The tone is insensitive, but there’s some gleanable insight, too.

Saw, earlier today, that National Post columnist Christie Blatchford was trending big time on the Twitter machine, so I decided to, after reading some of the vitriol that was being hurled her way, see what all the fuss was about.

If you haven’t read her quick-to-become infamous column reflecting on the death of Jack Layton, and the media coverage of it, please have a look and then come back for my views on it.

In a general sense, my overall feeling after reading the column (several times) was one of unease, due to its insensitive nature and timing. However, in a more detailed sense, I find myself carrying a number of view points, not the least of which is that the column has its flaws, certainly, but also some thoughtful insight. I do believe that some have misinterpreted the column as an all-out attack on the memory of the man when, really, it appears to me to be, primarily, a damning of the media coverage of Layton’s passing.

Exclusive to that, I’m again dumbfounded by the electronic “stoning” that goes on with the age of instant messaging. Blatchford is certainly a target of that right now — check the Twitter postings or comments under her column in The Post. I won’t cover that ground again here, but suggest my column on the case of hockey agent Todd Reynolds may be an appropriate companion.

There is plenty of insensitivity to go around in her piece — good lord, does one really have to refer to Layton in his last public appearance as appearing “cadaverous” on the very day he died? Does one really need to refer to the recently deceased’s last public note as “vainglorious” even as those who feel his loss most are only beginning to mourn? I’d suggest you might wait a day or two on that one.

To say that there’s nothing unusual about the outpouring of public grief over his loss is a bit laughable. It is, of course, not usual at all for this kind of thing to happen. Many, many people die every day and it doesn’t spark public gatherings of a national sort. It is an indicator of how strongly some people feel about Layton. Blatchford’s insistence that the age of Facebook and Twitter and instant messaging somehow diminishes the spontaneity and number of people who gathered to honour Layton rings hollow. You can message me a thousand times about something, but if I don’t frankly give a damn about you or your cause, I’m not showing up.

Still, I believe Blatchford is not entirely off in her assessment of the story. Perhaps just the characterization of it. Her damning of the media coverage is also not entirely off the mark, although there, too, she occasionally shows a misunderstanding of the job and demands of a live anchor. She particularly gives a rough ride to CBC’s Evan Solomon.  She’s correct in her assertion that Prime Minister Harper’s remarks of the day needn’t have been solely focussed on Mr. Layton.

As well, I think Blatchford has struck an incisive note when she muses on the attachment people in the modern age have for someone they don’t know personally. That is either testament to the power of modern media (nice call, Marshall McLuhan) or to something else. Perhaps a longing by people to attach to someone who they believe exhibits a trait or traits to which they can easily relate or praise.

Her noting of a certain inauthenticity when it comes to media people waxing on about a person they may have only met briefly or interviewed once is bang on. Happens all the time. Regrettably, I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it too.

However, when she criticizes Solomon for his repeated use of the word “extraordinary” in reference to Layton’s final letter (a term that she agreed was actually appropriate) or his “repeatedly” speaking of the difficulty as “we all try to cope” with the news of Layton’s passing, Blatchford illustrates either a disregard for or, as I say, ignorance of the job of a live broadcaster during an unfolding story of great drama. When you’re live, and anchoring ongoing coverage, you’ve a duty to an audience that is changing. Tuning in, tuning out. In service of that, it’s quite necessary to be a trifle repetitive to the ears of those who don’t stray. It’s a little different from print where you write it once, edit it a time or two and then send it out to the world in its static form. There’s no delete button on a live broadcast. The story doesn’t end when you type the last period and hit “send.”

Blatchford asks a question that I think is an easy one to answer. She wrote:

Who thinks to leave a 1,000-word missive meant for public consumption and released by his family and the party mid-day, happily just as Mr. Solomon and his fellows were in danger of running out of pap? Who seriously writes of himself, “All my life I have worked to make things better”?

I believe many, many people leave final messages. They do it for family, friends and colleagues. That message comes in different forms. A hug, a kiss, a word of wisdom, a video or a written message. Not very many do it for the public at large. Except public figures. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Jack Layton felt obligated to record some kind of sentiment; philosophical, political or otherwise, being that he was very much a public figure. As for the last line, I’m going to give Mr. Layton the benefit of the doubt and figure he meant that all his life he’s tried to make things, in his opinion, better. I don’t think he meant that he’s definitively made things better. So, the use of the word “vainglorious” to describe the missive is bit misdirected, in my opinion.

