Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Playa del Carmen, Mexico March 17 -- 29, 2019

We are registered on Air Canada's early morning flight to Cancun and on to Playa to spend two weeks   with Suzanne Laferrier. This trip popped up right out of the blue, and we wasted no time agreeing to go from March 15 -- 29 because the loads were quite agreeable. And then the unthinkable happened. A Boeing 737M8 goes down killing 157 people in Ethiopia. Its destruction mirrored another fatal crash involving a Boeing 737M8 killing all onboard (189) only five months earlier. One by one, and then a large group of world wide airlines grounded their 737M8's. The USA grounded theirs the next day and Canada grounded Air Canada's fleet of 24 aircraft and Westjet's 4 aircraft only moments after. Both the US and Canada, twenty-four hours earlier, had stated that everything about the 737M8 checked out and was fit to fly. (What one can read from their stated positions is pilot error was to blame.) Oddly enough the two planes experienced the same issues: within seven minutes of takeoff the planes stopped climbing and went down.
As of this writing, the loads on board Air Canada are not looking too good. They have a big job meeting passenger requirements with 24 fewer planes and 4,800 fewer seats in their service.
It appears that March 17 is our window to fly to Mexico; the following was posted on FB:
"To Playa del Carmen we will go
The Mexican Pesos will surely flow.
We'll see you soon,
Adios Amigo."
Dear Readers, the above is the first poetic insertion to my blog. It's not the best, perhaps I will work on this, perhaps I won't.

[Tragically, 49 Muslims where shot to death while praying in their Mosque in Christchurch New Zealand on Friday March 15, 2019. The shooter (alleged to be Brenton Tarrant from Australia) is said to be a White Supremacist who has publicly declared Donald J Trump his hero. This news flashed around the Globe and politicized the event while certain pundits had previously drawn attention to Donald Trump's acquaintance and discussions with the CEO at Boeing.]

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Balmy Beach Canoe Club, 1963 -- 1986

An early introduction would have been in 1958 when the Litho Print hockey team participated in an event with a Saturday night dinner and dance. I went without a wife or date, I had neither in those days. Nup, Sluce, Boland, Eldridge and others were the senior guys at the plant who had invited me to play on the team. I played one game on a Sunday morning somewhere and against some other team whose name never found its place in my memory. The drink at the Balmy Beach club was flowing even to me who was under the legal age. Those were memorable days with the first group of printers I knew. There would be several other firms that employed me, some for a very short time, and one for a very long time.
1963 Geza Zabados, a terrific tennis player from Kew Gardens tennis club -- who passed away much to early -- asked me if I knew anything about the wintertime racquet game called Squash. I had no knowledge of it when he introduced me to Balmy Beach and a game that would occupy my winter sporting life. (The first time I played this game I was seeing black spots before my eyes.)  But I loved the game and played it with passion until the required wrist snap was no more (the spots had disappeared years ago). Additionally, squash cultivated many good friends for me now that we lived in 'The Beaches.' 
In 1986 the beach home was sold for the princely sum of $150,000 (purchased for $30,000) and the family moved to north Brampton near Caledon, into a custom built 4,500 sq. ft. house including a recreation room walk out to the garden and pool. This was another world, a place and time for a new beginning for the four of us.
Thirty-three years later (2019) on a failed trip to St. Lawrence Market during a crisp and sunny afternoon we ended up on Scarborough Beach Blvd. to have a look at the old home and take a few photos. We never expected to see any of our neighbours, but we did with Mark and Ruth Lerner who still live two doors north. I then had the bright idea to have a drink at Balmy Beach CC, a member only establishment since the 1920's. Terryl and I introduced ourselves to the barkeep manager, she poured us a drink where the nostalgia appeared on every wall and cranny of this old old building. They were still there: Glen, Bart, Alex, Bob, Rob and others standing around a large circular table having a beer and talking up a storm. They still play squash; I saw Glen and Bart doing just that. The plaque on the wall - Geza is on it - with past champions in full view. Ken Lane, Peter Jacobson and Craig Wells are memorized over the courts in two foot high letters. The war painted canoe paddles hang over the fireplace and team pictures are everywhere. Nothing has changed except for a coat of paint here and there. Just as I hoped.
80 Scarborough Beach

Facing west from Balmy Beach CC

 We had a lively conversation with a few of our old squash partners for two hours; Terryl joined the conversation easily and wants to return to my old haunt often. Why not?

