In our old basement – 1970 or so? – in a house soon to be sold to a new family.

(Those old Polaroids can never be replaced.)



Maureen Basil passed away yesterday. She was a brilliant and charismatic and artistic person and a surpassingly generous Mom. People who befriended her knew how lucky they were. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer the day before my Dad’s memorial service a few weeks ago. In her last days she was content and radiant and witty. The above photo was taken in Montreal about 40 years ago. The one below, a good deal earlier, I think! My parents truly adored one another.


Satire and Critique

From the very smart libertarian blog “Hit and Run,” presented without comment, except to note that all’s well that ends well (if it does end well):

Last Thursday an Ohio jury acquitted Anthony Novak, a 27-year-old man whom Parma police arrested last spring for making fun of them. After hearing one day of testimony, the jurors unanimously concluded that Novak did not “disrupt public services,” a felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison, when he created a parody of the Parma Police Department’s Facebook page.

Novak’s fake Facebook page, which changed the department’s slogan from “We know crime” to “We no crime,” included a job notice saying that anyone who passed a “15 question multiple choice definition test followed by a hearing test” would be “be accepted as an officer” but that the department “is strongly encouraging minorities to not apply.” …

When they arrested Novak in March, Parma police complained that his jokes were “derogatory” and “inflammatory.” …

Novak plans to sue the police department and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office for violating his First Amendment rights. … Elizabeth Bonham, staff attorney with the ACLU of Ohio, thinks Novak has a strong case. She told The Plain Dealer Novak’s actions were “so clearly protected by the First Amendment that the criminal proceedings shouldn’t have even come this far.”

Salut, Mayhew

I have been writing and publishing very little lately; profound family events seem to have taken most of my words away.

In a weird way, my friend Jonathan Mayhew has kind of stepped in, writing so much and so brilliantly that I would not have wanted to be writing anyway. No writer charms me so often or so well.

One of Jonathan’s current projects is a book on the pedagogy of poetry. He’s writing it on a private blog to which I’ve been invited. Ideally I will be providing helpful feedback, but until now mostly I have just been … amazed.



A very powerful and emotional CBC film about Vancouver’s “missing women.” Click on the image to see the whole movie.

Note: The photo stills that play a key role in the film were taken by my friend Lincoln Clarkes. The above image is based on the very first photo of Clarkes’ epic Heroines series, from July 1997, shown below:


The woman on the left, Patricia Rose Johnson, later “disappeared” from Vancouver’s downtown eastside neighborhood and was killed by Robert “Willie” Pickton, who also took the lives of 48 other women.



August 29, 1932 – yesterday.

Rental detectives

I’m pretty much an open book to my building manager (thank you, B.!). If I ever have to move into another rental, though, the services provided by a British data-mining company might unnerve me. Writes Stanley Q. Woodvine in Vancouver, BC’s Georgia Straight,

Tenant Assured is a web-based service first made available two weeks ago to landlords around the world. The service essentially forces people to open up their social media accounts to the prying eyes of landlords as part of the process of applying to rent an apartment. …

This is how Tenant Assured works:

A landlord who’s signed-up with Tenant Assured sends all of their rental applicants to a special link on the Tenant Assured website. They are then asked  to provide full access to up to four of their social media profiles—on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. These are then thoroughly crawled, scraped, and analyzed by Score Assured. The scrutiny includes conversation threads, private messages, and contact lists. …

Concerns that the service is a gross violation of personal privacy were brushed off by the company, which trotted out the oldest authoritarian assurance about surveillance in the book, namely, “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear“. Or, as [the company’s] cofounder Steve Thornhill put it … “If you’re living a normal life then, frankly, you have nothing to worry about.”

Thornhill further pointed out that people had to give their consent to the Tenant Assured process and that it was really not much different from a background check or credit rating.

Of course it’s very different … . There are long-standing laws governing credit and background checks and there are processes in place to allow people to see their credit reports and correct inaccuracies.

Although landlords anywhere in the world can sign up for the service—including right here in Vancouver—it’s is not clear what laws in any given jurisdiction could hold such an online service to account.

As a professional communicator, I take great pains not to post anything at all controversial online: very little politics or religion … or anger. (I always ask myself, “What would my students think? My future clients? My Mom?”)

The persona I therefore project is a good deal sunnier and more welcoming than the real thing. Indeed: Last year a girlfriend from high school wrote me, “Bob, I like you so much better online.” Good to know.

Also at


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