Archive for December, 2015

My Favourite End-of-Year List

The Ten Worst (and 5 Best) Free-Range Kids Moments of 2015. With this nifty Catholic School entry: Six-Year Old [at Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School] Suspended for Playing with Imaginary Bow and Arrow.

Sunday Morning


Over at my iPhone blog.

Keeping your online presence beaming

It is a truism that dormant websites and social media platforms can do more harm to you than good, no matter how active you have been in the past. I teach my students numerous methods to keep their online presence bubbling even when they are busy with other things – the holiday season, finals – or when they are ill. I have certainly used these methods myself, in both situations, to keep my many platforms up to date.

For websites and blogs:
– Feel free to recycle past posts that have a timeless quality to them – maxims, insights, humour. (I make sure that such posts are at least three or four years old. I also make it clear that these are re-posts.)
– Point your readers to good writing posted by others whom you bookmark or follow via your news-feed (see below). There is nothing wrong with a post that is composed mostly of another writer’s thoughts. Give credit where credit is due, and Bob’s your uncle.
– Create and use an extensive photo library. A photograph with a short description will indicate that you are still “on the case.” And people like pictures.

For Twitter:
– No matter how busy or under the weather you are, you can usually get out of bed and review your news-feeds (see my own Feedly feeds); this can take as little as twenty minutes.
– Then: Tweet the posts and articles that will appeal to those who follow you.
– To make sure that you don’t spam your readers, spread out your tweets. There are numerous tweet-schedulers. I use Hootsuite and Buffer. With these I can be tweeting all day with just a few minutes’ effort in the morning.

For LinkedIn:
– Many, if not all, of your blog posts will be of interest to your LinkedIn “connections.” Post these in your LinkedIn updates. There is nothing wrong in repurposing your work this way.
– Once or twice a week, head over to your LinkedIn account and see what your connections are doing. Comment on or “like” their updates. Show that you are still attending to the work and insights of your online friends and colleagues.

So there you go: easy peasy lemon squeezy. Keep your online presence active and your ‘brand’ beaming. Have a wonderful holiday!

re-posted from NoContest.CA

Thank you, world

I am really feeling the love this Christmas season. I am very grateful.

creativity …

… is the boss, for many artists. It can lord over their friends and other commitments, including ones to goodness.

One day, my first year as a graduate student at Stanford, I was having lunch in the student union with a faculty member in the Creative Writing program. He was a merrily caustic sort. He asked me what I thought of California. I told him that I found that, here, people smile easily but they rarely laugh. He told me that was the stupidest thing he had ever heard. And, with that, he stood up, threw his napkin down, just like in the movies, and took off, leaving most of his lunch uneaten. I was puzzled. Normally that “smiling but not laughing” line made a nifty impression.

Six or seven months later I opened a famous monthly periodical and found a story written by this man. I had a few beers in me at the time, so on a lark I read it. The story’s last line: “In California people always smile, but they never laugh” (or something close). I was irritated.

And was for a very long time.

Now I understand. Why he ran to his typewriter. He was serving his master.

Which had found me unworthy, of a line I created.

what a year

Loyal friendships. Unanticipated turns. Rediscoveries. And an ever-growing love for Vancouver.

Thank you for reading, everyone. I hope you have a holiday filled with love and delight.

winter flower



The source of my greatest anguish, St. Paul’s School, in Wellesley, Massachusetts, closed down this year. I found out yesterday. Part of me felt relief. A bigger part felt ill. The biggest part felt anger, that the school died before I could get even (so to speak).

A happy sign


On Bidwell near Davie Street, Vancouver.

Beautifully Put

As basil.CA readers know, I go to Clarissa’s Blog every morning. It is always so smart and vivid. (No need for a second cup of coffee.) This morning in a post titled “Offensive Defense” she writes:

Yet another fellow on TV suggested that “ISIS wants us to turn against Muslims because that will make it easier to recruit.”

This oft-repeated idea paints an offensive picture of Muslims as people who are uniformly two seconds away from turning into terrorists and mass murderers. Nobody says shit like that about anybody else. “Don’t say anything mean about Ukrainians or they might run away and join a gang that rapes children and murders people for fun.”

Can’t we, instead, just say that it’s not acceptable to persecute Muslims because it’s wrong to do that to people and not because we are terrified of the inner animal that supposedly hides in every Muslim?

The Art of Scolding

In 1987 I promoted a story about “Secular Organizations for Sobriety” [SOS] that appeared in the Buffalo News. SOS was one of those secular humanist initiatives promulgated by Paul Kurtz’s publishing enterprises out of Buffalo, in this case “Free Inquiry,” a quarterly journal that published critiques of supernatural belief and religious dogma. I was Executive Editor of Free Inquiry at the time.

SOS was started as a secular alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous, which has numerous religious overtones (“a higher power,” “the Serenity Prayer,” and so on). SOS has kept the peer-counseling component and left out these overtones.

I was interviewed by a Buffalo News reporter for the story. In the course of the interview, I said I had “a lot of friends in the arts and music community who were beset by terrible problems with alcohol.” The next day that quote appeared in the article. (The photograph of me accompanying the article made me look like a long-time “friend of Bill” myself: eyes not completely open, my hands clutching at a cup of coffee. I wished I had been better prepared for the interview.)

The Pink Flamingo

That night I went to the Pink Flamingo, a gritty Buffalo pub where lots of writers and artists took their recreation. I had been a regular there for a couple of years. I walked in, saw about a dozen people I knew and some good friends, and went up to the bar to order something (I am guessing a shot of tequila and a Molson Extra).

“Hey, Bob!” A good friend of mine, “Fay,” tapped me on the shoulder. I gave her a kiss. Fay organized arts events and wrote articles freelance.

Fay smiled, but then said plainly: “We all read that article in the News today, how all your buddies here are terrible alcoholics.”

I winced.

I was surprised by what my friend said next.

Fay neither rebuked me nor wondered aloud how I could disparage and embarrass my friends. Instead she said, “You drink here, and elsewhere, as much as we do, and often with me and everybody here. It would have been delightful had you mentioned *that* happy fact as well.”

Rather than telling me that I was a hypocrite, she said, in effect, “We like you, and you can tell the world you are one of us.” I was humbled by Fay’s gracefulness and courtesy.

Here was the “us” of whom I was a lucky part: a gregarious, generous, and hard-working coterie of writers, artists, students, musicians, film-makers, arrangers, editors, curators, and their friends and lovers and roommates and their relatives who repaired to the Pink Flamingo to drink, plan projects, receive solace, read out loud, and debate everything.

After Fay and my other Flamingo buddies made it clear I wasn’t going to be scolded any further, we talked until 2AM, feeling the love, as it were, and I was reminded that scolding might succeed best as words of welcome that can rescue relationships and fortify friendships.


My weaknesses define me. A very good friend once told me, “I love my friends for their faults.” I cherish my mortality. My life is thrilling, and boring, and enough. There is nothing in another world that I wish to lick, or cuddle, or kick.


The younger of my two younger sisters asked on a Facebook post, “If you could choose a super-power….what would it be?” I wrote, “None. I would be afraid that any super-power might take away the pleasures I take from my weaknesses.”