Just wait and see

This morning, in a neighbour’s garden, there was a flurry of Monarch butterflies. I tried to count them, was it four, or five? Hard to tell, they were having so much fun flitting among the flowers – roses, zinnias, coneflower, snapdragons and a tall purple item I couldn’t identify. Not so long ago, Monarchs had all but vanished. If there are this many nearby, they must be making a comeback. So, too, with birds. Earlier in this decade, West Nile virus meant there were neither crows nor blue jays in Toronto. Robins, chickadees and others songsters were also reduced in number. For...

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No winners here

The fact that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) is about to privatize some of its operations does not sit well with me. First of all, look how well Ontario’s previous privatization effort worked with Hydro. In the case of the OLG, the negative impact on individuals could be even more serious. Let me explain. The first tortured reason OLG casinos came into existence was to attract tourists. That may have worked for a while in Niagara Falls and Windsor, but the nearby states – New York and Michigan – now have their own fleecing houses. As for the...

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The last round-up

According to my morning newspaper, BlackBerry is no longer the only smartphone secure enough for federal government employees. Samsung has now met all necessary standards. The article also said that it was easy to figure out who in Ottawa was a government bureaucrat. They’re the only ones in parks, stadiums or streets using a BlackBerry. That somehow seems unlikely. First of all, I thought I was the last person in North America still using a BlackBerry. Second, I would wager that a lot of bureaucrats long ago bought iPhones or some other smartphone, even if it didn’t meet security standards. That’s how...

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Enough is too much

For a while, Donald Trump was a firebrand, the outsider who rattled cages. Then he was the louche lothario who demeaned women. Next he floated through various guises from narcissist to boyish, from arrogant to brutish. He made his cabinet ministers fawn for the cameras. He stretched the truth and twisted the past to suit his future. Loyalty mattered, but only as it was lavished on him. As the first senator to support Trump the candidate, attorney-general Jeff Sessions got little loyalty in return. Along with a lot of other people I endured all that, including his admiration for strong men like Vladimir Putin of...

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Time travel

I once spent an evening listening to The Ink Spots. Of course, they weren’t the real thing. It was the 1970s and the vocal group, formed in the 1930s, had broken up in 1954. Dozens of groups were touring using their name. The closest the group I saw came to the original quartet was maybe one of them had an uncle who might have seen them perform. Such film-flammery was not an issue with The Doobie Brothers and Chicago, two groups who did their best work in the 1970s, and appeared last night on the Budweiser Stage (formerly the Molson Amphitheatre). Both...

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A hit and a miss

The Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario is spectacular. Organized by the Tate Modern in collaboration with the AGO and Bank Austria Kunstforum, the exhibit includes not only eighty works by O’Keeffe but also photographs by her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, and her good friend Ansel Adams. By far the best are her giant flowers, especially the Red Amaryllis, Oriental Poppies and Jimson Weed. The time she spent in New York in the 1920s produced some excellent urban abstractions; her later years in New Mexico yielded everything from horse skulls to mountain landscapes. As with any groundbreaker, O’Keeffe took risks. “It takes courage to...

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Say you want a revolution

I’m not even half-way through my Sunday New York Times and already I’ve read four stories about Canada. The first was President Trump’s tweet about his “new found friend” Justin Trudeau; the second described up and coming Canadian comedians; the third focussed on Trudeau’s penchant for wearing socks that commemorate the occasion; and the fourth featured a couple living in Brooklyn with three children still at home who each have three passports: U.S., U.K. and Canadian. Canada is not only the most popular, two of the three kids are on different canoe trips in Canada even as we speak, one of which...

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Charisma and catharsis

In 1871 when France lost the Franco-Prussian war, the country needed a patriotic boost to get citizens feeling good again. The state reached back into the fifteenth century for a heroine and erected statues to Joan of Arc who drove the English off the throne of France. I’ve seen some of those statues in small French towns as well as in New Orleans where her birthday is celebrated at the start of Mardi Gras. Back in the day, the church and the establishment were both against her. Just as the country came around, so did the church, by canonizing her in 1920. George...

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