LONDON, ONTARIO - Hermaneutics is on the road this week, sampling the progressive fleshpots and political flashpoints of our continent’s west coast. In place of the customary up-to-the-minute commentary which has made this blog such an internet phenomenon, I offer you this essay from precisely one year ago in which I announced my reckless decision to get married for the second time:
LONDON, ONTARIO – The single book with which George Orwell (1903-50) is most identified – Nineteen Eighty-Four - was published 69 years ago this fall. An oppressively dark vision of social manipulation and political tyranny in late 20th century Britain, few books have so completely worked their way into the popular imagination and vocabulary. Borrowing from Orwell’s dystopian novel, we call euphemistic or neutered language ‘newspeak’. Politically incorrect ideas are ‘thought crimes’. An epidemic of surveillance cameras monitoring public and private spheres makes us no strangers to the concept of an all-seeing ‘Big Brother’.
LONDON, ONTARIO –
Here’s an essay I wrote 29 summers ago:
I stepped out our front door at one p.m. to sample the humours of the new day I’d risen to, when my five-year-old son came running up to me with an amazing bit of news. “Did you know old people bleed?” he asked. He’d been riding his bike on the sidewalk with his friend when they saw an old lady keel over and smash her face against some concrete steps across the road. “That’s her over there?”
LONDON, ONTARIO – I’ve been revisiting two of my favourite American writers of fiction this month, Willa Cather (1873-1947) and Flannery O’Connor (1924-65), and have been fascinated by what each of them has to tell us about an explosive problem which currently bedevils our planet – the question of how people of markedly different backgrounds, temperaments and convictions can peacefully coexist when they are brought together in the same locale. Something else which links these radically different authors is the high regard they both had for the way in which the Roman Catholic Church addressed this complicated and heavily freighted question.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Last month for reasons that are starkly unfathomable to me, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was invited to give the commencement address at New York University; an event which takes place each year in the academically hallowed venue of Yankee Stadium. I do wonder just what the agenda is of the University’s board of governors in selecting a speaker so lacking in intellectual, moral or even oratorical heft. Do they regard such speeches as a species of light entertainment; an opportunity to let the kiddies feast their eyes on somebody who’s famous for being famous and what does it matter if he has nothing of actual value to impart?
LONDON, ONTARIO – About a month ago following the spring banquet of the Baconian Club, I made my way through the snarled up construction zone at Dundas and Richmond to the Scotiabank’s ATM cash booth. Just outside was a lavishly tattooed gentleman who stepped right in front of me and asked if I wanted to make a hundred dollars. “No thanks,” I told him.
Even if he’d been decked out like Daddy Warbucks, I would’ve given his proposition a pass but this pushy guy was obviously skint and up to no good. As I squeezed my way around him he said, “All my ID got stolen but if you just cash this cheque for me, you can have a hundred dollars.”
LONDON, ONTARIO – I regaled some friends this week with the story about the time I got the strap and I was struck anew by a couple of things. One was the remarkably convoluted chain of events that led to my persecution at the hands of my public school principal. And the other is the aura of fascinated horror that now attends such accounts; the appalled disbelief, particularly pronounced in younger people, that we ever allowed our schools to dispense corporal punishment.
Believe it or not, they didn’t have to send a note home first to get permission from one’s parents. They didn’t even have to check in with their own superiors in the Board of Education’s bureaucracy. They had complete autonomy to act as they saw fit and if some kid in their charge was being a complete pill, then it was okay to lay into him with a leather strap.
OTTAWA, ONTARIO – Prodded by the rising tide of intolerance for those who profess pro-life convictions – most pointedly and menacingly expressed by no one less than Prime Minister Happy Socks himself (with his exclusion of pro-life MPs from the Liberal Party; his endlessly repeated falsehood that unrestricted abortion is a Charter-enshrined right; his ugly stipulation that any organization looking for taxpayer funds to assist in hiring students for summer jobs must first attest that they are not pro-life) my wife and I decided it was time to walk the walk and made our way up to Ottawa for the 20th annual National March for Life on Thursday, May 10th; the traditional Feast of the Ascension.
LONDON, ONTARIO - One year shy of its 30th birthday, publisher N. Breton Downe has unwittingly invoked one of George Herbert Walker Bush’s favourite phrases and announced that “it would not be prudent” to continue publishing SCENE magazine any longer. The prudence which Downe is now heeding is of the business/fiscal kind. From that moment when he was visiting his sister in Toronto in the mid ‘80s, picked up a NOW magazine and wondered if something along similar lines might not be doable in London, profitability has always been his lodestar. And indeed, that’s as it should be if you’re going to venture into a line of enterprise such as publishing where it’s so treacherously easy to take a blowtorch to your life savings.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Ex-980 talk radio host and London Yodeller columnist, Andrew Lawton, is reaping a perfect whirlwind of hysterical abuse since tossing his trademark ten gallon hat into the ring as the Progressive Conservative candidate for London West in next month’s provincial election.
Hatred of the Wynne and McGuinty Liberals is so widespread and so pronounced right now as they try to hang on and extend their 15-year reign at the top of the greasy pole that we could well see a PC sweep that will carry Lawton into the office he seeks. But even if he should get elected, it’s all but guaranteed that there will be no post-election honeymoon for Lawton.
most recent books
Three Artists: Kurelek, Chambers & Curnoe
and his essay collection
No Continuing City
are available in
local shops and on Amazon.ca