew she had children. The last time I saw her, I think she had just moved to Arizona. She was from Chicago. My best memories of her are of dancing together all night at a family wedding when we were about 12 and a visit she made to may parents place in Ancaster one summer. I think I was in university at the time but I remember it was summer and after a week of her being there we finally got to have a proper conversation. I think it was the next night we went out to the Gaslight in Hamilton and I blew harp at an open mic run by King Biscuit Boy. As a Chicago girl, Mary Ann was pleasantly surprised to see Hamilton had a blues scene too.  She went through a lot of shit as a teen and her parents divorce and subsequent family politics were kinda rough on her. She got put into rehab at one point, though she told me it was a joke and unnecessary. She was quick and funny and prettier than she thought she was. I miss her and regret never meeting her girls.  I suppose I'm a little afraid to meet them. "Hi, nice to meet you, I really liked your mom, so very very sorry I couldn't stop them from murdering her in front of you when you were four!"    I know that is not logical, but still….
I knew they were doing this show. I had hoped to miss it for reasons I hope are obvious. Now I want to move to Arizona  and hunt down some motherfuckers. Hell of a thing to find while channel-surfing.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

the triangle

Not exactly juggling, but somewhere in the neighbourhood. Some people have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time. I suspect this guy can walk, chew gum and do differential calculus while playing multiple games of chess in his head at the same time.


Friday, October 04, 2013

Emperor Stephen I

Seriously, can we just appoint Stephen Fry as Emperor of the Earth for Life? Sensible, compassionate, well-read, funny and one of the most agile wits of our time. If only we could talk him into taking the job.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday night music mashup


When they aren't busy knocking on doors...

those nice clean-cut young men with the short-sleeved white dress shirts and neckties are doing missionary work of another sort.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Leveraging synergies while optimizing dynamic convergences

Want to get your money for nothing and your clicks for free? Here's the plan:

1. Find venture capitalist with deep pockets
2. Write proposal for internet-based business using this
3. 'Orchestrate dynamic deliverables and expedite scalable mindshare metrics'
4. PROFIT!!!!


Monday, August 05, 2013

GOP still trying to work the referees

Given the propensity of FOX news to put GOP 'personalities' on the payroll and their willingness to call close elections in favour of the Republicans before all the votes have been counted, and the willingness, even eagerness, of the major TV networks to book Republicans and conservative roughly 3:1 to Democrats or - god forbid- liberals on the Sunday news talk shows, and even the willingness to give GOP grifter and perpetual 'candidate' Newt Gingrich his own show and tendency to trip over each other in their rush to offer a microphone to any word salad that happens to drop from the maw of Caribou Barbie ---- Given all that, this is a bit rich even for the Republicans. They really are the party of people who are either bone ignorant or were born on third base, but think they hit a home run and the 'liberal' umpires made them go back to second base.

GOP warns networks to drop Hillary documentary, miniseries or be shut out of 2016 Republican debates 

Party chairman calls planned Clinton programs "political ads masked as unbiased entertainment"

told NBC and CNN to scrap planned programs on Hillary Clinton or forget about sponsoring any 2016 Republican primary debates.
Republican Chairman Reince Priebus called the programs “political ads masked as unbiased entertainment.”
“It’s appalling to know executives at major networks like NBC and CNN ... have taken it upon themselves to be Hillary Clinton's campaign operatives," he said. "Their actions to promote Secretary Clinton are disturbing and disappointing."
Priebus gave NBC and CNN until Aug 14, the start of the RNC’s summer meeting, to cancel the programs or else he would seek a “binding vote” that “the RNC will neither partner with these networks in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates they sponsor.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/republican-partty-warns-nbc-cnn-scrap-planned-hillary-programs-article-1.1417978#ixzz2b7mAmWdb

Mind you I'm sure the notion that if they air a show about Hilary Clinton the GOP won't allow them to air six months of bi-weekly two-hour prime time free commercials for the Republican presidential campaign -- better known as the GOP candidate debates -- will scare the crap out of the networks once they realize that it will mean giving up all the advertising from the Koch brothers and other companies owned by whack-job billionaires. Freedom of the press, indeed.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

