From Paris to under Stephen King’s dome and back.

Posted January 19, 2012 by Vince
Categories: Mindless Pursuits, On Deadline Snapshots, Writer Talk

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So, let’s write about books.

After another successful haul of books thanks to Christmas, I have an incredible amount of prose to add to my already excellent haul of books from last year. Slowly but surely that pile is being whittled down- the classic mantra of all book readers.

Books are little wonderful collections of art in my opinion. All that energy and work, hours of angst and blissful inspired glory, spilled page after page, all neatly bound, ready to be lost in…if you are ready to take the plunge.

Recently I finished two books that appear far apart on the literary spectrum but they were worth the slow coffees, teas and snacks I had as I flipped through them.

Each book is rated on the typewriter (remember those?) scale from one to five. The more the better.

PARIS 1919: Six Months that Changed the World

By Margaret MacMillan

Take a peek at the world map, see it all divided up by borders, both manmade and natural. If you ever wanted to know how most of those pieces of this great puzzle were created, read this book.

Paris 1919 is internationally renown so it won’t mean much to heap further mounds of praise on it but rest assured, the accolades are all well deserved. The research and writing which went into this political history book, which centres around the Paris 1919 peace conference, is incredible and a joy to indulge in.

As the world reeled from the end of the First World War its prevailing powers were bent on justice, acquisition of power, land expansion, global positioning and control. The strength of MacMillan’s research and style really delivers “fly on the wall” moments again and again as she unfurled those six months in Paris.

If you love history and politics, add this to your bookshelf ASAP. If you ever wanted a better understanding of Germany pre-World War Two, the Middle East, the Armenian genocide, Italy’s inability at political stability, Japan and U.S. relations pre-World War Two…and there is more, read this book. One thing I can tell you is this…the butler did not do it.

5/5

Under the Dome

By Stephen King

This 1,074 word opus by the master of fright, scream and all things macabre was a workout to carry around for its sheer size alone. For the record, I am a huge fan of Stephen King’s Darktower series, if you are ever going to read some King, read this series first. Under the Dome has nothing to do with that awesome series though it is the longest King book I have read since finishing the Darktower journey.

What continues to amaze me about King is, love him or hate him, he has an incredible imagination and impeccable story-telling capabilities. He is not lavish and technically great as a writer, according to some, but that does not matter. Dear reader, the man knows how to spin a tale. Under the Dome is about a sleepy town which becomes enclosed in a massive dome, essentially becoming the world’s biggest snowglobe.

How quickly does this town go to rot “under the dome”. Who is the first to crack? Who is the first to try to capitalize? And…who will stand up and fight? As King explores the small-town psyche of Chester’s Mill, Maine, you at times get the feeling that his descriptions of people in crisis, even under these fantastical circumstances, might not be that far-fetched.

A good read for a long book, not one of his best but it is worth getting lost in for a bit. I only have one issue with the book but I won’t ruin it for you, if you commit to this opus, you are in it for the long haul!

3.5/5

The 11 of 2011

Posted January 4, 2012 by Vince
Categories: Canadian News, International Beat

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Hello blogosphere, it sure is nice to visit again. No excuses for my sporadic care and attention to you – life is busy, passions get re-directed and ultimately, when you have spent your life writing, having another beast in the lair of your mind to feed might be one extra beast too many.

However, rest assured, though my fingers did not dance as frequently across this keyboard as before, while blogging like no one is watching,  it did not mean I was detached from the lovely, recession plagued, one per cent driven, 99 per cent wailing, Arab Spring jumping planet of ours.

What will 2012 hold? Who really knows but some things are assured: economies will remain tight, atrocities will still occur, politicians will still confound, the Toronto Maple Leafs will not win the Stanley Cup and you, the constant reader, the internet nomad, the blogging rogue, will still be out there. Happy travels and I hope you return.

For your review, by the warm glow of your tablet, smart phone, laptop or desktop, during this frigid January, is our humble submission for top stories of the year called The 11 of 2011. Better late than never….

THE DEATH OF JACK LAYTON

Who could have imagined the incredible public outpouring after the death of Jack Layton, NDP and official opposition leader, here in Canada. Gentleman Jack, as we fondly remember him, motivated and stirred passion among the Canadian voting public in the 2011 federal election. He WAS the Orange Wave that swept through Quebec and in other parts of Canada, pushing the New Democratic Party to unparalleled and likely never to repeat again heights.

