Money for nothing

The gravy train that is Canada’s 150th birthday has left the station and I’m afraid I’m not on it. Ottawa is providing $500 million to celebrate the country’s sesquicentennial through parties, events and other frippery. Among the winners announced is The Red Couch tour where a sofa is hauled across the country so people can sit and say what Canada means to them. There will also be a mobile trio of 20-foot shipping containers to act as studios for local artists and videographers. And La Grande Traverse, a 10-part television series about ten people who cross the Atlantic in conditions similar to their forbears. In the...

Read More ....

The coming year

Here are my top ten predictions for 2017. The TSE will end the year up 7 percent. The Raptors will make the playoffs but not win the NBA title. The Jays will have a so-so year, win 78 games, but not make the playoffs. WTI crude oil price will rise to US$75 per barrel. Donald Trump will be a better president than many fear. Vladimir Putin will expand his influence and Russia’s territory. The C$ will sink to US68 cents. Kevin O’Leary will be chosen leader of the Conservative Party. Europe will continue to unravel. We will survive. Somehow.

Read More ....

A seller’s market

Every night on the television news we see horrific footage of young people overdosing in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. They are being attended to in alleyways by firefighters, paramedics and volunteers. They are addicts, hooked on heroin, often laced with fentanyl, which is fatal spelled a new way. In the first ten months of this year, more than 600 people have died of illicit drug overdose in British Columbia. Vancouver has long been home to the highest drug use in Canada. There are supervised injection sites, detox and treatment centres, even a mobile medical unit, all of them stretched so thin by the problem that...

Read More ....

The spirit of Christmas

The knock on my front door was so light I hardly heard it. But hear it I did. It was 8 p.m., and I don’t usually answer the door after dark, but I did. A young woman was standing there, reasonably well dressed, with a tentative smile. She was wearing a Santa hat. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,” she sang, then stopped and said, “I’m out carolling because I’m a single mom trying to collect money for toys for my children at Christmas. Anything I get I’ll give 20 percent to the Salvation Army.” From nowhere came...

Read More ....

Shun Shen

Everywhere you turn these days, along with signs of Christmas, you see Shen Yun. If you don’t know the name, you will realize who they are when I tell you that it’s a Chinese dance company. They are inescapable: posters, car cards, broadcast ads, mailed brochures and people on street corners handing out pamphlets. The money behind the show must be amazing. Shen Yun seems to come through southern Ontario more than once a year. They have thirteen performances scheduled between now and early March in Toronto, Kitchener, Hamilton and Mississauga. They are not from China. In fact, the group (there must be several on...

Read More ....

Book ’em Danno

Word-of-mouth and published reviews are good ways to find out about new books of interest. Word-of-mouth is probably the best because you can judge the passion and the source then decide if you’ll buy based on what you’ve heard. Increasingly, published book reviews are untrustworthy. Not because some editor chooses the wrong titles, but because reviewers don’t take the assignment seriously. Here’s an example from last Saturday’s Globe and Mail. Zadie Smith’s new novel, Swing Time, was clearly the pick of the week. It takes up a full page with a photo of the author and a four-column review. But the first quarter of...

Read More ....

Mystical Landscapes

Mystical Landscapes, a special exhibit currently at the Art Gallery of Ontario, opens with a trumpet fanfare. Three paintings by Paul Gauguin, all circa 1890 before he fled for the debauchery of the South Pacific, are displayed like a medieval tryptic. Gauguin painted them to be hung together but this is the first time the artist’s wish has been achieved. They include Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, The Yellow Christ and Christ in the Garden of Olives, usually hanging in Edinburgh, Buffalo and West Palm Beach respectively. The rest of the exhibit of 90 paintings and 20 drawings is equally compelling and includes two...

Read More ....

Tranquillity base

I don’t like Donald Trump any more than anyone else, but I think we should all follow Barack Obama’s lead and give the president-elect some time and space. Forget about the early White House appointments and what they might signal. And don’t fret about the bond market losing $1 trillion in a matter of a few days. The traders are just sending Trump a signal not to count on spending whatever he wants on infrastructure. An inflationary economy is a bad idea. Nor should we worry overly about rowdy demonstrations and police with assault rifles at the ready. This is nothing compared to 1968...

Read More ....