Television’s Last Stand

I nearly cut the cord last week. I wanted to do it earlier, when the hockey and basketball playoffs ended, but some members of my household wanted to watch the FIFA Women’s World Cup, then it was the Pan Am Games… Which is to say that, in our home at least, live sports is the last remaining reason to pay for cable TV. It’s a good one, mind you. A hard-fought elite-level sports contest is simply the best entertainment around, involving strong characters, intense pressure, great achievements, profound loss, and far less predictability than 98% […]

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Drought in Kenya 2004
Brendan Cox/Oxfam photo

Climate Change

The problem with climate change is that it sounds so innocuous. So the planet is going to warm by a few degrees. To plenty of people in Canada that sounds like a good thing. The oceans are going to rise. Surely we can deal with that. Look at Holland; isn’t about half the country below sea level? Is it really such a big deal? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but yes, climate change is a very big deal, easily the greatest threat we collectively face today. And not only is […]


The Cowboy Rides Away

To say that the cowboy is iconic in North American culture is hardly sufficient. Mythic hero is more accurate, but it’s important to remember that the cowboy was real, not supernatural like Hercules or Spiderman. The reality was that, for a brief period, essentially from 1860 to 1900, there were a great number of horses and cattle running free in the American frontier, most of them having been abandoned by retreating Mexicans. With the arrival of the railroad following the Civil War, the ’roundup’ and sale of these cattle became possible, leading to the beef […]

The Great Train Robbery
The original black hat.

'The Cambrian Desert?"
Brother Magneto photo

Rewilding Galiano

When the British writer George Monbiot moved in 2007 to a small town in Wales located on the edge of the Cambrian Mountains, he was excited about the chance to explore this largely uninhabited ‘wilderness area.’ The Cambrian Mountains Society describes it as an “unspoiled landscape with a rich cultural history and vibrant natural beauty.” When he ventured out onto this landscape, however, Monbiot instead found what he quickly came to see as “the Cambrian Desert,” an ecological disaster area with a severe paucity of wild animals and a much degraded diversity of plantlife. Where […]


Why I Read Non-Fiction

As a young man I read only fiction. My tastes ranged widely, from Dostoyevsky to Atwood, from Thomas Hardy to John Updike, but it was almost always a novel. Even a short story was somehow ‘beyond the pale.’ These days I read exclusively non-fiction; biography, history, memoir, the odd quasi-scientific text such as The Sixth Extinction.   It’s interesting to consider why this change. My wife and I joke that it is because, in picking up a non-fiction book to continue reading it, even if just 24 hours later, we don’t have to struggle to […]

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Ben Templesmith photo

Full Circle

There’s some interesting reading to be found in a paper released by the Canadian Media Production Association last week. It’s titled, Content Everywhere: Securing Canada’s Place in the Digital Future, and it offers up an effective survey of the current media landscape. At first glance, suffice it to say that recent trends continue: * Video progressively rules on the internet—YouTube now has more than one billion unique viewers every month, with 100 hours of video uploaded every minute. * ‘Cord cutting’, that is escaping the tyranny of cable ‘bundling,’ continues for consumers—an American who owns […]


Be Decent

“I’ll tell you what justice is not. Justice is not the will of the few and it’s not the will of the many. Justice is not politics. Justice is the law. And the law is man’s feeble attempt to set down the principles of decency. Decency! And decency is not a deal. Or an angle, or a contract, or a hustle or a campaign or a trick or a bid for sympathy. Decency is not the beast that bays for money, power, dominion, position, votes and blood! Decency is what your mother taught you! Decency […]

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Robert Reich's formula for government intervention.

The Role of Government

It’s the statistic that got everyone’s attention. A recently released study by Oxfam, the international agency dedicated to combatting poverty and injustice, warns that the richest 1% of the planet’s citizens will soon possess more than the remaining 99%. In an interesting related factoid, The Upshot (a ‘data-driven’ undertaking from The New York Times) reports that the richest 1% of Americans, on average and after excluding capital gains, have seen their incomes increase by $97,000 since 2009; the 99% have seen their average income fall by $100 in that time. In Canada the situation is […]


The Wisdom of the Ordinary

“Sometimes I dream of being a good father and good husband. Sometimes that feels really close, but other times it just seems silly, and that it would ruin my life… If I’m totally honest with myself, I’d rather die knowing that I was really good at something, that I was special or had excelled in some way, than to have been in a really nice, caring relationship.” Jesse, in Before Sunrise, screenplay by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan   As I write this, Richard Linklater’s feature film Boyhood is enjoying a good deal of ‘Oscar […]

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Home version 2
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Where We Live

“Chicago, on the other hand, was not built for people to come together but for them to be safely apart. Size, power, and the need for privacy seemed to be the dominant dimensions of its architecture. Vast as it is, Chicago ignored the distinctions between freedom and isolation, between independence and selfishness, between privacy and loneliness.”              Aleksandar Hemon, from The Book Of My Lives   Aleksandar Hemon grew up in Sarajevo, where he knew his neighbours and they knew him, where anonymity was “well-nigh impossible.” He was stranded in […]