Thursday, 26 January 2023

SAINTS PRESERVE US


Yesterday’s Papers


Early last autumn I wrote about a western Canadian grocery banner ceasing the physical publication of its weekly flyer. I predicted its competitors would quickly follow suit. This came to pass. Since then, ripples from that decision have widened. Postmedia last week announced that 12 Alberta community newspapers would continue to publish as mere digital-only shadows of themselves.


The critical casualty is Fort McMurray Today. From wildfires to carbon emissions to energy sector profits, the city is the symbolic focal point for those debating the level of existential threat climate change poses to Albertans’ way of life. The newspaper’s editorial voice needs to be heard by as many people as possible.


If a free and impartial press is a pillar of democracy, then advertising is its plinth. Readers living in major markets will have noticed their dailies are awfully skimpy these days and that much of the content is generic enough to have been published anywhere. Kijiji killed the classifieds, and Google and Meta slew the display ads. Until very recently, established papers provided a reliable mode of distribution for major retailers’ colourful inserts: appliances, automotive, fashion, furniture, grocery, hardware and so on and so forth, et cetera.


The Cold Lake Sun and the Cochrane Times may seem like insignificant publications, wraps for advertising inserts, but their content provides the common ground for cafĂ© conversations. Their staffs know their towns. Should any of those people have larger ambitions for careers in the industry they’d present as candidates versed in the fundamentals of composition, design, reporting, editing and photography.


Digitization as a cost cutting measure allows a chain like Postmedia to do less with less, less local journalism with less people. The Edmonton Journal has stopped publishing a paper edition on Mondays. I have read marketing press releases reprinted verbatim. The sports department or what’s left of it ignores university athletics and West Coast League baseball. Arts performances may or may not be reviewed. While a beat writer covers the provincial legislature and city hall, there is no dedicated political columnist; Edmonton’s businesses are similarly neglected. Postmedia also owns the Edmonton Sun, once the Journal’s arch-rival. Their newsrooms have since been combined; naturally there were redundancies.


The Journal, established in 1903 and (somewhat ironically) a fine newspaper prior to the onset of the Information Age, is disengaged from its market, its readership. A particularly irksome example of this was a few columns of fluff, tips for winterizing one’s yard and garden generated by Postmedia’s generic content churn facility in Hamilton, Ontario. The piece ran during the third week of November. In Edmonton. Hello?


This is the state of affairs at the newspaper of record in Alberta’s capital city. Even the less expensive digital subscription option isn’t worth paying for. It’s difficult to imagine too Cochrane’s biggest civic booster even bothering to access the Times whether the site is free or otherwise. That poor little community newspaper now competes with the entire internet for eyeballs. And this distorted and wired version of reality has proven problematic for every news gatherer. In times like these plain facts objectively presented are often perceived as lies and covert manipulation.


And there’s something off-putting about digitized text. Perhaps it’s aesthetics or the lack thereof. Readers become scanners. Engagement, comprehension and retention necessarily suffer. Proper journalism has been hollowed out. Social media thrives like a parasite in the holes it has bored. Its style book demands brevity, simplistic memes, and hysterically pithy turds of misinformation!! Critical thought need not apply. The pandemic served to magnify the already yawning gap between the actual and virtual worlds.


Covid was the story of a lifetime and, much like the virus itself, the narrative and coverage kept evolving. Some fine reporting was done. The legacy media – a dismissive term for traditional news organizations coined by self-styled libertarians and conspiracy-minded dupes- covered every conceivable angle: scientific, medical, political, social and economic. A study published today by a Canadian non-profit organization as detailed in this morning’s Globe and Mail estimates misinformation and vaccine paranoia cost this country’s health care system $300-million, 200,000 covid cases, 13,000 hospital admissions and 3,500 ICU stays could’ve been avoided; preventable and therefore pointless deaths number in the thousands.


(Coincidentally, Alberta’s premier, the Banshee of Invermectin, has just commissioned a commission to investigate and expose the tyranny of the various public health measures imposed during covid’s height.)


Truth used to be such a simple matter, black and white and read all over. And it’s always been the main foundation of advertising.