the way to counter bad speech is with more speech - this is how it is done

Last night, I was killing a few minutes scanning my twitter feed and lo and behold I find the Toronto Sun's Lorrie Goldstein taking a shot at some bureaucrats for overstepping their mandate in a ridiculous way like those crazy bureaucrats always do, what with how they waste public money and breathe our air and get bureaucrat cooties on everythink and stuff.
I know, must be a day of the week that ends in "Y." right? Because if a government employee found the cure for cancer the Sun would be bitching that they had denied the private sector the chance to do it cheaper and for profit, buncha goddamn soshulists!
Anyways, Mr. Goldstein was fretting on Twitter that Toronto's public health department had issued a press release calling on ABC to fire Jenny McCarthy from The View over her very public campaigns to get people to stop having their children vaccinated. 
He felt this was one of those ridiculous bureaucratic overreaches that was none of the public health authority's business and whatnot. And as usual, a half dozen or so fans had joined the conversation with  complaints that the employees at the public health board were paid and wasn't that an outrage and why didn't they fire this greedy loafer who runs the public health department and hire one of the hundreds of unemployed doctors in Ontario to the job better and cheaper etc etc etc ad nauseum.
I'll let  you look up Jenny McCarthy's sincere but completely wrong-headed crusade to stop vaccinations. Googling  "Andrew Wakefield" might be a good start.  Suffice to say that she has used her B-list celebrity status as former Playboy model and MTV VJ and 80s almost it-girl to campaign against the use of vaccines because she thinks vaccinations caused her son's autism. She is assuredly wrong and the medical studies she cites have long since been exposed as fraudulent. I do not question her sincere belief or dedication to her cause, but she is just plain wrong. And her advocacy has caused thousands of people not to get their children vaccinated, which has led to a return of nearly vanished diseases like measles in North America because, basically, people are stupid. But I digress.
So Lorrie Goldstein was tweeting about this and basically complained that Jenny McCarthy was none of Toronto Public Health's' business and it was ridiculous for them to call for ABC to fire her.
i jumped in to tell him he was wrong and we went round and round and round as you do when you argue with a conservative  -- he tried the usual false equivalencies and tried to claim that I had put words in his mouth and that I claimed said he opposed vaccination  when I had done no such thing. He would not admit that countering disinformation about health issues was a key task for public health officials. My favorite was his argument that "you spread the correct information the old fashioned way, by hard work, not stupid press releases"  I guess he figured the public health department should be going door to door to tell people Jenny McCarthy is wrong and vaccinations are a good thing, or sending everyone telegrams or standing on a soapbox on the street corner. like back in the old day when we all wore onions on our belts or something, rather than doing what they did.
The thing is, what the Toronto Public Health PR people did has worked beautifully. They have Goldstein and every other political columnist is Toronto talking about vaccinations and none of them, not even those like Goldstein that think their call to fire McCarthy is an overreach, are going to tell you that Jenny McCarthy is anything but wrong. It has drawn attention to the issue of misinformation around vaccination.
At the same time, they have seized the high moral ground and done what public health officials are duty-bound to do -- fight the spread of misinformation about a vital health issue.
I doubt very much that anyone at the Toronto Public Health dept. thought for a single second that ABC would fire Jenny McCarthy, but by publicly calling for her to be fired, they have garnered all sort of attention, got everyone talking about the issue and reminded everyone not to pay any attention to dingbat celebrity health advice.
While I know that congratulating public employees other than the police and military for a job well done is anathema to anyone at the Sun, this really should appeal to them and their readers. After all, for little or no cost to the taxpayer, Toronto's public health department has managed to piss off a Hollywood celebrity activist, raise awareness around a vital public health issue, stem the tide of anti-scientific bullshit and maybe convince a few more people to get their kids vaccinated.

Bravo to the Toronto Public Heath department's PR staff.

Update: After sleeping on it for the night Mr. Goldstein seems to have realized he didn't really have much to complain about. He didn't exactly say I was right and he was wrong, but I never really expected he would. He did at least admit that the U.S. has 50 states.

One of the others who jumped into the fray provided this link to info on the antivaccine kooks that Toronto Public Health are trying to counter.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday night music fix


"we create our own reality"

Right-wing nut jobs believe some incredibly weird shit:

But this one, this one takes the cake.

"Mayor Rob Ford top male hottie at Toronto City Hall, survey says"

( post title from here)


Monday, July 15, 2013

Another day, another murder

So another white guy shoots and kills another black kid, what's the excuse this time?

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The attorney for a Milwaukee man who fatally shot his 13-year-old neighbor says his client did not mean to kill the boy.
John Henry Spooner is charged with killing 13-year-old Darius Simmons last year. Spooner confronted Darius because he believed the teen had stolen guns from his house.
Spooner is white and Darius was black, prompting comparisons to the case of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
But Spooner's attorney, Franklyn Gimbel, says the cases are very different. He says the main similarity is that both victims were black teens.
(snip of recap of Zimmerman's acquittal in the murder of Trayvon Martin)

According to this story from the Milwaukee Sentinal-Journal, the other differences are that Spooner is 76 as compared to Zimmerman's 29 and that he shot the boy, a neighbour barely into his teens, in front of the child's mother.

Spooner suspected Simmons of stealing guns from his home and confronted the teen about 10 a.m. May 31, 2012, according to a criminal complaint. Then, as the boy's mother watched, Spooner shot Simmons in the chest with a handgun from five feet away.
Even if someone stole guns from John Henry Spooner's home, given the defence his attorney plans to offer, it may have been less a case of larceny and more a case of clearly justified concern for  public safety.
 (from the original AP story quoted at the top)

Gimbel acknowledges Spooner shot Darius. But he says an expert will testify that Spooner had mental illness that kept him from realizing his actions were wrong.
Because someone who doesn't realize it is wrong to shoot the neighbour's kid  is exactly the kind of guy you don't want to have to submit to some kind of pesky background or mental health check before starts stockpiling deadly weapons, because, y'know, freedom and shut up, you America-hating pinko!

Can't wait to see the NRA jump in on this one.

