Sunday, November 14, 2004

Whoops, Wrong One

Daniel Richler, as you might already have heard, is moving to England. That is a shame. At the risk of relating everything to a television cartoon, the first thing I thought of was this:

Deprogrammer: Mr. and Mrs. Simpson, your son has clearly been brainwashed by the evil and charismatic Mr. Burns.

Marge: Are you sure you can get him back for us?

Deprogrammer: Absolutely. I'm the one who successfully deprogrammed Jane Fonda, you know.

Marge: What about Peter Fonda?

Deprogrammer: Oh, that was a heartbreaker. But I
did get Paul McCartney out of Wings.

Homer: You idiot! He was the most talented one

In other news, Michael Kinsley, ex of Slate, wrote in the Los Angeles Times (where he is an editor) about his idea for CNN: "Cease-Fire" instead of Crossfire. But world where nobody is nobody else’s monkey might be too much to ask, methinks.

I’m sure I’m the 97th person to think of this, but isn’t the word TORSO a great way to parody TORO magazine? Then I stuck TORSO into google. Nevermind.

Finally, I began with a Richler, so it seems only fair to conclude with one. My good close personal friend Noah recently had an article in

Now weekly?

A seasoned veteran like Richler does not strike me as Now material. But even stranger than Noah slumming around in a poorly paying alt-weekly is the fact that his article defending the Walrus refers extensively to a Robert Fulford article that ran in the July issue of Toronto Life. Noah’s article was published at the end of October. For those without a calendar handy, that was four months ago.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this article was his final dispatch for the Toronto Star books section. Richler was a replacement columnist for Philip Marchand during the spring and summer, and it strikes me that Richler’s final column would have synchronized with Fulford’s Toronto Life article about how the Walrus is tuskless. Did Richler get his Toronto Star column spiked for blatant toadying and conflict of interest (i.e. Noah has been published by the Walrus and not Toronto Life?) We may never know. But I was thinking that if blogger Christopher Allbritton can raise money so as to fly to Iraq to cover the war, why can’t the Toronto blogosphere try and scrape up enough money to send Noah to the UK? The only, er, problem is that with finances being as they are, we might only be able to buy him a one-way ticket.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Ken Alexander Fires Himself

This, from Masthead magazine (September 30):

Churn continues at The Walrus

TORONTO—Walrus deputy editor Sarmishta Subramanian and senior editor Lisa Rundle will be leaving the general-interest monthly at week’s end. Only creative director Antonio De Luca and associate editor/head of research Joshua Knelman remain of the original editorial team assembled by founding editor David Berlin and publisher Ken Alexander

This, from a August 3, 1999, Salon interview with the front man of GBV:

Q: There was reportedly an article in The Onion a long time ago making light of your penchant for firing band members -- something along the lines of "Bob Pollard Fires Himself."

A: I've talked about that with the band before. Like, I'd fire myself and let them continue without me. That would be funny. You know how you see these bands like the Grass Roots come and play and there's only one guy left, like the drummer?

Now, back to the Masthead article about the Walrus churn:

"I was hardly blindsided by this," said Alexander of these most recent departures, indicating that he’s been asserting his vision for the magazine since taking over as de factor editor in June, making the magazine "edgier, more provocative, more about conversations that people are having, more topical." As for the ego clash between the pros and the rookie, Alexander said: "I think it also fair to say that there’s a view that the only person who can possibly direct or edit a magazine is a person who comes from the professional editorial core. I do not come from that core."

Finally, my response:

Kent: What do you say to the accusation that your group has been causing more crimes than it's been preventing?

Homer: [amused] Oh, Kent, I'd be lying if I said my men weren't committing crimes.

Kent: [pause] Well, touche

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Talkin’ CanLit

Here is David Gilmour, in the Saturday (September 18) Globe reviewing the new book Mysteries by Robert McGill:

There are only two people who really care about a book review, the critic who wants to sound smart and the writer who doesn't want to be wounded in a public forum. Understandable, on both sides. For the rest of the people, let's be candid, it's essentially fish wrap, albeit interesting fish wrap.

It is also true, I think, that for a young Canadian writer, there is no review more affecting, perhaps ever, than the review of his first novel in The Globe and Mail. Other papers can say what they like, The Globe is the review of record, and writers know it

Essay Question: In his recent book review, David Gilmour contends that "there is no review more affecting, perhaps ever, than the review of his first novel in The Globe and Mail." Do you agree or disagree? Provide evidence for your opinion, and wherever possible, show your work. Use the back of this blog if more space is required.

On a somewhat related note, here is a sole sentence from Prairie Fire’s recent "please subscribe" letter:

The literary magazine is the nursery of contemporary Canadian writing.

Lest you think me a snit for selecting this sentence, it was both italicized and printed in red ink in the letter. It’s not entrapment when I select a sentence that was already highlighted. Clearly, the folks at Prairie Fire were proud of that turn of phrase. As such, I’m going to put that phrase on a T-shirt posthaste. I mean, here it is again:

The literary magazine is the nursery of contemporary Canadian writing.

The next time anyone asks about the role of literary journals in the CanLit ecosystem, I want you to answer:

The literary magazine is the nursery of contemporary Canadian writing.

I’ve heard lit-journals described as a "farm team," but never a nursery. Who, then, are the parents of Canadian contemporary writing? And why are they so abusive and neglectful?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Quoting the Wisdom of Others

Clive Thompson, in the May/June 2004 issue of This magazine, talking about stump speeches versus lab coats:

I started my career as a political writer, but soon realized that politics wasn’t a game of progress. On the contrary, human history is pretty much just the same grim cycle over and over: A group of people gain power, then use it to screw over everyone else. Rinse and repeat. Open today’s paper and you’ll see stories of Paul Martin’s graft, or tax cuts for the rich, or First Nations bands wrestling over ancient land claim. Go back 3,000 years and you’ll find hieroglyphs describing essentially the same things.

This is not to disparage political activism; the sheer intractability of injustice is why we have a moral imperative to fight it. But when I started writing about science, I felt, for the first time in a long while, an unusual emotion: optimism

Russell Smith, in today’s Globe (September 16/04), on Canadian magazines and the healthcare debate:

The September issue of Saturday Night magazine decided it would capitalize on this frenzy of excitement by putting out a cover almost as boring – I mean almost as relevant – as any grey-on-grey Walrus cover, showing a grey-haired, grey-faced doctor in a grey tie in a grey room. This makes me feel distinctly strange: If someone has consciously and soberly calculated that such an image is going to light up the jaded eyes of Canadian newsstand browsers, then I am even less of a Canadian than I thought. I must be weird.


Who are these magazines for? Recent poli-sci grads eager for jobs at the CBC? High-school Canadian Studies teachers, who use them to torture trapped youth on sunny days? Or just other Canadian magazine writers?

And I hear that The Walrus itself, not to be outdone in the race for the Dullest Worthy Endeavour prize at the next National Magazine Awards, is itself feverishly preparing a blockbuster of an article on the state of health care in this country. I can’t wait to see the shades of grey they use in their cover art. I guess they’re hoping to use a piece on health care to bring down the dangerously high levels of reader adrenaline brought on by the other entertaining articles on trade tariffs and parliamentary subcommittees

By the way, The Globe will no longer allow you to access columnists on their website for free, so I might have to retire my interest in Smith commentary for the immediate future. On a related note, as this Wired article points out, paid access and registration-required tactics work to disappear a publication from the Internet. Without links to articles there is no resulting discussion in the blog ecosystem and thus little to no traffic around the marketplace of ideas. But that’s a whole other post.

Now, Carl Hiaasen on hurricane journalism (Miami Herald, September 6):

* What you should wear: Always choose the flimsiest rain jacket available, to visually dramatize the effect of strong winds. All foul-weather gear should be brightly colored in the event you're swept out to sea or sucked down a drainage culvert, and someone actually goes searching for you.

* What you should televise: The first rule of hurricane coverage is that every broadcast must begin with palm trees bending in the wind. Never mind that the puniest summer squall can send a coconut palm into convulsions, your producer will demand this meaningless shot

And finally, as for Toronto Life being sued for $2.1 million by Conrad Black, I like the magazine (full disclosure: I write for it often) and I wish the publication the best of success in fighting this stupid lawsuit. However, I must say that the Robert Mason Lee article at the centre of the suit was an unreadable piece of drek. Horrible, horrible writing that should have been deleted at birth. A class-action lawsuit organized by Toronto Life subscribers, demanding some money back for wasting their time with such an unfunny piece of "satire" would be reasonable; Conrad Black suing for defamation is ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Everything and Anything

I started my Masters in Communication and Culture yesterday, which means my postings will soon be littered with terms such as "recursive" and "hegemony." I mention this because I’m also not sure how often I’ll be able to post. Either more often (I hope) or less often (more likely). Right now, I think that one long post each week is more feasible than shorter posts updated more frequently. It means the material will be less topical, but provide more analysis. Or something. Anyway, enough jaw-boning:

* Over at Slate, Eric Weisbard spoke talks about the new album Blueberry Boat by the Fiery Furnaces:

Sometimes a new album has critics so dazzled that we're forced to recommend it before we're positive we even like it. The Fiery Furnaces' Blueberry Boat is that kind of work.