Blatchford is right about Layton’s message being political. So it can be embraced or attacked on its merit in those passages. Nothing wrong with her taking umbrage with his line about Canada restoring “our good name in the world.” Not everyone would agree we’ve lost that good name. As well, he takes a clear political shot at the Conservatives. So, his final words include, as you’d expect, some politics. You can call that vain or cynical, or you can call it being a leader to the end. Whether she intended to or not, Blatchford’s characterization is that Layton was being a leader to the end. Sounds right to me.

While the Twitterverse has been quick to jump all over Blatchford for desecrating the memory of the man, it’s probably fair to point out that there are passages in her column that show admiration for Layton in some sense. For example:

His greatest moments — the bravest and most admirable — came during his fight with prostate cancer, the subsequent hip surgery and his most recent battle with the cancer, whose nature he never disclosed except to say it was new, which killed him.

He must have been in pain; he may have been afraid. Yet again and again, waving the cane that became in his clever hands an asset, he campaigned tirelessly.

Those are complimentary words and worthy of note.

In the immediate aftermath of the death of a beloved public figure, Christie Blatchford’s column is ill-timed. While there’s plenty to quarrel with in it, there’s also some insight that, when you peel away the veneer of insensitivity, just may ring true. Will the column look differently in 2 months?

[box border=”full”]To read SUN TV INTERVIEW ISN’T WORTH COMPLAINING ABOUT, click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”] To read THE MAMMOLITI GAMBIT: COUNCILLOR STRANGELOVE, click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read WHERE IS MARSHALL MCLUHAN’S COUCH, click here. [/box]


THE NUTSHELL: Bush, Bettman, Flutie, and Popsicle Sticks

A weekly feature, with a collection of random thoughts on random things.


  • If this Winnipeg deal ever gets done, I’ve some ideas as to how Gary Bettman should make his grand re-entrance to Winnipeg. If he wants to keep it simple, may I suggest he just step onto the escalator at the airport and, as he descends, spread his arms wide and bellow “I’m back, baby! Miss me?” Parachuting in to Portage and Main would be way cool, but would come with the possible hazard of the good folk of Winnipeg converging and beating the living hell out of him for taking their team away in the first place. Best to keep one’s distance. So, being carried to the dais at the media conference, in a giant egg, and bursting forth in latex would seem to be the ticket. It would prove he’s hip with the pop culture of the day, and also keep him protected from the masses for as long as possible.

  • While watching Hockey Night in Canada, I heard the comment that Wayne Gretzky was one of the best ever at dumping the puck in. High praise, indeed. Got me to thinking: What other superstars were really good at mundane sports chores? For my money, nobody in the history of baseball issued an intentional walk better than Nolan Ryan. I’ve never seen a quarterback take a knee like Doug Flutie. I know, I know, Joe Montana was really good at it, too. I just think Flutie was a little better. No argument about this one: No racer ever followed a pace car like Mario Andretti.


  • Just another reason to bemoan the passing of Donald Trump’s presidential ambition: Trump/Busey would have been one hell of a ticket. Had they actually won, Gary Busey would have become probably the 2nd craziest Vice President in U.S. history, right behind Dick Cheney.
  • The NDP trotted out its “shadow cabinet” this week. Or, as the Tories call it, “cute.” Leader Jack Layton has vowed that his team will not heckle government speakers. But, I didn’t hear him rule out dressing in orange spandex bodysuits and dancing up on them.

  • Bob Rae accepted the job of Interim Liberal Leader. He was, at a caucus meeting, asked  if he had any skeletons in his closet. He joked: “I said I don’t have any skeletons in my cupboard; they’re in my living room.” Actually, there are skeletons littering most ridings across Canada, all wearing “Ignatieff 2011” buttons.