I want a border wall and I want it now.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cultural literacy

I'm noticing a disturbing trend in the newspaper copy I edit. Writers are assuming a stunning lack of cultural literacy in readers and dumbing down stories, often to an annoying extent. This week I've seen a food writer decide that in a review of the food at an English Pub, it was necessary to explain that "bangers and mash" was sausages and mashed potatoes. A Canadian Press story on the acquittal of the killer of Trayvon Martin contained this paragraph:

 Trayvon Martin’s brother, Jahvaris Fulton, said on Twitter: “Et tu America?” — a reference to the Latin phrase “Et tu, Brute?” known as an expression of betrayal.
I'm guessing that if an American public school-educated teenager knows enough Shakespeare to make reference to Julius Caesar's dying words, we probably don't need half-assed explanations like this.
I know we all think that nobody reads anymore (which makes me wonder why e-readers sell so well) and that the great unwashed have had their minds dulled by Reality TV and TMZ and video games and Hip Hop culture, but am I now going to have to explain what lasagna is a review of Luigi's Trattoria or explain that when a politician claim some statement or other is the "gospel truth" that he is comparing the statement to the Christian holy book know as Bible?
Are people really getting this dumb?

And by the way, get the hell off my lawn, whippersnappers!


Monday, July 08, 2013


So today, Toronto got more than 90 mm of rain in a couple of hours and low-lying areas of the city, including major highways and rail links were flooded. Subway stations were closed, there were power outages across the city and underpasses were underwater.

When Calgary was flooded a couple of weeks ago, Mayor Nenshi did a fantastic job leading his city's response to the most serious crisis to hit Stampede City in decades.

Meanwhile in Toronto: (via twitter)

UPDATE: While Rob Ford did give a few statements to the press, presumably from the comfort of his idling SUV (in violation of the city's no idling bylaw) his brother Doug spent a few hours directing traffic in Etobicoke (though what qualifies a city councillor to direct traffic I'm not sure, nor could I hazard a guess (cough, tax-break driven budget cuts, cough) why the cops weren't directing traffic in Etobicoke.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Adios Ernesto

RIP Ernest Hemingway

July 21, 1899 - July 2,  1961

Your reading assignments for today are:

Hemingway's 1954 Nobel acceptance speech

And this:

What Lured Hemingway to Ketchum?

By Hunter S. Thompson
National Observer, May 25, 1964 

"That poor old man. He used to walk out there on the road in the evenings. He was

so frail and thin and old-looking that it was embarrassing to see him. I was always afraid
a car would hit him, and that would have been an awful way for him to go. I was tempted to go out and tell him to be careful, and I would have if it had been anyone else. But with Hemingway it was different."

The neighbor shrugged and glanced at Ernest Hemingway's empty house, a comfortable looking chalet with a big pair of elk horns over the front door. It is built on a hillside
looking down on the Big Wood River, and out across the valley at the Sawtooth Mountains.

A mile or so away, in a small graveyard at the north end of town, is Hemingway's simple grave, lying in the afternoon shadow of Baldy Mountain and the Sun Valley ski runs.
Beyond Baldy are the high pastures of the Wood River National Forest, where thousands of sheep graze in the summer, tended by Basque sheepherders from the Pyrenees. All winter long the grave is covered with deep snow, but in the summer tourists come out
and take pictures of each other standing beside it. Last summer there was a problem with people taking chunks of earth for souvenirs.

When news of his death made headlines in 1961 there must have been other people besides myself who were not as surprised by the suicide as by the fact that the story was date-lined Ketchum, Idaho. What was he doing living there? When had he left Cuba, where most people assumed he was working, against what he knew was his last deadline, on the long-promised Big Novel?
The newspapers never answered those questions -- not for me, at any rate -- so it was with a feeling of long-restless curiosity that I came, last week, up the long bleak
road to Ketchum, over the drainage divide between the Magic and the Wood River valleys, through Shoshone and Bellevue and Hailey -- Ezra Pound's hometown -- past Jack's Rock Shop on U.S. 93, and into Ketchum itself, population 783.

Anybody who considers himself a writer or even a serious reader cannot help but wonder just what it was about this outback little Idaho village that struck such a
responsive chord in America's most famous writer. He had been coming here off and on since 1938, until finally, in 1960, he bought a home just outside of town, and, not incidentally
a 10-minute drive from Sun Valley, which is so much a part of Ketchum that they are really one and the same.

The answers might be instructive -- not only as a key to Hemingway, but to a question he often pondered, even in print. "We do not have great writers," he explains to the Austrian in Green Hills of Africa. "Something happens to our good writers at a certain age. . . You see we make our writers into something very strange. . . We destroy them in many ways." But Hemingway himself never seemed to discover in what way he was being "destroyed," and so he never understood how to avoid it.
Even so, he knew something had gone wrong with both himself and his writing, and after a few days in Ketchum you get a feeling that he came here for exactly that reason. Because it was here, in the years just before and after World War II, that he came to hunt and ski and raise hell in the local pubs with Gary Cooper and Robert Taylor and all the
other celebrities who came to Sun Valley when it still loomed large on cafe society's map
of diversions.

