shaking hands

Back to Abnormal

We’re officially three weekends into freedom and what are you feeling? A bit like that old Ontario tourism campaign – “Friendly, Familiar, Foreign and Near?” Me too. Shaking hands, which I took to be a universal human gesture, feels odd and awkward. Clearing the deck of old habits, unfriendly friends, extra calories and streaming – they’re all my big things now. My habitual reads used to be the Saturday Globe and Mail and the Sunday New York Times.  They’ve both shrunk. But now I can at least start my weekends here and see where it takes me.…

1. The Economist Normalcy Index. You can now track how quickly your country is getting back to normal. That is, to how things were. Warning: this is not the New Normal, but the Old. And too bad there’s no index to chart how quickly each of us is getting back to normal — not the Old Normal, but the New.

2. 14 smells that remind you to breathe. Summer is the perfect time to remember that lightning, tree stumps and oceans have their own smells. They’re ones that stick from childhood.

3. A Whiter Shade of Old Guy Pale. Over 60 million people have viewed this 2006 concert in Copenhagen where Procul Harem’s Gary Brooker sings the 60s hit 39 years after he wrote it. Great pipes, years later.

4. The ones they missed. Investment firms love to brag about the tiny startups they took a chance on that turned into high-flying unicorns. But Bessemer Venture Partners takes a different approach. Being the oldest venture capital firm in America “…has afforded our firm an unparalleled number of opportunities to completely screw up.” Read how here.

5. Living with schizophrenia is brutal on everyone. But as with all mental illnesses, it’s easier if you have a place to live. Jim Cressy, now 70,  has lived with schizophrenia for nearly 50 years. One reason he’s alive and content today is a group called LOFT that provides housing to people who really really need it. Here’s Jim talking about his last 30 years at a LOFT residence. I sent them a donation and I hope you will too, because on any given night, there are 10,000 people sleeping on the streets of Toronto.

6. An incredible display of British pettiness. This falls into the sub-genre of cutting down half your neighbour’s tree because it was home to too many birds.

7. Take 2 on history. You may know Malcolm Gladwell’s journey through the overlooked and the misunderstood in his podcast series, Revisionist History. But he didn’t invent the genre. Karina Longworth’s podcast series You Must Remember This has been running since 2014.  It explores the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century and, as the Washington Post claims, it is “laceratingly funny.”

8. What is journalism? Big question. When you’re the Columbia Journalism Review, you can give a big, complex and nuanced answer here.

9. A people map of the US. Most maps show places or things. This one shows people by pinpointing the birthplace or ‘fame place’ of everyone in America and Britain mentioned in Wikipedia.

10. The mating game. Remember when you got all dolled up to impress your date? Me neither. But I hear that birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. And what better guide to the mating habits of the Birds of Paradise than that silver voyeur, Sir David Attenborough.

Forbidden Words – This week’s word is “nude”. Not because of its sexual context, but its racial context.

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To order a copy of my book Love or Die Tryingclick here for Canadian orders, click here for US orders, or visit your favourite bookstore.

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