  • So long, Oprah. Your extended goodbye was so long. So… so… long.
  • There’s the growing notion that China’s factories are feeling the energy squeeze and that some of them are becoming too expensive to run. Global Sticks, manufacturer of wooden popsicle sticks, is relocating from China, to Thunder Bay.I just hope they’re not ever bought out by one of those fancy-dan composite popsicle stick manufacturers. Call me old school, but I like my popsicles on good ol’ sticks of wood, not those crappy, new-fangled carbon fibre deals. Sure, they’re lighter and make it easier to lift a popsicle to your mouth, but they shatter too easily when you try to bust your popsicle in half on the counter. Not to mention that $49.95 seems a little steep for a popsicle.

    A worker at Harpo Productions cat naps on some of the materials used to build Oprah’s self-indulgence.
  • Porter Airlines can dress up their little raccoon mascot all they want. It’s just like a defence attorney getting his client a haircut and new suit before trial. Because, no matter how often I see their commercial with that respectable, well-behaved raccoon walking through the terminal in a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase, I know – I KNOW- that little felon dumped my green bin all over my front yard before the airport limo came by to pick him up.
  • Bob Dylan turned 70 this week. Apparently, friends took him to Dairy Queen to celebrate with an ice cream cake. It was there that Dylan told the young woman behind the counter: “Ya gotta soft-serve somebody.”



People in Toronto won’t cheer for the Vancouver Canucks because the west dumps on Toronto all the time. Because of this, people in Vancouver will dump on Toronto. Because of that, people in Toronto won’t root for the Canucks. Because of that… (cue Elton john singing “Circle of Life.”)


[box border=”full”]Previously, in THE NUTSHELL[/box]


[box border=”full”]To read the next “THE NUTSHELL,” click here. [/box]


THE NUTSHELL: Gaga, Arnold, Bettman and the Gremlin.

A weekly feature, with a collection of random thoughts on random things. This is the first edition.


Lady Gaga: If she’s so powerful, how come not everyone goes to work in a giant egg?
  • Lady Gaga (I prefer to pronounce it with the emphasis on the last syllable, by the way. Try it, it’s fun!) has just been named, by Forbes Magazine, the world’s most powerful celebrity, bumping Oprah Winfrey to number two. If that gets you a little down. Ms. Winfrey, just do what I do and try to buy your way out of that depression. For me, it might mean new shoes, or tickets to a game. With your spending power, it might mean, oh, I don’t know, a state, say. “Oprahoma” has a nice ring to it.
  • Someone needed to tell Arnold Schwarzenegger that non-natives can’t be President of the United States. Then he wouldn’t have tried so hard to be like Thomas Jefferson.
  • Downside: An 89 year old pastor in the U.S. predicts the end of the world this weekend. Upside: The “Glee” 3D movie will never see the light of day.



  • The NHL was given the League OF The Year Award, Wednesday, by Sports Business Journal. Nice get. I can see how they’d beat the NFL, NBA, CFL and MLB. But beating The Justice League of America, well, that’s very impressive. Commissioner Gordon? He couldn’t carry Gary Bettman’s codpiece.
  • The State of Ohio has passed legislation making it a-okay to carry concealed weapons in places such as bars and open-air sports stadiums. David Letterman used to make a joke about “Hard Liquor and Handgun Night” at Yankees’ games. Nice to know that some of those level-headed, mask-wearing drunks in the Dog Pound at Browns’ games might now be packing.
    “Why can’t I get Ben Eager’s deal?”
  • That now-infamous moment in Game Two of the Canucks – Sharks series where a young woman flashed ’em at the penalty box? Wasn’t she showing she was, in fact, more eager, than Ben? And about as smart?
  • My Argos season tickets arrived today. If you’re a season ticket holder of any team, in any league, you know the unbridled joy and pure, pure giddiness this inspires. Honestly. What is it about the arrival of my season tickets that makes me feel like I’m 10 years old, it’s Christmas, and I just this moment opened a package with my brand new “Super-Slider Sno-Skates” in it?
  • Those Honda Civic ads I see over and over and over AND OVER on Hockey Night In Canada make me pine for the days when I saw those “Roll Up The Rim” ads over and over and over AND OVER again, during The Brier. Not sure who I’m supposed to be most like. The zombie? The masked avenger? (The Avenger, now there was a good car) The troll putting on make-up? The cartoon samurai girl come to life? The trans-gendered lumberjack? Well, at least the accompanying tune is cool. But I need some sort of gimmick before I get a Civic.



