Note to Andrew Sullivan

Something in Churchill resisted. There’s a factually ridiculous but dramatically powerful scene when Winston jumps out of his official car and into the tube, where the passengers greet him first with British politeness (no mass selfies back then), and then begin a conversation.  Andrew Sullivan.

Are you kidding me?  Even Andrew Sullivan is on-board for that ridiculous scene, and outright fabrication, designed to appeal to soft heads and mushy hearts?  Oh, the people support me, even if the elites have doubts!  Because the people are right!

Those same people, those salts of the earth, embraced Mr. Hitler too.  Sullivan admits that he got emotional and tearful as he watched the scene.  Seriously?  I knew immediately that it was staged precisely because it played so well into the cliche about a celebrated leader being closer to the pulse of the average guy than to the “elites”.  And these average guys were portrayed as unpretentious, hard-working, in possession of hearty souls.

And you got all tearful about it?



Bill’s Oscar Rules

Sometimes movie reviewers reach for the heights: “But even without knowledge of the artist’s life, the photos step beyond neo-kitsch into a realm where child-like transference merges with a dramatic grandeur to create both a feeling of vintage Hollywood artifice and authentic pathos.”

Whoosh! Thank you Village Voice!  From a review of the documentary “Marwencol”, the film that inspired the new Steve Carrell movie “Marwen”. It’s about a man who suffered a severe beating which caused permanent brain damage. He retreats into a marvelous world of G.I. Joe and Barbie dolls, that act as a kind of therapy for him. Hope the Carrell treatment is as good as the documentary.

And remember the well-known rules for Oscars:

  1. accents  preferably Polish
  2. Nazis and victims of Nazis
  3. a disability
  4. a white person enduring terrible obstacles in defiance of racist authority

Other Oscar rules–

  • the Scorcese rule: you made a brilliant masterpiece we overlooked at the time so we now give you an Oscar for a later mediocre film to make up for our previous misjudgment
  • The DiCaprio rule: You are trying so hard and it’s so obvious and we’re sick of it all so here, take your damn Oscar
  • the Spielberg rule: you got famous making shallow, popular films and now you did a holocaust film to show you are really capable of being serious so we must give you the Oscar
  • And the Amy Adams-Scarlett Johanson-Jennifer Lawrence rule: you gave a brilliant performance in your first film so we knew you were very good but we had to wait for you to be in a big-budget, heavily promoted, commercial Hollywood film before we could give you the Oscar for a far less interesting performance.

The films were “Junebug”, “Ghost World”, and “Winter’s Bone”.  Check them out.

Biological Annihilation

This sneaky little article in the New York Times seem to come out of nowhere– as the authors observed.  No one’s paying attention.  We better start.

It begins with observable detail.  If you are old enough, you will remember the annoying task of cleaning bugs off the windshield of your car after a drive in the country.  I remember it.  I remember how hard it was to get those messy little splatters off the glass, even if you used Windex or windshield washer.  You’d always had to take a second run at it to get the most persistent little blotches.

If you rode motorcycles, like I did for a time, you knew the experience of getting bugs into your eyes and mouth while racing along in the countryside.  Constantly.  There was no escape.

It turns out that we might be headed for a big, big problem.  Where are the bugs?

I look forward to the pesticide industry– which is surely studing the brilliant success of the oil (carbon) industry in sewing doubt about climate change — starting a campaign to try to convince people that 1) there are really more bugs than ever before,  2) pesticides do not harm bugs (except when they do, as advertised, and 3) suburban home-owners use more pesticides than farmers.  After a few years, and after these theories have been debunked, the arguments will become:  1) yes, there are fewer bugs, but the bats are to blame and 2) what’s the problem?  Do you like bugs?  3) pesticides actually eliminate predators of bugs.

A few years later and the strategy becomes, 1) all right, so we are causing the bugs to die, but you can’t sacrifice good farm jobs just to save a mosquito or two.   2)  it’s too late to do anything anyway.  3) don’t worry– by the time we die because the food chain is disrupted by the annihilation of insects, we’ll already have been killed by global warming.

At not point will anyone in the pesticide or farming industries admit that they were wrong.





Re. Noah’s Ark:

There 400,000 species of beetles
12,000 types of ants
20,000 of bees


I keep reading and hearing about women who suffer because of their perfectionism.  They want it all: a great career, motherhood, romance, enlightenment.  And they strive to be perfect in all of these areas.  They have “perfectionism”.  (By the way, the piece linked above called itself a “review”; it was more of a puff piece.)

It’s an intimidating word.  You might think it means they are better at all those things than those imperfect beings– I hate to presume, but, men?– who don’t strive for “perfectionism”.  And I get the feeling that women love this word, love flogging themselves with it: “Oh, I am such a perfectionist!”  Yes you are.  You’re almost perfect.  Do you have any faults?  “Only that I care too much!”

