LONDON, ONTARIO – Through my 20s and early 30s while I was building up a network of editorial connections that would allow me to make a go of it full time as a writer (at least until my early 50s when the interwebs started to incrementally decimate the publishing world) I took on a number of supplementary jobs in unrelated fields to keep the wolf at bay. Because I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wasn’t looking to any of these strictly mercenary positions as potential careers. I was after grocery and rent money; not a personal challenge or an opportunity for growth and development. I was happy to give my best effort throughout a working shift but when quitting time arrived, I was going to be putting my mind elsewhere and didn’t intend to give one more second’s thought to any of these jobs until the beginning of my next shift.
LONDON, ONTARIO – So how about that Bill Armstrong? The long-serving, charisma-deficient London politician just got turfed from office following an unfathomable 24-year reign as Councillor for Ward 2. As they elected or re-elected him seven times in a row, I presume his constituents detected something in the man that they liked (or at least didn’t mind) but his wispy appeal never travelled as far as Ward 13 where I live. Admittedly, I’m not much of a political junkie at any jurisdictional level but I did cover City Hall quite extensively for the better part of 2010 when Jim Chapman had his Voice of London website up and running and I watched Armstrong just as closely as I could stand and never cracked the mystery of why he kept getting re-elected. Suffice it to say that “Armstrong Proposes Bold New Initiative” was not a headline that ever appeared on one of my dispatches.
LONDON, ONTARIO – In 2007 Ralph McInerny, the late novelist (most popularly known for his Father Dowling mysteries), and also a translator, biographer and distinguished professor of philosophy at Notre Dame University, squeaked out one of the last and apparently one of the slightest of the more than 100 books he penned in his lifetime; a breezy 154-page literary survey almost offhandedly entitled Some Catholic Writers. Yet as the old saw says, “You cannot judge a book by its cover” (this one sports a reproduction of Sir Herbert Gunn’s famous group portrait of G.K. Chesterton, Maurice Baring and Hilaire Belloc), nor by its title or its lack of heft. Much meatier than it looks, this slim little volume contains short but profoundly well-informed and tantalizing essays on 35 very disparate writers, mostly of fiction, and is the book of its kind I return to most often when I’m casting about for new writers to check out.
LONDON, ONTARIO – London’s favourite feminist scold, Megan Walker, is revving up the publicity machine for the ninth installment of the Shine the Light on Women Abuse campaign which is promoted each year by the London Abused Women’s Centre which Walker has long served as executive director. My longstanding objection to Walker’s habitual approach to combating the evil of domestic violence is the unhelpful and irresponsible way in which she and her organization always posit violence as a male-only problem.
LONDON, ONTARIO – In addition to the beauty of their forms and the rich variety of their characters, no small part of the magnificence of dogs is the lessons they so effortlessly impart to us about the nature of reality itself. I’ve recently been thinking about two dogs from my youth and was suddenly struck by the book-ended lessons they inadvertently taught me about life and death and the way our world wags on.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Nearly 40 years into its existence, Museum London has wisely rejigged that never-optimally realized gallery space just north of the restaurant and down a flight of stairs that always felt like a dismal and under-attended adjunct to the rest of the building. There was a rather pointless reflecting pool down there when our spiffy new art gallery opened in 1980 but it was summarily sealed over when some poor blue-hair toppled into it at an opening. Thankfully, she didn’t sue, which seems to be a generational thing. Our ‘lady of the dunking’ didn’t come of age in a time as enlightened as our own when every witless mishap is routinely exploited for personal profit. But ever since her accidental baptism, that lower gallery has had the feeling of a poorly designed space that badly needed to be rethought.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Another round of predominantly gay clerical sex abuse scandals is roiling away in the Catholic universe. Three major detonations have set off this latest fusillade of clerical creepiness. All of them happen to be based in the United States but could have happened (and I fear will be happening) anywhere and everywhere in the world. The first was the suspension of the now-geriatric Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from any form of public ministry following allegations of decades of sexual abuse of minors and adult seminarians. As the former Archbishop of Washington, the formidably well-connected McCarrick was one of Pope Francis’ most trusted advisors and emissaries and an absolutely crackerjack fundraiser.
LONDON, ONTARIO – My first excursion off Canadian soil took place in my sixth or seventh summer when our parents packed up the four Goodden boys and took us down to Detroit to visit my mother’s Aunt Bea and her husband Ern. I remember certain moments from that trip with astonishing clarity; particularly two little side trips we made. One of these was to the Detroit Zoo which had an amazing reptile house where all kinds of slithery, cool-skinned creatures could be seen face to face with a sheet of thick glass intermediating the encounter.
LONDON, ONTARIO - Over the last couple decades, I’ve taken to reading the daily death notices in The London Free Press. It’s a hard habit to form any earlier in life and is less likely to take hold in people who haven’t lived in their community for a long time. You simply won’t know enough of the people whose ends are recorded there (usually, it must be admitted, in less than scintillating prose) to reward any but the most morbidly dry curiosity.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Matrimonially speaking, we live in bewildering times. On the one hand, we are asked – indeed hectored and not so subtly commanded – to not just regard as ‘marriageable’ pairs of human beings who 20 years ago would not have been regarded as biologically qualified for the position; but to approve of whatever sort of union they contractualize. On the other hand, a large proportion of young couples of all orientations don’t see the point of marriage at all and blithely forgo it altogether without censure or reprobation (except perhaps from their traditionalist elders whose concerns are of little account).
THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
Monday, January 28
St. Peter's Seminary
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