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Gerald Butts and his resignation from PMO Chief of Staff March 6, 2019

Shortly after Ms. Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from her Cabinet position as the Attorney General for Canada, Gerald Butts followed with his letter of resignation as Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Most of Canada wondered when the next shoe would fall. All of this took centre stage in Canada's media. We now had are own issues to rile the hackles of those who revelled in the blood sport of politics. Canada didn't need Donald J. Trump and his bluster during our political wizards calling for a lynching of Mr. Trudeau. All the while Trudeau stood his ground and admitted that he would always stand up for Canadian Jobs and the working people of Canada, and yes, in his own riding of Papineau, Quebec.
Mr. Butts - after Ms. Wilson-Raybould testified to her reasons for resigning - soon asked for and received approval to speak to the same parliamentary committee. When he spoke, his words were measured, confidant, humble and delivered with deep respect for his audience. I'm suggesting a similarity to Mark Antony in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar wherein he honoured his listeners as he verbalized his understanding of the events that brought all us to this day, a day that might have brought the government to its knees if his testimony lacked credibility. I believed him; not that the events where different, but that they were identical while being perceived differently by the former Attorney General. Beyond the facts there may be a tinge of feminism underlining a reasonable level of discussion in Canada. Trudeau's statements that he is a feminist and has demonstrated those views by appointing cabinet positions to several women, and then see it crumble (with no fault of his) was disheartening. The committee will provide their findings after listening to a few more players who were active on this file that had started in September 2018 and will continue for some time to come.
Meanwhile, an apology from the Prime Minister may be in order. He has apologized for several previous governments' egregious errors such as turning away the ship of Jews fleeing the Nazis during WW11 and a few other long since gone government poor judgement. Trudeau is accustomed to this and I'm sure would do a reasonable job. This apology - if he does it -- would need to be a barnburner if he goes that route. I think he should, and I also think that should be the end of it. But will Canadians except that and move on - the Conservatives and NDP won't. It has been said that, "Apologies are like any other currency; they can decline in value if there's an oversupply." [Author unknown]

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Jody Wilson-Raybould and Michael Cohen deliver their story February 27, 2019

February 27, 2019 was a big day for Politics in the USA and in Canada. Michael Cohen and Jody Wilson-Raybould issued their side of their story to the interested, truth-seeking citizens of Canada and the USA. The fur was flying, as has been said, on both sides of the border.
In Canada the former Attorney General Ms Wilson-Raybould had recently been demoted to Veteran Affairs and subsequently resigned her position from this Cabinet Post claiming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his executive staff had attempted to pressure her into changing her official position regarding a judicial opinion on SNC Lavalin. She stated all of this on National television and in session of an official Parliamentary Committee. The Globe and Mail had run an article two weeks earlier alleging that this pressure (without acceding) preceded her removal from office to a lesser position in government. Shortly after the News report by The Globe she resigned from this position and would remain as an MP without Cabinet status. For us, we saw and heard a competent, intelligent and thoughtful public servant stating specific information regarding dates and individuals present when these alleged indiscretions took place. She was impressive, and appeared to receive the support of a majority of listeners including the press. Virginia Woolf with 500 pounds a year and a room of her own would have great things to write about this woman, indeed.
The official Opposition Mr. Sheer, in a ten minute address called for the Prime Minister's resignation because he didn't have the confidence of the people to rule any longer. The second minority party leader Mr. Singh demanded a Public Inquiry into this alleged wrong doing. The Prime Minister followed with his fifteen minute address asserting  her characterization of past events were untrue, while his were perfectly correct and within his elected jurisdiction; he also stated that only after a review of her complete testimony would he pronounce her standing within the Liberal Party. (She is potentially going to be dumped.) The following morning news reports regurgitated all of the above and we await Mr. Trudeau's action regarding Ms. Wilson-Raybould's place in the Liberal Party.
Recently Mr. Trudeau's work and demeanour has been heavily denounced for his handling of the $4.5 Billion Pipeline purchase, the Canadian Oil Industry and of course the SNC Lavalin affair with Ms. Wilson-Raybould; this indiscretion, if it proves to be true could be the end of his government.
I believe that no matter what takes place from here forward that the status quo will remain until the next election in October 2019, and then we'll have Mr. Sheer and the Conservative party in power once again.
On March 4, 2019 Jane Philpott resigned from her cabinet position, that of President of Treasury Board in support of Ms. Wilson-Raybould. Mr. Justin Trudeau our Prime Minister, stated, in a very short message on national television that this was her right and privilege in our system of Democracy.
Let's just say that the rest of the story is yet to be revealed.

