Yearly Archive: 2015

Sock it to me

When it comes to socks, I’m like Jack Nicholson in Heartburn where all too often he leaves the house claiming he has to go buy more socks when in fact he’s having an extramarital affair. I’m no Jack Nicholson, but I do seem to buy a lot of socks. This particular expedition took me to The Bay at Queen and Yonge in Toronto where since the days of of Robert Simpson Co. in the 1970s, men’s basics have been lodged handily in the basement or on the main floor. No longer. Only brand-name perfume and high-margin emoluments are there now. Men’s...

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A modern-day prophet

I was minding my own business on the subway when I suddenly realized someone was shouting at me. “You in the suit reading the financial paper, do you know what’s on pages 144 and 145 of the federal budget?” By the time the sentence was complete, I had spotted a man who had stood up from his seat about halfway down the car. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I called back, wondering why I had been singled out for this diatribe. For the next two minutes he went on about something he called a “bail-in” that had already occurred in...

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War what is it good for?

You have to wonder what country Stephen Harper grew up in. It couldn’t have been the same Canada I know, the one where political leaders show the way in welcoming desperate refugees fleeing horrific circumstances around the world. Under the Harper government’s heartless rules, it’s almost impossible even to sponsor family members who are under the gun and could make a contribution here. He thinks our F-18s are the only answer in the Middle East. It’s not even clear that our puny effort, along with others, is making any progress by bombing ISIS. Immigration Minister Chris Alexander suspended his re-election efforts yesterday...

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Down the digital slope

Increasingly, movies are made with computer generated imagery (CGI). Robert Downey Jr. spends his studio life in front of a green-screen doing snappy one-liners while all the special effects are added later to Avengers and the like. Dialogue no longer matters; impossible action is all. As Hollywood’s best-paid actor he makes $US80 million a year. Next we’ll be watching Jimmy Stewart in the sequel to It’s a Wonderful Life made from a pastiche of his previous films using soupçons of CGI. Music, once difficult to reproduce on stage because of studio tinkering, has gone fully robotic. No longer is it just Auto-Tune software correcting...

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Ars longa, vita brevis

My all-time favourite small show is currently at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The exhibit called Into the Woods consists of two works – The Jack Pine and The West Wind – both by Tom Thomson. These are paintings that can accurately be described using that overworked word, iconic. There’s a large seat where two people can sit and admire for hours on end what to my mind are the best canvases ever produced by a Canadian artist. I successfully avoided looking closely at Michael Belmore’s Breadth, his version of a roadkill fawn, that lies nearby. Works of art can inspire and transport....

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The pursuit of possibilities

Some people say success in life is about inheriting good genes, getting an education, finding the right partner or just plain hard work. While all of those contain kernels of truth, life is nothing without possibilities. I attended a 100th birthday celebration today for Helen Oldham. Her son, Peter, was my friend while we were both growing up in Guelph. Helen and Bob Oldham’s home was always a warm and welcoming place for me where interesting and mind-expanding things happened. Bob operated a ham radio; I listened to him talk to people around the world. Today that’s a daily event; then it was dazzling...

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Flora MacDonald 1926-2015

There aren’t many people you can call pathfinders, but Flora MacDonald was certainly among them. Born in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, she worked her way up through the ranks of the Progressive Conservative Party in an era when women were not accepted as equals to men in political back rooms. Flora achieved great heights because she was smart, hard-working, principled and a consensus-builder. Of all the people in the party over the years, she’s one among a very small number who was known to everyone by her first name alone. Hired to work as secretary in the national office of the party, Flora...

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Slugging it out

With the PanAm games more than half over, what will be the legacy beyond a few new buildings and some additional housing on the waterfront? Why not take this opportunity to change forever the traffic patterns that have been clogging Toronto by making permanent the temporary HOV lanes? Toronto must be one of the last major cities in North America without HOV lanes. Now that drivers have had to deal with them on the Don Valley Parkway, Gardiner and Queen Elizabeth Way, let’s continue HOV and press on with forced driver retraining. Otherwise, traffic woes will only get worse. For me it...

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