What is perfection here?  Let’s not confuse it with achievement.  An achievement is building a steam engine out of an old toaster.  Perfectionism is getting your wardrobe and make-up just right, making a dinner that you think is perfectly nutritious (I don’t think these women care much about how tasty it is), getting your report done on time and to the accolades of your colleagues, and making your yoga class while fostering a stray dog and marching against GMO’s.  There you go: I’m perfect.

And when it all breaks down, and you can’t cope, and you can’t resist those fries, and you yell at your kids– it’s because I try too hard to be perfect.   While your husband is enjoying the fries and watching the kids drive around the back yard on the riding lawnmower.



Autotune Your Brain

David Draiman is a classically trained singer and has an amazing sound and range. Disturbed is a phenomenal metal band. Really enjoyed your take on his performance. David was actually under the weather for this performance and yes the producers added autotune without him wanting it. He never uses it. He was irked.

The above comment appears below a lovely Youtube video of vocal coach Tara Simon analyzing Disturb’s performance of “The Sound of Silence” on Conan.

I naturally suspect Draiman’s comments a little– who wants it to be known that they asked for Autotune– but it’s believable, and his performance is extraordinary.  And Tara Simon’s skill is extraordinary: she spotted the Autotune immediately.

Why would anyone enjoy listening to a performer who cheats?

Well, why do San Francisco Giant fans still lionize Barry Bonds?  Because humans have an endless capacity for self-delusion.  We love what we see and hear and we want to believe it is real and we really don’t want to know if it’s not.

That why we would not enjoy a race between a motorcyclist and a bicyclist.  Not because we’re smart enough to realize that it isn’t a real race: but because it is obvious that it is not.  We can’t pretend the motorcyclist won because he was more fit, or more beautiful, or more virtuous: we cannot pretend that he didn’t cheat.

But if we saw a race between two bicyclists and one of them crushed the other, we wouldn’t want to know that he had an electronic motor and batteries hidden in the bike’s frame.

Did Dolores O’Riordan know about Autotune?  Her live performances with the Cranberries are among the worst I’ve ever seen of a well-known band.  That said, I would still rather watch her blunder her way through “Linger” honestly than hear a pristine, perfect fake version with Autotune.

Do you listen to CBC radio in the afternoon on your way home from work?  Virtually everything they play now is what I call factory-pop.  Fake beat, fake tone, fake instruments, and fake (Autotuned) voice.   It is shit.


Nathan the Politically Correct

In the play “Nathan the Wise” an elderly Jewish man teaches Saladin and a Knights Templar the meaning of tolerance and wisdom and love.  So, in our increasingly matriarchal world, he must now be played by a woman.   At least, he is, at the Stratford Festival next year.

The Windsor Star cast this decision as wonderful liberal boundary-shattering audaciousness.  Seriously?  From a company that will also be putting on “Billy Elliot”,  “Little Shop of Horrors” , “The Front Page”, and Noel Coward’s “Private Lives”.   Last year: “The Music Man”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”,  “To Kill a Mockingbird”, and “An Ideal Husband”.  Well, how cutting edge can you get!  They’ll never sell any tickets to those challenging productions!  Couldn’t we at least get some Neil Simon to lighten things up?

“Boundaries help define who we are; they can either protect or confine us. Whether they’re imposed on us by others or we draw them ourselves, they represent the limits of what we think is acceptable, advisable or even possible,” Cimolino said in a press release.

You might think Cimolino thinks there are hundreds of theatre-goers out there who will be shocked that “Billy Elliot” seems to encourage boys to take up dance.  I feel confident that when they come out to see “Billy Elliot” next year, they will change their minds.

Of course, the truth is that “Billy Elliot” is just about the safest production Stratford could present.  It is blindingly, mind-numbingly safe, just as “The Green Book”, supposedly about a courageous white thug who has his mind blown by a black classical pianist, is the safest, least controversial movie of the year.   Both of them play to our fantasies about being courageously tolerant and open-minded and better than the foils in these films and plays.  Generally, they confirm the rather high view of ourselves we hold as liberal theatre-goers.

Stratford Festival cast a woman as Prospero in “Tempest” last year.   The esteemed Martha Henry got the part.   Why?  I’m not clear on the argument for casting women in men’s roles, though we certainly have long had men in women’s roles, in Monty Python, and “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “La Cage Aux Folles”.  I’m not opposed.  Perhaps they were short of male actors.  Perhaps it was a tacky sop to liberal feminist audiences from Toronto who want to make sure that all their friends see the review of the play they went to see. 

It was not the fact that Marthe Henry was a woman playing a man’s role that bothered me.  It is that she didn’t really do anything with the role.