Mr. Cohen said of his President under oath, "President Donald J Trump is a racist, he is a conman, he is a cheat." That was just the beginning of his testimony, he a convicted criminal that faces three years in prison (beginning in May of 2019) for tax evasion, campaign finance violations, lying to a bank and lying to Congress. For the record he pleaded guilty on all counts. And why did he plead guilty? He had been Trump's fixer of matters that could have embarrassing results and that could have cost Trump money. Cohen set up complicated financial and business instruments furthering Trump's empire and brand. Cohen had threatened hundreds of Trump's opponents with litigation and other nasty outcomes to get what Trumped wanted. He claimed in times long gone that he would have taken a bullet for Mr. Trump. That was his expressed loyalty, until his epiphany struck home. Now he stated under oath that he couldn't lie, cheat or con for Trump any longer because doing so has cost him everything he now holds dear: his family and friends and his integrity.
Since the Stormy Daniels' payoff from Cohen's account and subsequent documented reimbursement by Trump, Cohen (on invitation from Congress) has come forward to confess his wrongdoing regarding Trump's affairs and business dealings. Basically he didn't want to do Trump's dirty work any longer, and, he wanted redemption for the mistakes he had made during the ten years that he worked for Trump. He wanted to confess his sins directly to the American people. Congress was trying to get to the truth for the American people. Just one of these wrongdoings was the sordid Stormy Daniels' affair that has been newsworthy for more than twelve months. [Most of us are tired of it except the media who are like a dog with a bone.]
Why should he be believed now? That is the battle cry from the Republican side of the House of Representatives and some of these questioners are aggressive as well as demeaning toward the witness. "Don't believe me, look at the evidence." was Cohen's response on several occasions while pointing to the documents he had placed on the record during his statement. The Democrats continually state that all they want from him is the truth. Indeed if they didn't get it Mr. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee, would personally "Nail him to the cross." 
Mr. Cummings' closing statement on the well-being of their Democracy was brilliant. "Frankly, we are better than this, we can do better for our children and better for our nation." [His fist was shaking while he spoke.]
I fear, as do others, that nothing will change while Mr. Trump is in power; he will continue to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to anyone who differs from him on policy and procedure; he will continue to blame others for any ensuing negative aftermath; he will try to win---at least appear to win---any thing at all costs even if it is to the detriment of the American people at home or abroad. And if he should get to the Presidential Election in 2020, and if he should lose, the USA may not have a smooth transition of power. Are the people who favour him that crazy that they would forsake their Constitutional Democracy and leave their nation in chaos? Who can say? Some say it's quite likely.
Meanwhile the Democrats (and some Republicans) will do what they can to get Trump's finger away from the buttons that are diminishing the value of the American Dream, and most importantly, off the Nuclear button that was never intended to be re-activated by every US President since Harry Truman in 1945.
History may make Michael Dean Cohen a quasi hero even though he was a long way from it before  facing Congress on February 27, 2019.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Donald Trump: A President Like No Other, by Conrad Black 2018

They, (the learned political pundits) who claimed he could not win the 2016 Presidential Election, had misread 50% of the electorate. They thought that Hillary Clinton had it all wrapped up prior to Trump's nomination as the Republican Party's candidate.
Mr. Black,  or should I call him Lord Black, thought differently. Why? He writes about  the American place in world affairs and its status with the lower and middle class of American citizenry. Did Barack Obama raise the bar on either issue? He thought not. Most importantly he knew that Trump had the pulse of the people who had lost their jobs due to Globalization and Free Trade issues wherein millions of jobs had migrated to Asia and Mexico where hourly rates for routine labour was well below the minimum hourly rate for North Americans. With this mantra he led his charge, "Make America Great Again." Trump claimed he would toss out the Trade Agreements with most countries who have been ripping off Americans for years. He claimed that Immigration from the souther border was creating chaos for America in Education and Jobs for the legitimate citizens with the continuous chant, "I will build a wall and the Mexicans will pay for it." He claimed that many of the Institutions like the FBI, Department of Justice and Environment to name a few where run by incompetent and even corrupt individuals, and he was going to clean house if elected. The lead in the constant poles continued to decrease when Trump declared that he was going to win without a doubt.  
He was right; the Electoral College made the difference for Trump when the popular vote went in favour of "Crooked Clinton" (a familiar name coined by Trump and used every day), but the one that mattered put him into the Presidency.
Trump is clumsy and erratic and not what Americans expect from their President. He uses Twitter to keep in touch and control his base. The traditional media, disseminators of 'Fake News' and the 'Enemy of the People,"  are phrases continually uttered by Trump. The CNN's of America pull out all the stops to belittle him, but Trump seems to revel in these body slams and bounces back with more of the same.
Black writes that, "His successors will emulate these tactics if he succeeds. Donald Trump is not a blundering reactionary but a battle-hardened veteran of difficult businesses filled with unethical personalties." Black goes on relating positive attributes about the man that the haters hate more than any other who made it to the top in business or politics.
Like so much of Black's work he has coined some wonderful sentences describing his targets. The one I liked above all others in this book is when he is describing Hollywood heavy-weights who deign to speak on Moral issues to the public from a non-professional non-acting scenario. Black writes, "Hollywood is a moral and intellectual pigsty, an asylum for the stupid, the corrupt and the vocally shallow who possess Thespian aptitude or a saleable appearance and manner."
I gave this book four out of five stars, but then, I give all of Black's work big numbers because his eloquence is unmatched.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