  • Here’s a little nugget from Jane Taber’s Ottawa Notebook in the Globe and Mail, re: Stephen Harper’s ridiculous Senate appointments: “One of Mr. Harper’s MPs suggested that the Prime Minister is no longer trying to kill the Liberal Party but has instead decided to become the Liberal Party.” Ouch. Wonder who that was. Doubt it was Peter Kent, who doubled back on criticism of The Party during the campaign after waking, one morning, with a horse’s head in his bed. Well, whoever you are, GREAT line. The hell of it is, you’ll never get credit for it, if you know what’s good for you.
    Stornoway: Check for bed bugs. And any ex-Liberal MPs who may be squatting.
  • Michael Ignatieff has moved out of Stornoway. Now, I’m not saying Jack Layton and Olivia Chow face a huge mess when they first open the front door. But I do know that if the place is in half as bad a shape as the Liberal Party he left behind, Iggy ain’t getting his security deposit back.
  • Donald Trump has decided NOT to run for President. Too bad. Pretty sure he would have tried to take a chunk out of the national debt by building a lavish casino in the West Wing. Then, inviting Chinese President Ma Ying-jeour to the place and comp’ing him the Lincoln Bedroom, all the while ensuring he takes a bath at the tables.


They’ve brought back the Volkswagen Beetle. They’ve brought back the Mini-Cooper. Now, dammit, it’s time. bring back the AMC Gremlin. Stylish, affordable and way cool. Tell me it isn’t prettier than the Nissan Cube.

Unveiled: Top Secret Rookie MP Guidebook

The Parliament Hill Cafeteria Can Be a Scary Place For a Newcomer

With 105 rookie Members of Parliament being sworn in on The Hill, there’s bound to be some concern, confusion and consternation among them. Kind of like the first day of high school, without the threat of being hung, by your underwear, on your locker hook. At least, I don’t think they have to worry about that, although John Baird strikes me as someone who’d find that funny.

Rookie MPs: Almost exactly as depicted.

To ease the first day jitters of the fresh meat – er, wide-eyed, super-intelligent, rookies ready to inject a fresh, new energy to their caucus – the Clerk of the Speaker of the House of Commons sends them each a guide to rules and regulations of parliamentary life. It’s not meant to be seen by non – parliamentarians, however, I’ve managed to secure a copy and will give you some of the more important guidelines.

Today, I’ll focus on the rules of the Parliament Hill cafeteria. Here are some verbatim highlights:


As you make your way into the cafeteria for the first time, you’ll be handed two trays. One is for you, the other, for the veteran MP you’ve been assigned to serve. In some cases, NEITHER tray is for you. This means you’ve been assigned a senator. After bringing the tray, or trays, to your designated Luncheon Lord, or Lady, stand quietly, hands clasped behind your back. Wait, silently, until a request for napkin dabbing is made, or you are waved away contemptuously.

Sit in ROOKIE DESIGNATED AREA  ONLY. If you have trouble finding it, as it is not clearly marked, just follow the unmistakable smell of innocence and idealism dying.

“At my signal, unleash butterscotch pudding hell!”

If the Prime Minister enters after you are already in the cafeteria, you have TWO choices: Stand up immediately, or dive under your table until the threat of him seeing you has passed  (This does not apply to opposition members of Parliament, as there is no possibility of the Prime Minister actually noticing you). Do NOT make eye contact with the Prime Minister. If eye contact is inadvertently made, your dessert will automatically be forfeited to backbench scavengers.

Delivery of food items is available for members of the governing party ONLY. First time MPs will do the delivering. It will be guaranteed in 10 minutes. To assist you in speedy delivery, The Honourable Jack Layton has determined that his hip is sufficiently healed, and he no longer needs his EZ-Go cart. He has graciously donated it to Delivery Services. NOTE: Cart availability is subject to suspension, based on how energetic Senator Mike Duffy is feeling that day.  Plan ahead.

Food fights are not uncommon, but are to be started by governing party members ONLY. You will know that one is imminent, if The Honourable Jim Flaherty enters wearing a toga.

