Bob Ramsay

I have seen the enemy and it is…

Words. An odd thought from someone who lives for them and earns a livelihood from them.

But while we’re all still fighting over fake news and free speech and truth and consequences, less than two months ago on November 22nd the San Francisco company Open AI released its latest generation writing bot called Chat GPT. It is to the revolution of thought what wheels were to roads.

Given the initial media response, ChatGPT will either shutter universities, vaporize teachers and homework, and eliminate rational debate, or usher in a new age of enlightenment. But as with many new technologies and bad drugs, the early days ChatGPT is fun and often magic. You ask it a question; it gives you a lengthy, thoughtful, nuanced, and often chummy reply. From 50 words to 5,000. Kul!

Meanwhile…

I’m not wild about Harry.

Like most people who come from a family, I cringe for the Windsors whose prodigal son gives fresh new meaning to the idea of zealous indiscretion. And we haven’t even heard yet from the really offended party, Harry’s wife, who lived for some years in Toronto at 10 Yarmouth Road.

Perhaps we can turn our heads, then, to the matter of Royal Warrants. These are granted to companies that provide goods or services to the Royal Household. Everyone is waiting for Charles to be crowned so that an entire new generation of companies can put on their jam jars: “Supplier of jam to King Charles III.” You, too, can apply!

Meanwhile…

“Come see us before we come see you.”

I remember growing up in Edmonton, Christmas was the busiest time of year. My father was a florist and my mom and I picked him up at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and brought him home, exhausted, to sleep – just as soon as he dealt with the complaints from customers who hadn’t got their flowers yet. He’d be in bed by 10 and slept for 12 hours straight, which let Santa deliver gifts late the next morning. But no matter how tired he was, we never forgot to put out milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve, a tradition that still has me headed to the fridge tonight.

Meanwhile…

Happy birthday, Jesus

I remember growing up in Edmonton, Christmas was the busiest time of year. My father was a florist and my mom and I picked him up at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and brought him home, exhausted, to sleep – just as soon as he dealt with the complaints from customers who hadn’t got their flowers yet. He’d be in bed by 10 and slept for 12 hours straight, which let Santa deliver gifts late the next morning. But no matter how tired he was, we never forgot to put out milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve, a tradition that still has me headed to the fridge tonight.

Meanwhile…

Jack Diamond, Architect, 1932-2022

Jack Diamond died last Sunday, one week short of his 90th birthday, and proof that living an engaged life often means a long one. He hated the word “starchitect”, but he was one because he had the will and the vision and the ego to create some of the great concert halls and opera houses in the world today. These are not run by people who lack willpower themselves, as this documentary (Password: Master) on his creation of the Mariinsky II Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, reveals.

Dear Mr. Putin: “People are not beans.”

“Units are not units, except on a map,” said Frederick Kagan, a senior fellow and director of the critical-threats project at the American Enterprise Institute. “If you take a bunch of pissed-off, demoralized, scared, untrained humans, give them weapons and throw them into a fighting force, you don’t have soldiers.”

This is just one problem Russia’s president faces: a Potemkin Village of an army. The other threat comes from the 300 million other Europeans who will pay a fortune to stay warm this winter and never forget the man and the nation that did this to them.

Meanwhile…

Cheaters never prosper.

Talk about an obsolete idea. It seems the people who prosper too much these days are the cheaters themselves.   But I leave that discussion to the clerics and philosophers. What gets me is the speed of cheating. It’s spreading from poker to fishing, to chess, where a report this week found that American phenom Hans Niemann had likely cheated over 100 times. As one  pharma executive told me years ago, cheating is behind pretty much every scandal in his industry, and lest we forget, it’s not only rampant in American and global politics, it’s their defining quality.

Meanwhile…

Today’s new word is “carminative.”

It describes something, usually a drug, that stops farting. I fell across it in an odd place: an essay about Shackleton’s medical kit from his expedition to Antarctica in 1914, and which shows that brilliant writing can turn the most distant, indifferent subject into a pulpit for new thoughts on science, medicine, ‘life back then,’ and of course, endurance.

Meanwhile…

“Most successful people are just a walking anxiety disorder harnessed for productivity.”

Andrew Wilkinson’s idea won’t leave my head as I scratch it to come up with any successful person it doesn’t describe. Which got me to thinking about that other earwig, Donald Trump. He doesn’t seem anxious, except maybe this week he finally will, as New York Attorney General

Letitia James filed a 222-page lawsuit claiming he and his kids have engaged in massive fraud over many years. The document makes astringent reading. And speaking of reports, Wachtell Lipton’s on the racist and misogynist actions of Robert Sarver, the owner of the NBA Phoenix Suns, exemplifies how law firms are now policing workplace misconduct. But the most shocking of this week’s reports comes from the US Congress which revealed just how much energy companies have misled Americans on the industry’s role in climate change. 

Meanwhile…

“A Canadian citizen is a British subject.”

I’ve read this for decades on my passport, feeling even today that we enjoy special privileges in far-off lands. But it’s a testament to how fast things change now that one week the Queen dies, and the next, the King is having to shore up membership in the Commonwealth. Maybe Charles will be a different kind of King. As The Guardian notes, “Prince Charles is eccentric, impassioned, impatient, indiscreet — which, while manageable faults in a prince, are difficult ones in a king.”

Here is this week’s Omnium-Gatherum…

“A tiger doesn’t proclaim his tigritude, he pounces.”

Wole Soyinka‌ said this to remind us that “all hat and no cattle” is the true plague of our age. So I was surprised to see that “hating August” is an excellent reason to make bad choices or delay putting them off until the one we’ve just begun.  

And speaking of the Fall, the death this week of Mikhail Gorbachev recalls how quickly after the fall of the Soviet Union he became a capitalist.

Here’s to the start of Fall….

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