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: his 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.




  1. Why do banks still have branches? It isn’t to handle complex transactions, serve customers or even make money. It’s largely to bring in new business. They’re sales offices.
  1. Diplomatic dining. Here’s a deep and tasty dive into the role of diplomatic meals to gain advantage, secure peace and charm offensive foes. “Voices are lowered and swords left at the door.”
  1. The world beyond our doors. During COVID, desperate for the world beyond his doorstep, Brooklyn director Adam Chitayat used Google Maps Street View to create his own world of amazing spaces, strange connections, familiar places and odd new things. Hang on  for his 5-minute ride.
  1. The best Canadian non-fiction books. On Nov. 2, the Writers’ Trust of Canada announces the winner of the 2022 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. Here’s the shortlist for your reading pleasure. As a previous winner calmly said: “Winning the Weston Prize was like having a huge burst of fireworks go off in the middle of my life — an explosion of adrenaline and joy.” No wonder: it comes with a $60,000 cheque.
  1. Weird wonderful cartoons. They will make you blink and think twice.
  1. Arrested for making fun of the government? This staple of fascist regimes everywhere has come to the US. When the parody site The Onion made fun of some Ohio police officers on Facebook and its editors were then arrested, it patiently spelled out why the cops were way out of line, i.e. “Parody Functions By Tricking People Into Thinking That It Is Real.” Its court filing to the Supreme Court is a masterpiece of the very thing it parodies.
  1. Bond, James Bond. For decades, the James Bond franchise was the biggest by far in the US movie world. Over 60 years, from Dr. No with Sean Connery in 1962,  to No Time to Die with Daniel Craig last year,  Bond films grossed over $6 billion in US box office. But the Marvel Cinematic Universe is leaving Bond in its dust.
  1. Smuggling Khrushchev’s memoirs out of the USSR. Here’s how it happened, from Lapham’s Quarterly: “In the spring of 1970, at his dacha outside Moscow, Nikita Khrushchev posed for a series of seemingly silly photographs…….. A group of American editors needed the photographs as a sign to proceed with what would come to be seen as an explosive and grand act of the Cold War.”
  1. Televising car chases has advanced a lot lately. As shown by this police helicopter reporting on some teens joy-riding a stolen Maserati on the streets below. Tragically, the results haven’t changed.
  1. What do Nobel Prize winners have more than anyone? Not intelligence or creativity. But curiosity that’s not afraid to cross boundaries. In fact, many of them view life and work as a single seamless hobby.
  1. Odd, intense, electric. Years ago I heard a young French pianist at Koerner Hall. He turned my favourite classical chestnuts into thrilling new ways of hearing the world. And now he’s back. Lucas Debargue returns to Koerner Hall on Saturday evening, October 29th. Simply by reading these words you can save 15% on your tickets when you key in the promo code RAMSAY15 (all caps).

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