This is how buzz often gets incorrectly assigned. I prefer the opposite instance: of being forced to dismiss something before even hearing it or reading it. Toward that end, check out this bit of clairvoyance regarding the Globe’s new alt-weekly 7. As for my first impressions: 7 resembles Queue, the Vancouver Sun Thursday supplement, except worse somehow, because the Globe is involved. (This just in: I’m wrong. Here is Edward Greenspon in the September 11/04 Globe discussing the matter: "Going tabloid also provided an opportunity for our in-house designers to let their creative juices flow in making 7 both user-friendly and visually appealling." That is some arid juice, man. And check out the rebel sell in his next sentence: "We wanted to change the look radically because we were changing the content radically." To the barricades, comrade!)

Suggested slogan: Why Waste Your Money Reading a Free Alt-Weekly When 7 Costs Only A Dollar?

* I received a four-page sermon disguised as a subscription plea from the Walrus this week. I realize there is some kind of (dismal) science involved in writing direct mail, but four pages? I find two whiny pages is generally enough. Four went past "methinks he doth protest too much" and lurched into "methinks he doth be pathetic." The funny thing is that the subscription letter focuses on all the success the Walrus has received and lists all the ways in which the magazine has exceeded expectations (gold awards at the NMA, record number of subscribers, etc, etc) and how much good press it has received. But it seems to me that you diminish your confidence if you have to spend page after page describing how great you are. We’re great. Really. No really. Really, really, really, please subscribe to the Walrus. Please.

That said, the Walrus offered to send me an issue absolutely free, so I took them up on the offer. In a related note, I must regretfully admit that the October issue looks decent, save for this. Perhaps things are finally turning around.

* Check out betterlivingcentre courtesy of Marc Weisblott and company. Very thorough and savvy and updated constantly. They even have professional illustrations – I figure they’ll put me out of business within the month.

* The new issue of Saturday Night hit the stands on September 8. If I find the Walrus a touch boring, then how best to describe SN? How about this way:

Bart: Nothing you say can upset us. We're the MTV generation.
Lisa: We feel neither highs or lows.
Homer: Really? What's it like?
Lisa: Ehh. [shrugs]

Anyway, the September issue of Saturday Night (Ehh) contains a kind of article I see every once in awhile in Canadian magazines. It’s by Jay Teitel, who is a very gifted writer. It’s about cellphones and how they’ve "restored the lost art of the social call." In the fifth paragraph, he writes "Formal studies may not exist, but anecdotal evidence abounds." First off (Ehh), here is my new tip – stop reading the next time you see a sentence of this variety. The second thing (and this may seem contradictory) is that the article isn’t bad. In fact, if you judged only the quality of craft, it’s near flawless. The quality of thought is the problem -- the article can make no claim to referring to life outside the borders of the page. Take the article out of the life-support of the magazine however, visit a bar or a café and try and spin the same ideas about how the cellphone has altered the way in which we communicate (for the better, no less!) and the delicate lattice-work contained in a sentence like "The cellphone in its most extreme social-call incarnation functions like a modern astrolabe, fixing us in latitude and longitude at any given moment" melts like the word sugar it is. It would have been nice of Teitel to acknowledge that the resurrection of the social call has corresponded with the eradication of civility in public spaces. Or referred to this truly vexing existential problem first raised in Hermenaut:

Forget the brain tumor—did you know that whenever you use a cellular telephone you're destroying your own existence? Convenience dissolves contingency, and as the facts of your current state fade to insignificance you are melting! melting! Who knew you were so soluble?

Some articles try to change our mind about a certain issue using things like "statistics" or "facts," while others prefer to avoid such messy and inconvenient elements of rhetoric and instead impress us with baroque curlicues. It’s something that Saturday Night prides itself on. Hopefully the new editor will reconsider.

* The September/October issue of This contains a smart article by Arthur Johnson about how magazines that actually turn a decent profit in this country use interns as a money-saving device. This is certainly true, but I would have liked to see a reference to the seminal article "Internment Camp: The Intern Economy and the Culture Trust," by Jim Frederick, that first appeared in Baffler #9 (and again in Boob Jubilee, a Baffler anthology that appeared last year.) Frederick offered a devastating bit of class analysis in his piece:

Thanks to those who can afford to win the labor auction with the lowest possible price -- I’ll work for free!– those without outside (read "parental") support are forced to take tremendous real-dollar losses to stay competitive, or they are simply priced out of competition entirely. This ensures that the glamour industries remain the land of the rich and privileged, for they are the only people who can absorb a short-term loss to get an imagined long-term gain.

The Johnson article makes analogies between sweatshops and media interns (a fine idea) but it could have been a feature, instead of a one-pager.

And as much as I agree, a couple of things about being a po’ little intern. You can allow yourself to be exploited, or you can make the most of the situation. Back in the day, Derek Finkle, now the editor of Toro, convinced Toronto Life to create an internship program. A day after he started interning, he asked to cover the trial of Robert Baltovich. Finkle went on to write a cover story for Toronto Life on the topic, and later a book. Plenty of other interns in Canada have used the foot in the door to get promoted past the mailroom (Stuart Berman, the music editor at eye, was once an intern, and there are many other examples).

Which gives me an idea: anyone wish to intern for The Bigge Idea?

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

From East to West and Back Again

I’m back from Vancouver after a two-week holiday. There I had to curtail my media consumption, but I’ve spent the last 24 hours getting caught up with all the big hits. Topping the charts this week is my good close personal friend Russell Smith with his August 26, 2004 column about Dick-Lit. According to Mr. Smith:

The American publishing industry has, over the past five years, attempted to come up with a masculine rival to the phenomenal "chick-lit" successes of Helen Fielding and Candace Bushnell and Sophie Kinsella and all the other writers whose books have bright pink covers. "Dick-lit" fits a familiar matrix: It takes the form of first-person memoir or first-person fiction, is set among striving young people in a large city (usually New York) and tells the story of a youngish man -- a man who is starting to feel not so young -- who works in the world of media, just like Bridget Jones.


The current style was probably initiated by Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, followed by the handbook for the genre, About a Boy. Recent copies include Rick Marin's Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor, Kyle Smith's Love Monkey and Scott Mebus's Booty Nomad

Now I point you to an article in the Toronto Star, dated April 29, 2003 by Mike Dojc:

A new brand of literature has arisen to feed the 20-something guys' need to read. An antithesis to Chick Lit, this hot new typology has been dubbed Dick Lit by pundits and the British press.


Books like [Keith] Blanchard's and [Rick] Marin owe more to writers such as Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) or Chuck Barris (Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind), than any authors who follow more in the tradition of Wilt "the Stilt" Chamberlain's View From Above, in which he boasted to having bed 20,000 women.


Both genders need their fill of frivolity. In recent years, the male market has been underserved. One only has to walk into a bookstore and see shelf upon shelf of Bridget Jones Diary and Shopaholic clones as well as book club picks to ascertain the lack of light guy reads available

Smith’s column is stronger, but Dojc’s article appeared one year and four months ago. Which is better? To paraphrase the FNC slogan: I excerpt. You decide. (However, the next person who decides to write a Dick-Lit trend piece might want to mention the brand new Dave Itzkoff book Lads: A Memoir of Manhood in which the former Maxim editor deconstructs the myths of the lad-scivious lifestyle, in the process discovering it empty, false and stupid. But, as always, my free advice is worth every penny.)


* A great geek protest sign. If you don’t get it, it’s not your fault. You probably kiss members of the opposite sex or go outdoors.

* I’m sure I’m late to this one, but a waitress at a strip club is blogging during the RNC. According to the waitress, both Democrats and Republicans are horn-dogs, but only Conservatives are brave enough to demand both re-election and an erection during a convention.

* No one gives a backhanded compliment quite like Now weekly. And if you think that review was rough, try this classic chunk of snark.

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Same, But Different

"Excuse me," said the stranger, to the shapely young woman walking through the park, "But how big are your tits? Like 34C?"

"Actually, they’re 36D," said the young woman.

"Wow. 36D. That’s amazing. Are you a stripper? Or a porn star?"

"No," she replied with a weary smile. "Actually, I’m a graphic designer."

"Cool. That’s cool," said the stranger. Suddenly there seemed to be no more conversational electricity. The question was answered, and in its wake, awkward silence. "Well, bye."

"Yeah, bye," said the woman, who continued walking through the park.

By now I’m sure most of you think I’ve lost my mind. But wait, please, the denouement is arriving in the next sentence. Rewrite the above conversation by replacing the inquiry about tits with a question about height.

"How tall are you?"

"I’m 6 foot 5."

"Wow. Six-foot-Five. That’s amazing. Are you a basketball player?"

Obviously asking about height and asking about the size of someone’s tits is viewed differently in our society, but as someone who is tall, after awhile the question is equally annoying. Last week, two different people asked me how tall I was. I ignored both of them. The first time, I overheard a teenage girl whisper to her friend "Ask him how tall he is" as I was walking through a local park. Because of this advance warning, I ignored the girl when she said, "Excuse me." I kept right on walking, after repeated attempts of "Excuse me." Steps before I was out of earshot, in desperation, the girl yelled, "How tall are you?"

The second time was a day later, when some guy on the sidewalk asked me how tall I was. I continued walking as well. To his credit, he did not persist.

You see, I’m over 30, which means I have gone through this song and dance about my height for at least 10 years, which is roughly when I stopped growing. Unless you are a cute little old lady, or a kindly old man, I will not humour your requests for information about my height. The seniors I treat like gold, let me assure you.

(I think, back in May, I promised more love, less bitterness and I’m doing my best to deliver. Just don’t ask me how tall I am, if that’s OK…)
Some quick hits:

* A novel in 88 blog postings:

* My suburbia article is finally on newsstands. (And, er, online.) Descant, the literary journal in which the article appears, had a launch on Wednesday at the Victory Café in Toronto. The turn-out was pretty decent, and, even better, as a reader, I received a cellophane-wrapped goody bag of organic vegetables. Drink tickets are more traditional, I suppose, but not very memorable. I will never forget receiving two ears of corn, a pair of apricots, a bunch of cherries, and one tomato for doing a reading.