The big screen at St. Andrew's for the state funeral nearby. Photo By: Vince Versace

Sitting in Toronto’s St. Andrew’s church to watch his state funeral on the big screen was a touchstone life moment. The celebration of his life in that church was an emotional rollercoaster I had never felt before for someone who was not an immediate family member or friend. From poignant audio and video clips, to rousing, almost Baptist-revival-like music and performances, Gentleman Jack’s memory was truly celebrated. He is still missed on our political landscape and for us political junkies, in our notepads and hearts too.

THE VANCOUVER STANLEY CUP RIOTS

An example of the public outcry after the 2011 Vancouver riot. Photo By: Vince Versace

Stupid is as stupid does. That best describes the neanderthals, hooligans and thugs who ripped up downtown Vancouver after their Vancouver Canucks lost in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals against the big, bad Boston Bruins. No one likes losing but someone has to in sport. However, tearing up your city on national television is no way to vent.

A common refrain after the Vancouver riot. Photo By: Vince Versace

We were on the ground in Vancouver the day after the riot as volunteers and normal citizens tried to reclaim and clean up their city. What had occurred just 24 hours before had left that community in shock. Watching and then reading the outpouring of emotion by citizens as they wrote on sheets of plywood or on homemade flags and banners, denouncing the idiots and proclaiming their civic love, was a moving sight.

FINISHED READING PARIS 1919

Every have a book you just can’t put down but at the same time, you cannot speed up to read through? Welcome to my life and the relationship I had with the book Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan. I LOVED THIS BOOK! However, before you rush out and buy it, take note, it helps to have interests in history and politics to read it. This is a dense, fact-filled book which is wonderfully researched and written.

A wonderfully researched and written book, perfect for the history-politico junkie in your life.

I learned so much, chapter to chapter, about the decisions and players that influenced and ultimately crafted the world we currently both enjoy and shake our heads about. The genesis of our mistakes, messes and some of our recent darkest hours, as a global community, can mostly be found in this book. If you do not like to read to learn, or do not enjoy history and politics, stay far away and go read another Twilight novel.

FORDVILLE  aka TORONTO

So, the mayor everyone loves to hate, in the heart of Toronto that is, is still apparently roundly loved by his suburban power base. Mayor Rob Ford rode to office with promises of eliminating the so-called “gravy train” at city hall. The head-shaking moments during his first year in office vary but one strikes us as troublesome, his war with the Toronto Star.

Mayor Ford refuses to be interviewed, let alone release his press releases and itinerary, to one of Canada’s largest dailies. He is still looking for a front page apology from the Star over a story he disagreed with. The mayor’s office is a public office paid for by the taxpayers…the same taxpayers who Mayor Ford holds dear (and I do believe his sincere care for them). They deserve to know the office they entrust to run the city is open to all…including media that the mayor may not agree with. Kudos to the Toronto Star city hall reporting team who have been doing an incredible job considering the obstacles in their way. Mayor Ford says he  respects the taxpayer, are the employees and readers of The Star taxpayers not worthy enough of his respect?

Seven other notable stories:

  • The Norway massacre in which 77 people were killed in two separate attacks orchestrated by a crazed gunman. So much youth and innocence lost to a madman.
  • NASA’s space shuttle flies its last space flight. Thank you for all the space exploration, spirit, innovation and memories on those majestic big birds.
  • Canada’s federal Conservative party secures their long elusive majority government on Parliament Hill. Like them or hate them, at least some work will get done.
  • The beating up of President Barack Obama. The American president has been besieged by his critics and wing nuts who would not survive a day in his shoes under such relentless and unfair scrutiny. He is still a good man who simply needs to lead like he can and throw some haymakers along the way.
  • The death of Osama bin Laden. For some Americans, this provided both real and symbolic closure. President Obama’s cool walk after making the announcement was priceless.
  • The 10th anniversary of 9/11. A heart wrenching day burned into most of our minds. Hard to believe 10 years have passed.
  • The “occupy” movement, from mere embryo initiative in New York to worldwide phenomena in mere months…what were its tangible results? Not sure…plenty of awareness? Possibly…that is if you were interested in listening.

Goodbye Gentleman Jack

Posted August 22, 2011 by Vince
Categories: Canadian News, On Deadline Snapshots

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Goodbye Gentleman Jack

Thousands of worthwhile words will be penned in these days and hours after the passing of NDP leader Jack Layton. These words will all have merit and they will paint a picture of man who transcended politics and connected with the common man. These words will still not be enough. Gentleman Jack, you were one of a kind.

Jack loved Canada, loved Toronto and ultimately, loved life and believed in the good we can all achieve. His political legacy will be the story of a fighter, of persistence and of wading political shark-filled waters with wit, optimism and savvy. Remember, this is an NDP leader who helped guide the party from the brink of obscurity to one which played wedge politics with decisive success. During Canada’s recent minority governments it was Jack and his NDP which carried the biggest hammer at times.

