Yearly Archive: 2008

Forty-nine songs for a president

CBC Radio 2 has invited Canadians to name forty-nine songs from north of the forty-ninth parallel that explain to President-elect Barack Obama who we are. The difficulty is this: what exactly constitutes a Canadian?? Healey Willan, the Dean of Canadian Composers, certainly deserves a place, but he was born in Britain. Still, he described himself as “British by birth, Irish by extraction, Canadian by adoption, and Scotch by absorption.” And what about Robert Goulet who grew up in Canada but was born in the U.S.? He made his name in the Broadway production of Camelot singing “If Ever I Should...

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A lapse in conversation

I have a problem with “no problem.” The ubiquitous phrase has insinuated itself into dealings with store clerks, office assistants, even professional occasions. Say “thank you” for some service rendered and the likely response is “no problem.” I detest the words; they smack of smart aleck and smarminess all in one. Other cultures have similar expressions but they somehow seem worthy. When we lived in Washington, D.C., the equivalent was “uh-huh,” always spoken in a languid manner. I vividly remember the day I held a door for a stranger, she said “thank you,” and I automatically said “uh-huh.” I was...

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1984 and all that

It’s hard to imagine a more lamebrained idea than the one that has just been launched at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. So-called facilitators have been appointed whose job it is to monitor conversations on campus for racist or homophobic content. If such felonious phrases are overheard, the facilitator is supposed to step into the circle of perpetrators and lecture all concerned about the impropriety of such statements. What’s next? The Bad Breath Brigade? A swat team to wake up students asleep in class? This at a university that’s just cancelled Homecoming celebrations because almost 200 were arrested in a...

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Hey, hey, bye, bye

Our good friend Betsy from Washington, D.C. has just headed home after a two-day visit. We met Betsy, a southern belle, while we lived in Georgetown in the early 1990s and have maintained the friendship ever since. Her visit was a reminder how enjoyable Washington is and how unplugged you can become from events. On election night, she told us, houses across the city emptied as people headed for Lafayette Park, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, where they sang “Hey, hey, bye, bye” in full-throated joy to the current occupant, George W. Bush. With the election of Barack...

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Take a gander

Robert (Bongo Bob) Thomson, sometime leader of the Social Credit Party and a florid speaker who favoured malapropisms, used to say, “If so-and-so were alive today, he’d be rolling in his grave.” Well, if John Robarts were alive today, the former Prime Minister of Ontario would be spinning at high speed at the thought of his province receiving equalization payments. Back in the salad days of his government in the 1960s, Robarts was happy to participate in the program, but he also warned that it couldn’t go on forever. Complaints from the have-not promises, he said, might one day “kill...

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A modest proposal

The American election today provides a useful reminder about the merits of the two-party system. For the last five decades, we’ve had far too many elections that produced minority governments because there are too many choices. The Alliance-Reform-Progressive Conservative liaison got rid of a few startups. We need more such consolidation. Here’s my prescription: 1. As long as the Green Party popular vote remains in single digits, and the party has no seats, their leader cannot participate in televised debates during the election. 2. Unless the Bloc Quebecois decides to run candidates outside Quebec, BQ candidates can no longer run...

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Past imperfect, future tense

I finally got around to watching on YouTube the infamous ATV interview with Stephane Dion conducted during the election campaign. It is a journalistic travesty. There are so many things wrong from a reportorial and human standpoint, it’s hard to know where to start. But let’s begin by acknowledging that Dion was tired. Steve Murphy launched a lengthy first question on the economy. The wording contains snippets from Dion’s speech earlier that day and finally gets around to the nugget when Murphy asks: “If you were prime minister now, what would you have done that Mr. Harper has not done?”...

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Blue Jays Nation

It was August when I became a temporary member of the Red Sox Nation, sitting in the Pavilion Club section, between home plate and third base at historic Fenway Park, munching on a frank and drinking a beer. The weather couldn’t have been better on that fine summer’s eve. Jon Lester was on the mound for the Red Sox, the home team jumped out to an early 8-0 lead and went on to post an 8-4 win over the Texas Rangers. Equally important was the mood of the place. Entire streets were closed off for the festivities; there was fan...

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