Your money or your life

The current ruckus between retail giant Amazon.com and publisher Hachette will have a huge impact on the publishing industry. Amazon already dominates the retail book business. There used to be numerous bookstores along Bloor Street over the 10 km between my house in the west end and Yonge Street in downtown Toronto. Now there is one. To date, no one has given much consideration to authors, nor is that likely to change. A group of 900 authors took out a full-page ad last week in the New York Times to protest Amazon’s monopoly power, but the public won’t rally to the...

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Robin Williams 1951-2014

The suicide of Robin Williams is a chilling reminder of what’s important in life and what’s not. The only time I ever saw Williams in person was in Florence a decade ago. He was ambling alone along Via dei Calzaiuoli, one of the pedestrian streets in the city’s historic centre, carrying a large Dolce & Gabbana shopping bag. Despite dark glasses and a stubble beard, he was instantly recognizable. People were gawking at him and popping out of shops for a better look. His body language was fascinating. His eyes were fixed on the pavement two metres ahead. Every once in...

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A tale of two teams

On my way to the Blue Jays game last night, I caught up and passed another fan wearing an Arencibia shirt, the worst-hitting catcher we’ve ever had. We traded J.P. to Texas but he got his vengeance when he clubbed a three-run homer last time he was through town. Anyway, I asked this man, “How are we going to do tonight?” To which he replied, “Depends on which team shows up.” Indeed. The Bad Blue Jays showed up and we lost 9-3. I’ve been down to the ballpark nine times so far this season and the Bad Blue Jays have...

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Shavian success

Never take seriously what a theatre critic says. That’s never been more true than it is about The Philanderer, now playing at the Shaw Festival. Robert Cushman of the National Post tells chapter and verse about the plot but never quite gets around to saying whether he likes the play or not. At one point he even says he’s going to plagiarize himself from a 2007 review by joking he “would never have joined any club that would have me as a mentor.” Of course, Cushman is also sampling Groucho Marx, not just himself.  Globe and Mail critic J. Kelly Nestruck’s...

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Make mine sugar-free

My problem with Sugar Beach is not the three dozen pink umbrellas that cost $11,000 each or the $500,000 spent on decorative rocks. No, my problem is that you feel like an idiot sitting in one of those white Muskoka chairs with nothing much to do and even less to look at. Mind you, I’m fair-skinned so sun tanning is taboo, but what kind of a beach has no access to nearby Lake Ontario for wading or swimming? Moreover, since there’s no place to walk, there’s no way to admire bikinis going by, either. Depending how early you arrive, your...

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Consider the alternative

A while back, when Kentucky Fried Chicken updated its logo and began calling itself KFC, they also altered the presentation of founder Colonel Harland Sanders. He now wears a chef’s apron and, I swear, looks younger than he used to. Or maybe it’s because I’m getting older. I recently celebrated my 70th birthday so I’ve now had my biblical three score and ten. I know I’m no spring chicken, but I don’t feel 70, either. Until some young man in his early 20s offers me his seat on the subway. I always accept. Might as well enjoy the fruits of...

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Right time, right place, good luck

Donald J. Savoie has written an excellent book about an entrepreneur who deserves to be celebrated. The book, Harrison McCain: Single-Minded Purpose (McGill-Queen’s), tells how Harrison and his brother Wallace, built McCain Foods from a rural startup in backwater New Brunswick to a global powerhouse that makes and sells one-third of all the french fries in the world. “One world, one fry,” was the company motto. From a profit of $1,822 in its first year of operation in the 1950s, McCain Foods has annual revenues of more than $6 billion today. Savoie, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Public...

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Borderline personality

I have a confession to make. When I was bureau chief (and all the Indians) for The Financial Post in Washington, D.C. from 1989-93, there were occasions when I would make news happen. Here’s how it would work. If by 11 a.m. I couldn’t see an obvious story that would interest my editors, I’d phone around. There were three sure-fire calls. One was a guy I knew at a U.S. organization that had a long-standing trade fight with Canada. I won’t name him. It’s OK to embarrass myself, but I’m not going to snitch on someone else. I’d ask him...

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