Giving hubris a bad name

In the past few days, I have seen or read the following: Bill Clinton and Martha Stewart talk earnestly about how the compact fluorescent light can save the planet; Nelson Mandela open a shopping mall in Soweto; Conrad Black tape a guest appearance on the Rick Mercer Report. Do any of these events seem like the trivialization of former greatness, or am I just joining in on the triviality by even taking note?

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A price too high

In the spring of 2003 our daughter was on the verge of buying a house in Hamilton, Ont. The property was headed for a bidding war, so I advised her not to participate, and she didn’t. My reasoning was that I’d previously seen such ridiculous practices in overheated markets and believed such pressures wouldn’t last. How wrong I was. Four years later, the foolishness continues – unless the number of open houses last weekend indicates a cooling off at last. All of which is to say: Where has David Dodge been? The governor of the Bank of Canada has suddenly...

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The debrief

Rex Murphy is a most enjoyable radio host with whom to work. On Cross Country Checkup he honours every caller, giving each of them a full opportunity to state their case. He draws out the best in people and never cuts them off as do some shock jocks. I spent the full two hours in studio with Rex yesterday trying to add some of my modest thoughts to the debate. The topic was the soaring loonie and the callers were a thoughtful, geographically diverse bunch from Victoria, B.C. to Truro, N.S. and north to Baffin Island. They included a long-haul...

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Cross Country Checkup

Tune in this Sunday September 23 to Cross Country Checkup on CBC Radio One when I’ll be appearing as an in-studio guest commentator along with host, the inimitable Rex Murphy. Topic this week is the soaring loonie. In addition to numerous callers-in on this national open line show, other guests appearing by phone and on tape will include Tom D’Aquino of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Buzz Hargrove of the Canadian Auto Workers Union and Patricia Croft, chief economist at Phillips, Hager and North. In the Eastern time zone, the show starts right after the 4 p.m. newscast and...

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How to write a book: Part three

The late, great Sandy Ross had a wonderful description about how to write a magazine story. Here it is: “When I sit down to write a magazine piece, I am not writing a long newspaper article, I am writing a short book.” Following that advice makes the difference between a rambling article that has no apparent structure and guiding your reader through something that is coherent, organized and readable. So, a magazine profile might begin with an anecdote that captures the reader’s attention and establishes a particular characteristic of the person being profiled. Next comes the “billboard” paragraph that answers...

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How to write a book: Part two

The idea for my first book, The Moneyspinners, came from Peter C. Newman when he was editor and I was business editor of Maclean’s. Peter took me aside one day and suggested I write about the CEOs who run the Big Five Banks. I not only embraced the idea, I also followed his manic method of getting up at 4 a.m. to do so. After all, we both had day jobs. After a few months I spoke to my mentor and said, “I’ve got sixty pages of the first chapter written and I can’t get it stopped.” “Oh no,” Peter...

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In good company

Our book gets a rave review in today’s Sunday Star along with some other fine travel books covering a wide range of destinations from Newfoundland to the Middle East. Michael Hanlon is the very sort of writer you want reviewing your book. He was the respected editor of The Canadian, the weekend magazine that published so many fine writers, and was also a long-time high-profile reporter at the Toronto Star. Now a freelancer living in Cobourg, Ontario, Hanlon regularly plays armchair traveller and selected our book for inclusion in this lengthy feature. Sandy’s illustrations draw particular praise and he calls...

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Readers write

I’ve never before written a book that elicited so much positive feedback as Fantasy in Florence. In the past, my non-fiction work has been about: entire industries such as banking and insurance; things that went bump in the night – the Confederation Life fiasco and the Sinc Stevens conflict of interest scandal; bios and business families – The Eatons, Martha Billes of Canadian Tire and Edgar Bronfman Jr., the man who couldn’t drink straight. Fantasy in Florence is different. On the surface, it’s a journal about our time there, but it’s really about how to live and how to feel....

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