* At a party on Thursday I was delighted to learn that the cab drivers waiting outside the Via Rail station are always stupid jerks. I thought it was only me – upon returning from an ultra-pleasant month in Montreal, I was jolted back to the arrhythmic rudeness (as opposed to the elegant rudeness of New York, for example) of Toronto within five minutes of stepping off the train platform. The details are dull, but the end result was my valve became immediately and severely irritated. Turns out the same thing happened to my friend Dave recently. I write this bile despite it being taxi appreciation week or day or hour or something today or yesterday or something. (On a related note, it’s clearly tourist season here in the center of the universe. I find it strange that people visit here of their own volition, yet I don’t wish to discourage anyone from innervating our economy. Although, when I recently overheard an American whigger on a cellphone telling a friend that "There was no ghetto downtown. Anywhere" I had to give pause.)

* Recent Onion A/V Club interview with Triumph, discussing how to beg before J.Lo: "I tried to play up how pathetic I was, which is not too hard if you're a 42-year-old guy crouched on your knees in the aisle of an awards show with a puppet on your hand. You do evoke sympathy."

* Smart article by Gord McLaughlin in this week’s eye about the dangers of being critical about the business of the dramatic arts in Canada. The shock ending is memorable and well executed.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

All Things Considered, I Probably Deserve That…

Last Saturday (July 31) I wrote about blogs for the Globe and Mail. I had originally pitched the Globe about attending a Toronto conference entitled Exploring the Fusion Power of Public and Participatory Journalism that was going to be held on Tuesday, August 3 and writing about the results. The Globe decided that a preview of the conference would be a much better idea. I mention this because doing a preview meant I had a little over a day to turn in 1,300 words. As a magazine writer, I’m used to a much slower pace.

If that sounds like the gentle eddies of an excuse forming, you’re sorta right, but a mistake is a mistake, regardless of the looming deadline. And so, I apologize for writing Matt Welsh, instead of Welch in my blog article. I have corrected the error in the version of the article that appears on my website. (See link in first sentence.)

Of course, the only thing worse than making an error is getting caught making an error. And inside today’s National Post (August 7, 2004), in a commentary column about covering the recent DNC, Matt Welch writes:

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. It’s always fun to have your work read, and any press is good press, as long as they spell your name right. (Psst! Globe and Mail guys! It’s W-e-l-c-h!)

Touché Welch. I mean, the guy has a website with the URL How could I mungle that one? (FYI: Mungle being a mixture of mangle and bungle, as opposed to a typo, which would be an even richer irony, given the whole mess.)

It is always a little scary hitting the send button for any newspaper article I file, because contrary to popular belief, there is nothing akin to fact-checking performed at any of the newspapers I write for. And since I know this, I tend to be as careful as I can. Still, as Jeff Jarvis (by way of Ken Layne) noted at the Fusion Power conference, "We [bloggers] fact-check your [Big Media’s] ass." And ultimately, that is a good thing. Except, of course, when the blogger pinches the ass of Bigge Media. I promise to be even more diligent from herein.

And I take some solace in the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, there are no errors in my article about the swing in the alley that appears in today’s Toronto section of the Post.

By the way, I feel it worthwhile to note that I received the swing article assignment on Tuesday, July 27. I mention this because a few days later, the Saturday Globe (bastards!) wrote about the swing. I do not wish people to think I get my National Post Toronto section ideas by reading the Toronto section of the Globe and Mail.

Rather than end this post with a mote of grace, I will instead conclude by mentioning Robert Fulford’s takedown of Edward Greenspon’s Saturday ramblings. As Fulford wrote today:

Greenspon’s "Letter from the Editor," which appears in a prominent position on Page Two, may be the most spectacular example in current Canadian journalism of a bad idea badly executed.


Editorial problems may excite him … but they’re no fun to read about. They’re dreary, even for people in the business.

In fact, Greenspon makes editing sound so deadly that it’s as if he were trying to discourage the young from entering journalism

Or at the very least, encourage them start a blog instead.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Manchurian Classic?

I keep reading about the remake of The Manchurian Candidate, and most articles refer to the 1962 film as a classic. As Louis Menand noted last year (September 15, 2003) in the New Yorker:

Most people probably think of the movie as a classic of Cold War culture, like "On the Beach" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" – a popular work articulating the anxieties of the era. In fact, "The Manchurian Candidate" was a flop. It was released in the fall of 1962, failed to recover its costs, and was pulled from distribution two years later, after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It turned up a few times on television, but it was not shown in a movie theatre again until 1987, which – nearly the end of the Cold War – is the year its popularity dates from. The true artifact of Cold War culture is the novel, by Richard Condon, that the movie was based on.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Dear Noah Richler,

I am honoured that you consider me worthy of critique. A month or two ago, in the Toronto Star, you spent a substantial portion of your review of A Complicated Kindness talking about a literary essay I wrote for the Spring books section of the National Post

Toews' new novel, Bigge goes on, "serves to illustrate the conundrum many younger Canadian authors face — how to mash up our literary tradition of rural geography with the urban nation we have become."

This, frankly, is the sort of self-regarding metropolitan article that gives Toronto a bad name — with none of the "edge" Bigge thinks is missing in CanLit. (Bigge did not mention Colin MacAdam's novel of Ottawa bureaucrats and developers, Some Great Thing, certainly one of the best reads of the year so far — "urban" and full of vigour — but no reviewer can be abreast of everything)

I’m flattered, of course. But perhaps you should focus your energy on acquainting yourself with a crazy new medium called the Internet. Colin McAdam is the author of Some Great Thing. Also, in your article, you state that James Wood is the literary editor of The New Republic. Actually, it’s Leon Wieseltier, and it took me five seconds with Google to discover this. What happened? Did you write your review on an airplane? In longhand? On the back of an airsickness bag?

Oh well. You’ve never been a details man, Noah. You’re good at dropping names, but less proficient at spelling them correctly. I recommend you petition McClelland & Stewart to hire an extra fact-checker for your upcoming book A Literary Atlas Of Canada. Lest you think me nasty, consider this: if I was incubating any malice toward you, I wouldn’t make such a helpful suggestion. Indeed, I take your attempt to besmirch my good name with a milligram of sodium. This kind of literary catfight, is, after all, a sign of progress in the hermetic world of Canadian letters. Indeed, if I continue to work hard and write provocative essays, perhaps I can look forward to a Trudeau denigrating me someday. Then I’d know I’ve really made it.

But enough bickering. As you called me a "bright fella" in your article, it behooves me to reply in kind. Mistakes aside, I was impressed with your column – it was very focused, unlike the overlong, meandering, and often confusing lumps of prose you microwaved each week when you were books columnist at the National Post. I guess losing your Post column must have served as something of a wake-up call, as it appears you have discovered a little writing secret we pros like to call a second draft.

Still, I’m confused about something in your Toews review. You wrote:

Really, the urban landscape is just like any of the "rural" others Bigge implies are boring subjects for young authors. Deciding that we are an "urban nation" or that Prairie subjects are by definition stultifying is actually parochial.

That wasn’t the point I was trying to make in my essay, but that’s OK. I quote the above passage because in it, you suggest that setting is irrelevant. Which makes sense. A good book is a good book, regardless of setting. And yet, a few paragraphs later, you write that:

I am one of Smith's readers who would be relieved if some of that seriousness was finding its way into fiction about more than nightclubs.

Now I’m confused. A minute ago you said setting doesn’t matter. But now you’re dismissing fiction set in a nightclub (unless, I assume, said nightclub is filled with Mennonites). Please, I beg you, make up your mind.

In the meantime, it seems only fair to leave the last word with Russell Smith, who called you a "ninny" in his column back in early May. I realize I have failed to mentioned this often enough, so I’ll say it now: Russell Smith is a fantastic fiction writer. I have re-read Noise and How Insensitive because they are so damn good. The dialogue is pitch-perfect, his satire has teeth and there is nary a wheat field in sight. (Yes, his fairy tale book was stinky but these things happen.) Anyway, here is Russell Smith, from The Notebooks (Random House, 2002):

The most passionate stories can happen in suburbs and minivans. You don’t need to be in the Holocaust and it doesn’t have to be foreign or depressed. It doesn’t have to be a family saga, a history that goes back generations to a disaster in the nineteenth century, or whatever. I think that there’s a gothic tendency in Canadian fiction of the nationalist era. I think that that’s what this group you’ve assembled represents: it’s a leaving behind of cultural nationalism. That fiction no longer has to be about the land. The land actually influences us very little here, you know. We live in cities like everyone else in the world.

Ryan Bigge

P.S. I think you’re a ninny too.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Dead Walrus Bounce (With Hickeys)

I'm back from Montreal. I still haven't completed my Montreal blog, which is makes me feel lame beyond belief. Soon. As well, I think I'm going to cut back on blog postings here -- perhaps once a week or so during the summer, and wind the whole blog down in early September and try something different. Today, I offer some excerpts from items you might have missed...

Josey Vogels, writing in her My Messy Bedroom column (Hour, April 29th, 2004), quoted from an article I wrote for The Peak, the SFU student newspaper, many years ago. This, from the Vogels article:

While tons has been written on the history of kissing - one theory goes that kissing started among cave people who licked each other's faces for the salt - very little has been recorded on the history of hickeys.