Then, the culmination of those efforts reached epic heights in the 2011 federal election…official opposition status. However, the  fates have a cruel sense of humour, this opposition status came with the Conservatives scoring a majority government. Nevertheless, it was the NDP and its “orange wave” which slayed the separatist Bloc Québécois menace in Quebec. Jack won by representing and connecting with the social democratic values of the Québécois. Jack won by being kind and genuinely enthusiastic. Jack won by being Jack.

In his farewell letter to Canadians Jack showed the political acumen which served him so well from city hall to Parliament Hill. It also provided that final brush stroke which helps define the man.

In his closing words he wrote, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Let’s change the world indeed Jack for you changed ours.

Goodbye Gentleman Jack.

Saying goodbye to the old girl: so long Pontiac

Posted July 6, 2011 by Vince
Categories: On Deadline Snapshots, On The Drive In

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Her name was Edie and now I have moved on.

No, this is not about a long lost or unrequited love. This post is about a car, my Pontiac Grand Am in fact, the one I chewed up many a kilometre of asphalt with, just over 285,000 km when we parted ways.

If you are “the driver” in your circles and enjoy it, if you smile wide when you hear the words “roadtrip” or “take me for a drive”, you will understand about the connection between a vehicle and a driver.

Ultimately, the memories that you make, as I did during my almost 11 year “relationship” with that car are about the people, places and things experienced along the way and not the actual vehicle itself. However, having it there as the one constant did add an extra layer of sentimentality when it was time to trade it in.

Now, Edie was not a high-end sportscar or luxury sedan. She simply was a four-door SE mid-sized sedan, ocean blue, with a great heart of an engine at 3.4 litres and a V6. When I told her to go, she went and when her ride was smooth and quiet, it was as regal a chariot you could find for a GM vehicle.

Chicago, Atlantic City, Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal, London, Windsor, Detroit, Parry Sound, Parry Island, Minden, Hunstville, Kingston, Killbear Provincial Park, Campbellford, Niagara On The Lake, Cobourg, Port Hope and on and on. The first roadtrip in it was to Montreal, fall 2001; the last was to Hill Island last month. The number of reporter assignments I drove to in it must be in the tens of thousands, from murders to raging industrial infernos, from council meetings to Junior A hockey games.

This award winning photo I snapped during Cobourg's Horizons Plastics fire unfolded just a few feet away from my Grand Am. PHOTO BY: VINCE VERSACE

Some of my favourite car memories are poignant, such as seeing a child’s safety seat as a permanent fixture in the backseat for the first time, hearing a five year old giggle and squeal about “we’re having a picnic in the car” while on Lake On The Mountain as rain poured down outside, roadtripping to Chicago in the dead of winter to see The Cult, listening to post 9-11 car radio broadcasts days after buying it, photo roadtrips just because, knowing I was safe when I got to it after covering the G20 Toronto riot insanity, moving to Cobourg in it and the new friendships forged there, parking on the Cobourg pier as waves crashed against it, late night backroad rides in Northumberland, starry skies overhead and hilly, winding roads just beyond the headlights and on and on.

The last few years were far less poignant and frankly a pain including getting towed three times last year alone. In the end, way more repairs than the car was worth resulted.

If she could talk, what would Edie say? Likely they’d be tales that could make a sailor blush, leave a lump in your throat or have you in stitches shaking your head.

I’m not sad to see the old girl go; she was just a car…

If you’re a “driver” you just may understand.

REMEMBER TO VOTE CANADA!!!

Posted May 2, 2011 by Vince
Categories: Canadian News

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One simple message:

GET OUT AND VOTE TODAY FELLOW CANADIANS!

It is a privilege we enjoy in this fine democracy we complain about and sometimes ignore. There are people literally dying worldwide today to even get a sniff of democracy in their homelands, let alone a chance to vote.

It does not matter what political stripe you are- JUST DO IT!!!!

OFF YOUR DUFFS, GRAB A COFFEE AND VOTE!!!

Ghosts, Rhinoceros and an Orange Wave, Canadian election has it all

Posted April 30, 2011 by Vince
Categories: Canadian News

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From ghost candidates to fringe parties, here are some scribbles from the notepad as the May 2 vote approaches.

GHOST CANDIDATES

The Toronto Star recently brought to light several local instances where federal parties have listed candidates in ridings but they are simply nothing more than names on a piece of a paper- better known as “placeholder” candidates.