There is Simply Too Much to Think About by Saul Bellow 1915--2005

"...When it came to wondrous lucidity in the service of an uncanny literary empathy– to a steady downpour of intelligence–to a direct contact with reality– to sensibility attuned to the contradictions and incongruities–he was unrivaled. The book of Bellow's correspondence collected several years back by Benjamin Taylor–the same intrepid editor who is the harvester here – there is simply too much to think about further extend their sense of Bellow's extremely humane way of experiencing books, people, events and places. One witnesses his excited mind, in a molten state, running over." --Philip Roth

This author was highlighted in a question corralling America's greatest writers--he was not included much to the writer's dismay. I read on about the excellence of Bellow's style, content and depth of thought in his work in fiction. I've been focused on non-fiction for the best part of a year now; so  I looked in the Port Credit library for subjects Mr. Bellow had included in a non-fiction category. Up popped this book. 
The titles of the essays contained therein to name a few: Written in the Fifties--Laughter in The Getto, Hemingway and the Image of Man, The Writer and The Audience, A Talk with the Yellow Kid [this one is about a conman, a swindler, a crook who only swindled the bad guys who deserved it.] and several others. And in the Sixties he wrote more, and more in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties and After.
Mr. Bellow was born right at the end of WW1. For the purposes of this blog I'm going to skip to the obituary written by Mel Gluscow and Charles McGrath on April 6, 2005. "Saul Bellow the Nobel  Laureate and self-proclaimed historian of society whose fictional heroes and whose scathing unrelenting and darkly comic examination of their struggle for meaning, gave new immediacy to the American novel in the second half of the 20th Century, died yesterday at his home in Brookline Massachusetts at 89."
Mr. Bellow said, "I cannot exceed what I see. I am bound, in other words, as the historian is bound by the period he writes about, by the situation I live in." But his was a history of a particular and idiosyncratic sort.
I say, "I've read several essays and appreciate the art form which is his usage of the English language describing his loves and experiences." More will follow at a later date.
Mr. Bellow writes about the author Abraham Cahan who wrote The Rise of David Lewinsky from the poorest of the poor Jewish families in Russia where a crust of bread was a meal; where school was a charity, or at best for young David, a school that cost his mother the equivalent of twenty-five cents a month which would give young David a better education along with daily beatings at the hands of some of his teachers as well as learning basic self defence from the richer kids in his class.
I've read 50% of the material in his collection of essays, enjoyed most of them, and quietly put it aside to reacquaint with Conrad Black's Backward Glances. (This being a favourite of mine that I returned to the Library, reordered it and then put an additional hold on it.)
Bellow is a great American writer acclaimed by many, critic of other writers acknowledged and admired in this collection, but most importantly a master of his art. I learned a lot here. Thank you Mr. Bellow

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Wayne Walker, Ann (Ames) Kay, Owen McBride,

FaceBook has brought another former AJ employee into my life after only 27 years this time. Somehow Wayne Walker's posts found their way to my Newsfeed and I was reading about his travels,  but mostly about his absolute love of family. He was emphatic in his love and attachment to his grandchildren, wife and sons. His vacations have been filled with world wide experiences whereby his family has been a large part of their success and enjoyment. All of this, and my memory of a young man working in AJ's bindery, a young man who wanted to be a salesman, led to his start in sales because Duncan and I liked his chances for success.
We texted a few messages back and forth and set a date of February 7, 2019 for a luncheon at Cactus Club Cafe.
I was twenty minutes early and Wayne was ten minutes early. One of the first things he said was that, "One must always be early, or at the very worst, on time for an appointment."
We exchanged greetings with a man hug and he asked the waitress for a bigger table (not the two seater they had given me). We got comfortable and Wayne jumped in and told me what had been his focus such as vacations, family and the printing business that had brought success and financial gains that he was very proud of. [I was thrilled to hear that he hit his stride in sales after a ten year period at AJ.] I was almost silent as he spun his story: a fascinating one to be sure. He thanked Duncan and myself for paying the fee for the "Dale Carnegie Course." I'd forgotten that, and other aspects of his time at AJ. We (I) talked about my current lifestyle and then we talked about our time at AJ. Of course Wayne wanted to know about the Clark Litho aspect regarding the final closing of Arthurs-Jones Lithographing; that was after Duncan and I had been out and in retirement for several years. Some of this information he had known, and some he didn't. There were good and bad times, as there always is, and we parted after two hours and promised to meet again. Wayne would like it to be with his wife, Terryl and me the next time.