I did find one article that quotes Oliver Kralhein, a guy from somewhere in New York who has been studying hickeys since 1965 and published a zine on the topic for over two decades.

In the article by Canadian journalist Ryan Bigge, Kralhein says his research suggests that hickeys have been around since the dawn of time


According to Bigge's article, even Robert De Niro, John Tesh and Cher have permanently marked themselves with decorative hickeys. And back in the mid-90s, the rap group Funky See, Funky Do released a song with the following lyrics:

"A kiss is fine but it don't always last/That's why I got a hickey of your name on my ass/That may seem strange and a little bit fruity/But every time I say your name I think of booty."

For those wondering about the veracity of my hickey article, well, read the whole thing here and decide for yourself.

Moving right along. From the July 2004 Toronto Life, Robert Fulford writing about The Walrus in an article entitled Tusk Force:

Having started out with the promise of long-term security, the magazine instead proved astonishingly unstable. Moreover, the articles in the first five issues, whatever their other qualities, contain little that’s original or challenging; they suggest, on the contrary, that among Canadian writers new ideas are thin on the ground.


This is a magazine that performs better around the edges than at the core. Put another way, it succeeds most when it appears to try least. With some exceptions, the longish articles, the pieces that take up six or eight pages, have been badly managed lumps of prose, compilations of unremarkable facts and obvious ideas, put together without skill or wit.

And this, while very old news, is still worth checking out -- excerpts from an article on Frank magazine by Jowita Bydlowska in the Ryerson Review of Journalism:

"Dead cat bounce" is a term used in stock markets to describe the final, futile upsurge of a declining stock. In Frank's case it was the freakish spike in sales after Taylor published his first issue, number 414, in October 2003. Since that one brief, floating moment, the gossipy cat has been in free fall.


The dreary newsstand sales confirmed a lack of interest in Frank when Taylor developed his dead-cat chart in December.


Five issues into the new Frank, Taylor was obsessing over his "Trends in Circulation" chart where the long painful descent of the dead cat was marked.


The cat began falling around 1996 when Frank was successfully sued for $75,000 by a Quebec judge for suggesting he slept with a key witness at a trial over which he presided.


It was difficult not to quietly root for him. Besides, dead cats can bounce at least twice, and cats have nine lives.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Le Media est Mal a la Tete

Boujour. Sorry for the dearth of posts lately. Hopefully the redesign will distract readers from the lack of new content.

I'm in Montreal, and happily spending most of my time out and about, enjoying a city that doesn't suck (are you listening Toronto?) Which is why there hasn't been much Glub-Glub-Mo-Blon!

Worse (at least, some will interpret it that way) there will be no new postings on the Bigge Idea until the end of June or early July. I can, however, offer you a link to a new (temporary) blog about Montreal. For those looking for their fix of media critiques, I must regretfully inform you that the Montreal blog will have a strong aftertaste of fiction.

So, to tide everyone over for the next few weeks, I offer the following:

The June 8 issue of Frank (the last one, not the newest one) gives Jeff Stober of Drake Hotel fame a full page parody. It's a day-in-the-life diary entry, purportedly written by Stober. I'm going to quote the only passage that the real Stober might find funny:

Down in the basement, there's a fashion/modern dance/ambient music/performance art/glassblowing show. They're created a signature martini for the event.

Not to give a course on comedy writing, but that glassblowing quip is the clincher. And not that the Drake needs my help, but I would suggest they post the Frank parody in the lobby of the hotel. Lest you think this idea insane, I would point out that when RM Vaughan devastated Shanghai Cowgirl in grand style, they posted the review in the window and declared Mr. Vaughan employee of the month. Shanghai continues to be very popular, given its primo location and its late night weekend hours (Toronto is miserable with the late-night scene compared to Montreal). Point being that acknowledging your enemies can sometimes defang them.

The only other thing worth commenting on is the recent issue of Saturday Night (June 2004). There's a story about the Gross Domestic Product and how terrible it is at measuring societal well-being. (For example, oil spills, cancer treatments and car crashes all contribute to the GDP). Great topic to discuss. First major problem -- the topic was discussed way back in November of 1999 in the book Culture Jam, by Kalle Lasn (and well before that, in Adbusters). Second major problem -- the article does a terrible job offering any news peg or current angle to the problems with the GDP, beyond noting that the Genuine Progress Index is making some political headway. In other words, this article could have ran four years ago in Saturday Night. And so, the obvious question to be asked is: Why didn't it?


When the Bigge Idea returns in July, I will try and shift my focus away from stupid things that annoy me about the Canadian media (since I could conceivably spent a few hours a day doing so, to little or satisfaction) and instead start to offer meaningful alternatives. Bile is never-ending; solutions are always in short-supply.

God, I hope that doesn't sound like something an NDP candidate might say. Don't worry, I'll still unsheath the shiv when necessary, but only as a last resort.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Stuff You Might Want to Know

It’s time for me to try and tidy the bulging blog folder. Enjoy the thoughts and ideas of writers who are not me. I begin with a Q&A with Nick Denton (Gawker, Wonkette) in (May 20 2004):

Q. Why do so many people feel they need to have a blog? -

A. I don't think everyone needs to become a writer. We're going from a world where there were one million writers and nine million wannabe or frustrated writers - people who occasionally wrote "letters to the editor" or complaints to customer service departments. Now those nine million writers are publishing online. Most of the sites that they create are only going to be interesting to their friends and themselves. But new talent wins out, and talented writers are not going to have to go through the media organization mill to [get a chance to] express themselves after 20 years as a reporter when they finally get a picture and bylined column. It's almost impossible in print media for anyone who is young and feisty to express himself or herself. The only time, in traditional media, when you get to express yourself is when you're 60 and no longer have any opinions that speak to the person you once were. Blogs allow those types of writers to circumvent the usual journalistic training program. It allows them to have the voice they have when they're young, without having it knocked out of them.

From the June 2004 issue of Business 2.0, Greg Lindsay on Denton:

Denton learned from that debacle and embraced weblogs, which are the LEDs of the media firmament: They require almost no resources to run. His mini media empire, Gawker Media, has no offices, no proprietary technology, and no full-time employees, yet it can attract audiences big enough to generate ad revenue. Better still, the "content" is virtually free, since it consists of little more than snarky comments pointing to other sites (mostly newspapers and magazines) that do spend money or time creating content. It's so dumb, it works: Denton's blog model is leaner than a George Foreman turkey burger. And it's apparently already returning a modest profit -- with the potential to deliver substantially more within a few years.

From the Onion: Catholic Church Condemns Metrosexuality

In the seemingly endless Howell Raines article in the May 2004 issue of the Atlantic, there are a few paragraphs about Turner Catledge, who was appointed executive managing editor of the New York Times in 1951. This was my favourite:

In the face of staff opposition, Catledge insisted that a modern newspaper must have "a dual appeal," telling readers both what they need to know and what they would enjoy knowing. "First, it should be necessary to people who wanted to be well informed," he wrote. "It already was that. Second, it should be a paper people wanted to read, for pleasure as well as out of necessity." Too often, Catledge added, Times readers were forced to pick up the paper and say, "I'm going to read you, you son of a bitch, if it kills me!"

From a Guy Maddin interview in the Onion’s A/V Club (May 19, 2004):

I've been so lazy all my life. I used to literally lie on the couch, up until the age of 35, fearing that my bones were dissolving like sugar cubes, from disuse. So it feels good to finally stand on top of vanquished sloth, and actually impress some people as a hard worker.

Clive Thompson has written the first truly great article to appear in the Walrus about the economy of online games like EverQuest. Here is one of many great moments in the article:

Within months of Ultima Online's launch, in 1997, the game spiralled into a currency crisis. The developers woke up one morning to discover that the value of their gold currency was plummeting. Why? A handful of sneaky players had discovered a bug in the code that allowed them to artificially duplicate gold pieces (called "duping"). The economy had been hit by a counterfeiting ring. Inflation soared, and for weeks, players would log in each day to find their assets worth less and less.

Ultima programmers soon fixed the bug. But then they had a new problem: How do you drain all the excess gold out of the economy and bring prices back to normal? They hit upon the idea of creating a rare type of red hair dye and offering it for sale in small quantities. It had no real use, but, because it was rare, it became instantly popular and commanded an enormous price — which leached so much gold out of the system that inflation subsided. But the programmers had to meditate for hours on what possible side effects their "fix" might have

And, finally, George Packer in the May/June 2004 issue of Mother Jones, writing to let us know that blogs aren’t perfect tools of the politically minded:

The constellation of opinion called the blogosphere consists, like the stars themselves, partly of gases. This is what makes blogs addictive — that is, both pleasurable and destructive: They're so easy to consume, and so endlessly available. Their second-by-second proliferation means that far more is written than needs to be said about any one thing. To change metaphors for a moment (and to deepen the shame), I gorge myself on these hundreds of pieces of commentary like so much candy into a bloated — yet nervous, sugar-jangled — stupor. Those hours of out-of-body drift leave me with few, if any, tangible thoughts. Blog prose is written in headline form to imitate informal speech, with short emphatic sentences and frequent use of boldface and italics. The entries, sometimes updated hourly, are little spasms of assertion, usually too brief for an argument ever to stand a chance of developing layers of meaning or ramifying into qualification and complication. There's a constant sense that someone (almost always the blogger) is winning and someone else is losing. Everything that happens in the blogosphere — every point, rebuttal, gloat, jeer, or "fisk" (dismemberment of a piece of text with close analytical reading) — is a knockout punch. A curious thing about this rarefied world is that bloggers are almost unfailingly contemptuous toward everyone except one another. They are also nearly without exception men (this form of combat seems too naked for more than a very few women). I imagine them in neat blue shirts, the glow from the screen reflected in their glasses as they sit up at 3:48 a.m. triumphantly tapping out their third rejoinder to the WaPo's press commentary on Tim Russert's on-air recap of the Wisconsin primary

Saturday, May 15, 2004

I Wanna Live Like Patio People / I Want To Do Whatever Patio People Do

Nothing encapsulates the Toronto patio obsession better than the following squib by Chris Nuttall-Smith, from today’s Globe and Mail:


What does $150 get you in Toronto? Dinner and drinks at Susur if you leave without tipping, or 50 Polish sausage dogs (condiments and heartburn are free). It'll also, apparently, get you a sun-drenched patio table at the Black Bull on Queen West on the first decent day of the year.