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of media commentary since 2013. The novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit www.megeoff.com for links to purchase it in your preferred format from various retailers

Monday, 16 January 2023

NONSENSE VERSE


My Sovereign Premier


Mother of God, my dear Danielle

May I say, just what the hell


Seven grand souls from The Hat

Gifted you your big chief’s cap


Personality, pundit, lobbyist

Rural restaurant hobbyist


How is it your podcast views

Echo those of Rebel News


Using language so imprecise

Did you flunk high school twice


Off the rails, full backtrack

Another false fact to retract


More misinformation to clarify

Or misspeak instead of lie


But everything you say at first

Truly reflects your very worst


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of excruciatingly bad poetry since 2013. The novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit www.megeoff.com for links to purchase it in your preferred format from various retailers.

Sunday, 8 January 2023

SAINTS PRESERVE US


Royals Shocker: Will and Kate Made Me Wear Nazi Uniform!


Oh, spare me.


Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, self-exiled Royal, is media shy. The British, indeed global, media has made his 38 years on Earth as an accidental celebrity a living hell. He has complained about this on an Oprah special, for six hours on Netflix and in promotional interviews for his just published memoir Spare. Luckily, he’s able to tell the world that he just wants to be left alone. You see, he’s just like you and me except for his dysfunctional, racist family whose evil minions continually hatch nefarious plots against him. Fortunately for him, palace intrigue these days is more Hello! than Macbeth.


Apparently, his brother William, Duke of Cambridge, Prince of Wales and heir to the throne currently sat upon by their father King Charles III, knocked him over during an argument and tore his necklace! His big brother also encouraged him to wear a Nazi uniform to a dress-up party; he had planned to attend as an air force pilot. Harry maintains he has a mind of his own; after all he didn’t need his brother’s urging to visit a psychic for a chat with mummy.


I embrace living in Canada’s inherited form of democracy, a constitutional monarchy. I believe that subtle distinction between the permanence of the state and its government of the day is an important one. My view necessitates accepting the Royal Family as a legitimate institution, albeit a modern one, built to serve. I’m aware too that the House of Windsor did not achieve its lofty status in Great Britain and the Commonwealth because God willed it. And I’m painfully aware that due to the nature of royal alliances in earlier ages, some of the family’s genes feature dotted T’s and crossed I’s.


People whose careers coincide with their passions are lucky indeed. Too many of us suck it up and tough it out, always hoping circumstances may change. Harry’s grandmother had Roman numerals thrust upon her. Of course, Queen of England etc etc doesn’t really register on the “Things Could Always Be Worse” scale of job satisfaction. Still, by all accounts Elizabeth II made a concentrated and concerted effort to do the very best she could in her role. If there’s one quality Harry could’ve learned at his grandmother’s knee, it’s dignity. Perhaps he’s as thick as Uncle Andrew.


Another excerpt from Harry’s memoir reveals his ten years in the British military to be the happiest days of his life. He killed 25 Taliban insurgents during his two tours of Afghanistan. I wish he’d killed 50. I bet every woman in the world wishes he’d killed ‘em all. My impression here is of a guy in an important service job; he loves it and he’s good at it. This guy doesn’t jibe with the one moaning about a torn necklace. This guy doesn’t jibe with the one who trademarked “Royal Sussex” to sell all manner of shit over the internet.


So the family firm held no appeal. Harry had the obvious option of a discreet, meaningful and dignified life in uniform. And better yet, they’re not just plain khaki anymore, they come in camouflage now. All in all a more attractive career than that of a whiny toff, a magnet for popular contempt. He’s certainly demonstrated an ability to walk away. If only Harry would keep on walking and keep quiet while the rest of us get on with our more mundane realities. Go on, beat it, get outta here.      


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of breathless Royals coverage since 2013. The novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit www.megeoff.com for links to purchase it in your preferred format from various retailers.

Thursday, 29 December 2022

HUMAN WRECKAGE


Bookends


Twenty-nine titles read in 2022. At this time last year, I was hoping to read closer to 40, break 30 for sure. Since I began keeping an annual list, I’ve found there’s always one book that bogs me down and costs me a couple of weeks of time I’d have preferred to spend otherwise engaged.