I didn’t care for Henry’s performance.  My wife wonders how I get the nerve to not like such a famous serious actress in such an audacious role when everyone calls her “acclaimed” and shouts “don’t miss it”.  Who do you think you are?   You didn’t want to like her.   On the contrary, I thought it might be a gas.  But it wasn’t.  It was boring because Henry, in this play at least, gave an unaccountably weak performance, without nuance or shadings, without inflection or color, and without interest.  But some people find it just so liberal to cast a woman in a major male role that I believe she got a pass from most critics.  Think about it.  You are writing a piece on this production for the Toronto Star.  You didn’t like Henry’s performance.  Are you going to write that?  And count on all those broad-minded, tolerant progressives to stand up for your right to your own opinion?   And humiliate all those well-paid elitists who paid over $100 for tickets to a show that didn’t get a rave review?   No, you are not.

Is this a statement that women are just as smart as men and therefore should be allowed to play the roles that smart men created for men?  That’s a shortcut, of course.  What you really want, if you’re such a feminist,  is for women to play women’s roles in plays written by women.   And fill the theatre.  And fill the theatre because of the women’s roles in women’s plays, and not because some man built up the theatre’s reputation first.  You don’t want to be piggyback riding on a man’s work, do you?

Quick– name a play written by a woman that you want to see.

Okay– just name any play by a woman.  Come on– at least one.

I had to google it too.  The only one I recognized was “Raisin in the Sun”, a very good play about a poor black family living in Chicago in the 1950’s who receive a large sum of money and don’t know what to spend it on.

They will probably get better parts at SoulPepper Theatre now that the theatre company, founded by a man, built by a man, driven to a high level of excellence by a man, has been hijacked by female cast members and board members and major donors and will now be able to provide a shortcut to prestige roles for the privileged women who are friends of the women who drove out Albert Schultz, and buy a nice cake for Ann-Marie MacDonald who was cruelly exploited when she worked there by being forced– under threat– to go out to dinner with large donors.  The nerve.

Let’s do “Julius Caesar” with a woman as Brutus.  Let’s do “King Lear” with a woman as Lear.  Let’s do “MacBeth” with a man as the murderous Lady MacBeth.  Let’s do “Hamlet” with a woman who can’t make up her mind as Hamlet!  Let’s do “50 Shades” with a man as the submissive!  Let’s do “Atlas Shrugged” with a man as the mediocre novelist.

Let’s do “Evita” and take the beautiful aria away from Peron’s mistress and give it to Madonna!  Well, why the hell not?  That’s what this is all about, isn’t it?  The unearned accolade.  The appropriation of the work of men by privileged women who treat male sexual desire as psychosis and have, temporarily at least, been rewarded with the collusion of the liberal establishment: the CBC, the Toronto Star, Stratford.

Let’s do “Huckleberry Finn” with a woman as Huck, and a woman as Jim, and a woman as Mark Twain.


Gaming the System

What we are learning from the U.S. right now (especially in Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina) is that any political system is only as good as the honor and integrity of its constituents. Even if a majority of citizens want sound, responsible, government– and vote for it– there are ways in which ruthless parties can exploit the loopholes and gaps in constitutional law to game the system. John Roberts may like to issue platitudes about “objective” justices but we know exactly how the votes are going to go when these issues reach the Supreme Court.

And what we learning about the justice system from the Mueller indictments: he who arrives at court in a limousine, leaves in a limousine.


Half of Everything

Suppose you had a big plate of delicious french fries, and a friend to share it with.  You both sit down at opposite sides of a table.  “I’ll give you half,” you say.  “That seems fair,” says your friend.  So you divide the plate in half and pick up your fork.

Your friend gobbles down all of his french fries in a hurry, as you pick over yours, one by one.  After a few minutes, he looks at your side of the plate longingly.  “I don’t have any more fries,” he says.

“You can have a few of mine,” you say.

“Okay.  Thanks.” and your friend takes half of the remaining fries.

And gobbles them down in a hurry.

And then stares at the remaining fries.  “I don’t have any fries,” he says.


“Oh come on– look at all the fries you’ve got.  Is it fair that you get all those fries and I don’t get any?  How can you be so greedy?  I should get half.”

And so it goes, until there are no fries left.

And that’s how we get to drilling for oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve.  One of the last preserved natural regions in the nation.

Not for long!

When the oil companies started drilling, some politicians with good sense, including Theodore Roosevelt, realized that the public would like some areas of natural beauty to be kept free from the massive destruction caused by mining and oil wells.   So they said, you can’t have everything.  They set aside some remote areas like the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge to be maintained in their natural states.  And the oil companies got carte blanche to drill practically everywhere else.  The government was generous– to the oil industry.  You don’t like oil wells?  Tough shit.  They went up almost everywhere if there was oil.  But yes, even then, the government reserved a few areas for the pleasure of that part of the general public that appreciates natural beauty and wonder.