It was a gorgeous afternoon on the kind of spring day when you overhear office-dwellers vow, "I hope I get a sunburn." Ahead of me, a sextet of starched-and-polished (and pallid) types were pining for a place in the sun.

They could have waited 40 more minutes, as I did. Instead, they pooled a stack of tens and twenties and marched it to their chosen table. The rest of the line watched, amazed. The table accepted.

One of the guys in the group, flush from the conquest, offered to let "the pretty one" stay. "We'll give another $50!" (She did not stay.) One hundred and fifty dollars will get you the table, but this particular table came with just five chairs.

So a guy from the group tried taking an empty seat from nearby. "No way, man," somebody said. "That'll cost you $50."

Friday, May 14, 2004

Oh No

I have written for Toronto Life for many years, so I speak from first-hand experience when I say that their commitment to editorial quality is second-to-none. As John MacFarlane noted in his May 2004 editor’s note, they take their fact checking very seriously – to the tune of $100,000 last year. They treat writers well, and there’s a good reason they get buckets of nominations each year at the NMAF.

And so, as someone who not only writes for magazines, but occasionally edits them, my stomach actually lurched when I saw that something had gone horribly wrong in the current (June 2004) issue of Toronto Life. On page 72, it appears as though the wrong quark page has been printed. How do I know? First of all, it says June 2000 at the bottom. But more noticeably, a series of words and phrases are underlined, one word is bolded for no reason, and, worst of all, this:

Tanenbaum’s swerve [word choice?] proved less impressive set against Ken Thompson’s $250-million.

Since I’m a subscriber, I can only hope that the error was caught before the magazine reached the newsstands. (I think there’s a lag time between subscriber copies being mailed out and the mag hitting the stores, but I could be totally wrong.) My guess is the error was made by the printer, because the final proofing at Toronto Life is pretty airtight.

I offer my sincere condolences and I hope this bizarre mistake causes them minimal embarrassment.

* * *

Now, onto maximum embarrassment. It’s still early in the year, but I would like to cast my vote for the Worst Column of 2004. It’s in today’s Globe and Mail, in the real-estate section. Ladies and gentleman, it gives me no pleasure whatsoever to introduce Michelle Osborne, and her column The First Timer. Take it away Ms. Osborne:

Life without luxury lettuce

There is no Boston lettuce at the grocery store.

It was my first dose of reality, a confirmation that we had actually moved to a different place, one that was devoid of my beloved leafy green vegetable. A perfectly innocent trip to the grocery store for salad ingredients had left me wondering if we had made the right choice by leaving our downtown lifestyle for the residential Danforth and Woodbine area.

After all, we were used to our usual Saturday routine -- finishing our lattes before heading to St. Lawrence Market to get the basic fresh ingredients, and a few specialty items we needed for a dinner party or particularly challenging culinary experiment. At the market we were surrounded by people like us. It was like church for yuppies.

Near our new two-storey, brick and frame home, there is no market, but we are very close to a grocery store and a butcher. Which is lucky, unless you are used to having one of the city's best markets within walking distance.

I tried to remain undaunted. I knew deep down that we would be making certain sacrifices for the luxury of having a detached home away from the downtown bustle, and I was willing to compromise. After settling for mesclun mix, we loaded up our groceries into our cart and continued our errands in our new neighbourhood.

We have the basics, including several banks, a couple of pubs, coffee chains and dollar stores. Street kids and hotdog carts have been replaced by strollers and dogs on leashes. Exactly what you want in what our real estate agent calls a "developing" neighbourhood.

By now, my caffeine addiction was nagging me enough to settle for the budget coffee at one of the local chains. I tentatively entered, expecting the seedy, downtown shop I usually avoided. Instead, I found a smattering of normal-looking people and a bright, clean counter. I walked up to the server, expecting a tired grunt as a form of acknowledgment.

"Hi there," the pleasant server said with a smile. "What can I get for you?"

Shocked, I almost forgot to order. The service almost made up for the less-than-spectacular coffee. Almost.

The butcher was next on our hit list. We had found a small, inconspicuous shop driving by a few weeks earlier. Our hope was that it would measure up to the market, or just maybe, the butcher who specialized in meat from naturally fed and raised animals and from whom we got steaks for special occasions.

It was a glorious sight. Friendly patrons were chatting with the owners, and marvelling at the cannolis sitting on the cooler, which contained numerous deli meats. We looked around to see tasty cuts of lamb, chicken and beef, along with various European-style cheeses. I knew we had found a gem with this shop when I spotted the imported balsamic vinegar and Italian espresso.

The lust died, however, once we got to the cash register. The bill for two steaks and two chicken breasts was the same as what we paid at the specialty butcher downtown, but they didn't come from naturally fed or raised animals.

Feeling a little defeated, Tim suggested we grab a bottle of wine before heading home. On foot, we were out of luck. Either we'd have to drive to the nearest LCBO, or settle for beer with our sirloins.

We opted for the latter and drove just a few blocks away -- too far to walk but a little too close to drive, it seemed -- and picked up a cabernet sauvignon for our dinner that evening.

There are some things I just can't sacrifice

I imagine her neighbours reading this column, grabbing the Frankenstein pitchforks and torches and chasing her snotty St. Lawrence ass right back from whence it came. I humbly request the Danforth residents association to give ‘er a good solid jab on my behalf.

And on a more serious note, I have been noticing this kind of nauseating expression of classist claptrap and entitlement more and more often in Toronto. Maybe it was always there and I found a way to ignore it, but lately, it’s becoming more and more in my face. For awhile now, I’ve been wanting to mention this article by Graeme Zielinksi that ran in the The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (February 28, 2004):

National media: Meet the Heartland

About five years ago, during my first weeks working at The Washington Post, the paper ran a front-page story in which, in the first paragraph, they misspelled Schlitz, the beer that made Milwaukee famous.

I asked an old friend who worked at the paper how this could have happened, since the story had, conservatively, been vetted by no fewer than eight sets of eyes.

His one-word response, "Ivy," as in the Ivy League schools from which many of the staff matriculated and where, presumably, Schlitz was not as in high demand as it had been at, say, a Machinists Hall in Cudahy.


I've whined about this before and been promptly slapped down by my betters in places like the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post. The "working-class hero" stuff goes only so far in some quarters, since it oftentimes is personal and oftentimes is inconvenient. But I'm fed up since, as I saw recently covering the primary, the problem is getting worse and the stakes are getting higher.

Questions are not being asked. Meanings are not being interpreted. Certain neighborhoods are not being visited. Certain lives are not being explored in a meaningful way. And, through the prosecution of basic journalism, agendas are being set that do not reflect the way the other half, without the bulging 401ks, lives.

For instance, how many people on air or in print came from families that had walked a picket line? How many know how to bait a hook or gut a deer? (I'm bad at both.) How many have felt the economic insecurity that stalks the working poor? (And I'm not talking about the few weeks at college on the Ramen noodles diet.)

How many have had real experience with the criminal justice system, who have had home visits from social workers, who have scrambled to call the probation office, who know the awful taste of government cheese?

The second article ran on December 8 of 2002 in the LA Times, and was written by David Shaw:

Journalists losing touch with the man on the street

In an era when network anchors in tailor-made suits sign multimillion-dollar contracts, and some of their talking-head, syndicated columnist colleagues earn more from one speech than the average American earns in an entire year, it may be difficult to imagine, but journalism in this country was, until relatively recently, a largely blue-collar craft.

As recently as 1971, only 58% of newspaper journalists had college degrees; now 89% have degrees, according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. But only 15.5% of the total population age 25 and older have finished college.

The median annual salary for "experienced reporters" working at newspapers with more than 250,000 daily circulation -- the 40 largest papers in the country -- was about $56,000 last year, according to a newspaper industry study. Pay for "senior reporters" -- and for top reporters and editors at the largest of these papers -- is substantially more. But median income for all U.S. workers over 15 is about $31,500.

In other words, many big-city journalists -- especially those who set the agenda for what gets covered in the rest of the media -- have moved away from much of the largely middle- and working-class audience they purport to serve. At best, they're out of touch. At worst, they've become elitists

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Misplaced (Canada) Trust

I always read about this sort of stupidity happening to other people, which is sort of how I like it. But today, Canada Trust, my bank of choice since I was in short pants, sent me my monthly line of credit statement. Turns out I owe $.01, or one single penny. I’m going to guess that the envelope + one page printout + postage = a total cost of far more than one cent. What are you thinking, Canada Trust? Is this why service fees are so high? Huh?

Even Revenue Canada won’t dispatch the goon squad for $2 or less, and I think MasterCard has a somewhat similar policy.

