The Mail

The Mail

March 12 2001
The Mail

The Mail

March 12 2001

On the books

Recently, I was in Laren, a small town in Holland. Not only did it have an impressively large art gallery and little boutiques, but also nine bookstores. I was told that these booksellers had been in business for generations. These small stores give their town elegance and a friendly atmosphere. No megastore, not even with all the coffee in the world, can give that distinction to a town (“The book lady,” Cover, Feb. 26).

Lini R. Grol, Brampton, Ont.

I have never risen to the bait of responding to a mean-spirited article, but Celia Duthies column “The colony of Indigo” was just too much (Cover, Feb. 26). How ridiculous for her to suggest Indigo was launched in a “fit of pique.” Yes, I was unsuccessful in an attempt to bring Borders to Canada. But why does that make deciding to go it alone, start from scratch and set out to create a meaningful company a negative or spiteful act? And what makes Duthie think that because she has been in the book business all her life, only she and her cronies are passionate about books, writers or culture? Duthie knows nothing about me, yet she has taken every opportunity to spew venomous comments on the radio, in print and heaven knows where else. I have come to the conclusion that she is exactly the type of angry, spiteful and negative person who keeps Canada from becoming the best it can be.

Heather Reisman, Chief Executive Officer, Chapters Inc., Toronto

Say what?

I read with interest your brief piece on “mondegreens,” or the words people think they hear in song lyrics (“Look what they did to my thong,” Overture, Feb. 26). My favourite example is a very Canadian one, and one I innocently sang as a child: “Oh Canada. Our old man ate his lamb.”

Herb Wallace, Ottawa

Corel and Linux

The business note “Probing Microsoft and Corel” in the Feb. 26 issue incorrectly states that Corel has “agreed to stop producing programs designed to run on the Linux operating system.” In fact, on Jan. 23, as part of the company’s new strategy rollout, we stated that we would continue to develop applications for Linux.

Louise Hanlon, Communications Manager, Corel Corp., Ottawa 

Snowed under

The terms attributed to boarders to describe snow—base, breakable crust, bulletproof, cement and crud—are not new (“Snow speak,” Overture, Feb. 19). They’ve been part of ski lexicon for decades. If you really want a truly Canadian term, try “yard sale.” Mention this in Europe or the United States and it draws laughter, not because it is purely Canadian, but because it so aptly describes the scene after a fall when everything—skis, goggles, hat, poles—ends up everywhere. 

Ken Read, Calgary

Fighting Napster

On behalf of Canadian recording artists, songwriters, record companies and other related rights owners, I’d like to challenge your pernicious and biased portrayal of the future of our industry (“The heirs of Napster,” Tech, Feb. 26). As potentially damaging as Napster-related technologies have been, the recording industry clearly recognizes the benefits and potential. The industry has also accepted that music lovers desire an easily accessible, cost-efficient, online retail service. Later this year, it will provide such a service. Consumers will have access to an unprecedented selection of sound recordings they can enjoy on a song-by-song basis or through innovative subscription packages. Access to the new online services will be through a home computer or at digital kiosks now being tested in selected retail stores. The audio quality will be far superior to Napster sources. 

Brian Robertson, President, Canadian Recording Industry Association, Toronto

Capital punishment

Are we all collectively losing our minds? Its incredible that rational people can be in favour of the Supreme Court decision prohibiting extradition to countries that have the death penalty (“A life and death ruling,” Canada, Feb. 26). What next? Take guns away from cops? Surely the same logic applies: some innocents may die and we can't tolerate that, can we?

Jim Garland, Barrie, Ont.

It seems to me that members of Parliament no longer want to or can’t make laws that work, so they let appointed judges do that job. If the Supreme Court is going to legislate, we won’t need elections, except to vote for one person who would then appoint the members of the court. This would save taxpayers a lot of money, and we’d still have the one-man-rule system that we have today.

W. J. Jack, Innisfil, Ont.

Iraqi suffering

It amazes me that people still manage to attribute the suffering of the Iraqi people to the UN sanctions rather than the true source, Saddam Hussein (“The Iraq diaries,” Special Report, Feb. 26). Contrary to Hussein's continual claims of poverty when explaining food and medicine shortfalls, it is worth noting that Iraq made almost $30 billion in oil revenue last year, which is more than enough to purchase the requisite supplies. In fact, Iraq has refused to order more basic medicine and has instead hoarded most of the medicine it already has in government-controlled warehouses. As well, Iraq has the money to give $16,000 to the family of every Palestinian “martyr” in their war with Israel, while recently announcing the formation of a 300,000 person strong division to “liberate Palestine,” actions not consistent with a cash-strapped nation. If Saddam Hussein would quit his quest to lead a PanArabic war against the Jewish people and instead provide the basic necessities for his own citizens, then they would not have to suffer.

