Fall Line or Fault Line?

Autumn officially landed three weeks ago on September 22. But September was one of the two bonus months (along with May) we were blessed to

Why no WiFi on the subway?

Toronto regularly makes it onto the lists of the world’s great cities (as in ‘great to live in’). But the world’s safest cities? I doubt that, if by “safe” you mean resilience around the pandemic, in addition to things like personal security, clean air and water, traffic, modern infrastructure, and digital life.

But, as often happens, I am wrong. Last week, the Economist Intelligence Unit released its 2021 Safe Cities Index. It ranked 60 cities across 76 safety indicators. Toronto not only finished in the Top 5, it is Number 2, next only to Copenhagen.

This got me thinking that maybe Torontonians suffer from a kind of reverse NIMBY, i.e. we think we’re dreadful until we compare ourselves to places we envy, only to discover they’re worse. Like Churchill’s definition of democracy as the worst form of government, except for all the others.

Had a Great Fall

Which is as different for Humpty Dumpty as hearing “Have a great Fall” is for you. So now that the leaves are really turning and a chill is officially in the air, best to go down these little rabbit-holes before heading outdoors into the waning light.

Depression: The Good, the Better and the Ugly

I was checking my Instagram feed one night three years ago when I scrolled past this post: “Where has my beautiful love gone? It’s been a mere week and the pain feels like it’s lasted a millennia.”

These were the first words of a friend announcing that her husband had died suddenly. His death shocked me no less than the announcement of it on social media. I was slow in viewing Instagram as the place to reveal great tragedies as well as luscious dinners and stunning sunsets.

Hunters and Hunted

Whistleblowers don’t use whistles anymore. They rarely pass manila envelopes.

Today, revealing secrets is done online, whether that’s ransomware which can make your private medical records public, or bank records sent to investigative journalists, the juiciest of all being from offshore banks whose very purpose is to never be revealed.

Before the Fall

It was a good week for Canadians: we got our two Michaels back and we got a day to remember that we can change history and not let history change us by forgetting how badly Canada’s Indigenous citizens were treated, and still are.

Books About Big Things

Hostage books take up a tiny speck in the vast universe of books published each year.

The stories themselves may be harrowing, but their half-lives are short, as the news cycle moves on and another terror grips our gaze.

That said, Canadians seem to be punching above our weight, mainly because our hostages are mainly from the media, like Amanda Lindhout, or they’re diplomats, like Robert Fowler,

But maybe it’s also because we’re Canadians; we travel internationally much more than Americans do (63% vs. 40%), and we think our Canadian passport somehow protects us from being scooped up on the street.

Not any more.

Amusing Themselves to Death

So many people are dying of COVID in Alberta’s ICU wards that their passing is creating room for new patients. That’s the only good news coming out of what many have called its disastrous response to the pandemic, and which is actually ruinous.

In fact, doctors are now triaging COVID patients, making on-the-spot decisions as to who gets a ventilator and who doesn’t, and dies. Some of those choices will be made about children, age 5 to 11, who make up the fastest growing group of COVID patients. As one doctor said concerning these kids: “The curve is almost vertical.”

How Will You Die?

Likely from heart disease or cancer, which is what 52% of the world’s 8 billion people will die from, no matter their age or homeland. But most of us don’t believe that. We reliably underestimate the fact that cancer and heart disease will take one in two of us. We also chronically overestimate how many people will die via murder, auto accidents, drug and alcohol addiction, terrorism and even lightning.

Twice the Summer

Summer in southern Ontario is three months long. But in this very bad year, we’ve been blessed with the first five-month summer in many years. Remember back in May? Glorious. September so far?

Gorgeous. Time to count our blessings — and celebrate them just three weeks from now.

Terror Times Two

I was in New York on September 10, 2001 to meet travel editors. I wrote a lot. I travelled a lot. So, I thought, why don’t I do both at the same time?

A friend got me an interview with the managing editor of Condé Nast Traveler, which was like talking with God. He casually said: “A place is not an idea.” His point was travel writing shouldn’t be an endless “we went here and then we went there, and this place was lovely and that wasn’t.”

It was 20 years ago today……

…that 9/11 happened. So please spare a memory for those who died and for how our world has grown much less stable in the past two decades because of it. One good way is to watch Spike Lee’s film that captures New York’s faith and fate since September 11, 2001. Make it a communal thing: bring your family, friends, neighbours old and new.

Five Royal Scandals

My wife is the ultimate realist. But she’s always been a royalist too, which proves you can hold two opposed ideas in your head at the same time and still function.

But it’s getting worse. She used to glance sideways at the cover of Hello Canada in the supermarket check-out line. Now she subscribes to Quora Digest which gives her a morning fix of news and gossip from the Palace. She can barely keep up with all the scandals these days.


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