Since I'm a good-looking rebel who plays by his own rules, I’m going to risk my credit rating and not pay the monies owing. I might even fold up the invoice, tuck it in my wallet, and show it to a teller the next time I find myself forced to deal with an actual human being at my bank branch, something that happens less and less often as the years go by.

And that’s, my, er, one cent’s worth. I promise to finally discuss my good close personal friend Noah Richler by week’s end.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

A Jumble and Tumble of Information

In a Washington Post story (March 20, 2004), Peter Carlson writes about the surprising life of Ping-Pong players, including Barney Reed, who tested positive for steroids in 2002: "I can beat most Americans with my shoe," Reed told Sports Illustrated by phone from Taiwan, where he spent his exile in training. "It's not a joke. I've beaten many people with a sandal."

This is a comedy bit from the late Bill Hicks, found on BoingBoing :

They lie about marijuana. Tell you pot-smoking makes you unmotivated. Lie! When you're high, you can do everything you normally do, just as well. You just realize that it's not worth the fucking effort. There is a difference.

And a fantastic little squib in this week’s eye:

Leah McLaren's April 24 column in the Globe poses an interesting paradox. Since all of Toronto has long known that once something is written about in The Globe and Mail, it's over, what does it mean when Leah writes her "The Drake is, like, so over" column? Is the Drake being over now over? Can we all go back? Had we stopping going yet? And if we did go back, would we have to talk to McLaren? Our heads could explode pondering such questions.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Bad Clothes Cheap!

Recently I had a chance to speak with Pamela Klaffke, author of Spree: A Cultural History of Shopping, for a business article I was working on. We eventually strayed off topic, discussing Cargo and H&M, the new disposable fashion clothier. We stumbled into the H&M versus Zara comparison debate and, Klaffke noted that Zara clothes represent good value for the money while H&M is much less good. "More like Le Chateau?" I asked. She agreed.

Having my expectations thus downgraded, I was better prepared to enter H&M a couple of Saturdays ago. And forget Le Chateau my friend, those cheap bastards are closer to Old Navy in the style and quality department. They had passable stuff – even a few pretty good things for men, mostly pants, but there was an equal amount of grossness. The women’s section was better, but the very good mixed with the very bad quite freely. Tonnes of accessories at pennies a pound – I got a great metal bracelet (for men, thanks very much, or at the very least, metrosexuals) for under $10 and my girlfriend found a great purse for $8 or something ridiculous like that. So if these accessories last 95 minutes before disintegrating, that’s OK. But as for some of the clothing, well, ecch.

The day we were there, H&M was, of course, packed. Which proves, once again, how little I know about shopping.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Give Me One Good Reason

The flat earth society known as Reason, the magazine for libertarians, now has someone offering to eat at McDonald’s for 30 days in order to disprove the claims of Supersize Me!, the Morgan Spurlock documentary. Despite the bizarro universe of thought they inhabit (the minimum wage should be outlawed, only the free market can deliver us onward to heaven, etc), on Wednesday of last week, I purchased a subscription. I rarely agree with anything they print, but deconstructing their arguments will keep my mind more agile. And no matter how misguided, strange or, well, wrong, their thoughts might be, they eagerly firehose you with ideas every month, whereas most other magazines are allergic to them.

Furthermore, I’m quite taken with the concept for the June issue of Reason, which I hope to receive a copy of, as it features a customized cover. According to an April 5, 2004 article by David Carr in the NYT:

When the 40,000 subscribers to Reason, the monthly libertarian magazine, receive a copy of the June issue, they will see on the cover a satellite photo of a neighborhood - their own neighborhood. And their house will be graphically circled.

On one level, the project, sort of the ultimate in customized publishing, is unsurprising: of course a magazine knows where its subscribers live. But it is still a remarkable demonstration of the growing number of ways databases can be harnessed. Apart from the cover image, several advertisements are customized to reflect the recipient's particulars.

Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason, said the magazine, with an editorial mission of "Free Minds, Free Markets,'' used the stunt to illustrate the cover article about the power and importance of databases.

"Our story is man bites dog," Mr. Gillespie said. "Everybody, including our magazine, has been harping on the erosion of privacy and the fears of a database nation. It is a totally legit fear. But they make our lives unbelievably easier as well, in terms of commercial transactions, credit, you name it."

Sunday, April 18, 2004


From No Way Out by Doug Saunders in the Saturday, Apr. 17, 2004 Globe:

On April 21, 1961, John F. Kennedy stood before his public to discuss why his efforts to bring democracy to the newly totalitarian Cuba, through the badly botched Bay of Pigs invasion, had become futile. "There's an old saying that victory has a hundred feathers and defeat is an orphan," he lamented. "Further statements, detailed discussions, are not to conceal responsibility, because I am the responsible officer of the government." Cuba would not be invaded again.

Might I amend the motion to read "fathers" instead?
ClearPlay: Preventing a Rush of Blood to the Head

Forget the v-chip, forget VCR head cleaner, here’s a DVD sanitizer:

Q. How do I ClearPlay a movie?
A. ClearPlay works with the regular DVDs that you already rent or purchase from your local stores. When you put a movie in a ClearPlay enabled DVD player, you can enjoy the show -- without needing to worry about the occasional R or PG-13 content. It's as if you had super-fast fingers and were able to punch remote control buttons fast and accurately enough to skip and mute certain content, but still maintain the movie's continuity and entertainment value!

Monday, April 12, 2004


Next update will hopefully occur this Thursday or Friday (April 15 or 16).

Friday, April 02, 2004

Foot Shooting and Other Meaningless Observations

I have learned how to make money at freelancing, finally. The secret is to work all the f—king time. This insight, by the way, is in lieu of the usual apologies for not blogging very often.

OK, so, first off, the cover of the March 2004 issue of Report on Business (here I am, commenting on last month’s issue, how lame) is blank white save for some tiny text that reads:

[the most important issue of the century … so far]

see page 45

Remind you of anything? How about the March/April 2003 cover of Shift, that featured a blank brown background with the 48-point proclamation:

IN ’03. PAGE 29

Quick. Five points and a chance to go to the bonus round if you can name the topic of that Shift article. Keep in mind that it was:

IN ’03. PAGE 29

For those of you who do remember, other than the author of the article (Chris Turner), congratulations. You could win fabulous prizes. The rest of us losers can instead contemplate the asinine decision on the part of those magazine editors to didactically inform readers that vital information is contained within. A better strategy is to commission and edit a brilliant article and let the readers decide its merit. When I see something as stupid as:

IN ’03. PAGE 29

hackles are immediately raised. My first instinct is to do everything in my power to find fault with said article. "You think you’re so important, eh," I think to myself. "We’ll just see about that."

That said, watch that Shift article get a NMAF nomination, forcing me to eat my entry.

* * *

Russell Smith discusses an anonymous dig at his upcoming novel that was printed in the Sunday Star. If Russell were smarter, he would not draw attention to one small paragraph announcing his new book in the Toronto Star. But Russell is not smart, and we know this because he does things like mention that he visits a shrink in his columns. Also, most infamously, he cried foul on Shinan Govani a few years ago and ended up on the cover of Frank for his misguided efforts. What was he thinking? I’ll assume he wasn’t. He keeps asking for it, that guy. He engages in passionate round-table discussions about aftershave and hair gel and then wonders why we love to hate him. I will now cite part of a letter to the editor written by George Case of Burnaby a few years ago:

Like Leah McLaren, Heather Mallick, Alexandra Gill, Geoff Pevere, Hal Niedzviecki and all the other professional spectators (sorry, "cultural commentators," er "media theorists," I mean "cutting-edge trendwatchers") taking up column space and airtime in Canada, Mr. Smith is part of an appallingly insular clique of reality-challenged hipness nerds who focus so closely on the fading squeaks of other people’s noise they can’t see that hardly anyone else is listening with them.

I’m willing to bet that Case wrote "farts" instead of noise, but was edited for taste. Mark Kingwell has managed to age his media persona and punditry gracefully. I’m to understand Russell and Mark are friends, and are roughly the same age. Perhaps Russell could ask Mark for a few tips on growing up with dignity.

Speaking of which, also in yesterday’s Virtual Culture column, Smith makes a mention of "mash music." What? Plug "mash music" into Google and you get nothing at all that refers to "mash ups," which is a more meaningful (i.e. correct) description of the concept. Also, mash-ups first emerged, like, two years ago, dude. Expect a Russell Smith column about the Grey Album in another six months. I know butter knives that are more cutting edge.

(P.S. Here is the amazing thing. Somehow, through some media channel or another, Russell will probably end up reading this very sentence, and he will be unable to laugh it off, like a normal human being would. Russell earns quite a bit of money to write a weekly column in the Globe and Mail. Perhaps he should spend some of his salary and invest in a thicker skin.)

Friday, March 26, 2004

The Media Guy

In the March 25-31 edition of Now, you’ll find a listing for the upcoming Henry Rollins spoken word show. The description in their Tip Sheet reads:

The Dead Kennedy and former Gap khakis model rants his way into Convocation Hall.

I seem to remember Rollins being in Black Flag.

Further to Now, they are about to offer home delivery for only 97 cents per week. I am curious to know what sort of person would pay for something that is free and located conveniently throughout the city. Also, Now stinks, so the thought of paying for it boggles my mind.

Onto "2" – a new magazine for couples. The launch was last night at the Drake, which is now home to every cultural event in the city, it would appear. Anyway, I’d like to stress that this is not a critique, per se, but the new magazine has 11 columnists:

Sex – Ask the Smug Marrieds – Food – Wine – Cars – Headhunter – Parenting – Décor – Health – Plastic Surgery – Your Look

Some might consider this excessive.

