Letter to my 14-year-old self: On conflicted fandom and Van Halen

Letter to my 14-year-old self: On conflicted fandom and Van Halen

Dear Daniel, How you love your tunes! Raised in a musical family, you took your first steps to the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” and got into many different sounds, from Tchaikovsky to Sinatra to Edith Piaf. But rock and roll is your passion and you are, after all, fourteen. So here you are at boarding school in 1978, and your house mate, S., a kid from Piedmont, California (part of ...
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Thant Myint-U: The unbearable burden of history

Thant Myint-U: The unbearable burden of history

The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and the Crisis of Democracy in the 21st Century
By Thant Myint U
Norton, 288 pp In all my years of writing and journalism, the only time I recall ever being turned down for an interview at an arts event was when Thant Myint-U, pre-eminent historian on Burma and grandson of U Thant, third Secretary-General of the United Nations (1961-71), snubbed me before ...
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Stanley Cup 2020: Pro sport as alternate universe

Stanley Cup 2020: Pro sport as alternate universe

So, they’re really doing it. On August 1—a time of year when most players are on golf courses, water skis, or houseboats, enjoying a final month of freedom before the next season’s training camp—twenty-four of the National Hockey League’s thirty-one teams will begin competing for the 2020 Stanley Cup. At least, that’s the plan until the realities of a global pandemic take over. Yes, at a time when U.S. deaths ...
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Anti-racism: Yes, Canada, this IS a test

Anti-racism: Yes, Canada, this IS a test

Okay, hands up: how many of you have ever heard an Indigenous person describe Canada as “non-racist”? Or a person of Chinese descent? Or a South Asian? Or a Latino? Or a black person? You get the idea. The fact is, you haven’t: these folks and other people of colour have more than enough experience to prove the contrary. The only Canadians who describe our country as “non-racist” are white ...
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Still sitting pretty in Chilliwack?

Still sitting pretty in Chilliwack?

Check out that stare: behold its ruggedly confident, make-my-day machismo. Yes, Barry Neufeld’s got a good thing going—or at least he thinks he does. Hence the self-satisfied grin. But perhaps he can’t afford to be so smug. You see, Barry Neufeld has just had his card marked. Those of you who subscribe to my blog but don’t live in Canada won’t have a clue who or what I’m talking about. So allow ...
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Letter to an Icon

Letter to an Icon

Dear Bryan, I see you’ve stepped in the doo-doo. In the last 24 hours, your brand as Order of Canada-holding, All-Canadian-Guy-Next-Door rock star has taken a beating because of something you said on social media. And your attempt to walk it back has landed with a big thud. As your friendly neighbourhood crisis communications professional, I’d like to assist you in unpacking your offence while offering some free advice on ...
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The New Normal

The New Normal

All of last week’s grievances are First World Problems now
The nuisances of yesterday more trivial by the hour.
But Corona's also First World, and its impact plain to see
Infecting all who cross its path, from Wuhan to Tuscany. How we stumbled in the gap of what was then and what is now
Missing all the signs there were this plague was ours somehow
All the jokes on social media ...
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Reconciliation: What's next?

Reconciliation: What’s next?

Since the issue of Wet’suwet’en land rights and title has landed where it truly belongs—in a discussion amongst the Wet’suwet’en people themselves, the only ones who ought to be determining the relationship between hereditary and elected leadership—I’ve done some more reflecting on the meaning of “reconciliation,” a word that’s been thrown around a lot during the ongoing Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute. Last month, I was in Ottawa on business when I happened to ...
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Indigenous lives, white agendas: A lesson

Indigenous lives, white agendas: A lesson

Twenty-one years ago, when I was far less cynical about the potential of journalism to wake people up about climate change, I wrote a book called Vanishing Halo: Saving the Boreal Forest (Greystone/Douglas & McIntyre, 1999). Commissioned by the David Suzuki Foundation, the book’s purpose was to raise awareness about the coniferous crown that serves as the earth’s northern lungs: the array of plants, wildlife and people that inhabit the boreal region, ...
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Reading 2019: A catholicity of interests

Reading 2019: A catholicity of interests

NEW WESTMINSTER—The last time I posted a blog about my previous year’s reading (2016), the list was comprised of eleven books written by men. All but four of the authors were white, and the top two have since been “cancelled.” (The first, already in hot water for profiting from dubious claims to Indigenous ancestry, was Joseph Boyden; the second, two years before publishing a self-exculpatory essay by serial sex abuser Jian ...
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So long, Grapes

So long, Grapes

It should have happened a long time ago, this cancelling of Don Cherry, the Seventh-Greatest-Canadian-who-happens-to-be-an-unreconstructed-racist-in-loud-suits. But it seems fitting that his long-awaited sacking from Hockey Night in Canada’s “Coach’s Corner” would occur on Remembrance Day weekend, of all occasions. Sour for “Grapes,” definitely, given his oft-stated dedication to veterans, but surely opportune for many of the immigrants he insulted: since his remarks aired on Saturday, the news cycle has featured a ...
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The perils of nostalgia

The perils of nostalgia

Five or six years ago, around the time I was turning fifty, I joked with some friends that if I ever wrote a memoir (apart from The Rice Queen Diaries, that is) I would call it When We Were Twinks. Reflecting with mock wistfulness on the good old salad days, this breathless tell-all would cast a nostalgic eye on the glories of early adult gay consciousness: on the bountiful harvest ...
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