Those were "the good years," and Hemingway never got over the fact that they couldn't last. He was here with his third wife in 1947, but then he settled in Cuba and 12 years went by before he came again -- a different man this time, with yet another wife, Mary, and a different view of the world he had once been able "to see clear and as a whole."
Ketchum was perhaps the only place in his world that had not changed radically since the good years. Europe had been completely transformed, Africa was in the process of drastic upheaval, and finally even Cuba blew up around him like a volcano. Castro's educators taught the people that "Mr. Way" had been exploiting them, and he was in no mood in his old age to live with any more hostility than was necessary.
Only Ketchum seemed unchanged, and it was here that he decided to dig in. But there were changes here too; Sun Valley was no longer a glittering, celebrity-filled
winter retreat for the rich and famous, but just another good ski resort in a tough
league. "People were used to him here," says Chuck Atkinson, owner of a Ketchum motel. "They didn't bother him and he was grateful for it. His favorite time was the fall. We
would go down to Shoshone for the pheasant shooting, or over on the river for some ducks. He was a fine shot, even toward the end, when he was sick."

Hemingway didn't have many friends in Ketchum. Chuck Atkinson was one of them, and when I saw him one morning in his house on a peak overlooking the town, he had just
received a copy of A Moveable Feast. "Mary sent it from New York," he explained. "I read
part of it after breakfast; it's good, it sounds more like him than some of the other

Another friend was Taylor "Beartracks" Williams, a veteran guide who died last year and was buried near the man who gave him the original manuscript of For Whom the Bell Tolls. It was "Beartracks" who took Hemingway into the mountains after elk, bear,
antelope, and sheep in the days when "Papa" was still a meat-hunter.

Not surprisingly, Hemingway has acquired quite a few friends since his death. "You're writing a story on Ketcbum?" asked a bartender. "Why don't you do one on all the people who knew Hemingway? Sometimes I get the feeling I'm the only person in town who didn't."
Charley Mason, a wandering pianist, is one of the few people who spent much time with him, mainly listening, because "When Ernie had a few drinks he could carry on for
hours with all kinds of stories. It was better than reading his books."

I met Mason in the Sawtooth Club on Main Street, when he came in to order coffee over the bar. He is off the booze these days and people who know him say he looks 10 years younger. As he talked, I had an odd feeling that he was somehow a creation of Hemingway's, that he had escaped from one of the earlier short stories.
"He was a hell of a drinker," Mason said with a chuckle. "I remember one time over at the Tram [a local pub] just a few years ago; he was with two Cubans -- one was a great big Negro, a gun-runner he knew from the Spanish Civil War, and the other was a delicate little guy, a neurosurgeon from Havana with fine hands like a musician. That was a
three-day session. They were blasted on wine the whole time and jabbering in Spanish like revolutionaries. One afternoon when I was there, Hemingway jerked the checkered cloth off the table and he and the other big guy took turns making the little doctor play the bull.
They'd whirl and jerk the cloth around -- it was a hell of a sight."

On another evening, out at Sun Valley, Mason took a break on the stand and sat down for a while at Hemingway's table. In the course of the conversation Mason asked him what it took "to break in on the literary life, or anything else creative, for that

"Well," said Hemingway, "there's only one thing I live by -- that's having the power of conviction and knowing what to leave out." He had said the same thing before, but whether he still believed it in the winter of his years is another matter. There is good evidence that he was not always sure what to leave out, and very little evidence to show that his power of conviction survived the war.
That power of conviction is a hard thing for any writer to sustain, and especially so once he becomes conscious of it. Fitzgerald fell apart when the world no longer danced to his music; Faulkner's conviction faltered when he had to confront Twentieth Century Negroes instead of the black symbols in his books; and when Dos Passos tried to change his convictions he lost all his power.
Today we have Mailer, Jones, and Styron, three potentially great writers bogged down in what seems to be a crisis of convictions brought on, like Hemingway's, by the mean nature of a world that will not stand still long enough for them to see it clear as a

It is not just a writer's crisis, but they are the most obvious victims because the function of art is supposedly to bring order out of chaos, a tall order even when the chaos is static, and a superhuman task in a time when chaos is multiplying.
Hemingway was not a political man. He did not care for movements, but dealt in his fiction with the stresses and strains on individuals in a world that seemed far less
complex, prior to World War II, than it has since. Rightly or wrongly, his taste ran to
large and simple (but not easy) concepts -- to blacks and whites, as it were, and he was
not comfortable with the multitude of gray shadings that seem to be the wave of the
It was not Hemingway's wave, and in the end he came back to Ketchum, never ceasing to wonder, says Mason, why he hadn't been killed years earlier in the midst of violent
action on some other part of the globe. Here, at least, he had mountains and a good river
below his house; he could live among rugged, non-political people and visit, when he chose
to, with a few of his famous friends who still came up to Sun Valley. He could sit in the
Tram or the Alpine or the Sawtooth Club and talk with men who felt the same way he did
about life, even if they were not so articulate. In this congenial atmosphere he felt he
could get away from the pressures of a world gone mad, and "write truly" about life as he
had in the past.

Ketchum was Hemingway's Big Two Hearted River, and he wrote his own epitaph in the story of the same name, just as Scott Fitzgerald had written his epitaph in a book called
The Great Gatsby. Neither man understood the vibrations of a world that had shaken them
off their thrones, but of the two, Fitzgerald showed more resilience. His half-finished
Last Tycoon was a sincere effort to catch up and come to grips with reality, no matter how distasteful it might have seemed to him.

