Yearly Archive: 2020

Lessons of history

In Italy, where coronavirus has hit the hardest among European nations, the country is all but shut down. Italy is used to such quarantines. In fact, the very word has its origin in Venice. During a plague in the 14th century the port city forced all ships to wait forty days – quaranta giorni – before passengers and crews could disembark. Another Italian city followed with even broader precautions during the Middle Ages. The February 20 issue of the London Review of Books includes a review of a book by John Henderson called Florence Under Siege: Surviving the Plague in...

Read More ....

Nowhere man

Some men grow a beard on holiday, but think better of it when they get home, and shave it off. Not Justin Trudeau. He thinks a vacation beard can change him. In fact, the beard has rendered his life untenable. He no longer knows who he is. Until now, Justin’s life has been ever-so-easy; he was Pierre Trudeau’s son. People praised him even when there was no reason. Being in the public eye so much, Justin became all about the performance arts. He was like Robert Redford playing the all-American boy in “The Way We Were” when Barbra Streisand asks,...

Read More ....

The past is present

The problem with the blockades that have halted economic activity from Vancouver to Montreal is not the hereditary chiefs or the listless Ottawa crowd. No, the problem is that Canada is stuck in the nineteenth century. We have always been hewers of wood and drawers of water, shipping our birthright – usually to American buyers – rather than create as many jobs at home as we could. Instead of spending billions on pipelines to feed others, why not build a refinery in Alberta that uses Western oil and yields consumer products from synthetic fibres to plastics, tires to crayons? To...

Read More ....

Running on empty

Saturday’s Globe and Mail contained shocking details about an athletics coach who allegedly groomed Megan Brown for sex beginning when she was a 17-year-old high school student. The relationship continued after she enrolled at the University of Guelph and trained under his tutelage. In 2006, her father informed the university about what was going on; nothing happened. Once the details were published last weekend, the university suddenly found its voice and apologized on its website that same day for the “deeply troubling” article. The coach, Dave Scott-Thomas, has denied any wrongdoing. On Monday, university president Franco Vaccarino emailed Brown with...

Read More ....

Arrivederci

Since I waxed on at some length in a recent blog post about Eataly, it’s only fair to tell you what’s happened to the new Toronto hotspot. The patient lineups outside are long gone. Indeed, you can arrive at 6 p.m. and get a table for two in La Pizza e La Pasta. You can even make an online reservation, something that was not permitted in the early days. These are all advancements from the point of view of the customer. Other changes, however, are not so welcome. During the opening, staff was buttressed by top people from other Eatalys...

Read More ....

The Peter Principle

Unless some business leader or rock star suddenly steps forward, the major candidates for leader of the Conservative Party have all announced. I hesitate to call them losers but they certainly don’t look like winners. All of the more promising possibilities took a pass for various personal and professional reasons: Lisa Raitt, Jean Charest, Rona Ambrose, Rod Phillips and the two Mulroney siblings, Caroline and Mark. The party is left with Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole, and a couple of even lesser-knowns. Andrew Scheer is beginning to look pretty good. He spoke decent French, which while denigrated at the time, is...

Read More ....

The tipping point

Tipping in restaurants used to be pretty predictable. You’d automatically add 15 percent to the bill, or if the service were excellent, you might bump it up to 20 percent. I do like the fact that these days a machine is presented so your credit card doesn’t leave your hand. In the paper-based system of the past, I always wondered when my card disappeared whether someone was making an extra copy for later use to buy a flight to Paris. But along with this newfound safety comes a catch. The machine offers a selection of various percentage tip amounts and...

Read More ....

Songs of the heart

We spent some time over New Year’s on a farm near Orillia amid snow and serenity. Our only visitors were birds hungry for seeds and suet. Among the more prominent: both nuthatches (red- and white-breasted), hairy and downy woodpeckers, Blue Jays, chickadees, juncoes and a pair of American goldfinches. Sometimes a pileated woodpecker joins with wild turkeys and numerous other friends, some of whom are currently enjoying southern climes. I first became interested in birding while living in England in the 1980s. You grow up knowing the twenty birds that visit your backyard and, suddenly, you see birds around you...

Read More ....