Seating arrangements are based on election results. Conservatives and members of the NDP in the main dining hall, Liberal Party members at the kiddie tables in the Centre Block Daycare. The Honourable Leader of the Green Party has not opted in to a meal plan, based on the unavailability of bean sprouts and willow bark tea.

Menu changes: With the securing of a majority government, it has been determined that “Pro-rogies” will no longer be available. One item has been added to the breakfast menu: Sausage, inside a rolled pancake. However, instead of being called “Piggies in a Blanket,” a Royal Commission on cafeteria foodstuffs has determined that they will be known as “Pork In A Barrel.” Not all food items will be available; the menu is subject to change, at any time, at the whim of The Honourable Bev Oda.

Finally, make sure to fill out the “How’d We Do?” comment cards after each and every cafeteria visit. As a newcomer to the Hill, your fresh perspective and new ideas on how the Government of Canada commissary is serving you are very important, and greatly valued. The Harper Government Action Plan Eatery is tired of having too many cooks in the kitchen. Just eat your food and get out.

[box type=”info” border=”full”]Next: Part 2: Handling the Media[/box]

Election 2011: Let The Chips Fall Where They Elizabeth May

“Dude. That’s My Brador In The Fridge.”

Last night, I dreamed of Stephen Harper. No lie, no joke. I actually had a dream with the PM front and centre (er, centre block?). No, it wasn’t a nightmare, per se, but it didn’t end well, with a group of Conservative children chasing me down a street. The really odd thing about it was that former U.S. Republican Chair, Michael Steele, was leading them. What the first part means, I have my theory. The second part just probably means that I watch a lot of The Colbert Report and The Daily Show. I recall thinking, in the dream, that I sure wish Jack Layton would do his job and officially oppose the rampaging Tory gang. He didn’t, and my dream was denied a Layton-inspired happy ending. Suppose I should be grateful for that.

After some reflection (and a few glasses of Dubonnet), I believe I may have cracked the code of this particular subconscious theatre.

The rampaging Tory kids most likely represent my fear that our new government is about to embark on a 5 year mission of tracking down moderates and giving them super-wedgie after super-wedgie, politically speaking. Despite the conciliatory words of the Prime Minister in the wake of his big majority win, I don’t believe him. He barely was made to share the toys in the sandbox when he was forced to. Now that he holds sway over the entire playground, I fully expect him to be about as magnanimous as was Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York.

Jack Layton. May Or May Not Be An Accurate Depiction.

Hoping the NDP would show up to roll-block the Tory kids, but being disappointed…that’s an easy one, I think. It’s a nice feather in Jack Layton’s cap to become the Leader of the Official Opposition. However, he’s really powerless to do anything about, well, anything. When facing a determined majority on the other side of the aisle, the Leader of the Opposition is much like an NHL Goal Judge. Sure, he can get some attention by turning on his little red light, but it’s just symbolic, really. At least he gets a swell seat to watch all the action.

One more thing I should mention about this dream. At the outset, I got all up in The Prime Minister’s face when he interrupted a Michael Ignatieff speech. After I quickly admonished the PM I turned and Ignatieff was gone. Vanished. He’d had merely a cameo in this whole thing.

Not hard to interpret that.

What’s That Orange Blur?

“I am NOT amused”


I used to say that the NDP might as well change its name to the SOL, for all the hope it had of ever accomplishing anything at the federal level. But, the latest poll from EKOS is astounding. Really? 100 seats possible? Who’d have thought that, at this late stage of the race, the guy with the bum hip would be the one with the late kick?

Michael Ignatieff must be apoplectic. He’s been ambling along in second, mud flying in his face, trying to keep Stephen Harper’s haunches firmly in sight. (He’d probably have mixed emotions about that, as would we all.)

What’s he get for it? A wicked rap in the shins from Jack’s cane as Layton blows by him.

Now, this poll may be the fabled 20th out of 20 poll. You know, the one that AIN’T the “plus or minus 5 per cent, 19 times out of 20” poll. But if it foretells something incredible and historic, it’s very bad, indeed, for Michael Ignatieff. I won’t say that his leadership of the Liberals will have jumped the shark, necessarily. But I’d be damn sure that, somewhere, Henry Winkler was putting on his water skis.