Hemingway never made such an effort. The strength of his youth became rigidity as he grew older, and his last book was about Paris in the Twenties.
Standing on a corner in the middle of Ketchum it is easy to see the connection Hemingway must have made between this place and those he had known in the good years. Aside from the brute beauty of the mountains, he must have recognized an atavistic distinctness in the people that piqued his sense of dramatic possibilities. It is a raw
and peaceful little village, especially in the off season with neither winter skiers nor
summer fishermen to dilute the image. Only the main street is paved; most of the others are no more than dirt and gravel tracks that seem at times to run right through front

From such a vantage point a man tends to feel it is not so difficult, after all,
to see the world clear and as a whole. Like many another writer, Hemingway did his best work when he felt he was standing on something solid -- like an Idaho mountainside, or a sense of conviction.

Perhaps he found what he came here for, but the odds are huge that he didn't. He was an old, sick, and very troubled man, and the illusion of peace and contentment was not enough for him -- not even when his friends came up from Cuba and played bullfight with him in the Tram. So finally, and for what he must have thought the best of reasons, he ended it with a shotgun.
National Observer, May 25, 1964 


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Signal to noise ratio

Look at any newspaper, watch any newscast, and compare the amount of space and time given to actual hard news (breaking events, politics, court, natural disaster, policy, war, events of community and/or global significance, local crime)  opinion (arts reviews, political punditry, letters to the editor, columnists),  useful practical information (recipes, DIY tips, travel stories about places you might actually go, restaurant reviews, community calendar listings), pure entertainment (the comics, serialized fiction, humour columns and feature stories of  and the amount of absolute junk - film studio advertising thinly disguised as 'entertainment news', bullshit advice columns, stories based on bullshit polls or worse - dodgy 'scientific" studies based on a test group of 17 people, celebrity gossip, clothing ads thinly disguised as 'fashion news', product placement stories ("According to the cornstarch marketing board, cornstarch can be used to help you lose weight and improve your car's gas mileage!", new product stories, 'business profiles", new business openings, almost all investment news, anything to do with the internet, especially internet memes, horoscopes (what century is this?) - and worst of all, second hand stories about any of the above ( Our newspaper has learned that London's Daily Mirror is reporting that Princess Kate will give birth to quintuplets! Oh those wacky Fleet Street papers!").
I think features and practical information have their place in a newspaper. I think opinion deserves its own section and I'll buy one newspaper over another on the strength of their columnists, arts reviewers and comics. I'll even concede that in our sports-obsessed society, the case can be made for sports deserving a few pages of its own.
But the junk news, celebrity gossip and other garbage that originally began running in newspapers to attract a broader readership among the great unwashed no longer attracts readers. No one buys a newspaper to find out what happened to the goddamned Kardashians. No one buys a newspaper to find out how their stocks are doing or what company they should invest in. No one buys a newspaper to find out how healthful and tasty new improved lo-fat sugar-free Soylent Green might be. No one needs to read about how 8 out of ten people are potential serial killers base on a study of fourteen federal prisoners  and two jail guards. Nobody buys a newspaper to find out what Selena Gomez said about Justin Beiber's vestigal tail in People Magazine or which starlet Maxim thinks is the most "do-able" --- Maybe they did, once upon a time, back when the daily newspaper or suppertime daily new hour was the quickest way to get information and the only source of information.
Now, people who want celebrity gossip can get a steady drip of it from TMZ, Entertainment Tonight and the other more specialized arms of the entertainment industry PR machine. People who want the score and the stats from the big game right away don't wait for the morning paper, they watch the game on their smartphone or download the scores-and-stats app and get the information seconds after the final buzzer. No one -- and I mean no one who cares how their investments are performing-- relies on the 24-to-48-hours-old stock price information in the newspaper. People looking to buy a car don't suddenly go out  and buy a newspaper for the driving section to read about how every single car "reviewed" by the marketing stooges automotive journalists has its charms - when was the last time you read a car review that called a vehicle a complete lemon? Even in the unlikely event that such an article were to be written, no newspaper whose driving section is paid for by advertisements for car dealers and carmakers, is likely to run it. Even stories about product recalls usually run in another section.

Not everyone who writes for a newspaper or who stands up in front of a camera with a microphone is a journalist.

Sometimes I lament for my profession. Nobody goes to journalism school because they idolize Walter Winchell or because they want to get stuck writing thinly-veiled advertising copy, but too many embrace the easy path to a paycheque and write what the marketing department thinks people want to read. ("Hey, this Justin Beiber kid is selling a pile of records and has a million twitter followers -- we should carry a Justin Beiber story every day! Our sales among ten-year-old girls will skyrocket and we need that youth market!) Most people going into journalism dream of breaking the next Watergate, not sharing the startling and important information that a study by the National Cocoa Research Council of 27 laboratory test subjects found that eating chocolate will enhance your sex drive.

But just to keep the ink pumping in our veins we cater to the whims of the market, thinking that will save us as all the eyeballs of the great unwashed migrate to infotainment television and the internet. The crowd has moved on to the latest pretty thing and they are not coming back. The newspaper industry and journalism in general need to ask our collective selves why people get angry about the press. Do you hear them bitching about how we don't run enough sport analysis, hollywood gossip or stories about how 45% of people claim to have had a prayer answered by their guardian angel. No, you don't. You will never hear complaints about that shit because no one paid their $1.50 at the news stand for that crap. They get mad because we missed the story about the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary cheating in the last election. They get mad because we didn't tell them about how that company covered up that pipeline leak. They get mad because their third cousin in jail for backsassing a cop and no one from the press is interested.