Finally, I wrote about the Angele Yanor debacle for Terminal City:

Vancouver Sun Columnist Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception

Seventeen days ago, Angele Yanor resigned as a freelance writer for The Vancouver Sun after the discovery that she had plagiarized parts of a February 28 column about snowboarding. After a weeklong investigation by five Terminal City reporters and a team of researchers, further falsifications and plagiarism has been uncovered. The result is that at least seven more "Lucky Strike" columns written by Ms. Yanor since April 2001 reflect plagiarism and misstatements. The following is an abbreviated accounting of her journalistic trespasses:

Knocking on Heaven’s Back Door
January 17, 2004

PLAGIARISM In an article discussing the popularity of various methods of intercourse, Yanor claimed "Anal sex is the new black." This sentence was lifted from a Belle De Jour blog entry, the online diary of an anonymous London call girl.

FACTUAL ERRORS Yanor argues that blowjobs have become unfashionable. This claim is demonstrably false. Furthermore, Eleanor Roosevelt was not a Bukkake enthusiast, contrary to claims by Ms. Yanor.

Giving Big Thanks For Turkey Breast(s)
October 18, 2003

FABRICATIONS In a Thanksgiving Day column, Yanor claims to have attended a large sit down dinner at a well-heeled household, but became alarmed and disturbed when she discovered the turkey had surgically enhanced breasts. When reached for comment, the hostess stated that neither she, nor the turkey, have double Ds.

FACTUAL ERRORS As God as my witness, turkeys cannot fly.

Canadian Guys Stand on Guard For Me
July 5, 2003

DENIED REPORTS In her ode to our nation’s birthday, Yanor claims Canadian fellas find her "unbearably sexy." None of the 302 men contacted during the course of our research would confirm this designation.

FACTUAL ERRORS Canada day falls on July 1, not July 3 as reported by Ms. Yanor.

Getting Lucky With Green Beer
April 19, 2003

DENIED REPORTS In this ode to St. Patrick’s Day, Yanor claims to have bedded Lucky the Leprechaun, the plucky cereal mascot. When reached for comment, Lucky’s lawyer informed Terminal City that his client "has never, nor will ever, engage in sexual congress with Ms. Yanor." Furthermore, his semen is not, as reported, "magically delicious."

Sex Within the City
May 4, 2002

PLAGIARISM Yanor describes a wild night out on the town, replete with witty dialogue and shocking candor, courtesy of her three best friends: Charlotte York, Miranda Hobbs and Samantha Jones. Instead, these are the names of fictional characters from the television show Sex in the City.

FACTUAL ERRORS Yanor is friendless.

Twin Towers of Lust
September 15, 2001

FACTUAL ERRORS Mothra did not destroy the World Trade Centre; instead it was two planes piloted by terrorists.

Row, Row, Row Your Babe
August 4, 2001

PLAGIARISM In her column about the popularity of Dragonboat racing among single Vancouverites, Yanor describes an encounter with a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, writing that, "Between the life jackets, partially, as if through some leaves, I had my first, unambiguous, clear-headed glimpse of Richard Parker. It was his haunches I could see, and part of his back. Tawny and striped and simply enormous. He was facing the stern, lying flat on his stomach. I began to stroke my paddles harder, hoping that Richard Parker was also a tiger in the bedroom." The first four sentences were lifted directly from Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, while the final sentence is clearly Yanor’s distinct brand of piffle. However, since Martel stole the tiger-in-a-lifeboat idea from Moacyr Scliar’s book Max and the Cats, we’ll call this one a draw.

Readers and news sources who know of defects in additional articles should send e-mail to

Sunday, March 21, 2004

The Streak is Dead

I thought I would be able to very comfortably live my entire life without ever buying a copy of Maxim. However, their current cover features Marge Simpson (well, half of them do, it’s a split run with Paris Hilton). To my credit, I am getting better at not emptying my wallet at the sight of Simpsons-related merch (I passed on the Psychology Today cover with Homer), but this is too stupidgood to pass up. And, as a bonus, I feel confident my girlfriend will not feel threatened by the Marge centrefold.

I promise to blog more this week. Honest.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Seen Elsewhere

banalysis: (buh.NAL.uh.sys) noun. Analysis that is commonplace, trivial, or trite.

Those wishing to explore this idea further should read Adam Sternbergh's Attack of the Navel-Gazers in the current issue of Toro, where he argues -- quite correctly -- that the National Post is responsible for every fourth-rate newspaper monkey in Toronto with a keyboard getting their own "column." Ergo:

For every compelling column I encounter, there must be at least three windy dispatches on the confounding gap between the sexes (oh, that wife!) or the vexing dilemmas of middle age (oh, these love handles!). Jammed between these, you'll reliably find at least one breathlessly related red-alert on the hot, new trend that portends some seismic societal shift.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

The Lost Four Minutes and Thirty-Three Seconds

I’ve been working part-time for GO since mid-January. This has made me very happy for reasons too numerous to mention. Today’s show was about silence, and due to space, we had to scissor the following sketch that I wrote. Enjoy, the silence.

Host: Hello I’m John Stein, the host of Listen Carefully, a CBC show devoted to exploring the border between the avant-guard and the terribly annoying. Brent Bambury has asked me to arrange for the CBC Orchestra to perform Cage’s most infamous, but least well known, and least heard work 4’ 33" -- which is four minutes and 33 seconds of silence, or, rather, four minutes and 33 seconds of the ambient noise produced when a group of musicians sit still for that length of time.

To help guide us through today’s performance, I’m joined by eminent musicology and scholar Mr. Nigel Fortnight. Good morning Nigel.

Nigel: Oh, thank you, thank you very much John. This is of course very unusual, commenting on a piece of music as it’s being performed live, somewhat akin to watching a DVD with the commentary track running. But of course, this being a radio broadcast, not only can you not see the orchestra, but well, in this particular case, you can’t hear them either.

Host: Right, now, what can the GO audience expect here today?

Nigel: Oh, well, that’s an excellent question, I’m glad you asked John. As it happens, I was privileged enough to witness the 55-piece CBC symphony orchestra perform a sound check just about an hour ago, and let me tell you, they are superb. I have not seen a grouping of talent, and enthusiasm like this in quite some time. No one is going to do absolutely nothing at all better than this bunch.

Host: Speaking of which, it looks as though the orchestra is ready to begin. Are you ready Nigel?

Nigel: Shhhh.

Host: Of course.

[Two or three seconds of silence. A muted throat clearing.]

Nigel: [In golf announcer whisper.] Oh, my, I did not expect this at all. Wielding the conductor’s baton today is Bruce Redlan, and he is waving it furiously, but of course, very, very quietly, at the brass instruments. To be so bold at such an early stage of the performance, to go directly to the horns is very surprising indeed. Traditionally, with a piece of this nature, you would perhaps begin with the woodwinds, maybe, maybe a viola, but starting so loud, as it were, so to speak, so forthright is very gutsy indeed. I’m interested, fascinated to see where he takes it from here.

[Some more silence, a bit of ambient noise.]

Nigel: Ahhh yes, one of my favourite parts of this work, it’s the ten seconds of silence – you really have to listen for this – it’s the ten seconds of silence that begins just at the one minute mark. Actually 59 seconds to be precise, ushering in the second movement of the piece, as it were. Now here it comes. Listen. Listen. Listen. Oh there it is. There it is. Marvelous. Absolutely marvelous.

Host: Now I see a rather young fellow sitting behind the piano. What can you tell us about him?

Nigel: Oh, that’s Robert Hersam, a virtuoso, very gifted. Former child prodigy, studied at Juliard and let’s just say it here now, let’s be honest, his job is not an easy one. He’s got 88 keys arrayed before him, 88, and any one of them, were he to touch any one of them, performance ruined. That restraint he’s showing, that patience, it is phenomenal. And I have to say I don’t envy his task here today. Not one bit.

Host: What do you say to people who have trouble appreciating this kind of musical subtly?

Nigel: Well, I do acknowledge that it is quite difficult for many people to find a way into this kind of performance. Myself, I have always been a firm believer in less is more, and never moreso than right now. Still, I would hate for people to think of this work as simply four and a half minutes of silence, but rather, imagine it instead as a song you just can’t hear.

Host: Hmmm. That’s interesting. Now I see a young woman with an orchestra triangle. What do we know about her?

Nigel: Oh, that’s Melissa Prenot. I’ve seen her play many times before.

Host: Don’t you mean heard her play?

Nigel: Well, yes. I mean, normally I would say heard, but in this particular case, I think we can both agree that "observing" is the right term. Oh. Wait. Listen. Did you hear that? Did you? Of course you did. How could you not? Gorgeous.

Host: How often is 4’ 33" performed?

Nigel: Well, as you might imagine, not that often. Cage first performed the song in 1952, on a piano, and the lid was raised and lowered to signify movements, as it were. After that, well, there wasn’t much silence for a long time. The late Frank Zappa covered the song in 1993 for Cage tribute album entitled A Chance Operation. And recently, well, this is a strange story, but in the fall of 2002, a British producer named Mike Batt inserted one minute of silence into the debut album of a classical group called The Planets. The idea was to separate the 12 tracks of the album from the four remixes also included on the CD. He called the divider song "A One Minute Silence." He listed the songwriting credit for the 60 seconds of silence as Batt and Cage, and a few months later he received a letter claiming copyright infringement, and, thus a request for royalties. In revenge, Mike Batt released "A One Minute Silence" as a single in September of 2002, and registered a number of copyrights on silent songs, including four minutes 32 and four minutes 34. Very cheeky.

