War and peace

On this one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War, the signs are everywhere that while the people might remember the horrors and heroics of the past, some leaders seem to be forgetting. How else to explain the actions of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is fighting the Kurds, Russian President Vladimir Putin who overran Crimea and portions of Ukraine, and U.S. President Donald Trump who is at war with everyone. In Paris this weekend, only French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel showed any sign of good grace. Their meeting – in the same rail car used...

Read More ....

Johnny we hardly knew ye

For decades, Sir John A. Macdonald, our founding prime minister, was revered. He’d cobbled together a national government of diverse interests and peoples, built a transcontinental railway and had an uproarious character that involved a tad too much to drink. Today he is vilified, his own words flung back in his face. What happened? Why, the politically correct found him wanting. In 1883, he said in the House of Commons that native children should be taken from their savage parents and taught white ways. At the time, few held different beliefs. Looking back, it’s easy to point a finger and preen. Yet the...

Read More ....

The Hon. Donald S. Macdonald 1932-2018

To understand Donald Stovel Macdonald, who died yesterday, you have to know that he was born and raised in Ottawa amidst great players on the national and international stage. In December 1941, at the age of nine, he walked by himself to Parliament Hill, just to get a glimpse of Winston Churchill being bundled into Centre Block to deliver his “some chicken, some neck” speech. Among the congregation at the church his family attended were two cabinet ministers in the Mackenzie King government, James Lorimer Ilsley and James Layton Ralston. His Sunday School teacher was John Read who later became the only...

Read More ....

Exit stage left

When Justin Trudeau first announced the legalization of cannibis, I thought it was a good idea. Now that the day has almost arrived, I am not so sure. In particular, I have my doubts that legit pot will in any measurable way impinge upon black market sales. Such transactions will still occur after the legit stores are closed. Backstreet dealers might even offer credit for a day or two, another factor that differs from the official pot places. But that’s not my only problem with Trudeau. The USMC has been a bit of a snow job. Trudeau made much of retaining...

Read More ....

Gender-bending Shakespeare

Faithful readers may remember my praise for Martha Henry’s performance this season at Stratford as Prospero in “The Tempest.” Imagine my pleasure to see her interviewed Monday night at McMaster University along with Seana McKenna. The two actors appeared as part of The Socrates Project, a series of cultural events running until next summer, sponsored by L. R. “Red” Wilson, a businessman and former McMaster chancellor. The two women were interviewed by CBC’s Eleanor Wachtel. McKenna talked the most, but Henry was the best. In response to a question about how she got into acting, Henry told of owning a dress that made...

Read More ....

Music of the spheres

A sentence on the front page of my morning paper caught my eye. The story was about the meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un who greeted his visitor while “a brass band played the North Korean leader’s personal arrival song.” Arrival song? Has diplomacy taken on the patina of Major League Baseball where a batter gets to choose the stadium music played as he walks to the plate? For example, Justin Smoak of the Blue Jays takes his practice swings to the sound of Brantley Gilbert’s “The Weekend.” Maybe Kim’s arrival song is simply the modern-day inheritor of campaign...

Read More ....

The quiet of the crowd

I recently attended a lunch at a downtown Toronto location, one of those events with a quick chicken plate followed by a speaker. All the usual niceties were observed including the rhythmic clapping to welcome the arrival of the head table.There also was an acknowledgement – that has become essential at any public gathering – of the specific indigenous nations who once lived on the site. We even had grace and toasted the Queen. How often do those latter elements feature in a program? And then, a mezzo-soprano was introduced to sing O Canada. I joined in, as I always do. I knew the...

Read More ....

Vignettes of summer

Everywhere around there are delightful, unusual and a few sad-making things to see, if only you look. A man is standing under a tree with a Longo’s bag of breadcrumbs. Pigeons feed from both of his outstretched hands and on the ground around. A pigeon rests on each of his shoulders, another perches on his hat. He seems becalmed. He could be in Piazza San Marco in Venice. In front of a stone building the flowers of August abound. The hosta and hollyhocks are pretty much over but remaining in full bloom are rudbeckia, begonia and anemone. A woman in...

Read More ....