This year’s holdup was Value(s) by Mark Carney, former governor of the banks of both Canada and England. Portions of his book served as an abridged refresher of my university economics and philosophy courses. He explained the role of central banks before weighing in on the economic benefits and consequences of climate action (although we’ve all since given up on the 1.5-degree goal of the Paris Accord). Another portion of Value(s) read like a pitch for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada and, frankly, I wouldn’t mind a proven intellect at the national helm. Page counts never deter me, but it was a slog filled with acronyms following With a Mind to Kill, the breezy final installment of Anthony Horowitz’s delightfully retro James Bond trilogy.


Twenty twenty-two began bittersweetly with the posthumous publication of Silverview, John le Carre’s final novel; I no longer have a favourite living author. The story opens innocently enough in a bookshop. Because le Carre was unfailingly current, the cessation of the Cold War didn’t hinder his career, the reader ultimately tunes into the pandemic parallel: working from home just isn’t viable for certain branches of Britain’s secret intelligence service.


My year ends with John Barth’s Giles Goat-Boy, a sixties satiric allegory that somehow manages to combine Animal Farm with academia’s ivory tower. Its narrator is a kid who was raised as a goat. The world is the University, humanity is studentdom, rival academic factions control the East and West campuses and neither side wishes to provoke a Third Campus Riot. It is beastly strange and, I think, was of its time, until recently, now that scholarly institutions wring their hands and whinge over what constitutes acceptable and correct free speech.


The new year, hours away from now, will commence with an echo of 2018. Late that March my friend Netflix Derek, then on the University of Alberta faculty, took me to hear a lecture on Bob Dylan. The speaker was a visiting Harvard man, a professor of the classics. Dylan, like Shakespeare’s exploitation of Holinshed’s Chronicles for his tragedies, has mined earlier, primary sources for inspiration, displaying a particular penchant for digging through surviving works from classical antiquity. Naturally, academics have coined a ten-dollar word for this particular aspect of the creative process. It’s not research, no, it’s “intertextualization.”


I enjoyed the lecture. Its advertising poster hangs on the wall in front of me as I type, compliments of Netflix Derek who gently removed it from a hallway bulletin board thus saving it from the recycling bin and for me. Columbia Records released Dylan’s debut album in 1962. As with the Stones, I’ve no memory of life without His Bobness (Still mildly jarring that I can’t say the same for Queen Elizabeth II any longer). Like many Dylan fans I’ve ridden a pogo stick on a trampoline because he’s been everywhere, man, and doesn’t care who follows. Eventually you come around to his entire body of work, some of it spotty, on your own terms because, again, he doesn’t care what you think. "Jokerman" doesn’t welcome or thank his audience, he taunts us.


Seated beside Netflix Derek in that classic academic arc, that dazed lectern-facing smile, I wondered: “After all the songs, the albums, the concerts, the films, the books and the music press interviews, has it all come down to this? Guess the Nobel Prize for Literature will do that.”


Thankfully, Dylan continues to confound. His Bootleg Series of archival records continues to flow like his Bob branded bourbon. Rough and Rowdy Ways dropped during the pandemic, and like le Carre’s Silverview it’s a worthy addition to an expansive catalogue. The “Neverending Tour” is off covid hiatus. And to my latent academic joy His Bobness published The Philosophy of Modern Song a few weeks ago. This will be my first read of 2023. Sixty-six essays about 66 songs. I suspect his editor’s suggestion would have been the more obvious 61. But if Dylan wants to take that route instead of that particular highway, I don’t care, I’m riding along anyway.


For the record: The best book I read in 2022 was Colson Whitehead’s novel Harlem Shuffle. It flows like the Bob & Earl song and therefore more gracefully than the Stones' affectionately slaughtered cover. Whitehead is one of those bastard authors whose style and storytelling abilities make me wonder why I bother. This is not New York City as traditional background vaguery: American Psycho, The Bonfire of the Vanities or Bright Lights, Big City; tourist map locales, Woody Allen, Times Square; that stuff. I was reminded of Mordecai Richler boring into Montreal’s grittier neighbourhoods and Hubert Selby writing about Brooklyn. Because Whitehead set his story in the sixties and he was born in 1969 I must assume some form of intertextual process was involved. I’ll leave that question for American lit professors because Whitehead is worthy of inclusion in their canon.     


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of literature since 2013. The novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit www.megeoff.com for links to purchase it in your preferred format from various retailers