Bob Ramsay

Born in Edmonton. Educated at Princeton and Harvard. Speechwriter. Book editor. Copywriter. Communications strategist. Presentation trainer. Marathoner. Explorer of the world's distant places. Travel writer. Op-ed page writer. Fund-raiser. Board member. Speaker series host. Arts addict. And of course, relentless enthusiast.

The Horse’s Mouth

Far too few of us get our information from it. We only have time to gnaw at the click-bait,and my mirror reflects who the biggest culprit is.

So let’s see what lies at the other end of the world: the original reports and enquiries that spawn the snappy headlines. They’re incredibly easy to find online, and here’s what I learned from three of them this week:

Complicit

Victory may have a thousand hand-maidens, but so does complicity.

This podcast tells how to avoid turning your gaze when others’ bad behaviour comes into view. But while a big part of complicity is often silence – “Nothing to see here, folks” – explicit badness can never seem to shut up and sit down. See FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s “meandering” one-hour take-down of Western countries for daring to criticize World Cup host-nation Qatar; and Donald Trump’s “rambling” one-hour speech announcing his run for President in 2024.

But the best examples of this growing art form are the filmed tributes to mendacity on a national scale, like this with David Beckham as part of his £150 million sponsorship deal touting Qatar.

Meanwhile, here is this week’s Omnium-Gatherum…

Loud Quitting

Richard II said that, or at least his creator William Shakespeare did in 1595 when the word “doth” was used a lot before “waste”. I mention this for two reasons: the New Yorker cartoonist, George Booth, died this month at 96. As the magazine’s art director said: “if you can’t recognize a Booth cartoon, you need the magazine in Braille.”

But also because our under-rated Canadian seer, Dan Gardner, wrote about Booth’s passing on how we always misjudge time, and especially age, and most especially, other people’s age.

Booth’s cartoons were as quirky and charming as the man himself who was profiled in a 23-minute documentary on getting old and staying in the game.

Meanwhile…

“I wasted time, and now time wastes me.”

Richard II said that, or at least his creator William Shakespeare did in 1595 when the word “doth” was used a lot before “waste”. I mention this for two reasons: the New Yorker cartoonist, George Booth, died this month at 96. As the magazine’s art director said: “if you can’t recognize a Booth cartoon, you need the magazine in Braille.”

But also because our under-rated Canadian seer, Dan Gardner, wrote about Booth’s passing on how we always misjudge time, and especially age, and most especially, other people’s age.

Booth’s cartoons were as quirky and charming as the man himself who was profiled in a 23-minute documentary on getting old and staying in the game.

Meanwhile…

“You’re the smartest in the room.”

Diana Henriques was the New York Times reporter who broke the Bernie Madoff story, the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. She said Madoff was different from even the most sophisticated con artist who would try to convince you they were the smartest person in the room. Madoff convinced you that you were the smartest in the room.

It seems Toronto has its own Bernie Madoff. Albert Rosenberg conned wives, banks, investors and the world for years. CBC Gem has a wonderful hour-long documentary on his story, written and directed by Barry Avrich. [CBC GEM is password-accessed but free]. Very worth watching, and a reminder that not all frauds are online.

Meanwhile, beyond the watering holes of Yorkville…

Science progresses one funeral at a time.

Max Planck said that. He  won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918 for creating quantum physics. That year the Spanish Flu became the deadliest disease in history, killing 50 million people. But COVID, which has killed 6.6 million people so far, may be rising again.

Science is a lot more ready for it this time around. So it’s easy to forget the dreadful early weeks of COVID when residents in Ontario’s Long-Term Care homes accounted for more than 60% of all COVID-related deaths, despite them being less than 1% of the province’s older population.

Another way to ensure we avoid that particular fate is via art, of course.

Robert Lepage

No Canadian artist — no actor, writer, director or producer — has burst so many boundaries so often in so many places as our next RamsayTalks speaker.

To say the world is his stage downplays his effect on Covent Garden, the Met, Stratford, the National Arts Centre, Quebec City, the West End, Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian Opera Company, and of course many moving pictures on screens large and small.

And now, Robert Lepage will reveal where he’s headed next.

Reporting for duty.

Big reports on bad actors used to be few, far between, and hard to get your hands on. Wait no longer. Now, you can get not just the quick headlines, but the weighty words that spark them.

Last week, the Honourable Louise Arbour released her report on sexism in the Canadian military, which the Minister of Defence reacted to immediately — and gingerly.

Tomorrow, the Queen will have ruled Britannia for 70 years.

It was on February 6th, 1952, when her father, King George VI, died. She was vacationing at the Treetops Hotel in Kenya at the time and became the first Sovereign in over 200 years to “accede while abroad.” She wasn’t actually told until the next day.  A telegram to Government House in Nairobi couldn’t be …

Tomorrow, the Queen will have ruled Britannia for 70 years. Read More »

“Christmas is at our throats again.”

Thank you for that, Noel Coward. It’s what oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed for lots of people this time of year. But this year, the predations of the season take on a new and feverish tone. It knows if we’ve been bad or good, so we’d better watch out, we’d better….well, before we open any gifts, let’s make sure we get our booster shot, okay? 

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