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Showing posts from July, 2011

Stop the Gravy Train Before it Derails

Last Thursday into Friday, the right-leaning Mayor of Toronto ran a marathon committee meeting: twenty one hours and ten minutes. The purpose of the meeting was to gather public opinion on what services should be cut to make up a $774-million hole in the city budget. (Municipalities in Ontario are required, by law, to table balanced budgets.)
Predictably, Ford and his committee were told, over and over again, not to cut anything at all. Also predictably, the mayor was and continues to be a target for a CN Tower full of hatred, much of it irrational and visceral. Yes, Rob Ford and his brother Doug are right-wingers with little patience for things they don't use themselves. (Doug, a city councillor himself, made waves last week telling Margaret Atwood, of all people, to get herself elected or shut up. Atwood had leapt to the defence of Toronto libraries, which are possibly on the Ford chopping block.)
It remains to be seen what Ford will actually cut. He was handily elected last year…

Utøya Horror

My heart grieves for the families affected by the atrocities in and around Oslo, Norway.
As with any terrible occurrence, be it a natural disaster or a cold-blooded murder spree, the meaning is up to those who survive and those who look on. In this case, I find it more than a little unsettling how quickly so many media sources assumed Islamic terrorists were behind what is turning out to be a politically motivated hate crime of the highest order.
We can deduce from social networking clues that Anders Behring Breivik, aka "Andrew Berwick", considered himself to be a force. Indeed, his one and only tweet, posted the day before the massacre, is a quote from John Stuart Mill: "One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests."
What were Breivik's beliefs? Do you want the long version, which runs over FIFTEEN HUNDRED PAGES, impeccably organized and endnoted, a compendium astounding in its seeming respectability through very long str…


I've been thinking about getting an e-reader.
Most of the people I know who own one are rabid converts...including people who swore up and down that they'd never buy one. Some of the things I've heard:
"The printed page is so yesterday. It even smells musty!" "I can carry an entire library around with me anywhere I go!" "I used to read a book a year, now I'm reading all the time!"
Retailers are hyping the things to the high heavens. "Our latest model provides you with extra-long battery life, the ability to read in direct sunlight...and it has a 700 book capacity!"
Humph. My inner curmudgeon has a response at the ready for each selling point.
What if I LIKE the smell of books? I typically read one book at a time. You know, since I only have the two eyes, and they work together. I read considerably more than one book a year, my wife outreads me by a wide margin, and everything we read is printed on dead tree. Battery life, eh? Well, my Eye…

Harry Potter and the Daunting Plan

We went to see the final installment of Harry Potter last night. Eva had procured tickets through her work to a special showing at 6:30 p.m. (the movie technically opened at midnight). We were advised to be there by 5:30. Really? I thought. An hour before curtain drop? That seemed odd to me, given that we didn't have to worry about the theater selling out--our group had the only tickets. We actually got there well before 5:30...and we were lucky we did, or we might not have managed to snag two adjacent seats. Any later than, say, 5:45 and it would have been impossible to get two seats in the same row.
I hesitate to even write this...I can hardly believe it...but there were at least sixty people lined up for the MIDNIGHT showings when we got there. Almost seven hours in line. There is nothing on this earth I would line up seven hours for. Nothing at all. Leaf Stanley Cup Final tickets? Screw it, I'll watch it on TV. Sexual favours from (insert fantasy-women here)? The real fanta…

Not Funny

"I can pee clearly now, Lorena's gone..."
No, she's been reincarnated as Catherine Kieu Becker. Now, as then, the predominant reaction among both genders (after the males are done cringing) is some kind of dark hilarity. "She cut his weenie off, hahahahahaha."
Why is this funny?
Let's switch up the genders here: if a man mutilates a woman's genitals, is that funny? "He threw her itty bitty clitty in the garbage disposal, hahahahaha." No, that's not funny. That's monstrous. So why the double standard?
"Payback's a bitch", Eva said in response to that question. I'm pretty sure she was mostly joking herself. But statistics show women are pretty much just as likely to be perpetrators as victims Moreover, men are actually slightly more likely to be seriously injured or killed, probably because women tend to compensate for their lack of body strength by various means. Becker, for instance, used drugs to incapacitate her hus…

Kai Nagata: I Respect This Man

You don't often see people quit their jobs voluntarily in this economy. Especially if they are high-paying jobs with prestige and perks. But Kai Nagata did quit his job as a Quebec City-based television journalists, and the reasons he gave are eloquent and compelling. His essay is very much worth the read. I have the same issues with news in general, which is a very big reason why I have never pursued a career in it.
"TV news is a curious medium", he writes. "You don't always know whose interests are being served--or ignored." We have come a long way from the days of Walter Cronkite...a long way downhill. Once upon a time, and it really does seem a fairytale to say so, TV news anchors were amongst the most trusted individuals in the country. Canadian TV has lost several such individuals to retirement recently, among them Kevin Newman and Lloyd Robertson. Peter Mansbridge at the CBC soldiers on, practising his craft in an atmosphere that has rapidly degenera…

Debt debt debt dash dash dash debt debt debt

(or Save Our Solvency)
[...] iam pridem, ex quo suffragia nulli / uendimus, effudit curas; nam qui dabat olim / imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se / continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, / panem et circenses (… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses) Juvenal, Satire 10.77-81, ca. 100 CE

------ August 2. On that date in 1776, the U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed. (How many people think that happened on July 4th?)
On that date this year, unless they do something, the United States will be in default. Perhaps they'll sign a Declaration of Dependence. You think?
But don't worry, they're doing something. They're arguing. Endlessly. The sticking point seems to be...doing anything other than arguing endlessly. It'…


I've been off since Canada Day and I go back to work tomorrow. Which is probably why it's 2:30 in the morning and I'm awake: I'm loth to lose overmuch of my last day of respite. Also, despite every effort made to eliminate work from the run of my thoughts, it has crept in. Being texted or called three times over the past week hasn't helped. C'mon, guys, do you really need me that badly? Apparently so.I spent five days at Rose Point in Britt, with my rejuvenated father and ever-gracious stepmom. It may sound like a blasphemy even to suggest such a thing, but I have to say Dad's heart attack is one of the best things to ever happen to him. He's down 27 pounds and three inches around the waist and looks fitter than I can ever remember him looking. He goes to three organized workouts a week and does a lot more at home besides. No fire calls...not unless you count this:
seen on our way up, south of MacTier. A police cruiser was passing us when Dad spotted the …

Wasn't that a wedding?

Congratulations Jim and Ally Hopf. My wife's brother, or 'Dude' as he is affectionately known, tied himself in a big ol' knot yesterday, at his place out in the country between Stratford and Mitchell. Married in the front yard and party in the backyard, how cool is that?Just cool enough, as it turned out. It was a good thing the ceremony didn't happen today: 42 degrees with the humidity and thunderstorms this evening. Yesterday was sunny and warm but not hot, and the extensive fireworks display put a fitting cap on a fantastic day. Even if one of the buggers did go sideways and light a hay bale on fire: Ally, if you didn't know it before, you now know your husband can flat-out MOVE when he needs to. It was a day some people (most notably Jim himself) thought would never come. I'll spare the personal details...let's just say I can remember a conversation I had with him about a decade ago, soon after I had married myself. He swore up and down and sideways …

Going Moldy....

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