 If newspapers and journalism want to survive, we need to get back to afflicting the comfortable and provide the afflicted with more bread and less circus. We need to stop trying appeal to people who want infotainment and cotton candy and won't read a newspaper until their particular ox is gored on the front page, and start concentrating on covering a few more ox gorings  in a more comprehensive and meaningful way. We need to do our jobs a little better and try giving readers more of what they really buy the newspaper for --- NEWS.

We need more signal and less noise.


your Sunday sermonette


Saturday, June 29, 2013

We are a nation of immigrants

The Pier 21 Immigration museum in Halifax commissioned a Toronto production firm to collect about 100 immigrant stories. This is my son's.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

" Some people have a way with words, other people just...uh...don't have a way, I guess"

So you want to be a writer or an actor or a musician?

Go read THIS. Twice. Commit it to memory. Have it tatooed on your chest if necessary. It is excellent advice.

No, stop reading right now and go back, click the link and read the post. Do the goddamn homework for once, I'll wait.

You've read it?  Good, you may proceed.

Speaking as someone who has wordsmithed in one way or another for a living pretty much non-stop since I got out of school the second time (okay, there was that three or four years teaching ESL in Japan, but trust me, that was a kind of writing/performance art) let me offer some advice: If you can do anything else, do that instead. Sell insurance, be a hairdresser, fix cars, join the army, be a code monkey -- Christ, go to law school or get into the porn industry or politics if you have the lack of gag reflex needed, all are more dignified and more profitable than working as a writer, actor or musician.
Okay, fine, so you can't do anything else. You MUST create. Fine, so create. But since you will also have to eat and probably would prefer to live indoors, learn some skills so you can hold down a day job other than waiting tables, because waiting tables is a cliche and once you get past 30, not much of a career option either with very few exceptions and that maitre'd at the fancy French place is probably too busy memorizing wine pairings and practicing upselling to write a novel. Everyone needs that day job. Because creating art does not pay.
There is no such thing as a mid-list author anymore. Freelance writing is ten percent writing and ninety percent salesmanship. No one will pay you anything for your short stories or your poems.
I'm not suggesting that is a reason not to write short stories or poems or songs or symphonies. Not for an instant, just don't expect to make a living at it.
In many ways, those who hope to make it as professional athletes may have an easier time of it. Pro sports is very much a meritocracy -- those who win, succeed and those who lose do not. If you are not making the Jr. B hockey team when you are  17, you can be pretty sure that you are not headed to the NHL and can resign yourself to simply enjoying the game for its own sake and moving on with your life.
Not so the career of an artist. The performing arts are a lot like sports in some ways. There aren't many people who become pop stars or 50 year old pop idols -- though there are some terrific journeymen actors and musicians who have years of quality work we can all enjoy despite them never having had a hit.  No one decides at age 45 to suddenly quit their job as a marketing manager and pursue their dream of playing centre for the Montreal Canadiens, but an awful lot of people think that when they retire, they are going to write that novel or screenplay. They probably won't won't, but it could happen. The thing is, it is a lot harder to keep score in novel writing than in a hockey game.
As it happens, I haven't written the novel yet. I went into the newspaper business early and stayed there. I work in a room full of writers, most of whom are older and more experienced than I am. Not a one would have traded their career in a dying industry for a ground floor spot in computer programming, investment banking or bio-tech. But the jobs they held no longer exist, so you had better learn another trade. Those jobs that allowed would-be novelists make a living while honing their chops as a reporter or ad copy-writer are drying up fast. Obviously, someone is still writing that copy, but for the most part, they aren't getting paid. They are interns or they are people desperate enough to "get their name out there" that they are writing for free or all the copy is coming from the six people still paid to write boilerplate at head office and it is just getting tweaked for your market.
All of which is to say, create, but find a day job you can do without hating it.
And don't listen to anyone who tells you that getting a day job is selling out. It isn't selling out, it is being a goddamn grownup and paying your own bills. Putting your artistic talents to work in a commercial setting to pay the bills isn't selling out either. It is using your skills to make a living. Selling out is when you produce dishonest crap that you know is dishonest crap and try to sell it as art to people too stupid to know the difference. Selling out is when you purposely set out to make art to please anyone but yourself first. Selling out is when you say to yourself: "Wow, this is some cheesy piece of crap I've created that the rubes will just eat up with a spoon. Show me the money and let's see if I can make more bullshit and sell it as chocolate ice-cream!" That isn't using your skills to pay the bills, that's faking orgasms for the johns or feigning outrage on Fox news over Obama being a secret Muslim.

But I digress.

My point is simple. Creating art must ultimately be its own reward, as any expectation of major  financial reward is most likely to result in disappointment and may very well taint the creation of the art in the first place. If you start doing things a certain way in the hopes of pleasing the critics, the advertisers, the publishers or so the record will sell -- the audience will be able to tell. And nothing smells worse than a desperate need to please.

As writer you might have heard of once put it "To thine own self be true"  or in the more modern parlance, let me quote songwriter Guy Clark: "You gotta sing like you don't need the money."


