Musings by Rod McQueen Blog

Touch me not

Why is it that directors and choreographers feel they need to take perfectly good material and add their own ham-handed touches? James Kudelka, then of the National Ballet, to my mind ruined several productions, including Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. Except for taking my grandchildren to The Nutcracker a few times, I have refused to attend anything by the National Ballet since. Lezlie Wade, who directs H.M.S. Pinafore at Stratford this summer, has been equally busy with equally predictable results. For reasons unknown, Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pinafore opens in an estate where the war wounded are being cared for, then switches to the more...

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Aucun progrès

The Official Languages Act, passed in 1969, gave equal status to French and English when dealing with the federal government. The legislation has, over the years, propelled many parents to send their children to be educated in French immersion. Such classes were seen as good for social standing and useful for the student’s future. Others, like me, worked hard on their own to learn French. There was a point in time when I could understand political speeches in French, and my vocabulary remains extensive, but I would never have called myself bilingual. One-on-one was OK, but conversation with a group was always difficult....

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Party on!

The process was as foolish as it was flawed from the get-go. I’m talking about the multiple choice ballots used by the Conservative Party of Canada for its leadership contest. Apparently the methodology was insisted upon by the Reform Party during one of the many amalgams that created today’s Conservatives. It was like a crazy uncle leaving you a fetid swamp along with a demand that you plant crops and make it productive. Even such a brain as Kevin O’Leary couldn’t understand how the ranked balloting worked when other analysts on the CBC panel scoffed at his advice to supporters – just vote...

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Physician, heal thyself

Just when you thought the news about OxyContin couldn’t get worse, it did. We just don’t know how bad. Last year, almost 1,000 people died in British Columbia from an overdose or improper opioid use. In the rest of the country, statistics seem less scary only because they’re scarcer. Yet doctors and hospitals are still prescribing OxyContin, even though staff must know that some people will become addicted. Of the two people I know who recently had surgery, both were offered OxyContin for post-operative pain. Both refused. Wisely. Physicians are a big part of the problem. Many are paid by pharmaceutical companies to give...

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Help is at hand

I’m not much for self-help books. It’s not that I don’t need help, I need all the help I can get, but they pretty much all share the same message as lyrics from any Andrew Lloyd Webber musical: You have the power within. Some people can’t seem to help themselves and they write multiple self-help tomes. Hard on the heels of Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg’s book about how women could make faster progress in business, she has a sequel called Option B. Lean In seemed to be about having a supportive husband who could help with the work-life balance. But suddenly, he died. Two years later, Sandberg has...

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Bearing witness

I, for one, am bewildered by all the banter about cultural appropriation. What started as an editorial about indigenous writing has ballooned into a full-throated debate. So far, the collateral damage has claimed the jobs or caused demotions of three journalists. I will try to be sufficiently assiduous so I don’t have to tender my resignation as the head of my one-person household. Lost in all of this talk is the only issue that should matter in today’s society: how are we doing at improving the lot of indigenous people? I think we would all agree that we’ve made little progress. I was about...

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The seven deadly sins and how they grew

Humorist Will Rogers used to say, “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” That statement was never more accurate than it is today. Why, even the seven deadly sins can be ascribed to politicians as the following list will show. Well, anyway, most of those on the list are politicians. For sin #1, greed, we need to look no further than Barack Obama who is charging US$400,000 per speech. Bill O’Reilly, late of Fox News, managed to combine greed with sin #2, lust, when he was paid severance of US$25 million after being fired over allegations of sexual abuse. Sin...

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Kevin, we hardly knew ye

In my January predictions for 2017, I said Kevin O’Leary would become leader of the Conservative Party. Got that wrong. I believed with the backers he had – a lot of formers like former Ontario Premier Mike Harris and former Senator Marjory LeBreton – that he was a shoo-in. But it turned out not only could he not campaign, he didn’t even try. Yesterday he pulled out. Call him Kevin O’Leery. O’Leary didn’t show up for debates, spent too much time out of the country, and demonstrated that he didn’t really know policy from pinochle. His big idea was to cut taxes...

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Cicero, thou shouldst be living at this hour

Ten years ago, when last I bought a television, I had the installer hook up my VHS machine just in case I might need it. It’s never been used since. The time is still blinking 12:00, 12:00, 12:00. But I did use the DVD player. At least for a while. Today I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I actually watched a DVD. In fact, when I bought my most recent iMac, it didn’t even come with the necessary slot for DVDs or CDs. The sales associate kindly told me that if in time I found I needed one, I could buy an...

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Bury my heart on bended knee

Don’t you find it passing strange that every company, government, think tank and farm boy is trying to convince U.S. President Donald Trump just how important we are to them and how no changes should be made to free trade? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been suitably deferential, dispatching cabinet ministers, and even inveigling former PM Brian Mulroney to come out of retirement to pour maple syrup into the ears of anyone in Washington who will listen. In addition, onetime civil servants such as Derek Burney as well as provincial premiers like Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall have either volunteered or been dragooned to the cause. The...

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The two solitudes encore une fois

I freely admit to having a brain cramp about the debate surrounding Andrew Potter, the former director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. Potter wrote a feisty column in Maclean’s about the “social malaise” of Québec, calling it a “pathologically alienated and low-trust society.” The outrage was immediate and he quickly resigned his post. Was he pushed or did he jump? We do not know. Part of me says, “Well, what if his observations were accurate?” At least, in his experience. No less an individual than Québec Premier Jacques Parizeau blamed losing the 1995 referendum on “money and the ethnic vote,” another...

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Beauty and the beast

Adversity is a tough foe, but it can be your friend, according to Amanda Lang’s new book, The Beauty of Discomfort. Lang’s thesis is that successful people don’t just tolerate discomfort, they seek it out. Again and again. Among the individuals featured in the book is Linda Hasenfratz, who took over from her father Frank as CEO of Linamar Corp. but not before spending nine years working her way up from the factory floor. Throughout her apprenticeship Hazenfratz suffered charges of nepotism, bouts of hostility, and sexism. Her advice is simple: Ignore negativity, don’t make the same mistake twice, and don’t expect people to...

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Bye bye miss American pie

In the past ten days, I’ve read two lengthy articles – both in U.S. publications – about immigration to Canada. The first, in The New Yorker, described a place called Vive in Buffalo, N.Y., where since 1984 volunteers have helped 100,000 refugees, most of whom continued on to Canada. The second was a New York Times story about a family of Syrian refugees living in Toronto that opened on page one and ran three full pages inside. Both articles were fascinating, well-researched and timely. Why am I not reading equally thoughtful pieces in any Canadian publications? Could it be because management has got rid...

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Let there be lightning

Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I’m fascinated by words and their usage, even grammar. Take the tale about the missing comma in a contract that could mean millions of dollars. An Oxford comma, no less, a comma that goes before the word “and” in a series such as “a bear, a girl, and a bowl of porridge.” You usually see the Oxford comma only in books, not in newspapers or magazines. To be sure (there’s a phrase you only find in magazines), along with still, both used to create the sense of a transition between one paragraph and the next. Ask an editor...

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Monsters in our midst

Plenty of attention has been paid to soaring house prices in Toronto but teardowns that turn into monster homes are somehow below the radar. In my neighbourhood there’s been at least one teardown in each of the last half dozen years. Let me tell you the bad news up front: developers and individuals almost always get want they want, despite neighbours’ objections. The first step for approval is the Committee of Adjustment. Plans are shared with neighbours who can appear before the three-person board but might as well stay home. I’ve been to two such hearings. At one of them, the chair actually...

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