Monthly Archive: April 2013

Lucky guy

Yesterday I joined a group of birders tromping through Minesing Swamp near Angus, just west of Barrie. I’ve done this sort of thing regularly over the last twenty-five years while living in three countries: England, the United States and Canada. No matter where you go, the groups are always the same: a knowledgeable leader, one or two keeners who know every bird, some middling folks like me, and a newbie who knows nothing. It’s also always a learning opportunity. Yesterday one of the other participants patiently instructed me in the difference between the Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. Books are fine,...

Read More ....

The dark side

Psy’s first big hit, Gangnam Style, reigns as the most popular item ever on YouTube. Since first published last July it’s had more than 1.5 billion views. Everybody copied the happy dance, from pre-schoolers to Peter Mansbridge. It was good, clean fun. Mark Twain once wrote, “Everyone is a moon and has a dark side.” Well, we’re seeing Psy’s dark side in his follow-up offering, Gentleman, which in its first week of availability has already been watched 178 million times. There isn’t enough of a new dance routine but that’s a minor issue. Psy’s view of the world has become deeply...

Read More ....

Harbingers of spring

I saw my first robin of spring a month ago today. At least I think it was a new arrival. So many American Robins are now wintering in Toronto that it’s hard to know when a migrant arrives. But this one was solo, working my front lawn for worms. Those who stay through the winter tend to be found in flocks. Now that we’re in mid-April other spring migrants are returning. Kinglets are here, a bird so tiny that you wonder how they survive the trauma of the trip north. So, too, red-winged blackbirds, singing conk-a-ree with their scarlet and...

Read More ....

On the attack

Now that Justin Trudeau has been elected leader of the Liberal Party, we know what will happen next. The Conservatives will mount a multi-million dollar TV ad campaign aimed at sending him into oblivion. After all, that’s what they did to Michael Ignatieff. Remember that ad? It showed Ignatieff riding down an escalator looking like the deus ex machina figure in a Greek tragedy arriving to save the day. The voiceover pronounced, “He didn’t come back for you.” The Conservatives went after interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, too, in the months before he announced that he would not be a...

Read More ....

New look, same old prices

I have seen the future and it is Wal-Mart. I wrote that sentence while living in the U.S., just before Wal-Mart arrived in Canada in 1994. There’s no question that Wal-Mart has altered the face of Canadian retailing. Within two years, Wal-Mart became the biggest retailer in Canada with about one-quarter of the department store market share. I spent hours watching the inner workings of Wal-Mart at the time, attending internal meetings and interviewing senior people. Wal-Mart succeeded mostly because employees on the floor run the supply chain with handheld devices that can call up inventory levels and have the...

Read More ....

A chance for change

When you look at the list of appointees on the advisory council named yesterday to promote the participation of women on public and private corporate boards, you ask: Why only 23 members? Couldn’t the federal government have found one more person to make it an even two dozen? Ottawa certainly has taken its time to assemble what has turned out to be the world’s largest committee. The names of the appointees are familiar. They’re all fine folks. But maybe we shouldn’t expect too much. The three-point mandate contains such phrases as “provide advice,” “suggest how,” and “make recommendations.” Not exactly an...

Read More ....

The dead and the quiescent

Bad enough that we have to put up with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner before every Major League Baseball game at the Rogers Centre. And why is it that every singer always seems to have so much fun riffing around with the U.S anthem while poor old O Canada always sounds so dreary. More importantly, why do so few members of the crowd sing O Canada. In my part of section 124, I’m pretty much alone in my warbling. All that is bad enough, as I say, but what the heck was going on last night at the...

Read More ....

Play it again, Sam

Writers have it rough. We always have to come up with fresh material, day after day, year after year. As soon as I finish writing a book, everyone’s first question is, “What are you going to do next?” Couldn’t we all read this current one first? Singers have it easy. If any singer has a hit, he or she can perform that song over and over again to the delight of audiences everywhere. In fact, that’s what they want to hear, the old favourites, not some new dud tune. Meatloaf has made a life’s career singing Bat Out of Hell...

Read More ....