The Walrus Blog

Monthly Archive: December 2007

Curveballs and Bookstore Cats

Shakespeare and Co bookstore

TORONTO, ON—I was born and raised in Burlington, Ontario. This suburb-of-suburbs isn’t the centre of much, other than a nice little downtown, safe schools, and manicured lawns. Yet Burlington was the initial battleground in the current war over how Canadians buy their books. Three historic bookstores, the first big box Chapters, the first Indigo, and the third, Different Drummer Books — likely one of the best independent bookstores in Canada — all do business in the city. The independent and box stores couldn’t be more different. After all buying books is more than just buying books; it’s an experience.

In my mind everything about Different Drummer is perfect:

Bookstore cat. Check.
Victorian house. Check.
Conspicuous smell of books in the air. Check.
Vintage copy of Jimi Hendrix reading a Penguin. Check.
Well read staff. Check.
Creaky floorboards. Check.


Posted in How to Read  •  1 Comment

The Year That Was

Harper: 'Meh.'

TORONTO—The holidays are about tradition, and no tradition is more enduring than the journalistic urge to define, in a phrase, the year that was. Notable this season is Lawrence Martin, who argued in Monday’s Globe that Canadian politics in 2007 was defined by inertia: no big policy initiatives out of Ottawa, no real gains or losses by any party, and nothing but political eye-gouging left to fill the column inches.

Martin’s right, as far as he goes — nobody will remember 2007 for the vigorous pace or sweeping vision of Canada’s then-prime minister. But if Martin is genuinely concerned about the inertia of Canadian politics, he needs to look a little further than Parliament Hill. (more…)

Posted in Bright Lights  •  No Comments

Searching for Happiness…

Google Trends logo

Mucking around on the net the other day and visited Google Trends. It is a tool that generates graphs of where, when, and how many searches for specific words and phrases happen through the Google search engine and how many times said search item appeared in the news. The tool also ranks the search item among countries, cities, and languages based on a normalized function that Google uses to count each search.

Anyone could go on about the historical importance of this tool and the data it has already collected, but perhaps everyone (that is me, you and the other person reading this blog) is thinking the same thing: Foucault, eat your heart out. (more…)

Posted in How to Read  •  No Comments

Jump (Favre My Love)

The Green Bay Packers' signature post-touchdown leap

DUNCAN, BC—The Sportstrotter has a lot in common with Santa Claus: like Old St. Nick, I can’t be everywhere in the world at once, so I have helpers reporting on who’s been naughty or nice in various far-flung sporting locations.

(Another way we are similar: like Santa, I have a goat-faced companion named Krampus who roams the streets in the weeks before Christmas, frightening children with rusty chains and bells and birching young girls. Seriously, pre-Christian Alps pagans, is this how you people celebrated the holidays? Whatever happened to “ho ho ho?”)


Posted in Sportstrotter  •  3 Comments

New Blog: How To Read

The Walrus library, yesterday

TORONTO—The pile of books and magazines next to my bedside table finally started to recede over the past few weeks. I finished a few books, an issue of The New Yorker, and the 150th anniversary edition of The Atlantic. Thinking I’d completed a rather momentous task, I quickly went online to see what else I could put on my reading list.

A book is published somewhere in the world roughly every 30 seconds. That’s another four books in the time it took me to walk in the kitchen and pour another cup of tea. By the time you’re done reading this, there will be another seven or eight. Though I am optimistic pessimist at heart, I’m guessing that one of those three books will be decent and the rest mediocre, if not outright dreadful. (more…)

Posted in How to Read  •  1 Comment

My Second Biggest Mistake

Brian Mulroney's Greatest Hits

“My biggest mistake in life, by far, was ever agreeing to be introduced to Karlheinz Schreiber in the first place,” Mr. Mulroney said. The former prime minister said his second biggest mistake was accepting cash payments from Mr. Schreiber.
-The Globe and Mail, December 13


“My biggest mistake in life, by far, was ever agreeing to be introduced to G. Gordon Liddy in the first place,” Mr. Nixon said. The former president added that, on reflection, his second biggest mistake was probably ordering Mr. Liddy to break into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and plant a wire, and then lying to the country about it for years. (more…)

Posted in Bright Lights  •  2 Comments

Shoulda listened to Tom Landry

LAS VEGAS, NV—There’s a saying in sports, especially if you’re a cocky bastard: “Don’t call it a comeback, ’cause I never left.?

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Vegas, the American goddess of Fortune, announced to me last Sunday between 3:00 and 4:00pm Pacific Standard Time as the NFL’s late games were concluding at the Las Vegas Hilton’s Sportsbook.

After three days of low-stakes blackjack and craps on my annual trip to America’s hedonistic playground, I was down about $250 to her Vegasness (although she had mercifully allowed me to escape from a $350 hole with an inspired run of good luck at a blackjack table on Saturday morning at the Hard Rock Hotel). After dropping $100 in about six hands to a tall, blonde, slightly grizzled dealer named Lisa, I got up from a table that soon re-formed to contain five of my best college friends. (more…)

Posted in Sportstrotter  •  2 Comments

Wrestlin’ Down a Dream

From the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational in 2006

LAS VEGAS, NV—Sin City is a holiday destination known for its surfeit of skin-on-skin contact, but this might be taking it a little too far.

On a Saturday morning in Vegas, excruciatingly fit college-age men in lycra singlets grapple and tussle on shock-absorbing rubber mats inside the Las Vegas Convention Center. With the volume of man-flesh being pressed together, it should be a prime destination for the bachelorette parties that flock here on weekends. But today, the 1,500-strong crowd gathered to spectate the 26th edition of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational consists mostly of families, coaches and a plethora of injured teammates, all cheering on wrestlers from American colleges and universities. (more…)

Posted in Sportstrotter  •  2 Comments

Mitt Romney’s Texas Prayer

NEW YORK—Monday’s New York Times reported that Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, will give a speech on Thursday addressing the issue of his religion. Romney is a Mormon, a point long thought to be a theoretical concern for his electability. But as the Times points out, the recent burst in support for fellow Republican presidential candidate (and Baptist minister) Mike Huckabee, driven largely by Christian conservatives, has turned Romney’s religious beliefs into a very real concern for his campaign.

The debate around Romney’s Mormonism raises an interesting, if delicate question: should the religious beliefs of politicians be a legitimate topic for public scrutiny? (more…)

Posted in Bright Lights  •  1 Comment

Riot police: 1, Dagoretti voters: 0

Read the first part of Arno Kopecky’s Kenyan election report here.

DAGORETTI, KENYA—With the pre-event riggings complete and the ballots all in place, the stage was now set for widespread cheating and looting. Our crime site was Kirigu primary school, a square compound with an open-aired courtyard in the centre and a brown soccer field outside.

The field was packed with an assortment of elderly gentlemen wearing the only suits they owned, devilish children plotting assaults on each other from behind the vivid skirts of their mothers, the odd Masai with hula hoop earlobes, and several glassy-eyed teenage boys. Glue-sniffing is endemic in Dagoretti, a contagious parasite which seemed to afflict every young man in the crowd. Most added chang’aa, the local moonshine, into the mix. (more…)

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Posted in Notes From Vancouver  •  3 Comments
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