Ann Ames and I met in business; she a designer and me a printer. We helped launch Roots, a retailer of clothing on to the Canadian market with a beautifully produced catalogue. I am going to write it here, perhaps I shouldn't but I must. When the invoice to Roots was overdue I called and was told that they planned on paying us the full amount, but only in twelve equal payments over the next twelve months. Somehow that wasn't part of the original negotiation, and I've never forgot or forgiven the oversight. Moreover, I've never purchased a thing from Roots in forty years. They have done exceedingly well without printing or purchases from AJ or me.
Ann and I enjoyed working together for many years. If memory serves I introduced her to Grant McDiarmaid of Fiberglas Canada. That union was exemplary and many good things happened over the years that followed. (I am not entirely certain of who introduced whom; perhaps Ann's recollections will help.)
Again, on Facebook, a mutual friend brought us together (Willie Gomez). I have an invitation for coffee on the table for the week of February 18, 2019. I look forward to seeing her again.
[We're having lunch this week on Thursday in Cabbagetown just down the street where my buddy John Culliton used to live.]
George and Ann met me at the door and guided me into the kitchen where we coffee'd and talked for two hours. She had the same experience with Roots as did we at AJ (12 equal payments over 12 months to settle an account receivable) which rankled me then and still does to this very day. But, the rest of our time was spent talking about the demise of our industry into Who can do it the fastest, Who can do it the cheapest, but never who can do it the best (which was the difference AJ and Ann Ames Design was built on). Most importantly, we talked about the characters we had met and worked with, thoroughly enjoyed, and lived with in our time.
Ann and George are happily retired and sailing away during Ontario's wonderful summertime.
This was a fabulous visit and one we hope to repeat this summer at Heather Cooper's museum and home in Southern Ontario.

Owen McBride called me with bad news that I had earlier heard from Len Hughes; it was the tragic news of Grant McDiarmaid's untimely death. Owen was one of our close knit group that included Dean, Ann, Len and Herb, all suppliers to Fiberglas Canada, all directed by Grant with the exception of Len who was the CFO for Fiberglas. We gave our time, talent, energy and expertise with gusto to meet his pursuits in managing the Advertising and Marketing departments at Fiberglas. And he rewarded us with plenty of assignments: Dean, Ann and Owen divided the creative artwork and AJ printed it.
Owen is the epitome of the Irishman that always has a new joke, and spoken with an accent that one could never tire. We met in his two-man studio on Church Street south of Bloor. It was called the Vector Groups; it had two employees, Owen and Brian Salter. They had a project for Tasco requiring printed brochures. They had spoken to Mr. Bill Adams who handed me the assignment. First off they needed a quote for the job. I thanked them without embellishment other than to say that I'd get the pricing done quickly. In two days I was in their office with a typed proposal and the details on how we would do the job to their complete satisfaction...guaranteed. I believe they had other printers' prices at the time because Brian said to me, "Can't you do any better than that?" I was as green as grass in negotiating circumstances and replied quickly and assertively, "No I can't." We exchanged a few more thoughts and I was walking to the door when Owen said, "There goes Gary McFxxxhead."
Owen and I with several of our team enjoyed many 'jars' after a hot game of squash. We didn't golf together because they wouldn't allow a bag of full of the sheleighly on the course.
Fourty years have passed and Owen still addresses me accordingly; he said it as soon as I answered  the phone with an 'I can't believe it's you Owen.' He lives in Collingwood with his wife Ingrid and has raised two sons. He'd like us to visit his ideal surroundings in happy retirement, and we will.
I sent this column to Owen whereby he made several comments regarding my memory of the facts: the company was called Index Studio; Brian Salter came along later; the other dude in the studio was Joh McConnell. So far I guess I'm batting pretty low. Whose counting? Not me.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico March 17 -- 29, 2019

We are registered on Air Canada's early morning flight to Cancun and on to Playa to spend two weeks   with Suzanne Laferrier. This trip...