06:22:20 am on
Thursday 25 Jul 2024

From Boil to Simmer
David Simmonds

I looked at the front page of my daily newspaper, last Friday, and every single article on the front page made by blood boil.

The first article stated that Premier Li of China, while visiting Ottawa, had defended China’s use of the death penalty, while urging Canada to adopt an extradition treaty with his country. Doesn’t he know that there is no death penalty in Canada and Canada always seeks assurances the death penalty will not apply to anyone extradited from our country? The arrogance of the Chinese position got me going, as did the rather flaccid presence of our Prime Minister, who stood there taking this stuff in rather than telling his counterpart to, “Take a hike.”

The second article dealt with political aides to the Prime Minister, Gerald Butts and Katie Telford. They submitted claims for and received reimbursement of, moving expenses totalling over $200,000. When a stink went up, they decided that some $65,000, of the total, was “unreasonable” and returned it. Now hold on. If the expense is now “unreasonable,” what has changed since they submitted the claims? Who are they to be the judges of what proportion of their expenses is “unreasonable,” given their admitted failure the first time around?

Political aides to the Prime Minister.

The third article dealt with Federal Health Minister, Jane Phillpott, who had received a lab report, some months ago, showing some of the product sold in Vancouver pot dispensaries contained pesticides and fungicides not approved for human use. She took no action on the report, largely, it seems, because the federal government takes the view that pot dispensaries are illegal, end of story. Surely, public health required an intervention, niceties be damned; when action was required, the feds were hiding behind the potted plants.

The fourth article was about the Toronto Real Estate Board and the Ontario Real Estate Association pitching Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa not to adopt a non-resident tax, on Toronto real estate, in the same way that the government of British Columbia had done with respect to Vancouver. The authors warned about “unintended consequences” of provincial action. With rising irritation, I couldn’t help but fret that the bigger risks lay with the unintended consequences of inaction.

If I can’t get beyond front page without my blood boiling, what am I supposed to do? It won’t help to change from the newspaper to the television, because the same headlines will appear, albeit with a slight modification to include more natural disaster footage, more “Brangelina” updates and the mandatory daily Donald Trump outrage or police shooting video. If I did switch, I’d likely start complaining about the superficial sensationalism of the visual news media.

Should I switch medium?

If switching medium is not the answer, should I try to avoid putting myself in a position where my blood boils? After all, my view of human nature has already formed and brain will simply process the news as confirming that view one way or another. I'm unlikely to re-evaluate my positions.

If I am a cynic, I'm going to see the moving expense brouhaha, for instance, as another expression of that human tendency to take a little more than I should because I can or if I am a dewy-eyed optimist, I am going to see in the story that wonderful capacity to admit error and eat some crow. You come to the same point when you start seeing news as history repeating itself, with only the names of the players and the venues changed.

I have several friends who have sworn off spending time with the news cycle because it is all just trivia. They figure that time is short, and better to spend it concentrating on the big picture items such as whether life has a meaning. Of course, once you catch one of these friends in a weak moment reading his horoscope, you have to chide him and say, "Gee, Bill, I didn't know that Stephen Hawking was writing a newspaper column." To go public with a high-minded reason for avoiding exposure to the news forces you to live up to your own public billing, thereby making you miserable when you can't.

I'm not sure I have the strength of character to stick to any high-minded pronouncement about restricting my information intake to serious subjects: I'd be outed for reading the sports scores in no time flat. I’ addicted to reading my newspaper. If I go out of town for a few days, I'm miserable company until I've caught up on my back issues.

Headlines are a pleasurable read, for me.

I take some pleasure in reading the front-page headline, from last Monday's paper, that says "Scientists Say World to End in 2017." Then I read the following day's tiny page two correction that states, "The article that referred to the world ending in 4017 contained a typographical error. We regret the inconvenience to anyone who sold stock or jumped out of a window." I'd sooner engage in the drama than be blissfully ignorant of it.

If I don't have the strength of character to stop reading newspapers, is there a way to limit my blood temperature to simmer? I can think of only one. I'll start reading the Wellington “Times” more closely. The Times never covers anything, be it wind turbines, council size or sewage budgets, which would possibly turn it up to boil. Right?

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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