And then the oil industry used up their everywhere else and began to look longingly at all that pristine wilderness.

The clever carbon industry has realized that public perception is not very sophisticated.  The public doesn’t understand that areas that were set aside to be protected from industrialization are the half the government resisted handing over to the oil barons.  (It’s actually far less than half.)  The public doesn’t understand that the oil industry already ate half of the fries.   The oil industry says, how can you be so selfish?  Share your fries!

Eventually, of course, they will keep taking the half the public stupidly offers them until there are no halves left: just a world full of arid, polluted, wasteland.

The owners of these industries have the means to live in luxury somewhere else.    But if you happen to live in one of these protected areas, you are screwed.

They will promise to preserve the environment, to clean up their mess, and provide good jobs for a lot of people for a long time.  And you believe them?

It is very important for the conscientious citizen to understand this important fact about the oil barons:  there are absolutely no consequences for them if they are lying.  The executives who decide to lay waste to millions of acres or allow alcoholics to captain their vessels, or scrimp on safety equipment face no personal consequences at all.  They never have.  Their corporations will pay fines which will not come out of his bonus.

I repeat: the executives of these companies face no consequences at all for even the most reckless, criminally destructive behaviors.

Think about it– when is the last time you heard about a corporate executive going to jail for lying, for fraud, for polluting the environment, for breaking government regulations?

But the public should not be spared.  We elected the assholes who do the bidding of the oil companies.  And we refuse to accept any plan to address global warming if it involves the slightest personal sacrifice.

We want a plan that reduces our carbon emissions without reducing our carbon emissions.

Only people like Doug Ford and Donald Trump can work such a miracle.


Twas the Night Before Chicken: Nylander and the Leafs

Twas the night before the deadline, when all through Leaf Nation
All the fans twisted knuckles in sheer consternation
Free agents were signed, all the rookies were hazed
In hopes that Lord Stanley’s lips would be grazed
The pundits all snuggled close to their mikes
With visions of headlines and thousands of “likes”
And Dubas in his glasses, and Babcock with his grin
Were sure that Nylander soon would be in
When on TSN there arose such a clatter
I turned up the volume to hear of the matter
And tapped on my phone, and opened Explorer
To hear if negotiations finally were over
The moon over Scotia Bank Rink looked morose
For it seems that no deal was even that close
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But Matthews returning to bring us some cheer,
On a line with Johnsson and Kapanen too
Circling and zipping like a tap dancer’s shoe
More rapid than eagles the Leaf skaters came
While Babcock whistled and hollered and called them by name
“Go Kadri, go Ennis, go Matthews, and Leivo,
Go Marner, Tavares, go Reilly and Marleau!
Go deep past the blueline, but keep it onside
Skate hard and push Norton and Karlsson aside!”
As dry leaves that before the hurricane fly,
When they meet with obstacles, never were shy.
So the Leafs kept on playing, and doing so well,
Hadn’t even missed Matthews– they really played swell,
Reilly almost led the league in assists,
While Anderson stopped the pucks with his fist
Oh maybe Gardiner was a little polite
But Dermott was solid and Hainsey was bright,
Still all were concerned– would Nylander sign?
Or would Gauthier continue to play the fourth line?
As I clicked the remote, it was now time for bed,
Down the chimney a puck came and dented my head,
And the door opened wide, and who should appear?
But William Nylander, holding a beer.
He was dressed all in fur, from his foot to his hat,
He was wearing the grin of an old cheshire cat,
He said, “it’s been 50 years since the Leafs won the cup,
Do you think Kyle Dubas will ever give up?
He’ll sign me I know, for seven million or more,
‘Cause he knows if he don’t, the fans will be sore.
They’ve been waiting so long, for the cup of Lord Stanley
That letting me go would never be manly.”
“But Willy,” I said, my hopes seeping away,
“The salary cap means that you’ll never stay.
They got Matthews and Marner, Tavares and Ennis,
They don’t really need you, they need more defense”.
He smiled with a c-note stuck in his teeth,
While more cash circled his head like a wreath,
He carried offers from Buffalo, Detroit, and LA,
And laughed at the bundles that were coming his way,
He spoke no more words but lay down for a nap,
“They need me to move past the Bruins and the Caps.”
Then he closed his eyes and gave me a whistle,
And stroked both his whiskers– which were more like gristle.

Oh I thought of George Armstrong, and Keon, and Baun,
For die-hard Leaf fans, it’s been far too long,
Do you remember that Cup? Are those fans still living?
If only Nylander and his agent were giving!
At long last there’s hope, this team might just find,
A Stanley Cup win– if Nylander signed!