Friday, April 26, 2013

from your children's cold dead hands, America

From the "You've got to be fucking kidding me, America" department:

Why try to control the spread of push-button death machines when you can dress you kid kevlar?

From the Guardian:

US schools weigh bulletproof uniforms: 'It's no different than a seatbelt in a car'

Except we require people to take a test and have a licence and insurance before they drive a car and not following the rules of the road will land you in jail, fast. 


so you think you can play harmonica

Well, not anymore I don't


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Not wishing to speak of ill of the dead is a fine sentiment, unless the dead are horrible villains

"No man is an island. Every man's death diminishes me, for I am a part of mankind. "
--John Donne

"There is no such thing as society"
 -- Maggie Thatcher.

"She created today's housing crisis, she produced the banking crisis...In actual fact, every real problem we face today is the legacy of the fact she was fundamentally wrong"
-- former London Mayor Ken Livingstone

The video above is one of dozens, possibly hundreds or even thousands of pieces of art created during Thatcher's reign condemning her. The sheer number of artists that were moved to create critical works ought to give one pause.
While politicians and pundits across North America and in the conservative press in the UK are almost uniform in their adoration of the Iron Lady for hanging on to a former South Atlantic coaling station as the last vestige of Britain's colonial empire at the cost of hundreds of lives, somehow tag teaming with Ronald Reagan to win the Cold War by sheer force of will and steely-eyed determination, and for 'making Britain great again,' thousands of ordinary working people have taken to the streets across England, Northern Ireland and Scotland to celebrate the death of the woman who brought in poll taxes, tried to outlaw homosexuality, destroyed the trade union movement, put Northern Ireland under martial law and had prisoners tortured.

Every man's diminishes me, for I am a part of mankind, but some deaths diminish me more or less than others.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

An early April Fool's Day prank?

Has up been declared down and black become white? How did this Toronto Star editorial end up in the Toronto Sun?

But it would be foolish to pretend the credibility of our police force has not taken a serious hit in recent years, due to repeated examples of wrong-doing by officers in the performance of their duties.Too many used excessive force on civilians during the G20.Too many removed their badges so they could not be identified.Too many have been caught on videotape beating up suspects and then lying about it.Too many have refused to co-operate with the province’s Special Investigations Unit, probing alleged wrongdoing by fellow officers.

That would be the same Toronto Sun that had this, this, this and this to say at the time of the G20 police brutality spree.
Credit where credit is due, Toronto Sun police stenographer Joe Warmington did question the police tactics of kettling people at Queen and Spadina, but seemed more miffed about the "parking enforcement vultures"

(insert blind squirrel/broken clock wisecrack here)


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What to watch when you're not watching TV

What if John Hughes directed Game of Thrones?

And speaking of Game of Thrones....

What if geek troubadours Paul and Storm took over a kids' show?

And speaking of naughty puppets...

and speaking of Nathan Fillion and Neil Patrick Harris and musicals about supervillians...


Sunday, March 10, 2013

I'm sure I'm not the only one...

Admit it, when you saw this picture on the front of the Globe and Mail yesterday, you too were thinking the caption should have been "Despite her busy schedule, Laureen Harper still cooks her husband's favorite for breakfast every morning. "

Especially when I got to this part of the article:

 "upward of 200 foster kittens have cycled through the residence under her watch"

I predict yet another sweater-vest offensive from the PM's image consultants. Expect to see him at a hockey game or playing piano or walking the kids to school sometime soon on TV.


Friday, March 08, 2013

jack would be proud

Another good reason to vote NDP -- can you picture Stephen Harper leading the Tory caucus in song? I mean something other than "Deutchland, Deutchland, Uber Alles"?


Dignity, always dignity

Take a good look at this photo of the soon-to-be-former mayor of Toronto. I don't think the Rob Ford bluster is going to be sufficient teflon this time. It isn't every day that the chief executive of the Canada's largest city gets hammered and starts grabbing ladies asses. I suspect you will be hearing a lot more about this in the coming days.


Thursday, March 07, 2013

A proud Canadian

RIP Stompin' Tom Connors

This commercial was filmed entirely in Port Dover, Ontario in 1989 or 1990. I happened to be a young reporter at the Port Dover Maple Leaf at the time and was lucky enough to be informed of the filming in the Norfolk Tavern one night. (I'm there in the bar on the right hand side of the screen at 0:06 and 0:10, blink and you'll miss me) They spent an hour dressing the bar with open packs of cigarettes, bag of chip and plenty of glasses of draft beer. Then in comes Tom. He stood around looking stern and soulful at the bar while they shot every angle. Then in came a production assistant with his guitar and sheet of plywood. He did a half a dozen songs and then visited every table in the place for at least long enough to sit and ask everyone's names. He parked himself at table with me and the bar manager and a few guys from the local folk and blues club I set up in town, slugging back Molson's Golden and smoking and telling stories. He claimed to have written a song about just about every city in the country, at least all the one's he'd visited. Most of them, he said, would get him run out of those towns on a rail had they ever been performed in public. The ones on the records were the "nice" ones, the "clean" ones, he told us.