Host: And we’re winding down here, a few seconds left, I think we’re almost done. Some parting thoughts Nigel?

Nigel: [FX: clapping] Bravo. Absolutely amazing. A note-perfect performance here today. Wow is all I can say. That chair creaking around the two minute mark, that was , well, it was what it was, the ventilation system turning on at three minutes and 51 seconds, I mean, let’s be honest, we were all sitting here, hoping for something like that but you just never can tell what might happen with a work like this. And an orchestra, a group of individuals, with a skill level such as this, they took whatever was thrown at them, quite frankly today and they just went with it. They integrated it and that’s what makes good great quite honestly. If silence is golden, then we have just witnessed a 24 carat affair here on GO.

Host: Thank you Nigel. Brent, back to you.

Friday, March 05, 2004

What the?!?

This is an actual email I received on Wednesday. I assure you that continues to maintain its virulently anti-lipgloss stance.

Date: Wed, 3 Mar 2004 10:02:35 -0800 (PST)
From: Dora Casso
To: xbigge@xxx.xx
Subject: ranked # 35 in Google for free gloss lip sample
X-Spam-Level: Spam-Level SSS

Hi there! Sorry for an e-mail out of the blue, but I just did a search for the term free gloss lip sample on Google and found ranked 35. Since I publish a related website about Health - Beauty - Skin Care (it's strictly informational, so I'm definitely NOT a competitor of yours), I'd like to link to your site.

My site is one of the best resources for info in our category. Because of this great info, I get a pretty decent amount of if I link to you, your site should get some nice traffic as well.

I think you'll see that my site is pretty clean and high quality. I consider my site a good product, and I only request to link to other quality sites. I would ask that you also link to my site in exchange. So you know, I've already linked to you and will keep it there for a few days until I hear from you. If you're interested in swapping links for good, please reply back so I can get you all of the pertinent information.


Dora Casso
RAC IM: 640187.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

That’s Not Gouda

I was trolling through The Believer website and found an interesting Q&A with Andy Richter. Here are the highlights. Every time I read the third and final excerpt, I laugh and shake my head simultaneously.

AR: Yeah, just because one movie with a submarine works, it doesn't mean that people are crazy about submarines and that's all they ever wanted. Something that I always try to remain aware of is the fact that it's really, really hard to do good stuff, to do good work. And it has to be rare. And it does kind of kill me too when people—I would occasionally look at the Internet discussion group when I was on the Conan show, or doing my show—and there's this thing, "How come there's nothing good on television?" And the answer is, it's because you're on the planet Earth. And it's because history is linear. What do you mean, there's nothing good on television? It's always been that way, and it always will be that way. It's like, how come when I get on the bus and there's a hundred people, there's only two who I feel like talking to? Because. It's because goodness is rare. Have you ever been to Lincoln, Nebraska? You know, whatever you and your irrelevant little pimple of friends want is so pointless considering the huge beast which the tiny pimple is on.


AR: One thing that really does irritate me is that I've seen articles since the show was canceled that say, "It just didn't find an audience," which is just such a lot of bullshit. And I know that's the way this town, the fucking retarded morons in this town and the way that some kind of bullshit line becomes the status quo, and it just gets this sticky kind of momentum where it's just, "Well, it just couldn't find an audience," and that's bullshit. You know, if you hire someone to bake pies and you're going to sell those pies, don't go and put them in the middle of an auto-parts store and not tell anyone about it. There was no advertising for our show, and it's become, "Wow, I don't know why those pies aren't selling. I put them between the windshield-wiper fluid and the oil filters. There just didn't seem to really be a lot of pie business. Whoops, that's too bad. I guess the pies suck."


BLVR: There was that one executive who personally fired Norm MacDonald from "Weekend Update" because he didn't think he was funny.

AR: Oh yeah, that guy, Don Ohlmeyer, he was a big scotch-drinking carnivore. Conan went to dinner with him once, and they went to a Mexican restaurant, and he ordered a big drink and nachos, and he said, "I want extra cheese on it. Put a lot of cheese on those nachos." And Conan said that the waitperson started to leave, and [Ohlmeyer] grabbed the person's arm, and said, "I want you to know that you cannot put too much cheese on those nachos." You know, I bet you could put too much cheese... I bet that even for him, you could put too much cheese on those nachos.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Exclusive Preview

Last week I finished an essay about suburbia entitled "The New Geographers" for Descant, a Canadian literary journal with a circulation of at least 35. It will be published eventually. Until then, here are the first two paragraphs:

It’s nearly 3 p.m., and I’ve been sitting on a green nylon weave lawnchair outside the Brampton home of Rohinton Mistry for the past five hours. His publicist thinks I’m a lunatic, his children refuse to make eye contact, and his wife worries what the neighbours will think of the gangly young man trying to coax passersby into picket fence conversation.

So far, only the plastic pink flamingos seem willing to keep me company. And our one-way discussions long ago became tiresome. But I remain perched on the front edge of Mistry’s manicured lawn, trying to understand suburbia. Or at least Mistry’s little patch. Herbert Gans, the sociologist and author of
The Levittowners spent a year living in the suburbs back in the 1960s. The least I can do is spend the day.

The current issue of eye has an editorial about the suburbs, which is the flimsy explanation for why I’m offering a teaser for my article. Stay tuned for a behind-the-scenes look into the making of the essay, coming soon.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Political Chum

This excerpt is taken from the February 19, 2004 edition of Terminal City. I’d offer the actual story link, but the article will disappear in less than a week. Anyway, here’s Brian Salmi, head of the Gnu Democratic Rhino Reform Party (a party under whose proud banner I ran in two elections) talking about the Federal NDP:

Several months back, I opined that the provincial NDP was a lost cause, a mad cow of a political party, staggering around waiting for someone to put it out of its misery. Well, as former Prime Minister of Bumblefuck Harold Wilson so astutely pointed out, a week is a long time in politics, and I must, for the moment, retract my bold projection. However, my retraction has nothing to do with any great leap forward by the provincial NDP. The hopes of the provincial NDP lie with federal Leader Jackie Layton’s ability to make the party relevant again.

Jackie Layton has done an amazing job of bringing the socialists back from the grave. Under the stewardship of Alexa McDonough and Audrey McLaughlin, the NDP all but disappeared. But Jackie Layton has changed all that.

Jackie Layton is smart, articulate, politically savvy and charismatic, and that counts for heaps in politics. Paul Martin, on the other hand, is smart and articulate, but is completely devoid of charisma, and, as we’re seeing right now with the Pay Pal scandal, not as politically savvy as many had thought

Did you catch that? No? Allow me to repeat it: Pay Pal scandal. In a more just world, that is what the media would dub the current buffoonery.

Friday, February 20, 2004

I Like to Make Fuck Berserker

What is that cocksmoker Kevin Smith thinking? There’s a sizable ad in the new issue of Now weekly (motto: 25 percent shriller than eye, guaranteed) advertising Smith’s upcoming lecture at Roy Thomson Hall (Friday, March 12). He’s asking $47.50 for the pleasure of his company.

Kevin Smith is very wealthy. If he were not rich, then I could perhaps-maybe understand the ridiculous fee, but what are you thinking man? Do you realize the extent to which you are alienating your fanbase by charging that kind of money? I say that despite the small print that offers "student priced tickets" available through student unions. As much as I have enjoyed some of his films, there is nothing he is capable of saying that will be worth $47.50. And don’t get me started on the inevitable service charge (or "convenience fee" as they like to call it now) that will be added upon the base rate.

Speaking of service charges, tickets for the Winnipeg date of the Pixies tour go on sale tomorrow morning. Wish me luck. Imagine: the greatest band in the world, ever, is charging only $30 to see them perform. Did you hear that Kevin Smith? Thirty measly bucks.

In other news:

* I am still very busy, meaning weekly or bi-weekly blog updates are the best I can do.

* Last Saturday I was on the streetcar, heading eastbound, and I noticed some strange stenciled graffiti on the Gerrard street bridge that spans the DVP. All it said was "Heinz Kuck" in blue letters, a spraypaint appliqué on the concrete wall. I saw about four or five repetitions of the name before I realized what was going on, and it was brilliant: Staff Sergeant Heinz Kuck is the Coordinator of the Graffiti Eradication Program here in Toronto. Whoever came up with that little bit of nose-tweaking is one clever little bomber. Unless Kuck lost his mind and decided to start tagging.

* In my haste last Saturday, I forgot about some more anti-mushy chestnuts. Don’t like someone you’ve just met? Give them the rejection phone number. (Yes, an oldie, but a goodie). There are also two new books on the topic of love, or lack therein. The first will be relegated to a quick death Quirkyalone and so will the equally doomed I referenced this particular gem in a recent National Post essay, but here it is again: personal ads from the London Review of Books. And, finally, the genius of Barry Yourgrau. I fear Yourgrau had his moment a few years back (I base this partially on the fact that I’ve found two of his books recently remaindered), but his collection, The Sadness of Sex, is a classic. Check this out:

I get a job at a hospital. It’s for victims of love. The wards are dingy and ill furnished, and the sufferings of the stricken in their squalor are truly heartrending. I’m overwhelmed. I have to stuff my ears with bathroom tissue to try to shut out the moans of anguish, the cries of longing, the desperate monologues into imaginary telephones that are never answered, never connected. Even semibuffered so, the tears often drip down my chin as I ply my mop sluggishly up and down the worn, crumbling corridors.