Illustration of muslim woman as cyber thief hacker try to get cr

A plague of intimacy

Read what you want – and pay what you will.

For the past three years the Omnium-Gatherum blog has opened your Saturday morning Inbox with news of driven people, eye-popping places, and new ideas that may have escaped your gaze.

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Now for this week’s Omnium Gatherum…

For years we’ve batted away the pleas of Nigerian widows, deposed kings and even Jamie Dimon to hand over our credit cards in return for certain fortune.

We can spot them and their badly-spelled pitches from far off. But there’s a new scam on the block. It’s from online marketing agencies who pretend they know us by picking up clues on LinkedIn and faking up an e-mail that implies we went to university together — “Go Tigers!” or that we’re both writers and it sure is lonely, isn’t it?… but mainly that they’re wildly impressed with “Ramsay”.

These e-mails begin with: “Hey, Bob, I’m free at 4. How about we jump on a call for 10 minutes?” For the first one or two, I thought we must know each other. But of course not. What was I thinking? This is the internet.

It’s when you don’t reply that they up their game. “Bob, I haven’t heard back from you – would it be a ridiculous idea to see if we might be a good fit?”

Then “Hi, Bob. Giving this a little nudge. These emails tend to get buried. Sure you’re super-busy.”

Then “Bob, I must have e-mailed you a thousand times.”

Finally “Hi, Bob, last one from me. Maybe it’s not the right time for you, or maybe you already have a powerful sales pipeline.”

Then I started getting texts saying the same thing. Then spam calls from “Autumn Smith” who’d sent me the original e-mails.

As a friend advised me if they call again: “Press 1 and when they answer, say: “Does your mother know you’re a thief?”


1. Damn fine wine. US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas may be economical with the truth, but not with his lifestyle of the rich and famous.

2. This kind of copying isn’t plagiarism. In one case, for Jas Knight, it’s art, and in another, with James Cook, it’s art too.

3. How long will you live? As David Sinclair writes: “Let’s assume that vastly different technologies emerging over the next 50 years independently contribute to a longer, healthier lifespan.” He explains how in his new book, Lifespan.

But the pharma company Moderna, which pioneered mRNA vaccines for COVID, is readying cancer and heart disease vaccines for “the end of this decade.” Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Paul Burton, said it will be able to offer such treatments for all sorts of disease areas in as little as five years. Here also is Dr. Melissa Moore, Moderna’s Chief Scientific Officer, on how mRNA medicines work.

4. Steve Jobs is arisen. A small group of Jobs’ friends and former colleagues has collected his letters and speeches, interviews, photos and memories into a book Make Something Wonderful. It’s free online as of last Tuesday.

5. Amsterdam to British men: stay away. Why launch an anti-tourism campaign to keep British soccer louts out? Because these Grandsons of the Empire also overcrowd Holland’s ERs and jails. Even worse for Britannia, French and German tourists are turning their backs on Brexit-Britain where you now need a passport to enter.

6. The economics of diversity. This Whitehall study came out in 2021. Start at Page 21 for a tour d’horizon of How We Got to Where We Are. and why ”We are facing a global crisis. We are totally dependent upon the natural world. It supplies us with every oxygen-laden breath we take and every mouthful of food we eat.”

7. Cindy Gallop was boringly drug-resistant. If the British marketing guru is famous for saying nothing else, it is this: “The single biggest business issue facing our industry today is not diversity, it’s sexual harassment, which prevents gender equality, diversity and inclusion from ever happening, by keeping out of leadership and power the leaders who would make equality, diversity and inclusion happen.” At least until last week when she was the guest on a podcast describing how she’d embarked on a psychedelic journey not because she was palliative or had PTSD or depression, but because she was curious. You might be too.

8. The dogs of war. First, just how close Russia came to conquering Ukraine and how far its petty pace day by day seems now. Also, why the Mossad hired Hitler’s favourite commando as a hitman.

9. Say it to their face. I went for a walk last week on our cottage road when a car pulled out from a gorgeous home that was for sale. The driver clearly was the owner. On seeing me, he rolled down the window. “Hi, I’m Bob.” “I’m Bob too,” I replied. He then said “I’ve just had my colonoscopy.” Thus began a  deep and enlightening conversation. This reminded me of Helen Lewis’ words on interviewing: “If you are talking to an adult and they tell you something that makes you uncomfortable — about their medical history, past addiction, odd sexual fetish — resist the urge to tidy that away. Instead, repeat it back to them and see if they panic horribly, or if in fact they wanted you to know.”

10. Bing Crosby sings the Nato song. Who knew there even was a Nato song? Let’s also not forget the guy who tried to tear down Nato, the Grumpy Trumpy Felon From Jamaica in Queens, and finally on the music front, yet another Canadian wins a major piano competition. Last week, Calgary’s Kevin Chen won the 17th Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv. Chen also won the 76th Concours de Genève last November. In 2021, Bruce Liu of Montreal won the Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. Which begs the obvious question: how did Canadians get so good at piano playing…and tennis?

11. What I’m liking. Barry Lopez’s memoir, Horizon, is every bit as enchanting as Arctic Dreams was last week. If you’ve never read this American essayist and nature writer, make him your new passion.

Also, I went to Switzerland in February and fell in love with their trains; I wasn’t the only one. On the flight home, I watched Emily the Criminal, a big surprise for a little film. Finally, a revealing podcast, Briefing the President, on what CIA Deputy Director Linda Weissgold learned from presenting the Agency’s daily brief to successive American Presidents. “It’s like cramming for finals every day.”

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