Party organizers say it is hard to field a full slate of candidates in 308 ridings nationwide and to do so; a “placeholder” candidate is a necessary evil. They also say, in some ridings, they do not stand of chance of winning, so they just file a name and leave it at that.

This is a disservice to the party and voters in that particular riding. How can a party gain any traction or stature in a riding if it does not have an official candidate getting out there knocking on doors and appearing at all-candidates’ debates?

How about the voters in that riding who lean towards that political stripe? If they see no candidate signs or signs of a pulse for that matter, it comes across as the candidate and party are not willing to work for their vote or potential new ones. Better to have someone run and have their butt-kicked than have a ghost candidate.

ORANGE WAVE

The Orange Wave of NDP support is real it seems. Why so? The Conservatives and Liberals have not dismissed it even as May 2 approaches. In fact, with the Conservatives turning their guns on the NDP, as if they are their main rival now, it has legitimized the Orange Wave. We could be in for an amazing result by the morning of May 3. Michael Ignatieff may rue the day he resoundingly dismissed Jack Layton and the NDP in the leader’s debate saying they would never form a government. Which party is starting to look like a real national party now, eh Iggy?

THE FRINGE PARTIES

Do you feel like the five federal parties are not speaking your language, feeling your mojo or are hard to identify with?

May be one of these smaller fringe parties are for you. Depending where in Canada you are, it is quite the buffet to choose from, they are:

Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada

Canadian Action Party

Christian Heritage Party of Canada

Communist Party of Canada

First Peoples National Party of Canada

Libertarian Party of Canada

Marijuana Party

Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada

Pirate Party of Canada

Progressive Canadian Party

Rhinoceros Party

United Party of Canada

Western Block Party

Click here to find information on the above mentioned parties.

FAVOURITE ELECTION AD: “Our Country” by the Conservatives

Say what you will about the Conservatives, but this ad hits every patriotic Canadian note there is. If you hate Stephen Harper, just imagine Donald Sutherland or hell…even Don Cherry voicing it. The writing in it is top-notch, I didn’t know if I should stand up, salute and sing O’ Canada, bodycheck someone into the corner or run to Tim’s and buy an extra-large double-double.

NDP are Boy Scouts? Liberals grasp and Conservatives motor along

Posted April 26, 2011 by Vince
Categories: Canadian News

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Here they come down the home stretch and what an interesting finish it will be.

Who would have thought the NDP and its leader Jack Layton could sustain their surge over the last couple of weeks since the English language debate. Where there is smoke there is fire and there seems to be something burning here with NDP support nationwide as the federal parties race to the May 2 election deadline.

courtesy of ThreeHundredEight.com

The great site ThreeHundredEight.com, as of April 26, is projecting the NDP to climb to 42 seats and 20.9 per cent of the popular vote. That is a six-seat gain for the NDP and the Liberals would drop to 75 seats from 77 with their popular vote hovering around 26.4 per cent.

“The NDP’s growth comes in both Ontario and Quebec, where the party is up 3.3 points and 7.3 points, respectively. In Quebec, the NDP has taken the lead forcefully, pushing the Bloc down two points to 25.2%. Note that the Conservatives are down to 14.7% while the Liberals are at a very low 13.1%,” finds ThreeHundredEight.com.

Obviously the smoke is serious enough when you look at the recent ads and focus Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals have directed at the NDP.

Ignatieff was recently quoted in a Campaign Notebook on the Globe and Mail as calling the NDP “bunch of Boy Scouts”. As the centrist power playground of the Liberals appears wonky for them to rely on, Iggy is lashing out…is it a leftover stinging from Layton calling out Ignatieff’s attendance record at the House of Commons? During the English language debate Layton noted that Ignatieff had missed 70 per cent of the votes held, a number Parliament Hill insiders have confirmed.

Look into Jack's eyes....courtesy of The Toronto Star

The Bloc are being chastised in some circles for running a shoddy campaign as the NDP appears gain favour in Quebec. The Liberals are desperately grasping for support from the left, support which is galvanizing behind a leader those supporters believe in- the same cannot be said in the fractured Liberal house. On the right, the Conservatives have remained steady and on point, the united right (which has governed closer to centre than some supporters would like) looks to be insurmountable with Canada’s fractured centre-left landscape to counter it.

What to make of it all? You tell me OnDeadline readers. Can the NDP make a serious push to be the official opposition? Can the Liberals in fact fall that far off the Canadian electoral map to end up in third? Will the Conservatives nail down a majority?

One thing seems almost certain, barring a cataclysmic collapse of epic European Black Death proportions; we will have a Conservative minority government again once all the votes are counted. This outcome must leave some of you wondering…was this election ever worth it?


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