Incidentally, my first full-time professional newspapering job started in December 1988 in Ingersoll, Ontario, working all the hours that there were for $220 a week and all the newsprint I could eat. The editorial staff consisted of the editor - a guy about two years older than I was just out of journalism school - and me. Between us we covered all the events, wrote all the copy, took all the pictures, processed all the film, did all the dark room work and occasionally sold or created an ad. I even delivered the damn thing in the snow one week when the kid on the route I lived on called in sick in blizzard. To top it all off, every week we had to drive across snowy backroads to a central office where all the little weekly papers in the chain were laid out using hot wax, a linotype machine, xacto knives and border tape. It usually took about 14 hours to get it all done.

That central office was in Tilsonburg. And my back still aches when I hear that word.


Monday, February 25, 2013

At least that's what the unredacted part said

Harper government touts record on openess
By Dean Beeby, The Canadian Press

The Harper government is dismissing a report that ranks it 55th in the world for upholding freedom of information, saying it has a sterling record for openness.
But a four-page document outlining the federal rebuttal took five months to release after a request under the Access to Information Act.
A human-rights group based in Halifax has issued three report cards since 2011 on Canada's anemic standing in the world with regard to so-called right-to-know legislation.
The Centre for Law and Democracy used a 61-point tool to measure Canada's legislation against that of other countries, in co-operation with Madrid-based Access Info Europe.
Canada's standing in September 2011 was 40th of 89 countries, fell to 51st in June last year, then to 55th of 93 countries last September, after Mongolia and Colombia.
"While standards around the world have advanced, Canada's access laws have stagnated and sometimes even regressed," the centre concluded.
Canada's information commissioner, Suzanne Legault, said "the analysis that this group has done is going to be a really useful tool."
But an internal memo last summer to Treasury Board President Tony Clement cites the report's "weaknesses," saying the methodology "does not allow for an accurate comparison of the openness of a society and of its government."

Read more: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/news/Feds+tout+record+openness/8010725/story.html#ixzz2LwVLFOl0


Saturday, February 23, 2013

An old favourite

Some things just never get old. I first posted links to this little video back in 2005 (yes, I have been blogging since the internet was a series of strings and tin cans). But this CBC story and a subsequent twitter conversation about CSIS agents and the Jehovah's Witnesses brought it back to mind.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Sunday, January 27, 2013

"This self-delusion is more than ideology"

Not much of a surprise that University of Calgary political scientist and nut bar Barry Cooper brags about his friendship with Tom Flannagan,  Why do I call him a nut bar? Well, this is Professor Coopers take on the First Nations in Canada and presumably aboriginal people anywhere else that white Europeans decided they want to live. At first I thought the subhead was some editor's warning about the content of this op-ed piece.

Aboriginals have no claim to sovereignty

Opinion: This self-delusion is more than ideology

The behaviour of Indian leaders and the gestures of the Idle No More movement are expressions of the same pathologies found on so many reserves in Canada. Political pathology is more than the well-known corruption of so-called chiefs. Almost the entire discussion between Indians and the government is based on complaints, assumptions and assertions that have no basis in reality. They are projections of the imagination. Participants in the discussions, however, take them to be the self-evident structure of the common sense world.
Such self-delusion is more than ideology, because it combines the lowest emotions — guilt, fear and resentment — with the most exalted aspirations to rectify injustice and fulfil the wishes of God, the Creator. To put this problem into perspective, recall a classic study published in 2000 by my longtime colleague and even longer-time friend, Tom Flanagan, called First Nations? Second Thoughts.
The fantasy devoutly believed in by many aboriginals, bureaucrats and lawyers, both on the bench and at the bar, as well as by numerous academics, journalists and intellectuals, goes as follows: (1) Aboriginals are privileged because they were here first; (2) there are no significant differences between European and Indian civilizations so that (3) Indians are sovereign nations; accordingly (4) treaties were nation-to-nation agreements that (5) affirmed aboriginal sovereignty and ownership of the land. And finally, when Canadians acknowledge all the above, Indians will prosper. http://www.canada.com/news/Aboriginals+have+claim+sovereignty/7874774/story.html#ixzz2JCzxr2Tg

You'll want to read the whole thing to really get a taste for how completely idiotic and racist the piece is, but if you are short on time or have a weak stomach, let Eddie Izzard give you the "shorter"


(hat tip to Alison at Creekside for reminding my of the Izzard bit)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


One assumes that Stephen Maher is out shopping for a frame for this press release from the PMO. I'm sure, in time, it will look lovely hanging on the wall next to Dean Del Mastro's scalp. Glen McGregor must be so jealous.


Monday, January 21, 2013


So let me get this straight: Unless the government steps in and order private companies to pay money a service that no one wants, SUN-TV will be unable to keep up its brave, principled fight against socialism, over-regulation and government interference in private enterprise. Sounds like Ezra Levant's previous adventure in publishing, The Western Standard, which despite accepting massive federal postal subsidies while decrying wasteful government spending and socialism, eventual went out of business as a print magazine whose main function seemed to be to foot Levant's legal bills whenever he got sued for acting like a loudmouth douchebag or wanted to sue someone for pointing out that he was a loudmouth douchebag.
On the plus side, if SUN-TV continues to lose $17 million a year, eventually Pierre Karl Peladeau will run out of money to run his horrible chain of  right-wing scandal sheets. After all, even crazy reactionary wingnuts like Levant, Sue Ann Levy and Peter Worthington aren't going to work for free.Even grifters gotta eat.