Darren Rumack, Toronto

If the “Iraq diaries” are ever compiled into a book, it should become mandatory reading. And such reading would expose us to the proverbial blood on our idle hands as long as we don’t attempt to counter Canada’s policy of complicity towards the United States’ and Britain’s atrocities committed against innocent Iraqi civilians. And the atrocities are even more sickening when considering that countless Iraqi children are being literally starved to death by economic sanctions.

Frank G. Sterle Jr., White Rock, B.C.

Some advantage

I read with interest your Feb. 12 special features on Alberta (“Alberta bound,” Cover). While your reporters did present the issues of utility deregulation, the high cost of housing and the Dickensian minimum wage to balance the oft-trumpeted “Alberta advantage,” they overlooked a key factor in the Alberta cost of living. While Alberta makes headlines for the lowest personal income tax and having no sales tax, less well-known is the way Albertans are burdened with user fees. Every time you turn around, you owe money for supposedly public services. Health-care premiums, school fees (in public school), vehicle registrations, safety inspections and even a basic public library card, all are fees among the highest in the country. 

Carolyn Ronald, Medicine Hat, Alta.

Love him—or not

I always go to the back page first because more often than not Allan Fotheringham expresses my views in his columns, and I feel that someone else sees things clearly. I can’t believe the letters I read in this column of reader complaints (“Basking in readers’ love,” Feb. 12). Where are these people living? What are they thinking? Keep it up, Allan. We need someone to tell it like it is. I will continue to go to the back page first.

Julie Hunt, Vancouver

So is the Foth’s paycheque being divided among those of us who actually wrote the column? I’ll be waiting for my cheque in the mail. What in heaven’s name are the editors of Maclean's thinking? All your readers are wondering. 

Heather J. Arlen, Guelph, Ont.

‘Law is a poor tool’

As a retired lawyer, I developed an interest in the philosophy of law, but unfortunately, I found that many leading jurisprudential thinkers approach law at a level so esoteric that their contributions are of little value to the average practitioner. In fact, their convoluted theories—espoused to vulnerable law students—may even distort the end or purpose of law. However, no doubt my thoughts would only be discounted mainly because their veracity would be judged by academics. This is why your comments in the review of historian David Starkey’s book on Elizabeth I, Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne, about his idea—that the academics’ “narrow professionalism” distorts meaningful public debate (“Little queen lost,” Books, Feb. 19)—are very attractive. Inevitably, only a small number of people may wish to participate in citizenship, but nobody should be denied that privilege simply because the dialogue is not in plain language. Thus, law is a poor tool in the service of the public when it is expressed in language that is not readily understood.

James A. Cox, Victoria

The real goods

Warm congratulations to Deirdre McMurdy for noticing what so many seem never to have learned: that real prosperity (as distinct from paper prosperity) arises from the production of real goods (“The unfashionable folks,” Feb. 19). There are only three sources of real wealth: agriculture, extraction (mining, fishing) and manufacturing. The rest of us live on the backs of the folk who do these things. All of us —preachers, teachers, politicians and cosmeticians—had better be able to connect our work by as short a chain as possible to support of these. Any who cannot are parasites. It may be a while before we can drive a comfortably air-conditioned graphical user interface or munch on a megabyte.

Frank Gue, Burlington, Ont.

Titanic facts

Michel Navratil, the last male survivor of the Titanic, was almost 4 on April 15, 1912, rather than “only 3 when the ship sank,” as you reported in Passages (Feb. 12). His father, who was travelling as “Louis Hoffman,” having abducted his two sons from his estranged wife, did not “go down with the Titanic,” but rather floated in his life jacket, died of hypothermia, was recovered by the cable ship Mackay-Bennett and lies buried in the Baron De Hirsch Cemetery in Halifax. Prof. Navratil died in Montpelier in southern France, not in Paris.

Alan Ruffman, Halifax

No waiting list?

How is it that former Reform leader Preston Manning and Health Minister Allan Rock can be diagnosed, scanned and in and out of hospital for prostate surgery (Passages, Feb. 19) when most taxpayers must go on waiting lists to have a scan, then another list to wait for surgery and a bed? Are we just second-class citizens and taxpayers or am I missing something? Maybe now Rock will have a little more compassion as he has been there and had it done.

Frank McKerry, Vernon, B.C.

The art of translation

Kudos for printing a (short) review of Umberto Eco's Experiences in Translation and making mention of the fact that translating is not merely copying the original text, but producing a new original (“Troubling translation,” Entertainment Notes, Feb. 19). Given Canada’s bilingual and multicultural heritage and long tradition in translation, it always surprises me that so many educated Canadians have so many misconceptions about the profession— and, yes, art—of translation, and are, as a result, reluctant to pay for good translations. On average, I receive about 10 requests for translations each day, but only about five materialize because my services seem too expensive. Many businesses still have not realized that a bad translation produced by an unqualified quack will invariably hurt their own business. A contract or even advertising badly rendered in another language can have disastrous effects. In Canada, where translation is a fact of daily life, books like this one should definitely be required reading.

Werner Patels, Toronto